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Motherhood Untold: Moms Tell All

*You are not alone. Our blog series, Motherhood Untold, tells the stories of real moms navigating the real challenges and struggles of motherhood. This month we interviewed three mamas from across the nation with varying lifestyles and backgrounds to see how motherhood looks through their eyes.

Sometimes motherhood can be SO isolating, am I right? It's supposed to be the most magical time of your life: the endless snuggles, the new-mama glow, and promise of a village that will always be there. In reality, what many mamas find is that before you know it, the magic and adrenaline of "new" fades and realization that you need to actually *create* or *find* the village of support becomes clear. Spoiler, that's why we're here, Mama!

While it can feel like you're the only one who feels a certain way or who "can't seem to keep it all together", we're going to let you in a little secret: we're all a hot mess. Some of us have spouses that stay-at-home and can help, some have nannies or housekeepers or meal delivery services, and some are just out here embracing the chaos 😉. We interviewed three mamas from FIT4MOM locations around the nation and asked them the same 5 questions in an attempt to discover if we're really all so alone or if maybe there's some similarity in our stories. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised by their answers—and hey, maybe there's even a mama or two you can relate to.

Meet the Mamas

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Stacy Ryan (Austin, TX)


Leticia Jenkins (San Diego, CA)

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Steph Clark (Louisville, KY)

Let's get to it!

1. Give us your mama "elevator pitch": briefly tell us about your family, your background, anything that helps us get to know you and where you are coming from.

SR: We are a family of five, including myself, my husband Denis, stepson Dylan (Age 22) and two daughters, Ashlynn (Age 6) and Keirra (Age 3). We moved to Texas five years ago with our then 9 month old daughter Ashlynn. My stepson Dylan is currently enlisted in the Navy and has been stationed in Japan for the last two years, BUT is coming back to the States in July to be stationed in Washington! (We are very excited to have him close to us again.) Before becoming a mother, my career was in the fashion industry, specifically working with surf apparel manufacturers. I traveled the country merchandising clothing and also worked in marketing. Our decision to move to Austin came from one of those work trips, where I fell in love with the Austin area! We packed our bags several months later, took a leap of faith and left our careers to start something NEW! I am now a SAHM and a fitness instructor for FIT4MOM Austin and my husband is a police officer for Round Rock.

LJ: Wife, Mommy, daughter, teacher, friend, that's me. I am a proud Navy wife who hails from the great state of Texas, Houston to be exact, but San Diego is now home. While I love Texas, the sun, sand, and year round spring weather makes moving back a hard pitch! I am mommy to three amazing kiddos, Taylor (14), Mya & Myles (3). I say I have a teenager and two threenagers because they all keep me on my toes! I have no idea where I would be without them though. I am the favorite daughter to both of my parents (insert sweet smile), and I plant the seeds of knowledge in tiny humans daily as a third grade teacher.

SC: Hi, I'm Steph! Most days, you’ll find me in a breezy dress working on the back porch, a smile on my face and both kiddos (Valentina & Ivy) trying to cuddle our chickens in the yard - or making googly eyes at my hunky husband John (we've been together since high school). Leaving the fashion and corporate world to create warm and whimsical features for a living was the best decision (career-wise) I ever made. I'm storyteller by day, a Creative Director by night, fitness advocate, lover of laughter, and ice cream connoisseur-- plus, I’ve always got my bags packed for our next family adventure! Being a professional wedding photographer, DIY Blogger, and most importantly, a homeschooling mama is what I live for. I know, it literally sounds like a madhouse...and guess what? It totally is and we embrace it daily.

2. What is one thing you're proud of, as a mama?

SR: I am proud that my children are true free spirits and incredibly independent. I love that I have been able to guide my daughters to be confident young ladies and I KNOW that they will have fulfilled and happy lives based on that. I’m proud that we made the big (and scary) decision to move across the country in order to provide our children a life that we wanted for them.

LJ: I'm really proud to be thriving instead of just surviving. Adding two infants to the mix 3 years ago brought on a whole new level of being stretched thin. The babies spent six weeks in the NICU, and days after their release, my husband deployed for six months. I was left with two brand new babies and an emotional 11 year old who was dealing with no longer being the only child. I spent my days dizzily dropping one off at middle school and nursing, burping, changing and napping the other two only to repeat this after picking up the angry and "neglected" middle schooler and repeating the process with the infants. Any adjective for tired would be an understatement. There is literally no word to describe how I felt, and I finally had to call in the big dog, my own mother, to help me after a terrible accident with one of the babies. While having my mom here has been great (she hasn't left yet, and I wouldn't let her if she tried), I still recall the level of stress I felt during the first 3 months of having the babies at home so I was still very hands on up until the last six months or so. Within the last six month however, I've let my hair down and started to relax and live a little. I trust my mom when she says she's got this, and I'm going out with and without my kiddos without any guilt, stress, or anxiety about doing so. I am a mama who is thriving.

SC: This is a tough question, because as every mother knows, each day brings a new challenge to conquer. If you asked me this my first week after becoming a mother, it would have been an answer like: I am most proud that my child has survived to be 7 days old! I remember holding Valentina in her swaddling blanket at the hospital as we were being discharged thinking, oh my gosh, I am responsible for this innocent perfect being. It was terrifying to me.

Now, with a 6 and 5 year old, I am most proud of their unique personalities showing themselves. Valentina is our thunderstorm. She rolls in, full of life and energy, and rolls out leaving destruction in her wake. Ivy on the other hand, is full of sweetness, sunshine, and is nothing but good manners.

At least this is the case until they are 3 hours into schoolwork on a wednesday, ready to climb the walls to be outside playing or terrorizing some poor reptile waiting to be discovered.

3. What would you say is the hardest part of motherhood?

SR: Being TOTALLY honest… keeping my cool during those tough moments. Learning to stay calm during the sibling fights or when that INDEPENDENCE makes an appearance, is probably the hardest part for myself.

LJ: The hardest part of motherhood for me was letting go of handling everything and allowing others to help me. Mamas CAN do it all, but we don't HAVE to. It is true that it takes a village.

SC: Practicing what I preach.

I was raised very poorly, not having access to running water, sometimes electricity, and we ate what we could afford. My parents were very emotional eaters, holidays were centered on food as we saved up to afford what was special items. My mother was bulimic, had horrible eating habits, and was very petite. I, on the other hand, was 5'9 by 8th grade, had the shoulders of all the men in my family, and shopped in the Husky sections of clothing stores hearing lots of negativity in regards to what I had to wear as my mom was the one to take me shopping.

Being the mother of two daughters, they have never - NEVER - heard me speak negatively about my body. I freaking LOVE what this body has done, has accomplished, birthed, survived... gosh, I could preach on this topic of self-love. It has been a journey, lots of mental-rewiring, and much is owed to F4M for this! But to put it into action for my kids, in words other than "beautiful", "pretty", "cute". My children are encouraged with food that fuels their bodies, to be "strong", "kind", "smart"... this is probably the most challenging part of motherhood, because there are so many outside sources of negativity through movies, friends, and one day when they are older, social media. I am not ready for that... to not be able to shield them from everything.

4. What's your "guilty pleasure"? AKA what do you do for YOU time?

SR: I love sitting on the couch and finding a new Netflix series to watch or a crime movie.

LJ: I'm back to doing all of the things I enjoyed before having kids. Me time consists of mani/pedis and shopping, but the ultimate thing I'm enjoying as of last October is taking girls' trips out of the country! I max out at 4 days though!

SC: My husband is next to me and I just read this question to him. He literally laughed out loud because he said I always have a DIY project for my ME time... But, I would say my guilty pleasure is getting everyone down for the night, the house is quiet, and I take a hot bath with a new book... with at least one hot water refill making the bath last longer!

5. Last question: one piece of advice for new mamas?

SR: “It’ll pass!” Every tough phase you encounter will pass sooner than you think. Try not to let yourself get hyper focused on routines or “how it’s supposed to be”. Letting loose will set you free and allow you to live in the moment and ENJOY it… even when it’s hard.

I guess I have two. Ha! Find a village!!! Find a group of moms that you can bond with. These friendships can be lifelong and your kids will make friends too. The moms in your village will be the people that are going through the thick of it like you AND will be celebrating milestones and victories like you. When you don’t think anyone else “gets it”… they will!

LJ: AI think I answered this one in number 3, Mamas CAN do it all, but we don't HAVE to.

SC: My best advice I always give to new mothers is: Don't listen to any advice.

... and follow it up with this:

1. It takes a village.

2. After all your friends and family have visited in the first few weeks, your partner is back at work, it's just you and that baby depending on each other. You are going to need a minute to take a shower, to lay down in peace for a nap uninterrupted... When this happens, have someone you KNOW will be there to step in and assist.

3. Ask for help. We have all been there and 100% understand what you are feeling, going through, and know that it truly DOES get easier. You will learn you child's signals and day by day, your confidence will grow.

You can do this, mama. Do not doubt yourself.

One theme we noticed here: it 👏 takes 👏 a 👏 village! To find your local FIT4MOM village, click here. Your first class is always free, Mama, and we know you'll leave knowing you've found more than just a workout.

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