June 15, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Finding Joy in the Messy Middle



Today's Motherhood at a Glance Feature writer is my longtime friend, Brittaney Peterson! She currently lives near the ocean in historic Charleston, SC with her sweet husband, their two boys, Ezra Michael (2.5-years-old) and Whalen Richard (6-weeks-old), as well as their angel babies, Baby P, Eloise Faye and Everly René!


Brittaney is a writer, creator and photo-taker who believes that though life is wild, it is meant to be enJOYed! She is passionate about cultivating a fulfilling life with simplicity, optimism, wellness and creativity. This is just a peek into Brittaney's motherhood journey and what she has learned but I know you are going to learn so much from her, as it has resonated with me!





It took two years for us to get our first baby earth-side. To some that may seem short, and to others it may sound like an eternity. For us, it was more like a rollercoaster time-warp – sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes just straight up backwards.


Before our sweet boy got here, we said mournful goodbyes to our first two babies. Our first goodbye was on our first anniversary, and it was over almost as soon as we realized it began. Our second was different. It came in the form of early stillbirth, and we buried a perfect tiny girl with hurt, hope and slow, steady healing in our hearts.


At the time, things like friends’ pregnancy announcements and my 9-to-5 office job reminder that I still didn’t have a baby in my arms didn’t feel like a huge blessing, but in true “life” fashion, these experiences were teaching me exactly the lessons I needed to be able to experience ULTIMATE joy each wonderful and difficult day of my life.




By the time our first baby boy came into the picture, we were hesitant but hopeful. We were overjoyed when he arrived safe and healthy. Motherhood! I had finally arrived! Though it was (and is) full of ups and downs, I was (and am) just grateful to be experiencing them.


Gratitude, baby. That’s the good stuff.


We suffered another miscarriage before our second baby boy joined our family, too. With each subsequent pregnancy, I have only gained a deeper understanding of what it means to let go and enjoy the journey. Joy and sadness can and should coexist! They are NOT mutually exclusive. This was the first of many lessons I have learned so far in motherhood.




Life is wild, but it’s meant to be enjoyed, ya know? This part we’re in is what I like to call the messy middle, and though it’s often hard to feel this way, it’s really where the best stuff can be found.


Joy is an essential part of a fulfilling life. It’s made of the deep, wide, forever kinda stuff. It’s not necessarily the light, fluffy, fleeting happiness we sometimes chase, though that’s important too. Joy is a pure, constant state that I believe can always be found within.


I’m going to have you pause here for a minute, and on your phone or a piece of paper, write down your recent moments of pure joy. Do you notice any trends, themes or gaps?


When I do this activity, I find that joy usually comes to me in consistent ways. So consistent, in fact, that I’ve been able to come up with a handy little list of my top 10 joy-bringers (and boy, do they bring it):


  1. human connection (family, friends and self)

  2. connection with a greater power (a.k.a. God)

  3. actively seeking and engaging in passions

  4. being in the present moment

  5. physical movement

  6. humor – letting loose and laughing OFTEN

  7. giving and receiving service

  8. optimism and hope

  9. inwardly and outwardly expressing gratitude

  10. honoring your authentic self + self-compassion


If you take nothing else away from this post, I hope you’re able to find those little areas in the canopy of your life that that joy is able to burst through. These little inklings, as I’m sure you know, can be easy to lose track of in the busyness of being “mama”, but boy do they matter.


So how can you possibly find this joy on those hard, dark, overwhelming and/or monotonous days of motherhood?


I tell you, when you focus on the good, the good gets better. There is one surefire way to bring yourself out of a slump, to make an off day better, and to flip the script on “this moment is bad, so this day is bad, so this life is bad”. It is your ticket onto the bullet train to bliss. Wanna know what it is? Gratitude.















We’ve all heard of gratitude journals, and though I am a huge fan of the idea, I sometimes struggle with being consistent (#mombrain #cantfindmypen #whohasthetime #whatevenistime?). You know what only takes a second or three, though?


Say it out loud!


Yes, even to yourself.


Yes, seriously.


Just utter aloud a little “wow, I’m so grateful for ____________” (this weather today, fuzzy socks, my strong work ethic, junior’s help in the kitchen, my ability to see color, etc.).


Offer up a quick 5 or 15-second prayer of gratitude to God or to your higher power.


So often, we hear about how motherhood is a thankless job, and while that may ring true, one thing we can control as moms is expressing thanks ourselves. At most, we lead by example, and at the very least, your brain will get a drop of sunshine with each thankful thought you think. (Getting Seuss-y over here :’))


In the name of the feel-goods, expressing gratitude to others is just about the best simple win-win you can find. Bringing joy to others through gratitude will bring you joy. Joy is contagious! And on that note…













Healthy connection will always bring simple, lasting happiness. It is important to foster this connection with God, with others and with yourself.


Connecting with God has always come relatively easy to me, and I am so grateful for that. As a mother, I often feel overwhelmed with the task of raising up strong, kind, gentle, courageous little people. In my connection with God, I have been able to find peace and answers to some of my hardest questions, and in so doing have been able to let go of some of my most difficult trials.


Connecting with others has been much more challenging for me. I have always found it difficult to get outside of myself and my own head, and since becoming a mother it has been this way even more so. What I can say for sure is that when I do make that effort to make connections with others, be that family, close friends, or my squad of rock star internet mom friends, I feel an innate peace and happiness that can’t compare to anything else. I find it especially fulfilling when these connections are service-oriented. 10/10 would recommend THAT if you’re looking for gold joy status.


Lastly, you want to make sure you make time to connect with yourself. So often, we get lost in motherhood and the constant state of being needed. Even 30-second check-ins or quiet pantry breaks of breathing exercises make a world of a difference in restoring peace and revealing specs of joy in your heart. Check in with yourself. How are you feeling right now, and what do you need? Which reminds me…






 








YOU ARE HERE  This present, precious, delicious, never-going-to-be-here-again moment.


Let GO of your distractions. (Social media, smart phones, comparisons, worries about the future – I’m looking at you!) These babies don’t keep, and before you know it they’ll be taking care of you while you daydream about the days you were taking care of them. When we fully open our eyes to the beauty in our life around us, it becomes easy to spot those little flecks of joy in the average day-to-day.


Really, fully relish in this moment. Breathe it in and plant your feet firmly in the now and squeeze your babies and close your eyes and smell their hair and gaze in awe as they learn new things or watch quietly as they play, even just for a moment.


Romanticize your life!!! Another smudge-y handprint on the window? More like a beautiful mark of your motherhood for the sun to literally shine through. Ordinary carpool or trip to the supermarket? More like an adventure waiting to happen. Woken up before dawn by a crying baby (again)? More like an opportunity to watch God paint the sky for you and send you sweet, secret messages.


Simplicity, gratitude and mindfulness - these things will take you further than any podcast, self-help book or inspirational YouTube video as they propel you out of your own head and straight into this moment. Stop consuming. Stop living in the past or worrying about the future. Just be. Embrace this beautiful now, sister! I promise you’ll find the magic.





Mama, you matter. This life of yours matters. You deserve to feel this joy that I promise is undoubtedly woven deeply into your being, right at the core of who you are, no matter your circumstances.


As you express gratitude openly and often, find time to connect, and embrace the present moment, I know that you will find peace amidst chaos, joy alongside sadness and appreciation for even the mundane.


And don’t be afraid to visit your joy list every once in a while. It might just spark something.



Can you even handle those sweet babies!? Thank you so much to Brittaney for her sweet message on finding joy in the messy middle! Brittaney has always been a source of inspiration for me all throughout our teenage years together but especially during our motherhood journeys. She is pure sunshine and I'm so grateful to know her! I hope you felt the power in her words and found things that you can apply in your own life! 

One more quick recap so you can jot these down: 

Express gratitude openly and often, to yourself and to others

Find time to connect with God, with others and yourself

Embrace the present moment and let go of distractions




You can find Brittaney over on her website:
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