Momma Interviews: Meet Nicki Brunner
The Momma Interviews is a new blog series by Catherine O'Brien, LMFT highlighting the thoughts, experiences and wisdom of a unique real-world mom each week, to normalize and validate the struggles and triumphs that are a part of the universally human experience of motherhood for women everywhere.
How do you balance the mom, work, and relationship roles?
Just kidding. I try.
When my daughter was born 4 years ago, I cut my full-time job in half and it was the best decision I've ever made. After 10 years of stress and chaos from the workplace coming home with me, I finally shifted gears and left it all there. I know that's easier said than done, and many times I will still work into the wee hours of the night, but the intention is there and that matters a lot. I make it a priority to give as close to 100% of myself to wherever I am. When I'm home with my kids, they get my full attention. At work, I give them all of me. And when my husband and I ever sneak out on a date night, I bring my “A game” and make it count.
Rushing around the house with three kids can make it difficult to find moments of romance, and currently, with a 3-month old who isn't sleeping, it's rare that we even share the same bed for longer than two hours. I know these days of our "business partnership" will end eventually, and it definitely helps to know for a fact that we still like each other. But, that role is a tougher one than "mom." That's for sure.
Most moms I speak to say there are moments when they are ready to throw in the towel. Can you describe a time you felt this way? What got you through it?
Today. Just today. Isn't that ironic? It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's ugly. Here are the facts:
1) My final maternity leave was in its last 24 hours (sniff, sniff).
2) My middle child had had a cough for the past six nights, which didn't allow her (or us) to sleep longer than 4 hours straight.
3) My oldest decided to get pink eye during our baby's baptism ceremony...
4) ...followed by a fever of 103.
5) I repeatedly told my sick middle child to stay away from the baby to prevent him from getting sick.
6) I walked out of the room to see her holding his fist. In her mouth!
Lost my mind. Baby's sick. Three sick kids, and it's ten hours til I am supposed to be a presentable human being in my office. Not good. I was tired. And angry. And ready to give up. And all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed, home alone, braless in sweatpants sipping a latte and watching The Bachelor. Uninterrupted. Because I'm home alone and the world is grand again.
But, that's not the case. I put my sick kids to bed knowing full well they would take shifts waking up in two, three, four, five, six hours...and I sat at the kitchen table with my husband. I poured a glass of wine and opened my computer and designed the crap out of stuff! This is what does it for me – following my passion--art and design--which peeks its head only rarely and in the late hours of the night, but it brings me back down from the ledge and makes me feel like a creative, imaginative person again. More than "just mom." Works every time.
Take time for yourself and your passions or forever hold your peace.
Oh, and I should mention I also had a HUGE bowl of Doritos by my laptop. #guiltypleasure
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed, overstretched, or less than?
Reset myself. At least weekly, I am forced to reset myself. I know not everyone has the flexibility to take a ton of time for themselves, but it's really SO very important! I go to workout classes. I take my dog for walks. I visit with neighbors and shovel the sidewalks and eat Aldi fruit snacks in the bathtub and indulge in Aziz Ansari stand-up comedy specials until my contacts dry out. When life feels exhausting and your body can't keep up, you NEED to shut down (temporarily, of course). Reset yourself. Reprioritize your life. And start fresh. It works, I swear.
I've had parents tell me that one of the hardest things about being a parent is the comparisons and judgments from other parents. How do you personally cope with that?
Screw judgmental parents. Find parent friends who are above all that crap and stick with them. As for strangers, if you feel glared at and looked down upon in Target when your 4-year old is screaming how much she hates you for not letting her ingest the entire aisle of Oreos, use humor and walk on. "You'd think I never fed her" or "Yeah, that's what she needs right now – more sugar!" can make you feel, not only cutesy and clever, but like you just brought a smile to someone who obviously needed it because they were finding their greatest joy in scowling at strangers. Don't let them get inside your head. And if they do, give them a piece of your mind.
"Do YOU want to deal with this Oreo-loving monster since your piercing glare is screaming at my failure right now?!"
Yeah. Like that.
What is the great lesson you've learned as a mom?
I've learned that I'm not perfect. But I'm fun and funny and they love me even when I don't. They help me love myself and for that, I am forever indebted to those little stinkers. :)
What is your favorite quote that inspires you as a mom?
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Maya Angelou can do no wrong, and this quote will always inspire me to be the best person I can be.
What is your favorite song that inspires you as a mom?
Beautiful Day by Joshua Radin. It's not mom-centric by any means, but it's an inspiration to get you through your day with a smile on your face and hope in your heart. We are raising children! It doesn't get any more beautiful than that.
"Gonna drive my car to the sea. Swim out far, cuz I believe...the waves will wash the grey away. I'm making a beautiful day." ~ Joshua Radin
What is the one piece of advice you'd like to give to other moms?
Let it be. Take deep breaths and let it be what it is meant to be. Stress and anxiety will get us nowhere but to an earlier grave, so sit back, teach, learn, evolve and smile with your kids because that's what memories are made of. Not clean houses or perfect dinners – but smiles and time. Spend time with your kids and let the other stuff just "be."
What do you feel is your greatest personal struggle with the experience of motherhood?
For me, it's finding the patience to raise them like the small children they are and not like the tiny adults I sometimes wish that they were. My husband always tells me, "Let them be kids." And for the next 30 minutes, I will. But it's hard to find that perfect line of what's "just being kids" and what's lazy, disrespectful, and rude. Constantly reminding my kids to chew with their mouths closed or not pick their noses or answer the waitress when she asks them a question doesn't steal their childhood. In fact, in my mind, it shapes them into more respectable human beings. But trying to control their need to do a cartwheel in grandma's living room or blow bubbles in their chocolate milk until their tummies hurt from giggling? Well, that's the stuff I need to just let happen.
How has your relationship with your partner changed? How has it stayed the same?
It goes in phases. We look older and laugh a little less, but not in a bad way. We've grown up with our kids, and – since conversation is hard to make happen in this day and age – we are very selective in our topics of choice. Small talk is out of the question. We go right for the big guns and squeeze in as much as we can before we are interrupted by a "Moooooom!"
While we have a newborn, we are just surviving. We kiss goodbye in the morning and stay up too late making travel plans or watching trash TV, but really communicating is complicated. Finding time to even hear about his day is a struggle with three tiny voices and six tiny arms wanting to be held, heard, and hugged. We try desperately to find babysitters for date nights and manage to have long, late-night conversations about our passions (writing, travel, hiking, food), but mostly, we are just tired and show our love and respect for the other person by voluntarily getting up with the baby when it's not "our turn" or putting a cup of coffee into a travel mug so we can get on with our hurried day at least semi-caffeinated.
It gets better when the kids get older. Or so I've heard. It ain't that bad. It's survival. He's still romantic as hell, and I love him to death.
What is something that has surprised you about being a mom?
I'm good at it. I had my doubts, and I don't want to sound arrogant, because really, I'm not. But I am proud of my ability to mother and find no shame in saying it out loud. Oh, and I'm surprised how poorly a stomach can bounce back after three C-sections. Yikes!
How many children do you have?
3 (Boy-6 years, Girl-4 years, Boy-3 months)
Share your relationship status.
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