Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

BHM Storytelling Series: The Accidental Housewife and Health Advocate For Her Son


BoldHeartMama

TARA FITZPATRICK, RICHMOND VA.


I’ve always been interested in the different ways that women, especially mothers, make decisions for themselves and their families about their work and home life. Equally curious is how these women live out their decisions to make their choices truly work for them because there are so many ways to do it. The BoldHeartMama Storytelling series offers a peek into the lives of mothers from all over, and highlights their unique BoldHeart stories, from struggles to triumphs in work and mothering and life.



Tara Fitzpatrick, 37, is a mother to sweet and fair-haired Oliver, who recently turned 2, and a self-proclaimed accidental housewife. Soon after his birth, Tara and her husband found themselves struggling to understand and address Oliver's feeding challenges, which eventually required therapeutic intervention and ultimately catalyzed Tara's decision to leave her work in software project management to facilitate his treatment and healing. Over the past year Tara has found her groove at home with Oliver who is now healthy and happy, and she has recently started looking for her next work opportunity.



Please briefly share the struggles of your son’s feeding issues, and the approach that you tried and abandoned because it just didn't feel right for you or for Oliver.
Oliver didn’t take well to a bottle as an infant, and he also later refused solids. When he was eleven months old our pediatrician requested we seek therapy. The allegedly reputable therapy program in town had an immediate opening and I was so excited to finally have some help. That excitement, however, was smothered when in his evaluation and subsequent sessions, members of his therapy team made shaming comments about my parenting choices and we learned more about the prescribed therapy approach, which dictated that in order to make him want to eat, we needed to zone him out on cartoons and then force him to eat in a way that felt borderline abusive. My husband and I want our son to understand consent, and have agency, and we just kept thinking, "This doesn't feel right, we shouldn't be doing this."

By December, the therapy had gotten us nowhere. My son was frail, refused to eat, and malnourished. He began vomiting every time he ate and when I asked for help, in what would be our last session, I was told that all his problems were a result of my breastfeeding him. They cornered me and ordered me to stop. In the days that followed, Oliver's sole source of nutrition was breastmilk because it was the only thing he could keep down, and at the end of that week he was admitted to the hospital and given a feeding tube.


What factors went into your decision to leave your professional work and pursue mothering Oliver as a primary investment of your time
My professional situation had been unfulfilling for many years, and increasingly stressful. My challenges at work came to a head just when my son's health was failing, and around that same time my husband earned a promotion. I felt compelled to quit so we looked at our budget to see what was feasible. I anticipated being out of the workforce for a month or two, but it’s taken much longer to get my son back on track. 


Did you have to let go of anything in order to reach the decision to leave your work?
In quitting work I had to let go of the better financial security afforded by a two-income household. My husband, Brad, had taken two years off from his career to attend graduate school and had only been back to work for a year. With his promotion, we were just beginning to look forward to having a nicely padded bank account and taking some time to travel. We made it work by not going out to eat as often, and putting off projects around the house that we had looked forward to tackling.


When and how did you know that leaving your work was the right decision for your family? 
Oliver was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital for four days during a routine GI appointment. In those moments of packing and leaving for the hospital I wondered what I would have done had I stayed with my job, how would we have navigated all of that in the context of my work responsibilities? I was grateful to be able to give Oliver my full attention. 

In hindsight, parenting didn't come to me as naturally as I thought it would. This unexpected situation with Oliver's health presented and I took it as an opportunity. I could have stayed in my job and figured it out, and we could have just gotten by, but I'm glad I chose to leave. I feel like I can be a more graceful parent now because I've had time to study it in this period—learning to parent, to feel more confident and comfortable as his mother—I've had the opportunity to learn him and his personality and how to reduce his stress and anxiety around eating.

It's been almost a year now and I’ve come to enjoy this role. Full-time work requires huge sacrifices. My being home eases the burden of Brad's work responsibilities, reduces our daily family stresses, and makes life more enjoyable for all of us.


If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently?
I wish that I had trusted my instincts in not seeing that initial therapy team. I wish I had known that different styles of therapy exist. I wish we had known about our current therapy team from the beginning—we could have averted a lot of tears and heartache, and who knows what kind of pain my son went through. Oh, and the money we spent that I wish could have gone to pay off debt or into a savings account for Oliver.


How do you make your life work for you now in the context of these choices you've had to make? 
We’re lucky to have a great daycare center across the street from our house. We’ve kept a schedule similar to that of the daycare's so that my son can still see his friends every day at the playground. Also, when I return to the workforce, the transition back to daycare will be easier for all of us. The teachers live close, and have a great relationship with Oliver so they have been happy to babysit for us, which has made it easier for Brad and I to take time for ourselves. Oliver's feeding challenges have required that we stay predictable and stick to a schedule. However, as his health has improved, we're learning to introduce some spontaneity, which is good for both his development and therapy.


What is your sense of purpose right now?
After spending a year working towards one goal—getting my son to eat—and now that we’re on the cusp of that being achieved, I haven’t had a chance to re-evaluate my purpose. I've been considering different scenarios to determine what I'm meant to do right now, whether to stay home for a few more years and have another baby, or go back to school to re-pursue being an educator, or to look for part-time work because then I would be able to give Oliver some independence, while still continuing the therapeutic aspects of his daily routine. I was recently encouraged by a friend to check out a non-profit that aligns with the concept of what I’ve been considering as a second profession and, as it turns out, a very dreamy job was just posted and I have an interview in two days. Even if I’m not offered the job, this feels like a great step. I’m both hopeful and optimistic right now. 


Synchronicity relates to the meaningful coincidences that happen in our lives–those seemingly random events you can't foresee but that make total sense in hindsightand that serve to tell us something or to point us in a new direction. What role has synchronicity played in your journey of professional work and motherhood?
I was unhappy in my previous profession. My son’s health issues forced me to come to terms with that, and to be ok with leaving it behind. 


How does the BoldHeartMama Manifesto resonate, translate, or inspire you in your own life?
While just about the entire thing resonates with me, the sections that emphasize “letting go” and learning to be satisfied with alternate results are something that I’ve been working on for the past year. I realized that I needed to find an acceptable balance between personal or household productivity, and engagement with my son. I want him to have a great childhood, and I’ve learned to let go and have a great time along with him.


Share an example of a time when you let your BoldHeart drive your decision making. What happened? 
After a playdate with friends a couple weeks ago, we blew off our regular schedule to share lunch and a really fun trip to the grocery store. We've endured more than a year of very restrictive scheduling, and we were able to prove together that we can occasionally buck the rules with minimal collateral damage. 


What are some of the fears you feel in your life? How do you overcome these fears and what’s your best advice for another mama, somewhere, who may be in your shoes? 
I fear that my son may require a feeding tube again and that his experience over the past year and a half may have permanently damaged him developmentally or psychologically. His occupational therapist and a book based on the Ellyn Satter Method, which has inspired Oliver's current therapy strategy, have helped to alleviate my anxiety about the feeding tube. Seeing my son develop “normally” outside of his eating alleviates fear that this situation has damaged his spirit. 

My advice to mothers in a similar situation is to trust your instincts. It’s a cliché, but it’s so important. Dig in. If someone wants to call you names for being thorough in the best interest of your kid—do it anyway. This doesn’t make you an overprotective “bitch,” it makes you a mom. 



Name one self-care practice that you’ve come to enjoy or rely on: 
I run. I have a BOB jogger, so I can run even if I don’t have someone to watch him. In fact, I run in spite of not having anyone available to watch him. Sometimes I zone out and forget that we’re together, other times I find myself having teaching conversations with Oliver about the world we run through.


What advice can you share with other mamas about finding life balance and carving out time for themselves in the context of mothering?
You may have to find a way to include them in your pursuits. Running isn’t my favorite exercise, but I know that exercise makes me feel better, and it's something we can do together. Find a thing that makes you feel like a person and see if there are ways to do it individually and together.


What does the phrase intentional mothering mean to you, and share an example of how you are successful in this way.
One way to be intentional is to proactively seek out resources to support your intuitive values about what is good for you and for your kids. Forcing Oliver to eat felt violent to me and it went against a very important tenet that my husband and I hoped to instill—it overrode his ability to consent. When we switched therapy programs, the new program didn’t use force to make progress. In fact, they also believe it to be a counterproductive approach. I'm proud that I was able to recognize the first therapy for what it was and to seek out an alternative that felt right for us. 


How has mothering changed you?
I am way less selfish and a much more patient person.


One intention you wish to make in order to improve your marriage:
To find ways to make more face-to-face time for each other. 


What role does community play in your life? 
I’ve come to realize that many of the people whom I thought of as good friends are not.  The community I really needed has developed organically, and it isn't one that I would have foreseen being a part of. It is a group of close friends without children, Oliver's teachers and a few parents from the daycare across the street, our neighbors, and family. Simple and kind gestures from other parents at daycare make me feel good, like asking how Oliver and I are doing without offering up a thousand suggestions (that I’ve tried or have heard before). Having a community of people who care about us and who can interact with us in supportive ways has really helped me to hang in there throughout this ordeal.


Name one thing in your life that is going well, and one action you can take now to help it grow.
My garden this year is doing great. I’ve always loved to garden and now it nurtures my family not only nutritionally, but also therapeutically. It serves as a bridge in my son’s current therapy, and we both have a great time puttering around out there together. I love that he knows he can go into the garden and find something interesting or delicious and give it a taste. I try to regularly bring him out there to harvest and be involved in that process of, "Hey we grew this in our garden, and we picked it together, and now it's on our plate." As he gets older I look forward to including him more in the preparation of our food too.


If you had one day alone/kid-free how would you spend it?
I had a day to myself last week and I chose to paint our bathroom. We had a contractor make some upgrades a year ago, but decided to finish it up ourselves to save some money. It has nagged me every day to see it half-finished. It’s just about done, and I’d absolutely say that I painted that room for myself.


What role does nature, or time spent out of doors, play into your experience as a mother?
I read somewhere that Swedish children are outside everyday, no matter the weather—They nap outside, even in the Winter. That concept really resonated with me and if those kids can do that, then I am inspired knowing that we can share even the briefest, coldest winter walk.


The BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series is based on the BoldHeartMama Manifesto. Mothering demands BoldHeartedness from all of us. I want to help YOU share your story!

If you are curious to learn more about the series and how you can participate email me at BoldHeartMama@gmail.com

2 comments :

  1. I'm new to your blog and happened upon this post. I love the interview questions! As a local RVA occupational therapist I am familiar with the intervention style associated with Oliver's initial team. I have strong clinical and ethical views against that style. In my years of work I've never demanded a mother to stop breast feeding. I am SO glad to hear that Oliver has had improved experience with a different team!!

    ReplyDelete
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