Oh man, this amazing woman had me in tears as I read her thoughtful and beautiful responses to my questions. Friends, meet Jacey Verdicchio. I first knew of Jacey when I moved to Charleston and everyone was talking about her blog and her podcast and her beautiful Instagram feed. I have none of these things so I was immediately impressed with the beauty she cultivated online.
Fast forward, we ended up joining the church where Jacey works and got to know both her and Mike better. One of the first things I observed about her is her intelligence and how she genuinely takes the time to listen to anyone she is engaging in conversation with.
Today, although we don't get to see each other as often as we would like (motherhood will do that to you), I love getting to connect with her through her writing and opportunities like this. I hope you enjoy Jacey's honesty and beautiful prose as much as I do.
Name: Jacey Verdicchio
Hometown: Walnut Creek, California (currently Charleston, South Carolina)
Occupation: Church Worker / Writer
You've written some beautifully honest blogs since becoming a mom. How does writing help you process this current season in your life? Three answers:
Motherhood is a physically and emotionally demanding role. (File under, DUH.) My default is to get swept up in it, never pausing to think about how daily mom life reveals insight beyond the minutiae of feeding schedules and bedtime routines. The writing and editing process helps me discover what I think about something, and teaches me the broader truth in it.
In this season of change and upheaval, writing connects me to all the earlier versions of myself. It’s a practice that makes me feel like me. (For example, I just had a rough morning with a teething girl who cried for 90 minutes. We just got back from a trip, and the list of tasks to be done is mounting. But I sat down to work on this the moment she fell asleep to calm my nerves.)
In scripture, we see God’s people build altars to mark God’s faithfulness. The altar Samuel builds after Israel turns away from their idols and back to God is called an Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” The stone of help signified that “’till now, the Lord had helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). When I write, I build altars. I write to say, to myself and anyone who reads, “’till now, the Lord has helped us.” [Editor's Note: Girl, so well said. I literally was crying reading this. I think you have such a gift for writing and I love how you connect that to how God has made you.]
How has motherhood been different from what you expected? And building off of this, what advice would you give to someone who is expecting? My pastor was recently telling me about how some people are pre-grievers and some are post-grievers. I am a pre-griever. When I know something is ending or a goodbye is coming, I feel the loss as though it has already happened. I grieve it before it’s gone so fully that when the moment comes, I am a picture of calm composure, already on to the next thing.
For years I thought about the high cost of motherhood, and everything I would lose. I kept waiting to feel “ready” and that moment never came. I didn’t fully believe my peers who said, as they joined the ranks of motherhood, they “wouldn’t trade it for the world.” I have a flair for martyrdom so I could accept that raising tiny humans is a cross to bear, a way that Jesus makes you more like Him by placing you into a sacrificial role. But I genuinely could not imagine it as fulfilling, especially in the early years.
Motherhood is costly, and the prize of learning to love more like Jesus is the real prize. But what surprises me over and over is the depth of joy and fulfillment, and dare I say fun?? I am loathe to admit it, but all the clichés are true.
Generic advice for an expecting mama is hard to give, because we all come to it from such different places. (Cynics like me will roll their eyes at all the cliché advice, though I will say it again, it’s all true: you will miss these days; cherish every moment; don’t be too hard on yourself or stress about the small stuff.)
But one thing that comes to mind is something I saw on Emily P. Freeman’s Instagram recently, alongside a picture of her now tween twin girls: “Children grow, and mothers grow, too.”
Maybe you are afraid you won’t have what it takes, whatever “it” is: the patience, endurance, ability to go for days without sleep, strength to drop your baby at daycare or stay home with him all day. Maybe the prospect of it all is daunting. Or maybe you’ve dreamed of being a mother your entire life, and now that there’s no getting off this rollercoaster, you’re afraid it won’t live up to your expectations. Maybe you are putting all your hope into the “right” tools and techniques, the pristine nursery and the already opened college fund. Maybe you are taking it one day at a time and haven’t thought about any of this.
Wherever you find yourself when you hear that baby’s first cry, you can take comfort in knowing that babies grow, and so do mamas. You’re right; you don’t have what it takes to go back to work on day one, or potty train or explain where babies come from. But you will, because children grow, and mothers grow, too. And ‘till now, the Lord has helped you. He’s not going anywhere.
A piece of advice that applies to everyone expecting their first child: take self care to the extreme and cross over into self indulgent. Take naps. Sleep in. Go out to eat a little more often than is financially responsible. Spend time with your partner doing nothing. Spend time by yourself.
I don’t subscribe to the fearful rationale for this: “Do it now because you’ll never get to again.” I can vouch for the fact that it is possible to still spend too much money at restaurants after baby. ;) But I believe in living whatever season you’re in to the fullest. Amidst all the planning and baby prep, go all in where you are.
If you are a pre-griever like me, sprinkle some fun and celebration into your pensive thoughts about the change coming like a freight train. If you are a post-griever, know that you’ll remember the times you put on lipstick and went out to a Mexican restaurant fondly as you’re shoveling takeout over your sleeping baby, attached to you like an appendage. [Editor's Note: Such good advice! I used to give a hard side eye to any cliche advice, but inevitably a few months later I would realize that person was correct. Let's just say I'm a work in progress when it comes to adjusting my expectations for motherhood. ; )]
Let's talk about balance. You and Mike do an awesome job of supporting each other, while watching Bets full time, with no family in town. How do you manage this? I'd imagine it's stressful at times. If necessity is the mother of invention, then motherhood is its most fruitful incubator. A parent’s daily schedule is a creative pursuit of the highest order. The constraints of parental duties can feel confining, but they can also push us to come up with creative solutions.
I find parenthood is less crazy-making when I see everything as an experiment. More hypotheses, fewer foregone conclusions. “Let’s try this and see what happens,” is a sentence I say far more than I would have been comfortable with in my pre-baby days.
Change is the constant with babies, so you experience less whiplash if you stay nimble and pivot quickly. While I thirst for the Permanent Solution, real life comes every morning and we just keep trying to do what works, until it doesn’t anymore. And then we do something different.
And now, for the nitty gritty answer to your question. Since I am prone to martyrdom about not having family nearby, I should briefly mention the practical perks we DO have, lest I present myself as “doing it all”:
- We live on the campus where Mike teaches. Mike is a five minute walk away from work, so he handles mornings with Betsy until about 8:30. He can come home during the day sometimes, if need be.
- We both have somewhat flexible work schedules, and my job is part time.
- Mike’s job is even more flexible in the summer.
- I work for a church, so one of my primary work days is Sunday, when Mike can be with Betsy.
- Up until recently, the church had a nursery I could utilize for about eight hours of free childcare each week.
Other practical things we do to share parenting duties, and make time for each other, rest, exercise, and friendship:
- We talk a lot and communicate expectations. Knowing who is going to do what and when is huge for us.
- We utilize evenings. Sometimes I schedule work or social events in the evening after Betsy is in bed. When we are both home in the evening, we either designate it as a “work night” (but try to minimize those) or take advantage of the time together to eat dinner, talk and watch a show.
- We have a Google family calendar that has both of our personal Google calendars on it, so we always know when Betsy needs coverage from the other person
- We use an app called BabyTracker. When Betsy was a newborn, I used it to remember when she ate because time was a flat circle in those days. (Stef that’s a True Detective reference but take it out if it sounds dumb or people won’t get it.) But over time we found it helpful in keeping us on the same page. (And surprise, I still need help remembering when she ate. And when I ate.) When we are tagging in for each other, we can look at the app and know when she has last eaten/pooped/slept. Especially when I’m in the elevator lobby waiting as he flies in the door, and there’s no time for a 20 minute recap of her day, this app comes in handy. I hesitate to mention it because it makes us sound like more type-A parents than we actually are, but hey, it’s genuinely helped. Fair warning: in the throes of sleep deprivation, I once found myself reaching for my phone to record MY trip to the bathroom. Motherhood is the great dasher of pride. And dignity, at times. [Editor's Note: Amen. Such a dasher of pride. But I do love how you aim to stay nimble, I often use no family nearby as an excuse for everything and can focus too much on how hard that is if I'm not careful. I'm learning so much from you, so thank you for sharing.]
What is your best surprise about becoming a mother? (I didn’t read ahead so I kind of answered this in the earlier question.) Best surprise is the genuine joy as I get to know her, bond with her, and watch Mike bond with her.
Another is how motherhood has given me a crash course in prioritization. On the practical side, cleanliness is a spectrum and I focus on the areas that lend the most to my sanity, like an uncluttered dining table, and let go of the rest. (Don’t look too closely at any other surfaces in my house, please!)
On the soul level, I spend a lot less time obsessing about what people think of me or social interactions after the fact. I still struggle with people pleasing, but I don’t have as much headspace for downward spirals. While I don’t write nearly as much as I’d like, I find my ability to hunker down and focus (rather than procrastinate) is improved because I am working with limited time windows. (On a side note, dear God, please let me child learn to nap longer than 45 minutes.) [Editor's Note: Yes, yes, yes. I can relate to all of this and I love how beautifully you put it.]
How has becoming a mother made you better at your gift for communicating? Motherhood has given me a new range of experiences and emotions to draw from when I write. There’s a whole new world of metaphors and examples I can employ. I can relate to other mothers in a way that was inaccessible to me before. [Editor's Note: LOVE THIS. I 1000% agree that motherhood has made me relate to others like never before.]
What is your favorite cooking with Mike episode? My favorite is one he posted in the early days of parenthood where he made an elaborate display of pouring a bowl of cereal. I love the ones where his humor shines through!
My favorite meal that he’s featured is the steak salad with chimichurri. It has become a spring/summer staple! Recipe here. [Editor's Note: If you haven't seen "Cooking with Mike" on Instastories, then you are missing out. It's the GOAT.]