Friday, January 29, 2010

Does anyone know how it all gets done?

Does anyone know how it all gets done? This is a double entendre and I mean it both possible ways.

Can some one please tell me how to accomplish every I need to accomplish? There are so many things I "should" do in one day. I have no idea how any one person actually accomplishes these things. I mean just bathing alone is a half of a day's project. Its not just trying to find a spare moment where I can shower. Its not that easy. The three year old has no concept of her strength. She has to cut off all air supply to her younger sister when she hugs her or grabs her face with brute hands to kiss her. She means well and it has sweet intentions, but the execution is all wrong. The 11 month old thinks she's spider woman but she does not have her super powers. I almost feel like night showering is my only option. Long are the days when I didn't have slept on hair. Then, to bathe both girls in that same day just seems like an act in futility. I'm lucky each of us showers every other day. How do other mother's bathe themselves, their children and get anything else done in one? Do they ever have moment's rest or am I just not doing this right? Do they have time to talk to friends and do enough that they feel content at the end of the day? Is there not a direct connection between how you feel and the tidiness of your house?

How do I accomplish everyting I accomplish in one day? I do so much every day. I am able to complete more things now than ever before becoming a mother (especially a mother of two.) I cannot believe that on some days I can actually do a few loads of laundry, the dishes, cook, clean up after the girls, clean up after my husband, clean up after myself... Before motherhood, I had a whole different sense of accomplishment. I went to work and the house stayed relatively clean because we weren't home. I loathes laundry Saturdays. We would go the the laundromat and make a day of it- a whole day outing just for laundry. In the past, I would hate every minute of it, but now, laundry is not a luxury and somehow the old laundry concept has a rosy shade. A sense of freedom and liberation like I at one time had enough time on my hands that a day dedicated only to my husband and myself and laundry was feasible. I am amazed at all the things I now complete in one day. I can get 2 under the age of 3 out the door and to the store or a play date by 10am, come home and clean, make dinner, clean up, take a shower or bathe the girls. Each of these things are are minimized by mere words since just dressing two children is a minor miracle. Any mother can relate. I am so proud of what I get done in one day.

Does anyone know how it all gets done?

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm just along for the ride...

Three years ago right about now, my labor began with my first child. I didn't quite know it but those practice contractions were starting to move into "real" contraction and my journey was about to begin. I remember just wanting to meet her and hold her just to see what she looked like. Does she look like me? Is she as strong as she seemed while she was kicking my ribs? What did motherhood have in store? Hell, what did labor have in-store for me?

Nothing went as planned for me... she was a month early... born the Friday before my last Lamaze class. Labor pains weren't quite what I expected. I was able to go to sleep and wake up still wondering if I was in labor. There was no way to tell when one contraction ended and one began. How was I supposed to tell when I was supposed to go to the hospital? My water broke. I was by myself. My labor went from nothing to intense and I could actually feel her in my stomach. I drove myself to the hospital and delivered her shortly after arriving surrounded by coworkers (I worked in the hospital's HR at that time). I was too far a long for epidurals or any treatment, so, I had to deliver naturally. That was not apart of my plan!!!! She was supposed to be a February baby, my husband was supposed to be there and my coworkers were not supposed to know what my vagina looked like!

I didn't know it at the time, but this was the greatest introduction I could have had to motherhood. You can't control what's going to happen... you can only control how you react to it. No matter how you plan and prepare, something will happen that you could not plan for ahead of time. What "should" be is not what "will" be and that's OK. Even though my birth was not what I expected, it was my experience and I would not change it for the world. So when life starts making me feel like I'm trying to tame a wild horse, I just step back and remember, I'm just along for the ride....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Persistent Critic

There I was sitting in the Emergency Room's tiny pediatric waiting room with my 11 month old daughter. She fell and cut her lip...probably needs stitches and I'm holding steady. There's 2 other Mom's and their children both falls at school. My almost 3 year old daughter is doing her job and playing with the child size table and chairs in this small room. She's pushing and climbing and can't sit still. Trying to do everything and anything to keep them calm. Thankfully, my mother is there and we tag team the two of them. Oh look, there's hand sanitizer! You know how many germs have passed through this room and on these toys...Yuck! Come here girls... rub your hands! Then she speaks, "Did you hear about the little girl who was at preschool and ingested the hand sanitizer and became lethargic?" She strikes again... the critic!

She doesn't always look the same, but she sounds the same. She started coming around right after my first child was born. Since then she has let me know that she doesn't like babies ears pierced, she thinks my daughter's name is weird, she worries if I strapped my daughter into the shopping cart and whether or not I plan on reproducing any further. She always has my child's best interest in mind and always means well. She used to really bother me. I was so unsure of myself that I would let her get into my head. I would second guess my decisions... worry if I appeared to be a neglectful mother because I thought monitored use of hand sanitizer was OK.

Now I laugh and some times feel bad for she who needs to parent the world. Personally, I say... let her do it because I'm having a hard enough time raising my own children.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You want me to put that where????

Bumps and bruises and fevers and rashes.... a mother's role includes playing doctor to a myriad of ailments. Kids are germ-magnets. One virus rolls into another each one very different from the one before. Simple colds are not always so simple. Child viruses are so much worse than adult versions and everything you hold to be true for yourself... may or may not be true for you child. You are on a learning curve with your first child. You are always learning, always unsure and hoping it will all be OK. Yet as a rookie, you have to decide when to call the doctor, when not to call, is it a trip to the ER, should you vaccinate, WHAT IS THIS?????

To watch you child be injured or sick reveals another facet of your personality that you may not have known before that moment. How you think you will react may be in stark contrast to how you react. A relatively calm person can become hysterical in the face of a high fever or bloody injury on their child. This is a perfect description of me. Growing up, I broke bones, got stitches and had my mom on her toes. In natural progression, my children are keeping me on mine. I am only at the beginning of my journey yet, I have 2 ER visits under my belt, a dental emergency and countless trips to the doctor. Each "crisis" has taught me that my panic is based in my needs. My child needs me to be calm, assertive and confident that I will get the help she needs.

Its very different not being able to "just be." Before children, I could react however I felt: stomped my feet, screamed and yelled, cursed the world. As mother, however, I need to be self-controlled. I can feel the same emotions, but I have to manage how I displays it, so, they can learn to be confident in the face of crisis. Yet again, I look in the mirror and realize, I am not the child anymore.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just a quick trip to the store...no more

The sink is leaking. I need a new sprayer thing and since I am the mostly stay at home mom, it is my job to pick one up. This is easy... not! Its not the chore that is the problem. Its trying to accomplish it with young children. Every menial chore I used to take for granted has become a complex challenge I need to meet.

Trying to feed, dress, groom and brush the teeth of myself and 2 children, ages (almost) 3 and 11 months, takes most of the morning. I run one way; the 3 year old runs the other. I try to put on my shirt; the baby wants to be held. I say, "open your mouth." She refuses then, opens her mouth and I brush her teeth then, refuses to give up the tooth brush. I can't do my make-up except in the car because they want to play with my brushes and mascara... its easier to strap them in and give myself the minute before pulling out the driveway or go without it because anything that causes more stress has been slowly eliminated from my routine. There is no flat ironing my hair just a potential hazard for both children dancing around my legs. "Eat your breakfast!" "Sit down!" "Are you done?" "Don't throw the food on the floor." "No toys at the table." "Now you have bananas all over it." "Come here you need shoes." "Jacket." There isn't enough coffee in the world to prepare me for this.

Always running late. Always chaos. If I don't get out in the morning, we run into lunch time which is followed by nap time. I refuse to interrupt nap time because no nap may be good for the schedule but horrible for the sanity. Nobody (except those with toddlers) understand why you are only available in the mid-morning for a few hours... its because those are the good hours. The hours that cause you the least amount of stress. The moments when the girls are best behaved. No longer is it just running out of the house for a minute or just a quick stop at the store. You need to pull both out of their car seat and put both in the shopping cart. Only a seat for one... the other cannot walk... I guess that's what the basket is for... screw the warning...LOL

I know one day I will miss all this noise. Once day, the quiet will be as deafening as this noise is, but for today, I pray for a moment's peace and a quick trip to the store.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Human Animal

Participating in the whole reproductive process has changed the way I perceive myself. I mean how can you not get in touch with the "human animal" when your body has created, birthed and sustained life. It is a enormous process which we have given such a wealth of meaning, yet, it is also the one thing we share with the creatures that surround us. Humans tend to separate themselves from other animals as if we are superior, however after milking myself, I cannot deny my sisterhood with the dairy cow.

There is something so primal about looking into the eyes of your newborn child. They are so small, so fledgling. A newborn is vulnerable, but has great will to live. She can communicate immediately when she is uncomfortable or hungry. When you remove all voluntary movement as you see in a newborn, you really see the essential human. This sight brings on a surge of emotion, the maternal instinct: the raw part of you that wants to protect, feed and nurture your child. These emotions may also be combined with fear, anxiety and nausea due to the gravity of that responsibility, however, you realize in yet another way how you are part of a process that began before you and will continue well after you.

Young children remind us of the baby gorillas in the zoo which is why both my children were nicknamed "monkey". Exploring the world, making everything a toy, hanging onto their mama, and just as we are, mama is right there to protect her child from the bad things to which she is blissfully unaware. The mother gorilla appears strong and cares tenderly for her young. I identify with her image and feel an animal connection in our shared experience as mothers. I also empathize that she can't hide her floppy boobs with a good bra.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sleep, elusive sleep

Life is so starkly different after having a child that parents have clear recollections of things they "took for granted" before and feel overwhelming compulsions to share it with expecting parents. I, myself, have been guilty of this. The one I heard most often was, "get some sleep now because you'll never sleep again." Now being the lover I sleep I am, I did take their advice and rested as often as I wanted during my pregnancy and made sure I was well-rested every night especially in the end just in case this was the night. I knew and believed that there would be changes in my sleep, but never did I fathom how much my relationship with sleep would change.

Infants sleep whenever they please. You may be under the false impression that you can create a schedule. Infants sleep every few hours and if your lucky, those hours will coincide with "normal" sleeping hours. They decide when they sleep not you. Your introduction to this new sleep pattern is like being dropped into ice water... it quite a shock to the system, you might get used to the change in temperature over time, but your body will not be as effective because the change put you in survival mode. Your emotions become heightened, you can't seem to remember the littlest task, you literally feel yourself going insane... now, add in the home and parenting responsibilities you must juggle all the while not seeming utterly insane to the outside world.

No wonder most mother's have a uniform of sweat pants and hair in a constant pony tail. We do not have the mental energy to pick out an outfit or set our hair besides its only a matter of time before someone with ketchup hands decides to hug me or vomit on me. So, when I hear a childless person say, I stayed in bed all day... I can't help myself, but to say, "enjoy it now because one day, you'll miss it."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Can the real two year old please stand up?

As I'm folding clothes, we're singing, "Old MacDonald." She's running around, going from one toy to the next while watching what I do. Once in while she comes over to help, pulls a shirt out of the hamper, rolling it around but putting them back. I am getting excited by the growing pile of neatly folded shirts... "wow," I think, " I'm accomplishing something!" Out of the corner of my eye, she moves so fast, I barely can process what is happening, my child pulls the entire pile of folded clothes down for like the millionth time in her short lifetime in an effort to "help" Mama fold Dada's shirts. SILENCE.

There I stand face to face with my child. My eyes are narrowed, my blood pressure is high and my face is clearly agitated. I stomp my feet and scream, "No, no, no! I just folded that... I hate folding clothes, I can't believe I have to do it all again. I hate double work. You always make me do double work. That was naughty, naughty, naughty," all the while wagging my finger at her. She looks at me, the giggling subsides as she realizes my fury. Her face freezes and all of her energy is on thought... she then holds up her finger, wags it back & forth stomps her feet and with the most angelic of smiles and sings, "Naughty, naughty, naughty, no help Mama."

She was making fun of me. I was totally having a tantrum~ no different from the many she has thrown. I wanted control in an uncontrollable situation. She had no clue that she wasn't helping me by throwing the clothes on the floor and crumpling them. That's what she thinks I do. She doesn't understand how jealous I am of her carefree existence (lol) while I have to do these chores. She has no clue that this is my most hated chore. In that moment, I am not an understanding rationale adult who is trying to teach a lesson... I am a 2 year old upset I did not get my way...

This was not the first time nor the last time there was a battle of the 2 year old wills. I try to remember I am the adult. Before my grandmother passed, she told me, "never make it a battle of wills, they'll always win; outsmart them." I realize now what she meant was if you fight a 2 year trying to act like a 2 year old, the 2 year old wins. However, outsmarting them isn't very easy... its not easy being the mature one.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Pet Demotion

Everywhere I went, my dogs would come with me. They would stick their heads out my back windows while drool splatted on my windows and exterior. The hair they shed formed a sheet over my back seat. They were my babies. I bought the most expensive foods and gushed on them daily. When I heard my closest friend curse her pets, I would laugh at her and tell her to relax. She would say, "Wait until you have kids." I would think to myself, "NO WAY!, I'm not like her. I love my dogs. Nothing will ever change the way I feel about my dogs." I had 2 cats, 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 parakeets and a Rabbit. I loved my animals... there was no way a baby would change that fact.

Shortly after we brought my daughter home from the hospital, I became super aware of how everything in my home was covered in hair. I could see each strand floating in the air dancing in the beams of sunshine pouring into the house. Dust appeared in the corners of my house, on my walls and hanging from the ceiling fan. It was always there, but now, now it is all I could see. The noise of the birds which used to settle me and ma ke me happy, now, grate at my nerves due to the lack of sleep and I just want a little peace just a moment of quiet! The dogs, which were large breed dogs, seemed to grow a million pounds and the house seemed to shrink in size. They were every where I didn't want them to be exactly when I didn't want them to be there. I cleaned, everything returned...

Caring for children is exhausting. There is no break... you need no additional duties, but yet you need to care for the animals too. Remembering to feed them actually becomes a challenge. The once daily walks or quality time turns into a nod in their direction. You resent them for all the extra work they bring to you... they become the reason you need to at least vacuum once a day~ the source of extra vomit, urine and stool. The animals you once kissed and loved maybe even dressed up and took everywhere become time and energy consumers who remind you with their pathetic eyes that you are not the same friend you once were. The friend you would like to be,
but just are not capable. Things have changed. Instead of judging others, you understand.

My oldest child smiled at our dogs before she smiled at her parents and even "talked" to the cats earning the nickname, "the Cat Whisperer" before her first word. Our pets enrich their lives, however, my friend was right... the relationship is not quite the same. I curse at them daily.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Legacy of Motherhood

Before motherhood, I never gave much thought to life... the larger picture... the historical significance of motherhood and family. My parents were once as clueless as I am and my grandparents and every preceding generation.

I often find myself looking at my children and thinking, "Wow! I'm a Mom!" Each time it sinks deeper and deeper into my bones. Deeper and deeper into my identity, my sense of self. As it does, I am finally able to see through the eyes of those who came before me. Memories of baking cookies with my grandmother no longer seem like just a good time, but also gain rich meaning. We were making not just memories, but lessons in who she was and how my mother came to be who she is and how that has trickled down to me. My actions gain historical significance and importance. I will pass to my children the values of our family... the strength of the women before her... the women who shaped me.

No longer do I perceived myself as an island, but as a important link in the people who walked this earth paving the way for me and how I will pave the way for my children and the children they will raise. It is through our children that we will live forever just as those who came before us live through us.

Your parents do not seem so far removed, you realize your mother and father were some one's child. A child who had to navigate life just as you, who had to bear the weight of their own crosses and did the best they were capable of doing. You hope to learn from their mistakes, but realize the humanity in those mistakes. The paradigm had shifted... you are the parent, they are now grandparents and you begin to recognize your significance in the circle of life. My role of mother has helped me to find part of the meaning of life, my life. Just as I am part of the legacy handed down to my parents, my children are the key to my impact on this world, my legacy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The default setting

Just as you expect the sun to rise at dawn, there are inherent expectations of a mother.

The day after my first birth my midwife told my husband that this was going to be an emotional transition for me. She wisely said that I may grow to resent all the changes in my life and that his routine will stay relatively the same. At the time, he seemed to understand the dynamic... I thought...nah! & here I am.

Her words ring so much clearer to me now than they did in the haze following child birth and I think of them often. I am the default caretaker... the one who hides in the bathroom praying for peace. The one who works all day but yet, accomplishes nothing.

Nobody recognizes that most days there is some laundry done, the kids are changed, the dinner is cooked, the myriad of toys that once laid on the floor are picked up, but of course, new toys or even the same toys are strewn across the floor. Some days no chores are accomplished because because one of them is teething or has entered the new milestone of separation anxiety. Showers become luxuries yet, if asked what I did today... showering just doesn't receive the accolade it truly deserves. How can I articulate this stress to him. He has never had to accomplish any task while caring for his children. He actually believes you can actually be on the computer all day while home with the kids.

The moment he walks through the door. Mommy needs a moment to regroup from the day, and at the same time, he needs to "unwind" from the day as well. It becomes a challenge over who deserves a minute of peace. If he is tired, he naps. If he wants a few hours in the morning, he takes it. I am the one who rises at the crack of dawn with two children who happen to not understand mommy is not a morning person. If he needs to get something done, he does it, but if I need something done, I need to coordinate it with his schedule. We're not talking about sitting on FB or writing this blog, but cleaning up after dinner. Men seem to have the freedom at will and woman are assumed to be the primary caregivers whose every job includes the addendum of caring for the brood.

"I worked all day for you. I just want a moment." So, do I. "I would love to stay home and play with kids all day," to any other mother this is laughable. Even as I write this I have one child on my back wondering what I'm doing and the other begging to be held and I am somehow doing it all, but yet, to some people nothing. There's no merit raises, paid time off or promotions. If you fulfill you job duties as a mother, you are doing your job. You can never excel because you are expected to be great. We are left to always perceived as being able to do more, unacknowledged for what we do and told how lucky we are to be in this role. So here in lies the perplexity of the job. The job of mother is inextricably tied to our identity and therefore, we ourselves are always struggling for recognition for a job that's taken for granted.

My husband is a superbly compassionate man who is a great father and wonderful husband. His perspective is quite valid. We both are struggling for a moment off from 24 hour a day jobs. I can only imagine how drastic this dynamic could become with a less compassionate man, but this is also proof of a new dynamic that parenthood brings in otherwise healthy marriages. However, as my husband walks in tonight and wonders what I did, I am going to take solace in the fact that I did what I could and did my job the best I could.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The neverending quest for the clean house

Before motherhood, I understood that there were forces out of my control, however, there were so many things within my control, I was comfortable enough. Take a drive, go to the store, work hard, barely work... all choices. Now, I am on 24 hours a day, no choice, no break. Whether or not I am physically moving, I am constantly monitoring making sure they are safe, hoping for them to be content long enough to accomplish something, but knowing that no matter how hard I work the list of "things to do" never gets any shorter. For as I am crossing the items off, they are being added on at equal pace. While I clean, I can see the hurricane approaching... feel the tailwinds tickle my back, laughing at me. I scrub the floor then, spill the milk... I do not cry, but now, I just added to the laundry. The laundry that never ends that piles up and never goes away.

At first, I tried to make the forces succumb to my will. I screamed and yelled and would frustrate myself thinking that I could succeed. I would look around and every mother seemed to have a cleaner house... other mothers seemed to have it under control. Why didn't I? I live in the shame that some one might see the way I live and wonder what I do all day. My friends would say... I feel the same, but did they really?

The more I cleaned the house, the more guilt I harbored. I was not only a failed housekeeper, but an inattentive mother since I spent more time trying to keep them busy then, enjoying their precious moments. I get frustrated when they want to be held because I can't get as much done with one arm. I hope they fall asleep so, I can accomplish something just to say, "look what I did today," but then I missed out on time with the girls. They will never be this little ever again. I realize I need to accept that what clean will mean right now HAS to be different than what clean meant to me before. That I am a good mother even if I am not my child's perpetual play mate. But, where is the balance inside me? Where will I sit comfortably? Is there a perfect individual balance? Will I ever find it?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The days are long, but the years are short.

I swear I was pregnant for the first time yesterday. Yet, here I am listening to the heavy breathing daughters I birthed. So, this story does not start in the beginning rather it start "near the beginning." Its almost my 3 year anniversary of being a mom and soon after, my one year anniversary of being a mother of two.

I remember from the moment I gave birth always feeling like I was always one step behind. Just when I was mastering how to handle the latest milestone, she would move to the next. Getting frustrated during times I knew I should be joyous. Learning that you can always be a better mother, so, technically, you can never be perfect. (That was one of the first times I had to face up to being a perfectionist in essence).

Just when I regained a sense of control, my oldest hits her terrible twos and my second is born. Wow, for me, the transition to 2 has been insane. I thought I was one step behind before, now, I am 2 steps behind on 2 different stair cases at the same time. Each day ends with me tired, mentally drained but I also got to bear witness to beautiful moments. Each milestone is to be savored, but with the speed of motherhood you need to remember to take that time or it flies by like lightening. I realized that time is moving so fast and I am so focused on my kids... I lose sight of myself.

Allowing myself to expend energy on myself makes me a good mother. In order to now how to be the best Mom for my kids I need to know who I am, what I value, what life I want for them and what type of mom am I. Floating on water is never as fun as swimming... why should I settle for passive living?

Welcome 2010!

As the new year approaches, the theme of life becomes change... How have you changed? Is this the change you want? What do you want to change? Do you resolve to be a better person? What does that mean?

Enter stage right, the person who once knew exactly who she was, but then lost herself. So long ago that it almost feels like a distant memory. She reflects on herself and reflects on the memory of her. The child she once was not the woman she is.

Who am I?
I'm a wife and mother to two beautiful little girls. I may still feel like a young girl, but the mirror reflects a woman in her early thirties and the constant calls of Mom remind me that I'm a child any longer. I'm the Mom now. The roles have shifted. I'm not the mom I imagined I'd be when I was younger. I thought I would be a natural that when my child was born and I would have all the patience in the world, know how to be all loving and knowing and it would just be. However, I realize for me being a Mom is a work in progress. Each day, I learn a little more about myself and each day I try to take the opportunity for change. Most days the quest for change prolongs overs months...years making me feel even more inadequate that I can never make tomorrow arrive. Being a mother is wonderful, but it forever changes my perception and it has been quite a journey not just negotiating this new role, but the challenges this new role has brought to my identity.

Motherhood makes you face your fears, your insecurities, it doesn't allow you to be selfish yet, it requires a firm sense of self. How do you balance who you are with who you need to be with who you want to be? If you are not satisfied and cannot find satisfaction, how do you raise your children to find that same satisfaction that you wish for them? This is my quest... for truth... MY TRUTH, so my daughters will be able to embrace theirs.