Caroline is my third face to face interview. She met me at the door with a warm smile and a quiet house. All three of her girls were napping and you could feel the calm in both her and her home. That loving, it’s nice to get a little break during the day, feeling of calm. We sat on her sofa to begin the interview and slowly, one by one, they woke up to join us.
These are the questions I asked her.
1. Tell us a little bit about you.
I am thirty five years old. I just moved to the Oakwood, Ohio area. I grew up here, so it’s great to be back. I just had my third baby, Annie, who is four weeks old today. I also have a four year old, Greta and a two year old, Lucy. I am a former preschool teacher. After we had our second baby I decided to stay home. It was kind of a shock to the system going from working full time, but I’ve adjusted to it now and wouldn’t trade it. As stressful as it can be, it is also very rewarding. I’m married to Steve. I’ve been married for eight years. We met in college, Ohio University. My family lives close, so it’s been really nice to have help with the baby.
2. What is your favorite time of day with your children and why?
I’d have to say first thing in the morning before the chaos of the day begins. They are so sweet and sleepy. It’s nice to snuggle up on the couch. My oldest really likes to help me make breakfast. It’s the calm before the storm of getting everyone to school and ballet and all that stuff.
3. What is your favorite thing to do without your children?
I like to either go for a walk or go to a workout class. Today I had the baby with me, but I went to Panera and just sat in the corner and ate a bagel. I try finding little moments throughout the day because of the season of life I’m in I don’t have big chunks of alone time. Even if it’s just like fifteen minutes drinking a cup of coffee alone or sitting out on the patio. Ten minutes of quiet is really nice.
4. Do you ever feel lonely and what helps you with loneliness?
Being a stay at home mom, I do feel lonely. Often. There isn’t a whole lot of adult interaction. Before we moved, it was a lot worse than where we are now. I struggled after working full time to find a group of other moms. I joined a mom group there, but it was just hard. When we decided we were going to move, one of the things that was really important was making a commitment to myself that I was going to put myself out there and meet people even if it seems scary. I’ve joined a moms group here already and it’s been awesome so far. As soon as we had Annie there were people coming over and bringing us food. It’s hard though. Some days the most interaction I have is with a four year old and when my husband gets home I wanna talk his ear off.
5. What is something you fear you’ll be judged for by other moms?
So, not necessarily judged for by other moms, but I judge myself sometimes. Like, am I spending enough quality time with my kids, things like that. I try really hard not to compare myself to other people, but when I see other moms planning all of these activities with their kids, I worry I don’t do enough with my kids. Or do my kids watch too much tv, do I play with them enough, do I read to them enough…I feel like I can be my own worst critic.
6. What is something that helps you feel more connected to your kids?
Dinnertime and at bedtime. Growing up we always had family dinner. I try really hard, even if my husband works late, to all sit down two or three nights a week and talk about our days and school and just really listen to them. Also, bedtime. The bedtime routine of reading books and talking and singing songs. Finding small moments and taking the time without distraction, to really listen to them.
7. What helps you when you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated?
I feel like that a lot. I think the biggest thing is just like talking to myself. Counting to ten and walking away if I need to. The last four weeks have been a little overwhelming with the baby and the new house, so learning to breathe and asking myself is it worth getting upset about. If I take the time and ask myself like what is the problem and make myself see that it’s not that big of a deal. If the kitchen is a mess I will get so overwhelmed and then I’m like, it’s okay, Caroline, it’s just dishes.
8. What is something you have learned from your children?
The biggest thing is patience. When I was growing up in high school and even in college, I always said oh, I’m not gonna have kids. I don’t know, I guess I never felt very maternal. I don’t know what happened, but I went from that to being a preschool teacher to staying at home with three kids. I think that after all of that, especially after my first, it’s realizing that every day isn’t going to look the same and that you have these little people and they just need you. That and love. It doesn’t matter, they just love you. I was getting dressed on Labor Day weekend and I had just had the baby and I was feeling blah. I put on this pink sweater and ripped it off and my daughter was like, Mommy, you looked so pretty. You just wish that you could see yourself the way they do. I put the sweater back on. It’s amazing what they can teach you when you’re not expecting it.
9. What is your favorite thing about being a mother?
Having these little people adore you. Just to have people that depend on you so much and that you are the only person that can meet their needs. We started my two year old in preschool and when I pick her up she is always just so happy to see me. My four year old told me the other day that when she grows up she wants to be a mom just like me and it made me feel like, oh, I must be doing something right.
10. What has helped you cope and heal from postpartum anxiety?
I think I’ve dealt with anxiety since college, but it became really magnified during the transition of going from one to two kids. I don’t think I ever quite dealt with it and when I got pregnant with Annie, my third, we decided to move and I felt constantly on edge. I was scheduled csections with all three and my water broke in the middle of the night with Annie and it felt a little traumatic. When we got to the hospital, the cord was double wrapped around her neck and it wasn’t my doctor who delivered her. She also had some placenta issues. All of that sort of brought my anxiety back a little more. The first thing I did was stopped drinking coffee and that has really helped. Also, just talking about it. My mom was here this morning and I talked to her. She has been a tremendous amount of support. Taking deep breaths and counting to ten and telling myself everything is going to be okay. I was telling her that the biggest thing that overwhelms me is me and if I can just figure out a way to calm myself down, everything else can flow. If I can try not listen to the negative voices in my head and take in the moment, it helps. I do the best I can.
Favorite sweet? snickers or reese cups
Guilty pleasure? staying up way later than I should to watch friends or the office or working moms.
If you could travel anywhere? anywhere in Europe. I’ve never been.
What do you drink most during the day? water
Favorite time of year? Thanksgiving to Christmas
Favorite color? purple
Thank you so much, Caroline. Thank you for welcoming me into your home and being vulnerable with us. Also, thank you so much for letting me hold that precious baby of yours.
You can find Caroline on instagram @carolinelkline