Lessons From a Mother: Dianna Muscari from The Kitchen Prep Blog

Hi everyone! My name is Dianna and I’m a food blogger over at The Kitchen Prep. I also happen to be a new mom to a charming little fella named Cole Thomas! A few weeks after Cole was born, I received an invitation from Melissa to share my tips on balancing blog and baby, and I was flattered… but ironically, also pretty overwhelmed. How could I share advice when I wasn’t entirely certain how to do it myself?!

That was in December, and just now is when I’ve finally been able to jot down some of the things I want to share about what I’ve learned so far. Three months in!

One of my biggest fears before becoming a mom was losing my own identity. I think it’s a pretty common concern for most women who are taking on the role of mom all while trying to maintain whatever title, label or position they had before baby. As a result, I think I overcompensated a bit once my son made his arrival into my life.

See, I jumped headfirst back into my work as soon as I was able to stand for more than just a few minutes without wanting to cry. {Hooray postpartum body!} And the truth is, it may have been too soon. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I was just in survival mode as all new parents are during those exhausting first few weeks and I wasn’t really listening to my body and my gut.

I’m the kind of girl who likes routine and order -- two things that completely go out the window when a newborn is in the picture. So, naturally, my initial instinct after bringing the baby home was to try to continue with my relatively organized life and simply incorporate the baby into the mix. With some careful planning pre-delivery, I was able to have some blog posts ready to publish immediately after giving birth, which made it seem like the transition was seamless.

I can’t tell you how many people made comments like, “Wow! I can’t believe you’ve found time to work so soon after having the baby!” or “It’s like nothing changed for you. That’s great!” But in reality, I was overworked and drowning. I kept taking on projects and saying “yes” to events even though I should have been focusing on fully recuperating and bonding with my baby. This went on for several weeks. And then, “The Meltdown” happened.

The perfect storm of exhaustion, hormones, deadlines and demands collided and rendered me practically useless. I felt like I was neither good at my job, nor mastering the art of mothering. I felt stressed out, tired, anxious and alone. I went from doing too much to doing nothing at all except submitting myself to tending to the baby, and I was absolutely miserable since I thrive on creativity and challenges. I felt like my mind had turned to Mommy Mush. Not only was I overwhelmed, but I was also guilty for not feeling that my new role as a mom was “enough.”

Much like the cliche “the first step is admitting you have a problem”, things finally started looking up when I tearfully called MY mom and spilled my thoughts, fears and frustrations. I also started being honest when friends and acquaintances asked me how I was doing. And guess what? When you share your struggles with others, you often find out that you’re not alone. Being truthful was so liberating and validating!

Suddenly, things didn’t seem so bleak anymore. I started learning how to balance things; being more selective about what I said “yes” to and accepting that I could only do so much. I’d be lying if I said I’ve figured it all out, but I can honestly say that I’m starting to feel more like myself and regain a sense of purpose aside from being “Cole’s mom.”

It IS possible to be a mom in addition to being who you were before your little one came along… or at the very least, a new version of yourself. It just takes practice, patience and a whole lot of help! So, here’s my list of essentials for success:

1. Give yourself time. Why we feel the need to jump back into our regularly scheduled program immediately after giving birth is beyond me! I mean, have you really thought about what your body just went through? Not only is it doing new and unusual things now that you’ve had the baby, but you’ll also be experiencing the demands of being “on call” 24/7, which is no easy feat. Listen to your body and take it one day at a time. Don’t push yourself too hard or you may backpedal into feeling less-than-ideal and go back to square one.

2. Ask for help. From your spouse. Your family. Your friends. Complete strangers. They say “It takes
a village.”, and that’s no joke!
This was one of the most difficult things for me to do because I’m normally pretty self-sufficient. But I also never had to do things one-armed and in a sleep-deprived haze. There will be times that you really can’t do something on your own, whether it’s walking up the stairs to get some nursing pads or running to the store for detergent to wash all the poop-covered things. It’s ok. You can pay everyone back down the road. When someone asks, “Can I help?” and you need it, say yes!

3. Take a break. This is most definitely easier said than done since babies require attention 24/7, but it’s so important for maintaining some sanity. Recruit trusted family and friends who are willing to relieve you of mom duties for a few hours a week so you can recharge and relax. Whether you spend some time with girlfriends, go for a pedi or catch up on the show you keep missing because you’re asleep as soon as the sun goes down, do something that allows you to decompress. For me, cooking helps me feel “zen” and accomplished… and getting dinner out of it is a bonus!

4. Get organized. Once you’ve established routine {and it may take a while!}, it starts to get a little easier to “plan” your days. Some babies will gift you with a few consecutive hours of naptime, while others {like my sweet boy} will sleep in short spurts throughout the day. Even though the latter scenario makes it more difficult to accomplish tasks efficiently, having a list of “To Do’s” can help you from feeling scattered in the moments you have to get things done. Planning everything from the chores to accomplish on certain days to jotting down a weekly meal plan might help you get the most out of the fleeting hours of the day. Just remember to be kind to yourself if you’re not able to get everything done.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, but I couldn’t leave you without a simple recipe that I came up with in the midst of the mommy-madness: Mediterranean Turkey Stuffed Peppers. They’re healthy, colorful and tasty, but they’re also easy enough to accomplish on any given crazy day.

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A big thanks to Melissa for inviting me to talk about my experiences as a new mom. It’s nice to be part of a community of moms and learn from one another!

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Mediterranean Turkey Stuffed Peppers
Makes 4

4 peppers, tops cut off and seeds removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon dried mint
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Place hollowed out peppers in a baking dish. If the peppers don’t stand up, slice a little sliver off the bottom to give it a flat surface for stability.
Add onion to skillet and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
Move onion aside on the skillet and add ground turkey to the skillet, breaking it up with spoon {or a potato masher, which is my favorite tool for this task!}. Cook until the turkey is browned, mixing with the onion and garlic mixture.
Add oregano, dill, and dried mint and cook for about a minute. Toss in the crumbled feta and stir until just starting to melt.
Divide meat evenly among the four hollowed peppers. Top with a little extra feta if desired.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until the peppers begin to soften and the tops are lightly browned.

Serve with rice or quinoa for a complete meal!

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