I am SO lucky to know Laura Rossi – and thrilled to share this thoughtful and positive essay with you all today.
photo courtesy of Laura Rossi
When Laura graciously offered to contribute to my “I Can’t/She Can” series I just about jumped for joy. And I knew exactly what I wanted her to share.
Between the “Mommy Wars”, Pinterest stress and general havoc that the media (social and otherwise) wreaks on our psyches, I love that I can always find a powerful and upbeat message in Laura’s writing. As a working mom of twins – one with special needs – she continues to rise to the challenges that work, life and motherhood bring. Most importantly, she’s taken the lessons learned from each of those challenges and manages to apply them to all of the areas in her life.
I don’t know what her “secret sauce” of seemingly boundless energy, optimism and enthusiasm is. But I knew she’d be able to put it on paper and share it with us.
And she did:
Remember the boyfriend (or girlfriend) that swallowed you whole? The one that singlehandedly eclipsed your whole sense of self and turned your “Me” into a “We”?
Undoubtedly, we’ve all tried to heed the much repeated wisdom that regularly dominates magazines and lifestyle websites (“Do Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship”), and yet I never dreamed that romantic relationship advice would — or even could — apply so perfectly to motherhood.
When we fall in love we fall hard. But, as clichéd as it sounds, most of us never know how deeply we can love or how hard we can fall until we become a Mom.
Then, the mere thought or smell of our child can bring more bliss and joy than we could ever imagine. There are moments in the last 10 years since my twins arrived that my love has literally physically almost knocked me over.
Now I am sure I’m not alone in having experienced a steep learning curve in those first few years of parenting – add to that twins, one of whom had some challenges early in his life, and having a boy and a girl, and well you get the idea. Nevertheless, I wanted to experience and enjoy every single second of parenthood even in the tough moments. Sadly, I didn’t realize I was neglecting something crucial – and necessary to being an amazing parent.
This “Me” isn’t about girls’ night out, coffee dates, or weekends at the spa. It’s not even about taking a break from the kids or family responsibilities. I’m talking about the hard (and universal) work of being “Mom” and also being “Me” — that is, being true to myself — that solitary process of finding balance. It’s the space that stretches between the time we pour our first cup of coffee in the morning and our last glass of wine at night.
From the beginning of their joyful arrival, our twins have challenged us in unexpected ways — some good and some not so good. Juggling twins as first time parents was an all-encompassing, unpredictable and sometimes mayhem-filled experience. When in 2006 the emergence of our son’s special needs touched our family, my role as Mom quickly accelerated to a place where I was barely keeping my head above water and I didn’t recognize myself. There was no time for me or self-preservation (not to mention a shower!).
Then I began blogging at My So-Called Sensory Life, and there every day for 365 consecutive days I wrote about one unexpected gift. And I realized I CAN DO THIS! I AM DOING THIS. Thankfully, reaching out and connecting with other Moms (both typical and special needs) underlined the fact that in order to be the “Mom” I want to be, I need to be “Me” — the wife, the sister, the daughter, the best friend, the blogger, the social media addict, the sometimes therapist-fashionista-chef-publicist that needs self-space, loves food, books, traveling, music, dancing and laughing as much as organizing closets and playing with makeup… I need to be A Balanced Parent.
Today my Balanced Parent philosophy applies not only to my URL, but IRL (In Real Life). Giving “Me” space to grow and flourish and evolve in a balanced synergistic way gives my children (and family) the gift of a great Mom (not to mention a terrific person that I’m proud to be and that I want my children to see as a role model, mentor and coach).
This is not effortless or easy. Especially because we are a special needs family.
In many ways my personal story is a cautionary tale: early on most Moms don’t know (myself included) that on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, we can get swallowed up by the parenting (and in my circumstance special needs) world and “Mom” role.
Let me explain a bit more: after having my twins I knew had to merge the “Me” I knew all of my life (organized, predictable, Type A) with this unpredictable sometimes highly frazzled but very happy though frequently confused and overwhelmed person with the name “Mom.” Without the experience of parenting a child with special needs and twins, I wouldn’t have the sharp lens to focus on what I needed: being more than Mom is as essential to my survival as oxygen because without the “Me” I can’t be the “Mom”. During my struggle to find synergy and balance I read the book Eat, Pray, Love and had a light bulb moment. After I read the book, I kept thinking about it and I began to visualize the word balance (I even went as far as picturing a scale!). As a Mom of twins, the duality of everything isn’t a coincidence – two babies, two simultaneous lives, double everything – frankly, it’s symbolic on many levels – especially of the push and pull of life.
Today, I accept and celebrate that there is an essential duality to my life — being “Me” AND “Mom” is a must. And they MUST Balance. One can’t exist without the other. And it isn’t just me — this is a universal experience. It applies to working Moms, stay-at-home Moms, work-from-home Moms and everyone in between.
My sweet son has subtle needs all day long — every day — and those demands exist alongside his typical twin sister’s needs along with all the regular parenting pieces that are constantly in motion (school, homework, social activities, sports and more) and my work, life, bills, and more.
On the days when my son needs constant redirecting, attention, cheerleading, help and support I think about balance and synergy and preserving me in all of the chaos. I have to fight (sometimes many times in 24 hours) to maintain the balance between “Me” and “Mom.”
Remembering the Me in Mom (which always makes me think about the phonetic pronunciation of Mommy mä-mē!) doesn’t have to be complicated — it can be the simple act of wearing something special or calling a friend or patting myself on the back for making a great diner or tickling my kids.
IT TAKES TWO
In a time when The Mommy Wars debate make most pause in self-doubt, in a twist of delicious irony the “Are you Mom Enough?” controversy has served as the single most important reminder to me to stop, check in, and ask myself “Am I Too-Much ‘Mom’ right now?”
Of course creating space for both “Mom” and “Me” takes a lot of work, family support, a can-do attitude, cheering from other Moms, and on some days a sprinkle of magic and lots of crossed fingers.
The “Me” and the “Mom” are one and the same – the “Balanced Parent” I aspire to be every day…but I’m always on the lookout for the one that occasionally needs a “Time Out” or a little extra cheering or extra attention.
How are you A Balanced Parent?
How great, right? She actually dares to ask the question, “am I too-much-Mom?” – and I love her for that.
Thanks so much Laura!