“Monday Mornings” aims to prove there is beauty in every mother’s morning, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Bianca across the US to document the morning routines of twelve mothers in five different cities. This is our last stop in Texas.
Today’s Monday Morning features Kristen B from Houston, not to be confused with Kristen W from Dallas last week. Kristen B lives with her husband Justin, their 3.5 year-old girl Elizabeth and their eight-week-old baby, David.
Kristen and Justin are both full-time working parents and when Raquel visited, Kristen was on the last leg of her 12-week maternity leave (a combination of paid leave, vacation and unpaid leave) from her job as a chemical engineer.
Justin works as a computer engineer at the same company and when I asked Kristen what makes their family unique, she told me they are “self-described nerds”.
“We celebrate Star Wars Day (i.e. May 4th; May the Fourth Be With You) and we celebrate Pi Day on March 14th with pie. We read and watch a lot from the sci-fi and fantasy genres and will be sharing them with the kids when age appropriate. As a female engineer, I want to make sure my daughter will know that all pursuits are available to her, not just ones that are considered girly. Generally, we are very practical and logical as parents.”
Kristen suffered from Postpartum Depression with Elizabeth, so she was not surprised when she experienced it this time around as well.
“PPD/PPA hit harder and earlier than it did after my first, but I was able to get a lot of support from the grandmothers and doctors, which I am incredibly thankful for. I also made sure to keep myself busy and get out of the house more this time, which kept me from going stir crazy.”
Kristen’s mornings start early with David waking up at 5am for his first feed and then going back to sleep. Kristin says hearing that first early morning cry is the hardest part of her day.
“I am not, and never have been, a morning person. David’s first cries mean my night is over and it’s time to face the day. Sometimes it can trigger a post partum anxiety attack.”
After David finishes his bottle, Kristin lays him back down to sleep and heads back to bed herself, while Justin wakes up to shower and get dressed.
At about 6am, when Justin finishes getting ready, it’s his job to make breakfast for the family. Most often it’s cereal or frozen waffles but that morning he made scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits which Kristen attributes to “showing off for the internet”.
Kristen says she usually wakes up again around 6:45am, but that morning she couldn’t sleep (probably something about the photographer in the house) so at 6:15am, she got up to help Justin with breakfast.
“Justin is used to being the only one working in the kitchen. There’s one picture of me ‘helping’ with the eggs and he has a grumpy look on his face. That is him politely waiting for me to leave.”
At 6:20am (nerds love to give time stamps!), Justin wakes Elizabeth to get her ready for daycare.
“That started being Justin’s duty at the end of my pregnancy and continued after the baby came. He makes sure I have what I need to take care of myself and David, while he tackles Elizabeth.”
At 6:30am, Elizabeth sits down for breakfast with Dmitri Bear, “who has been Elizabeth’s constant companion and is well known to anyone who has met her”.
Kristen uses this opportunity to fix Elizabeth’s hair, which she says is her favorite part of the morning.
I questioned Kristen on why she finds doing Elizabeth’s hair enjoyable since my daughter equates hair brushing with torture.
“Hair routine starts after bath time the night before. We make sure her hair is completely tangle free with the help of some tangle-spray and combing. In the morning there will be knots, but since she is distracted with food, she’s relatively still. I ask politely if I may brush her hair and promise to be as ‘gentle as butterfly kisses.’ If there are a lot of knots, I’ll ask if a mouse slept in her hair and made a nest (I’m pretty sure my mom joked about this when brushing my hair as a kid). I also try to come up with crazy hairstyle terms so she’ll be more willing to let me touch her hair. I’ve made ‘twisty tails,’ ‘Frozen braids,’ ‘ballerina buns’, etc.”
Once Elizabeth’s hair is done, they can all sit together and eat.
At 7am, Kristen brought Elizabeth in to wake David so she could say goodbye before her dad took her to daycare.
“I was worried Elizabeth wouldn’t get enough attention from us and start to resent us or the baby, but she has transitioned to Big Sister amazingly.”
Five minutes later, Justin and Elizabeth were out the door.
At that point, Kristen is left alone to take care of David for the day.
Typically, she’ll feed David a bottle and then have some play time on the floor, with last night’s Jimmy Fallon playing in the background.
Kristen talked about how lucky she is that she was able to completely “shut out work” during her maternity leave.
“Before I left, I was able to have a long transition with my back-up, and my group kept telling me not to worry about them. We are very fortunate in the benefits our company provides and the flexibility to take as much time off as I did. ”
After playtime, David has his second feeding and then Kristen lays him down for his nap.
“David is actually a much easier baby than his sister was. I usually sing to him a little more while rubbing a finger down his nose (his ‘off’ button) and then I walk away. If I’ve caught it right, he’ll fall right asleep and I get to feel like Super Mom.”
I asked Kristen what she thought when she saw the photos.
“I look really happy, which surprised me. Justin was surprised that he looked so grumpy, but that’s what happens when I get in his kitchen space. Overall, our family looks busy but very connected. I’m sure there was a tantrum or two in there somewhere, but the individual moments look calm and loving. We all have bad mornings, but I think I’ll look at ‘normal’ mornings with a much more positive view than I have in the past.”
I thought that last comment was going to be my final correspondence with Kristen, but she emailed again because there was one more thing she wanted to share.
Kristen let me know she had come very close to backing out of the shoot because she was afraid of what state she would be in with her PPD.
“I was afraid that I would be an absolute mess, deep in the middle of it, and Raquel would end up capturing my family when I was at my absolute worst. And honestly, if I had been scheduled a few weeks earlier, that’s what she would have got. When I look at our pictures again, it makes my smiles even more important to me— that I got through the rough patch and was able to enjoy everything again.”
This post is part of the “Monday Mornings” series sponsored by Allstate. Every family has a special morning routine, and as we continue this journey of documenting different mothers across the country, it’s clear that there is beauty in all of our mornings. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.
I love these photos! Kristen, I am so glad that you did the shoot. You and your husband seem like a really good team!
I had PPA and felt like everything was tarnished because I was failing at being a mom. But when I look the pictures from that time and my baby was smiling during those dark times, it helped to show me a different perspective.
Thank you again for sharing your morning!
Thank you! I agree. pictures really help put it in perspective for posterity. It’s so hard to be in the middle of it, though.
Thank you for sharing a beautiful family story that includes PPD! I suffered from it after the births of both my children and it should be brought to light as a real-life, common medical issue that even the strongest, toughest, most put-together women face (in fact, it doesn’t discriminate!). Thank you, Kristen, for being so forthcoming about your experience as a new mom!
You are welcome. I totally TRY to be put-together. And then those hormones just screw everything up. dumb hormones.
For personal reasons, this is my favorite Monday Morning shoot. I also suffered from depression after my son was born, and part of the agony was feeling like I was failing as a mother. But even in the middle of PPD, most moms are still loving and nurturing and generally kicking butt — like this mom. It’s so good to see that, even when we feel terrible on the inside, those feelings are not always reflected in the way that we parent. It strips some of the (unnecessary) guilt from PPD. Just a beautiful set of photos.
You are right. Providing for all the basic needs is most important and the best sign of love. Anything else we can provide while dealing with PPD is bonus.
These parents always look like they have it so together, even when they think they don’t. I have yet to see a Monday Morning series where the family/single parent doesn’t have a morning routine.
A little while ago their was a twitter hashtag that was #thisisthefaceofPPD or something close to that. This post would be perfect for that! Thank you for doing this series Kristen. As someone who suffered from Postpartum Anxiety and Postpartum PTSD the world needs to see that people who suffer from postpartum mood disorders are just moms, Good moms at that.
Oooh, your combination sounds really rough. Glad you are better.
I should get a twitter account. that sort of hashtag is a great promotion to help reduce the stigma.
I love this series and especially this installment. Thank you Kristen for being so brave and so open about your PPD. You are a true hero.
Justin’s grumpy face due to kitchen infringement totally cracked me up. Anytime a man wants to cook for me I will give him all the room he needs to work his magic.
This little nerd family is awesome.
When Ilana asked me originally “what makes your family unique” it never even crossed my mind to mention PPD. It’s just something I had to deal with, AGAIN.
the first time around I was very hesitant to bring it up to others. It’s just not a comfortable conversation starter.
But this time, with therapy and talking with family it just clicked that my body SUCKS at post-partum hormones and it’s not a reflection of who I really am. It’s just something I had to crawl through to get to the other side.
I love the comment about her son’s “off” button by rubbing up and down his nose. It was the off button when both my kids were babies as well. They look like a very sweet connected family.
Thank you! It flabberghasted my husband when he first saw me doing it. “What magic is this?!” :p
Thank you allowing us to see your mornings and thank you for your honesty about PPD/PPA. We as mothers need to be more honest about our struggles so that those coming behind don’t feel alone and left in the dark.
I really struggled with learning to cope when I had my daughter and suffered from PPA and managed to avoid full blown PPD by the skin of my teeth. But it really shook my confidence in myself as a person and as a mother. It shook me to the point that when I had a pregnancy scare when my daughter was 10 months old I had a full panic attack. That really woke me up to a few things.
My husband and I decided to wait a bit longer than we had planned before adding another baby to the mix. The way we have things planned we’ll have the same age gap you do and one of the biggest reasons for waiting this long is because my daughter can still attend her daycare (thanks to govt help). I honestly don’t think I would cope if she was home the whole time too.
Guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m grateful to see someone else who has gone through what I’m heading towards and come out all right. I know that you have bad days and good days but seeing that there are good days gives me hope that I’ll have good days too. Thank you.
Thank you you. Good luck as you and your family work towards growing.
I think 3 is a good age. They are communicative and a little more self sufficient. Having two under two sounds like hell anyway, and adding any PPD/PPA on top of it sounds SO MUCH WORSE.
I had PPD with my second daughter and I am so glad to see all these positive comments from other women who had PPD/A too. I also had that terrible feeling of failing as a mom. All I could think about was how I was hurting my baby and my 2yo with my sadness and anger. But now, as Erin said above, I look back at those pictures and I see so much happiness in my kids. We did okay. We did more than okay.
Thank you for openly sharing your story, Kristen. Moms need to read the stories of moms with PPD/A and see that it can, and will, get better.
It broke my heart when my daughter would see me crying. She asked “Why are you sad? Why are you crying?” I didn’t want her memories of me to be this weepy lady who was never happy. and that would make me cry even harder.
I’m SO GLAD I got help and that now I have experience to share with others and hopefully can encourage them to do the same.
Ugh, I feel you. my 3yr old daughter still says “don’t be sad, be happy mommy.” When ever I get overly anxious or visibly upset. It totally breaks my heart.
I love this family because we are nerds and practical too :). Thanks to Kristen for sharing her mornings with us and her struggle with PPD.
Reading these comments has really opened my eyes. I currently have two under two. I thought I was a terrible Mom for sending my 21 month old to day care once a week just so I could get a break. Then I read Michelle say that she couldn’t cope if her daughter was home all the time. Thank you! My husband tells me I’m not a bad mom for needing a break from our toddler, but of course I don’t believe him. It’s encouraging to read about Moms who feel the same things I feel. Thank you all for that.
Another way to think of it, which made me feel better too:
Your first born got one-on-one bonding time, by default. By sending the toddler to daycare, your newest gets some one-on-one bonding time too.
Still oh so in love with this series. Kristen you are a wonderfully strong women glad to see that PPD didnt get the best of you and that you did this shoot because your family is arodable. Dont feel bad about the kitchen my husband kicks me out too.
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I love the Monday mornings series, and this post is my favorite! I suffered from post partum depression after having my daughter, who is now 5, and my son, who is now 4 months. I have read and re-read this post many times since it was first published, and it always cheers me up, inspires me, and makes me feel better! Thank you so much for sharing your story Kristen!
Ha! I reread it sometimes too, to cheer myself up. Thanks for the kind words
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