I'm a Better Mom, Because I Work

A few weeks ago, after working all day at my desk in my guest room, I came downstairs after the nanny had left, packed up a bunch of snacks in a bag, pulled out a blanket and brought my two boys outside to the front yard for a picnic.  We had an awesome time gabbing about bugs, ice cream and everything else 6 and 2 year old boys love about summer.  I laid on the grass and thanked my lucky stars that I got to spend time with them like this.  But more importantly, I thanked my lucky stars that I get to work.

I am a MUCH better mom because I work – and I’m not afraid to admit that.  I left my corporate job back in 2012 to be a stay at home mom with my then 2 year old son, thinking I would take him to the park, the zoo, the museum, then come home for his nap while I cooked and cleaned like Martha Stewart.  I can’t even tell you how much of that previous sentence was wrong in my life – not only was I a terrible stay at home mom, but I realized in just a few short months that I truly missed working and using my brain in a challenging way. (Not that being a stay at home mom isn’t a challenge!)  I also realized that I just wasn’t cut out to be a SAHM – the mere physicality of it was exhausting.  Having to be on my feet all day, chasing a toddler around, then when he was finally in bed, I still had a mound of things to do.  I just couldn’t do it.

I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a SAHM just six months after I started.  But guilt, worry and fear kept me from not only admitting it to myself, but from seeking something that would truly challenge and stimulate me, while allowing me to be with my kids.  I left my corporate job because of the hours I had to work and the fact that I was only able to spend at most an hour with my son per day.  But I wasn’t ready for the reality of being a SAHM – the pendulum had swung so far in the opposite direction, it was difficult for me to keep my head above water.  It wasn’t until I started my own freelancing business did I finally start feeling like I could tread water again.  Now, three years later, I’ve created a “balance” in my life where I am able to work and intellectually stimulate myself, help professional moms in ways I had hoped to be helped in years past, and yet still have the time to spend with my kids I sorely missed when working a corporate job.  Because I have that outlet in my life, I’m able to enjoy my kids more and be the mom they both want and need.

The Myth of Control

I woke up this morning to an empty house - my husband and kids are visiting grandma and grandpa back east, which means I get a much needed break!  I got out of bed, turned on the shower and started planning out my morning..."let's see, I'll wear my blue dress today, I should be done with my shower by 8:30 so I can make myself some eggs and toast and be out of the house by 9AM"  Of course, nothing ended up the way I planned - I ran out of soap in the shower, so I had to jump out and get more, dripping water all over the bathroom.  Then I went to put on my blue dress just to see that there was a stain on it, then when I finally made it downstairs (it's 8:45 by now) I found out that the bread was moldy, so my plans to have a robust breakfast went down the drain.  To top it all off, I ended up leaving the house later than I wanted, and still hungry.

Obviously this is a perfect example of Murphy's Law - anything that can happen will happen. But it also proves a bigger point - that no matter how much we think we are in control, or even want to be in control, something is bound to happen.  Control, at the end of the day, is a myth. We are led to believe that we are in control - of our cars, our health, or relationships, or our kids - but we are not.  The only constant thing in life is change.  Our job is to embrace that, and ride the wave.  

I have family members who constantly try to stay in control, and often even try to control others.  At first, I was resistant, knowing that there is no way in hell anyone should or could control me.  But then I began understanding and honestly having empathy towards those who think they need to be in control - their lack of understanding that they are in fact not in control of anything completely misses them, and instead they are consumed by the desire to be in total control, only to be disappointed over and over again.  The fastest way to achieve happiness is, in fact, to resign to the fact that we are not in control.

Now, there is one thing we ARE in control of - ourselves.  We do have the choice to control our mindset, our habits and our actions.  We can control how we react when a situation arises - do we whine and yell?  Do we blame?  Or do we figure out how to move on?  As a parent and a professional, I am often met with situations in which what I wanted to happen is SO the opposite of what is happening in front of me, and so I've worked on looking forward to forge a path away from the situation, instead of dwelling on the situation and fixating on why things didn't work out the way I wanted them to.

So I challenge you to think about changing your mindset - next time your kids act up in the store, or a coworker pisses you off, think about how to move past the situation instead of dwelling that it happened, because after all, you were not in control of it.  Remember that the only constant in life is change, and no matter how shitty the situation may be now, it is not permanent, so there's no need to control anything but your reactions and your expectations.

Have you Ever Wished for a Magic Confidence Pill?

I woke up this morning feeling like I do most mornings - tired, yet excited for the day ahead, hungry, but above all, just the slightest bit anxious.  My mind continually races through all the different possibilities that could lie ahead of me - what if I mess up on something?  What if I say the wrong thing?  What if I forget to do something?  What if...what if....what if....

I know these recurring thoughts are fundamentally anxiety or anxious thoughts, and that there are a plethora of drugs, techniques, blogs, courses, etc that help alleviate anxiety.  But what got me thinking this morning, as I was taking my vitamin D pill, is how come there isn't a way to ADD confidence to our lives, rather than just alleviate anxiety?  What I mean by that is - wouldn't it be great if there were a magic pill to infuse you with confidence on a daily basis?

So here's my wish list for this magic confidence-boosting pill (I'll call it Confizen, sounds like the kind of name a pharmaceutical marketing manager would give a drug like this right?!):

  • It would help me smile instead of scowl: I would LOVE a pill that would keep me from scowling every time a negative thought came into my mind - I think it would be wonderful if the corners of my lips only went in one direction - UP.
  • It would help me say EXACTLY what is on my mind, without allowing my internal censor to block it: Man, how many times have I regretted not speaking up when the time was right because my internal censor told me to shut up?!  I am in awe and quite honestly jealous of those who are able to express exactly how they are feeling in that moment, instead of politely agreeing with whatever is being said, only to completely disagree inside and not say a word!  If only...
  • It would help me not take EVERYTHING personally: You didn't whole heartedly agree with everything I just said?  We must be mortal enemies now....my mind has created that dialog all too often which then takes me down the Being Offended by Everything Spiral - and it sucks.  If only there was a way to just hear what people are saying without misconstruing what they mean into being offensive.
  • It would help me stay calm in ALL scenarios, not just those I'm prepared for or expecting: Life is unpredictable - we all know it, and yet still sometimes when something happens which is completely unexpected and out of the blue, I COMPLETELY lose my cool (And sometimes in really embarrassing ways).  If only there were a way to keep sane at all times, not just when I know what's going to happen.

Well, until this "magic" pill is manufactured, here's what I can do:

  • Smile more often: No matter what life throws at me, I can still smile, it's entirely up to me - I just have to remember to do it.  So maybe I'll put a Post-It note up to remind me. 
  • Remember that I'm just a human:  It's ok to react negatively to situations, to scowl, to curse or to cry.  Those are natural reactions to situations which ALL humans experience - it's not isolated to just me.
  • Just BE: Absolutely I believe we all should strive for continuous improvement, but not at the expense of our well being.  I've often found that I'm incredibly hard on myself, and the best remedy to that is to just stop thinking and just be. So much easier said than done, but I've been practicing it more and it gets easier and easier every day.

So the next time you wonder when that magic confidence pill, Confizen, is going to go on the market, just remember that you can still have the benefits, without the side effects.

The Day I Realized I Needed Help

I remember it being a cold February morning – I had been a stay at home mom for about 10 months and definitely not loving it. Even though I had the sweetest, most compassionate 3 year old at home with me, I couldn’t seem to get over the thought that kept swirling around in my head – “I’m a terrible mother”.  And why was that thought in my head?  Because I yelled, I screamed, I cried, and I only had social media as my window to the outside world – a soulless algorithm which displayed every “how to” mommy article and everyone’s “best” moments for me to read, worry over, feel guilty over and cry over.

But this particular morning was like none other – we were getting ready to go to the Natural History museum.  I had just come off yet another insomnia filled night, had endured a fight with my husband that morning, and there was a fresh inch of snow on the ground outside.  My anxiety, my anger but above all my resentment, were through the roof.  “Why did it have to snow?? Why was my husband being such a jackass??”, I thought in my head.  I focused solely on the negativity and let my anger feed my thoughts, not paying attention to the little boots my three year old was asking me to tie on his feet.  While the thoughts swirled around in my brain, my little boy did the most innocent thing – he accidentally kicked me.  But my reaction is one I’ll never forget – my eyes got wide, I screamed so loud and punched the ground with all my might.  All that rage, resentment and anger that had been swirling around in my brain came out in one mighty blow, right there for my baby to see.  Within seconds, tears welled up in his terror-filled eyes and he began retracting from me.  I couldn’t believe that I had just done that – that I had been capable of having such a violent reaction based purely on the thoughts swirling around in my head.  I crumbled into a weeping pile on the floor, asked my son to hug me, which he eventually did, and we both sat there, rocking and crying on the floor, while I whispered “I’m sorry” over and over again.

I’ll never forget that day.  But I’m glad to say that I learned so much from that day – I learned that I needed to take care of myself.  I began seeking therapy, I signed up for massages, I bought a journal but above all I started being honest with myself – I was not happy being home with my son and I knew in my heart that I would be a much better mother to him if I worked.  I took that day as a sign to focus on myself and figure out what would help me out the most, because by helping myself, I would inevitably help my family too.  I’m so happy to say that now, three years later, I’m able to control my anger, and while I do yell, I haven’t scared myself or my kids since that day.  I’d say that’s a victory.

Preparing for Transition

Our household has been in a state of transition lately – with my son ending first grade and my daughter home from her first year of college. I find myself in a place of happiness she is finally back home, but also struggling and fumbling through being a parent to a young adult.

This past year I have grown as a person but especially as a mom. Having my oldest move on to college and my youngest start first grade has been an experience I have a hard time describing. When kids are young we become accustomed to hearing “Mommy, can you do this for me…” many times a day. As childhood progresses, there is less of parents doing and more of stepping back to support. Sometimes, I do still hear her ask me to help, but I have so many more thoughts racing through my mind on how I should answer.

What happens when it isn’t childhood your kids are progressing through anymore, but rather adulthood? Determining my response to that question- plus many other conversations – becomes difficult. I feel my relationship with my daughter is in such a peculiar transition. We are feeling out how much we can each push and pull and I am learning how to step back even further but still remain a support when needed.

Some days it is just downright overwhelming. Every stage of childhood can be scary, I suppose because it is an unknown. I also don’t think it is any easier the second time around, even having gone through the experience of motherhood for 19 years. I often find myself unprepared in raising my son, though I definitely have more clarity around what matters most and not at all. What I have learned is Life is synonymous with change. Thriving in our lives is all about finding the courage to accept and live through the many transitions. When we resist the change there is most certainly friction. The harder we jam our heels into the ground trying to stop it, the more painful and lengthy the process is. So how do you learn to live in transition? Here are a few steps I can recommend based on my experience in parenthood…

You can also check out this infographic as a reminder of the four steps here.

Emily Marko is a Visual Problem Solver who works with clients to solve problems using visual representations of complex ideas. She has been using visuals to help others capture ideas, build action plans and share stories for 15 years.  You can find out more at www.emilymarko.com.

My Entrepreneurial Journey - T-minus 2 Days

It was just a few short weeks ago when we found out that we got accepted to the AlphaLab Accelerator Program, my good friend Jess and I were beyond ecstatic, quite honestly in disbelief, of this news.  We had just met a mere six months before, and gone out to dinner just four months before to even begin discussing the idea we went into AlphaLab with.  We both had one thing in common - we were driven, high achieving moms, who wanted to work but also wanted to spend time with our kids.  For a very long time, I thought I was the only one who felt that way, but after meeting Jess and numerous other women who felt the same way, I not only felt like I had finally found my peeps, but that we had a special bond.  We cared so much not only about our emotional wellbeing, but also our intellectual wellbeing.  And that's what got Jess and I talking.

We talked at length about how important it was to not only make a difference in our community at large, but also set a solid and lasting foundation and impression with our growing children.  We talked about how we mutually cherished the time we had with our kids, while also having the flexibility to work on the projects that needed our help the most.  Jess, begin a grant writer and myself being a freelance consultant, we both understood the importance of flexibility, and that got us thinking of the millions of other current and soon-to-be parents that are either currently freelancing or will be in the future, and we started talking about the state of childcare and how inconvenient it currently was.

That led us to think of our idea for trying to bring flexible childcare options to parents who need it.  I can't go into more detail just yet (not until we speak to our lawyers!) but with that idea in mind and a few data points under our belt, we applied for the Alphalab Accelerator program, got invited to interview with a room full of prominent and influential entrepreneurs, business mentors and advisors, and left feeling absolutely on top of the world!  Little did we know that just a few short weeks later, we'd be accepted into the program and be on the journey to launching our own company!

Now we're just two days from the start of the program and I can safely say that anxiety is definitely starting to set in - all the what if's and fears that come with startup life are starting to creep into my head.  Shows like Silicon Valley certainly don't help either - the mere fact that 75% of all startups fail in their first year kept me up most of last night.  But I feel incredibly fortunate for many reasons:

  • I have an amazingly awesome, visionary partner who is super collaborative and aligned with my goals and vision
  • We have a tremendous amount of help through this Accelerator program, in the form of funding, access to mentors and training, and snacks galore!
  • I have years of both corporate marketing and entrepreneurial experience under my belt - I need to remember that

So I will be chronicling my entrepreneurial journey in the blog and also giving the members of ROKI exclusive behind-the-scenes access to all things entrepreneurial!  Join today to follow me on my journey!


How to Talk With Your Kids about Mental Health

By: Jessica Strong

The drive started normally enough – both kids buckled into their carseats, me with my 7-month pregnant belly behind the wheel. We said goodbye to my dad, then prepared for the 3 ½ hour drive from Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) to Pittsburgh, PA (where I’ve lived for the past fourteen years).  We had a full tank of gas, music, water, snacks, gum. Check, check, check, check. 

What I was wholly unprepared for was the panic attack that happened about 45 minutes into the drive, during a pop-up summer storm. Heart racing, palms sweating, jaw clenched, ears ringing – a feeling of unshakeable terror took over as I became instantaneously convinced that death was imminent for all that I held dear. A semi would jack-knife on top of us; I’d lose control and careen into a ditch; an unbeknownst-to-me creek would swell with rain and wash us away. I began crying and gasping for breath and I still have no idea how I got us safely to the two-pump gas station in rural Gratiot, Ohio. 

We stayed at that gas station for nearly an hour, while I struggled to practice every meditation trick I’ve ever learned: centering my breath, visualizing safe roads, relaxing my jaws and fists. The kids were happy to eat ALL.THE.SNACKS and splash in puddles. 

We eventually made it home, three hours later than expected, which is a loooong time to be in a car with two energetic kids. As someone who has worked in the mental health world, who regularly gives trainings to teach adults about helping someone in a mental health emergency, I realized that I was uniquely unprepared to talk to my own kids about anxiety, about depression, about alcohol abuse. Given that one in five people will experience the signs and symptoms of a mental health issue in any given year, and given how prevalent these disorders are in our own families, it was imperative that my husband and I find a way to talk to our kids about this.

We talk in age-appropriate terms (given that the oldest are now six and eight). We’ve discussed what therapy is, when you go and talk to someone in complete privacy about things that are bothering you and they help you come up with solutions. We phrase it as, “if your tooth was hurting, we take you to the dentist; going to see a therapist is like going to see someone when you are having problems with your brain processing your emotions.” We want to break down the stigma about needing to ask for mental health help. We are open about discussing when we’ve each gone to see a therapist and how it helped. We talk about my anxiety around flying and sometimes driving - how part of my brain imagines all the bad things that could happen, how it's louder than the rational part of my brain that tries to tell it to be quiet, and how the medication helps that first part be quieter so that I can still fly or drive. 

We have talked about suicide, how sometimes people can't find any hope, even when everyone is trying to give them hope, and how they should talk to someone they trust if they ever feel really hopeless, because it will always, always get better, even if it doesn't feel like it right now.  With my 8 year old, we compared it to the time last year when an older kid was picking on her, and she was convinced he'd be mean to her forever, and she was really upset (understandably!). But then he stopped and school got better for her - so even though in the moment she thought it was awful, after a bit of time, things improved. 

We have friend with a pretty significant alcohol abuse problem, and they've heard me and my husband talking about how to get resources for her and her wife and kids - so those conversations have been along the lines of "some people enjoy drinking alcohol, like mommy and daddy have wine at dinner sometimes. But sometimes, too much alcohol makes it hard for your brain to stay in control - you move slower, you make worse decisions, you may say things or do things that you don't mean or don't remember later. And that amount of alcohol is different for everyone, and for some people, that amount is 0. But it can be difficult for some people to remain at 0, even when they know that bad things might happen when they go above 0. So we're trying to help our friend find ways to stay at 0."

We don’t know yet if any of our kids will deal with a mental health issue as they grow up, but we remain committed to being able to discuss it openly and honestly and without stigma. Hopefully they will know that this is just one more thing they can come to us about, that is free of shame, and that we’ll help them get the best care possible.

Jessica Strong has a Masters in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University and has years of experience working with non-profits in the fields of mental health and social work.  She is also the visionary founder of The Whetstone Workgroup, a new co-working space in Pittsburgh, PA that features drop-in childcare!

I Have to Be Honest With You...

Below is a republication of a newsletter email sent out on 5/15/16.

The image above is the underside of the New River Gorge bridge in West Virginia - when you drive across the bridge, you'll notice it's nicely paved, pretty straight and unassuming.  In essence, its a normal, run-of-the-mill bridge.  However, my husband and I had the privilege of walking underneath it - down here, there are thousands of steel bolts, rods, trusses and pillars holding the magnificent structure up.  Aside from that, the wind blows at an astonishing 40-50 mph making it nearly impossible to maintain your balance - I felt like I was going to fly off several times.  And to top it all off, there is a 600 ft drop to the bottom of the gorge.  Above the bridge, I barely batted an eye about what was underneath me.  But being face-to-face with everything responsible for making that bridge stand was humbling.  And understanding that even the slightest compromise in the integrity of the connections below the bridge would result in the bridges collapse was the most humbling of all.

In that vein, I wanted to give you a glimpse underneath the bridge I've been attempting to build this year...

For a few months now, you've been receiving emails from me about the launch of ROKI, a network dedicated to connecting and empowering professional moms.  I've gotten lots of love in the process, but I have to be honest with you - I AM STRUGGLING TOO.  I left my corporate job 4 years ago, and while I have held several other professional positions since (consultant, marketing lead, CEO) I continue to struggle, and will probably do so for a long time.

I struggle not because I can't find the right balance, but because being a mom has ALWAYS been a struggle for me.  There - I said it.  Somehow, working in a corporate, office environment always came very easy for me - I am a hard worker with a good work ethic.  I am an enthusiastic extrovert; someone who has always been able to make friends with anyone in any situation - it's a unique skill I possess.  I have been able to diplomatically diffuse difficult situations and present to rooms full of high level, influential executives.  Yet somehow, for the life of me, I cannot seem to keep my cool when my 5 and 2 year old are screaming at each other - somehow I always end up breaking down and screaming too.  And it usually ends in me sobbing in the bathroom.

I am not sending this out to paint myself as a weak, emotionally unstable person - but quite the contrary.  I'm sending this out to prove that even an educated, intelligent, hard working individual can be broken by something as trivial as a glass cup shattering into a million pieces on the ground while your two year old chuckles about throwing it in the first place.  It doesn't make you any less of a mother, a wife, a woman, a person if you react negatively to it - it makes you human.

Women are so hard on ourselves to try and BALANCE everything - well, I am starting to learn that there really isn't such a thing as balance.  But there is such a thing as managing expectations.  And over the years I've learned that it's nearly impossible for me to set those expectations for myself - I almost always end up leaning on friends, family, my husband or my coworkers to help me out.  Over the years, as I've talked to more and more women who feel the same way I do, I've realized that not everyone has the same support system to help them set and manage their expectations - a realization that all but devastated me.  I don't know what I would do if I didn't have the support I do in my life from my friends and family.  And that was the driving force behind the creation ofROKI.

This is in no way meant to be a sales pitch, and I apologize if this has come off as being salesy, but I wanted this to come from the heart.  I want this to reach the mom who may not have that support system, who is struggling to set those expectations for herself and feels as though she's drowning for the sake of BALANCE.  I want you to know you don't have to do it by yourself.  In fact you can't do it by yourself.

If you've gotten to the end of this email, first I commend you!  And second, I want to hear from you - I don't want this to be a one-sided conversation.  Email me back, or better yet, email this to someone you think needs to read it.  We all need to help lift one another up, not isolate one another.  We need to work together, like every bolt, steel rod and truss under that bridge, to hold each other up, no matter what.  

I am still trying to figure out how to navigate this difficult terrain that is motherhood x work.  Its a battle every day, and while there are lots of resources for those who have figured out their next step, ROKI is meant to serve as that every day support system, for those moms out there, like me, who struggle on a daily basis to cross the bridge.

Solidarity, sisters!

The Ebb and Flow of Freelancing

By: Katy Rank Lev

I started freelance writing ten years ago as a way to earn money on the side while I completed graduate school, but I continued doing it once I had children because it was the only way I found to keep working while balancing the needs of my family. Three kids later, I'm grateful for the flexibility on an average day--there just doesn't seem to be a way to combine traditional office hours with preschool, elementary school, and daycare operating hours. I also know that each year, I will be solo parenting the entire month of April due to my partner's work schedule, and so freelancing lets me adjust my work schedule to make space for this tough personal time.

That sounds so perfect, doesn't it? An entire month off from work for grocery trips, ENT consults, and urgent ophthalmology visits…and IEP meetings, reseeding the backyard, and all the million things parents do. I spent March working on a multi-million dollar funding campaign with a nonprofit organization, and then got an entire month with my angelic cherubs!

Freelance writing has often seemed like the best way to find balance--a way to keep doing meaningful work while still giving attention to my young sons--but really, I find the ebb and flow of my work to be as stressful as any other work environment I've experienced. Also? It's not so awesome hauling all the cherubs along for every doctor visit and trip to the grocery store. When my family planned for me to work part-time, we only made arrangements for part-time childcare. If you've ever tried to pin down part-time childcare, you know it's like searching for car keys inside the sofa cushions: pretty darn difficult with lots of red herrings.

The ebb and flow cycle combined with my worry about childcare has left me in quite an emotional puddle this month. Here I am in ready to dive back into my work, and yet I have no projects queued up. I was so busy completing my grant project in March that I didn't take time to hustle up new work for later--I dedicated every second of my childcare time to my client. I always tell myself I'm going to email old clients and make new contacts in the evening, when everyone is in bed. You know how that goes: I'm too exhausted to think straight by then and I usually fall asleep waiting for The Mindy Project to buffer on my Roku.

Ten years into this thing, and I haven't yet mastered the art of seeking out new work while I'm enjoying the feast of my current projects. Of course, I have strategies for this problem. I always keep business cards on hand, I set a goal to attend at least one networking event per month, and I joined a co-working space that provides childcare. It all just seems to slip away when I'm digging into a juicy project, and as a freelancer I know that I need to always be mindful of my next project. I'm both the creative team and the account gal in this gig.This spring, I want to re-evaluate how I spend my precious childcare hours. I think I get too hung up on thinking of this time as strictly work time, and assigning "worthiness" to the things I do while I'm paying someone else to look after my kids. I need to remember activities that are valuable to my well-being are probably important for my professional life as well. I've already met new people at a zumba class, talked about car seats with the guy who owns a car detailing shop, and learned what a political consultant does when I chatted one up at a coffee shop. Will any of that translate into a new contract? Probably not, but I've definitely added some life experience that's always crucial for my work as a writer.It might never be possible to balance the feast and famine cycle of part-time freelance work, but I can surely change how I let this cycle affect my stress level. And along the way, I might just develop a closer bond with my creative community!

Katy Rank Lev is a freelance writer specializing in nonprofit communications. When she’s not writing, she can be found chasing her three feral sons throughout the city of Pittsburgh. You can find her on the web at katyranklev.com.

How Taking My Own Advice Helped Me Be a Better Mom

By: Rene Marasco

There I was walking up and down the hallway with my list in hand.  I was memorizing each person’s name, county they lived in, children they had and the type of child they wanted to add to their family.  It was a half hour before I met with 40 people to provide them with an orientation to our agency.  Some I had spoken with at length on the phone over the years and others were standard conversations with new families.  No matter.  It was all stored in my memory and tonight I would begin to put faces with not only their names but more importantly their stories.  I did this at least a few times a year.  And I never failed to have it all in my head when the right time came to enter our board room and put my face with my name for each and every one of them.  

I was passionate about my job, a workaholic, because who couldn’t be when it came to being so honored that you spent your life helping to make families.  Let’s be clear - I was just a vehicle of a higher power.  But He was fully aware of what I was capable of and what I would do with His slightest hint of direction.  I was good at what I did, very good – and confident in a humble and genuine way.  I owned a pretty little sports car, my own home and was surrounded by loved ones.  

Fast forward and there I was on what had become a typical night for me.  Sitting crisscross applesauce on my bed, my oldest daughter at breast, rocking her as I rocked myself back and forth.  I would do this for the next 3 hours.  If I didn’t she would cry, so instead I did.  I could barely get through the day and by this time each evening I was exhausted but didn’t want to sleep because I needed to decompress.  This was “my” time.  Yes, I had a husband.  Operative word being “had.”  And, in fact, our relationship was the core of my decline – but that’s another blog.  The point is….I felt completely and utterly helpless.  

Despite having taken care of kids since I was one myself, I was lost.  I found myself in completely uncharted territory – incompetence.  And isolation.  It was even more the norm at that time to be only joyful and glowing upon becoming a mom.  No struggles allowed.  I was an older mom who waited what felt like forever to become that mom – and to have a beautiful little girl.  So what was wrong with me? 

For my story, it was mostly a bad marriage where my confidence was stripped away from me.  For each of us it’s something different, but the result is the same.  We were once competent and confident women who were reduced to a puddle of overwhelming emotions and self-doubt.  What did I do with it? I became a doula.  I explained to women that, yes you have a connection to your baby in utero but, each child has their own personality just as each mom does.  And post-partum is a time of getting to know each other, so to be gentle on themselves and their babies.  And equally as important, to be gentle with other moms, to not be afraid to share their stories because doing so may just pull another mom out of her isolation and self-disdain at not being joyful every moment.  Motherhood is undoubtedly the most challenging and most rewarding journey that you will ever endeavor to take.  Know that you are not alone, And that you are fabulous!

Rene Marasco is a Licensed social worker and doula, with over 10 years of experience helping families, both on an individual and group basis.  Rene is a member of The ROKI Community and is the mom of two beautiful girls. 

The Strong Arm of Depression

I feel the warm sun on my skin and the faint sound of waves crashing beside me, as I lay on the sand with a smile on my face.  I sit up slowly to find Jimmy Fallon juggling at the far end of the beach, while the 1996 NY Yankees team is going for an afternoon jog.  I smile and lay back down.  In the next second everything goes black, as I begin to hear the piercing cry of my 14 month old, waking up for the day.  My dream quickly fades in the distance, as I begin to feel the sheets under my feet.  Before I can even open my eyes, he has laid his dark arm over me, pressing me further into my sheets.  He doesn’t visit me every day, but on those days he does visit, it feels incredibly hard to get out of bed.  Today, however he’s pressing even harder on me, making it nearly impossible to even pick my head up.  I feel myself beginning to feel the weight of the entire day - the entire world - pressing on me.  My eyes begin to fill with tears, as I silently wish for both the baby to magically go back to sleep, and for the bed to swallow me whole.  But neither of these things happen, and so I painfully push the sheets aside, wipe my tears and get out of bed.

That was my life nearly every day last year - the strong arm of depression had taken a hold of my life, especially on those days when my husband worked late or traveled, and I was in charge of two kids, the house, the dog, the fish….and myself.  I rarely, if ever, put myself first, and there were days when I forgot to shower, or even eat.  I saw my health deteriorate, and even began to isolate myself from my friends, my work, even my family.  And for the longest time, I just thought I was exhausted, or even crazy - I had no idea I was depressed.

It’s a fact that fewer than half of the women in the US who show signs of depression will ever seek care (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression-women) - and I happened to be one of them.  Oftentimes, mothers especially don’t prioritize their health and well being over more pressing priorities, such as kids, home, work or marriage.  And while the national suicide rate is higher among men, women are twice as likely to contemplate and even attempt suicide than men.

By no means do I mean to be a Debbie Downer with this post, but instead to educate and hopefully inspire the mom reading this to seek help - your health and well being, both inside and out is of tremendous value to the rest of your family, because the happier you are, the happier your kids, family, friends and coworkers are.  The trickle down effect is real, and it starts with each and every one of us seeking out our own personal happiness.

But it’s a process, and it takes time.  The first step is to seek out help.  Talk to a doctor, therapist or trusted source about how you’re feeling.  Join a community of like-minded moms, like The ROKI Community, and surround yourself with women who understand EXACTLY what you’re going through.  Over time you’ll see the difference you didn’t know you were missing.  I did, and I’m so eternally grateful for finally reaching out for help.  Now, I’m able to wake up and take on the day, without feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I hope one day you can feel the same way too.

Lost at Sea: Sinking Ships and The Fear of Missing Out

by: Erin Gaus

One day this past week, as I was laying on the couch lazily scrolling through my Instagram feed, my three-year-old sprawled next to me watching his daily hour of screen time (snicker), I landed on an image that was so perfect, so staged, so brilliantly filtered and posed and perfect that it just had to be the centerpiece of that person’s insta-existence. Captivated, I clicked through to the user profile to find image after image of the same meticulously crafted scenes; a girl standing crossed-legged, her floppy and stylish hat cocked just so, a cup of tea on a pristine white tablecloth with a perfectly manicured hand resting at the edge of the shot, a stage of well-placed and carefully chosen items. What a beautiful life portrayed in these portraits. Gasp. She has 17K followers! She posts multiple times a day!

“Shit, she must be exhausted”, I said, and my three-year-old looked earnestly up at me and said sweetly “Why you say ‘shit’ mommy?”

While my spectacular parenting fails are a post for another day, I can say I succeed in leaving FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in the dust. As a freelancing Social Media Strategist I spend so many hours not only looking at people’s feeds for inspiration, but crafting perfect content for clients myself. I am painfully aware of the time involved in “creating a brand”. The thing is, these days branding isn’t limited to businesses. Personal feeds are brimming with happy statuses, photo shopped selfies and that “perfect” family shot (that was likely one of 100). A viewer can easily allow the real, “in-between” moments to vanish into the warped curves carved by the clipping tool. Instead of serving the purpose of drawing attention to the poster, these status updates begin to focus attention inward, to our own perceived failures; “Look at how much weight she’s lost! I’m so fat”, “She’s pregnant AGAIN and I’m not?”, “I wish we could afford a vacation.”

So, what happens when FOMO becomes insidious? What happens when it begins to creep into all aspects of our lives and we find ourselves breathless and teetering at the edge of our sanity as we just try to stay above water?

We bail out the boat.

It’s easier than you think, and most importantly, you’re the one in control. Here’s a spoiler:

  • Absorb
  • Accept
  • Engage
  • Move On
  • Kick Ass

I’m an expert boat-bailer. A no-nonsense one. Being on social media all day, every day, as part of my job means I can’t let myself get sucked down. So, over the next weeks and months, I’m going to expand on those best practices for keeping the wind in your sails. See what I did there?

Stay tuned!

(When you visit me on Instagram @eringaus, remember that between that awesome photo of my son’s latest painting and the super-cool bubble video, I was cleaning up dog poop, wondering what was for dinner, and agonizing over a blog post that was long overdue)

Erin got her literal sea-legs at an early age on the choppy waters of Lake Erie. She finds the figurative waters of Social Media far more dangerous to navigate. She lives in Cranberry as a reluctant suburbanite with her husband David and their three-year-old son, and two little dogs who never stop barking. She is also a member of The ROKI CommunityYou can find her on Instagram and Twitter @eringaus, and can learn more about her Social Media Strategy services on her website, eringaus.com


The One Thing that Keeps me up at Night with Worry

Photo credit: Emily Levenson

Photo credit: Emily Levenson

By: Emily Levenson

If I had to describe myself as a mother, it would be a laid back and loving mama who is all about sticking to the routine. 

Fear and worry typically don't take residence anywhere in there. Unless, of course, we're talking about nap time and whether or not The Dog is going to wake up The Babe. Because that kind of fear makes me want to throw up on a daily basis.

All joking aside, there is one thing that gets me in the pit of my stomach and has the power to keep me up at night: the feeling that I am somehow failing my child.

Failing her because I ...

  • get angry and yell.
  • don't encourage her enough when it comes to trying new foods.
  • am allowing her to eat a thousand squeeze packs a day.
  • am focused on my own work and interests.
  • need a break.
  • feel like I don't play with her enough, engage with her enough, or take her to enough places to pique her curiosity.
  • forget to make her brush her teeth.
  • hold her too much.
  • don't let others step in and help.
  • let her watch television every single day.
  • let her cry it out. 
  • can't take the crying and pick her up again anyway. 
  • am not consistent with what I say and what I do.

There are a thousand and one more things I could add to the list, but I'm fairly certain you get the point. 

The worst part about it? I full on know it looks like the most ridiculous list on the planet when I put it down on paper. Rationally, I know that those things aren't life or death (well, most of them anyway). But my emotional response is on par with being chased down by a hungry tiger. 

How do I quell the fear and remind myself that I'm doing the best I can with what I know?

Being a parent is hard. The emotional stress of keeping another human alive and safe is downright exhausting. The ideal version of who I want to be as parent versus the reality of who I am showing up as in the moment can be disappointing and wracked with guilt. 

And yet, none of that matters — the fear, the guilt, the stress — if my child knows without a shadow of a doubt that she is loved, unconditionally. 

Because she is.

Emily Levenson is a Therapist turned Crafter turned Blogger, Baby-Wrangler, Meditation Encourager, Pittsburgh Enthusiast, and Propelle Co-Pilot. You can find her blogging about it all on harvest-bloom.com. On Instagram? Emily is there too.

Afraid? Good. You're Doing Something Right

Photo Credit: Forged from Stars Photography

Photo Credit: Forged from Stars Photography

By: Hannah Sutor (guest blogger)

Take a moment to think of the last time you were afraid. And I don’t mean imminent danger fear, like oncoming traffic swerving into your lane momentarily. I’m talking the fear that comes from doing something different from the norm, from putting yourself out there, from creating something and sharing it with the world. Can you remember the last time your deliberate actions you made you afraid?

If you’ve recently been afraid, pat yourself on the back! This means you’re doing something right.

Great things don't come from:

  • Staying in your safety zone
  • Performing the same, comfortable, predictable actions over and over
  • Following the path that society tells you to take
  • Accepting everything as-is without question

Great things do come from:

  • Taking risks
  • Improving old or creating new habits
  • Creating something and sharing it with the world

Note that all of the items in the “Great things come from” list are scary. There is a lot of fear involved. What will people think? What if I fail? What if no one likes my blog post, my artwork, my business idea? What if I make a fool out of myself? The fear-driven questions could go on and on.

Here are a few times recently when I have been afraid and did it anyway.

  1. I pitched my business idea in front of 3 different audiences. There was a slight element of fear for the public speaking (but it is not a huge fear for me), but the greater fear was in the feedback from the audiences and the panels. What if they thought my business idea would never make it? Am I ready to hear negative feedback on something I’ve been working so hard on?
  2. I decided to take my IT career in a new direction...twice. I went from software QA, to programming, to business analyst work. I had to ask my boss at each job about transitioning to a different role (scary!). With each transition, I had no training and had to learn on the job. I was expected to contribute from day 1 in each role. What if I couldn’t catch on fast enough? What if I have to spend all day every day asking my co-workers for help? What if my employer regrets letting me try something new on their dime? What if I become a jack of all trades and a master of none?
  3. I came fully “out” with my business idea to friends and family. It was something that I had been working on behind closed doors for a long time, and I began to wonder why I was hiding it. The answer? Fear. Again - what if I work so hard on this and it fails? What if I promote my business and no one buys it?

It is a lot easier to stay in your comfort zone and to never do anything differently. So again - if you have been afraid lately due to the awesome things you’re doing in your life - high five. It’s scary, but it’s worth it. And I always find that doing one “scary” thing begets doing another scary thing, and then over time, the element of fear becomes less and less because I know from experience that nothing bad is going to happen.

So you’re afraid? Keep it up. I am too.

Hannah Sutor is a software engineer and analyst, and is a member of The ROKI Community. She is currently working on her startup, a software platform which aims to differentiate recruiters in a crowded market.

Turn FOMO into HAN

Photo credit Erin Gaus - www.eringaus.com

Photo credit Erin Gaus - www.eringaus.com

Ok, I know what you're thinking....what the hell do FOMO and HAN mean?!  Well, I'm here to explain them both:

FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out

HAN: Here And Now

Almost every professional mother, no matter what stage she's at in her professional career, is experiencing FOMO in some form or the other:

  • She's missing out on watching her children grow up
  • She's missing out on growing her career because she chose to leave
  • She's missing out on fun business trips because she chose a career path with less travel
  • She's missing out on happy hours with her friends and coworkers because she is picking her child up from daycare

...And the list goes on.  I could type out a thousand more ways that I've experienced FOMO since the day I went back to work after having my first baby, and how much more FOMO I experienced after I left my career to be a SAHM.  And of course now that I'm working on building ROKI, I have FOMO about trips to the zoo, the library - you name it, I've FOMOed about it.

But I had to STOP - BREATHE - RELAX.  Because there's really no such thing as FOMO.  FOMO is just some shit your mind makes up to "trick" you into thinking something amazing is happening without you around.  Like in your mind, your child is saying "na na na boo boo!" from the daycare as he's riding a magical camel that spits out jelly beans.  Ain't happening.  What's probably happening is your baby is getting his diaper changed for the 5th time today, and while you may be miserable sitting at your desk, pining away for the day when you can spend more time with your child, what you really need to do is exercise HAN.

Focusing on the here and now takes lots of time and practice, and boy do I know, I'm still trying to get it down.  But it's rooted in the principle of Mindfulness, which basically means trying to bring your mind back to the present.  There's an awesome children's book about Mindfulness that I've been reading with my 5 year old for the past few years, I would highly recommend it!  But what I'm trying to get at is - no matter what your situation may be, the grass is always greener on the other side right?  And rather than pining away for that magical, almost guaranteed non-existent faux-reality, focus on what you have in front of you.  Of course, don't ever stop working TOWARDS where you want to be, but don't waste your day wishing you were somewhere else instead of where you are right now.

5 Ways to Kick Mommy Guilt in the Butt

I am currently sitting in bed, fighting off two things - a pretty bad cold, and the nagging guilt in the back of my mind for sitting in bed, instead of working, doing dishes, doing laundry, doing ANYTHING besides taking care of myself.  And why?  Because some social media post, book, blog or person said I should feel this way.  That I should ALWAYS be on.  I'm calling bullshit on that nonsense, and on mommy guilt as a whole. 

It's been evolutionarily wired in women's heads to feel guilt about EVERYTHING, including feeling guilty!  But why?  Because were afraid.  Fear drives a majority of our actions - like taking a mediocre job, thinking we're choosing the "safe" path in life.   My own guilt is fueled by fear - fear of falling behind, fear of being judged, fear of being called out by my 5 year old who so eloquently said last week "My socks are STILL in the dryer?!"  Thanks bud...  But what if we said f*ck you fear, and did what we needed to do for ourselves, for our families, to feel less guilty, and instead feel...well...better?   What if we allowed ourselves to relax, or go to work, or freelance, or lead a seminar, all without having some nagging form of guilt behind us?

Here are a few ways I've kicked mommy guilt in the butt in the past, and left that fear behind too:

1. Take a trip by yourself
This is one of the best ways to get away (like REALLY away) from everyone and everything, and put a timer on relaxation, indulgence and self care.  I had the privilege of getting away this past weekend (to New Orleans for a wedding) and I can't tell you how glorious it felt to sleep in a giant bed by myself, wake up when my body wanted to, and eat what I wanted when I wanted.  I had time to reflect on my life and the things I've done to get to where I am.  Without these precious 48 hours alone, I would not have been able to unwind and decompress from months of stress.  Granted, I ended up coming down with a cold, but mentally I feel more relaxed than I have in a while.

2. Celebrate Monday Morning
Hey working mama, it's ok to celebrate Monday morning, especially after a grueling weekend!  Do not feel guilty about dropping your kids off at daycare, you are working hard to give them everything they have.  Plus, celebrate the fact that you will get to eat, chat and pee in peace.  Hey, celebrate the small stuff!

3. Drop your child off at daycare...and do NOTHING
Trust me, they won't die.  Drop-in daycares are popping up all over the country, and are meant to provide a break for the overworked stay at home mom.  But instead of dropping your kid off to go run errands or do chores, go home and lay down, or read, or do NOTHING.  Giving yourself time is just as important as being there for your family.  

4. Get off social media
Holy cow, I cannot emphasize this one enough.  When I was first a SAHM, social media was my window to the outside world, and it ruined me.  All I felt was guilt - guilt for not being perfect mommy from day 1, guilt for not working and contributing to the family income.  All because I read other peoples views of the world and applied them to my life.  Stop - breathe - close your eyes.  You are living only one life - yours.  Comparison breeds fear, and fear breeds guilt.

5. Write down your goals, and start working towards them
This was the biggest one for me - I am a goal oriented person, so when I formulate a goal for myself, I naturally start running towards it, and block out external "noise", like naysayers both internally and externally.  I've personally found that by working towards something, whether it be losing weight, starting a new business, getting my resume updated, or just planning my son's 6th birthday (which I'm actively doing) I find less time to judge myself or hear others judging me.  I just focus, put my head down and go.  

Happiness has a trickle down effect - the happier you are, the happier those around you will be. The sadder/madder/crappiest-mood-of-your-life you are, the worse off those around you will be.  So take the time to use one or all of these steps to kick mommy guilt in the ass.  I want to hear from you too - how have you kicked mommy guilt out of your life?

Motherhood Kicks Fear's Ass

Photo by Jessica Corbin Photography

Photo by Jessica Corbin Photography

By: Patricia Nicolas (guest blogger)

I recently heard this definition for anxiety - Anxiety is fear of the unknown.

I had to think about that for awhile...

I have had a long 10+ year relationship with my anxiety but I am just now starting to realize how much of it is rooted in fear. Fear of big things like making bad life decisions but also little things like going to a social event. 

What does it feel like? 

Dry mouth.
Racing heart.
Heavy limbs.
Racing thoughts.
Grinding teeth.
Sweaty palms.

After my first daughter was born it got really intense. I remember after my husband went back to work and the visitors slowed down I would get up with her in the morning and just freeze. I did not know what to do with my day. I all of a sudden had all of these new and strange responsibilities and I felt so much on my shoulders that I was literally paralyzed. It was so bad my milk almost completely dried up (which ended up being fine because breastfeeding was not going well anyways and then I could get back on my anxiety medicine). Then I was scared to tell people I wasn't breastfeeding. I was scared to tell my Mom I wanted and needed to go back to work. And all the fear just fed the Anxiety.

Instead of reaching out for help or comfort, I hid it. I pretended everything was ok. I was scared of how I was feeling but even more scared of what everyone's reaction to how I was feeling would be. Over the years this became a pattern. Hiding from my feelings. Pretending to be something I was not. 

Then I became a mother again with my second daughter. Right off the bat she busted through a big fear of mine-- feeling pain. My warm and fuzzy epidural wore off right at crunch time when I had to push and I felt EVERYTHING. After that I started reflecting on how motherhood pretty much kicks fear's ass. I mentally listed so many fears that motherhood has pushed me through. Here are a few of them:

Fear of feeling physical pain.
There's no way around this one if you become a Mom- somewhere along the line during your pregnancy, delivery or aftermath you will feel physical pain and discomfort. 

Fear of having zero money in my bank account.
This was always a big fear of mine. Being a parent is expensive! Hopefully this won't happen to you but there came a day when I had a negative bank balance and had to face the reality that we needed diapers and I needed to take my daughter to the doctor for an ear infection. So i conquered another big fear- asking for help. And we got through it!

Fear of going off my anxiety meds.
It wasn't fun but I did it for as long as I needed to.

Fear of what others think of me.
Motherhood slowly but surely kicked this fear's ass. I mean- I don't have time to worry about this anymore!!

Fear of failure.
I fail every day. And I get up and try again the next day. And we are still alive and most days love each other :)

So put on your Mom armor and get out there and be amazing today!!!

Tricia Nicolas is wner and head photographer at www.vivaportraitstudio.com and is a member of The ROKI Community.  She is also the proud momma of Izzy and Ava.

Fear - The Evil Monster Holding Us Back From Greatness

We've all been there - a pivotal point in our lives where we feel something big is on the horizon, but we may not be 100% sure how to get there or even how to start.  I was there just a few short months ago - I had walked away from a thriving consulting business to roll in-house with a tech company to help launch a startup; a step I thought at the time was the right one but quickly figured out wasn't.  I knew there were bigger and better things waiting for me, but I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to get there.  Before I could even begin processing where to start, I had to step back to take a look at what was really holding me back.  In one word - FEAR.

I was so afraid of stepping away from a monthly paycheck again, even though I wasn't happy.  I was so afraid of stepping back out into the unknown world, where I would have to forge my own path, instead of walking down one which was already laid.  Fear has a really funny way of tricking us into thinking way too much about unknown outcomes, and writing elaborate stories filled with struggles, embarrassment and heartache.  Fear has gotten so good at weaving the ugliest tapestries filled with lies in order to hold us down and control us.  We are slaves to our thoughts and emotions, when in reality, we can be in control of our thoughts and emotions.  So what's really holding us back from being great?

Change Your Mindset

The first step to realizing your potential is realizing that you are in fact in control of your thoughts and your mindset.  But like anything new that we try in life, altering your mindset takes dedication and practice.  Start each morning off by writing in a Gratitude Journal and don't just write about the superficial things you're grateful for (i.e. "I love my Louis Vuitton purse", etc).  Instead, think about EVERYTHING in your life that you're grateful for - a warm bed to sleep in, all ten fingers and ten toes, your voice - and start focusing on all the good in your life. As you start filling your head with positives, that nagging voice begins to diminish, and over time with disappear.

Change Your Habits

You've heard this a thousand times, so here it is for the thousand and one-th time - changing your daily habits can change your life.  It's been shown that coffee consumption has been linked to increased anxiety so what better way to quiet the nagging voice inside than to cut out caffeine?  I personally stopped drinking coffee a few weeks ago and have been sleeping better and have been thinking clearer ever since.  What other daily habits do you see yourself doing that might be holding you back from being your awesome self?

Change Your Actions

Fear is a cunning beast - it not only persuades our thoughts, but can sometimes persuade our actions as well.  Do you find yourself avoiding certain situations because you're afraid of what might happen?  I remember when I was a kid, after I was bitten by the neighbors dog, I found myself purposely avoiding the neighbors house and walking on the other side of the street.  I was so consumed with the fear of running into that dog, I tried to avoid everything around it like the plague.  But I remember one day, years later, I thought "nuts to this, I'm not afraid anymore" and was able to not only walk past my neighbors house, but started becoming friendlier with dogs, and eventually became a certified dog obedience trainer!  

What can you do to change your mindset, habits and actions, starting today, to allow yourself to begin unleashing your potential?

Don't Look Back - a Story on Moving Forward

Once upon a time, there were three women, who on the same day passed on from the physical world.  On that same day, they all appeared together on a barren field.  The three women, Alice, Maya and Sera, were then greeted by another woman who announced that they had passed on, and with the wave of her hand, a road appeared.  At the end of the road was a fork that diverged in two directions.  The woman spoke again, and said "Each woman will decide her own fate - ahead is a forked road.  Each woman will travel on this road and must decide which path to take.  One leads to Heaven and the other to Hell"  

The three women looked at each other, and Alice was the first to step forward.  As she began to walk forward, the other two saw her go to the right, then she entered the woods and disappeared.  Next, Maya stepped forward and chose to go left at the fork.  The she too disappeared into the forest.  Finally, Sera was left alone.  She slowly began walking forward and came upon the fork in the road, but did not know which road to take.  She simply sat down and began to cry.

Alice, the first woman to step forward, found herself in a green meadow surrounded by others in happiness.  She approached the flowering pastures and saw a sign posted "Heaven".  She had chosen wisely and therefore laid down in peace.  Maya, the second woman to walk, came instead to a disheveled village.  The houses were crumbling and the people looked scared and unhappy.  A sign dangled at the town entrance that read "Hell".

Maya spoke with the villagers and heard stories of wild animals and bandit attacks - she was mortified.  She enlisted the help of others and started to plan a strategy to protect and rebuild the village.  It was a hard journey but in time, the houses were rebuilt and the wild animals had been domesticated.  Bandits no longer attacked the village and the people did not live in fear.  Maya looked at the wonderful transformation that occurred in the village, but felt like something was still missing.  She walked to the entrance of the town, tore down the sign that read "Hell" and replaced it with a sign that read "Heaven".

Moral: The only true hell is indecision.  Once you pick a direction, it is entirely up to you what you make of it.

Dear Depressed & Anxious Moms - You're Amazing

I'm going to get really REAL for a minute here - I suffer from depression and anxiety and have most my life. In the South Asian community especially, it's extremely hard to talk about mental illness openly, because it is seen as a weakness. Recently, (thankfully!) I was diagnosed with PMDD, which explains part of the depression and anxiety I have on a monthly basis, but there are days that I just can't seem to get myself up and ready - like today.

I snapped at both the boys this morning for no reason, but my husband quickly swooped in because he understands when mommy is not feeling like herself. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a supportive husband who not only understands my mood swings, but picks up the slack when I'm down, and doesn't hold it against me later.  But I know a lot of women are not as lucky - so many moms are suffering in silence and think they are crazy, but in fact they are experiencing very common feelings. But I want to tell you one thing - you're AMAZING.

You still get up every morning and get the family ready, even though you feel as though you're going to burst into tears any moment.  You still manage to tie your hair up, walk & feed the dog, and make the kids lunches, even though every step literally hurts to take.  You still manage to get yourself ready and out the door to go to work, and are able to get through an excruciating day, faking happiness so as to not let on how empty you feel inside.  SO many of us have been there, and continue to be there, but you don't have to suffer alone.

I hope you open up, to a therapist, a friend, a colleague or a community like ROKI, and share your all too common feelings with them.  I hope you recognize how amazing a person, mama, wife, woman you are, and what an incredible impact you have made on the world around you.  I hope you can feel your children's love and adoration for you, each and every day.

If you are suffering in silence, PLEASE reach out to your doctor or therapist if you have not yet.  If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8225.  There are trained professionals available 24/7 to help you through anything.  Moms have the toughest jobs in the world - we are pushed beyond our limits, then asked to go even farther.  Remember to take care of yourself before you can take care of your family.  You got this mama, you're amazing.