We both met Colleen in college (Go State!) when she was dating (now married) to one of our friends. You could tell, even then, that Colleen was always meant to be a mother. She graduated from MSU with a degree in education and continued on to become a teacher.
She, honestly, makes things look easy, but as she can attest, it’s not. She is married to someone in law enforcement which makes her schedule a lot harder than most moms. The unpredictability of that schedule has her leaning on herself and her tribe.
Now she has a beautiful four year old and (almost) three month old daughter. Things may be hard and are sure to get harder, but anything you throw at Colleen she’s got. That’s why we were so excited she wanted to share her story. Welcome to the mom of fame club, Colleen! You deserve it!
What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?
Not really advice, but one thing I heard over and over again was “The nights/days are long but the years are short.” At the time, in the throws of a sleepless first year with a baby who was constantly getting ear infections and never sleeping well (I mean never) when you’ve got to survive on four hours of sleep or less (you know that lack of sleep is legit a form of torture, right?) and work your full time job, you want to punch those sweet old ladies who say that in the face. But then she’s four, and going to school, and tells you to leave her alone when she’s upset and suddenly it dawns on you that you wished the time away and you’ll never get that time back.
Those days are very hard and it’s very real and acceptable to be frustrated. It goes by in a blur of sleeplessness. So, I’d give that advice but with a twist-Don’t wish it away. Try to take just a few minutes every day or night, just enjoying that creature you created. It’s ok to be frustrated, exhausted, etc…but don’t wish for them to “just get older so they’ll (insert your goal here).”
How is motherhood different than you imagined it would be?
It is much much harder than I had ever expected. I always see other moms and think they make it seem so easy and I feel like a hot mess. It’s amazing, but it is not a cake walk. I realized no mom has it all together 100% of the time, no matter the outward appearance.
What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?
1. A sense of adventure. I am pretty good at realizing what will be fun for my mini me. I try to embrace and encourage her adventurous spirit.
2. A sense of humor. Sometimes if you can’t laugh about it, you’ll cry. And a lot of the times, a four year old does some pretty wild and crazy stuff that you’ve just gotta laugh at. Newborns and babies too.
3. A sense of flexibility. You’ve gotta be flexible. Once you think you have your baby or kid figured out, they go and do something completely different.
Describe a time where you were completely overwhelmed as a mother.
When we brought our second daughter home from the hospital, it naturally took a while for our oldest to adjust. She was tired and not getting the attention she was used to getting with a parade of visitors who usually play with her, just wanting to see the baby. One of my favorite times of day with my oldest is bedtime. I love giving her a bath, reading to her, singing to her and saying goodnight with tons of hugs and kisses. Baby 2 also loved to eat nonstop during the exact time as bedtime and would scream and fuss if denied. It was a crazy couple of weeks but we eventually got it worked out and most nights bedtime is back to being a calm and sweet moment.
Is there anything you feel that you have lost about yourself since becoming a mother? What have you gained?
I think when you have a child you lose a certain sense of self. Where before it was easy to have girl’s night out or do something on a whim, with a child it makes everything much more scheduled. Life becomes about that tiny human or humans more than anything else. But I’ve gained much more. Mostly, I’ve gained an understanding of the deepest love possible. I never fully appreciated my own mother until I became a mother myself. Now, I understand how deep her love was and is for me. I never loved so deeply or was loved so deeply. It’s such a deep, instinctual love that takes my breath away.
What do you want your child(ren) to learn from you?
I hope my girls learn to be fierce, independent, and adventurous. Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.
Being married to someone in law enforcement must be hard while raising two little girls and working yourself. Do you have any tips and/or advice for moms in similar situations? How do you handle everything?
I will not lie, it is not an easy life being a LEO momma. You often are the only one on duty morning, noon, and night. Having a schedule helps keep me grounded. As I prepare to go back to work, I’m working on establishing a schedule that lets me get everyone ready in the morning (including the dog) as well as an evening schedule that gets everyone fed, bathed, and in bed. I can’t rely on him being able to do these things because of the nature of his job.
Another important thing is don’t be afraid to do things. Don’t feel guilty about going to a birthday dinner for a friend just because he can’t come with you or to take the kids places if he’s not available. They understand the nature of the beast and you can’t deny your kiddos or yourself opportunities just because he has to work on a weekend or a holiday. Speaking of holidays, establishing unique traditions or celebrating on alternative days are necessary evils.
Lastly, find your tribe. You will need them. They need to be the kind of people who don’t care that you will always have your children in tow. Better yet, find people who will occasionally watch your kids on a weeknight so you can go on a date. Sometimes that’s all you get. Your tribe is essential.