The Momma Interviews is a new blog series by Catherine O'Brien, LMFT highlighting the thoughts, experiences and wisdom of a unique real-world mom each week, to normalize and validate the struggles and triumphs that are a part of the universally human experience of motherhood for women everywhere.
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This week’s momma is Ashley Robillard. She has three kids with her high school sweetheart and is a Licensed Acupuncturist at Firefly Acupuncture in Plymouth MN. She gives a refreshingly honest self-reflection on her experience as a mom and does an excellent job of keeping things in perspective.
How do you balance the mom, work, and relationship roles?
I'm lucky that I work for myself so I have flexibility. I do a ton of driving back and forth between school pickups and drop offs, work and activities. I do most of the household stuff and kid stuff and my work tends to fall behind. My husband is great about helping when needed, but I keep the schedules running.
Most moms I speak to say there are moments when they are ready to throw in the towel. Can you describe a time you felt this way? What got you through it?
Almost every day I feel like I'm failing at one point or another. The constant fighting and attitude that my kids give each other, and me at times, drives me completely crazy. I send everybody to a separate room so I can have a moment to myself. It is always much easier when my husband is home. We have a great tag-team system down. One pleading look over the kid's heads is all it takes for the other parent to understand and take over.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed, overstretched, or less than?
It is usually when I am running late that I feel the most overwhelmed, which is almost all the time. I have no outlet for those emotions. I yell. Usually at my kids. And it makes me feel worse. And then I zone out on the couch watching TV after the kids go to bed and feel guilty that I didn't exercise that day. And then the guilt leads to sugar cravings. So I eat a bunch of sugar, which ends up making me feel worse of course. It's a vicious cycle. This is not an everyday occurrence or anything, but there are definitely days that defeat me.
I've had parents tell me that one of the hardest things about being a parent is the comparisons and judgements from other parents. How do you personally cope with that?
I know I am a good mother in the whole scheme of things. I know I do things wrong and there are better ways to handle certain situations, but I also know that I do as much as I possibly can for my children. There are days that they embarrass me, situations that make me feel like a bad mom, moments that I wish hadn't happened and others may be judging me. But I know every single mom has had those moments and situations. I try my hardest not to judge other moms because each child has a different personality that can push a button that others don't. I don't know their situation, and they don't know mine. But I know I am a good mom.
What is the great lesson you've learned as a mom?
Enjoy each stage in life. Take the pictures and videos of them at each of those stages because it is so easy to forget. With the sleep deprivation, the constant running from one thing to another, the frustrations of everyday life and everything in between, you forget what your 8-year-old’s voice sounded like when she was two. You forget how cute that giggle was when she was six months old. You forget that she made this weird sound with every bite she took. You can't mimic it. Take the videos of them when they are crying and yelling at each other because it will bring those moments to life when you so badly want to remember them. When you are frustrated with the current mood they are in, bring back the memories of them when they were little.
What is your favorite quote that inspires you as a mom?
Do what works. I was told this at my baby shower for my first, and it still sticks with me. Each kid is different. Each parent is different. Each situation is different. Do what works for your family to get through the rough patches. Even if that means giving in to things others wouldn't or staying tough to things that others think is petty. Do what you think is right for your child in that moment.
What is your favorite song that inspires you as a mom?
I don't really have an inspirational song. But I love "Part of your world" from The Little Mermaid...I know, I'm such a mom. But really if you think about it, when life is hard and not going your way it doesn't matter what you have, you always want what's on the other side. Grass is always greener right? But it doesn't mean life out there is fabulous either. Everybody is struggling at something. It's okay to reach for more, but don't diminish everything you have.
What is the one piece of advice you'd like to give to other moms?
Every mom struggles with everyday life with children. Some days are fantastic and others are a complete disaster. Have someone that you can vent to, talk through rough days, joke about crazy things that the kids do or how you handle them. Every mom needs a friend that they absolutely trust, that loves your kids, that can relate and understand and is able to talk to, give advice, or just listen to frustrations or funny stories. My mom friends have been a Godsend to me!
What do you feel is your greatest personal struggle with the experience of motherhood?
I yell. Too much. It is so hard when I feel like no one listens to me...ever. I've dealt with it for so long that my immediate response to someone ignoring me is to yell at them. Ugh. I hate that I do it. I know I need to change it. But I also know that if I want something to be done immediately, they only respond to me yelling. It's horrible and makes me feel horrible. And now my kids yell the second they don't get attention and I know it's a learned behavior. And the thing is, I don't think I have ever yelled at anyone in my life (other than my mom and sister when I was a kid). It is not me. I don't feel like myself.
How has your relationship with your partner changed? How has it stayed the same?
We have our ups and downs like any relationship. But because we have been on pretty much the same page since day one, we do pretty well. We struggle with the chaos at times but we find a good balance in our daily life. One of the hardest things is the utter exhaustion at the end of the day. Date nights are far and few between and most of the time our only contact for weeks is sitting on the couch watching a show and not talking at all. We will go over schedules and the plan for the next day, but our conversations are limited due to exhaustion.
How has your relationship with your friends, family or support system changed? How has it stayed the same?
I absolutely love our families. I have amazing friends. The friends who have kids the same ages as mine are great for play dates and they are wonderful to talk to and vent to. Both of our parents watch our kids when needed and enjoy it. Family get-togethers are much crazier with little kids running around and screaming. Not nearly as calm and we can't have actual conversations, but we still have fun. There may be some friends that don't get as much attention because they don't have kids. But friendships evolve and I feel pretty blessed with who is in my life.
What is something that has surprised you about being a mom (i.e. something you didn't realize you'd enjoy, something you didn't know babies/kids did, something you didn't know could bring so much joy)?
Every time my kid learns a new skill--I feel so much pride when they work hard at something and finally do it. My 5 year old skiing down a blue square! What!? That was amazing. My first grader finishing a 300 page chapter book in a few days. My 2 year old knowing throwing and catching a ball with ease, dribbling a basketball and hitting a tennis ball like a pro. Watching them find their stride and seeing where their own personalities take them is absolutely amazing.
How many children do you have?
I have an 8-year-old girl, a 6-year-old girl, and a 3-year-old boy.
Share your relationship status.
Married to my high school sweetheart and I wouldn’t change a thing.