This is a guest post by Cynthia Alfaro in a special Community Spotlight series, “The Bounce Back: Moms Taking Back Their Power.” Discover how Cynthia has reclaimed her power as a mother while balancing work life as the Founder of Moms Winning and the Chief Operating Officer of My Block, My Hood, My City. If you are a Community member with a unique story to share, let us know.
Well, moms, it’s October 2021, one year after time stood still. Like me, your kids are back to in-person school with masks, weekly COVID tests, and social distancing. Do your fingers hurt like mine from being crossed so tightly? Surprisingly, you might be remembering what it feels like to breathe freely. And not because you don’t have your mask on, but because you might FINALLY have uninterrupted time at home again. And after 18 months of the whirlwind (more like a toilet bowl flush) called 2020, you can finally finish your cup of coffee, use the bathroom by yourself or feel like you're a contributor at work again.
This month on The Mom Project blog, the theme is The Bounce Back: Moms Taking Back Their Power. And, I love that. I think about a ball bouncing up just as hard as it went down or an athlete taking a hard blow and coming back to win a match. In this case, you are bouncing back from being flushed down the said toilet. You are recovering from a pandemic that is still shaking the world and has made a historic impression on life as we know it —your health was attacked, your daily rhythms ceased—you were scrambling to stabilize and find toilet paper.
And now, in the bounce-back phase, you might be able to say, “Check me out. I DID it.” Albeit in a low and unsure whisper. Nonetheless, you have a powerful moment right now for reflection. In saluting your strength, you take your power back. There’s a quote by Haruki Murakami that says, “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That is what this storm is all about.” I believe you can say that you aren’t the same. I bet you can say you are better, stronger. Not without still being tired, injured, and recovering. But still better.
Over the past 18 or so months, you flexed your “super mama” skills. The world got to see your hard uncompensated labor via Zoom with the baby cries and toddler meltdowns, or your own. You might have had unwanted meetings with mental health crises. Maybe you were even forced to leave the workplace to stabilize your family. You had to toss out lifestyles you could no longer have. You had to sit with the life issues you escaped daily and insert personal boundaries that you should’ve done years ago. You aren’t alone with any of these experiences. The pressure of the last 18 months hurt like heck and yet was an opportunity to purify yourself to be better, stronger, together. Taking your power back looks like keeping good on the promises to yourself. You learned to speak up louder, stand up taller, and demand more space for your entire mom life. The only way to go is up from here. Taking your power back is acknowledging you stayed in the game. Maybe you were benched, taken off the field, and sent to the locker room like me. But all of that still counts. You lost a lot, and yet you are still here. That’s winning.
During this pandemic bounce-back period of gratitude and acknowledging how far we’ve come, I can’t help but also hold space for another bounce-back that I’m experiencing. I’m celebrating five years of a life-changing (read-saving) decision that I believe altered the course of my family’s life. After living in New York City for almost 14 years, I rapidly decided to drop everything and move back home to Chicago to get more support in raising my children. The stress from an abusive relationship, financial debt, and single motherhood in “the city that never sleeps” had become too much for my body to bear. What started as a stress-induced jumping eyelid ended as panic attacks that left me unable to eat, sleep or function optimally.
After taking what felt like a cliff jump, I could start to heal. It’s weird when you can’t feel at peace with silence. Or when PTSD leaves you with night terrors. But, I learned to stay consistent with good daily decisions like eating well, exercising, going to therapy, meditation, and always letting myself say no. I took my power back by not staying the victim but writing my own story and deciding how I wanted to live going forward.
Within 30 days of my move, I had a job, my girls were in a great school, and I had an apartment more significant than any I had in NYC. I had just started to feel my best self in years when the pandemic hit, and I was so thankful that I was in a stronger position to handle it (as best as I could).
So as we think about our “bounce backs,” think about the worst moments that you’ve endured. Recall your super mama shield and armor that you’ve been wearing every day. For me, I will recall difficult moments of leaving an abusive past and being a single parent during a global pandemic. The storms leave us changed and, I believe, for the better. The power is in what we do with the story of the storm—how we use it to shape us into better moms. Shout-out to all of the moms everywhere, our essential workers, and those who are still in the thick of this pandemic. I am sending love to everyone. Let’s win.