Cait: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. I am wanting to know a little bit of background about you and your journey (motherhood, womanhood). So I’ll get right to it!
What are some defining moments in your life as a woman & mother?
Erin: One of the most defining moments for me was becoming a mother. I was 23 when I had my son. He was born with a cleft lip, palette and a club foot. We were expecting this to happen as my husband was born with a cleft lip and palette. However, we were told by the doctor that our child did not have any birth defects throughout numerous ultrasounds and doctor visits. The doctor guilt-tripped me into a C section. I was a young mother and hadn’t done the research that I needed to do to discover what I wanted for me. So, I wasn’t really prepared for the birth (i.e. didn’t take birthing classes) as I was busy working and was young. When my son came out the whole room went silent. I was screaming at the doctor what is going on? No one in the room said anything. They were just looking at us. The doctor finally told us that the baby was born with a cleft lip, palette and club foot. Motherhood began in chaos and continued with non-stop doctor’s visits. Everything was just crazy!
Cait: I can definitely relate to the not feeling prepared for the birthing process. I don’t know if many women are, but I can imagine this would have just added to the feeling. Must have been enormous additional stress.
Erin: Yes. Plus my son had a hard time feeding. All of the things I wanted to do with motherhood were thrown out the window. I had a lot of issues arising from that. I had a lot of healing work to do as it was a lot and I wasn’t expecting it.
Cait: What are some of the healing methods that you utilized?
Erin: Journaling, reflection, and dialogue with other parents that were/are going through the same thing. You have a vision of what motherhood will be you know – plans and things that you thought were going to happen – and then they didn’t. You feel helpless.
The first six months I was able to be off work, but it was not relaxing as it was filled with doctor’s appointments. My son was in his first surgery by 3 months. We felt really unsupported by health care professionals through this process. We did not feel heard while he was in the hospital. He screamed 24 hours a day. He was not an easy baby. Once the six months passed, I went back to work and was working long hours. We had fortunately found a wonderful daycare that took good care of my son. Then I got pregnant with my daughter. One day, I went to pick up my son from daycare and he was crying because he didn’t want to leave the daycare. He had been spending so much time there that he felt more at home at the daycare! I was devastated and started questioning what was I doing? My original plan had been to be an elementary school teacher so that I could be home with my children during the summer. A schedule that would fit around parenthood. Instead I got into a career that had me working non-stop. Even, when I got home, I would still be working on my blackberry. I would literally just feed my son whatever was in the house, not taking the time to prepare nutritious meals or encourage him to eat something other than Kraft dinner and SpaghettiOs.
Just before I had my daughter, I asked myself what am I doing? My main goal when I was a kid was to become a parent and, here I was doing a really crappy job of it. When I had my daughter I said, I am not going back to the same job. However, for a while I had to keep the same job because of my son’s pre-existing medical conditions and we needed the insurance to cover his treatments. However, when the laws changed that pre-existing conditions were not a thing, I decided that I was going to be the parent I wanted to be now.
Cait: Even deeper than that what I hear is that your maternal instincts were pulling you to where you naturally wanted to be – even your goal to be a teacher was rooted in your desire to be home more with your children. To be a more present parent.
Erin: We were living in California at the time and I had to work full-time in order to pay our bills. I decided that I would work an overnight job so that I could be home during the day for my kids. I literally had to beg this woman at a hotel to hire me as she said “you are over-qualified for this job”. I worked overnight until both my kids were in school. From the moment my son was crying and didn’t want to come home, I said, that is not the kind of parent that I want to be. Once I switched jobs, I was able to become the parent I wanted to be. I was available for my kids all day. I became the involved parent that I am.
Cait: Wow. I want to acknowledge this. Switching to overnight did not mean you had “days off”. You would be burning the candle at both ends.
Erin: My mother was very supportive. My husband worked long hours and I needed to get my rest, so my mother would come over at 5 p.m. and stay until the kids were in bed. We were lucky to have this support system.
Cait: What did you do in that period to make sure you maintained your strength?
Erin: Baths were and are key for me for relaxation. Walking is also really key for my peace. Walking to the beach really takes me to my happy place, where I can think and become one with myself.
Cait: I am the same, the bath walks and the beach are my go-to places. Ok, so now I want to get into how you connect with your higher self. You mentioned that when you do those things you get happier. How do you feel when you are in that happy space?
Erin: When I get to that higher self, I want to have fun and do spontaneous things. You can tell when I am in that place because there are random dance parties at home and I am more my fun spontaneous self – happier.
On the flip-side of that, on your shadowed side. What qualities do you seem coming out when you are not able to practice self-care?
Erin: I am really introverted when I am in my shadow self. I just want to hang out in my bed and not face the world. I distance from my friends and I am not a fun parent then either.
Cait: This is something that I brought up with the Rise Women Group earlier. I am big on understanding the phases of my cycle and understanding their impact on how I function day-to-day. Before I tuned into my phases I would go into extremes. I would be pushing to get things done. Then, I would experience down days and would not be able to get anything done. I would think I was failing at my work, failing at being a parent, a partner. I now understand what I need during my cycle. I don’t see the shadow side as a bad thing. It gives us an opportunity to go inward and determine where we need to go next. What we need at that time.
Erin: Yes, I need to understand that too. Sometimes I just can’t do it – when I am in my shadow side.
Cait: I totally understand that feeling. Burn out. That feeling is likely the reason I hate the word “hustle” as it is masculine driven and it goes against your feminine nature as a woman. Embracing those moments in your cycle when you just can’t do the things you “must” get done, and accepting that when you are in a shadow phase it is not bad, it is just an opportunity to go deeper tune into your body and let yourself feel all the feelings.
So next: Who is it that inspires you – what are their qualities?
Erin: I am inspired by my mom. I am similar to her in many ways. She is spontaneous. Her motto is – let’s do this! She shows up without being asked. She is deeply caring. She has great qualities and I strive to emulate her.
Cait: She sounds like she has a full cup. I wonder what she does to give back to herself.
Erin: She does get down like everyone else. However, she is able to push that aside and reach out to support others. She is there for me! I so want to get out to see her soon (in California). The quarantine has been hard being apart from extended family. However, how often do you get to be home and truly present with your kids? Not worrying about rushing off to work, although of course money and bills are an issue. That being said, this time has been so important to reconnect with family.
Cait: What do you admire most about yourself?
Erin: I admire that I am a really good friend. I will drop everything for my friends. I am there for them. I am spontaneous. I love that I care about people and that I care about their whole selves. I like that I do care deeply.
Cait: You see this as “we are all in this together”. A lot of people say this, but don’t live it so I honor you for that! I hear a lot of resilience too. Your ability to still care so deeply having experienced what you have shared about your life with me today, speaks to your resilience.
Thanks so much Erin for taking the time to share your story with us today xo
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