Today on the blog, I want to introduce you all to a new friend of mine, Liz Wilcox. Liz has her own blog where she writes about Minimalism and choosing to live full-time in an RV. I have to admit, I’m pretty jealous of her RV adventure!
Right now, though, she is going to be sharing a story about Motherhood that is very close to my heart because I lived such a very similar struggle after the birth of F, my youngest child. After reading Liz’s story, you may also like my story about what it feels like to finally love your baby after beating post-partum depression. If post-partum depression is something you’re all too familiar with, keep reading. Oh, and don’t forget to share how you relate to Liz’s story in the comments below.
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Let’s be real. Motherhood ain’t always pretty. It is not those dang stock photos of mom and baby laughing and smiling at each other. You know the ones. No? Here, I have one.
Yep, that’s me and my baby when she was 6 months old. Don’t I look so happy? Isn’t my little ginger baby in her sailor suit adorable? Aren’t we just perfection?
Let’s cut the crap. I’m tired and the only reason I’ve managed to smile is because there is someone else with me and for once in my new life I am not entirely alone with this, this, THING that has sprung forth from my belly. I feel fat and I’ve grown a mustache. My husband has just gone to war for 12 months and I am utterly alone. And the worst part? He had the option of deploying and I let him go! I let him go because I thought “whatever. It’s my punishment for (???) to be alone with this child. I had this baby on purpose with a man in the military.” I didn’t even discuss it. He mentioned it and I said bye, turned around and started doing the dishes.
Do I sound depressed to you? Um yeah, Liz! You sound two steps away from the deep end. Well, when you put it that way, I guess you’re right. I was very depressed.
I’m ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
I began noticing differences between myself and other mothers before Chelsea was even born. At about 15 weeks, I had people exclaiming how excited they were for me and my husband. This.was.terrifying. I was not excited, why was I not excited? Should I be excited? I’m stressed! I was in my master’s program and trying to graduate. I was interning under a principal and creating a ton of content for her school and district. I had a day job of running errands, toting kids around town, and cleaning house. Oh, and I was still adjusting to being a wife, trying to meet friends in a military town, and living 1000 miles from home! Did I mention I was pregnant during all this?
Who has time to think about the baby? Oh my gosh, I’m pregnant. How did this happen to me? I did this on purpose? What was I thinking? I’ve got to get down to the school and print some stuff out for Lisa by Friday. Oh my gosh, why does everyone care so much about the gender of the baby? It’s alive! Who cares? Text message from Karen. I better get in the car. I forgot all about cleaning her house before picking up the kids from day camp! Slow down, Liz. You are waddling like woah! Oh my gosh, I gotta peeeeeeee! I need to take chicken out of the freezer and finish mopping. Crap! The dogs, I gotta take the dogs out. First I gotta pee.
Wow. Just wow. Writing that up is stressful. I feel like I should ask who can keep up with that much, but I am afraid the answer is we all do. Well, we all try to. With that much on my plate and no time spent really focusing on one task, no wonder I was so depressed.
So you were overworked and stressed. Then what, Liz?
Then I had the baby, of course. I labored for 21 hours and then there she was. Crying. All I could think was “I’ve been up for over 40 hours and need sleep like I’ve never needed it and it is nowhere in sight.” Yep. There, I said it. My first thought was for me. My tears were for me. Well, I started to cry then stopped because I didn’t want my husband to think I was crying because I was so happy. I wasn’t happy. They put the baby on my chest. I looked at her. I had no idea who she was. I felt no connection like people always rave about. I tried to relax and think about how much I loved her.
Alright, Liz, this is your baby! This is the moment your mother spoke in tears and sobs to you your whole life! Oh my gosh. I’m so tired. How does this breast milk thing work? Gosh, this thing looks so alien. She looks like Ed’s dad. Great, a little mini PawPaw. Wow, her hair! So much hair. I can’t do hair. I’m so tired. I can’t feel my legs. Are they gonna make me walk to another room? Please, I just want to sleep. I can’t concentrate. Look at your baby, Liz. Ed keeps looking at her. He’s so excited. Why am I not excited??!! I’m so damn tired. Will I ever sleep again? Jury votes no. Gosh, what was I thinking? I’ll never forget this pain. I don’t care what they say! NEVER! Look at your baby, Liz. Fall in love. Fall in love. Fall in love, please God I just want to feel that feeling right now! What is wrong with me?
Oh my gosh! Where did this come from?
Are you crying? I’m crying
Give me a minute.
No one ever mentions you might not love your baby.
There I said it. I said it and it is out there. The most taboo thing I could pretty much ever say and there it is. I think I’m gonna hurl. It’s true, though! I had an amazing midwife and lots of support and not once did anyone mention, Hey! You might get so depressed and distracted with all life’s responsibilities you might not (gag) love your newborn. Sure they talked about depression but no one ever took it to this level with me!
I could not bond with her. She was back in the hospital on her 3rd day of life due to jaundice. Everyone was so worried. I felt no worry, except for myself. When can I sleep? When will these kidney cramps stop? Why do my breasts have to hurt so bad? I’d never felt so selfish in my life, but I couldn’t stop.
I faked it everywhere we went. People would smile at the baby and I’d think they were crazy but smile back. I didn’t hold her when she slept (which was a lot, I’m talking 20 hours a day here) but held her if other people were around.
I’d hide the eye rolls when my new-mommy friends went on and on about how amazing their babies were. On weeks when my husband was home and he wanted her in the other room, I pretended I wanted her next to me. I waited a few months to put her in the other room so I wouldn’t be “found out” by my mommy friends.
In reality, all I could think about was other stuff. Yep. Saying it sounds so ridiculous but I can’t be the only one. I thought about cleaning the house, going on dates with my husband so we didn’t lose “our relationship”, I thought about my job and how I had to clean over there, and organize, and run errands. I thought about my errands, the doctor appointments I thought were ridiculous, the never-ending grocery list, and the oil changes for my car. I thought about the mommy play dates I had to endure and the new relationships I needed to nurture so I had people “who could relate with me”. Most of all, I thought about how not having a kid would make all this other stuff easier.
I spent the first year of Chelsea’s life resenting her.
Snap out of it, Liz!
Seriously, Liz. You had your kid on purpose. You wanted this life!
But how, how can I possibly stop this incredible resentment? How can I stop this constant nagging in my head that I should be cleaning, or working, or whatever?
Aww yeah, Minimalism to the rescue.
I’ve always considered myself a Minimalist. I lived in a kitchen-less hotel room in college and I am quite anti-consumer. I’ve always thought desire is the folly of man and true growth happens when life is stripped down to its most basic parts. Somehow, I forgot the true core of this somewhere in pregnancy.
You see, Minimalism isn’t just about not having stuff. That’s the surface. That’s the “I didn’t buy anything for my baby because she didn’t need it” thinking. Yes, I clung to that, but I forgot there’s so much more to it, though.
To me, Minimalism is about freeing yourself from outside sources to allow growth, promote peace within, and provide opportunities to follow passion.
How did I stray so far from the path?
Here’s a list:
- You let everything get in the way of the important stuff, your daughter, and your family.
There, that’s it. I let the cleaning get in the way. I let the stuff I owned get in the way. I let my Facebook get in the way
I let my love affair with Bob Harper get in the way. What? No one else loves Biggest Loser??!
Bottom line, I got away from my values and let everything else get in the way.
Here comes the purge.
I started getting rid of clothes I had started collecting. I was losing a lot of baby weight and constantly buying new clothes. I didn’t need them and deciding what to wear in the morning was becoming an event. I had to get rid of as much stuff as I could. I did this at least once a month until I had only my favorite items.
I got rid of some of Chelsea’s stuff. While I seriously had never really bought Chelsea anything (honest! I hadn’t lost my way, completely), she still had way more than she needed. Why does a baby need 3 rattles? Why do I have 70 cloth diapers for ONE KID?? Don’t even get me started on the stuffed animals and onesies. They had to go.
I stopped doing stuff just because I thought I had to stay busy. Let’s be honest. I was avoiding my kid like an ex-boyfriend. I stopped doing this. I started freeing up my afternoons to spend time with her.
I stopped doing stuff that I didn’t want to do. Get together’s on Friday nights? No thanks. Dinner at home with just the family? Yes, please. Aligning my values with my actions put me on the path to success and happiness.
I swear this is the last time I go to some silly barn party in the winter. I’m from Florida. I’m freezing. Can I go home yet? Also, these boots have to go. They’re ugly and I’m freezing.
I quit Facebook. Whaaaa? Oh yeah, I went all in, baby. I realized half the time I rolled my eyes about something my kid was doing was because it was interfering with my screen time. Why are you crying, Chelsea? I’m trying to read this very important post about… Shut up, Liz. I’d laugh if I didn’t sound so stupid.
I stopped pretending. I began talking to a small group of people about how depressed and scared I was in motherhood.
The tide began to shift, y’all!
From purging these objects, activities, and mindsets, I began to slowly get out of the fog.
I became mindful. In the moment, I was in the moment! I wasn’t scrolling my phone as I played with my baby. I stopped thinking about all the chores that had to be done or how we had to be at so and so’s house in an hour. I was up front and center with my kid. It was hard, but it was worth it. I think this is a very important component of minimalism.
I liked my daughter. It wasn’t until she was about 12-14 months old I started to see the joy people were talking about. It wasn’t constant, but it would happen. Being mindful helped so much in finding these moments. I clung to them on bad days. Hell, I still do.
I started growing. Slowly but surely, I saw a future that wasn’t me “getting through the next 18 years.” I saw myself doing fun activities with my daughter. I saw family vacations and milestones. I imagined a life where I was happy as a mother and my daughter loved me and I loved her.
Here comes the RV part.
Remember from earlier my husband was in Afghanistan from the time Chelsea was 6-18 months old? Well, he came home and I began to feel overwhelmed again.
I picked up Ed from the airport and after a meal, we went straight to the storage unit. He opened it and my heart sank. All this stuff I had no responsibility for after a year’s time was suddenly and very literally towering over me. The task of moving it, putting it in the house, and unpacking it (finding a place for, cleaning, managing, etc) was daunting. This is not to mention that I knew we were moving in two months and would have to repeat this process backwards and forwards. It was almost too much to process.
Tower of my crap possessions
Lucky for me, when we tried to buy a house at our new location, the deal fell through two days before our move. My husband joked “Let’s just move into a camper.” He had mentioned it before while dating and I always laughed it off, thinking a civilized woman like myself with a child would never do such a thing. BUT NOW, things were different. I learned that taking care of a traditional household was too much for me. I had learned to “get back to the basics,” to redefine the word need, and focus solely on keeping my priorities and actions aligned in order to achieve happiness (i.e. Minimalism).
I told him yes, let’s buy a camper. He was so excited (the man loves to shop) and we spent the next week living in a hotel at our new location scouring the area for campers.
Here she is, our Minimalist RV that saves my sanity every single day!
We found Dixie (I love her so much I had to name her) on the side of the road and the second I walked in, I knew she was home.
Dixie is just big enough I don’t feel cramped with the toddler, 60 lb dog, and my 6’5″ husband. She is small enough that even when I’m sick or PMSing for days and don’t clean up, I can take 20-30 minutes and have her shining. She forces me to only allow the things I truly love inside (and in storage outside for that matter.) This includes my clothes, his clothes, Chelsea’s toys and accessories, dishes, tech stuff, every aspect of life! This also extends my line of thinking when shopping. I have to think, do I really want this in my 380 square feet? She saves us a ton of money in rent and insurance so we can do extracurricular activities that we love (I’m a runner and my husband loves to work on cars.)
This RV has changed my whole outlook on motherhood. I now am so in love with Chelsea and being her mom. We spend hours outside each day, just the two of us (well, and the dog.) We go for long walks and I swear those little legs can run a 15-minute mile. Yesterday, I spent at least 5 minutes laughing with tears at her playing in the mud. I didn’t think about what a mess it was going to make in my home or how it added to the laundry because while it did do those things, laundry and cleaning are such small parts of my day now that it doesn’t really matter; we were having fun together and that was the most important thing.
RV life, small living, or whatever you want to call it has been the pinnacle of my Minimalism.
I feel so blessed to have reached this point in my Minimalist journey. I want so much to share this message with other mothers. I know my depression was extreme, but I know I can’t be the only one with those feelings of hopelessness and just being plain overwhelmed.
If you are also feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, I want to help! Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convince you to move into a camper. I know that idea is a bit much for people, but I will help you on your path, wherever you may be. I have been on this Minimalist journey for 10 years, but just the last 2 years trying to embrace it for whatever that means in my future. So far, it has saved me money, time, energy, my sanity, but most importantly, my relationship with my daughter.
Hey look! A genuine smile from genuine happiness!