Real Mama: Christy Brought

Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Christy and I am a mama of four. Our house is busy, loud, often wild, and usually full of people and fun. My journey through motherhood is a little off the beaten path. I am a step-mother to my oldest, Nicholas, who is nine and in fourth grade, and then comes my daughter, Isabelle, who is a six-year-old first grader. Next, is my son Joey who is three and in a co-op pre-school this year, and my youngest, Tim, who is 18 months old.

Where is home?

Home to me is Laurel, Maryland. I’ve been born and raised in this town, and now my kids are growing up with lots of family and old friends in tow. I have traveled all over the world, and even lived in other countries, and I’m always finding myself drawn to being in my hometown with the people who know and love me best.

What kind of mama do you consider yourself to be? 

I’ve done it all! I became a mama at an early age, and worked through graduate school with a tiny baby girl on my lap, who turned into a toddler during my internship, and then a pre-schooler when I graduated. In my early years as a parent, I went to school on nights and weekends, and worked part time as a nanny to a wonderful family who allowed me to bring Isabelle with me to work. After I finished my MA in Counseling, I worked one to two days a week at a Crisis Counseling Center, and the other days was a full-time mama to my little girl.

I got married in April of 2009, to an awesome man, my hubby Nate. Isabelle had a sibling in Nicholas and a year and half later, a new sibling, Joey was born. With three kids I decided to make the big leap into “Full Time Stay-at-Home Mama,” which was a very scary and exciting endeavor. I had always had a dream to spend some time in my life exclusively being at home raising a big family. After Joey, came the baby, Tim. Adding a fourth child to this crazy bunch was an amazing and challenging time. When Tim turned one, I began to dip my toes back into the working world. I now work at a private practice called Community Mental Health Associates one evening a week doing Family Therapy.

I consider myself to be a stay-at-home mama. Although this title of “at-home” mama has fit the bill for the past three to five years, it is changing slowly and evolving to part-time mama. Even though I have started working outside our home, I still spend 95% of my time there, and it is hard to conceptualize myself emotionally as something else yet.

What are your secrets to balancing your life as a working and stay-at-home-mama?

There are no secrets! Anyone who has a secret to balancing life during motherhood is lying! Only kidding… kind of.

I don’t think there’s a lot of balance in my life, honestly. One day is busy and packed full of fun activities and friends, and then the next day is relaxing at home and reading stories, taking longer naps and maybe watching a Disney flick. In that sense, my days balance each other out. I try to balance the amount of time and energy I give to each child, but that is something I haven’t mastered yet. Finding time for “myself” as a part of the balance of my life is definitely a challenge. If I had a secret it would be, if you’re a stay-at-home mama, you need to find other mamas who you can relate to, who have your back, who become your closest friends. I feel lucky to have two such friends! A day spent at my friend Angie’s or at Kathleen’s is better at nurturing my soul and recharging me for the world than any spa day or other “me time” activity. My mama girlfriends provide me a little respite from the struggles and stress that come with at-home motherhood, and spending so much time with my kids (and frequently no one else). Having a friend and mother I can confide in, about parenting mistakes, challenging elements of my marriage, or difficult situations with family and in-laws truly brings balance and peace to my life. We laugh about all the crazy things our kids do, and about the stupid things we say and do with them. We laugh about this whole parenthood thing, and how our lives have changed so much.

I wish I had more balance between my marriage and motherhood. Date nights are hard to come by, and most of our time together is spent glancing at each other across the room or dinner table, with many little faces and the cacophony of little voices in between. I feel like balance for Nate and I is going to be found in the longevity of our marriage. There’s not much balance when you have so many small children. We sit on our couch at night and dream about backpacking through Europe, the boat we’re going to buy, the property in South America we want to own, and how we will spend infinitely more time and money on one another at some point in our lives than we can at this stage of the game. We are happy to have four healthy, fantastic kids and I think for both of us, balance is about making the best decisions for our family, and what our kids need.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Oh, so many inspirations. I am actively inspired by other mamas who inspire me with their great ideas, and creative, loving ways to raise children. Social media has been great for sharing positive parenting ideas. I am always inspired by my own mother, who was a stay-at-home mama for 12 years, loved us unconditionally, and was constantly surprising us with fun. She taught us to live life spontaneously. She was a great mother, PTA president, and a constant volunteer in our community and church. I watched her find strength in faith, and that has been an immensely powerful resource in my life when times are tough. She was a big believer in education. Each summer we’d have reading contests between my sisters and I. She would make us go to “summer school” at our kitchen table with fun activities, or “field trips” she’d cooked up to keep us always learning.

I feel lucky to have a wide circle of amazing mamas and luckier to have been raised by such a phenomenal mom.

What has been the best advice you’ve received as a mama? What do you feel is the best advice, if any, that you’ve given as a mama?

The best advice I’ve received is what I also pass along: “do the best you can.” It was a hard concept with my first baby. I had so many ideas about the kind of mother I would be, and the way I would cultivate this little life to be a sweet, perfect little girl. That idea held up pretty well until I became a mother for the second, third, and fourth time over. Along the way, I lost a little bit of my perfectionistic ideals of what I should be, and gained some acceptance and support for who I truly am. The truth is that not every day is going to be your best. You will make mistakes. Your children won’t succeed at everything, and it’s okay. What matters is that you try your best every day to give your kids the best life you can possibly offer. All the benchmarks I envisioned for “good motherhood” such as breastfeeding to 12 months, never watching TV, potty trained at two, having early readers, writers, math whizzes, sports stars, etc were extremely important to me at one point in time. Maybe I’ve hit some of those marks, maybe I haven’t or I never will. I thought it mattered so much. It doesn’t. If I’m giving the best of my love and my energy, that’s enough.

Are you the kind of mama you thought you’d be?

No way! I thought I would have it sooooo much more together than I do. In my dreams I am a mama who wakes up at 5:oo a.m. to do yoga, then go on a long run. I love to deep clean my house, and find it therapeutic to do endless repetitive tasks, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, empty the dryer, load the dryer, load the washer. In my dreams I dislike television. In fact,we don’t own one! I have endless patience to calm all tantrums, and split up fights and disagreements. There’s nothing more I love to do than read books to my children for hours.

In reality, I am very different. But, really, I think I am the kind of mother I thought I would be, because I believe (and hope!) I am a good mother. But the day-to-day life can sometimes be an alarmingly different scenario than the one I had pictured for my life before kids.

If you could have lunch with anyone famous (dead or alive) who would it be?

Honestly, it would be my maternal grandmother. She died three weeks after Isabelle was born. I was a new mother, and scared of what the future held for Isabelle and me. My grandma loved like no one else. Growing up, even my friends felt drawn to her. She was a figure of maternal love, and how she loved babies! I have a few babies now, and I wish we could all have lunch together. She was the best person to talk to about anything. Motherhood and marriage can be complex, and being able to talk to her over a very, very long lunch would make my heart very happy.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The ability to snap my fingers and have my house be super clean and orderly! There would be a lot less time cleaning bathrooms, and more time for reading, bubble baths and having fun with my kids.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In 10 years I will be a parent to kids in elementary school through college. I see myself having a lot more freedom and flexibility with all of my children at school. I will be working full time, and bringing in an additional salary. I hope to be reveling in my new career, doing exciting work and trying new things, learning new things, being stimulated intellectually, and creatively. I hope we are in a bigger house, with more land. I hope to see our family with a dog, and going on fun and exciting vacations.

Were your birth experiences all that you hoped they would be? If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

My birth experiences for my three children were all different. My firstborn was a textbook, average birth; 12 hours of labor, 1 hour of pushing. I was 22 and in great shape. If I could go back and change anything I would have studied natural birth more and fought harder to put off medication for pain. I made it to 6cm, and I think I’m mentally tougher now, and think I could have handled it looking back. I was a young, single mother at the time, and I wasn’t emotionally prepared to take on a natural birth for sure. I think there are many benefits to medication for pain. But none of those benefits extend to the baby.

My delivery with my second, Joey was very hard. It was complicated and scary and the recovery was hard. I don’t know that there is anything I had the power to change if I had to do it over, except maybe not marry a guy who’s 6’2″ with a linebackers’ shoulders (only kidding)!

When I was close to my due date with my last, Tim, my doctors said a c-section would probably be best, but it was about 50-50 what they’d recommend. I had three other children to think about during that time, and a husband with only a few weeks off of work. I had never had a c-section, only heard from friends and family that the recovery is much harder, and really takes the full eight weeks to heal and start to feel like yourself. My husband and I got into one of the most contentious fights of our relationship. He was adamant I choose to have a c-section. My next appointment, at 37 weeks I went alone, and it was me and my wonderful OB, she said, “it’s really up to you, you know your body best, and what you think it can handle.” That resonated with me, as I had been praying the whole pregnancy to be able to have a smoother delivery, and I felt like it would be amazing to have a positive birth experience after the difficult delivery I had with Joey. I decided not to have the c-section and delivery was a breeze! I had five hours of medicated labor, and two pushes, and I was done. Nate was joking with me as I was rushing to put on a little make up before I got an epidural and was bound to my bed. “You’re going to be sweaty, and crying and the make up is going to get all over.” Those pictures of me right after giving birth were awesome! It felt so good.

I feel like my birth stories were varied:  normal, to difficult, to easy. Most importantly, they gave me healthy children, which is all that really matters now!

How has your mothering evolved since those early newborn days? Is there anything, thus far, in your approach to mothering that you swore you wouldn’t do?

In early newborn days, I was working overtime to do everything “right.” Letting go of some control in favor of peace of mind and sanity has been really good for me in my evolution as a mama. I think motherhood has bettered me as a person. Anxiety and stress are things I think every woman struggles with, and motherhood, especially with a large family has broken me of that. There are a few things I swore I wouldn’t do! I never imagined my kids would watch TV so often. In the summer time TV time was really adding up (not good!). I also wish I pushed them harder academically (aka carved out more time than I do at our kitchen table with pencil/paper one-on-one). I did with Isabelle, but fell off the wagon a bit once I had more than one child to worry about.

Do you have a mama mantra or something you find yourself repeating over and over when times are tough?

“Just get through it.” Sometimes I breathe this in and out on particularly tough days. The day always ends, babies eventually sleep through the night, kids grow out of toddler tantrums, and it always gets easier. I try and think about how I’ll feel when my youngest hits his first day of Kindergarten, or how I’ll feel when they one-by-one move out to go to college.  The time we are given with our kids is so fleeting.

Is there anything else you wish to share with the Mama Say What?! audience?

Hmmm… maybe not to be so hard on yourself. Expecting a baby for the first time, and the first year of motherhood are fraught with indecision and anxiety about the changes your life, body and relationships will experience. When you are pregnant the first time, you are too afraid to say that you aren’t thrilled about this next chapter of your life, and it can be hard to admit how crazy, crazy hard it is to have a newborn when you’re a new mom. It gets easier! As you grow, especially having subsequent children, you grow more adept at the whole process of pregnancy/motherhood. You are more comfortable talking about how you are feeling. And you will grow and change and be pushed into a more patient, loving, selfless woman along the way. Give in when the day is too tough. Take a short-cut every once in a while. Give yourself a break, and ask for help. Don’t push yourself too much to be something that might be unattainable. Accept who you are and where you are.

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