Pandemic life broke me open to reveal someone I didn’t recognize. Suddenly the optimistic, joyful person I identified with for 34 years was gone. And in her place, a testy jerk who cried a lot. Looking back, maybe it was undiagnosed postpartum depression manifesting as anger and a disappointment like I’ve never experienced before. I’m still not sure. What I do know is having a baby felt like a seismic shift and, with it, an ancient city was revealed underneath… and it wasn’t a pleasant place.
Naturally, I wanted to regain control of my life. So, I went into action mode and did all the “right things” to get back on track (action mode was still very much on-brand Kelly): I had a therapist. I went on a 120-day meditation streak. I worked out regularly. I slept well and ate healthily. While my body “bounced back” after having a baby (thanks to healthy habits and genes), it was apparent to anyone close to me I was in a mental funk.
Sitting down at my desk every day I found myself looking around at my life and thinking, “Is this really it? Is this all there is?” The turning point came one dreary December afternoon looking out my little home-office window, and wishing for more.
Why, when I had everything I had wanted for so long, did I feel like I was suffocating?
I had worked my whole life to get to this point: a cozy three-bedroom home in an ideal Boston suburb with good public schools, a dreamy spouse, beautiful baby daughter. But now, with a little time to sit with my thoughts (the pandemic erased my 1.5-hour commute), I realized I was living in a suburban culture built for my mother, or maybe even my grandmother.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good book club or wine night, but was this what my life was going to look like forever? As a lifelong athlete, the thought of giving up my adventurous aspirations made my soul ache. It hurt the part inside that’s still my child-self. The child who believed she’d run in the mountains, laugh & play in the ocean, and have fun forever.
Whether it was the pandemic, motherhood, or both, my fun had fizzled out. I’d meticulously built a life to match an abstract “ideal” and I was starting to realize the “ideal” didn’t match my own vision. I longed for more excitement, adventure, and joy. While I didn’t want to suddenly trade my house for #VANLIFE, I needed a shift. Something needed to change.
The first step for me was getting a life coach in addition to my therapist.
My coach Elizabeth helped hold a mirror to my pain and joy and lit the way for me to intentionally follow my personal path to more happiness. This was not a resource I knew existed, never mind something I would ever have sought out. But at the recommendation of a good friend, and wanting to exhaust all the options before turning to medication, I was willing to give it a try. It was without a doubt the spark I needed.
My second step to refinding joy was asking my two best friends to come surfing with me.
This was an impromptu invitation, but I thought I’d at least offer. Surfing had always been a source of happiness and zen for me, and it was something I’d done a lot when I lived in Australia. One friend said yes. Please note this was December, in Massachusetts, and the water temperature was about 38°. That Saturday morning we handed our children to our partners and headed for the beach.
As we giggled and wrestled our bodies into thick 6mm wetsuits outside in the freezing parking lot, we were already having fun. Longboards on our heads, we trekked across the snow-swept beach and paddled out to the icy waves. Sitting on our surfboards out there in the cold ocean, the winter sun on our faces, something began to shift.
For a few gorgeous moments, two burned-out moms found bliss. Our glow-up must have shown because the next week I sent out a surf invitation and three friends said yes, so I took them out and taught them how to surf too.
Before I knew it, we had a Badass Moms Club complete with a trail-running group meeting at dawn every week. Over the course of the next 2 months, I taught dozens of suburban moms how to surf in the cold Atlantic waters. Surf classes sold out in 15 minutes.
Are we crazy? Maybe. I like to call us badass. We’re badass moms, and you are too. I started a revolution in my little suburb, and it’s become my business and passion. By helping moms build joy into everyday life, we re-circuit the brain to turn more and more towards joy. By trying something you never thought you could (like surf in winter) you break down the “I could never do that” barriers that your mind creates and come away with a new understanding of what you’re capable of.
Badass Moms is a revolution where moms prioritize their joy and recognize that their fun brings joy to their whole family. We run and smile on Friday mornings in the woods. We laugh and giggle out in the frigid water, surprisingly cozy in our wetsuits. Together, seen and supported, you learn that sometimes you might get in a little rut, and all you need is a friendly reminder that you’re capable of anything.
Consider this your friendly reminder that you truly are capable of anything, and you don’t have to come surfing to prove it. Take a moment and think about what used to light you up the most pre-baby. Make a list and carve out space for yourself to go do those things. Whether it’s drawing, taking photos, cooking, walking on your favorite trail, scheduling a weekend away with friends, etc.
My ultimate dream for all of this would be to live in a world where moms prioritize their own fun as much as they prioritize their childrens’ fun. We’d inspire generations to see motherhood as joyful, not as an endless self-sacrifice. By our lived example, our sons and daughters will know their joy is always important, even if they someday decide to have children of their own. I used to be a bored, burned-out mom. Now I’m a surf instructor and coach.
My point? It’s possible to change your state even when it feels impossible. My challenge to you is to rediscover where your joy lies and bring it into your life as much as possible. Carve out the space. Get the support. Do what you gotta do. Not only do you deserve it. But so do your loved ones. I know for certain they are happy that the optimistic, joyful me is back.