Celebrate the Mess You Will Miss: How Kitchen Dancing Changed My Mind & Mothering

by Lauren Miller

Hey, I’m Lauren: dancer, mother, fiancé, hot mess. Not specifically in that order. I am originally from South Carolina, but moved to Texas for graduate school. I graduated with my Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance in May 2016. I was 9 weeks pregnant when I walked across the stage and had no idea what the next adventure looked like. I wish I could tell you I was full of excitement and joy, but that would be a lie. Instead, I was stuck, mentally. I wanted to enjoy my pregnancy, and celebrate the completion of a professional milestone…but I stopped myself from feeling too many emotions. Why? Somewhere, along the way dance had become a chore and I lost my passion for it. I had also had a miscarriage before this pregnancy. I was so ready to bring a child into the world, but was terrified at losing another. I stopped myself from getting too attached too quickly until I was “sure” the baby was coming. On December 13, 2016 I became a mother. The most indescribable, empowering day of my life. I can say that now…looking back on that day. I can remember fantasizing about that moment in child labor when doctors place your baby on your chest and a rush of emotions fills your body. But that’s not how it went for me. I push my baby out and cry because he is finally out…then we wait to hear that first cry. Those brief moments of silence are filled with self doubt. “You weren’t enough. Your body wasn’t capable. Not today.” Then a little cough and cry rip through all that doubt and it’s a dream come true…literally. Throughout my entire pregnancy I would get so emotional every time I listened to “Dreaming of You by Selena”. If you have ever heard that song, you know. Add that to pregnancy hormones and cue the UGLY crying. December 13, 2016 was a turning point for me, as a woman and as a mother. That was the day I proved to myself…I AM CAPABLE. MY BODY IS CAPABLE. Postpartum sucked but was tolerable. I’m mostly referring to healing from a 2 degree tear. That little squirt bottle they send you home with from the hospital was a lifeline. Haha! Fast forward to April 11, 2018. It’s time to meet our second baby boy. This pregnancy was different. My body had gone through the motions of pregnancy and labor so I trusted my body. I trusted myself. Finally. There is less fear and more calm. Calm because I feel better equipped for what’s going to happen. Less than 10 minutes of pushing and he enters the world. I remember my fiancé whispering “come on Lauren, let’s meet our baby boy.” That statement did SO much for me in that moment. I pushed and then reached to grab for our baby and BAM. That emotional first embrace of my baby. Slimy. Warm. Safe. All of a sudden I’m a mama of two sweet boys under the age of two. 

Transitioning from one child to two was pretty easy for me. Mostly because I didn’t set a standard for myself. I knew the mess would get overwhelming, the kids would scream, laundry would pile up, I would forget to drink water, someone would always need a diaper change (including myself), and Netflix would babysit one while I tried to manage it all. I knew I wouldn’t get it all done. So I didn’t even try. I read a book called “The Magic of Motherhood” and as obvious as it may seem, a chapter reminded me to ask and accept help. So I did. If someone offered to help I let them, even if I COULD do it alone. There is something even more empowering about accepting help. When I started accepting help, I started realizing that what I was able to accomplish in one day was IN FACT the work of more than one person. Even on days when I was less productive. 

It’s so amazing what can happen when you figure out how to change your own mind. Self-talk is evil. You are literally your own worst enemy…but what happens when you BEFRIEND YOURSELF? 

Stop talking yourself out of happiness. 

Stop comparing. 

Stop setting a false standard.

I feel like I am the best mother when I am in the biggest mess. 

I started sharing my experiences on Instagram and was blown away by the number of women that appreciated how I kept it “real”. I actually giggled at the first message a mother sent to me thanking me for showing the REAL stories and messes of motherhood. It hadn’t even occurred to me that a large portion of images portraying motherhood were staged! I hadn’t even realized how significant my voice was until people started talking back to me!

So here I am with two kids and a degree that’s supposed to be bringing in money but is instead collecting dust. I had gone through a bit of an identity crisis when my first son was about 6 months. Mostly because I couldn’t remember what ELSE I used to do. My pre-baby, grad school days were an unhealthy balance of homework, rehearsal, late nights, coffee, binge drinking to celebrate another week completed, and late night trips to Taco Bell to avoid a hangover…I’m sooooo classy. Haha! And now my days were just diapers, spit up, cartoons, avoiding webMD, and trying to figure out how to “sleep when they sleep”. Yeah right. (I still haven’t figured this out.) I realized nothing about my daily schedule included time for myself! 

I wanted it to be different this time. I could be more than a mom without feeling guilty right? 

*cue kitchen dance parties!

I’m serious. One kitchen dance party and the rest is history. My kids were screaming, my boobs were leaking, the meal I had made my toddler had turned into an arts and crafts mess, the clean laundry pile was a couch mountain that would make Everest jealous, and right when I was about to throw in the towel and cry myself into a corner…I stopped. THIS IS NOT THE END. CALM DOWN. CELEBRATE THE MESS YOU WILL ONE DAY MISS…so I did. I turned on a random song, as loud as I could, and busted out dancing. I sang to the top of my lungs. I picked up one kid with a rag in the other and just had fun. Who knew cleaning cold oatmeal could be so fun!

On a separate day, I recorded myself and shared it to my instastory. The response was AMAZING! Women saying I made their day, mothers taking a sigh of relief that they weren’t alone, friends saying I looked like a fun mom…and all of us enjoying one simple moment of conquered defeat! So…in an effort to spread joy and find balance in my own chaos I kept sharing my kitchen dancing. I eventually realized that dancing while pumping actually increased my milk supply! Wanna know something else? I rediscovered my love for movement! My grad school days were full of critique and technique and right in my kitchen I could throw all that away and just move my body. It felt so good to just do what I wanted and have fun. This is my “me time”. But even more than that…THIS is what my kids get to remember about their early years!

I am a 27-year old mother of two boys under the age of two. I am engaged to an amazing man that deals with my shenanigans and laughs alongside me. I don’t know it all, but if there is one thing I do know, it’s this…

You are NEVER alone. 

You are SO much more than the list of faults you assign yourself. 

You CAN do it.

The best advice I ever heard was this: “Unless they’re paying your bills, pay them no mind.” -RuPaul 

It’s sounds silly, but once I heard that my mind was made up. I stopped letting social media dictate the social standards. I stopped comparing and started enjoying. COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION! 

Why not jiggle my postpartum belly to the one hit wonders of the 90s? Why not share breastfeeding struggles? Why not empower other women with kind words? 

Another quote that contributed to my mindset was this, “Another woman’s beauty is not the absence of your own.” Soooooo true! Next chance you get, look at yourself in the mirror. Think about all the challenges you have faced. Then look again. You are still STANDING! You made it! That’s worth celebrating!

I am inspired by my grandmother, mother and aunt. My family moved from North Philly to South Carolina on a purple school bus and I still don’t know how they did it…How they are STILL doing it! 

I am motivated by my children. I want them to tell our story one day, and be proud. They are experiencing the world with new eyes and I want them to flourish! 

I am passionate about self-love, play, movement as a form of expression, and community. Social media allows me to do all of that at the same time, while sharing it with the world! If I ever had the opportunity to create my own profession it would include: 1. hosting body positivity workshops around the world, 2. delivering blankets, coffee and donuts to the families of NICU babies, 3. planning “parent’s night out” dance parties, and 4. teaching postpartum movement classes designed for the professional dance artist.

I hope this provided a small window into the community I aim to create. I love sharing my story because it reminds me of the how strong I actually am! I look forward to what the future holds for my family and I am happy to support our journey to get there!

So much love,
Lauren

More About Lauren

Hey y’all, I’m Lauren! I’m a part-time dance professor, and spend the rest of my time trying to convince my toddler to eat something other than french fries. I’m completely outnumbered by boys: two under two and a handsome (ridiculously supportive) man that deals with my shenanigans. I use Instagram to document our days, encourage community, and share epically embarrassing dance moves to 90’s smash hits. It really does “take a village” and I love building my tribe with empowering women! I am on a journey toward self-love and body positivity, but I’m also just trying to find motivation to fold my laundry.  

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