It’s hard as parents to know when a child is crossing the proverbial line from being willful, high energy and strong towards being potentially diagnosed as hyperactive or having ADD. Preschool is difficult; it’s too soon to tell. Kids are still learning their boundaries, mastery of school skills is only starting and kids are barely capable of changing their own clothes, let alone handling themselves with the control of an adult. But a parent knows their kid, and a parent knows a gnawing in their gut and “waiting it out” is utter torture but “overdiagnosis” may also be a very real issue.
We carefully look for milestones in kids from babyhood through toddlerhood, and we try and encourage the development of interests through preschool. Maybe sometimes with a lot of outside pressure from family, online communities, the knowledge of a failing school system, or friends kids who are ahead of the curve and add just a little guilt to your plate through no fault of their own.
Teaching the ABC’s from scratch is shockingly difficult when you’ve spent thirty years completely accustomed to them. What I am most frustrated by is how easily my son gives up on himself. He begins with a bright spark, his eyes light up and he asks a wonderful, curious question that I either can explain or have to google. (This is probably the greatest application of the internet.)
Understanding that my child is learning differently than I do isn’t the hard part, he has a skill set for building with blocks and Legos at a level that I lack the aptitude to master. At different points in life we all find our thing. I don’t want to pick battles over activities and interests with my kids because the simple act of existing with them is hard enough.
I am a pitiful teacher; I’m too wordy for a four year old. He gets bored with how I’m explaining things and says, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore” or the worst, “I can’t do it”. And that’s how we are completely stunted at writing the letter “T” for Teddy and the rest is a wash behind his big brown, brooding eyes. I haven’t found my way into his head yet.
My son shuts down very easily. He rarely takes interest in sitting still to observe or absorb. He has two modes: frenetic, wild, running, screaming, jibberish baby talking or silently and contentedly building fantastic creations out of magnets and Legos. Those moments are stunning and brilliant and they make my heart swell. I’ve learned to sit back and watch him as quietly as I can because when I speak I ruin his concentration and he’s instantly frustrated again.
My son is sensitive, he’s a crier. I never foreshadowed myself being upset with a child for the act of crying. I myself cry very easily, but my son cries every time he’s confronted. If I don’t handle every situation with absolute delicate care, he crumbles. Even in times when he is the assailant and tormentor. Because even though he is sensitive he is not innocent. I catch him hitting his little brother, stealing toys, refusing to share and using his body inappropriately and defensively.
Sometimes I’m awesome. Sometimes I say the right words, separate the kids or remove the toy they’re fighting over.
Sometimes, I scream.
I feel awful and regrettable and mean for screaming when he acts out, and then he cries at my reaction and I scream again because in some ways, I wonder if he’s crying to get out of the confrontation, but honestly, I think I know in my heart that he’s crying because he’s overwhelmed. I cry when I’m overwhelmed too, I should have more compassion but sometimes that well runs dry.
We assert that he should to sports, or karate or organized physical activity because learning how to be a part of a team is healthy and good preparation for a future in society.
He spends practices with his shirt over his head, standing in the middle of the room spinning in circles.
I am embarrassed. I am also ashamed that I could be embarrassed by my son. I have to be stronger for him and be his defender, and do it in a way that acknowledges when his inconsistent behavior is a distraction. It’s tricky and I admit that I like the days when we skip practices, in fact, my husband and I argue about whether he is ready for classes or not.
If he’s like me, he will never have a genuine interest. But to my husband’s stern point, you can’t just raise a quitter.
Having my son at home with me during the day became nearly impossible this year. I had my third baby and I absolutely relish quiet time. My son seems to thrive on destruction and jumping off of the couch screaming his head off about Spiderman.
Meals are an absolute nightmare. He takes food off his plate, smears it across the table and licks it off. Or he throws it on the floor, or mashes it in his hands and eats like Mowgli. He sits for ten minutes, announces he’s full, and wants to be excused. Ten minutes. He eats almost nothing; he weighs 38 lbs. and has for a full year.
I don’t want my son to spend his whole life in time outs.
I don’t want him to feel dejected in public school.
I don’t want his siblings to continue to copy his behavior and follow in these footsteps.
I don’t know what to do with my son.
I said the words that have been eating me alive for the last year. I do not know what to do. He is hard, so hard that I don’t cope with him being home all day and I shell out for day camp just to keep him busy and active and to give myself some space.
I walk the line daily and waffle back and forth. “Is he a normal four year old?” “Is every single thing supposed to be a struggle?” “Am I supposed to have to say something six times before I start screaming and he finally listens?” “Is something wrong with Teddy?”
I think I might be failing my child and I have to figure out what’s right before it goes more wrong.
I hear you all in the ether talk about lack of discipline, spoiled kids, lazy parenting, and making up excuses, more spankings and all other ways of refusing to admit that sometimes we get a hard hand and not everything is in our control. We do the best we can do and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what that is. It’s anything but lazy, it’s an absolute struggle.
I typically don’t make a habit of writing open letters on the internet or writing any scathing responses to internet articles, so consider this opus an exception to all of my rules.
The Elite Daily has published some rotten piece of rubbish that seeped under my skin and hurt me in a place I didn’t think was even going to be reachable. I have dedicated my adult life to my family and it’s anything but fabulous. Read all about how fashionable and luxurious it is to be a Modern Mom like me here, and get your own torch flame blazing.
The idea that motherhood can somehow be glamorous is smashed into pieces by the realities of actual living, breathing modern motherhood. I’ve never cared about matching outfits with my kids, because they require changing four times throughout the day. Wearing heels serves absolutely no point and a nude peep-toe isn’t going to earn me cool points while I chase my kids around the public pee infested pool, what counts is that I kept my two year old from nose diving into the shallow pool and ruining the potential for a beautiful, living childhood.
My sunhat keeps my wrinkles from rooting deeper at a faster speed, as I’ve just now gathered enough courage at the age of thirty-one to stand confident, pale and a shameless size fourteen. I learned a lot in my foolhardy twenties, and the importance of sunscreen hadn’t embedded itself in my stubborn young head until the evidence of premature aging rippled across my eyes. It’s not about looks; it’s about preservation and my new aversion to chemotherapy.
I embarked on a journey of having three kids in four years. I didn’t set out to do it with intent, although that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. The point is I am here now, and I am immersed in the culture of being a mother in the age of the millennial.
I can’t speak for the people who identify with comparing selfies on Instagram with Kim K. I cannot speak for the people who shop tirelessly for the perfect matching mother-toddler swim gear. I can’t speak for everyone.
But I’m more than willing to wager a wife-bonus that for every woman out there creating perfectly pinterested parties to upload to social media there are more moms like me, who struggle to prepare four lunches through hard-earned sips of coffee while the naughty kid in the bunch is throwing ham on the floor to “Fee Da Ants Mwammy”.
The moms like me read every article on the internet about GMO’s and we roll our eyes because we get that it causes cancer but we also can’t afford preschool tuition on an Organic eating plan. I would like to be able to heat my house in the winter as well, because when I bitch about freezing my ass off I only get two “likes” on Facebook, which I would think an uber cool millennial mom would “get”.
A modern mom is concerned with finances, just like the mom who came before her, and the mom who came before her. Imagine a time when we had avocado colored refrigerators, laminate floors that probably leached cancer into our lungs and moms who hunched over the dining table with a calculator and a check book. That’s today’s mom, and that’s yesterday’s mom. We care about the future, so we plan for it. Even though it kills us that we can’t buy the amazing retro sundress we saw at Mod Cloth because it means saving up for the deck we hope to build in five years.
Modern Mothers are more responsible than we’ve been given credit for. We work harder to be proud of who we are and stop shaming ourselves over our weight, or our five o’clock shadow. We admit to not showering every day and we confess that we actually like having sex with our husbands.
Modern Moms are killing it, but not in the ways described in the elitist self-centered article.
We embrace feminism, we get to choose birth control and we discuss it in private Facebook groups where we also lament breastfeeding and wiping our kids’ butts. We confess things to one another about motherhood, we admit to it being hard, to knowing that we have to be done having kids because sometimes, motherhood is too emotionally challenging. We talk about guilt and how expensive preschool is. It’s seriously really ridiculously expensive.
We find tribes, and we find ways to relate to the people around us and we don’t want anything to do with mommy wars.
We care more about politics, the environmental future, the figurative climate and the literal one.
We talk openly with our kids. We discipline them with a little more understanding than a beating had previously offered in my up and coming generation.
We hide in the bathroom when we can’t handle breaking up one more sibling argument.
A drive thru has saved my ass in more than one situation. And while we all would love a home cooked meal every single day, sometimes it’s best for our egos to not watch our kids throw our handmade spaghetti and meatballs on the rug and refuse to take even one bite. And so pizza happens.
We are a generation of well-read women who stay on top of current events and enjoy glasses of wine and discussions about politics.
I stick my kids in front of Disney for an hour so that I can type out a blog post in response to the idea that Modern Motherhood is superficial, and that we are unimportant unless we are fashionable, thin, white and of moderate wealth and privilege.
I work too damn hard at being a mom, paying attention and being a self-aware human being to let that kind of pop culture egocentrism endure.
This is my Alamo.
WE ARE BETTER THAN WHAT THEY ARE SAYING WE ARE.
I feel like I’m holding the wheels on a rickety bus barreling down an Audubon.
It’s coordinating schedules, meals, balancing life. Make time to exercise, make time to read. Watch the news. Keep up with Facebook. Keep the kids clean. Diapers are piling up. The 4 year old is dumping Lego’s on the floor and the baby wakes from the racket. She needs solids and the high chair is a mess. I forgot to feed her lunch. Breastfeeding is easier, no high chair involved, no scrubbing.
I secretly wish she would refuse solids altogether.
My own ears throb in pain and frustration with the decibels and screams of my kids. One is hungry, one is wet and one is screaming because the cool kids are doing it.
Clean the house again, cook another meal. The kids have already had three yogurts and two applesauce packs and I want to give them donuts because donuts keep them quiet. When they’re quiet I can check Facebook and zone out of my duties and forget the guilt I’m faced with every waking moment.
It’s 3 pm and their teeth still aren’t brushed. They haven’t seen a dentist in a year.
Oh, another diaper to change.
Don’t forget to do sit ups because it’s raining today and the kids can’t go out for a walk.
The kids won’t go outside so we sit in and torture each other while the rain ping pong patters and drips from the roof.
We need gutters.
Add it to the list.
I should do yoga. It’s supposed to be good for my blood pressure.
Maybe when the kids are older.
The toddler screamed in my face and hit my chest like an angry chimp.
Thank god he’s napping. Now I have time to do arts and crafts with my preschooler.
Father’s day is coming up and we need to get to work.
We love daddy but we don’t show it enough.
He comes home from work and the house is all but crumbling from the foundation up.
The kids teeth. I’ve forgotten again.
Daddy grabs the kids and hugs them when he opens the door, he kisses me and asks me how my day was. He doesn’t even get mad that I gave the kids donuts while I cooked dinner to keep them quiet, and now they’ll have no appetite and we will fight them for each precious bite they begrudgingly take.
He loves me. He loves us all deeply. I need him and his patience.
He needs space. The phone rings and he says he needs a night out to go play cards.
A hobby I don’t understand anymore than I can understand people who walk into lion cages. He needs to escape and I’m burdened by the “What about me. I need to escape too” thoughts that creep in and wreck havoc on my guilt pile.
Hanging up the phone and breathing a “Fuck You” with my last dying breath is no way to show my appreciation and gratitude to a good man. But it still feels better.
I don’t deserve him.
“Why him? Why does he get to have all of the freedom?” My jealousy overtaking my guilt momentarily and then fading away, giving into the realization that he is human, I am human and we’re both clinging to those wheels.
“Now is just not my time.”
“He deserves space.”
“We all do.”
It’s just not my time.
Maybe when the kids are older.
I enjoy sitting down in the morning. I enjoy drinking coffee through the day and I enjoy quiet times of reflection. As an adult these are my rites of passage.
I worry about bills, education and the environment. I pay homage by enduring the evening news and shaking my head at the travesty. I enjoy the consumption of a novel and staying up later than appropriate time allotments for reading. My head drops to the side in mid sentence at a perfectly regrettable hour of the morning.
I love to let the characters seep into my soul and let the story absorb so deeply that I will not rest until I finish a chapter, or the entire book so that I can end the wanting.
By day I exist in a world where I am never alone with my thoughts and my mind is kept from silently wandering off. I never get to fully explore my passion for sitting down and my love of coffee keeps me going, but hardly fulfills me.
Because I am a mom. And my kids are sometimes my passion, and sometimes my bane, but they are always my responsibility.
There is more than a fair amount of struggle for my attention. I have two boys. Two wrestling, fighting, punching, kicking, pulling, yelling, screaming boys. The competition is endless, if it’s toys or space or people, they are vying for it and they will kill each other in a Greco-Roman death match if no referee is present.
When any new baby enters a family the jealousy isn’t always instantaneous outrage, rather it gradually seethes and becomes palpable, and the child in need of the most love is often revealed by their behavior. The survival of the fittest has just amped my household up to a god damn eleven. The baby is cute, it’s no wonder they feel suffocated by her presence. Look at her, she’s like a double rainbow.
If I go pee, they follow me into the bathroom and sit on the floor.
Should I need to evacuate the bowels and lock the bathroom door, they either bang on it, break vases over each others heads or go completely, terrifyingly silent.
The silence is a good indication that I will be opening the bathroom door to a painted floor or a kitchen doused in flour.
If I nurse the baby, which I do often because I hear she needs it to live, the children will climb on my head in a sudden gripping need to “snuggle” my brains out.
It got slightly less adorable when his big brother decided to make mush out of my ears by slamming on the untuned piano keys next to my head.
Things then became downright annoying when my toddler jumped off of my lap and ran across the room to redecorate.
And then the toddler was decidedly parched after his adventure, so he ran to the dining room table, climbed atop it and smashed my water glass into shards.
It’s obviously time for a break, any foreman on the job would have stopped for coffee by now. Because coffee is my savior and my day can only be improved with extra caffeine, but it’s a false prophet. I should have made a martini.
Because while I may have the calmness of a chilled iced coffee in my hand my toddler has taken the opportunity to break into the dry goods and start some early dinner prep. Your honor, Exhibit 35 C.
And then while I grab the broom to sweep up the mess, he excuses himself to go outside.
And grab a sword to beat me to hell with while I sweep. This is the worst version of Snow White. They don’t poison my apples but they do steal them from my mouth, take one bite and discard them on the floor.
Thankfully it’s nap time and I have a few sacred minutes to plan my funeral. If you don’t hear from me soon, tell the investigators to look under the kiddie pool in the backyard. I plan on hiding there with a bottle of Vodka for the next Ten years.
I’ve never been particularly handy with anything other than a remote control or a pen. I’ve just always found ways to scare myself out of using a drill to hang pictures or fix things on my own. My moral compass of feminism is going fucking haywire but, I am woman enough to confess that I leave the drilling to my husband. I’m a worst case scenario kind of girl; I can worry my way out of just about everything, which worked for me for a while in my single days. But then, kids came a-meddling.
At first, becoming a stay at home mom with a new baby meant just taking care of the baby’s needs while lightly maintaining myself and keeping our house from becoming a hoard.
Four years and three kids later I find myself wanting to move on to bigger and better projects and take the initiative on “Things” that are more useful and hands-on than a sink full of dirty dishes. I want to use my brain for more than Bravo marathons and diaper changes, if for nothing else than to prove that I can. So once in a while I get a bug. The bug crawls up under my skin and creeps its way into my brain. Once I contract a bug the only cure for the craving is to spontaneously begin a project or create some change. Usually my house serves as my canvas.
But as aforementioned, I’m not going to be the girl who can build you a bathroom, fear of electrocution and whatnot.
So I start small.
I pick some familiar task I saw on HGTV or something that sounds easy, like how I started painting my deck a week ago.
*Sounds* easy (raucous laughter), but it probably won’t be finished until October.
Sometimes I pick a soft open, something I used to do well. For instance; making baby food. Delilah, my main chunk, is six glorious months old now, and technically her pediatrician would like her to start solids soon anyways.
Bolstered by reasoning I adamantly decided I’d make a batch of blueberries, because that was the only thing I had on hand without a stitch of fuzzy mildew and I have this delusion that we will use what we have before we buy more. Unless I’m buying lipstick, or shoes, or yoga pants.
Motherhood is full of duplicity.
I began by digging the blender out of the pantry and cleaning the dust off of the little guy. It’s a cute blender with an impish little smiling face painted on. “Hi, just your friendly blender here, ready to fortify your feelings of accomplished homemaking skills”.
I can harken back to having my first child, the last time I attempted to make baby food and keep on-trend with all the good moms who care too much about their children to give them preservatives.
It’s been a dogs age since I’ve cared that much.
Memory serving intact, we must first cook the berries. So out with the sauce pot, and in with the berries. I heat the stove to simmer and now someone is already whining. Attention must be paid to whatever melee awaits in the other room where the children are free-range eating grain off the floor. (Aw, my homestead).
I return to the pan to find that I’ve missed the place between whole berries and burnt mush. Oh delight. I’m sure my baby is going to love the Cajun-char of berries for her first food. Her palate is probably quite sophisticated what with all the wine and Cliff Bars I consume. So I just do what anyone who can’t stand to waste a whole pint of berries would do, and I add water to the pan and reconstitute. My outdated, depression-era guilt-laden frugality has finally paid off after all these years. We have edible mush. IT’S ALIVE.
Now just pour it into the blender, a clean Mason jar is on deck and ready for what I think is called canning. (But my head needs to call it “jarring”, amiright?)
I should have expected nothing less than the blistering burn of imperfection that ensues whenever I make an attempt to stray from my normal, stagnant place in the household.
I don’t know where everything starts to go wrong, if I can’t trust my smiley blender than who can I trust? This world is a cruel place. I still maintain I did nothing to deserve what I got next. No justice I say.
Berries in blender, check.
Lid on the blender, check.
Hand on the lid on blender, check.
The obnoxious whirr of the blender and then the…
My hand is burning, what bloody massacre has occurred? Sacre Bleu!
My kitchen is purple, my hand is stinging! The lid is still on the blender and my hand is still on the lid and yet there is purple blueberry hell fire seeping out over the edges of the blender, oozing onto the counter tops like Ghostbusters slime and it’s creating the prettiest purple puddles. And my face, and neck, and my kitchen are all splattered with murdered blueberries. I don’t know how many times I can kill one pint of blueberries but I’m pretty sure we’re getting close to the edge now.
After washing my hands and toweling off the counters I am able to assess how much baby food has survived what I’ve tried to do to it. After pointlessly adding it to my Mason jar I can measure about four ounces. The fruits of my labor; four pathetic ounces of blueberries.
Lo, it seems I forgot that I have living children in the house where I am trying to be a better failure of a housekeeper, and I round the corner to check on the kids in the play room, to find this majestic shit going down:
I would have been better off sticking my blueberries into a cocktail.
There are parenting short cuts for a reason, and I’ll burn my baby food blender in effigy to the struggle.
Learn from me, buy your jars and just lie to whoever you’re trying to impress and say it’s homemade.
But if you think this incident with homemade baby food appeased the gnawing need I had to create something, you would be wrong.
Someday I’ll tell you about that time I showed up with a twelve foot pool on a ninety degree day and true to form, I totally didn’t nail that either.
When you have three kids you hear a lot of; “How do you do it? One is so hard, I can’t imagine three!” And yes, it is hard. It’s so hard that I sometimes always drink too much wine when the kids are
sleeping screaming and none of them can write their ABC’s because the struggle is in getting pants on all of them, and it takes until 10 am just to get all of our teeth brushed. By the time our basic needs are taken care of I’m ready for my third cup of coffee and a cartoon to take the edge off of the “MOMMY’S”.
Then it’s time to actually feed the kids and spend an hour trying to decipher what “I want a PB&J without any peanut butter or jelly or bread” means. (So you want a miracle for lunch then?) So no, we haven’t learned how to write or read yet but there’s still time to work on literacy just as soon as I’m done whipping up some gluten free air to feed to the kids.
I have had to cut a lot of corners and drop several of my standards in terms of nutrition and safety in order to make a large family possible. When three kids are screaming moms are a hell of a lot more likely to just say yes to the juicebox and fruit snacks. When you’re nursing a baby and your toddler decides to pull a chair up and climb a counter top full of scissors and knives and hypodermic needles you kind of just decide to let it play out so that your baby can eat and your child can develop a little independence, healthy borders and whatnot. Cut the apron strings and beef up your insurance. (I’m like, half kidding. Got your attention though, didn’t it?)
My patience is thin. Thinner is my wallet. I introduce myself as “The Lady Who Screams at Her Kids” when I meet my neighbors and we all have an uncomfortable laugh but I think we all feel better when the truth is set free.
I avoid shopping unless someone who qualifies as an adult can come with us or stay home and babysit. *GASP* who would ever avoid Target? A lady with three under five, that’s who. Popcorn, Starbucks, Yoga pants and Diapers can’t even drag me out of my house and that’s basically the same thing as Wild Horses.
You’ve seen the ladies who go grocery shopping with a stroller and a shopping cart? They’re geniuses and I only just now learned how to copy them. Three kids don’t fit into shopping carts no matter how many times I try and squish those nubile thighs into the seat.
“Your hands are so full!” they say. Luckily they’re too full for any stranger punching.
Breastfeeding has been shockingly easy. I thank Delilah and the experience of feeding two boys with no shortage of struggle for leading the way to this symbiotic relationship. Some women have five kids and still can’t nurse, milk supply herbs and pumping and latch cures and the planets all in perfect alignment on the day the lactation consultant arrives still can’t make the baby gain weight. I feel for those women. I have been in that seat. No matter what anybody says, failure to breastfeed feels exactly like a Failure. And you do take it personally despite knowing better and being smarter than that. For my lucky break of a lifetime the third child was the easy one and I finally have a baby who eats when hungry, stops eating when full and gains weight on a pediatric chart, amen.
Gone are nursing covers. Gone is shame.
Shame about the stretch marks, the size of my hips and the parts of my body that jiggle after I’ve stopped moving are all left in my past. I bought a bigger size and added about twenty kilos of lycra to my closet and I’ve never been happier.
I pull my shirt open anywhere I happen to be when Delilah is hungry and I feed my baby. It doesn’t matter to me anymore if men, the elderly, a priest or children are present.
My breasts feeding a baby shouldn’t be more offensive than a ten dollar omelet, birth control laws drafted by men or the pair of boobs selling you a Bud Light in a bikini in a snowstorm. I’m feeding my baby, not you so cheers.
Having three kids is a challenge. Challenges are for conquering, for finding light at the end of a dark and raucously loud tunnel. When your legs are giving out on mile three of the 5K but you push for personal best. I’m shooting for personal best with bad jokes about my screaming kids and a boob hanging out of my shirt. Okay, both boobs are out because remembering to clip my nursing shirt is hard, but do me a solid and look away. It’s less embarrassing for you if we can both pretend it’s not happening.
My third child saved me from a lifetime of guilt and worry that I’m messing everything up and has instead showed me that there are more important things to lose sleep over, that letting go is more than just an annoying song, and that we have always been and will always be okay.
I stay in more than I go out and I’ve lost and mourned a lot of connections with people who I still consider friends. It’s simply survival, and I expect a gradual transition into a life that fits me and my kids in just the right way. Because having a baby changes everything, and adjusting to three of them changes not only the way I fit into the world, but also the way I look at it.
Rushing out of the house, grabbing coats and hats as we dart to the car that has been sitting cold in the bitter winter air but there is no time to stop and warm the car up because we are running late again. We are perpetually running late for our engagements. We are poorly dressed and I am haphazardly tugging hats onto the refusing children through protests and squirms. “But it’ll keep you warm, you need to be warm!” What kind of mother runs out wildly in frigid air when her children aren’t even dressed?
The same kind of woman who rolls out of bed in the morning and says, “OH, THIS SHIT AGAIN?”
I’m not going to go down that path of defense with you, we know each other better than to have to say “I love my kids, but…” of course I love my kids, you love your kids, they are ours, but that is not to say that the job of caring for them isn’t sometimes tedious and frustrating in a way that makes you pull your hair from your follicles while tears stream down your face, and you bury your head in your hands as you bend over the kitchen counter wishing you had bought at least four more bottles of wine. The kids have taken every opportunity to act like potential super villains and I may as well just be the banged up Metropolis. They’re running, screaming, fighting over toys. Toys mind you, not life, not death, not cuts scrapes or bruises. No serious infractions or injuries to anybody’s health. Toys. And if there is one thing I’ve run out of patience for, it’s arguing over stupid, commercial plastic shit that we bought at Target on one of my desperate trips to just get the hell out of the house.
I blamed winter, I blamed pregnancy, then I blamed the baby. I blamed the blahs. I blamed the kids. The one honest to goodness thing I was never willing to face was myself. What needs were not being met for me? Why was I constantly shuffling my kids out of their house to go shopping or find a play date? Because I need adult human interaction mostly, it’s not that Target sells the best yoga pants ever and I love them so much that I could just hardly stand the thought of spending a day not looking at them sitting on the same rack. Well, that part might be at least seventy-five percent true.
I surely, stubbornly was not willing to accept that I couldn’t stand being by myself. I needed comradery in a constant and desperate kind of way. I needed another grown woman in my life to sit across from me and just talk. Talk about how much they loved the Bush administration for all I care, but just a person who would connect with me and read my face and talk over the constant thrum of noise in my house. Where is my Wisteria Lane?
I need fresh air and outings, but hell, I don’t need to be running away from my feelings and my own insecurities, Target doesn’t have the answers I need and I’m not going to find anything in the bottom of a Venti Soy Chai Latte but bigger love handles, and the pungent stank of douchiness that I even just asked someone making minimum wage to make that bullshit for me.
I’m coming around and digging my heels down as firmly as they will go. I’m not sure my husband can make money as fast as I can blow it up China’s ass and fill my house with more baubles. He shouldn’t have to be forced to support my unhappiness, and my unhappiness shouldn’t take us into financial ruin. I can’t outspend my problems any more than I can outrun them. I may not be able to convince any fellow moms to move in and sister wife with me on the compound (we can get a puppy ladies, c’mon!) but I can start taking responsibility for myself and stand up taller.
I won’t “should” all over the place and start to worry about the things I ought to be doing with my children just to create more anxiety that I am no doubt ill equipped to handle, but I am going to be kind of present for them and work my way out of feeling overwhelmed in just tiny baby steps. “Read a book with me mommy” won’t send me fleeing tomorrow and the fear of being stuck at home and bored with my kids won’t make me run in horror. I can stand up to those feelings and not stress drink Five Hundred calories of Salted Mocha. By mentally being here for my kids at least half of the time and only employing the distractions of shopping trips in the most dire of circumstances, I can save myself from crumbling under the weight of the life I’ve created for myself. No friends or money are going to dig me out and save my day. I had these kids, these are mine to raise and looking to other people to show me how or distract me from having to do it isn’t going to get it done.
Who gave me these kids to handle and raise and turn into adults when I myself am constantly trying to escape my inevitable ascent into adulthood, and when am I going to feel like I’m there yet?
I am immersed in motherhood so fully that I don’t know who I am outside of yoga pants and debating whether or not my Keurig needs to be replaced by an environmentally friendly French Press. Apparently I’m a budding hipster, which is a lifestyle that emerged sometime while I was in the diaper aisle at Target.
All of my news comes from Facebook and my social interactions come in key strokes, forgive me.
I had a date night with my husband three, maybe four days ago (who’s counting and who cares?) and I managed to make my awkward hermit status completely well-known in a buzzing restaurant. I stood out as the weird lady who smiles a lot and holds eye contact way too long from the moment I walked in.
The hostess gave us a sweet, standard greeting and I basically thought we were best friends. (I don’t get out much). I managed to remember most of my manners but at one point during a very personal conversation with my husband I caught myself spelling out the word C-O-N-D-O-M-S. We were in a discussion about our best birth control options since our new baby’s birth. The restaurant was obviously the most appropriate place to discuss this. So there I was sitting six inches from another table of grown up diners spelling out the word condoms as if I were sitting in a room full of four year olds.
Pssst, they can spell. And they can hear you.
A few weeks earlier I had suffered the indignity of a postpartum checkup. After being weighed (the worst) and put on a paper wrapped slab in my birthday suit, the Midwife who delivered my baby came in and we had a nice chat. She brought in a new Midwife in Training to sit in on our visit and she told me that I would never hold my pee again, so I made a mental note to look up Transvaginal Mesh. (I jest). Actually she did something far worse. She gave me the excruciatingly embarrassing talk about kegels.
Being that I wasn’t born yesterday I know what those are, but I sat and dumbly smiled and nodded along with her as if I was hearing this information for the first time, because, how do you interrupt that conversation anyway?
The Midwife is all “great, so now you know how, let’s practice!”
I’m like, “what? Where are my pants, is this for real?”
But again, being all compromised and naked I kind of just give in. She’s just done a pretty thorough exam anyway so now we’re going to have to get married and she may as well just get this over with.
She seriously, actually, totally, completely took a gloved finger or two and stuck them in that holy place and told me to squeeze. “You know, like if you’re stopping the flow when you pee!”
Am I dead? Is this happening? I am such a pushover.
And so, I squeeze.
And she says, “Are you doing it yet? Can you do it?”
Is she for real? I AM doing it! She can’t tell?
And I say, “Oh, I’m doing it, apparently those muscles are really weak or something.”
And she says “Well now you know how so if you practice it will make a BIG difference.”
And just like that, after three children and one remaining shred of dignity, it vaporized.
I’m so glad I did that with an audience. I hope the Midwife in Training learned a lot that day. I know I did. And there’s no way I will ever be able to practice a Kegel without wandering down that long lane of uncomfortable memories.
And that takes me back to the public conversation I had on a rare date with my husband about our birth control options in our postpartum lives. I’m quite keen to stay off of pills, patches, rings, IUD’s and other forms of tampering with my shipwrecked body. I chose to bring this up in public. Why? Because when you have children you become accustomed to having all of your discussions out in the open. You can’t escape your audience, ever. They follow you to the bathroom and they sneak into your bed at night. The most private place to discuss anything these days is right out in the open.
So enjoy the steak neighbors. The cauliflower puree is divine. Also, karate is on Tuesday, my mom wants to take the kids for a night, the big kid has diarrhea, the middle one isn’t ready to potty train yet, and my boobs are basically ready to blow milk all over your table. Do you like yoga pants? Wanna hang out?
At ten past four in the afternoon I made a strong attempt to place my four week old daughter in her baby swing and cook dinner while my older boys played at the table where my visiting grandmother was folding our laundry.
I raced into the kitchen to pull together enough ingredients to make a passable dish called “meatloaf’” and found myself standing at the kitchen island looking at life clutter. Bills I keep forgetting to pay sitting right next to the check book and the pen that I intend to use and still manage to forget about day after day.
My toddler runs past holding an armload of legos falling behind him one at a time in a deadly trail on the floor. I am now cooking in a booby trap and the mission has gone from making a quick meal to keeping my toddler alive while I make anything edible over heat.
I’ve succeeded in retrieving hamburger from the fridge and sautéing half an onion while my mind wanders to my marriage and my husband. We have so much, and we have each other but I wonder in those brief seconds if I’ll ever see him again. See him in the sunlight as it glares in our bedroom window as two optimistic and childfree people sleeping in on a Sunday. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll pass a hump in our life stage of having a lot of very small humans and have new and exciting things to talk about. If his job and my child rearing will be all that we are. What if this is all that there is and what if that’s really completely okay?
I made a book for my husband as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. It was just a silly little composition book made of recycled materials containing about a hundred blank pages. I did my solemn best to fill those pages with things I love about him and appreciate him for. He still hasn’t read it. He knows it’s there, he gets the gesture and yet he still hasn’t found the time to read it.
There’s some hurt feelings harboring in me and my eyes did mist over when he confessed he hadn’t read it but I stifled the tears before they could brew and steep into a fight. A gift is meant to be opened by the recipient when and if they choose. I have to hope he won’t forget about it the way we forget doctor visits and the obligations that pile up on our countertops, eventually making their way into the trash can.
He’s not life clutter and we are not meant to eventually make our way into a recycling bin.
Three children have been brought into this home and our stories intersect around them and work. Attention to anything else takes planning and consideration. I had a conversation with my husband yesterday about how I want to hold his hand but our hands are always full. Then I took an introspective look at how I became a shrew who constantly wants to know what he’s thinking. We look like a real life Rom-Com starring a realistically overweight postpartum version of Katherine Hiegel and a busy, handsome husband who comes home to chunky under mixed meatloaf. We even have my grandma starring as Alice from the Brady Bunch.
Time is cruel and harshens up the softness we carried in our youth, turning into rough lines that get deeper and deeper with age, with stress and with children.
Romance is putting on our jackets and mittens and taking a walk down the driveway every Monday night to bring the trash to the curb. You gotta make your own breaks. Chips are down…or something.
The sauté pan needs attention and the hamburger is still waiting to go into a pan and be seasoned with something. My baby girl starts to whine from her swing in the other room. We are now down to seconds before I have to shut down this whole dinner operation to breastfeed the upset newborn.
Rather than throw my hands up in Monday/dinner/motherhood frustration and cry over a Chinese takeout menu, I ask my grandmother to cook dinner while I take my time to sit down and nurse the baby. Of course the toddler wanders into the room to demand in nonverbal grunts that I read to him while I nurse. He is shortly followed by his four year old brother who becomes instantly jealous of all of the babies on my lap and chooses to do some insane yelling show off act requiring all of our attention.
I am constantly acutely aware of the Bose noise cancelling headphones that I did not get for Christmas.
All these kids want is me. And here I am stuck feeling like I am not enough for any of them.
Somehow though something always gives and there is always enough.
Some Sunday the light will burn into our windows stinging my eyes awake and my husband won’t complain about his job or waking up with the kids and I will appreciate the gift even more because I’ve been through the passage of time, worn the lines and waded through the life clutter without landing in the recycling bin.
The snow was falling hard and fast. It was a heavy, wet snow that we typically get here in New England, and we are accustomed to several inches of snowfall. This being the first storm, being on Thanksgiving eve, with me 39 weeks pregnant, we were leaving nothing to chance.
Powerlines and tree branches were snapping as we packed our hospital bags with toothbrushes and cell phone chargers. We had at least half a foot of unplowed snow to bust through to get to the hospital and my contractions were 17 minutes apart.
We jumped into my husbands truck with glorious 4 wheel drive and skidded out onto the road to make “early” headway to the birthing center.
My contractions were four minutes apart after only half an hour of driving and checking in.
Two hours of ouchholymotherofgodwhatinthefuckishappeningtomybodygetthebabyoutnow and we met our beautiful baby girl.
It was a lot of swearing, the nurse asked me to tone it down and I was all “no way motherfuckers, I don’t have any drugs, you are going to let me swear.”
We relaxed in the hospital and the nurses helped us change diapers and burp the gas out of the baby so I could sleep and breastfeed Delilah. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital in our room, which turned out to be perfect and mellow. The staff was not the least bit annoyed to have to take care of me on Thanksgiving, which I appreciate.
We stayed for 48 hours and then were released, bringing baby Delilah and a bundle of new baby nerves with us.
To my absolute joy Delilah did nothing but sleep for a bunch of hours. She didn’t even poop the first day she came home. She was nursing like a champ and my milk production was through the roof. She was my dream child.
I’ve spent the last five days at home in a hazy postpartum state. I cried all day yesterday for the hell of it. My body and my hormones are trying to make sense of things, and sometimes it just results in a good hard cry.
I’ve had my Grandma here helping with food and cleaning and my husband stayed home for half of the week to assist with the older boys. When my husband goes back to work tomorrow I’ll probably be reduced to another pile of tears and ashes.
My nipples are taking the abuse of feeding the newborn with a lazy latch. All of my babies had a lazy latch and I crack and bleed and feel abused and used up. My poor vagina was ripped open like a Christmas present and I gingerly bathe my battered body and dab shea butter on my boobs when everyone is sleeping at night. My kids put Christian Grey to shame and make him look like a total pansy.
My belly now holds the remnants of Chinese takeout and zero life. No kicks and jabs. My postpartum body is flabby and loose and I don’t care. There’s a little freedom to having sprung life from your loins and you’re allowed to look a little fat. Plus, it’s the holidays, we all feel a little fat. I get to cover it up in a cozy sweater and forget about it until April. Plus, nobody has a muffin top if they buy the right yoga pants.
Viva la cookies!
My bladder is perhaps the most mixed up organ of all. It was used to going pee every five minutes, regardless if there was a toilet or not. Now I no longer feel the urge to pee and instead get a cramp in my abdomen that alerts me to use the potty. I can hold it for hours baby. Yeah, I’m bragging.
It’s physically been a relief. Since expelling the fruit of my womb I am no longer swollen and sweaty. I can take three steps without a pee leak, I can eat a normal amount of food instead of the metric shit ton I was shoveling in during pregnancy. My varicose veins are already starting to flatten out. Goodbye vulvar support hose.
My stitches hurt, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.
My kids are adjusting as expected to our new baby. We brought her home over Thanksgiving break so we all bonded for a few days (read, my four year old drove me bat shit and I’m so glad he has school today). My toddler thinks the real baby is a doll and I have to protect her accordingly, otherwise he’d smash his toys into her and step on her head. Delilah never leaves my protective custody during the toddlers waking hours, making him insanely jealous so I hold him too and risk busting a stitch. My four year old now acts two. And he’s being a nasty little shit who needs attention but seeks it like a desperate chick in a failing relationship. He whines and begs and throws things. I placate him with ice cream and TV.
Hey, I’m not trying to win any parenting awards or get a reality show; I’m just trying to survive.
Perfection and expectation can suck it. It’s cold outside, we have a new baby and we are all regressing rather well here.
I haven’t moved our Elf on Shelf for three days, but I did buy him a cute sweater to make up for it.