My name is Zoe Mackenzie and I am a mom to two energetic boys! My eldest is four, and my youngest eight months old. I’m currently on maternity leave and will be going back to work in September.
I moved to Toronto a few years ago, after spending the bulk of my life living on a farm in Northern Alberta. City life has been an adjustment but, at the moment, it seems to work well for our family. I am passionate about nature, building communities, and self-development.
I always knew I wanted to have kids, but that did not prepare me -- in any way -- for the physical and mental trials that come with creating and raising tiny humans. Postpartum anxiety was something that consumed my sense of self the first few months after my first baby was born. I was not overwhelmed with the love and maternal instinct that many women speak of -- I was filled with fear and dread that something would happen to this tiny person who now held my heart outside my chest. It did get better, but only once I started giving myself the compassion and permission to work through all the thoughts and feelings I had.
As someone who likes to be systematic, logical, and have control, the shift into motherhood demanded my heart and mind to change in ways I initially feared and even resented. Motherhood has created a softness in me that I don’t think I ever accepted or nurtured before. It has also forced me to prune the garden that is my life; I make time for things that add value to my life, and cut away those that don’t. I gave myself a new kind of permission to really live in the moment and not apologize for trusting myself first. I still struggle with anxiety at times, but I’ve also created a toolbox to help me get through those days where everything is just too much. Every day I get to practice being a better person for my kids and for myself, and I am so grateful for that.
How has your life changed?
Since becoming a mother, my life has changed beyond all recognition. It’s seriously hard to remember what things were like before! Big changes include learning -- and making it a priority – to really care for myself. I can’t pour from an empty cup; I have to manage time and logistically plan out everything in far greater depth than I used to. I love to go with the flow but that is just so much harder to do with two kiddos.
My mindset has changed so much, too. I don’t have the capacity to make time for people or things that I don't want to spend my resources on. I value my alone time even more than I did before. I pay attention to time in ways I never did before and it’s imperative I check in on my mood, when I’ve eaten and how much sleep I’ve managed to get. These things don’t just impact me anymore -- now, they also impact my kids. I need to be able to care for them, help them manage emotions, and be present – I strive to be my best self, as much as possible. They’re always watching (Joking... but not joking).
How do you find balance?
Balance is something I feel like I have to defend aggressively, every day. If I feel that things are tipping too far in one direction, I need to act as soon as possible. If I need some alone time, I can’t be afraid to ask for it. If I feel that I need to be more present, then it is up to me to take a deep breath, center myself, and be in the moment.
Me-time is so important. It’s a treat just being able to hear myself think, reading a book, or having a moment without being interrupted. And that’s incredibly important to my identity and mental health. I make sure I get my me-time by effectively communicating with my partner and ensuring that I have a mixture of true alone time, as well as outing with friends (some with kids and some without kids). It helps to constantly check in with myself.
I changed -- completely revamped -- every routine I ever had. Since I had refined them, I enjoy them even more wholeheartedly than before. At the same time, it also got easier to let go of routines, actions, thought patterns and people that weren’t serving me.
What advice would you give?
Practice kindness and compassion with yourself. Show yourself as much love and patience as you can muster. Go into every moment knowing that this will all be new, and that learning new things can be hard. You will have moments where you feel as though you’ve failed -- and that’s okay. Don’t reject any emotion or thought. Let it flow through you, but don’t hold on. Every feeling is valid. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone who makes you feel safe and heard. If you can, find your tribe before your new baby arrives.
I wish someone had told me that every single thing I thought and felt was normal. I really was not alone in any experience. It’s also important to remember that everything is always changing. Nothing stays the same for long when you’re a mom. Your baby, or your kids, will go from one phase to the next one -- as soon as you feel like you can take a moment to feel comfortable.