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Doodling Saved My Life: Finding My Joy After Kids

DoodlingHi there, readers of Fairfield County Moms Blog! Let me introduce myself!

I’m Hilary, a 30-something mom of two, or three if you count my husband/man-child. I’m an only child who was born and raised in New York City. Fast-forward to adulthood, and I became an attorney, got married, bought a house in suburbia, and had two kids. That’s me on paper, in three sentences.

As this is my introductory post, I am digging a little deep. Despite being extremely type-A, I am a pretty humorous gal. I hope to bring my sense of humor to all of my posts, because we all need a little humor in our lives, especially on this journey we call parenthood. I also think it’s critical to keep things real on the internet. I’m not one to post any Instagram-filtered pictures that paint parenthood as an easy breezy vacation full of donuts and unicorns. My goal in sharing my voice with all of you is to bring two things: honesty and humor. Oh, and these cartoons you’re seeing up there at the top of this post? I drew those. More on that later (I’ll tie it all together, I promise).

doodlingPhase One: Enter Children

Some say that the adjustment from zero to one child is the hardest. Not for me. Of course, there was an adjustment. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But the adjustment, from what I can remember, was minimal. I was happy to be off of work, after five years of long hours and commuting. My daughter was, as I like to describe her, a unicorn baby. She slept through the night at three weeks of age, was always happy and almost never cried, loved the car and running errands, fell asleep at 6 p.m. every night, like clockwork, without nursing, a bottle, or rocking her to sleep, and I was able to work from home because she loved being independent.

Now, I don’t tell the above story as a humble brag. I share it as simply context as to why, when our daughter turned one, we decided without hesitation to try for another. Little did I know, I’d be pregnant within two weeks. I would then go on to have a horrible second pregnancy. And then my son, who was due to be born only 22 months behind my daughter, would come a month early, and spend the first three months of his life crying.

Those first three months were overwhelming, of course. But I expected that. I had two kids under two. That’s supposed to be impossible, right? But I survived. And one day, literally overnight, my son went from a colicky mess to the happiest baby. I thought to myself, “Well, I got through the worst part, so it’s only uphill from here.” Oh, how wrong I was.

Phase Two: Enter Depression

Let’s talk about the evil elephant in the room, postpartum depression. Sadness. Crying. Staring out of the window. Tossing and turning. Anxiety. Slamming doors. Yelling. Cursing. Withdrawing. Hiding inside. 

This too shall pass. Except it didn’t. One night I wouldn’t go into my son’s room to comfort him while he was screaming because I was afraid I’d strangle him. Then I had a vision of throwing my tantruming toddler down the stairs. I’m not okay. At the encouragement of my husband, I called the doctor. I started seeing a therapist, got on some medication, and climbed my way out of the fog before it was too late.

If you are reading this, and you feel this way, please, get help. You are not alone, you are a wonderful mother, and you deserve joy.

One thing my therapist kept telling me to do was to make time for myself. Uh, thanks, but how do I do that? I started to exercise again, I put a book next to my bedside table to read before bed, and I played my guitar. Close, but no cigar, so to speak. It was as if all of those things that gave me joy before I had kids just didn’t do it for me anymore. What am I doing with my life? Where is the joy? I can’t live like this forever.

As I searched for that “thing” that made me tick, my daughter was growing up at lightning speed and starting to say the most hilarious things. I pulled out a notebook and started to write things down. Then one day, I pulled out a sketchbook and some colored pencils and doodled her as a cartoon saying that she didn’t want to eat a ladybug for lunch (it was a raspberry). My husband told me it was funny and I should post it to my Facebook page, so I did. My friends thought it was funny too. So I kept doing it for fun and as a way to make a scrapbook of sorts that I could keep forever and pass down to my kids.

So why would I randomly draw a cartoon? Well, you see, back in the day (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I used to do art. Remember the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken?” The most famous lines are the last three:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Now, were I to be writing this poem now, to describe my life, it would read instead “I took the one more traveled by.” Why, you ask? Well, I was an artsy fartsy kid who was also a really good student. I went to private school and didn’t quite understand that I didn’t have to follow an academic path if I didn’t want to. I also didn’t understand that there were ways to channel my love for art into an academic education and career. So I did what any “prudent” student would do – I went to college, got a “practical” degree (economics and math…can you believe it?), and went to law school (like my dad).

I don’t regret the choices I made up until this point. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. Had I been as wise at the age of 18 as I am now, I might have seen the world a little more like Robert Frost and taken the road less traveled. In that case, I wouldn’t have met my husband and had my beautiful children. Regret would get me nowhere. But maybe it wasn’t too late for me to take the road less traveled and chase that joy now, albeit fifteen years later.

Phase 3: Enter Joy

So there I was, doodling every day, and I started to feel like I was reconnecting with a best friend I hadn’t seen in years. That joy I was missing? Here it was, and it was inside of me this whole time. I just had to find it. And all I needed was some paper and pencils. Fast forward to today, about a year or so later, and I’m still drawing every day. I started an Instagram page and a website for my cartoons and the blogs that go with them.

I like to say that I had a third baby. Funny moment? I draw it. Sentimental moment? I draw it. Worst day in the history of parenting? I draw that too, but I make it funny. So I haven’t only found the joy in me, but I’ve also found the joy in parenting – the joy that so many of us lose sight of when the kids are screaming, destroying the house, and just generally taking away every ounce of energy (and sanity) we have left. Wow, is it therapeutic to have a constructive outlet for all of the frustration that comes with parenting.

When my family goes out to eat, my dad always makes a toast “to good health.” After all, isn’t that what matters most? But as I’ve grown older (and wiser, in theory), I’ve learned that health is much more complex than I understood it to be before becoming a parent. Heath is physical, but it is also mental and emotional. If you don’t have all three, then you aren’t really healthy.

Take care of yourself. When you take care of yourself, then happiness will tend to follow. Of course there are ups and downs, the unforeseen, and the unknown. But if we nurture ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our hearts – then happiness comes closely behind. And when you find that thing, the thing that makes your heart skip a beat, that gives you purpose, that makes you feel complete? Well, the world notices. And when the world notices, you spread joy. And isn’t that what makes the world go ’round?

In closing I say to you, readers, ladies, mamas… Go find your joy. You aren’t too old, too busy, or too tired. You may not find it tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year. But one day, you might just stumble upon it, and your world will never be the same.

Thanks for reading my story. When I’m not on here, you can find me over at mymommydoodles.com and on Instagram at @mymommydoodles. Cheers!

Where do you find your joy?

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