How Story of Life of Dad.

A few week’s before our first child was born, my husband Tommy started a blog called Life of Dad.

Our daughter had been diagnosed with a serious heart defect and would need open-heart surgery to save her life. The second half of my first pregnancy was spent preparing and planning for a very scary entrance to parenthood. Tommy started Life of Dad to update our family and friends on our daughter’s health knowing we wouldn’t want to retell detail after detail…we would want to focus on our girl.

When Barbara was born, doctors took her away from me immediately but Tommy never left her side, singing and talking and praying so that our baby recognized a familiar voice. Babs never let go of his finger.

At 1 day old, Barbara was transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angelesand at 3 days old had open-heart surgery. While the surgery was considered a success, the swelling overwhelmed her body and she flatlined 3 times just a few hours later. Tommy and I stood there, heartbroken and helpless.
That was our rock bottom.

After that day, Barbara’s health continued to progress and heal. She is now a thriving 9 year old who loves puppies and babies!

As our girl recovered, Tommy’s content on Life of Dad got lighter, bringing in humor and growing this community for dads to feel celebrated and supported. He had big dreams for this little old blog called Life of Dad.

9 years later, it is one of the top parenting communities online with over 2.5 million followers worldwide. I remember celebrating when he hit 5K followers. Through the years (and through many algorithm changes) it has not always been easy to keep this community afloat…but Tommy’s personal sacrifices and commitment to providing a platform for dads to be celebrated and supported has never wavered.

Life of Dad has literally saved lives and built up fathers after some of their lowest points…not to mention some hilariously relatable memes and videos.

Crazy to think this all came from the darkest time in our lives as parents and one dad’s big dream.

I share all of this with you because Tommy is far too modest and humble to say himself!

So Happy Father’s Day babe, I’m so crazy proud of you!!! You can bring a toaster oven to a resort anytime;)

Love you ❤️

My Father’s Love

The day I was born, my dad was 48 years old.

The year I graduated from 8th grade, my dad retired from working two jobs.

The countless plays I performed, my dad slept…I mean sat through every single performance.

The year I graduated from college, my dad survived quintuple bypass and colon cancer.

The day my boyfriend asked for my hand in marriage, my dad gave his blessing.

The summer I got married, my dad found out his high school sweetheart and wife of 53 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

The day I buried my mom, my dad would have jumped in alongside her if there was enough room in her casket.

The day I shared the news that I was going to be a mom for the first time, my dad wept when he heard my baby’s due date was mom’s birthday.

The day my daughter was born, my dad was there by my side in the corner of the delivery room.

The day of my daughter’s open-heart surgery, my dad was there by my side in the CTICU at Children’s Hospital.

The day I found out I had miscarried, my dad was there by my side in the doctor’s office, holding my hand.

The day all of my children were baptized and for countless birthdays, my dad flew out to be there.

The day I lost my stillborn son, my dad stayed on the phone with me as I cried hysterically, trying to calm me down until I got home safely to my husband and kids.

The time I lost all faith in God, my dad prayed…just as he does every single morning at church and every night when he kneels down and says his rosary.

The days I spend stressing about work and deadlines and IEPs and my kids fighting and whining and complaining, my dad drives up to the cemetery, takes out his lawn chair and watering can from his car and waters my mom’s gravestone flowers and sits in his chair alongside the love of his life.

The day I wrote this post, my dad turned 88 years old.

Pretty amazing dad, right?! Now times that by 12. My dad has made that same kind of impact on my 11 older brothers and sisters. Each sharing cherished memories of my dad always being there for us. Dad, the love you and mom have given us is worth a million pearls…we are all rich with love️.

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Love,

Your Baby, #12

Love Walk for Scotland

There are certain days that are particularly difficult after a pregnancy loss that trigger heartbreak all over again. Mother’s Day, holidays, anniversaries, due dates… On those days, I find myself suffering in silence. My first pregnancy loss at 6 weeks led to completely shutting down, isolating myself from the world, telling virtually no one of my loss. This type of isolation can take quite a toll on you emotionally. So when I lost my precious boy at 20 weeks, this was not something I could survive alone. I needed help, support, love from others to carry me through this devastating time. There are days I still need help, support, love…

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Scotland’s big sister Barbara and big brother Tommy.

For most people, the big 20-week ultrasound is the exciting appointment when you find out the gender of the baby and gain that extra sense of confidence that all will be okay. But with my first born, my 20-week ultrasound was anything but that. My husband Tommy and I were told our baby girl had a serious congenital heart defect and may not make it to birth. Some doctors suggested terminating the pregnancy to avoid the possibility of a stillborn loss. But as long as my baby girl was fighting and heart beating, that was exactly what we were going to do…fight. Barbara Anne was born at full term and needed immediate open-heart surgery. While that experience literally broke our hearts, today Barbara is a thriving 4yr old with the fight and will power of a Viking soldier. Seriously, you do not want to mess with her.

So when it came time for my precious boy’s 20-week ultrasound, I was anxious but also quietly confident all was well. After all, I saw him just a few weeks earlier sucking his thumb, heart beating strong…I was so sure nothing was wrong that I told Tommy to stay home with the kids while I went in for my appt. And in a matter of seconds my world crashed, my heart crushed. My sweet precious Scotland was still… with no reason given at all. The perinatologist explained judging by his size, I lost him 7-10 days earlier…but how could that be? Tommy and I felt him kick just last night??? What a cruel joke my body played as I continued to feel what I thought were “kicks” for days (even weeks) that followed his delivery.

You hear how common miscarriage is and having a stillborn is just as much a mystery. Everyone tells you “it’s not your fault” and maybe in your head you agree, but sometimes your heart seems to have a mind if its own… for myself, dealing with emotions of defeat, guilt, failure, embarrassment, reliving every little thing I could have done differently…

Obviously, I can only speak for my experience; each woman deals with their loss the best they know how and need support each step of the way. If you are reading this and have experienced a pregnancy loss, I want to say how truly sorry I am. Above all, I wish you peace and healing. And if I could hug each of you, I would. What can I say? I’m a hugger.

Scotland's 12-week ultrasound.

Scotland’s 12-week ultrasound.

Still, sharing Scotland’s story feels a bit like exposing a very raw womb, still healing, with the world. So why do it??? Because if this reaches just one mom or dad or family member or friend who has experienced this type of loss…if it helps them feel less alone, knowing they do not need to suffer in silence, then sharing this means everything. I am here sharing my story and I am here if you need to share yours.

Through this loss, I have done anything and everything to heal. Therapy? Check. Write in a journal? Check. Read books on loss/grief? Check. Go on medication? Check. Create a serenity garden? Check. Go off medication? Check. Essential oils? Check. Go to Church? Check. Join a loss support group? Check. Basically, if there’s a chance it will help, I’m out there trying. These avenues of support have indeed helped… but you know what? My heart still hurts sometimes. And I think it always will because I am Scotland’s mom and will forever love my son.

The most difficult part of losing Scotland is mourning the loss of a life my husband and I SO desperately wanted to give him. A life full of chaos, laughter, adventure but mostly a life filled with love.

This week is Scotland’s due date and I do not want to suffer in silence like I’ve done in the past. Selfishly knowing this day is going to be difficult for Tommy and I, I ask for support if you feel inclined to do so. Help make this day a day of love instead of sadness. A day of peace instead of pain.

Scotland’s due date is Friday, July 25th and in our way of honoring our precious boy, Tommy and I invite you to a “Love Walk for Scotland”.

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Here’s how the “Love Walk” works:
1. On Friday, July 25th, walk, run, waddle, toddle or stroll. Anytime. Any place.
2. Send love and prayers to Scotland or simply send love into the world.
3. Take a photo of your “Love Walk” and share with Tommy or myself via text, email or social media at #LoveWalkforScotland
4. An album will be made of all your photos so that our family can look back on Scotland’s day of Love.

(For example, if you are a runner, you can dedicate your run to Scotland. Take a pic of your gym shoes. If you are working, think of Scotland on your way to grab lunch or coffee. If you have kids, capture their love for nature. If you are pregnant, I hope to see you rocking your gorgeous baby bump. Basically, whatever fits your life.)

The day I delivered Scotland was a difficult one. But you know what? The overwhelming emotions were not fear or pain…it was love and peace. Do not mistake me, the pain I carried in my heart that day was great…but love was greater. Just as I did with Barbara and Baby Tommy, I immediately fell in love with Scotland when I held my darling baby boy for the first and last time. The love my husband poured onto our precious son…the love he poured onto me…I’ve never felt more love for Tommy in my life than on that day. Every nurse, social worker, Chaplain and the absolutely incredible Dr. Perlow brought with them such love and compassion. My sister-in-law, Myra who was a NICU and now post-partum nurse selflessly acting as our advocate, holding my hand, sharing tears of love and loss with me. And all the love our family and friends sent through prayers, flowers, meals, messages and cards in the days, weeks and months that followed.

I believe God is love. And love is family. Love is friends. It’s hard for me to admit… but there was a time recently when I pretty much gave up on my faith and God. How could God let this happen to me? Why is God punishing me? Why? Why? WHY? I know now God never left me…actually, God was pouring love into my heart through the kindness and compassion of my husband, through hugs and kisses from my children, a message of love and encouragement from a sister, a friend, my family, friends of friends, friends of family & even in those I’ve never met before. I realize now God may not be able to determine my life’s losses and successes…. but wherever love exists, God is right there.

So love wins. And that is how the soul of Scotland Bansley Riles will be remembered in…Love.

A Love Walk for Scotland.

Thank you for allowing me to share.

With Love,
Lucy Riles, Scotland’s Mom

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This was the invitation sent out to family and friends in 2014 after our precious Scotland’s death.

“Pink, It’s My New Obsession”

It started out as what I thought would be a simple, reasonable, teachable moment. My four-year-old son had just gone potty and immediately went to rub his yes. “Don’t touch your eyes till you’ve washed your hands, or you’ll get pink eye.” His eyes widened as he hopped off the toilet. “What?! Pink?!” I tried my best to explain what it was, but it was the start of a couple days’ worth of fascination with pink eye. The kind of questions that you feel you’ve already answered, but they keep on coming: “Mama, are your eyes pink? Mama, do I have pink eye? Mama, what color are your eyes…pink?” …The constant questioning that makes you think you are going insane.

My in-laws, who watched him that day, confirmed at pick-up that the questions had continued throughout the day. “Why is he so obsessed with pink eye all of a sudden?” Because he’s JJ. Because he’s four.

Well, coincidentally, his younger sister, who had a little goo seeping from her eye that same day, became worse the following day. By mid-day my mom confirmed it was now coming out of both eyes. I hurried home after a full day of work to get her to urgent care before they closed. JJ asked where I was taking her, and I told him I thought his sister had pink eye, so I was taking her to the doctor. This information brought new life to his obsession. As I closed the door, I could hear him go into the same list of questions from the day before with my husband.

Two and a half hours later, I returned home with my daughter and a fresh tube of eye antibiotic cream. I was exhausted, hungry, and hyper aware of every single sensation in my own eyes, just waiting for that other shoe to drop. Even though I know this kind of thing is incredibly common, I always feel a little defeated when my kids get something. Especially when I’m feeling run down, I pile on in my mind about what more I could have done to prevent their current illness. With this state of mind, I turned to the pile of dishes in the sink and began loading the dishwasher.

Five minutes later, my husband came into the kitchen with a huge smile on his face. I said, “What?” He said, “I just took JJ to the bathroom. He washed his hands after and in a cheerful voice said, “Bye, bye, pink eye!”

And then, the sweet relief of laughter to erase the day, chase away the feelings of self-doubt, and remind myself of the unique joy that comes from being a parent.

by Life of Mom contributor, Kathryn Medellin

Can Health Journals Save Your Life?

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated by Med-IQ through educational grants from AbbVie, Astrellas, and Genentech to write about communicating symptoms and treatment side effects with the healthcare team. All opinions are my own.

In 2006, my mother had a mole removed on her arm that ended up being melanoma. After testing surrounding lymph nodes, it was determined that the cancer had not spread and the cancer had been removed.

Then 18 months later, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma.

She was given less than a year to live.

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My mom with her 7 daughters, 6 months before she died.

What prompted my mom to initially call the doctor was not another suspicious looking mole. (After all, we all thought the melanoma had been completely removed so there was no cause for worry) She called the doctor because she had noticed her voice sounded different. My mom went in for a check-up and, without much cause for concern, she went on about her life. Being the mother of 12 children and 50+ grandchildren, there was always somewhere to go or something to do.

My dad recalls being out back working in the yard when my mom walked out to meet him. He remembers a grave look in her eyes. She went on to say that she had missed several calls and urgent voicemails left from her doctor on their home line’s answering machine. Something rarely checked as cell phones were gaining traction.

When my mom returned her doctor’s calls, she was told she needed to come into the hospital right away. The melanoma was back with a vengeance. Her voice had indeed changed because tumors had infiltrated both of her lungs, as well as her brain. No treatment would save her, but there was treatment that could possibly prolong her life by a few months. The doctors predicted she had 9-12 months to live…she died 9 months later.

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My mom and I while she was in hospice, weeks shy of her passing.

If caught early enough, certain cancers including melanoma can be treated with a decent survival rate. I can’t help but think what could have been done to prevent the cancer from taking my mother’s life. My mom was 77 years old when she passed away. In all accounts, she lived a full and beautiful life. But selfishly, I needed her to stick around for much longer. During those 18 months, what more could have/should have been done?!?

Why I Think A Health Journal Can Save Your Life:

Jotting down how you are feeling each day, both physically and mentally, can provide tremendous insight to your doctor as well as yourself. Is there a pattern? Was there any significant impact an activity or food or medication may have had? As I stated in my previous post regarding Cancer-Related Stress, managing your mental health is often directly related to your physical health as well.

If you have cancer or any serious health condition that requires treatment, journaling specific side effects and symptoms after starting a new medication is invaluable to your medical team. Starting a new medicine, particularly in cancer treatment, may require you to stay home for a few days. The last thing you need is to be at the mall when a nasty side effect you weren’t expecting hits.

If you are the caregiver to a loved one battling cancer or a serious illness, keep a log on behalf of the patient. You are the one with them most of the time, not the medical team. Being able to provide the patient’s doctors with an accurate log will prove to be extremely helpful.

If the thought of adding one more thing like a daily journal seems too much, the American Cancer Society provides the following:

  • Side effects worksheets, which allow you to note side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Include when they are occurring and on a scale of 1-5 how severe they are. Do this daily. Do not think that you will remember and retrospectively record this information at the end of the week or when you have more time. Factor this activity into your daily activity and do it religiously.
  • A pain diary, which includes a scale for rating pain and noting where you feel it, what it feels like, and what makes it better or worse.
  • A list of medicines, which allows you to track your medicines, vitamins, and supplements. And do not take any additional medicines, vitamins, or supplements without your doctor’s approval. Sometimes patients assume that there is no harm in taking over-the-counter products, but there can be. So full disclosure before you start your cancer treatments is key as well as telling your doctor that you would like to add supplements or other medicines to your routine care before ever beginning them on your own.

As I mentioned earlier, my mom was always on the go doing what most moms do…putting everyone’s needs in front of her own. Did she make all of her required follow-up appointments? Did other symptoms creep in that she brushed off? Could something as simple as keeping a health journal have alerted her to serious symptoms that would have made her contact her doctor sooner?

I will never know for sure.

It may be too late for my mom, but perhaps it’s not too late for you or your loved. I’ve been blessed to still have my dad with me. My siblings and I do our best to be health advocates for my dad whenever possible. We are doing our best to keep him around as long as possible!

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My 88 yr old dad with his 51st grandchild, my daughter.

Med-IQ has opened my eyes to just how important it is to mention every symptom and side effect, no matter how small or minor you think it might be. Bring awareness, be an advocate for yourself or your loved ones and don’t hesitate to ask all the questions!

What I mean when I say “all the questions”

  • Which side effects should I call you for?
  • When should I call 911 or go to the emergency room?
  • What number should I call after business hours?

Some examples of side effects that require immediate care:

  • A fever of 100.5ᵒF or higher
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Uncontrollable diarrhea
  • Swelling in the legs or arms
  • Bleeding

Health journals do not benefit only cancer patients or those with serious illness. They benefit everyone from those struggling with mental health to caring for a child to dieting and exercising to just wanting to be super in tune with what you feel and consume each day. After my daughter was born and needed open heart surgery, my husband and I kept a log of all her medications and side effects. We also logged every milestone she reached. I remember the thrill we felt when we were finally able to feed her at 11 days old.

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We have only one shot at this ride called life, let’s make it count!

Lucy Riles

Life of Mom Founder

Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.

Resources:

[American Cancer Society] American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy Side Effects. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy/chemotherapy-side-effects.html

Accessed November 13, 2018.

[American Cancer Society] American Cancer Society. Tools to Monitor Treatment. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/tools-to-monitor-treatment.html

Accessed November 13, 2018.

[Cancer.Net] Cancer.Net. When to Call the Doctor During Cancer Treatment. https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/when-call-doctor-during-cancer-treatment

Accessed November 13, 2018.

[CancerCare] Cancercare. Talking to Your Health Care Team About Treatment Side Effects. https://www.cancercare.org/publications/335-talking_to_your_health_care_team_about_treatment_side_effects

Accessed November 13, 2018.

Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice; nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

Med-IQ is conducting a survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate.

Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with cancer symptoms, treatment-related side effects, and your care team, which will help us develop future educational initiatives for healthcare providers to improve care.

Once you’ve completed the survey, you will be asked to provide your email address if you’d like to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 5 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.

“Kid, You’ll Move Mountains”

Annual IEP meetings are like root canals…painful, exhausting, feeling like it will never end. Today was annual IEP day. 

Compared to years past, it went surprisingly well. I didn’t cry which was a first. For those lucky enough to not experience IEPs, let me explain something…there’s a reason there is a box of tissues on the table. It can be incredibly emotional for the parent as your child’s disabilities are dissected. 

There was a time I felt hopeless, so did the educators for that matter. Without going into specifics, it was recommended (many times) that my child would be best served in a special ed classroom. My response was always a firm NO. Because that’s not what the world looks like…as an adult, I am surrounded by all types of people, many of whom have taught me patience, tolerance and compassion. As a mom, I’ve seen my child fight and beat extraordinary odds. When professionals said she wouldn’t thrive or meet certain milestones, she met them before “the normal” child did. I use quotes for “normal” because who the heck wants to be normal anyways?!? It was important to me that my child be included in a general ed classroom. Just as I’d want my other two children to learn around children with various disabilities…
BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT OUR WORLD LOOKS LIKE!

For several years, skeptics believed my child’s emotional/behavioral challenges would restrict her from learning in a gen ed classroom…well I’m thrilled to say that today in her IEP the biggest issue was rushing through work and spelling…WHAT?!? This is coming from a child that wouldn’t pick up a pencil. Zero, I repeat ZERO behavior issues!

Is her IEP file as thick as War and Peace? Sure is.

Did I advocate for more hours than it took to write War and Peace? Yep.

Will there be more battles and wars to win down the road? Without a doubt.

Am I going to celebrate the fact that my child is thriving in a general ed classroom when professionals said it couldn’t be done? ABSOLUTELY!

“Kid, you’ll move mountains.” -Dr. Seuss 

by Lucy Riles, Life of Mom Founder

The Time Hope Defeated Fear

During my 5th and final pregnancy, I decided to take professional maternity photos. This was something I had never done before and well, this was my last chance to get some Pinterest worthy pics.

But unlike most maternity photos, I didn’t share a single image…that was until after my baby was born, healthy and thriving, in my arms.

Why?
Fear.

I was afraid I would suffer another loss like my 2nd and 4th pregnancies…I was afraid my child’s health would be at risk like my 1st pregnancy…I was afraid to announce my news publicly and run the risk of total humiliation and failure, something I felt after my other losses.

So why take the photos?
Hope.

I hoped that one day my rainbow baby of hope would be born…I hoped these photos would serve as a memento for my children and grandchildren one day just as I cherish every photo of my mother. And I really hoped to finish my life’s 7 year chapter of pregnancy on a positive note, with a living, breathing baby.

It was 4 years ago almost to the exact day that I took these photos…capturing the last time life would grow within me.

To this day, I’m so grateful that hope defeated fear.

In other news, my rainbow baby of hope turns 4 years old in a month.

Lucy Riles, Life of Mom Founder

We Get By With A Little Help…

On the morning of February 15, 2012, my life was pretty darn perfect. Happy marriage, perfect 6-month-old baby boy, and a sweet and silly boxer. We’d enjoyed a nice Valentine’s Day at home. My husband, JP, gave me a beautiful bracelet embellished with a small heart. I’d braved the cold to grill steaks. Our son, Max, slept while we ate. In the morning, JP told me to stay in bed while he walked the dog – normally something I would do while he dressed for work. I remember being so appreciative of that gesture. And then at around 4:30pm, I got the call that turned my entire world upside down. By 6:30pm, I’d said my last goodbye to JP, whose heart gave out – in a cruel coincidence – the day after Valentine’s Day.

There I was, suddenly and unexpectedly completely alone with a baby, no job, and no clue how to function. I won’t try to explain what I went through from a grief perspective during that first year. Suffice to say, I was a mess. I made a bajillion mistakes, and could have used quite a few do-overs. But we got through. Not alone – not even close! Because, of course, I was not alone after losing JP, and haven’t been since. “Lucky” is not a word I would use to describe myself in any context related to being widowed. But “grateful” is one I’ll wear out from overuse. I am grateful for the friends and family who jumped into action, and pulled me through. I am eternally grateful to my parents, who moved in with me and Max to take care of us. They were there every step of the way as I went through some major life chances in quick succession. Within one calendar year, I became a mom, was widowed, sold my condo, moved to a new place, went back to school for a Master’s, and began a new career. On top of that, the dog developed some major health issues. Because you know what they say, when it rains it pours.***I’m currently reading Tribe, by Sebastian Junger, which explores the psychological benefits of tribal communities, especially when dealing with trauma. War is the focus of Junger’s book, but the topic of tribal living struck a chord with me. We all have our tragedies, our traumas, our losses. This is mine. There are layers, and ripple effects, and the impact will change over time but JP’s death will always be a presence in our lives. I’m fortunate to be part of an incredible tribe, one that reaches coast to coast (and beyond), and is continuously growing. While our family dynamic/living arrangement might not be the norm these days, I don’t know what I would do without my daily support system, and multi-generational cohabitation definitely has its benefits.Co-parenting with my parents has been a blessing and, as you might imagine, extremely challenging! When I could barely get myself through the day, I relied heavily on my parents to care for Max. And guess what? Six years later, that hasn’t changed. It’s different – now, instead of being a grief-stricken zombie with a new baby, I’m trying to balance full-time work, a social life, and raise a gentleman. As for Max, he considers himself lucky because he lives with his Nana and Papa. That’s pretty cool.

Having the ‘Granny Nanny’ has afforded me some freedoms: not having to worry about childcare costs, the ability to go to the gym, to get out of the house. It also means getting real-time “feedback” on my parenting. My mom is always there to tell me where I’m doing well and where I’m falling short. My dad, everyone’s favorite neighborhood urgent care doctor, is all-in on being a father figure and role model for Max. From scootering to the bus stop, to teaching him the rules of football, to hours spent on playgrounds, he does it all. His nickname when I was younger was “The Prince of Fun,” and he still lives up to it.My parents handle the lion’s share when it comes to the daily grind. But despite not being responsible for the day-to-day items (getting Max to school/lessons, grocery shopping, cooking), I wouldn’t say I have it easy, even if I sometimes joke that I do. The reality is that I struggle with heavy stuff regularly. A lot of it is not specific to being an only parent, or a widow, but when I hear married friends talking about similar feelings, it’s clear that when you’re in a partnership, you experience everything through a very different lens.

Guilt – for not being as involved as I’d like. When I am with Max, we focus on having fun…and he doesn’t see me as an authority figure but rather an equal, or co-conspirator, with my parents being in charge. Sometimes this is fun, and I feel like we’re bonding in a way we missed out on before because I was dealing with grief and loss, and then school and work. At the same time, I feel like I’m shirking my adult duties. I may never stop feeling guilty, but at the end of the day I remind myself that I’ve ‘outsourced’ parenting to people who, in my biased opinion, did a good job on their first tour of parent duty and whom I trust completely with anything and everything related to Max’s well-being and development.Sorrow – I’m sad Max doesn’t have his dad in his life, and will only know JP through stories and pictures. I’m sad for the siblings he doesn’t have; every time I watch him insert himself into games with kids at playgrounds, or take advantage of dads playing with their own kids, my heart breaks a little. I’m sad for my own loss, and I’m sad for JP, who doesn’t get to share in all the little moments.Exhaustion/overwhelmedness (is that a word?) is familiar to every parent, but on top of everything we’re all trying to balance, I have constant reminders about the hand I’ve been dealt. Sometimes I joke that I don’t understand how couples who both work do it – we have a ratio of three adults to one kid, only one adult works full-time, and we’re ALL always exhausted trying to keep up. But we’re also constantly renegotiating roles & responsibilities in a situation initially envisioned as more temporary than it’s turned out to be. And then there are the events I attend alone, decisions that must be made by a me versus tribunal (I hate making decisions, even small ones), going to court for Max’s tuition money, and any time I meet someone new and tell them my story…it’s tiring! Add the ‘dating game’ on top of that, and I’m telling you, I was very much ready to say, “thanks, but no thanks” to that whole activity. Between not wanting to spend free time making small talk with strangers, not believing I would find love again, and the awkwardness of dating while living with my parents (oh, so many levels of awkwardness)…it was just not particularly enjoyable.I am now at a point where I’m trying to navigate bringing someone I care deeply about into Max’s life and my own. “Simple, not easy,” is one of his catch phrases, and boy does that apply here. The simple part is, I am in love and happy in a way I didn’t think possible. For the first time, I am excited about envisioning a change for my tribe. But it won’t be easy! From the “sharing” issues we’ve already encountered to a potential seismic shift for everyone, the whole thing is rather intimidating. I don’t expect everyone to be happy with the change as we go through it, but I do intend to architect it thoughtfully if it comes to pass. I’ve already started to think through the logistical items I’ll need to take on. I know it’s impossible to predict the future, but at least I know that Max and I have a tribe that will be there for us in some capacity, no matter what the future holds. And truth be told, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to wear my “mom hat” more often.

by Life of Mom’s Journaling Motherhood contributor, Eden

A Mother’s Grief

During my sister’s recent trip out to visit, my oldest just instinctively knew “Favorite Aunt Jean” needed extra love and hugs💜 
She spoke often about her big cousin Kimmy like my littles often do about their baby angel brother and Grandma Barbara. Their innocence and natural inclusivity of our guardian angels was a welcomed surprise to my sister, a grieving mother.

Almost 2 years ago, my beautiful niece Kimberly Rose was hit and killed tragically by a truck on her way to work, leaving behind 2 children. 
When my mom passed away to cancer at 77 it was devastating…but our family took comfort and peace in our hearts knowing that she lived a full life.

But my sister’s daughter who was in her late 20s, with 5 and 1 year old girls…well our family felt much different.

This gorgeous young mom was robbed of a life full of love and memories with her family. Life can be so brutally unfair.
What is so tragically sobering is the fact that this could have been anyone of us… So we do all the things to keep our guardian angels in our hearts. We talk about them, we plant (purple) flowers, we cry and when words fail us…we give big, giant bear hugs

The Mom on the Other Side of the Lens

This photo captures a boy running towards his mom…upon zooming in, mom notices the boy’s expression is one of sheer joy. Now on the other end of this lens is not a new toy or a cupcake…it is the moment upon seeing his mom. Truth be told, mom had only stepped away for literally 10 minutes to walk the beach with his grandpa. But in those fleeting moments, this boy managed to garner up enough excitement waiting, anticipating the return of his mom. 
Now his mom knows full well that 5…10…15 years from now, the chances of him being this excited to see her will be slim to none. 
So how do you savor this moment?! Well the plan is to blow this photo up to a 16×9 and plaster it on the wall during his teen years. 
A reminder that for a brief MOMent in time, this boy thought mom hung the moon.

This boy’s mom is me.

Lucy Riles, Life of Mom Founder

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