Reflections on Parenthood
One of the things no one warned me about was how dumb motherhood makes you. Now, I don’t mean that I’m truly dumb, I just mean that my brain doesn’t quite function like it used to. I have trouble recalling words (I kid you not, a mom friend and I recently had a conversation in which neither of us could remember something really obvious. I’d tell you what that obvious thing was - just for the sake of a good laugh - but now I can’t remember it (of course)). I can’t keep thoughts in my head for longer than 45 seconds, I’m always leaving drawers open, and I constantly walk into rooms and forget why I’m there.
This is not to say that I haven’t always been kind of a dingbat. I have. But the level of dingbattedness is totally ridiculous now. I often have to read directions three times, and even then I still mess up whatever I was trying to do because I forgot something important.
What I really need is a giant whiteboard to float next to me at all times, so I can quickly write down whatever I’m thinking. It takes too long to add a reminder on my iphone. By the time I open the app, I’ve already forgotten whatever I needed to write down. Nope, the white board is the best solution. But of course it will need an attached pen, or I’ll leave it somewhere and never find it again.
Mom, I apologize for making fun of you for never knowing where your keys are. Or for leaving your coffee in the microwave. I now do both of those things, and I realize that it isn’t your fault. We’re dumb now.
Can I just say, “thank god for my father-in-law”? I called him in for reinforcements this morning because we woke up to an ant infestation in every single room of our house, maggots all over the strawberries from the farmer’s market, and someone is coming to clean our carpets in 20 minutes. Last night C woke up three times and then slept in so late that she will have to nap the minute the carpet cleaners get here, but she’s a light sleeper and won’t be able to. I knew today wouldn’t be fun, let’s just say that.
I started this post last week, and decided to let it marinate for a little while. I am conflicted about posting it for a couple of reasons:
- I don’t want to scare the crap out of people, but I want to be honest
- I want to be honest but I don’t want my daughter to grow up and be upset that I aired her dirty laundry to the entire internet
- I don’t want to air my daughter’s dirty laundry to the entire internet but it’s not just her story to tell - it’s mine too.
After a week of marinating, honesty won out. Sorry, C. Please don't be emotionally damaged by this post.
The last couple of weeks have sucked ass, to put it lightly. I am sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and cranky. I feel bad saying that C is a difficult baby...
But OMFG C is a difficult baby.
C is what can only be described as a “spirited child.” Well, that’s not true. There are other words you could use to describe her, but that’s the technical term.
In the early days, the sleep books like No Cry Sleep Solution (for fans of attachment parenting) might as well have been written for an entirely different species, that’s how little they related to our situation. Books about the Happiest Baby on the Block might have made a teeny tiny dent in the horrors that comprise colic, but came nowhere NEAR to alleviating our problems.
And once the colic ended, the sleep problems began. We’re talking months of taking 30 minute naps and waking up every hour and a half, every. single. night. During the day, she and I were both tired and cranky all the time, and I was totally desperate. We slowly found a schedule that worked for us, using (in part) Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
However, if we deviate from this schedule even a smidge, a hell rains down upon this house worse than the plagues, I swear. This schedule includes both sleep and feeding, and each activity must be attended to within a half hour (or we’re screwed).
I am not able to identify with people who have “easy” babies. Not even remotely. If I don’t make my kid go to sleep at the designated time and in the designated place, she simply will not go to sleep. I see photos of children asleep on the living room floor, and I think, “that must be a pod person. That is not my experience of what children are like.” I once overheard my cousin say, "my son just went to sleep when he was tired." I think C would stay awake forever if I let her.
On top of everyday difficulties, we deal with the teething - which is what we’ve been going through lately. The author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child very nearly got a psychotic phone call from me at 3am screaming "YOU'RE AN IDIOT IF YOU THINK TEETHING DOES NOT DISRUPT SLEEP, YOU PIECE OF CRAP!" Yes, the man actually said that. When I was more sane, I was glad I didn't call him. But I still have doubts about his credibility.
When C is teething, it doesn’t matter what I do - we’re just screwed no matter what. Every time she gets another tooth, it’s like someone is boring a hole in her head with an ice pick. She can’t take her naps, she can’t sleep, she throws tantrums over everything, and is totally miserable. Which, in turn, makes everyone around her completely miserable as well. This goes on for weeks for each tooth. She now has six. Out of twenty.
The only thing that keeps me from completely losing my patience is empathy. Because the only person who has it worse than me is this little child, who can’t communicate and is often overtired and in pain. But even though that often keeps me from losing my patience, it doesn’t make things any easier.
Weeks like this are absolutely awful. A friend of ours came over this weekend, and I burst into tears, saying, "I don't feel like it's gotten any easier. It's just a different type of hideous than it was when she had colic." This are my low-down moments. My moments when I am depressed, hopeless, and actually angry at an innocent child. When I forget how to keep it in perspective that my child isn't laying in a hospital bed somewhere. After a bit of sleep or even one hour of sweetness from her, I feel better and know that it has, actually, gotten easier. She can't communicate well, but at least she can tell me she's hungry or wants milk. She can walk. That's better than the colic. Also, she's cuter than she was then, which helps. ;)
When parents say, "it never gets any easier, just hard in a different way," I am praying to god that they have "easy" children, and that their "hard" is my easy or even sorta-hard. Because if it's this hard forever - OMG, I need some help. Friends with spirited children tell me that it does get easier, once they can communicate better. I am hoping they're right.
I know that I'm not alone in having hard times like these, and I am really thankful for that. I don't live in a world where everyone I know has an "easy" baby. Sometimes, though, I just wish it wasn't this hard.
If you’ve been reading awhile, you may recall that I was actually kind of terrified of having kids. My main fear (or “dominating fear” as I called it) was that I’d lose myself in my children. One day, I’d wake up in the suburbs and have absolutely no idea who I was.
I am here to tell you, people, that I can definitely see how that can happen. And I, at 13 months post-baby, am letting it happen.
I recently got back from a week-long trip to Oregon (just me and C), and when my husband sent me a text message reading “I can’t wait to take you wakeboarding! You’ll love it,” a tiny piece of my heart broke. “When will I ever have a chance to go wakeboarding?!” I asked myself. And the answer, at this rate, is “in 20 years.” Why? Because I am the one who has to put C down for her naps. I am the one who has to put her down for bed. I am the one who has to comfort her in the middle of the night or when she falls down. I have a lot of "have to’s."
And that, my friends, is NOT GOOD.
This is how you lose yourself in your kids. In 13 months, I haven’t been away from C longer than 6 hours. SIX HOURS. Whose fault is this? It certainly isn’t hers, or Y’s. It’s mine.
My have to’s are not all related to C. They’re also every day chores, like doing the dishes, vacuuming, feeding myself, and taking a shower. They’re items on my To Do List for Stinkerpants. They’re emails, Facebook, bills, and grocery shopping. They are annoying.
I'm not going to lie - I like the "have to's" related to C. I like that she needs me. It brings me a lot of joy to be the one that brings her comfort. But it's better for her if she has more than one person who can bring her comfort, and it's better for her if she has a mama with a life. And of course, it's better for me too.
Unless I want to end up as the mother I feared (who has no sense of self), I need to make some changes.
My cousins J & P seem very happy to me. I would totally love to live their lives - they live right near the ocean in a very laid back, relaxed city. They don’t seem to be majorly stressed out about life. P takes time to himself every day to walk down the street and go surfing. Did I mention they have two kids? I'm sure I'm totally oversimplifying their lives (sorry J & P!), but the point is this: doing what you love, by yourself, keeps you sane. I need to find my version of surfing, and I need to take an hour to myself to do it every. single. day.
It’s about creating healthy habits now, so I don’t end up with no life later. Things are a lot harder to change when you have three kids and you haven’t paid attention to yourself in years. Right now, you hopefully know who you are and what makes you happy - so take that time for yourself now, to do the things that you love. Set the standard that you need you time every day, so that your family expects it. Not only is it harder to figure out what will make you happy if you haven’t thought about yourself in 10 years, but it’s harder to get your family on board if you’ve only been catering to them for 10 years. I mean, really, can you blame them? If they’re not used to taking care of themselves, they’re not going to like it at first.
So how do you take care of yourselves, people? I'm trying to figure out what I need to do to feel like me, not just like a mama. Here's what I've come up with: I need a full day to myself once per month. That means an ENTIRE DAY where I can go somewhere by myself and not have to worry about when I’m coming home. I want to have the freedom to have a night out with my girlfriends once per week, where we don’t bring the babies, and we - gasp - maybe have a drink. And I need one hour, every single day. Just one.
I think that, as mothers, we feel guilty about taking time to ourselves. I know that I feel guilty that I'm sitting on the couch watching TV when I could be working, improving my website, meal planning, or writing a novel. But in order to be happy people and positive role models, we need to be strong women with interests outside of our kids. They will emulate what we do - and I personally want C to put herself first, at least some of the time.
What about you guys? What do you need to feel like yourself? Do you feel guilty taking that time to yourself? Do you feel like you can take time for yourself?Comment
Last week I caught an article about parenthood on NPR that confused me. A lot of people have been talking about it, so if this is old news to you I apologize in advance.
The article talks about parenthood, and about how no one ever tells you how hard it is.
Maybe I'm living in some sort of weird alternate universe where everyone is really negative, but I feel like the ONLY thing parents ever talk about is how hard it is. Complaints about lack of sleep, no freedom and public tantrums very nearly scared me out of having kids. Parents seem to have fun talking about the bad stuff, and tend to leave out the good almost entirely. When I think about the other mothers I know, the LAST thing I think is, "I wish you were a little more honest about how hard it is." I am lucky -- most of my girlfriends strike a wonderful balance between talking about the challenges and the positives. But they definitely don't pretend like their lives are easy. Who exactly is NPR talking to?
I personally think they're talking about a different generation - my mother's generation. From what my mom tells me, her generation never admitted that it was hard. They never talked about post-partum depression, about the days when you want to stab yourself in the eyeball with a plastic spoon just to avoid pureeing more carrots, or how your kid hasn't eaten a well-balanced diet in ages because s/he throws all vegetables on the floor. Instead, they focused on the positives, sometimes exaggerating their child's intelligence in a non-stop competition for the best and brightest baby. As if it matters AT ALL whether your kid rolled over two weeks before your friend's.
Our generation, by contrast, is brutally honest - sometimes bordering on dramatic - about how hard parenthood is. Yes, it's hard, but it's not so hideously awful that we need to whine about it all the time. Before I got pregnant, I thought parenthood might be horrible. Like, ALL THE TIME, 24/7, relentless horrors. I'm not going to lie - sometimes, when C is needy & won't let me put her down, or I have to take her to the doctor, it is ABSOLUTELY a house of horrors carnival ride that feels like it will never end. But not all the time. For the most part, it's absolutely wonderful. Like, rainbows shooting out of my rear end kind of wonderful. And I KNOW that I'm not the only mother who is this happy. And Y is just as happy as I am. So why is everyone talking about the bad stuff?
Honestly, I'm getting a little sick of hearing about how horribly hard it is for everyone. We all have bad days, bad weeks, bad months. We all need to vent - it's healthy, and it's necessary. But at what point does it cross the line between venting and nonstop bitching? If you're finding yourself "down" on parenthood (or life in general) for an extended period of time, maybe the problem isn't parenthood, it's a negative outlook on life. There has to be some happy medium between pretending to be perfect and complaining all the time.
I may be alone here, but I find that I have to work hard to meet positive, happy people - parents or not. I try hard to surround myself with people who have a glass half full outlook on life. I mean, really - does anyone need more negativity? On a daily basis, I feel like I encounter more unhappy people than happy people. From the road raging a-holes who don't want to let you change lanes to the downright MEAN woman who lives down the hall, I definitely don't feel like people are hiding their misery. Maybe it's a sign of the times - economic unrest, high jobless rate, etc...but either way, there's just too much negativity to deal with as it is.
But back to honesty about the trials of parenthood -- I'd love to hear your thoughts about the NPR article. My opinion? Either our generation is honest to a fault, or we're just big fat babies who don't know how to put our noses to the grindstone and WORK. Are we spoiled into thinking everything should be easy, and cry the second it gets hard? Tell me what you think. Maybe my neighborhood is an anomaly. ;)
Everyone says it will happen, but to look back on something that felt - for quite a long time - like just yesterday and realize that it is actually rather far away...well, it’s a funny thing.
I can’t believe it, but Charlie is turning ONE today. My tiny little baby is a year old. And she’s no longer tiny - she’s practically a toddler. She weighs a ton, and half the time she’s trying to squirm out of my arms to get to the floor. The tiny baby who slept nestled into my chest is long gone.
I am sure there will be a lot of smiles today, but there will also be tears (at least on my part). I never understood why my mom cried in the Stride Rite parking lot when I outgrew their shoes, but I get it now. My baby is one, and I am simultaneously elated and heartbroken.
Today is the day that my baby - my very first baby, and first is a special thing - turns one. I am so much better today than I was this time last year, in so, so many ways. Having a child - and specifically having Charlie - is a blessing I never would have expected. I feel genuinely, truly grateful to have such a sweet, happy, adventurous, sparkly little soul as part of my life.
Happy birthday, Chuckers. You light up my life.
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