Mama Be Present: Return to You

photo by xinandxinphotography

Just a few months after starting Mama Be Present, I was struggling. I couldn’t tell if my thyroid had plummeted, if depression was creeping in, or if I was burnt out from JeeWoo no longer sleeping in. But losing my morning quiet time to write, create, and be with me (and only me) was surely making me crazy.

When I told my mom I was about to see my old therapist, she said:

“I have a feeling you don’t need to go sit and talk. I think you need something for YOU. Maybe take piano lessons. Go play some golf. Do something that will make you laugh and not think so hard.”

Now, don’t get me wrong about therapy. I firmly believe in it and have deeply benefited from it in similar seasons. But at that particular time, my mom knew what I personally needed. There was only one problem: 

I had no clue what “that thing for me” even was anymore. 

I even had to ask for ideas in a Facebook Group with local moms. Over sixty suggestions later, there was one thing that ignited something in me: standup comedy classes. 

Just the *thought* of this brought me back to an old part of me and reminded me of one of my favorite seasons. 

It was a time of uncertainty, as I had just nixed a move to New York for graphic design school (Oh, hi, recession!) and was between jobs. But I was traveling and golfing a bit, interviewing awesome women, blogging for a hip, new startup, and going to open mic stand-up every Tuesday night. 

I had no idea what I was doing, but I just remember feeling so free, rebellious, rested, and adventurous. 

So, adventurous, I did my own stand-up routine one night. 

How’d it go? Let me just say that I didn’t show my face at the Squire Lounge for a year, and when I returned, the bartender remembered me. The proof? His impression of my impression of Bobcat Goldthwait. 🤣🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️

I’m glad someone remembers that night, because thanks to huge nerves, going second to last, and having too much time to drink who knows how many vodka sodas, the only thing I recall is the emcee motioning for me to wrap it up and me, well, not wrapping it up. 

Needless to say, I bombed. But fourteen years later, two friends say this is one of their favorite memories ever. It’s one of mine, too. Yep, something I can’t even remember stands out in my mind, because:

It wasn’t just about the stand-up. It was about doing something courageous and out of the norm for myself.

It was about getting everyone in that room to pay more attention to a woman, no matter how ridiculous she was, and hopefully inspiring someone else to think, If SHE can do this, I can do this, too. (Kinda like how really bad dancers at a wedding give you permission to get out there and shake it, ya know?) 

It was about the freedom of it all. Getting on a stage and throwing away all the judgements and pressure of society is quite liberating, I must say.

After that hilarious flashback to my mid-20s, I thought it was time to redeem myself and at least be consciously aware of how my dad jokes and shoddy impressions are received. But as I looked into classes, nothing tugged at me. Um, I wasn’t about to be downtown till 10pm on a Wednesday (GOSH, I’M SUCH A MOM, NOW!) or commit four hours of my Saturdays, which are often prime time for Brit time. #daddyshome

But yet again, I don’t think it was really about the stand-up. It was more about the desire to feel like I used to: spontaneous, seen, silly, and free.

So, I’ve since been seeking those core desires in small yet impactful ways, like…

  • Traveling solo to Chicago to visit a bestie and laughing, laughing, laughing.
  • Cracking jokes on the “stage of life” – in posts, texts, and convervations.
  • Trusting that my writing is helping people, even when there’s crickets.
  • Heading to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier and be alone.
  • Being goofy with the best partner in play crime: My toddler!
  • Asking for more help so I can escape and create.
  • Exploring what’s possible with self-publishing.
  • Losing track of time taking pics of bees.
  • Spontaneously posting dance videos.
  • Playing the piano…and sharing it.

Bit by bit, I’ve been coming back alive. 

But just like every child is different, so is every mom.

  • Maybe you need something more focused and consistent, like yoga every Monday.
  • Or maybe the simple yet life-changing act of journaling is calling your name.
  • Perhaps a one-night, solo stay in a hotel with room service and nine episodes of Workin’ Moms is just what’ll recharge every part of you.
  • Maybe talking to someone is what you need most, but you can’t make it across town or don’t feel like putting real pants on. (There are tons of great online therapy services these days, like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and more.)

Or what about being fully away from home, every single week, for more than an hour, and honing a totally new skill? That’s certainly what helped Mary McConville, illustrator behind Grow Up Brite Creations, feel like herself again. 

When her kids were younger, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do, but something kept bringing her back to art. So, she asked her husband if he could be home at a specific time so she could go have three uninterrupted hours at art class once a week.

For two years, she learned all things watercolor. Then, she discovered digital illustration, and since 2018, she’s been connecting with moms all over the world through her art on Instagram, her online store, and more.

Her warm, relatable illustrations are like a big ‘ol hug through the screen. They capture the real moments of motherhood while providing notes of encouragement and honest truths that make every mom feel seen.

She also has this incredible ability to see beauty in hard times — especially the ones when we forget who we are. 

“I think this happens a lot with moms. It’s normal. It’s inevitable. But that’s when you really start to think, What is it that’s really going to make me happy?

It gives you that push to do it. It’s like you have to get totally overwhelmed by motherhood to propel yourself out of it and find what you love.”

Mary McConville,
Illustrator + Modern Mom Muse

If you’re in this phase right now, I hope these stories get your wheels turning again. I hope they keep you holding on. And if you need help brainstorming what that “thing for you is” or finding a therapist or getting the guts to ask for time away, I’m here for you, mama. 

In the meantime, remember this:

“It’s OKAY to get lost in motherhood and be in a funk,” says Mary. “Because right when you’re in the worst of it is right before it’s going to get much better.”


This post is part of the Mama Be Present series:

A joy-sparking journey + free community for moms who desire simple yet impactful ways to connect more with their little ones.

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