Tag Archives: motherhood

The Road Back to Me: Becoming a Working Mom

10 May

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It started as an experiment. When I was pregnant, I decided to try out being a stay at home mother, citing my job’s lack of maternity leave and my lack of passion for my job as the main reasons. I never pictured myself staying home with a baby, but I also never pictured myself as a working mom. Secretly I hoped that I would be one of those women who always self-identified as “not a kid person,” then had a baby and found her true calling, her life’s greatest joy.

That’s not the way it happened for me.

Instead, I battled what I see now was probably postpartum depression and anxiety. I was lonely, crazed, scared, and bored out of my mind. I was simultaneously in love with my new baby and wishing I could let the stroller just keep going down the hill and walk off in the other direction, picking up my old life where I left off.

Once the baby got older, smiled, crawled, laughed, played, things were more interesting, more fun, but still the mind-numbing boredom and crippling isolation were the dominant feelings of my day. Once she started to become a toddler, more active and more mischievous, anger came alongside those feelings, “mom rage” that welled up when my patience had grown thin and my Type A personality couldn’t deal with one more curveball, or how executing a trip to the post office felt like a military mission.

My spiritual director, who’s known me longer than my own husband has, pointed out that I was not receiving what basically amounts to vital nourishment for my self–time to be quiet, to think, to read, to stare out at nature. “You’re starving,” she said. I felt like a shell of myself, and remember one time, when my daughter was about six months old, trying to explain it to my husband: “Joy is gone,” I said. “She’s just not here anymore.”

But motherhood is a mixed bag, complex if nothing else. My attachment to my baby was strong, and even though I longed to go “back” to work (though this would mean finding a new job), I literally could not imagine what it would look like to be her mother but not be with her 95 percent of the time.

An ideal job floated my way around my daughter’s first birthday, and even while I hoped so much that I’d get the position, not believing how well suited I was for it, it was for me, I still half-hoped I wouldn’t get it, too. It would be such a massive shifting of gears I feared I (or my daughter) would be crushed in the process.

Cut to three months in at my new job. As I walked to (a quiet, solo) lunch today, I felt overwhelmed with what a gift it’s been to be working again, to be writing and editing for a living, to have my words and ideas and very self matter again, completely outside of the context of motherhood.

Our sweet nanny suddenly resigned two weeks ago, due to an injury, and I found myself scrambling to cover child care, stuck without any usable sick days since I’m still in the probationary period at work. This was one of my fears, when I considered shifting to a two-working-parent household, that there would be frantic scrambling, jimmy-rigged care for my daughter, a chaotic environment for her and near-constant work for me. The constant work part is true; these days I’m adulting about 99 percent of the time, and the days feel so long it’s mind boggling, but still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My daughter is still happy and thriving, and now I’m on my way to being happy and thriving as well. I’m on my way back to Joy.

To My Daughter, On Your First Birthday

4 Jan

 

zadie1Dear Zadie,

A year ago today I’d already been in labor with you for 24 hours. Nothing was going as I’d hoped it would. We were in a hospital, not a birth center. After 24 hours of laboring with no medication, I’d succumbed to an epidural. And then, in the late afternoon on January 4, after trying to push you out for 3 hours and you keeping your head at the wrong angle for 3 hours, I was wheeled into an operating room for a c-section. Your dad saw you first–your tongue was sticking out ( you still do that), but his first words were, “She’s so pretty!” You really were. You were a beautiful newborn, and so strong, and acted like you knew what you were doing from the beginning. Breastfeeding? No problem. Sleeping long stretches between feeds? No sweat. You were what the books call an “angel baby.”

Angel or no, I’ve never been a baby person. And, unlike you, I didn’t know what I was doing. So as my body tried to recover from that marathon labor and then the c-section, I tried to figure out how to take care of you.

It’s true that most of it is instinct. It didn’t take long to get the hang of diapering, even though I’d only changed one diaper before! It didn’t take long to figure out nursing, or how to tie you snugly onto my chest with a wrap. But it took a really long time to adjust to the fact that this was my life now—that my life was about you, instead of me.

When I think back to those days, I remember a lot of long, lonely days in our house in Denver, pushing you in a stroller through our snowy neighborhood, all bundled up so I could only see your nose and eyes. I think of sitting next to you on your activity mat, once you were a little older, and being bored out of my mind. I couldn’t wait till you were an older baby, moving and playing and babbling. I imagined making it to your first birthday, and how I would feel totally adjusted to my new normal of being a mother, and I would be confident in my parenting—I would know what I was doing.

It’s like your first birthday was this finish line that I was running toward, and I pictured myself getting to the end of it and collapsing in a heap, crying tears of joy and relief, like someone who just finished running 100 miles in the desert. But of course, your first birthday is not the finish line. Parenting will change as you change, but I will always be your mother, and for the next several years I will still be responsible for pretty much everything about your existence. I’m still getting used to this idea, this “new normal” a year later, as embarrassing as that is to admit. I wish today was a finish line, where I’d get to hobble off and have my blisters tended to, and get a massage, and eat a great meal followed by 12 hours of sleep in a cushy hotel bed. I’ve been waiting for my chance to recover, to rest, but the cruel fact of motherhood is that rest looks different now. Rest looks like getting to sleep in till 7:30 on a weekend because your dad gets up to feed you. It looks like lighting a candle and making a cup of tea in the evening, after you’re in bed. It’s not enough, but it’s something.

I guess if you ever read this, you’ll be old enough by then to know that I’m not very good at hiding my true thoughts. Other people are good at putting on a brave face and faking it till they make it, but not me. So this is the only way I know how to write you a birthday letter, to include the fact that I feel like a failure as a mother sometimes.

However, while your birthday does have me reflecting on the traumatic first few months of my experience as a mother, it also has me reflecting on all the beautiful moments we’ve shared together. Your first birthday is the official Beginning of the End of your babyhood, and for that my heart breaks, which is a testament to how truly, indescribably special and lovable you are, that you have a mother who has never really liked being around babies mourning the fact that you will soon no longer be one.

This is such a magical age, where you astonish me every day with something new that you’re doing. You just started walking last week, and it’s so much fun to see you staggering around like a tiny drunk pirate as you try out your new skill. You love to have me carry you around while you point to things and say, “dat!” so I take you to them, like you’re a queen and I’m your slave. You get really punchy sometimes and shake your head for no reason, and you have this wonderful dance where you rotate your torso and hold your arms out stiffly and clap in an off-beat sort of way.

You love to have us read to you, and lately you’ve been very into this “Baby’s First 100 Words” book, which is many pages filled with many simple photographs accompanied by their names, like a frog, a tree, a goat, a hat, a truck. As I point to each item and say its name, you study the page with a furrowed brow, looking for all the world like you’re studying for the bar exam. You love to play spontaneous games of peekaboo with strangers at coffee shops, ducking behind something and then popping up (!) again, with a huge smile on your face.

You’re like your dad in some ways; fairly content to do things on your own, but not a loner. You are super playful and get this very mischievous look on your face when you’re going to do something you think is funny. You like trying to place objects on my shoulder, my head, my face, my shirt, to see if they’ll stay there. You love squeezing stuffed animals as hard as you can, and have taken to carrying around a stuffed dog that’s about the size of your torso, even though it severely impedes your limited walking ability, so you basically use it as a crash pad. You love hanging out with other kids, and you often cry when we come to pick you up from the church nursery because you don’t want to leave.

Most of your tantrums involve food, and I must admit you get your hangry tendencies from me. Right now pears, clementines and club crackers are your favorites, but you also love the ube (sweet potato) scone we get at our favorite coffee shop—once when I pulled it out of the bag, upon seeing the scone you squealed, “Mommy!” excitedly. But you still don’t call me mama, which feels ironic and awful but I know better not to take it personally, even though you’ve been calling your dad, Dad, for a long time now. You’re starting to babble in earnest, as if you really are talking about all sorts of things, and it makes me so excited to hear you say more words (other than “ball,” “bye,” “dad,” and “up, up, up!”).

I’m excited to hear you talk, and to see you run, and to see you kick a ball and stir cupcake batter and sing a song and do a cartwheel and jump off a diving board and splash in the ocean and roll down a grassy hill and ride a bike and write a sentence and draw a picture and do a dance with your friends you made up—I’m excited to see it all.

And I’m excited to know you in it all, too; to know you as you discover your first favorite color, and favorite animal, to know you when you go to school for the first time and find your love of reading (hopefully!), and when you make your first really good friend and when you have the best time ever at camp and when you do something you’re really proud of and when you do something you’re not so proud of but learn from, and when you have your first heartbreak and when you decide whether or not to go to college and whether or not to get married and whether or not to have kids, and if you have a baby I’m excited to know you as you become a mother and discover all the wonder and pain that lie behind that curtain.

It is an incredible privilege to be a front-row witness to a person Becoming, and while I don’t always feel like I’m the best person for the job, I’m so thankful I get to be that person for you, to be your mother.

Happy birthday, Zadie.

Love,

Mama

When Becoming a Quitter Became Good for My Soul

15 Dec

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You must know this about me: I’m not a quitter. If I start something, I finish it. Some people love starting things: projects, chapters in life, new tubes of toothpaste. I like finishing them (let’s not get into how often I feel paralyzed about starting something and so never do). When I was in college, I took a temperament analysis that ranked my level of self-discipline off the charts. I liked this about myself.

But, time, age, marriage, and motherhood have changed me. I’m no longer off-the-charts disciplined (maybe that’s a good thing!), and now, I guess I’m a quitter, too.

It all started at the end of October, when my husband, my roommate, and I decided–impulsively–to do Whole30 together. Whole30 means for 30 days you only eat whole foods, and you avoid sugar, grains, beans, peanuts, dairy, and alcohol. So, in other words, you’re eating a bunch of meat and vegetables for thirty days. It was awful. I almost immediately entered a crazed state where all I could think about was food! I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t see the weight loss, or any of the “non-scale victories” the program touts, like better sleep, more energy, better mood, better skin, etc. Two weeks in, I was still hungry all the time, and I was super stressed out constantly thinking about what I could eat and planning meals/shopping lists.

It was dumb. I thought about it and realized it was not a good program for me. I’m much better at moderating my intake of something rather than abstaining all together. Also, I’d had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food for several years in my twenties and this just seemed to trigger that. And, as much as I hated to admit it, even though Zadie was 10 months old at the time, I still felt like I was getting used to all that’s involved in being a mom. Adding a strict diet program on top of that felt like so much pressure.

So I quit. I didn’t finish Whole30. I didn’t even finish Whole15. On the 13th day, I quit. And I kept eating within the program for a few days–I didn’t just go out and eat a pizza or something. I just needed that weight lifted off of me, and the feeling of freedom I had was amazing. I also felt proud, because I realized that I had honored my story, my temperament and my needs in this situation. Before I quit, I dreaded having to tell people I didn’t finish the program; I couldn’t do it, I was too weak. But the freedom that came from honoring myself in my decision extended to the freedom to tell people I had quit, without shame.

It felt so great, I’m thinking of quitting something else: stay at home motherhood. I’ve written about it here before, but I just don’t know if it’s for me. To be honest, I’ve been agonizing over this decision for a couple of months now. Partly because the only kind of motherhood I’ve experienced so far is the stay-at-home variety, and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to mother Zadie if I weren’t with her all the time. But it partly feels like I’m giving up. Like I couldn’t handle something that lots of women handle beautifully every single day, with many more kids, or kids with special needs.

I wanted to give staying at home a try; I tried and it sometimes feels like I failed. I enjoy being with Zadie immensely, and have moments of heart-exploding joy and love with her every single day. But I also have many times throughout the day when I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to be a full-time caregiver. I don’t want to continue to lose other parts of myself in order to be the one who changes Zadie’s diaper and feeds her and reads to her all day. It’s difficult to not feel selfish, or weak, or to worry that I’ll regret my decision to go back to work.

But after my experience quitting Whole30, I’m curious: what if instead of giving in to guilt and social pressure, I take a good look at myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my skill set and my dreams, the needs of my family as a whole, and make the decision from there? And if that decision is to “quit” being a stay at home mother, what if it leads to the same feeling of freedom and release from pressure that I had when I quit Whole30?

So I guess sometimes it’s good to be a quitter. Maybe it’s more about knowing when to quit?

 

Work It: Thoughts on Stay at Home Motherhood and Why I’m Not Sure I Can Do It Anymore

2 Nov
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If only I were this stylish as a mom!

When I turned 16, my parents basically said, “You’re old enough to get a job, so now, if you want to buy something, you’ll need to pay for it.” I half-heartedly searched for jobs until I landed a gig at the movie theater where a few of my friends worked. I wore a collared white shirt and a black bow tie and took people’s tickets or made batches of popcorn with extra oil while downing Coke-flavored icees in water cups. I’ve worked ever since, at an ice skating rink, at Starbucks, at a counseling center, a charter high school, a seminary, and a magazine. I enjoyed many of these jobs, whether for the work, the colleagues, or just the paycheck. But even in my favorite jobs, I think I would have stopped working in an instant if I suddenly had all the money I needed.

So when I became pregnant and started thinking about whether I would work or stay at home or figure out some combination of the two, I thought maybe staying at home was the right decision for me. I didn’t have a job I absolutely loved, and taking care of a baby was going to be enough work as it is. I never really found my identity in my work; I always found it in my relationships. Even when I did a workshop where I reflected on the high points and low points of my life, work almost never entered the picture—even big moments like the first time my writing was published.

I assumed the thing I liked most about work was the intellectual stimulation, and the camaraderie. It seemed possible I could find intellectual stimulation and camaraderie outside of the workplace, if I could just find the right book club and moms group.

And yet, here I am, almost 10 months into this stay at home mom gig (and in a book club and a moms group!), and I’m longing to work.

Part of it is a longing for escape. Taking care of a baby sometimes feels like backbreaking work (how do people have more than one?!). I’m pretty soft, so maybe it’s just me. But really, what’s backbreaking is the constancy of the physical work required in caring for an infant. I mean, said infant pretty much must be carried everywhere; that alone is a huge amount of work that was not in my pre-baby life. (Especially now that Zadie is over 20 pounds and we live on the third floor!!) The baby’s feeding needs and bodily functions all must be managed and cared for by me. It’s kind of insane. And after 9-plus months, I am bone tired. Every night I get into bed and feel like I’m 80 years old. Everything aches. And the idea of going to work, and going to the bathroom without having to do it in less time than it takes my baby to crawl down the hallway to me/the bathroom trash can, sounds like a vacation.

Work would also give me some much-needed space from my baby. You know that feeling when you meet a new friend you really click with (for most of us, this was probably in high school or college), and you hang out more and more until you’re hanging out all the time? And it’s the best, until it isn’t. And you need space so you can remember why you liked this person in the first place, why they became your best friend. It’s like getting so close to something you can’t see it anymore. That’s what I’m afraid is happening to Zadie and me. My sister Rachel said it so well, that for moms, the question of to work or to stay at home is answered with a simple “You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.” She said if you work you feel guilty when you’re away from your kids (or even if you don’t feel guilty, you just miss them terribly) and if you stay at home you’re with your kids so much you stop appreciating them. I need a break from Zadie. I need a chance to miss her and to feel like I can’t wait to see her. Sure, sometimes I have those moments when I can’t wait till she wakes up from a nap so I can see her cute face, or where I spend an hour after she goes to bed looking at pictures of her. But mostly, lately, I think, “I can’t spend another minute with you.” It’s like we’ve been stuck in a car together on a 10-month-long road trip (and I’m not even counting the 9 months she took up residence inside my body). I need to be me again for a while, not me-and-Zadie. Work is starting to look like the way to that.

Something else I’ve realized is that even though I’m not a worker bee, everyone likes being acknowledged for hard work and a job well done. It’s been said a million times: mothers do an insane amount of work for an even more insane lack of appreciation. We don’t get paid, and we hardly get a “good job.” It would feel good to go to work, do the work, and take home a paycheck. Also, the paycheck itself would be nice, because we live in Los Angeles now and one income in Los Angeles is a fool’s game.

Here’s what it comes down to. Last week, my attention was turned toward a Facebook post by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a “feminist manifesto” written as a letter to her friend who recently became a mother. The manifesto is a response to the friend’s question, outlining 15 suggestions on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. The first suggestion stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that. The pioneering American journalist Marlene Sanders once said to a younger journalist, ‘Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.’

You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you – the confidence and self-fulfillment that come with doing and earning. Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive.”

That paragraph makes me want to shout, “YES!” from the rooftops. It makes me want to run up a mountain, or skydive out of a plane. It feels like freedom. I’m guessing the extreme reaction stems from 1) I have not felt like a full person since I had Zadie almost a year ago, and 2) I have somehow, for some reason, bought into the idea that motherhood and work are mutually exclusive, and I have felt both bound to my duty as a mother and also restricted by my lack of a job I love and can’t bear to quit, like my sister the physician’s assistant or my sister the teacher. I’ve felt that, if I were to be away from my baby, it would need to be for a noble reason, for a job that was changing the world. But perhaps there is no more noble a reason than a job might make me feel like a full person again, and only a mother who is a full person can fully offer her love to her child.

So I guess what I’m saying is, do you know anyone who’s hiring? 😉

For New Moms Only

3 Oct

dear-brave-mom-of-a-newborn.jpgOK, not really for new moms only! But I have an essay up on Mom the Brave today, in their “Dear Brave Mom” category. It’s an open letter to the mommas of newborns…that’s such a crazy time; for some it’s pure bliss, but for others (like me!) it’s sheer survival. Head over to Mom the Brave and give it a read, or share it with any friends you have who are in that crazy, hazy newborn stage! 

When It Takes a Long Time (Like, 7 Months) to Start Enjoying Your Baby

31 Aug

JoyZadieArboretumIt takes me a long time to adjust to change—an embarrassingly long time. Motherhood, and taking care of a baby day in and day out, has been no exception. In some of my grumpiest, most melancholy, or—let’s be honest—crazy moments, Robert has said something to the effect of, “Well, at least I know you’ll be back to yourself around January 4…” referencing how it takes me about a year to adjust to any major change.

Adjustment is what I was longing for the first several weeks (OK, maybe the first few months) of Zadie’s life—to feel used to it. For everything to not feel so scary and unfamiliar. To not see Zadie as a stranger or little alien. I longed for relief from the new, from having to figure things out. You know how when you get a new job, you go home and dream about doing it? All day I nursed Zadie and changed her and bounced her on the yoga ball to get her to sleep. Then all night I’d dream of nursing her or changing her or bouncing her, or just of her crying. I’d wake from dreams that she was in our bed, and then feel so confused when she wasn’t, and look for her frantically before realizing she was sleeping peacefully in the bassinet beside me, where she always was.

My fear was that my resistance to change, my slowness to adjust would make me miss Zadie’s first year. I worried that I would wake up on her first birthday to find that she was finally not a stranger to me, and that I finally enjoyed being her mother, only to realize I’d missed out on her only year of true babyhood.

Thankfully, I started to enjoy my baby before her first birthday. It was slow at first—right around three months, I had moments when I was just in awe of Zadie, and sincerely enjoyed being with her and taking care of her. The moments of overwhelm and fear and exhaustion definitely were more abundant, but still. I look at a photo of us on Easter, back in March, when Zadie was almost three months old. She had started to truly smile, and to be less larva-like, and the smile on my face in that picture is the smile I always wanted to be on my face when I was with my baby. As I got to know her more, and as she became more active and playful, I began enjoying her more and more. This past month, Zadie’s eighth month on this earth, I feel like I’ve fallen totally in love with her. She’s just so sweet, so beautiful, so strong. She makes my mama heart swell with pride and love for her.

But now that I’m into Zadie as a baby, I’m preemptively mourning her growing older and bigger. In those early weeks I kept wishing for her to get older and bigger, so things wouldn’t be so hard and scary and I wouldn’t be guessing as much about how to take care of her. I thought the baby stage (and, let’s face it, the toddler stage) would be something I just had to get through, in order to have my daughter, a person with whom I’d have a lifelong relationship. But now I don’t want the baby stage to end—her sweet little gummy smile (no teeth yet!), her diaper booty, the way she scoots across the floor on her belly, the way it’s so easy to get her to smile, the way she squeals in delight on our walks at what I can only imagine is the thrill of seeing trees and flowers for the thousandth time instead of the millionth. I love the way she drops her head onto my chest or my shoulder when I hold her and sing “Jesus Loves Me” before her nap or bedtime. The way she’s so pleased with herself when she stands or bangs two toys together or claps her hands. The way she plays with her loveys in her crib for half an hour after her nap without even making a peep. The way she eats with gusto, like a little football player. How she brings stuffed animals to her face so she can give them open-mouthed kisses, and how she teases Asher whenever she’s holding a ball and knows he wants it, waving it under his nose and laughing. The way she holds her hand out, bent at the wrist, when she meets new people, as though directing them to “Kiss the royal hand.” Her new thing, burying her face in my neck shyly when she encounters strangers.

I spent the first few months of my baby’s life wishing time would speed up, so we could be done with the terrifying newborn stage. Then the next few months I was still future-focused, thinking things would be better or easier once she wasn’t nursing so much (true), or she could sit up on her own (also true), or some other milestone. Now we seem to have stepped into a crazy time warp, because it’s going by shockingly fast; every Monday I blink and it’s suddenly Friday. I know better now than to wish for a certain event in the future—it’ll come. Now I have more moments where I want to stop this train of life from moving so damn fast, taking my baby away from me.

Or is it just that I’m resisting change once again? Realizing that at every new phase and age Zadie enters, I have to readjust and readapt my methods, my schedule, my very heart.

Can’t Hide My Crazy: Thoughts on Motherhood

16 Jun

 

 

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At my bridal shower several years ago, all of my friends wrote down little snippets of marital advice for me. My sister Rachel wrote something about how I ought to “hide the Moyal craziness” as much as I could. Now I’m not sure if we Moyal girls are crazier than other women (maybe we’re more passionate?), but I’ve never been able to heed her advice very well. Going through transition and change tends to bring out my nutty side, the part of me that wants to control things and goes into a tailspin when I can’t. Even when I’m in a season of positive change, like when I moved to Norway for a year, or when I started grad school, or when I married my husband—I still feel crazy and have an embarrassingly hard time with the transition. When I began grad school, I felt I needed to study every second and read every assigned page and get A’s on everything. When I got married, I needed to be the perfect wife, but I was unsure what that meant, and the confusion compounded my craziness.

Now, transitioning into a season of motherhood—and stay-at-home, round-the-clock motherhood, at that—the crazy is back with a vengeance. This time I have a little baby to try to control. I can hear you laughing, reader who has spent any time at all with real live human babies. They cannot be controlled. Even with Babywise, even with schedules and ideal wake times and the Baby Whisperer to solve all your problems. What worked yesterday might not work today. What worked this morning might not work this afternoon. A perfect nap day with a sweet-tempered baby might be followed by a day of 30-minute naps and unexplainable crying jags. The unpredictability alone is enough to make a person like me go bonkers, but add in the extreme stress a mother feels when she hears her baby cry (multiple times a day), and the emotions that come with such a world-rocking change of pace, role, routine, and even body… So let’s just say I’ve had my share of meltdowns since my daughter was born.

But here’s what makes me feel even crazier: the sense that I’m alone in these unstable, out-of-control feelings. Instagram is full of whimsical shots of babies with sweet captions about motherly love. Friends with kids barely remember the baby years. Some mothers in my post-partum group said things like they were loving every minute of motherhood, and that it’s been sheer bliss since their babies were born. Other moms with little ones are afraid to be real about how hard things are or how much they dislike their own baby sometimes. With the exception of the author Anne Lamott, the great Saint of All Normal Women Who Feel Normal Emotions, most people aren’t sharing the ugly details of this season of life. I get it. I don’t want to share, either, for at least five reasons at any given time:

  1. Someone reading might be desperate to have a baby and so far unable to. This makes the complaining mom completely rude and selfish and thoughtless.
  2. Someone reading may not have kids and judge the complaining mom, thinking, “What’s so hard about taking care of a baby?”
  3. Someone reading may have had children a long time ago, and now that their kids are grown, this person wants to scold the complaining mom about not cherishing these years while her kids are small.
  4. Someone reading may have four children and never experienced these types of negative emotions regarding mothering, and will judge the complaining mom as immature, selfish, and not cut out to be a mother. (OK, so I suspect this last one does not actually exist…but these are the moms who act like they’ve never experienced negative emotions about mothering, making me feel like a total monster who should never have had kids.)
  5. No one likes a complainer.

But there’s a difference between complaining and sharing your psychotic emotions so you can get out of your own head for a few minutes. I’m not into the type of articles that float around Facebook, all about how the author hasn’t showered in 2 weeks, forgets what non-spit-up-on clothes smell like, and only eats Cheerios off the floor for every meal. Those essays are ridiculous. My complaining is less about my baby (because let’s face it: she’s pretty much the best baby I could ever ask for), and it’s not even about the work of caring for her (it’s not rocket science, nor is it working in the salt mines); my complaining is actually about my own inability to cope with being a parent.

There’s a shame cycle in play: I crumble when a nap time runs short, or have a meltdown because I just need a break and when will there be a day when my neck doesn’t hurt and will my body ever be the same again. I experience these negative feelings (and yes, sometimes they are projected onto my daughter and I think ugly, resentful thoughts about how hard she’s made my life), and then I feel shame about the negative feelings and why I can’t just buck up and be an adult, and the shame creates even more negative feelings, till the crazy comes out and I tell my husband that I’m just going to get in the car and drive away and never look back.

I know I need to have more grace for myself. Lately I’ve been reminding myself that I went from pretty much just taking care of myself and my dog (and my husband, on occasion), to becoming a full-time, round-the-clock caregiver to a completely helpless being. That is enough to make anyone lose it once in a while.

So what do we do, when the crazy bubbles up inside of us? Calling my sister always helps. Getting out of my own head, where the baby’s sleeping habits have taken on the importance of issues like global warming and conflict in the Middle East. Telling myself I can take a break; it’s OK to space out sometimes while the baby is on her activity mat; it’s OK to leave her for a few hours with my husband on a weekend, and not just to go run errands.

And gratitude—I’m terrible at that one, but it’s truly a game-changer and a healer. Looking into my baby’s eyes and getting that hit of oxytocin, feeling overcome by how utterly beautiful she is, singing Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” to her, and kissing those soft, sweet, smiling cheeks.

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