Mama Spotlight: Caitlin

Welcome back! This week’s Mama Spotlight is my friend Caitlin. Caitlin and I met within the last year after our four year old’s became best friends. Through play dates, FaceTime calls and other conversations, I have had the opportunity to get to know Caitlin a little bit more. One thing that I admire about her as a mom is the gentle and positive approach she takes in parenting her daughter. She also shares some amazing, nutritious meals on her Instagram account that often inspire me to try new, healthy recipes for my family. I know you’ll enjoy Caitlin’s perspective on motherhood!

Tell me about yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How many children do you have?

I’m Caitlin Schmidt. I am Mom to Lucy (4) and Theo (Still growing this one! Due in August) and wife to my best friend, Will. I am a registered nurse and work part time as a Quality Specialist for the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at IU Health. I have my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Purdue University and my Master of Science in Nursing Leadership from Benedictine University. I love cooking, nutrition, exercising and reading as many books as I can get my hands on. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but my family now resides in Fishers, IN. We have been here for 8 years and it feels like home.

How do you define motherhood?

A beautiful, sometimes ugly, turbulent, sometimes surprisingly smooth, scary, often miraculously confident ride. Entering motherhood is when I really settled into myself. I spent my early 20’s figuring out what I wanted my adult life to look like. What kind of career am I going to have, what kind of home would we like, what matters to me, what kind of human do I want to be? Looking back, it was a bit of a selfish period of life. And then, at 28, still feeling like a child myself, we had a baby. All I remember thinking when they let us leave the hospital was, wait… do they think I can take care of this human? Like, me?? And then slowly, over the next year, my mindset shifted to: I GET to nourish and influence and shape the life of this child? Cool! The confidence and intuition starts creeping in. You still have a roller coaster of easy and hard with every passing month, developmental leap and erupting tooth, but suddenly you feel like you were meant to do this and you CAN do this. Four years later, I still feel like I am growing and learning in motherhood. It has been an amazing journey and I know the best is yet to come.

What has it been like to be pregnant in the middle of a pandemic?

My pregnancy anxiety is already very high after suffering two miscarriages after our daughter. In the initial stages of pandemic uncertainty, I was very worried. I kept Googling “pregnancy outcomes Covid-19” to see if any new data had been released. Luckily, the research, though limited, is reassuring. Now, I hover somewhere between anxious and grateful to still be sharing an immune system with this little one. Focusing on trying to keep our mental health in check has helped my family during this pandemic. So that is something I will strive for throughout the rest of this pregnancy. We are all in uncertain times, but I think it is important to practice gratitude. We continue to be grateful for healthcare providers who show up to work everyday despite risks so that I can have prenatal care, the means to fill our fridge with immune boosting foods, sunshine, two stable jobs, and a hilarious, bright 4 year old who innocently distracts us from the worry. 

Describe the stage of motherhood you are currently in.

The preschool stage has been so fun for me. I absolutely love seeing my daughter’s mind work. I am sometimes astonished at what she knows and what she can do. Is this normal? I find myself looking at her in awe most days. We are getting ready to welcome another child into our family and I cannot wait to witness the dynamics between a 4 year old and an infant.

What do you enjoy most about this stage?

I love the honor of exposing our daughter to different experiences. I’ll never forget something my high school health teacher told our class once. She had just come back from maternity leave after having twins and she was telling us how she cut open an orange to eat and was so excited for her babies to smell an orange for the first time. It is a privilege to be able to show my curious, inquisitive daughter around in this life. 

What is most challenging about this stage?

Am I doing this right? I ask myself that question everyday. Most parents want to set their kids up for success in life. I’ve been feeling a little bit more pressure now that we have entered the final year before Kindergarten. As a deep thinker and feeler of every emotion, I can be hard on myself in this regard. Am I limiting her screen time enough, feeding her the right nutrients, reading her the right books, giving her enough independent time, letting her work out her own problems enough? I read something recently about the benefits of seeking stillness and looking inward for the answers. This has really helped me cope with my constant questioning. In this age of technology and information, it is so easy to turn to Google, blogs, or moms groups on Facebook for the answers, but the only people who know what is right for your family is you and your partner. No one else has lived this life, with your challenges, your gifts, your past, your people. (Concept from “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle).

What does self-care look like for you right now?

If I can find time each day to do something for my body and something for my mind, I am a much happier person. A lot of times, this means getting in a workout and having time to read or concentrate on a non-obligatory project or goal. My husband and I work hard to communicate to each other when we need moments away from the daily parenting grind, realizing that it makes us calmer, happier and stronger in the long run. 

What has had the greatest influence on you as a parent or your parenting style?

My parenting style has definitely been influenced by the Positive Parenting style. I believe that children respond better to calm, loving discipline and connection than punishments that cause feelings of blame or shame. Do I always keep my cool? Definitely not. But we work hard at it every day. The books “Positive Parenting” and “The Gift of a Happy Mother” by Rebecca Eanes and “Buddhism for Mothers” by Sarah Napthali have been transformative for me. I still have a lot of reading to do.

Also, I am so lucky to have the most amazing in-laws in the world. My mother-in-law, though recently retired, had a successful career in child behavior and social-emotional learning. We often text or call her and say “Lucy is doing (insert challenging behavior here), what should we do?!” And she is able to give us a thoughtful, science-backed technique to stop the behavior. And they always work like a charm! 

Where do you find support as a mom?

I’m going to answer this question very honestly. This is something that I struggle with. I have always been a “do it yourself” kind of person which is kind of self-sabotaging as a pregnant, working mom! I often find myself desiring more support, but I am terrible at asking people for help. I often find myself thinking “This is supposed to be hard, suck it up.” Or “You’re too sensitive, be stronger.” Or “Stop thinking so hard and long and just do it.” It’s an area of motherhood that I continue to work on.

I do have a few very good friends who I call upon for advice or venting. As an introvert who pretends to be an extrovert, I do not tend to enjoy moms groups or events, etc. We live away from both of our families so it is not easy to rely on family for physical support, but they certainly provide a lot of emotional support via phone calls and FaceTime. One of the coolest things we discovered during quarantine is an app called Together. My mother-in-law would call my daughter through the app and they could play games and read together while seeing each other’s screens and faces. I would highly recommend this to anyone who lives far away from loved ones!

Tell me the most important thing(s) you hope to pass on to your child(ren).

A love of continuous learning. Knowledge helps us see the world with open, inquisitive minds.

What’s one thing you have learned as a mom that you would tell your pre-kid self?

Focus on what really matters. At the end of this life, what do I want to say I spent my time doing? For me, that answer is creating memories, seeking happiness, spreading kindness and helping others. I don’t claim to be perfect at it now, but it’s certainly become my #1 priority now that I’m a mother. The crumbs on the floor, the mismatched decor, the weeds in the yard don’t REALLY matter at all, do they? 

What’s one piece of advice you want to share with other moms?

Am I qualified to give advice? Here is my daily mantra: If my child goes to bed tonight feeling loved, I did a good job.

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