The Balancing Act

Being a stay at home mom, I feel like I really should have it together all the time. But I don’t. It’s not even close. As a matter of fact, I am a mess. Everything is a mess.

We moved into our home last August. It happens to be literally three times the size of our old place, so obviously it has taken me some time to get used to all the space, and all the cleaning. There was an initial overwhelming feeling about it all, but I’ve settled in and it is getting easier. It started with a frantic unpacking of things and once that was done, it was the organization of things. And now it’s down to cleaning.

Oh, God. The cleaning. Four bathrooms. Four toilets to clean. Think about that people. It’s like I’m spending half my day with a scrub brush and some Lysol in hand. I’m not saying that this house is palatial or anything, but it is a big adjustment to what we were in. And also, I don’t want to hear you say how lucky I am to have this great house, because I KNOW that. This is not about me whining that I have such a difficult life. I don’t, I know that. My demons are all living inside my head and I’m trying to find my way out. Except for the demons who constantly spill the cheerios and add to the laundry pile. Those demons are here to stay.

I finally got around to making a daily checklist of things that I need to do on a very regular basis to maintain this place and my sanity. I also made weekly and monthly lists. I color coded them. I printed them on pretty paper. I am SO good at making lists, and PRETTY good at following them. I really thought that this would be the solution to the anxiety I feel, and the despair that what I do doesn’t make a difference. I thought that a checklist would give me a sense of accomplishment, and I’d feel great at the end of the day looking at all I had done.

But I don’t. I am in this rut where I am completely sad. I walk around the (clean) house and I don’t feel like I’ve done anything. I look at my children, and if I have time to ponder for a moment before they’re whining for snacks or coloring the furniture with a red sharpie, I think about how the hugs I give are somehow never long enough and the activities we do are never fun enough. They’re just like the house: when they were infants, it was the frantic survival mode, then it was figuring out a routine, and now it’s a lot easier, but I struggle to maintain a consistent balance with them. Or at least I think I do. I’m always wondering if they’re watching too much TV (they are), or eating enough vegetables (they’re not). And even if I have a great day where I think I’ve got it all figured out, there’s still some sadness.

If you’ve read this far, you’re going to want to tell me to take care of myself and I’ll feel better. I agree with you. I’ve been doing that-I got the highlights I’ve wanted for years. But did you know that you still have to wash and style your hair even after it is the right color?! Exhausting. I also exercise. But I just found out in a “helpful” book that if I want to count my walking as exercise I need to do it for 90 minutes. Even with back to back episodes of Pretty Little Liars, I can’t handle 90 minutes. But this is ridiculous. It seems that no matter how much I try, I can’t find that balance that I am seeking. My skin can’t even find it. Somehow, at 34, I’m breaking out and getting wrinkles. Bring on the Clearasil, friends.

As I write, I know there are more of you out there who are unbalanced like me. As a writer, I’m encouraged to find purpose in the words I put on paper. I’m hoping we can help each other. I am hoping we can find balance together, whether it be within our homes, in raising our children, or in our skin care regimen. I truly believe balance is out there and I will continue to search for it.944304_10151708788956383_976372895_n

How to Escape Parenting Loneliness

No one tells you when you have a baby that your circle of friends might change. It might grow or shrink, but regardless of how it morphs, it comes as a surprise. There are several people with whom I spent my childless evenings and weekends who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. There are also people who swoop in and become your saviors, bearing coffee and an extra set of arms. But after the infant stage is over, you can bet that at some point the loneliness is going to set in-that is, until you find your “people”.

My baby just turned two yesterday. First of all, I can’t believe it has been two years since she came into this world. Second, I am blessed for so many reasons to have her in my life. It was definitely a day to celebrate. We had a small party for her-some of her preschool friends were there, and since they can’t drive yet, their parents came too. Just kidding. The fact of the matter is that not only does Ella have some awesome little pals, but her friends’ parents are also amazing people.

These fellow parents are people I see all the time. We chat at preschool drop off and pick up, we all go to the gym at the same time, we run into each other at the coffee shop and the bank, and there is always a play date at the playground in case we haven’t had enough of each other.

These are the people who will ask if you’ve got an extra diaper in your bag because they forgot a spare. They’re the ones who will wipe your kid’s nose if you have your hands full. Somebody needs a snack? One of us always has enough goldfish crackers to go around. Nobody ever had to sit down and say, “OK, which one of us will always have baby wipes?”, or “Someone needs to be really good at teaching the kids to share.” It just happened. When they say it takes a village, that’s no joke. But what they don’t say is where you find that village, or how those people come together.

You find that out one day as you and a fellow parent are sitting at the gym lacing up your sneakers that she, too, is perplexed by the severity of temper tantrums that her three year old has. Or maybe, you take a poll from these moms and dads to see who else lets their two year old use a pacifier. Of course, you find out it’s not just you. At some point, it comes up among a few of you how lonely staying at home can be, even if pint-sized people are yelling your name all day long and you can’t even pee by yourself. Then you laugh so hard you cry and maybe pee your pants a little because one of your fellow comrades reenacts her child’s outrage at losing one raisin on the floor of the car. After that, you head back to your minivan with a little spring in your step and a smile on your face. The point is, once you can come to terms with the reality that parenting is messy and imperfect, you open yourself up to other parents who have come to the same realization. You will fill in each other’s gaps. Together, you will make this big world safe for your little kids.

So, when you get that lonely twinge-and you will; take a minute to look around at the other parents of children that your kids interact with. I promise that no matter what any Facebook meme says, they’re not judging you. They’re looking for you. Look back. Smile. Share some goldfish crackers. Laugh when your kid eats hers off the playground asphalt. And with that, simply by being real and imperfect, and embracing the imperfection that is parenting, the path to friendship will be formed.

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because sometimes you need someone else to read to your kid…even if it’s a book about a farting dog.

The Terrible Issue of Mom Guilt

Mom Guilt. You simply can’t win. Even with the utmost preparedness, this heart-wrenching feeling will creep into your soul very early on in parenthood. I hear it stays FOREVER. I am not a perfectionist, and I knew going into this parenting thing that I was going to do my best but that my best would, with all certainty, not always be enough. And that’s kind of odd because I am literally the only mother my children have. It’s not like I can compare myself to someone else. I’m the only one.

Something about motherhood causes us to look in on ourselves from a not very clear perspective and scrutinize every single thing we do. Let me take that back. Sometimes we are too tired to think that hard and then we feel guilty for not having the energy of Mary Poppins, which starts the cycle of feeling that we’re falling short all over again.

Today, our family definitely had a case of the Mondays. Upon waking, Harrison managed to wet two different beds within fifteen minutes. Who on earth has that much pee? He crawled into our bed at an hour way too early to warrant getting up and snuggled his little body right up to mine. The only reason I didn’t send him straight back to bed was because he was being quiet which is no small feat for my kid. All of a sudden, after I had just about drifted back to sleep, the whine came. “My paaaaannnnttsss are wet!”

Shooting up like a rocket, I jumped out of the bed, and shooed Harrison out immediately. Because, you know, it was THE ONE DAY that I had the waterproof mattress cover in the dryer. He stood there, soaked in pee, whining at his embarrassment and discomfort while I hurriedly took the sheets off the bed.

Luckily, my cat-like reflexes prevented any pee from getting on our new mattress. No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong.

I had sent Harrison up to get new clothes, and somehow this meant to him that he should wrap his pee-soaked self up in HIS blankets and pee AGAIN on HIS bed. Upon tearing off those sheets I realized that his mattress was done for. (No, I did not have a mattress pad on there, critical people of the internet; it melted in the dryer the last time I washed it. I am seeing that my track record with mattress pads is not very good.)

After haphazardly bathing him, I demanded that he get clothes, and hastily moved on to the rest of my morning routine, which, as I said before, had started much earlier than I usually like. I hadn’t had much time to reflect on the whole pee situation because it all happened so fast.

It dawned on me about fifteen minutes later that Harrison was still in his room. I could hear his little voice up there talking, so I assumed that he was playing with his toys, and keeping a safe distance from his not-so-impressed mommy. It wasn’t until he yelled down, “Mama! Can I come down now?” that I realized he thought he was being punished with time out, and that was why he had stayed up there so long.

He came down the stairs, fully dressed and gave me a hug. “I’m sorry for making a mess, Mama. Sometimes accidents happen.”

And then, my heart melted into a little puddle on the living room floor. He was right; sometimes accidents DO happen. And, he is THREE. That means his frequency of accidents (in all forms, mind you) is probably going to be quite high. I looked at my boy, wearing his pants on backwards, but so proud that he put them on himself, and I realized how gently I need to tread on this subject.

In no way do I want to shame my son for having an accident. But it frustrates the living daylights out of me that he didn’t follow the morning rules, which are to get up and pee and then wait for the alarm to go on before coming downstairs. I had no intention of giving him a time-out either. He just assumed that was next on the roster. Although my emotions consisted purely of guilt that he perceived that I was so angry, the truth was that I wasn’t really angry. What I feel sad about is that I made him feel that way.

About ten moms at preschool informed me that my child had his pants on backwards. Each time, I responded proudly, “Yes, they are. But he put them on himself.” And then I walked away. Perhaps, if that morning hadn’t been decorated with other toddler crises, I might have been more diligent in getting my boy to learn to put his clothes on correctly. Letting him go to school proudly and independently dressed was my way of telling my son that he was doing a great job at being three. It was also my hope that he’d understand that sometimes mommies make mistakes too-in the way we express ourselves to our littles.

Today, the guilt was from how I reacted towards my son over a bathroom related accident. Yesterday, it was probably over not giving my children enough vegetables at meal times. Tomorrow, it’s going to be something I didn’t even know I could feel guilty about. I know it’s not going to end, but I do know that even though this mom guilt is painful and often detrimental to our self perceptions, we can use these times to learn and grow. If you get to the point where you feel like you aren’t doing something right, take a step back and look at your kid. Backwards pants? Shoes on the wrong feet? No haircut in recent history? Imbalanced diet? Maybe. But catch that smile on his face, and you’ll feel a little better. You’re doing a lot of things right. 10445590_10153000133216383_6505831723216859207_n

Unconditional.

I might lose my mind. I have been stranded in a torrent of temper tantrums from one kid and unintelligible demands from the other one. Harrison has been sick so everything is wrong, all the time. Ella has discovered that words get her what she wants, but she doesn’t know enough words to actually ask for anything. Therefore, she just yells, “Maaaammmeeee” at the top of her lungs and points to things. This leaves me feeling like I can do nothing right because I have two children screaming at two different octaves all.day.long.

I think the hardest part with Ella is that she can’t exactly HAVE everything she wants. It must be so frustrating to think you’re doing all the right things to ask for what you want, only to be told, “No”.
No, you may not have that glass full of water on the table.

No, you may not have a third bottle of milk.

No, you may not have Mommy’s necklace, right off of her neck.

No, you may not take your brother’s blanket.

No, you may not jump on the bed.

Harrison’s temper tantrums have escalated to new heights. As I heard the last one take off, I feared that either: A) Aliens had come to abduct him and take him to their mother ship, or B) He had become possessed and it was time to call the neighborhood exorcist. I honestly didn’t know how much more I could take.

And then I found out. It was nap time. It was waaay past nap time. He wanted me to lay down with him, but that wasn’t good enough. He wanted me to remake his bed. But then he unmade it. He wanted me to get him more water. But it wasn’t cold enough. And all the while, he was whining this obnoxious, intolerable whine that I have been listening to for SOO long now. And I snapped.
Right in his face, there in his little Lightning McQueen bed, I screamed in a voice I don’t recognize, “STOP IT. STOP THE WHINING. CUT IT OUT.” I could taste his breath. I could feel his skin. I was that close and I was that loud.

He didn’t stop. The whining continued. I tried to leave, but he kept going on and on. I was afraid he’d wake his sister, so I lay back down and told him he had one more chance before I left the room again.

I watched him then. I was overwhelmed with guilt at yelling at him. I watched him suck water from his sippy cup. I watched his extra long eyelashes slow their blinks. They reminded me of a duck’s beak, opening and closing, slower and slower, eventually satiated from their hunger. I looked at his doughy wrists, and his dimpled hands rubbing his security blanket. Tucked into my body was his knobby little shoulder, a little too scrawny after a week’s worth of sickness.

“I’m sorry for yelling at you, baby,” I whispered to him.

“That’s ok Mommy. But when did you yell at me? You didn’t yell at me.”

Had he forgotten? It had been but minutes before that I was at my wit’s end, screaming at him to stop screaming. Or did he just not remember? Or, did he just…not care?

As I watched his ice blue irises slip behind his inky eyelashes into a deep sleep, I saw it. I saw the attachment. I saw the love. I saw the infinite connection that my baby and I had to one another. I may get angry. He may cause me to lose my mind. But my boy taught me a lesson in his dismissive nature when I just couldn’t handle his irrationality any more. He barely recognized my falter. I was still there. I was still snuggling. I hadn’t left his side. And, apparently, that’s all he needed. For now.