Friday, January 20, 2012

Hey you, it's OKAY!!!

Being a new mom myself, I find something new every day about mommy-hood that I never knew before. From the overwhelming sense of emotions that are experienced due to hormones, a complete change in your life, and a human being to love and care for; there are not a lot of issues that are talked about. Almost like it’s kept a secret because being a mom is supposed to always be glorious! Granted, it is the single most amazing experience of my life, yet it’s also the most challenging and scary time of my life as well. I’ve decided to expose a little bit of how mommy-hood challenges us as women and how it changes our lives by interviewing moms from all walks of life. Whether you are thinking about becoming a mom, are a new mom, are a seasoned mom, or are looking to better understand your OWN mom, I hope you can enjoy and find this information useful!

Diana Graham, Mommy of 3 and IFBB Pro Bikini Competitor

How many children do you have? Gender? Age(s)?

I have 3-Two by choice and one by birth :-) Bailey (F) 12 Jackson (M) 8 and Braden (M) 7 

What's the most challenging part of being a new mom (if you remember)?

The roller coaster of emotions I think. There is the new incredibly fierce love, terrifying fear of doing something wrong, and about everything in between; couple that with exhaustion and everything is a little, well...intense. 

Did you suffer from baby blues? If so, can you tell us about that?

I wouldn't say I had the "baby blues" but I have dealt with depression on and off since my late teens. The intensity of emotional swings was really difficult for me. 

What's one thing about becoming a mom that no one told you about ?

It's not that anyone didn't tell me, but I really think its impossible to explain how you feel for them. I would give anything for any of them to make sure they were safe and taken care of. 

How do you find time for you?

I make it. :) My "me-time" is essential for me to be able to train with the intensity in which I need to. It comes after my kids and husband but before everything else. If the laundry goes undone, then it does. If I need to take 30 to relax in the bathtub, I do, and then get back to the things that need doing.

How do you still fit in time with your significant other (if there is one), time with girlfriends, family, etc?

We (my husband and I) are both divorced with partial custody of our kids. We work around that. That makes it easy, but sometimes we go a few weeks without time to ourselves and we know how it feels to have to find time for each other. Fortunately my husband will come to the gym with me for a workout date! That is one of the thing that we talked about before we got married was that we both needed time with the other to feel that connection in our marriage. We are conscious of it, and we get it done! As far as friends, if your kids are little join a MOPS group or a co-op. This is a great way to connect with other women if your kids aren't in school. If they are school age, make the most of that time! Bust thru your chores, hit the gym, and grab a coffee with a girlfriend!  To be honest, my competitive life has cut my friend time but I text, twitter, and Facebook my girlfriends all day long!

If you workout or are into health and fitness, what role has this played in your mommy life?

It has give me a sense of ME! In the gym I am ferocious! On stage I am Diana Graham Pro Bikini competitor. At home I am Diana Graham-Dave's wife, Bay Jack & B's mom, ponytail wearing gym rat. If I didn't have my thing (training for and competing in the IFBB) it would be easy to lose the tenacity and drive. I'm grateful to have found an outlet that is completely my own. 

How has becoming a mommy affected your work life? What is your job?

My job is competing and representing GNC. I was a personal trainer for 6 years but when my littlest entered kindergarten I quit working so that I could be there when he was. 

How has becoming a mommy significantly impacted your life?

It has made me more grateful for all the good, aware of the bad, taught me that I am SO much more capable than I had ever dreamed, and courageous enough to go for it. Seriously, I just think there is a transformation that goes on when you create and give birth to a human life. If you allow it, it can give you an aura, a kind of swagger that says I'm strong, I'm capable, and you KNOW I'm sexy! ;)          

What advice do you have for new moms who want it all?

Go for it. Listen to your heart. Focus on the things that make your life full and rich. Hold your head high and don't listen to anyone who says you can't have it! 

"Diana Graham can be contacted for appearances through

Gianna S, Chicago – Currently a Stay at home mom.

 How many children do you have? Gender? Age(s)?

I have one 5 month old daughter, Avery.

What's the most challenging part of being a new mom (if you remember)?

For me, the most challenging aspect of motherhood (so far) is getting used to my baby's personality and reading her signals. For the first few months it was a huge adjustment trying to learn what each cry meant, what she liked, what she didn't, etc. It used to be so stressful when she would cry and i wouldn't know how to fix it but now that she’s 5 months old, I’m really starting to learn all of that. And getting into a stricter routine has been a huge help as well.

Did you suffer from baby blues? If so, can you tell us about that?

 I did! My Drs. warned me about it and told me if i feel "sad' sometimes to not worry, that often new mothers get it and it shouldn't last long. I never thought I’d actually get them. My mom stayed with me for 2 days and was a HUGE help to me. The day she left, i cried uncontrollably. And for the next two weeks or so after, every time the baby cried and i couldn't fix it, i cried because i felt like i was being a bad mom. Now i know that’s not the case!

What's one thing about becoming a mom that no one told you about?

Babies need CONSTANT attention! When she was first born, she'd sleep 95% of the time but now that she's older, she’s awake more and needs so much more of my time. I can't take naps like i used to, when my show comes on but she needs to eat the show has to wait. If i need to take a shower but she's screaming then the shower as to wait. Little things like that i definitely took for granted before i had her.  

How do you find time for you?

Every other day or so I will go to the gym for an hour. It helps me get away for a little bit and do something to help take the stress off of a hard day. Also, when the baby goes to sleep i will take a hot shower and sit down with my fiancé and have a glass of wine (or two) and just relax. I always go to bed feeling a lot more calmed down. That time for you is really important!

How do you still fit in time with your significant other (if there is one), time with girlfriends, family, etc?

This has been a challenge for me. When Dan (my fiancé) gets home from work, we only get a couple of hours to hang out alone when the baby goes to sleep. And our weekends are usually pretty busy. But the time we do get to spend alone together we try to make the most of it. And my mom is really good about offering to watch the baby when we need a date night!  My family and i have gotten so much closer since I had Avery. I go over to my parents a few times a week so she can spend time with her aunt, uncle and grandparents. My girl friends have been so supportive and have been there a lot for me. We try to get together and have a girl’s night out or they will come by to see the baby and we'll catch up. I may not get to go out with them as much as i used to but we always find a little time for one another, whether it’s a 5 minute phone call or a quick visit, and I think that’s what really matters.

If you workout or are into health and fitness, what role has this played in your mommy life?

It has played a HUGE roll in my life since having the baby. Before I had her, I worked in one of the top fitness centers in the country and despite having that at my fingertips at all times, I RARELY worked out. I would run outside occasionally, but that was the most I would do. I gained close 50lbs in the 38 weeks I was pregnant so going from 106lbs to 148 really took a toll on my body. I gained weight in places I never thought was possible! I since joined a gym and have been getting so much closer to getting my old body back. Will it ever be exactly the same? I highly doubt it. But at least I have a goal and the closer i get to it, the better I feel about myself. Not only is it doing wonders physically, but also mentally. It's such a big stress reliever and gives me a chance to have some "me" time a few days a week. It's a win-win situation!

How has becoming a mommy affected your work life? What is your job?

 I worked at a fitness center called "East Bank Club" for a few years up until i was 37 weeks pregnant. Because i wasn't considered a full time employee, after just 6 weeks, they requested that i return to work. After some serious thought and talking it over with my Fiancé, i decided it wasn't in my best interests to return to my job. Nor did i feel as though it would be the best decision for my daughter. I couldn't imagine not being home with her every day, especially being so young. I feel like this should be my job now until i feel more comfortable leaving her with someone else or in a daycare while i work. Washing bottles, doing laundry, feeding her every 3 hours, cleaning our home, bathing her, etc is a hard job in itself but i couldn't be happier to do it. 
How has becoming a mommy significantly impacted your life?

 It's really made me a better person. I want to be the best mom i can be for her. When i was 23 and living my life, i was doing just that, living for myself. But when i had a baby, suddenly I'm living for someone else. I don't think of just myself. And the things i used to do like going out on fancy dates, partying with friends, going wherever i pleased, suddenly doesn't seem so important anymore. Now the important things are making sure my baby is happy, well fed and most importantly healthy. My life revolves around her and I’m totally fine with that! I thank her everyday because now my life has a lot more direction and responsibility

What advice do you have for new moms who want it all?

My advice would be to make sure you take time for yourself. There's no such thing as Super Mom. You may want it all but no one can do it all. So when you feel really stressed, take some deep breathes, talk to your girlfriends, take a bubble bath with some candles, go to the gym or have some wine. No one will blame you for wanting that time to yourself. It's healthy to need that. And it's ok to ask for help! Remember, a happy mom makes for a happy baby! 

Danielle M., Chicago- Currently Asst. General Manager TGI Fridays

How many children do you have?
1 Gender? Male Age(s)? 1 year (15months)

What's the most challenging part of being a new mom (if you remember)? 
Not knowing the answers to everything!!! Especially being a new mom...... it is all trial and error. I remember always wishing he could talk so he could tell me why he was crying! LOL Google becomes your new BFF

Did you suffer from baby blues?If so, can you tell us about that?
Luckily, I did not.

What's one thing about becoming a mom that no one told you about ?
Hmmm... thats a tough one...

How do you find time for you? 

That's tough too, because I am still trying! Working full time is hard when having a baby. With that being said, when i am off work all I want to do is be a mom. When your a mom who is very into health & fitness, that becomes your "me" time. Now, I find that all I do is be a mom/wife, work, and workout. I know I would find more "me" time or time with friends if working out was not such a huge priority.

How do you still fit in time with your significant other (if there is one), time with girlfriends, family, etc?

After a year, it is still hard. My husband and I do make sure we have 2 days a week off together which is nice. Now we have to work on getting out together more often, because now we just stay home with the lil man. I wish I saw my girlfriends more, but it jut becomes soooooo hard when you become a mom. I am very close with my family, so luckily I see them all the time!

If you workout or are into health and fitness, what role has this played in your mommy life? 

A HUGE role. Getting back into shape within 2-3 months after having a baby is a major self-esteem booster! I feel better in my body now than I did before I was pregnant.

How has becoming a mommy affected your work life? What is your job?
As soon as I returned from maternity leave, I realized I was not as dedicated/passionate as I was before. All I wanted to do was go home to my family. I soon went down to 4 days a week after I got back. I am in the Restaurant Industry which is very high demand, stressfull and alot of hours! (55-60week)

How has becoming a mommy significantly impacted your life? 
When I look at my son, I can't believe how lucky I am, or even the fact that I am a mom. I love it! I would not change a thing! You cherish more once you become a parent....

What advice do you have for new moms who want it all? 
It is VERY important that you make time for you and your significant other, your friends, and family. I am still working on finding more time, but the time I found is priceless.. keeps me happy!

Danielle Martin
Assistant General Manager
TGI Friday's Midway Hotel Center
RLJ Development | Franchisee

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Dont Carpe Diem"

Don't Carpe Diem

Posted: 1/14/12 11:57 AM ET

Every time I'm out with my kids -- this seems to happen:
An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, "Oh, Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast."
Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.
I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn't work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life - while I'm raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I've heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they've heard there's magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it's hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers -- "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" -- those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Now. I'm not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: "Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast."

At that particular moment, Amma had arranged one of the new bras I was buying on top of her sweater and was sucking a lollipop that she must have found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn't find Chase anywhere, and Tish was grabbing the pen on the credit card swiper thing WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, "Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you."

That's not exactly what I wanted to say, though.
There was a famous writer who, when asked if he loved writing, replied, "No. but I love having written." What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, "Are you sure? Are you sure you don't mean you love having parented?"
I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.
Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I'm being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times -- G, if you can't handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?

That one always stings, and I don't think it's quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it's hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she's not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn't add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it's so hard means she IS doing it her own way...and she happens to be honest.

Craig is a software salesman. It's a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don't ever feel the need to suggest that he's not doing it right, or that he's negative for noticing that it's hard, or that maybe he shouldn't even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he's ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: "This career goes by so fast...ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!"

My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn't enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn't in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn't MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I'd wake up and the kids would be gone, and I'd be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here's what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:
"It's helluva hard, isn't it? You're a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She's my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime." And hopefully, every once in a while, I'll add -- "Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up -- I'll have them bring your groceries out."

Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn't work for me. I can't even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.

Here's what does work for me:
There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.
Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is so beautiful. Kairos.
Like when I'm stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I'm haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I'm transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I'll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world's mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.
Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.
These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don't remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.
If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.
Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.
Good enough for me.
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Friday, January 6, 2012

My Year in 2011

2011 started off very frazzled for me. I started TWO new jobs in December of 2010 after not being able to find a job in my field for four months. I was eager yet very defeated all at the same time. I was eager because I was ready for a change and to really thrive in the business. Defeated because after countless interviews and either getting a "Dear Jessica, we are sorry to inform you" letter or not even hearing back from a place. After being crushed so many times, my confidence was completely shot. I lost my spunk!! And what am I without my spunk!? I had let those instances define me. To be honest, I didn't think there was any turning back from that point. I just kept telling myself, "How can I have worked so hard in college, through my internships, volunteer work, have 6 years of professional experience under my belt, countless letters of recommendation, and a degree to go along with it and no one [likes me] or wants to give me a chance?" I let my own thoughts manifest into negativity and define who I was. 

Well, the hours of both of the jobs I took ended up crossing over with each other and I had to make a decision to stick with one. The job that I chose led me to believe that there was a lot more in store that would give me the opportunity to learn and grow in the business; and that ended up not being the case. Of course that added more fuel to my already blazing fire. So, a few months passed and I had slipped into a state of depression. Not only due to my frustration with my job and lack of time to see my family in turn, but because it was during this time that precancerous cells (moderate dysplasia) were found during a routine pap.

All I could think about was, "How could I not know? Why me? I don't want to die." Getting really sic k and dying was my #1 concern & fear followed by, "what if it spreads and I can't have kids?" So, soon to follow was a slew of doctor visits, biopsies, and procedures. When I found out what was going on, I was determined to fight! I started eating less processed foods, working out even more than I already was, taking regular fish oil pills and multivitamins, and lastly, quitting smoking in September of 2010 helped me as well. 

Well, I had my removal procedure and was then placed on antibiotics due to an infection that soon followed for 16 days. I then had a follow up appointment on May 3rd and my pap came back NORMAL!  I was scheduled for another follow up appointment on May 26th which was to be right after I was to return from my Boston vacation. It was this day that I found out I was officially PREGNANT. (You can read more about this experience in my previous blogs). 

My fiance and I viewed this as a real gift from God and that I was truly meant to happen at this time. Once we accepted this news, my life and views on life changed instantly. I was happy again. I was Jessica again. I appreciated time with my loved ones and couldn't love them more. I was suddenly stress free and accepting of all the fruits that life has in store for me and my family. 

As the year progressed I really took inventory of what was and is important. I was focused on doing my personal best and giving my all to worthwhile situations and people.

What I realized and learned this past year :
1. My relationship with John is the most fulfilling relationship I've had in my life, for him I am thankful forever.
2. My sisters and brother are my very best friends. 
3. My dad is the most generous man. 
4. Through lies that my "friends and fam" have spread, I prevailed and karma truly came around. 
5. I will never let my hard work and dedication go unappreciated again. 
6. I will do whatever it takes to support my family. 
7. I AM good enough.
8. Taking care of my body is NOT an option, it's a necessity. 
9. My son and future husband are my world.