Transition time…

One of the biggest things I miss from my days of working was my commute home.

Back when I was still teaching, I lived five minutes away from school. This was immensely helpful when I was in a hurry to get to work (still an hour and a half before the first bell) in the mornings, but in the evenings, after a particularly difficult day, I would start driving in the opposite direction along Lake Michigan and let myself unwind.

I miss having a way to downshift.

There’s no downshifting in my life. I hit the ground running when I wake up, and don’t stop until nap time. Usually, I work right through nap time (because otherwise my house would be a complete disaster rather than the charming mess it is most days…) and I don’t stop until either my husband gets home or the kids fall asleep, whichever of those comes first.

I miss having that quiet time.

I miss having a journey to divide my work life from my home life.

Now, home is my job, so there’s no division between work and home.

It’s incredibly rewarding and I’m so thankful we can afford for me to stay home, but sometimes I miss just being able to shift to something different once in awhile. Like when I would get sick of grading papers, I would start lesson planning for a little bit, just to give my mind something new to work on. I was still working, I was just mixing things up a bit.

I don’t know how to mix things up at home. I have to be mommy 24/7, because my littles are too little to be left without supervision while I go do something else, even if it is for them.

I know this time is limited.

I know we’ll have a point in time when I’m begging my children for just a little bit of their time.

But for now, not having a little bit of time to shift gears is starting to wear on me.

I think that’s why I blog a little. It lets me downshift a little before I pour myself into bed. It’s a sorely needed release.

Still, I need to find another, productive way of shifting down in the evenings.

I’ll let you know if I find one.

To my daughter as she turns six months old…

My darling girl,

I can’t believe you’re six months old.

I don’t mean this in the “oh, time travels so fast” way that I certainly will default to for every milestone of the rest of your life. I mean in the “I cannot believe we made it to six months” way.

You see, I spent the first few months of your life in complete terror.

I was convinced something was going to happen to you. I was terrified it would be all my fault. I had thoughts of all of the terrible things that could happen to you and became so paralyzed I couldn’t even hold you.

I was convinced you were going to die.

Everyone says that the newborn time goes by far too quickly, and that you should cherish it. Me, I prayed that it would end quickly because that would mean that you survived it. That we survived it. That I got you to a point where things were a little less scary.

There were times I thought we’d never make it. Times I thought seriously about running away from you and our family, convinced you would be safer without me around.

That’s what OCD did to me. It robbed me of the joy I wish I could have felt in those first couple of months.

But we did it, you and me. We got through.

You’re getting stronger and showing more of your personality each and every day.

You light up for me. That smile is like a sudden jolt of sunshine.

You nestle up in my arms and I know that you feel safe with me. Finally, I’m convinced that you are.

You had so much faith in me. You trusted me so completely, even when I was too terrified to trust myself. I promise to earn that trust each and every day.

Thank you so much for letting me be your mommy.

I love you more than words can say.

Love,

Mom

No use crying over spilled milk…

Today, I looked in the freezer and saw the cache of breastmilk that takes up the entire top shelf.

I know there’s another stash downstairs in the chest freezer.

I can’t bring myself to throw it away.

This doesn’t make sense…My daughter has been thriving on formula for the past four months. She is happy, healthy, and growing.

Throwing my breastmilk away, however, is something I just can’t bring myself to do. I don’t really know why. I know that stopping nursing was the best decision for all of us, I know that she is doing perfectly well with the formula. I know I don’t want to upset her system by switching back and forth, so I would never use it. Still, I’m saddened by the thought of throwing it away.

Maybe I can’t throw it away because I’m still searching for evidence that I am a good mom. That I love her enough. That I’m worthy of the extreme privilege that is being her mother. I don’t know.

I know I need to throw it away. I know I need to finally close out this chapter of my life.

I’m just not there yet.

Today really could’ve been great…

Today was the day of best-laid plans going awry.

Last night, I read an article about the habits of highly productive people. I decided I wanted to start off my day ahead of the game and not scrambling to keep up with my kids, so I set my alarm for 5:45. My son usually wakes up around 6:30 or 7:00, so I figured that this would give me an opportunity to do things like wash my face, come up with my to-do list and drink just ONE cup of coffee while it was still hot.

…Apparently, my son has a sixth sense, because he woke up at 5:30 this morning. I don’t just mean the *wakes up and you coax him back down* kind of waking up, I mean this child was UP and prepared to attack the day.

Eff. Em. Ell.

So much for that.

I threw on leggings, pulled my hair into a ponytail, and told myself that maybe if the babysitter got here a little early, I could actually put makeup on.

Fast-forward to 8:30 am (one hour before babysitter is scheduled to arrive).

My phone rings. It’s the babysitter. I figure she’s just being super responsible and calling to confirm before she hits the road. Part of me thinks maybe she just woke up and wants me to know she’ll be on the later side of on time.

I’m not that lucky.

She’s on her way to the emergency room. (Turns out she will be okay, thank goodness! Also, bless her for thinking of calling me as she’s dealing with an allergic reaction.)

I text a friend whose son is bug’s age on the off chance she is home and able to watch bug while ladybug and I go to my therapy appointment. Her son is sick. Sigh.

Today was supposed to be my easy to take care of stuff day. I had dreams, you know? I was going to stop by Starbucks, the polling place, Babies R Us, and the appointment without kids in tow. It was going to be AMAZING!

Best. Laid. Plans.

Oh well, it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been. Bug didn’t break or throw anything, I did manage to get everything done, and I wasn’t late anywhere, so it really could have been worse.

But man, if it had all worked out…

Mama needs but doesn’t NEED help…

So, tomorrow, I will be leaving my kids with a babysitter while I go to one of my doctor’s appointments.

This is a big deal for me.

I don’t get help. Not really. Not even when I sort of need it. Getting help makes me feel guilty.

Part of me realizes that it’s not really selfish to get a babysitter to go to a doctor’s appointment. I mean, it is such a hassle to bring two children anywhere, especially when you have to be able to have an adult conversation. Furthermore, I’m fairly certain my son has gotten his invitation to future appointments rescinded with his behavior at the last one.

He knocked a picture off the wall, made a mess of the papers on the desk, and BROKE a small figurine. I was mortified.

I really don’t want to bring him to another appointment ever again.

So I got a babysitter. A great one. Highly recommended and everything I would want in someone who watches my kids.

I know that getting a babysitter is something a lot of people do for a lot of different reasons.

I know that I wouldn’t judge another mom for getting a babysitter for any reason, so why do I feel like I don’t deserve a little help from time to time? Why do I either cart my children everywhere and for everything or stay home? Why do I refuse to ask for help (or hire help) unless the situation has gotten to the point of desperation? Why do I need to NEED help before I will get it?

I don’t know.

We’ll see how guilty I feel tomorrow.

I’m really not this laid back, I promise…

On Thursdays, I try to take my kids to the school they will attend for music and story time. I don’t always make it there (sometimes I have therapy, sometimes life just gets in the way) but it’s something I like doing because I want my kids to be as excited as I am for them to start school…

While we were there last week, I let my 5 month old roll around on the carpet while the bigger kids ran, danced, and played.

Another kid ran fairly close to the ladybug and I gently shielded her but didn’t really react much, and another mom said “wow, you’re so laid back…”

I almost chuckled and replied “no, I’m just so medicated…” but thought better of it.

This got me thinking.

I’ve heard more than once that I seem to be such a laid-back parent. I take this as a huge compliment, because in actuality, I’m not. I can’t let myself take my eyes off my kids for a second when we’re in public. I don’t often engage in conversations with other moms on the playground because I’m afraid of being distracted while my son plays. When I go to places that aren’t properly childproofed (which, according to my standards is basically EVERYWHERE…) I’m constantly scanning the area for potential dangers. I am not laid back.

The thing is though, despite my very strong desire to hover over my children’s every move, I know that isn’t what’s in their best interest.

I don’t want my children to pick up on my neuroses.

I don’t want them to become afraid to explore the world around them simply because I am so afraid for them. I want to hide my fear from my children as much as possible so that they can grow to be secure, competent adults one day.

So, I try very hard to be as hands-off as I possibly can. I mean, I’m definitely not free-range, but I work to not be a helicopter parent either. I don’t let my son run completely free but I also don’t try to clear his path of every single thing he might trip on.

This isn’t my natural parenting style, but a conscious decision I have to make each and every day. I work at being “laid back,” which I’m pretty sure is one of the biggest contradictions in terms out there, but I hope this is what is best for my children in the long term.

I don’t know that this is the right decision, like with all things, I agonize over my own judgment. I can say that the book I’ve been reading for my moms group book club seems to support this parenting style*. I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, but I like the premise so far. As a parent, I want to strive to be a lighthouse–always there, always watching, always helping when it is needed, and not swooping in when it is not. I don’t know if I’m making the right call, but I think I’m doing the best job I can most days and I guess that’s all I can really expect of myself.

Other parents, how would you describe your parenting style? Would acting as a lighthouse work for your family? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

*yes, I’m aware you can find a book that supports ANY parenting style, but this one does happen to be endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and I tend to trust pediatricians. I’m also aware that no parenting style is appropriate for every family, because children are unique individuals with their own needs.

 

 

Getting rid of mom guilt…

So, one of my “homework” assignments at my last CBT session was to spend some time away from my family doing something for myself.

It’s not that being away from my family causes me anxiety–my husband is a fully capable, loving, wonderful parent. I know my kids are fine with him.

Being away from them does, however, cause me a fair amount of guilt and my therapist informs me that this is an OCD thing as well. (Of course it is. Seems I can’t have a single negative emotion that isn’t somehow tied to OCD, but that’s for another day…) As we’re trying to weed all of the OCD out of my life, this is something she wants me to deal with.

I don’t remember feeling all that guilty about doing things for myself before my son was born… but now it’s a fairly pervasive emotion that often prevents me from doing anything without my children in tow.

The first year of my son’s life, I had exactly ONE haircut. I saw exactly ONE movie.

Some people might hear this and think that I didn’t have a supportive partner in parenting–I did. (I do.)

…but for some reason I held myself to a different standard than I held him. It’s not that I think I’m a better parent, or that I fancy myself the martyr, but for some reason I can’t get the thought that taking care of our kids is my only job out of my head.

The thing about being stay-at-home parent is that home is your job, so you’re never really off duty– that is, you never feel like you’re off duty–or at least I don’t. When I had a career (teaching) I had real, tangible ways of determining my contributions to the world.

Now, I don’t.

If I let it, taking care of my family and our home could be a 24/7 job.

I don’t know where to draw the line.

I have always felt the need to contribute–moreover, to be able to prove that I contribute, and there isn’t a rubric for parenting. I won’t know if I’ve done enough to prepare my children for the world until they have grown (and by then it will have been too late) so I keep busy. I run my kids to lessons and activities, I pound caffeine at nap time so I can clean the house, I do one last load of dishes or laundry after they’ve gone to bed. My husband sits down and is present for our kids at the end of the night, whereas I have turned into some sort of mom/zombie. A mombie.

I feel guilty for wanting (needing?) time to recharge, time to myself, and I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because on top of working outside the home, my husband also helps with chores and is a phenomenal caretaker of our children, whereas all I do is take care of the kids and the house and I don’t also contribute financially. I don’t help with his job, so I shouldn’t be taking a break while he helps in mine.

I know this is ridiculous. They are his children too and he also lives/makes messes in our home. Refusing to delegate is robbing him of opportunities to be the awesome husband and father he really is–but I just can’t help it. I don’t feel like I deserve the break if he’s not taking one at the same exact time.

I know that my husband doesn’t see it the same way. He frequently encourages me to take care of myself and wouldn’t even flinch if I actually asked him to give me some time to myself, but I just can’t bring myself to ask him most times. So I’m kind of stuck. Trapped by my own guilt.

I need to work on that.

Not a Pinterest family…

So tonight, we had friends of ours over and it’s the most relaxed I’ve been in a social gathering in quite awhile…

I think it was because we had kids with us… and we were completely realistic about how messy that could make the gathering.

The two-year-olds melted down a few times, all of the kids interrupted us as we talked, and we just kept on rolling with it. No judgment, no frustration, no eye rolling when the kids acted like kids… it was great. I served a meal from a crock pot and let the kids run a little wild while I talked to an adult who was not my husband…and I was not anxious about doing that.

This is something that I’ve been missing lately: the chance to just be ourselves and not try to be perfect.

It was nice not to think about who we were presenting in this gathering. We were who we truly are–sometimes a little too loud, sometimes a little too crabby, always a little messy and imperfect, but altogether lovely. Finding another family that is exactly the same way and appreciates us is beyond amazing.

Something I struggle with as a person with OCD is the desire to be a little perfectionistic. Okay, a lot perfectionistic. I don’t like to do things if I can’t do them well, but when it comes to parenting, the images out there of the perfect family are just plain unrealistic. More than that, they’re just not worth striving for because a.) doing so is exhausting and b.) I’d rather sacrifice perfection than happiness.

It’s just a little hard to let go…

So tonight, I’m grateful that I was able to let go. At least a little bit and for a little while.

 

To the person waiting for my parking spot…

Dear person in the parking lot today,

Believe me, I saw you as I walked out of the gym. I know you saw me, because you started doing the creep along behind me as I walked to my space.

Did you happen to see the diaper bag slung over one shoulder and the gym bag over the other? The almost two-and-a-half year old hand in my left hand and the infant carrier nestled in the crook of my right arm?

I must have looked like a hot mess. A camel without the hump. Harried and hurried as I made my way through the drizzle.

Did you see me place the infant seat on the ground and drop both bags into a puddle as I tried to get my toddler safely into his seat?

Did you know that he likes to wander and run so I have to buckle him in to ensure his safety before I can do anything else? Did you know I was moving as fast as I possibly could have in an attempt to assuage the guilt I felt about letting my five-month-old sit in the cold?

I don’t know if you knew this, If you did, I don’t know that you cared, because as my back was turned to you, you honked.

I don’t know what you had going on in that moment. Maybe you were late for a class. Maybe you were meeting someone. Maybe someone had already been unkind to you this morning.

What I do know is that you honking only slowed me down.

Why?

Not because I’m vindictive–though there are times where I certainly have been–but because I have OCD and one of the things I’m obsessed with is my children’s safety.

When I say obsessed, I mean in the clinical sense.

I am so obsessed with their safety that I have, in fact, pulled off the road, gotten out, and re-checked car seats that they were strapped into only minutes before.

While I’m getting better at only checking them once, putting them into their car seats still causes me a fair amount of anxiety, because properly buckling them into their seats may be the difference between life and death. It doesn’t matter that it’s unlikely I’ll get into an accident, it doesn’t matter that I’ve safely buckled them and gotten them to our destination hundreds of times before. I am still nervous.

So please, in the future, be patient with me. I promise not to start going through my emails while you wait.

Love,

Kate

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, and of course I started reflecting on the Bill Murray movie. What would it be like to relive the same day over and over again?

…and the more I thought about it the more I realized I kind of already do.

Life with two under two-and-a-half is nothing if not repetitive. My day is fairly routine, filled with patterns of play activities, diaper changes, time outs, meals, chores, and snuggles.

It seems as though I am living my life in a loop.

I know this loop isn’t infinite.

I know this time is limited and precious.

…but I am living in a loop nonetheless.

…and there is a beauty in that.

Each and every day, I get the chance to be a better mother. I learn things one day that help me to better serve my family the next. These things are never game-changers, merely simple tweaks that make things go a little more smoothly.

I never do anything great–in fact, I never do anything big–but I do things with as much love as I can pour into them most days, and the simple monotony of my days is, in fact, a gift to my family.

It is a sense of calm and home for my husband. It is a sense of peace and security for my children.

I may not make any grand designs on the universe, but I know that my sacrifices are appreciated and felt by the ones dearest to me.

So, if you find yourself living in a similar loop, I challenge you to find a little thing each and every day that makes you a better person. Something that makes you just a little better at whatever your vocation in life may be.

You are making a difference in the world just by being. Make that difference work for good.