Tag Archives: motherhood

When Is It My Turn?

Starting my family (albeit not exactly on purpose. ahem) at the ripe old age of twenty one, I’ve heard all the popular lamentations of the benefits of young motherhood:

“Oh, you’ll never regret having kids so young,” my co-worker crooned, “Just think of all the fun you’ll have when you’re my age!”

Or, “You have so much more energy in your twenties, it’s the best time to have kids!”

And my personal favorite, “You just couldn’t wait, could you? Well, at least you’re getting it over with early!”

In the midst of a dinner-time meltdown, with the three year old whining because she doesn’t like her food, and the 11-month old crying out of exhaustion because she missed her nap today, my husband and I will exchange looks and smile a secret, distant smile that says “Yes. Someday, this too shall pass. Someday we will be forty and retired, our kids will be grown, and our sanity restored.”

Yup, someday it will be my turn to grow up.  To find out what I want to do with  my life, that doesn’t involve whipping my boob out every two seconds, exploding diapers, and endless rounds of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (bet you didn’t know he had a zebra! Or a T-rex!)

Someday I will have time to myself.  It’s a goal all mothers, all parents, in some way or form, dream about.

But is it the dream we should be focused on?

Should the  “me time” be so important?

Well, for one, of course, it makes us better mothers.  It’s important to rest and rejuvenate, to understand what our triggers are as moms when we-just-can’t-take-it-another-second and need that break so we don’t scream at a toddler who really doesn’t get it yet.

But sometimes, I worry all my focusing on the “me time” actually reveals a weakness about myself.  A selfishness, a lack of realization about what makes life worth living.

The truth is, life is never free of obligation and demands that sap our time, energy, and mental capacities.  At any minute, we could lose a loved one or get diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  I will more than likely be that mother who, at the age of forty-five, feels she has finally survived raising her family, only to look down at  a positive pregnancy test one last time.  The task of aging parents and health problems is one many of us will eventually have to deal with.

These things are not the anomalies in life; they are life.

My biggest hope is to face my responsibilities in life not with dread, not with the attitude of “when will it all be over?”, but with joy. Real, actual, palpable joy.

Life is so so short.  Why do we focus our energies on complaining about our children and the demands they bring into our lives? Why do I sigh when Ada wakes up in the middle of this posting and interrupts my blissful, early morning coffee and writing time? Why can’t I be happy to see her beautiful, sleepy face and princess-pink pajama arms reaching out for me to hug her?

I definitely don’t want be preachy, or unrealistic about how downright hard it is to be a mom.  We sacrifice everything, we really do.  Our bodies, our time, our mental energies drained into planning the next meal-up, trying to fit in cleaning while entertaining kids, fighting a desire to just have a minute of silence with the constant babbling and bickering of sisters.

I want to realize that those things are the things that make life, life.  The things that are little by little, breaking down a selfish, stony exterior to reveal a more loving, more joyful soul.

I don’t want to live in the attitude of “someday, my life will start….”

I want to live in the here and now.

I want to embrace all of it, whatever that may bring me.

Last night at the hospital, my patient’s daughter tucked her mom in and said good-night.  She pulled me aside in the hallway, explaining “We are really trying to help her learn to get through the night by herself…that’s ok, isn’t it?”

This woman’s family had been by her side almost 24/7.  Happily. Cheerfully. I had never seen anything like it, and I told her that.

She blushed and started stammering, “Well, it’s, you see…”

I realized she thought I was reprimanding her and rushed to explain myself, “No, no, I think that’s wonderful. It’s so nice to see a family taking care of each other.”

She beamed. “Oh, well, yes, I can do it, so why not?”

Why not indeed?

Taking care of our loved ones. Sacrificing.  A constant back-and-forth from caring for ourselves and for others.  It never really ends.

It’s my turn to find the joy in that.

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A Community of Mothers

I have a confession.

There have been times when I have not enjoyed being a (mostly) stay-at-home mom.

There have been times I dreaded it.  The sheer monotony, the loneliness of no other adults, the feeling of my brain sharing too many similarities with the mashed bananas Ada ate for breakfast.

After Ada was born, I had a particularly tough time.  It was a combination of factors, really.  Ben was finishing up student teaching, taking a full course load at school, plus an extra class he had to get permission to even take, and working as a volunteer football coach in hopes of pumping up his resume.  And he wasn’t working at all, you know, for money.  So, basically I was a single-parent while simultaneously trying to be the stay-at-home mom for Ada that I wanted to.  I worked from home during the day, and worked nights at the hospital.  I was exhausted, never saw my husband, and then there was the small fact that I got hospitalized twice in a month with postpartum complications.

But enough of the pity party. My point is, it was hard to pinpoint exactly the cause of my struggle.  Was it exhaustion?  Typical mom stuff? Actual postpartum depression? I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever it was,  I wasn’t particularly basking in the new mom glow during the first few months of Ada’s life.  I felt so isolated and alone.  We lived in a small apartment in the small town where my husband grew up and I didn’t really go anywhere.  There were days I dreaded waking up in the morning…how would I fill all those hours?  I felt certain that Ada was bored out of her mind with me, because I was bored with myself.  As anyone who has struggled with similar feelings knows, the way you feel only makes you feel worse…as in, you know it’s irrational to feel that way, you know you have so much to be grateful for, health, a beautiful baby, sunshine, etc., etc., so the fact that you aren’t feeling happy makes you feel like a horrible human being.  And so the cycle continues.

It got better, of course.  Ben finished school, got a “real” teaching job, I was able to cut down on my hours at the hospital, Ada got to more of an interactive age, but I still struggled. The best way I can describe it is I felt like I lost all passion for life. I just felt like a boring blob (it didn’t help that I resembled a blob either…).

I would read about other moms succeeding, loving being home with their babies, moms who sounded passionate, or even worse, I would be reminded of the olden days, when women would have ten thousand children while still running a farm, making everything from scratch, and lacking even such luxuries, as say, a toilet.

I felt exhausted just thinking about it.  How on earth did they do it? I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I couldn’t even enjoy being home with my baby? I had her to myself all day, every day, and I wasn’t happy?

It took me about seven or eight months until I began to feel more like myself. I switched to days around the summer for work, and that helped too.  And then before I knew it, I was pregnant again.  By that time, Ada and I had settled into a nice routine, and I worried about bringing another child into the picture.  I irrationally feared losing that “me and Ada” time.  We bought our first house, moved, settled in, and prepared for baby #2.  I dreaded that I would struggle with the depression again–I thought it would be even worse with two children, any gloomy feeling amplified times two.  I feared being alone all day, outnumbered. Of course, wracked with guilt for my fears.

Hopefully I am not alone in confessing all of this…

Two days after her big sister’s birthday, Mya Therese entered the world.  Ben took his allotted one day off of work, and I was on my own.

Enter lifesaver sister, Shelby.

My dear, sweet, amazing sister Shelby came over every day for I don’t even know how long, in my post-baby fog brain.  I think it was at least a month.  She came every day with distraction and playtime for Ada…able to squeeze into Ada’s blow-up pool when I could not (for public sanity purposes, mostly), helping me change Mya’s diapers and outfits fifty times a day (she was a puker), taking over on countless laps around the house to soothe Mya’s colicky belly.  I don’ t know how I could have done it without my sister.  I am weepy just thinking about it.  Said weepiness can be found exemplified in Shelby’s Facebook pictures from Christmas, when I tried to express my gratitude by purchasing my shopaholic sister a Coach wallet.

All my gratitude for Shelby’s help got me thinking.  Maybe I wasn’t crazy after all.  Could it be possible that this is the way it was supposed to be?  I re-evaluated my view of those toilet-less supermothers.  Sure, they raised a million kids and worked non-stop…but were they alone?  Were they expected to spend all day nursing a baby, playing leggos with their two-year old, cleaning and cooking without adult interaction?  I realized that women have historically lived in a community of mothers.  They worked, birthed, cooked, cleaned, and raised their babies together.  One could corral the children, one could churn the butter. Their work lives were their home lives.  There wasn’t the separation like there is now–the never-ending working mom vs. the stay-at-home mom battle. No being cooped up in a house, alone all day, every day with their children.  Who likes that, honestly? They worked, period, because they had to, but they didn’t do it alone.  And so, my conclusion: Women need each other. We rely on each other to get us  through the crazy world of motherhood, those exhausted, monotonous banana mush filled hours.

With this revelation, I let go of my guilt. I gave myself freedom to not enjoy every minute stuck at home alone with my kids.

And you know what?

I’ve ended up enjoying being home alone with my kids.

Part of my new attitude is the sheer fact that with two, I have less time to mope about and feel sorry for myself, but the other part is, I feel that I have embraced the fact that I don’t need to do this alone.  It is ok, even right, for me to rely on the help of others.  My mom, my sisters, my “mom friends,” my pseudo-mom friend ( you know who you are), and everyone else far in and in between.  Whether it be a text to say hello, a play-date to make cookies or go sledding, or even the knowledge that somewhere, someone is going through the same thing I am going through, I am grateful that I belong to a community of strong mothers.  I am not alone.


The Baby Who Never Sleeps II

In true mom guilt style, after all my ranting and raving, Mya woke up sick this morning! So, I am now reduced to feeling wretched for complaining about her night awakening–maybe she was genuinely miserable! I’m not sure if it is a cold or teething right now. I never dealt with this with Ada…I literally just noticed teeth sticking out in Ada’s mouth one day. “I guess she was teething,” I told my husband, “Who knew?” Again with the mom guilt.

That being said however, I wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who offered me advice, because (proud moment, pat on the back) I did make some progress in getting her down for naps and bedtime. Most of the advice offered I have been following (consistent routine, favorite bedtime cues, fan, etc.) but for some reason, it genuinely never occurred to me to be persistent in my efforts to lay her down. As in, if I laid her down and she popped right up, ready to party, I didn’t persist any further, but just picked her up and took her out of her room. In my new enlightened state of motherhood however, I simply laid her back down on her stomach, (yes, she sleeps on her stomach) covered up, patted her bottom and made the universal “shhh shhhh” baby sleep sound.

And it worked! Consistently, for three days, it worked! It took a few times, but eventually she stayed down and sang herself to sleep. Now I am worried my excitement has been short-lived, due to the aforementioned sickness, but I guess we shall see…

The middle of the night awakening hasn’t improved in any way, but I am proud of my efforts so far. I am still undecided if I should be nursing her or not, but I have been reassured in hearing that other moms struggle with the same problem! I’m worried that the whole night nursing leads to a lifetime poor sleeper though, as Ada pops up at least once a night…never failing to scare the beejuzus out of me when I spot a silent, lurking figure in footie pajamas standing in the doorway.

It seems like a lot of the mom advice (excuse me, and dad!) can be summed up in that we, as parents, really have less control than we like to think…some kids are good sleepers, and some are, well…not.

On the plus side, I got to snuggle with my poor sick baby today…she was miserable, but it’s the only time she likes to snuggle with me, and I’ll take whatever I can get.


The Baby Who Never Sleeps

Calling for some tried and true mama advice today…I have an eight month old who refuses to sleep. Seriously, she will not sleep. I will admit partial responsibility for this, as I am someone who always has nursed my babies to sleep and subscribed to the “nurse on demand” philosophy with my first daughter, thus creating an expectation that babies do not ever sleep through the night.

But then my good friend Cayce loaned me a book “The Sleep Lady” and I was introduced to the idea that lo, and behold, perhaps some babies do sleep though the night, and maybe, just maybe, they don’t need to eat every three hours!

So I was determined to start off better the second time around with Mya. I would not nurse on demand, I would teach her good sleeping habits from the beginning. Unfortunately, Mya had other ideas. From birth, she fought sleep with every fiber of her little being. Ben and I endured countless sleepless nights, and eventually found a little repose by letting her sleep in her carseat or even, much to my profound shame, her swing. She literally just would not sleep, or even relax. The book talks about ensuring that babies are laid down when they are “still drowsy, but awake” to teach them how to put themselves to sleep. A theory that completely makes sense to me and one I wholeheartedly supported. But there is no such as drowsy with Mya. She is either fully alert and ready to party, or completely exhausted and throwing a temper tantrum.

And so it has continued. I am utterly crushed that I have never been able to snuggle and rock Mya to sleep. With Ada, she would nurse and happily snuggle with me in bed, we could nap together, or rock for hours. Mya will have none of that. She pushes off of me, cranes her heard around, wants to see everything that is going on, is afraid she will miss out one second of fun with her older sister. Ben and my mom have been the only ones who can rock her to sleep. For some reason, with me, she knows she can fight me. It’s devastating. There is nothing I love more than snuggling with a sleeping baby. 

During the day, I sometimes have success with getting Mya to sleep for a nap after nursing her, but a lot of times she has to cry herself to sleep because she will just not relax. I’ve tried the going in and reassuring her thing, but that only fuels her anger, as she now not only suspects I am refusing to pick her up, but seeing me provides confirmation of such indignation.

Last week, I stated an earnest quest to stop the nighttime madness. I was determined to let her learn to put herself to sleep and not feed her at all, especially now as she eating “real” food at meals. And so my friends, she has been up every night for hours at a time. Last night was truly miserable. From 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM wide awake and fighting, awakening her sister, complete and utter anger at me, her mother, for not feeding her. And the silent anger of my husband next to me projecting the thought of “Why don’t you just feed her? 10 minutes and we can all get some sleep” like a dagger at me. And then there is the persistent nagging guilt of wondering if she is genuinely hungry, even if I fed her a mere three hours ago…

Any advice out there for a baby who will not sleep? Do I continue to let her cry it out? Is there a chance that the “reassuring” pat on the back every 20 minutes will not work for every baby, as it only makes her even more upset when I leave?

Help please!