By Little + Free's creator, Tori Rotter
As a new parent, you are often bombarded with books and other resources to help you navigate the life-changing event you are about to face. The topics range from helping your newborn sleep and dealing with behavioral issues to coping with being responsible for another life. Before our daughter was born, my husband and I received A LOT of books, and to be honest, we didn’t read any of them. I think we had intentions to read some of them, but life gets crazy, and sometimes you just don’t have time to sit down and read about the potential sleeping issues of your future child. And then once said child is born, there is even less time to sit down with a good book. Needless to say, we have a stack of books that sits in a corner of our home, and that stack collects both dust and more books (spoiler alert to all new/future parents: there are books for every stage of childhood/parenthood, so the books keep coming long after your child arrives).
For my second Mother’s Day, my husband decided to join the party and gift me a book about motherhood. I suspect he was more attracted to the title than anything else because this particular book was entitled “You are a F*cking Awesome Mom.” A beautiful and reassuring title to any mother, particularly a mother of an 18-month-old who had seen their fair share of doubting their abilities as a mom. Despite my love for the title, I automatically assumed it was kind of a “self-help” book for moms, internally appreciated its message, and then sent it to “the stack.”
And it may have stayed there if not for COVID and parenting during an unprecedented quarantine time. My limits as a mother, wife, and person devoted to my career had never felt so tested. For the first time in a long while, I felt very much as I did during my first several months of motherhood—like I lost a part of myself. Or more so, that I lost my identity as me, and had just become a person going through the motions every day. Making sure I was giving everything I had to my daughter, husband, and career in a sort of “groundhog’s day” scenario where every day was the same, and there was very little time or opportunity for me to recharge. I started feeling an immense depression from being stuck in a sort of “always-on, always giving” mentality and then would subsequently get lost in feelings of guilt for not being more grateful for the things I have.
In short, I was struggling.
I decided that I had to start carving out time for myself, and thankfully one of the outlets I chose was picking up that book my husband had gifted me and giving it a try. It is hard to describe what Leslie Anne Bruce’s book did for me without being dramatic. But to put it bluntly, it saved me. Her book was so much more than I could have imagined based on the title and cover. It was as though she had recorded my exact thoughts and feelings and then written them down for me in a way that I could make sense of, find humor in, and reflect upon. As the younger generations say, I felt seen. Seen in a way that I’m not sure I’ve really felt since becoming a mother. Because as Leslie so poignantly points out in her book, sometimes even other mothers don’t understand what you’re going through. This could be because their experience was different or simply because they are too far removed from the phase of motherhood you’re in (and the mind has a way of “forgetting” the day-to-day struggles). But regardless, for me, it felt like Leslie and I were kindred spirits—having experienced first-time motherhood the exact same way, even down to our interactions with our husbands and their role in it all. I finally had that moment of “you get me,” and it felt like the oxygen I had been gasping for over the past several months. I didn’t even realize how badly I wanted to feel like someone else understood what I was going through until suddenly someone did.
After finishing her book, I immediately reached out to all of my friends that are currently mothers of young children, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant soon and practically demanded they buy the book. I even recommended it to my mom (who loved it, by the way) because I honestly think there is something in this book for every mother regardless of age/phase. It also touches on how much has changed for women over the years in terms of expectation and support in a way that needs to be more publicized, talked about, and generally accepted—however, that’s likely a conversation for another day.
But for now, in honor of National Author’s Day, I am here to formally thank Leslie Anne Bruce for her words, her honesty, and for bringing this book to fruition despite having two young children (which most would agree is a feat in itself). I think most of us have read a great book in our lifetime, but it’s a rare and incredible experience to read a book that truly changes you for the better. And those authors deserve to be celebrated the most. I hope this day, though perhaps not as widely discussed as other National Holidays, helps authors get the credit and celebration they deserve. And on a personal note, I hope Leslie (we might as well be on a first-name basis at this point) feels like a rockstar!