A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

How I Found My Way Out of My Past

Sometimes I look around my house and find scraps of the old me lying around and it gets me to tripping on how much I have changed since Jack was born. Priorities change. It’s such a simple sentence and concept, but when I get glimpses of how astounding an affect this has had on the way I live my life I am truly in awe of my son.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

Over the weekend I took some time to dust off and store away my shoes. My husband came in saw the giant pile of mainly black platform high heels and said “wow, do you think you had a problem?” I remember these shoes as being one of the most important things to me. The way I looked was at the top of my list of priorities. I always had nice clothes. I never wore the same thing twice in a week. It took all day to do laundry because I had a system with each item of clothing. I ran 25-30 miles per week and saved my calorie intake for beer and wine. My hair was $300 every 8 weeks. Besides our rent it was our highest expense. My panties and bra had to match; had to. It was the law. My fingers and toes were always painted. My sunglasses were shiny. My eyebrows were plucked, my armpits and legs shaved and my vagina was from Brazil. My makeup was perfect. I had to have lipstick on at all times. I remember one night getting completely blasted with my coworkers. I went into the bathroom and threw up. Then I went to the mirror and reapplied my lipstick, perfectly.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

I was also obsessed with my job. I worked at a residential treatment facility for teenage wards of the state. They suffered severe emotional, psychological and behavioral problems. I started working there in my late 20’s when my husband and I moved here from New York City. I made my best friends there. I discovered my true passion for social work there. It became the center of my universe. I worked alongside my best friends. I socialized alongside my coworkers. We all became emotionally dependent on each other. I decided to get my graduate degree so that I could climb the ranks. I succeeded as I did with most things related to my job. I proceeded to take on various positions and responsibilities. After about 4 or 5 years I was getting unhappy. It was a high stress job with severely aggressive kids and a weak administration. A lot of my friends had moved on to other jobs. As grad school came to an end I felt unsure about taking a new position here or finding a new place to work.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

On the first day of my last semester of grad school I arrived at my research class. The professor handed me a 25 page syllabus. I was working at the residential facility part-time, doing my field placement at the police department and taking classes full-time. I was beat. I was full of anxiety all the time. The next day I arrived at work and smoked a cigarette with a coworker. She walked away. I started to feel funny. The world faded away. I opened my eyes and heard running and yelling. All I could see was this gray matter. I soon realized it was the ground in my face and all the commotion was about me. I was driven to the ER where I was told I was being admitted because they suspected I had Wolf Parkinson White, a rare but non-life threatening heart condition. They said people my age don’t “just drop like that.” I went through many tests and a very long night in the hospital. I had this gut feeling that nothing was wrong with me except that I had been pushing it too hard. They finally let me leave when I threatened to walk out after yelling at basically everyone who came near me. It was a horrible experience. I don’t have a heart condition and I was treated horribly from beginning to end. I slowed everything down and it was clear I needed to find some peace in life. It was time for me to cut ties with this agency all together.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

Instead of doing what was clearly good for me I stayed at this job and took a position as a supervisor. Shortly after I started this new position I was dealing with an aggressive and delusional teenager who was upset about not being able to go on an outing. She turned to me, grabbed my hair, started shaking my head back and forth, dragged me over a bunch of chairs which knocked me down and stomped on my back. A coworker came to my rescue and we were able to restrain her. I had been attacked many times, but this time was different. I had lost all control over my body. She was in total control of the situation. She was in total control of me. She could have killed me if she so desired. I struggled at work after that. I struggled in every crisis from then on (and crises of that nature were daily). I was feeling that my days were number here, but I had no idea how to get out. I interviewed for other jobs that seemed just as stressful. I thought about just walking out. Instead I fed into my comfort at this place after so many years and took yet another position as a therapist. This wasn’t a bad position, but it was the same agency after all. Same shit, different office. One thing it did provide was an opportunity to leave the front lines of the action. And now I could try to get pregnant. And I did, quickly! I worked there until the day before I was induced. I left planning on returning after 12 weeks.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, with first son.

Instead I had serious issues getting started with breastfeeding and I spent my days and nights on the internet looking for answers. I found the answers and a whole lot more. I learned of babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, gentle discipline, and coconut oil to name a few of my favorites. I was a sponge for all this information and began to form strong opinions on sensitive issues. I started writing about it. I found that I had a unique perspective on things being a social worker and that there was a place for my experiences and education. By the time the 12 weeks were up I had so much emotional distance from my job that I shuddered to think about returning. I knew that Jack needed a happy and emotionally healthy Mama. I knew that he needed to be free of the stress I had been under. He opened the door for me to quit; he got me out of my hole. I called them up, “peace out, I’m a Mama now!”

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, with husband and son.

Now my high heels are in storage. My panties and bra never match; in fact I rarely have a bra on. My work outs consist of bouncing Jack around in the ring sling. I never wear makeup. My hair is pulled back with a lame 80’s style head band most of the time. I attend Attachment Parenting meetings and get emotional talking about breastfeeding. I trust my instincts. My nails look terrible. I wear ugly sandals for comfort. I buy organic produce and have jars of coconut oil in every room. I drink my own breast milk when I feel sick. I do laundry as fast as I can; if it can’t be washed on cold and thrown in the dryer then I ain’t wearing it. I take a doctor’s opinion as just that, an opinion. I always try to squeeze one more day out of my outfits and dirty hair. I have a lot more hair. I don’t get drunk and throw up or smoke until I’m hoarse anymore. I love my job now. It is the most rewarding position I could have taken. Jack is my priority now. I don’t even have to say “number 1.” He is just my one and only priority. I can’t imagine anything could make me happier.

Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. Very amazing story, and you are a very amazing mama. Congratulations on getting out of that horrible place!

  2. Ah this is such an awesome, erm, story..?! 🙂 quite the transformation! I love how all the insignificant things that were once so important have now faded into nothing and only what’s really important remains:) those are awesome memories that will make you all warm and fuzzy when you’re old! Thanks for sharing:D btw I totally relate to the no makeup, extended clothes wearing – glad I’m not the only one;) haha

  3. Awesome story. Sounds like what I was feeling about going back to work. Love your blog.

  4. wow Abby. I’m on your facebook page and admired your advocacy for breastfeeding and your no nonsense approach on your page. But wow. Now I really like you. I could have written this – it’s actually a little scary how much we have in common – I’m a social worker, have been to Amsterdam 4 times, worked with an RTF, have my MSW, love love breastfeeding and now am becoming a much bigger fan of you, badass breastfeeder! I too quit my job to be a full-time mama and it was the best decision I have ever made. It is a little scary though because I know I can’t go back to a stressful social work job, so I am not sure where my next chapter will be but right now, I’m content painting my own nails, wearing the same t-shirts and yoga pants daily and saving up for a new nursing bra or ergo winter cover. When those little eyes look up to you, you’re priorities sure change and I am loving it. Keep it up mama.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. A lot of people talk to me like I am making a terrible decision “forcing” my husband to be the bread winner, and choosing to be “barefoot and pregnant.” I love my job. And it recently got even better because I have gotten the opportunity to start home schooling. Something I’ve always wanted! But it’s nice to hear that someone feels the same. I always feel like I am missing out in some way and this helps me to realize chances are I’m not. At least not something I can have in 18-19 years lol

  6. Abby, Your story and experience resonate so completely with mine. My shoe collection was where most of my money went & my feet Grew when I was preggs. But I grew out of my own skin & into this new, more authentic, me.
    Your last picture made me cry; you just look so damn happy! You rock, Mama!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story. I never thought that being a mom would change me so much… or should I say connect me with the dormant mom I had inside me?… I totally related to your story

  8. I love this. Thanks for posting….I can relate so much! Especially now thinking about not going back to school as much as I love it.
    Keep Writing.

  9. I love your blog – looking forward to following it! I can totally relate to this post about priorities shifting. Honestly, there are times where I look back and I (for a split second) miss being able to spend so much time on myself. Super selfish, I know… but then I look down at my little girl and suddenly realize how quickly this season of my life will pass… thanks for sharing your insights!

  10. I once told my womens studies teacher that the feminism taught my generation was a crock of crap, and that TRUE equality only occurs when a women performing her natural instincts, (breast feeding, caring for our children) is as respected and admired as a women working outside the home. I have a masters degree ive supervised multi million dollar projects, and i can tell you hands down the most important job in my entire life is caring for my little Liam.. Did it change me, sure did, it made me be the person i was meant to be.. Ill never regret leaving my career to be a Mom.. and i say More power to all women who wont accept the flasehood that women only have equality and value in mens positions…

  11. I thought you loved those sandals):

  12. I love this. I also took the most amazing position ever as stay at home mon to my 14 month old. Now I have lots and lots of student debt, a Masters in clinical psych, and no “real” job to show for it lol Still the best decision I’ve ever made.

  13. Yay for non matching bra and undies! And I love that, “Peace out, I’m a mama now!” That’s what I say to my old “friends” who accuse me of being a breeder.

  14. This is amazing, we have so much in common it’s crazy. I was a party girl working in corporate sales and everything changed when I had my son. I love your blog!

  15. I just found your facebook page and blog a couple of days ago, and I am so glad I did. I have several mommy friends, but none who share many of the same beliefs and ideals as I do. It’s nice to know there are other moms like me.
    Isn’t it amazing how naturally our priorities shift after we have kids?!
    It’s awesome that you were able to leave your job. I dream of the day where my only job is raising my daughter – she’s 15 weeks now and I have to return to work when she’s 22 weeks – unfortunately, mine and my husband’s student loans and our mortage won’t allow for me to stay home.

  16. That was such a beautiful post! I had a similar work/life imbalance, although not quite as drastic as it sounds like your experience was. I can honestly say that nothing has fulfilled me the way being a mother has. I’m SO lucky to be Hannah’s mommy. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding. I’m the only one who can do the job, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I’m her advocate, her voice, her teacher, her caregiver, her playmate, and her role-model. Like you, I fell into some of my parenting habits through trial and error and the advice that I give now to new moms: trust your instincts. So glad you are have this great platform to share your experiences!

  17. Dang it! I had thought about starting a blog on a similar premise. When I had my son, I was so clueless. I didn’t know the mother I would become at all. It’s an amazing journey to transformation, isn’t it though?

  18. I read this already and how i love to read it again. I love the way you write. The subject and the predicate are all awesome!!! I love you, Abby.

  19. “Peace out, I’m a Mama now” …I love it! I’ve Done that….twice. 😉 Great story, thank you for sharing!

  20. I love your story. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world. Ive learned so much from you.

  21. Meg Skelly says

    I love you even more that I already did! Although our lives are not completely the same, I can relate to the “nothing else matters” approach you have now. My job and my friends were my life; cocktails, dinner meetings, after hours events, almost every night. Now, I rush home to spend every waking moment with her. I live for weekends when I can breastfeed and skip the dreaded pump.
    I don’t know how it works, but your encouragement and words of wisdom always come at exactly the right moment. Thank you.

  22. Laika Marasigan says

    This is very inspirational. I am exclusively breast feeding my baby girl who’s now almost 10 months old. By her 7th month, she stopped latching. I felt sad. She would only take my milk from the bottle. Maybe coz I was away a lot. My work had me locked down 10 hours a day and my commute was 2 hours. She became independent of me early. That’s what I feel. I’m close to tears reading about how passionate you are of your work. I am too. But I’m not as happy anymore coz work is getting too stressful given my position in the company. Everyday, I feel like she’s telling me something. That we are better off if I change some thing in my life now, like work. Thank you! Thank you!

  23. Stephanie Baker says

    I just wanted to say that I loved this article! It makes me feel a lot better about the decisions I want to make. I already have a 2 (going on 3) year old son, Aidan, whose early life I missed out a lot on because of work. I was constantly stressed out and the imbalance between family time and work was terrible. I am currently 6 months pregnant with another boy (excitement!!!!!!) and my job is even more stressful. It’s starting to be a hassle to even be treated as an equal at work because I was put on light duty by my OB. Needless to say, I am VERY stressed out and worried I might lose my job just for insurance reasons. Even though I am running into red tape everywhere in order to keep my job, I believe it might be the best thing ever to just not work at all. Kid time is too precious to work all the time like I have had to since I started working. All I want is to stay home with my kids. They are only little once and you can’t get that time back. Time with my babies is all I want. Time is Love. Thank you for the inspiration, Badass Mama! I think I might just say “Peace out!” as well! Love your blog and your facebook page. Keep it up!

  24. What an amazing story! I interpret over the phone (from home) for social workers and probation officers who work with teenagers. I have always admired them, but your story gives me a whole new perspective on their job! I’m glad you are happier now! Congratulations!

  25. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your story. It is great to know a little bit of your history – and it’s a history (and change) I can completely relate to.

  26. What a great story. My own progression to motherhood has taken a similar track. I also recently decided to delay me return to work for the same reason. My son needs a happy heathy mom:) I love being a social worker but my job previous to my baby being born is no longer the right fit for me.

  27. work mom not by choice says

    loved your story and feel your pain about going back to work, just makes the rest of us who cant afford to stay home feel even worse.

  28. Wow. I’m glad and jealous you made it. I wish I ever had this choice (or the guts to simply make it?). I have an amazing husband who stays at home. I went back to work after 10 weeks. Now, almost a year later I’m wondering where I lost myself. I’m dealing with depression, severe loss of weight, anxiety… you name it, I seem to have it. The only thing I seem to have at the moment (besides my psychologist, haha) is breastfeeding my sweet girl.
    Thank you so much for sharing this and for showing that it can work out to be so brave to quit a job and to find some other purpose in your life. Keep up your work!!

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