Kept Prisoner: Motherhood and Mental Illness

Before I start, a note.
I’ve been pressed, by many well-meaning people, about my sharing my experiences with mental illness. Raised eyebrows and comments like, “You’re very open about it,” imply that I ought not to be so candid. Some have said that it’s a “little much,” or “embarrassing.”  These few comments have been overwhelmingly surpassed by notes, calls, and shows of support and encouragement. The mountain of messages I get from other mothers who have suffered similarly, or those from women who have been inspired to seek help, are worth any amount of criticism I could possibly encounter. For those that might not understand, however, I owe a tiny bit of explanation:  Truth be told, writing about this is embarrassing for me. Frightfully so. But I feel, with all of my heart, that writing about this is not only the right thing to do but also God’s calling on my life. He has given me a story to tell about His grace, miracles, and the power to overcome. My embarrassment is a small price to pay in service of others. If I stop because of the misunderstanding of few, I tell the mothers it has helped that their story, their suffering, is “too much” or “too embarrassing.” I won’t do it.
Hear this, precious reader: Your story is worthwhile. You are anything but an embarrassment. In the words of my Grandfather, whose pride poured through the phone all the way from Tallahassee, “You keep on going.”
One terrible thought is all it took. I was in the middle of mopping the kitchen, mindlessly listening to a thriller podcast my book club had recommended. I used to love thrillers. That was before. Suddenly, I was pulled into a state of pure panic. “What if?” What if I did something terrible? What if I hurt my own children? I tried to put it out of my mind, to reassure myself I was being silly. “You’re not a psychopath,” I told myself, “Psychopaths don’t stay awake at night fretting over whether their children had eaten enough vegetables at dinner.”
But the thoughts wouldn’t go. I couldn’t shake the feeling, the awful uncertainty, no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t sleep for days. I knew my worries were unreasonable but I couldn’t rid myself of the awful uncertainty I felt. I didn’t know it then, but all of my reassuring and ruminating was feeding the beast: OCD, which thrives on one’s desperation for safety. OCD demands you be absolutely certain. From that moment on I was stuck, held hostage by my own mind. The brain is a wonderful tool but a terrible master.
It picked the one uncertainty it knew I couldn’t leave alone: the safety and well-being of my children. OCD is really crafty and cunning, I have to give it credit for that. It challenges your values and your personhood because it knows it’s an itch you will scratch. First, it appeared as a friend. “Maybe just check that you’re doing everything just right, wouldn’t want to risk it.” Checking that everything was okay, that I wasn’t dangerous, seemed like common sense. But over time the voice became menacing, threatening. Knowing OCD’s voice helps identify the bully. Sadly, even when you know it’s the disorder talking, it pulls you in. It’s like an addiction. My thirst for certainty, for safety, is relentless. It’s part of my biology. It’s motherhood. We check and double check their seat belts, don’t we? So why not answer OCD? Why not make sure they’re safe?
“Please, God. Please. Keep them safe.” It’s a prayer many mothers pray over their children, but I do it with a desperation that could charge the earth to move. It knows I will do anything to keep them safe, and then makes me the monster to be afraid of. When triple checking their car seats wasn’t enough to terrify me, it made me the adversary. “How do you know you’re not a monster?”  It turns your every normal move into threatening possibilities. It gives your arms the unwanted urge to harm. You constantly feel like you’re on the brink of terror, one step away from travesty. One awful moment away from hurting the people you couldn’t bear to hurt. I couldn’t harm a fly, in reality,  but that doesn’t matter. Reason and common sense have lost their footing and have been replaced by looming, terrifying possibility.
The more you answer the beast, the more uncertainty it delivers. “No! Of course not! I would never hurt anyone.” That’s what I would tell OCD when it challenged me. This is reassurance. It’s an ineffective compulsion people with Harm OCD perform. “I’ve never done anything wrong. I’d never do that.” Maybe, for a minute, you feel relief. Of course you’re not a monster. You’ve never done anything monstrous.
“But, what if?”
Those are OCD’s three favorite words. You can’t argue with “maybe.” Any sentence that starts with “Maybe…” is inherently true – anything is possible, after all. Because there is no certainty in anything, not even your love for your children I’ve discovered, that can’t be shaken by a “what if.” You may be reading this and think, “No way, I’m certain I would never (insert terrible act here).” But certainty is a feeling. A nice one, but a feeling nonetheless.
So, I tried harder. I would perform more safety compulsions. I would avoid being alone with my children, and kept constant recall of my actions every second of the day, knowing OCD was waiting to challenge my every move. I’ve even contemplated installing cameras in every room of our house, so I can check them to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong. (Crazy? I know. You’re allowed to laugh, if you want.)
It’s often called the “Doubting Disease,” and for good reason. It can instill doubt in the most reasonable of people. Most people live with the false comfort of certainty, but OCD pulls back the curtain. It offers you a .000001% chance that your worst fears are true. That sliver of “maybe” is unbearable for someone with the disorder. It’s unbearable for me. I need to know. I need to be absolutely certain.
What’s the worst thing in the world you can imagine doing? Think hard. Imagine the details, the outcomes, the consequences. Imagine discovering you are not who you thought you were. You say you’re sure, but how can you be sure? How can you be certain? The most normal people sometimes end up on the evening news for atrocities against humanity. How do you know with 100% certainty that one day you won’t become a headline?
That’s OCD. It’s the cruel voice that made a normal mother, in the middle of mopping the kitchen, a threat to her precious, beloved children in her own mind. A hell of my brain’s own creation.
It even questions me during my conversations with God. It slivers in to my most sacred spaces, the places that are meant to be my refuge. “Are you being genuine? Maybe you’re faking your faith, too. Maybe this is just a cover for your evil conscience.” It tells me I may go straight to hell, that hell is where people like me belong. It’s exhausting. It’s the devil’s work. The devil loves insecurity and fear.
At some point, OCD compulsions take you away from your values. They turn you into a person who lives in fear, in a small box where OCD is king. You start avoiding those you love, because you’re possibly dangerous, and you can’t bear to lose them. But by performing the compulsions, you lose them anyway. You lose the genuine way your children sink into you when tired, the sleepy way they melt into your arms. You’re quivering in fear during moments that were once your happy place. Eventually, you’ve lost it all. OCD owns all of your moments, your day, your life. You’re left in a prison, deprived of all the things you once loved. You did everything you could, but it wasn’t enough. You’ll never feel safe. You discover that fear and comfort are both liars.
At my very worst, OCD had me so convinced that I was dangerous, I felt my children were safer without me. Me, their mother, who has since birth rocked them to sleep with lullabies and played peek-a-boo for hours. Who nursed them in the middle of the night, tended to their every whim, and spent every minute of the day devoted to their happiness. I didn’t want to die, to miss a single minute of their glorious childhood, but I was adamant about their safety. If I couldn’t keep them safe from me, then I deserved to die. The devil tempted me with the promise of their well-being, told me they’d be okay if I just disappeared.  And I nearly gave in. Nearly. Instead, I called my husband to come home and begged for real help. I mustered up enough courage to tell our family what I’d been enduring for months, and they sprinted to my side. I went away for six weeks – six terrible, treacherous weeks away from my babies – to work on getting better. Every single second I would think about them, about how I’d failed them by getting so sick. I made a promise to myself that I would fight like hell to fight the beast. To get my life, my unremarkable but perfect life, back. And that’s what I did.
After leaving treatment and returning to my “normal” life, I reached out to OCD Treated, who claimed OCD could be treated to a point where one could live in complete freedom. I’d never heard that before. My therapists would delicately and sympathetically break the news to me that OCD was chronic – that I could manage it and suffer a bit less, but the thoughts and fear would probably linger. The best I could do was prepare to take it along with me for life, and to live as best I could anyway.  His philosophy was also more brutal and painful than I had learned elsewhere. But it was also genius and employed simple logic. He thoughtfully explained to me that my attachment to “perfect motherhood” and a perfect childhood for my children was manifesting itself into fear – it attached to what it knew I wouldn’t accept and made it bigger and scarier so I would keep feeding the compulsion monster. To overcome the beast, you’d have to accept yourself unconditionally, even if you are a terrible monster. You’ll have to harbor sympathy for even the worst of humanity. You’ll have to give up the illusion that you can keep your loved ones safe. He challenged me to put myself in risky situations – exposures, in therapy speak – and to do everything I could to bring on discomfort. When people hear about exposure therapy for OCD they’re usually mortified. “That sounds like torture.” Well, it is. Effective torture. I was all too willing. At the end of my rope, I would endure just about anything. “You’ve never met a more agreeable patient,” I told him earnestly. “I will do anything.”
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So I did. Day after day I’d put myself in uncomfortable situations. I’d watch movies about going to jail; he picked ones that were especially brutal, right down to gang violence and solitary confinement. I would be asked to imagine being there, in prison, knowing that I’d committed a horrible crime. Being kept away from my children. Being held in contempt and hatred by those I love the most. Alone, abandoned. To come to terms with the possibility. To find understanding and empathize with the criminal in her cell. I’d sob and sob through exposures but I refused to stop. I was determined. If this is the way out, I will see it through.
I was also ordered to do “risky” things around my children. As I’d do what was asked of me, OCD would hover. “What did you just do? Did you hurt them just now? Do you want to?” My brain would scream at me to perform a compulsion, to respond to the menacing threats, but Rob (the therapist and expert behind OCD Treated) had implicitly explained that I was not to answer. I was ordered to shrug. “Maybe. Maybe I did. Moving on.” It is painful and terrifying but it is the only way out of OCD’s prison. Slowly, I gained more and more freedom, more psychological endurance. He was onto something.
I’m not cured, exactly. Maybe I’ll always live with some fear. But, I’ve stopped feeding the monster. I’ve stopped meeting its relentless demands. It pushes, but I push harder.  I do everything I can to make myself uncomfortable. To hug and kiss them as I did before, to spend more and more time in their presence, to ignore OCD’s relentless warnings and follow my values. Psalm 16 lingers in my head: I will not be shaken. OCD will not take me away from them. After months of brutal exposure work, I can finally spend hours, days, weeks alone with my children and – best of all – I actually enjoy life most of the time. I still have heaps of anxiety, but I’ve learned to push through and live my life anyway. I now keep my kids home from school just for fun adventures and no longer avoid things that make me anxious.
It’s been nearly a year since my battle with OCD began, and I’m in awe of how much I’ve conquered. How much of my life I’ve taken back. I can finally look to the future, with hope and optimism, and think of all the things that are to come. Recently, Mike and I began talking about a third baby in the future. One day, as we were out shopping, he insisted I buy this darling white onesie, a nod to our hope to fill our home with another miracle. I may have a mental illness, but motherhood is still my biggest joy and calling. I often take it out of it’s box and think of the teeny, perfect blessing that will one day (God willing) fill it. I imagine rocking a baby to sleep, undisturbed by OCD. Babies are hope personified. I think of how it will feel to know that darkness was shut out by light, goodness prevailing over evil, all embodied by a bundle of God’s amazing grace.
OCD is a powerful adversary. But here’s the thing: It cannot be more powerful than my love for my family. It has met its match, my motherhood, my desperation for my freedom and my children. It will not wear down the willingness to do anything for them. I’m not a brave person by nature. I prefer meakness and comfort and nonconfrontation. But I’ll be brave. Every day I will get braver and tougher and closer to owning my own life. OCD is no match for my blind, stupid courage.
If, by grace, I one day get to heaven I imagine I’ll get my answers. The reason for all my suffering. I hope more than anything it goes something like this:
“You kept going. You would not let the devil win. Well done, good and faithful servant.” And then there will be peace. Overwhelming peace. At last.
At last.

“In Jesus, now you know this: After everything that happened, this is not the end. Though you have been pushed out to the margins and at times it felt like everything would fall apart, He picked up the pieces and said, I know you. I know everything that has happened, and I will still hold you together. I will still love you forever.”

Meeting Milo (Musts for New Pups!)

I have a confession to make: I have fallen in love. His name is Milo, and he’s polite, affectionate, and so very handsome. I’m talking, of course, about our new addition. A rescue pup named Milo who comes to us with some joint issues and a skin infection but the most loveable little heart.

Like with any new addition to a family, shopping is inevitable. I’ve teamed up with all of my favorite brands for dogs, big and small, to give you some discounts and doggie fashion inspo. You’re in for a treat! (Ha.)

Love from Milo (who is laying at my feet waiting for a treat) and me!

XO

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The Foggy Dog is one of the cuuuutest shops on Instagram, and I knew I had to have #AllTheThings. They sent Milo this adorbs bandana and I went ahead and bought a matching bed, leash, and dog toy. Her prices are affordable, and how can you resist shopping handmade? Lucky pup, you get a discount. Use code BGMEDIA at checkout.

If you’re wondering why he’s wearing a sweater, you’re in good company. I’m not the kind to dress up my dogs. But I couldn’t resist this super soft, super cute sweatshirt for Milo and I think I’ve changed my mind about dressing him up. He was made for fashion. He gets that from me. You can shop the sweater here.

 

Here’s Milo, getting his first subscription box from the Dapper Dog Box.  For the price, it had so so much in it! Treats, toys, a bandana. He is in doggie heaven. PLUS, your pup can be philanthropic. With every purchase, the company donates to pups in need. ❤

Last but certainly not least, The Rover Pet Boutique sent Milo all sorts of goodies. A leash, bow tie, and bandana – oh milo!

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The bandana is my absolute favorite. (For a part-chihuahua mutt, he’s pretty preppy – in a past life he played Lacrosse and Yale and went on to work in finance and marry a tri-delt.) Just for you, I got you a 20% discount with the code BLAKELYDOG. 

Look at the precious bow tie. I am officially dead and gone. (And spot the little Foggy Dog bed in the background!)

 

 

So there you have it. Shop away, dog mamas!

 

An Open Letter About OCD

A note:

If you happen to be reading this because you are suffering with a mental illness, hear this: I am so, so very sorry. You’ve done nothing to deserve your suffering. My being sorry might seem trite or unnecessary but when I was first scrambling in a sea of symptoms and the reality of my diagnosis, a kind soul offered me her empathy. She acknowledged how badly I was hurting. Her “I’m sorry” didn’t offer freedom from the pain, but it meant someone saw me. Someone finally understood how deeply I was hurting and was sorry.

So, reader, I see you. And I am sorry. So very sorry. That’s all. 

Dear Khloe Kardashian,

I had no intentions of writing about this until I was “better.” My story is an embarrassing and personal and painful one to tell. But, last week, I saw a story pop up in my newsfeed about you and I knew it was important to say something, anything to those it may have affected. I realize it is 2018 and everyone is offended about everything. I have never found myself falling into the offended population, but perhaps that’s because I come from a place of privilege and, until now, I’ve never had reason. But I have a reason, a damn good one. And I pray, despite your busy and remarkably public life, you will read this and hear me out. And even if you don’t, I hope someone does and re-thinks their position on this topic to the benefit of those around them.

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For those wondering what I am babbling on about, I offer you my congratulations for being exempt from the clenches of this pop culture obsession. To fill you in: Last week Khloe Kardashian began a campaign she titled “Khlo-C-D.” On her app, she encouraged users to take a test to see how “OCD” they are, and offered tips for how to properly organize your closet. She joked about how to get your partner to be more “Khlo-C-D.” I like to think I am not overly sensitive and that I know how to take a joke, but this campaign devastated me, because it represents something bigger than Khloe Kardashian’s misconceptions about a debilitating mental illness. It represents the millions that follow her, that hold the same belief, that diminish an illness and perpetuate a stigma that reduces something that has largely taken over my life – and the lives of many – down to a case of liking an organized closet.

Khloe, I hope you’ll read this because whether you like it or not, your words are powerful and reach far beyond mine. This is important work to be done and I need people like you to help me do it. As a fellow mother, I hope you’ll read my story and understand how worthwhile this is for me to write. I am about to tell you my embarrassing and painful secret so that it may do some good. Please, please help me make some good out of this mess.

The truth? I have spent the last few weeks in an inpatient facility for OCD sufferers. 4 months ago, I was living an unremarkable and amazing life. I was entrenched in motherhood, the ABCs, and happiness. I had (have) friends I adore, a husband who is equal parts amazing and handsome, a life so sweet I could hardly believe it was mine. I was living for Jesus and my family. We were even planning on a third baby this summer, the perfect final addition to our family. Would we adopt? Should we wait another year? The options were exciting and amazing. I’m not an expert on bliss, but it’s the closest thing to heaven I could have found, nestled right in quiet, small town Texas. One night, while watching the kids playing together and feeling overwhelmed at how lucky I felt, I said to my husband Mike, “I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. For us to fall into financial trouble or for you to cheat,” I jabbed at him, laughing. What really happened was something I couldn’t have planned for because I didn’t even know it could happen.

One random Thursday in December, I had dropped off my 2 year old at pre-K, done a quick Target run, and began mopping my floor. My younger toddler in her high chair, snacking on tomatoes and hummus, I turned on a crime podcast my book club had recommended. The content of the podcast is something that is incredibly triggering for me, so I won’t divulge too much, but I will say this: The story was about a parent who horrifically and unapologetically hurt their own child. I listened, and out of nowhere, a thought came into my head: What if I am capable of something awful like that? How do I know I’m not? And, I suddenly was berated with images and thoughts of harm coming to the two little people I live for. I was terrified. Immediately, I thought, Oh my goodness. That’s horrific, and I never want to think something like that again. But, it wouldn’t stop. A few hours later I was having the thoughts every few minutes. I sat down and googled intrusive thoughts and how to rid yourself of them. I meditated. I prayed. Nothing worked. I didn’t sleep that night, and the next day I called my husband and told him something was not right. By the time he arrived home, I was convinced I was a dangerous monster, and told him I needed to lock myself in the guest room until I got help. The following week, I walked into my therapist’s office for the first time, expecting – eager even – to be reported and taken away from my children. It was heart wrenching, but I wanted them safe. I needed to know they were safe. From her couch, I spilled every awful, terrible thought through tears. I explained how badly I did not want the thoughts, but how powerful and persistent they were. Finally, she put her hand out and stopped me.

“This is a very common form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I treat many mothers, good mothers, wonderful people, with this illness. I cannot reassure you again, after this moment, because it feeds the illness. But I will tell you that your children are not in danger and you will not hurt them.”

Before my diagnosis, I’d believed OCD was something people had that made them check the locks and wash their hands relentlessly. There must be some mistake: I was having thoughts that were meant for jail or a mental hospital. How could she let me walk out of her office without telling the authorities? How did she know I wouldn’t hurt anyone? That day began a new life, full of unending appointments, questions, medications, improvements and setbacks. I was fighting hard, but I was losing. I was getting worse. I could no longer stand to be in the same room as my children, terrified I would somehow snap and harm them. I trembled as I changed diapers, cringed when they hugged and touched me, and counted down the minutes until Mike would come home. If he was home, they were safe. Being alone with them, which for three years has been my wonderful reality, suddenly became my worst nightmare. I can’t begin to describe the feeling – the inescapable worry and terror that I will snap and do something terrible. Under the control of OCD it doesn’t matter that my fears are irrational, driven by a mental illness, even at the reassurance of a team of professionals, experts and everyone I love. All that matters is that the thoughts are there. When I hold them, it feels as though I am on the precipice of doing something horrible. I can feel the blood rush in my hands, urging me to harm. These are all consistent with OCD symptoms, but it doesn’t soften the feeling of imminent threat.

I quickly began to spiral, to feel with hefty certainty that my family would be better off without me. That there was no way out of this hell, that my children deserved better than a mother who was either a threat to them, or afraid to touch them. Finally, I broke. I’d written a letter to my husband and children to tell them how relentlessly I loved them and how incredibly devastated I was to have to leave them. I am normally a jealous spouse, but quickly began to hope that Mike would find someone warm and wonderful, quickly, who would adore my kids, show them Jesus, and give them hummus to dip in instead of ketchup. (Ketchup has too much sugar.) Should I leave her a note too? How will she know Finn’s favorite songs? Who will tell her how much spinach to hide in their smoothies? I thought of all the moments I’d never see. The absolute misery that would come to Mike, having lost his soul mate. I thought of the irreparable damage I would do to my family by leaving them, by giving up. I ripped up the letter. I sat outside and listened to the rain hit my tin roof, and I looked my OCD in the eye and said, “You cannot have me. You cannot have this. I will not be shaken. Now go back inside, and you live. Live for them. It doesn’t matter how painful it gets, you have to live.”

That night, I begged Mike for help. He nodded and hugged me, and he promised to find me help. He promised he would fight as long as I did, too. I don’t know if there has been a time in our marriage where we have been more committed to each other than in that moment. We have never lived out our vows as sincerely as we have since I was diagnosed. He became an expert on OCD, listened to podcasts, read books. He prayed for me, and most of all, he never blamed me. He saw his vibrant, powerful wife quiver in fear and has never lost hope in me. He called our insurance company to advocate for my treatment, he researched programs with me, he took out money – a lot of money – from our savings, and saved my life. We found a program that would allow me to leave frequently to see the kids, and within a few phone calls, I was admitted. My saint of a mother in law swooped in to take care of my children while I was treated. Our entire family showed me an unbelievable amount of grace and unconditional love. Within a few days, I made the drive to the program, enveloped in tears. But somewhere deep within the illness, there was a part of me that for the first time in months felt relief. With me gone, I knew my babies were safe. That’s the certainty OCD demands.

ProductShoot-4020.jpgI do not get tot put my children to sleep each night. I don’t get to hold them and kiss them without trembling. A simple phone call with them, and the sound of their voices can send me into sheer panic. I am tortured with thoughts of harming them, of being taken away from them, of losing them. I cry myself to sleep every night, until my lungs have no air left from sobbing. I have missed the opportunity to wake my son up on his third birthday. I planned and crafted for his birthday party from the dining table of a mental facility. I watched my husband cry as his broken wife drove away from the home she built with him. I drive hours just to put the kids to bed. I fight and I go to appointments and MRIs and psychiatrists and acupuncturists. I’ve read every book Amazon Prime can offer on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am fighting for my life back, and let me tell you something: it is not funny. It is not clever or cute or catchy.

I think you see, Khloe, where I am going with this. OCD is not strictly a disorder of organization, and those who suffer do not delight in their compulsions. The people here with me at treatment are wonderful, talented, smart people who are brave enough to get help and find a way out of the hell that is OCD. When you diminish their illness by using it as a way to get clicks and likes, you perpetuate the stigma that OCD is something lighthearted and funny. After reading my testimony and knowing the pain this illness has caused my family, I hope you’ll think differently. I’m sure you wouldn’t misuse breast cancer or a brain tumor as a catchy slogan, so I’m not sure why you feel entitled to do so with OCD.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure, or I’ll assume, you’re not a bad or ill-intended person. You’re also not the only one who has used OCD improperly. (I once had a fellow mom tell me that she had OCD about her Instagram pictures.) I’m not here to lecture or scold you, but to inform you and the millions who follow you that behind OCD there are millions of people truly suffering. I pray that you’d use this error in judgment to educate your followers. To get the word out about the many, many forms of the disorder. You never know when a terrified mom will be on the other end of that information, desperate for an answer to why her thoughts refuse to relent. Thousands of people have not had the chance that I have been given. Many, hopeless and alone, have ended their lives under the impression that they are monsters, not victims of a mental illness. Your words have power, and they could save someone’s life.

 

As for me, I am not done. I’m not done fighting and I’m not done telling this story. This is my broken hallelujah. I will not be shaken.

 

Please share this. Please help me yell this from the Internet’s rooftops. Let this reach the eyes and ears of people who need it. There is help and there is treatment and there is life on the other end of fear.

 

OCD, you absolute son of a bitch, I am coming for you.

 

Let’s Hear it For The Boys

2017 is more or less an amazing time to be a woman. I’m not neglecting the progress that begs to be made (Hi, maternity leave, I’m mostly talking about you, you elusive mystery…) But let’s face it: The 1950’s would never have survived me. I’ve never in my life baked a pie of any kind and look tragic in polka dots. Just, no. I realize this is a pretty reductive outlook on the 1950’s. I wasn’t there, so you’ll have to forgive me.

Women in 2017 can and do everything. We are the stewards of companies, charities, TV networks, churches, and families. We are released into a world that demands us to be bold, to think big, to do big. Ranks upon ranks of powerful and vibrant women have paved the way and been our advocates so that we might have a voice and place. Our grandmothers might have been encouraged to be docile and polite, but – with spark and chutzpah – raised a generation of spicy and fiery women who would shatter glass ceilings and still make it home in time to carpool to soccer practice.

Fine. I’ll say it. Women are kind of my favorite. 

But – if I dare to make a suggestion, or maybe just an observation – it feels like we’re missing a piece of this “equality” and “progress” conversation. The other half of the parenthood puzzle: Dads.

Hear me out. 

I’m at a table full of mothers yielding a day’s worth of toddler trouble to frozen margaritas. We get together every month or two to eye roll about potty training and lament about our stretch marks and our dark circles. The conversation turns to our husbands, and all of a sudden we’re exchanging horror stories about the time Jenny’s husband – God bless him – dressed her kids like Beetle Juice (not on purpose, which is even funnier) or how petrified Mary is to be out and leaving him alone with her youngest (who is three). She clutches her phone, waiting for him to text, “I’m just panicking that bedtime is going to be a nightmare without me.”

It got me thinking: I do not think there’s been a single time that, enjoying a beer after work, that my husband has panicked about my ability to care for the kids in his absence. I’ve even asked him. Response? “Um, no? You’re their mom?”

And none of my mom tribe has ever confessed to texting their husband, “What laundry detergent bothers Sally’s skin, again?” or “When’s Jack’s next appointment?” Jenny has a PhD and a full-time job, much like her husband, but admitted that at home their equality drifts. She is the default parent… and it’s not entirely her husband’s “fault.”

Is it possible this is sometimes a system of our own making? What if we stepped back a little and stopped taking ourselves so seriously? What if we allowed the partners in our lives the opportunity to parent equitably? What if we relished in the different and wonderful ways our husbands love our children? It would mean relinquishing our roles as “Head Bitch in Charge” (side note: I ought to put that on my business card!) but it might mean resenting being the default parent a little less and enjoying the partnership of parenthood. Nothing is more relieving to a tired mom than her partner grabbing the baby and changing them without a word. Truth be told, Mike may very well be the better parent in our household. He has endless patience and makes the best living room forts you’ve ever seen. 

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I learn so much from watching my husband parent. He and our children live, really live, together and he idles in their joys and sorrows in the moment and doesn’t obsess over their eating and naptime schedules. His wife (hi, me), on the other hand, navigates motherhood with the balance and calm of a recently committed mental patient. I cannot begin to tell you how many charts I’ve made in the name of “good parenting.” *Insert anecdote about the note in my phone that has collected data regarding a certain 3-month-old baby’s poop, right down to color and texture.  Jesus, be a fence.* And of course, all went to hell in a hand basket one day when the toddler decided he was uninterested in my game of “PLEASE EAT YOUR BROCOLLI.” Do not pass go, do not put bananas on this plate. Zero stars for the meal chart.

Mike is so dear. He is present and funny and they adore him. I hope they grow up to be everything like him (maybe less noisy when chewing cereal, but no one is perfect, you know?) in spite of their bizarre mother and her charts. If I didn’t have him, I’d cave to my own insanity. The kids would eat enough broccoli, but they’d never stay up past their bedtime to watch another movie, just because he wants to kiss their cheeks for another hour.

We moms are special. Important. Made for this, even. But Dads? They’re the secret sauce of life. And guess what else? They’re just as capable as us; a realization that totally knocked me off of my self-important mama pedestal. No one loves to pat themselves on the back as much as I do for doing #ALLtheThings. But, when I got home from a doctor’s appointment one day and both kids were napping and he’d finished all of the laundry (ALL of it, you guys) I realized maybe I wasn’t the one with the parenting super powers.

So, get out of the house, mama. Throw in some dry shampoo and get a margarita.

The kids will be fine.

…Probably.

Special Memories with Luhvee Books

Happy Friday, friends! 

I get to work with a lot of very cool brands, but today’s post is one of my favorite collaborations thus far. When Finn was a little babe, I was diligent about filling out his baby book. I’d note every new food he tried, his likes and dislikes, and glued pictures to the pages like a crazy person. But with the addition of #2, certain things had to take a backseat, and I’m sorry to say Holly doesn’t even have a baby book. She has a box of “keepsakes,” her hospital outfit, first blanket, pair of shoes… all thrown haphazardly into a box that used to house Mike’s baseball cards.

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Luhvee Books has my #lazymom back, and makes collecting memories and pictures into a curated book easy and simple. I’d tried to create a photo book on other websites before, and it had been an hours-long process which resulted in a just-okay product with grainy photos. Luhvee Books makes it easy by doing some of the work for you and allowing you to fill in special things about your kiddos + special people. The beautifully decorated pages are pre-prepared with statements ready for you to finish. (For example: “We love the way you…*fill in the blank*”)

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What I didn’t anticipate is how cool the kids would think the books were – we made sure to include photos of their favorite people (grandparents, friends, and each other) and when we flipped through their book together they couldn’t stop laughing and smiling when they recognized friendly faces. Best of all: The books make for a thoughtful, meaningful gift for family members. We decided to make a book for Holly and Finn’s grandma, Gigi, with special memories and things we love about her – like that she always smells like cinnamon and makes the best treats for us and the kiddos.

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To create your very own book with Luhvee, use the code BLAKELY20 for 20% off.

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Time to Get Packing

The official countdown is on: We leave for vacation in just a few days, and I for one could not be happier to be ditching the Texas heat for a while. (Texas: Get your temperature and bug situation under control.) Because I’m a mom of little people that come with #AllTheThings, I’m leaving my traditional diaper bag at home and bringing with me a bigger, more durable bag that can hold things for the beach, diapers, wipes, extra sets of clothes, random pairs of shoes my toddlers fling off… you get the picture. I opted for this super cute, seersucker bag I found on Jane.com.

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If you’re not already familiar, Jane has a huge selection of clothing, accessories, home decor, and even baby and maternity clothes. The best part is their daily deals make the prices super affordable – I do not have the time or money to overspend on things that are going to swiftly be covered in bodily fluids. I just do not. Thank you, Jane, from mothers everywhere who love a bargain.

My one – kind of lofty, because kids – goal is to read Jen Hatmaker’s Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load… I’ve only read the first chapter and it’s made me roar laughing and has spoken such truth into my heart. Jen’s other book, Of Mess and Moxieis already on my pre-order list as well. If you haven’t read anything by Jen, I can’t urge you enough to snag one of her books. The girl’s got fire in her belly and a real gift with her pen, and her books have been some of my truest companions through times when I required grace and a good laugh.

I cannot wait to take off, to unplug, to set my eyes on the people I love and just be with them. I hope – whether you’re escaping to Bora Bora or to the blow-up pool in your backyard (no shame in that game, ladies) – you take a minute to sit back and enjoy the crazy family you’ve made. (That is, until they start yelling for more snacks.)

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This post was a collaboration with Jane.com.

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It’s The Little Things


I don’t wear lots of fine jewelry, so the few pieces I do wear are particularly special to me. Aside from my wedding set, these two sweet bands from Sweet Pea Stamping are the most precious things I own. 

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I wear important jewelry on my hands – the work of motherhood is mostly handywork. The wiping of noses and tears, the holding of teeny baby feet, and the hours of washing and cooking and rocking. I remember thinking, when my first was born and he fit into the crux of my palm and forearm, “I have the whole world right here in my hands.” 

The jewelry brand can personalize their pieces to you; whether it’s the names of your children, boyfriend, husband, or even just a word, lyric, or piece of scripture that’s important to you. It’s such a neat way to carry the special things and people in your life with you. (They also make a great gift!) 

I’m so grateful for these pieces. I can’t carry my kids their entire lives (goodness knows I would try) but even when they’re grown, they’ll be forever stamped on my heart and hands. 

To purchase your own, or to buy for a friend, use the code Blakely20 for 20% off.