When you’re not the brand new mom anymore

Is there such a thing as the dog-days of raising children?

I feel like if such a thing exists, then I am surely living in them. 

I’m not always fond of the dog-days of summer. The thrill of warm days and nights, of beach trips and sandals usually wanes for me by August. By the middle of the month, I am ready for every wayward insect to die a frostbitten death. I am beyond tired of the boob sweat that plagues me every time I step outside. 

Dog-days with children are the same way.

It’s the space between them becoming mobile creatures, and them turning into potty-trained, slightly better mannered small children. Somewhere in there, it’s almost like they become feral.

I’m in this fold right now.

I have a toddler, and two elementary aged children. The older two could argue about practically anything – and seek to do so daily. While the toddler lives by a personal manifesto that is equal parts the word “no,” and the phrase “YOLO.”

It’s a rare thing when I prepare a meal that everyone eats happily, without even one crinkled nose. It’s even rarer to put all of my children in their beds and actually have them fall asleep without reappearing a handful of times. 

And so, with an undomesticated toddler underfoot (or standing in the yard wearing rain boots and no pants), two junior litigators, and my flailing attempts to draw boundaries and teach them goodness, the energy is drained from my lifeless body daily before ten in the morning.

Do you ever think that moms can lose their vision?

We all start out wanting to do the right thing.

We read the baby books. Heck, we practically started off thinking we could write the proverbial book on parenting. We cut their grapes into fours, made sure they only watched one cartoon a day, and we never left the house without a fully stocked diaper bag.

We answered every cry and question with such purpose, such assuredness. Every waking thought and conversation was dedicated to them. And their faces bring us such unabated joy.

Eventually, maybe a few more kids got added on to the pile, and the days become more about surviving then actually accomplishing anything. The minute hand on the clock slows down. Time becomes relative in relation to when your toddler skips their nap. On those days you watch the space between lunchtime and when your husband walks back in the door grow about five times in length.

You used to sit down while the baby slept. But now, there’s a child latched on to the front of you, and a maybe child pulling at your pant leg, and possibly one shouting at you from the other room….and maybe even one more making questionable smells in the bathroom.

The mom who promised herself that there would be no compromising, no gray areas, becomes the mom who will give in and just buy the damn Lunchables so she can make it through the store without children gnawing off her ears with requests for one thing or another. 

Everything becomes like an episode of American Gladiator.

There is no just making it up the foam mountain, you have to make it past the tennis balls whirring right towards you. No battle, no task is clear cut or simple. There are multiple variables to be considered at all times. Always.

There is no just making it through the grocery store when there exists such torturous things as cereal aisles and miniature carts the kids can push around because didn’t you plan on having your ankles maimed while you went to the store to buy milk?

But really? What happens when you aren’t that brand new mom any longer?

The scent of Dreft has long since faded from your washing machine. That life giving earnestness you had when everything was new has faded. Now your kids have grown old enough to argue with you about whose turn it is the sit in the middle swing at the park. You haven’t made it to the gym in you don’t know how long, and come to think of it, you actually can’t remember the last time you did anything for yourself intentionally that wasn’t akin to spreading peanut butter on a graham cracker, and shoving it in your face while, blessedly, no one was looking.

Nobody really asks how you’re handling everything anymore, except for maybe the handful of mom friends you have. Everybody just assumes that you have a firm grip on everything now. Or they relate enough to know that there is really no such thing as having it all together, and they bring you chocolate even when you didn’t ask for it. 

Now you’re the lady with a few runts hanging off the side of the grocery cart in the store. Nobody gives you the second glance to see how extraordinary you are as you diplomatically sort out whose turn it is to choose the cereal, this week. 

Those visions? The ones you had of how you thought it was gonna be? They’re toast.

As shriveled as the split ends hanging off your head. They are dried out, flapping in the breeze as much as those batwings on your arms do when you wave to a friend across the parking lot at Target. 

Nobody ever told you how hard this was gonna be. And really, would you have even sincerely believed them if they had? And how would you have even understood??

We are in the stage where we aren’t quite the blushing new mom at the grocery store who illicit gently turned heads and praise from other moms as their pink baby is nestled into their chest. Everyone loves that mom. Her kind is welcome here, full of its promise. 

But we aren’t old enough to be pushing a cart alone in a store with stain free pants on, a coffee in hand, admiring all of the young moms while reminiscing about the good ole days, overlooking their struggle or looking on their efforts with sentimentality. 

We are in the stage hardly anybody talks about. Where it is all so unwaveringly hard.

Forget about everything else that’s going on in the world, that’s going on with everyone else. There is enough going on right here, in this house. With these children.

When the nap times have stopped. When there is homework. Where there is no romance, because romance would require the children in your house to actually fall asleep at a decent time. You’re actually confused now as to how anyone ever made more than a handful of tiny humans because even a few of them become such enormous deterrents to marital romance, let alone sitting down.

You’re in the stage where you want to throw your phone across the room when you read someone complaining about how tired they are on Facebook, or about the pedicure they just treated themselves to after such a “hard week”, only you’re too tired to even do so. So you simmer in your disdain. 

This is it. The point of no return.

There are no bottles or nap time schedules. In fact, the only schedule is the one you make, which sounds empowering until you realize how much effort that takes to stay on top of everything American Gladiator-style.

You are moving into the era of shoes needing to be tied, and not Velcro’d. Of after school sports or clubs, and miles on your vehicle as you scurry between everything like a taxi. You are almost to this promised land of kids who can make their own eggs for breakfast, and who you can trust not to run into the street on a whim. 

But for now, you’re nose is to the grindstone, your hand is on the plow. And you are making this work. And it is taking every inch of you. It takes every ounce of moxie you have to not throw everyone’s toys in the trash can, because you how many times have you told them not to just leave them sitting out right after you stepped on a Lego??

Nobody ever tells you what it’s like when you become this giving tree of gargantuan proportions. 

And they assuredly never tell you how beautiful that is.

Nobody tells you how brave you are when you make those hard parenting decisions. Or even the mundane ones. Because someone else’s mundane is your miracle.

Nobody tells you how selfless you are, when you get up again in the middle of the night to quell bad dreams. Or when your children fall victim one by one to the flu, and you haven’t hardly showered or left your house for almost two weeks unless it’s to the doctors. 

Nobody has ever told you how blisteringly tired you are gonna be when those tinies turn into littles, and that it takes pure fight in you sometimes to make it through each day.

Nobody has ever told you how much this world is depending on you, to raise those babies into children into teenagers into adults who care about the rest of us. Nobody has ever told you how powerful you are even when you are catching someone’s puke in your hands or down the front of you. 

ALEX

Nobody has ever told you how powerful it is that you care and that you love, because raising up from that will be more people who care and who love. People we hope will reach the next level. We already have enough violence in this world, enough brokenness, so what we need are people who love unconditionally and that is borne from the love that sheds off of you every day in every humble effort. 

Maybe nobody ever told you. Until now.

I wouldn’t know what to tell the parent who is struggling. Who is exhausted beyond words. Who is afraid. Who feels like they are losing themselves to this parenting battle. Who just wants to sit down. 

There is nothing I can say to you that makes those problems, those worries, those obstacles go away. 

I can only say that you, friend, momma, are not alone in this. We are all out here. And we sometimes think that we are invisible to anyone else, to each other. But we aren’t. 

I need you here, in this, with me. Right now.

I hear that one day, our children will know how to cut the crusts off of their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The ones that they will have made for them themselves. By themselves.

I hear it gets easier, and then right around the time it does, we start to fret.

Because we will already miss them so. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moms, you are allowed to say that it’s hard

Somewhere, around 9 a.m. this morning, I decided that I wanted to give up. 

Or rather, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to give up so much as I didn’t know if it was even worth the effort to actually try today. 

I had forgotten about my son’s weekly club meeting that he went into school early for on Thursdays, and he sat crumpled on my lap with tears running down his face because he would be missing out.

Even though he was over it and laughing and shouting, “after a while, crocodile!” to my, “see you later, alligator!!” as he boarded the school bus a half an hour later, I couldn’t shake my guilt.  

Shortly after his departure both of his sisters were bustling about downstairs. The imminent approach of turning two has turned my toddler into a brash little person as of late. She screams if she isn’t allowed to sit on our dining room table and take bites out of every single shining red gala apple in the fruit bowl. Even if that supposed apple is actually an onion.

I never thought that produce would be the bane of my existence. 

Before long, my dear children had turned the dining room (that I had just cleaned for company the night before) into a kinetic sand desert. Meanwhile, I stood in the kitchen and struggled to keep my eyes open and my wits about me despite the unfolding chaos. 

Later, I loaded my children into the van under the pretense of going to the grocery store…which was conveniently located across the way from a Dunkin Donuts. The car smelled like old yogurt, and it wasn’t long before a saw a purple sippy cup poking out from beneath the seat with what I was sure was filled with verifiable toxic waste.

dishes in sink

Our trip to town probably looked like an incredibly normal sight to any passersby. A mom, out at the store with her children on a spring day. 

I reluctantly let my four year old push a child-sized shopping cart around the store. Don’t get me wrong, such an invention is adorable and gives my children something fun to do while shopping with me. It’s just that now, the shins of everyone else in the store are in imminent risk of a severe bruising. 

As we navigated around the turns around the end of each aisle, she almost unintentionally plowed into an elderly lady pushing a cart full of fig newtons. Because of course she did.

We excused ourselves, and thankfully, the lady was gracious and friendly about it. She even thought the scene was funny, and went on about her business. In the meantime, I thought I was going to have a stroke at the thought of my daughter with windswept hair potentially maiming the ankles of every adult in close proximity. 

We arrived at Dunkin Donuts, and I am not going to lie, my donut was gone in under a minute. I waited for my coffee to cool while my thoughts knocked back and forth loudly in my skull. 

bussmess

I feel so alone in all that I do sometimes.

My kids sure as heck don’t see me. I mean really see me.

They don’t see that it takes three or four trips to load everyone and everything into the car when they ask me to about face and go back inside to fetch the toy they have forgotten.

They don’t see that I’m carrying a toddler strapped into a carseat, a purse and a diaper bag strung across the front of me when they ask me if I can carry their bottle of gatorade. 

They don’t see my face as I wince when they tell me that they don’t like the dinner that I spent the last hour making. 

Nobody sees that sometimes, this just isn’t what I want to do. 

Nobody sees how thankless, frustrating and degrading being a stay at home parent is. I mean really is. 

The little old ladies at the store, bless their hearts, don’t see me either. This morning looked mundane to them as I plastered a patient smile across my face and sucked it up in a devout effort to keep my cool, all while keeping thoughts of coffee in the back of my mind the way that a rat keeps the wedge of cheese in the back of his mind as he navigates around the corners of a  maze. 

This all feels like a maze, with no wedge of cheese. It doesn’t end. 

And it’s ridiculous. 

Sometimes, I think I make myself lonelier because I’m reticent to talk about how difficult it is, or because I don’t think that someone else will understand. Because when I do, I’m sometimes invariably met with similar responses.

Of how I should just enjoy myself.

Of how I should breathe in every single moment as if it could be my last.

Of how I should hang in there, have faith and choose joy. 

Of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing

Let me just tell you that sometimes? There is no “just” anything when you are a parent.

There is no choosing joy when the dog has done number two on the carpet in the dining room (again), and the baby has found it with the bottom of her feet and tracked it everywhere. 

Sometimes, there is no enjoying myself when I am scraping bits of old food out of the corners of tupperware containers that were left for too long in the back of the fridge. 

Sometimes, I don’t feel so lucky when I forget about my son’s Lego club meeting, and he’s crying in my lap as I try to tell him how sorry I am, but daddy and I were so tired that we both just…forgot.

A lot of the time, parenting is getting the rawest end of the deal imaginable. Because you can’t automatically fix it, or get over it or deal with it and move on. Those long days wear on you like a weight on your shoulders. 

Sometimes, the best we can do is make the choice to choose joy afterwards.

Like, when I’m sitting in my white rocking chair on the front porch, processing the day and trying to remember that there is still so much good in what I do, even if I didn’t notice it while it was happening.

Sometimes, I feel joy when they are finally tucked into bed and the dishwasher is humming out in the kitchen, and I remember that I am doing all of this for very noble reasons. 

Until then, we have to be honest with ourselves.

We cannot choose joy, I mean really choose joy, without acknowledging how flipping hard all of this is. The difficulty makes the joy taste that much sweeter. We have to remove the feelings of guilt when we finally admit to ourselves just how terrible the terrible two’s are, or how awful cold and flu season is, and believe that it actually is okay to label them as such.

Sometimes, we need to give ourselves, and other parents, the breathing room to have crappy days. We need to stop treating mothers like the anti-Christ when she’s miserable because her Thursday isn’t going so hot. 

There are days that this calling is difficult because my children are crazy, donut-obsessed tiny people who want what they want, when they want it and will scream or cry or whine or ask a thousand and one times until they get it.

You could also say that this task is so, so difficult because I’m not always worthy or conscious of this sacred calling, and I don’t see it for how beautiful and incredible it is.

Neither answer is wrong. 

And neither answer is entirely correct, either. 

And yet somehow, even though there are days when the sky is falling, everything turns out okay in the end. 

At least, that’s what I’m guessing. Kids don’t turn into adults who carry the remote control around in their underpants, right?

Gosh, I hope not.

I’m Really Tired

Hello. My name is Mom. And I am really tired. 

It may sound as though I am just paying lip service to being tired. That I am trying to relate myself to you on some base level, from one mother to another. I can assure you that I am doing neither of those two things. 

As I walked down the stairs this morning and an army of dishes, waiting to be washed, called out to me from the kitchen, I realized that I would have given my left kidney (not the right one, for some reason) to have someone show up and play house for me today. 

Because I am really very, very tired. 

Some parents or people wear “tired” like some sort of badge of honor. They joke about wanting more coffee. They talk about needing “mom time.” They speak of how “frazzled” they are. But then you come to find out that they just ran a 5k marathon, baked 85 gluten free bagels for their kids fundraiser at school, and on occasion moonlight as an aerospace engineer. 

Yea. Tired. Sure you are. 

Then there are us. The very, very tired moms. 

We don’t go on and on about how tired we are. We don’t go on and on about how we feel like we are surely be bleeding from our eyeballs by now. About how we threw cereal bars at our children’s head the other morning, and basically let them fend for themselves for breakfast. 

ellie crying

Because I am not proud of myself.

Because being tired really means you’re too tired to talk to someone else about how tired you are. 

So, when they ask you “how you are doing?” in an attempt at conversation, and you want to give them the true answer. That you woke up to find the baby’s diaper had leaked everywhere, and then had to rush the oldest child out the door for school because you both spent the morning finishing last night’s homework, and then you caught the dog chewing on your bra (again), you instead just give up and tell them, “fine. I’m fine.” 

I am not proud of myself for leaving the house last night to meet a friend for a bite to eat with food in my hair. Or that I left the house with food in my hair, and then carried on a twenty minute conversation before it was discovered.

I am not proud of the fact that I left my house in a pair of maternity pants last night because that was the most expedient option, though it actually made for a good decision since we were grabbing something to eat at Taco Bell. 

kitchen mess

I want to write a cute post about how tired I am, but that would be disingenuous to you moms (and dads) out there who are really tired. 

There is nothing cute about tired. There is nothing cute about leaning over the edge of the counter with your hands in your hair and just wishing to be somewhere, anywhere else. 

My toddler is feral. She drowned my phone in the bathtub a little over a week ago, and she believes anything that is on the floor is a mountain to be stood on, even at her own peril. I am sure now that she has an invisible third arm that she uses for evil instead of good, and that she believes the floor is lava, and her only hope is to be carried around all day. Carried when she isn’t trying to stand on my dining room table to swing from the chandelier, that is. 

We keep getting notices home from school, threatening the end of the world because children are popping up everywhere with lice. As I was scratching my head against the front door trim this morning, I suppressed a shutter and allowed myself to just not even go there. Because if I do have nits in my hair, my best option, the less painful one, is to just shave my head like Ripley in Alien 3. 

I hate that when I log onto Facebook, and I see people with photos of their vacation, their overnight stay at a Bed and Breakfast, or their Sunday spent playing video games because it’s raining outside, that I die a little on the inside. That I become incensed. 

I hate that sometimes, I think everyone else gets to have a life except for me. That is, a life free from the threat of lice, the perils of bra-chewing-dogs, and mornings spent only being obligated to wake yourself up and wrestle pants on to yourself.  

coffee2

There isn’t a way to make it all better. You don’t want anyone to say anything to you when you’re feeling this worn out. There is nothing they can actually say. 

You want someone to give you a blankey, a cup of warm milk and to send you off to bed. There is no way to talk yourself into feeling better when life is like this. There is only waiting for things to start to resemble a normal existence, the hope that one day, things will either change, or you will change and be able to cope better with what life is throwing at you. In this case, lice. 

The truth is that we are tired because we are fighting the good fight. We are doing work. 

This is not necessarily thrilling work, unless you count the thrill of discovering that your youngest child now knows how to unlock the back door. This is not luxurious work, unless you can sort of count that yogurt your toddler threw at your face as a facial. 

But this is good work. 

We are tired because we are doing good work. Kind of like Batman. He didn’t have the help of being a demi-god in a red cape. Sure, he had billions of dollars and a butler. But he is human. He bleeds just like us. 

So, we can rest a tiny bit easier know that we are sort of like Batman. 

Just whisper to yourself “I am the night,” when things get real, parents. 

Onward.