Mommy-and-Me, Destroying the Me in Mommy

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Ma. Ma. Ma. Ma, uppy. Ma, you push swing high? Ma, potty? Ma, we go walk? Ma, we play tag? Ma, read book?

From the second – and I mean the second – they open their precious little blues, we spend all our time together. In fact, I am not sure we have spent but a handful of their waking moments apart since conception. We dress, shower, run errands, even crap with those little suckers attached to our hips.

All this time together helps create the inseparable bond we seek from birth – the connection that ensures they know we are their life force, so they don’t go wandering away with every other lady who has disheveled hair, coffee breath, and bags pulling on her eyelids.

This relationship also slowly changes the women we once were. Attention to self slips slowly to last place. Quiet moments of reflection are no longer. Gone are the days of endless meandering through life, as time is now set in blocks of feeding and nap schedules. Emails go unanswered, dates become cold meals at home, your nails (go ahead, look) scream for a file and some polish. You gradually start becoming a barely recognizable version of yourself.

A dear friend of mine, seeing me in the throes of this newfound Mommy-and-Me condition, suggested an open gym class for the boys. I signed up immediately, looking forward to them enjoying some time playing with someone other than Mommy.

I went to bed the night before class like a child before a holiday. Images of me relaxing and drinking my hot cup of coffee, maybe even catching up on some emails, while the children frolicked with their new friends, danced in my head.

As I entered the gym, my cheeks hurt from smiling, gleeful for the adventure ahead. My amusement abruptly halted, though, as I walked in the room. In front of me, a scene unfolded not much different than my living room: a bunch of toys tossed from one end of the room to the other and a bunch of mothers sitting on the floor playing with their toddlers.Image result for free clip art of mom and child

Seriously??! Had I just rushed through our morning routine, raced over here, and walked through my own front door? I could have easily stayed in my pajamas and done all this in the comfort of my home. And, to top it off, I was now paying the woman who organized this “gym class.”

I figured it had to be a joke. No one would pay someone to do what they already have to do.

Sure enough. Another Mommy-and-Me trap. One more scenario where it’s just me managing my gremlins. I mean, sure, now I could look around the room and commiserate with the other ladies struggling to enjoy the torture they endured. Is there nowhere I can go and get a break?!

I love playing with my littles. Building a tower, swimming in the pool, making a playdoh house, even running in the backyard. But every now and again, I long for a secret little place we could go where my kids played with someone else for a few minutes. Where I could sip my coffee and watch them enjoying themselves from afar. Where they might not catch me savoring a pastry. Where, even for a minute, I could enjoy some time without someone hanging on me.

When I was young, my mother read to us, a lot. Some of my fondest memories are of her reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series during her work breaks. My sister and I eagerly awaited the next day’s installments. I remember her occasionally walking us to the park, where she sat on a bench and watched us play.

We had lots of Barbies and puzzles and one of those pretend kitchens. I still remember the Christmas I received my favorite plastic guitar, which I was allowed to play outside, by myself. I don’t have a tremendous amount of memories playing with my mother.

She didn’t sit on the floor and dress our dolls. We didn’t tumble and jump on her back in a gym class designed for toddlers. We had play dates with friends, where my mom and her friends sat and chatted and we kids played together, without video screens or constant adult interactions. We didn’t expect mom’s undivided attention from waking moment to sleep because, quite frankly, we knew that wasn’t an option.

So when did it become the only option??

We live in a different world now. We are judged for our parenting skills more than any other role we fill. The scrutiny has brought some significant changes in our parenting. I am all for increased car seat laws, not smoking around littles, hell, even forcing healthier food choices. These changes have all positively impacted the lives of our children. But how has attachment parenting and doting on them nonstop impacted them?

I love my kids more than life itself, and I enjoy most of the moments I spend with them. But I don’t enjoy being their buddy. I am their mom. I am the crucial part of our Mommy-and-Me, but I’m losing the Me.

I want to be the best mom I can without losing everything I once knew about myself. I want to push trucks down the banister. I want to finger paint and mold clay. I want to race each other to the park.

But I also want to get some wash done while they play. I want to drink my coffee in the morning without reheating it four times and then accepting it cold. I want a quiet dinner with my husband. I want to pee without someone trying to get in my underwear.

I hope we all find that secret hole in the wall where kids entertain themselves for a few minutes, where a play date doesn’t include us creating some orchestrated fantastical experience for them. I wish for us all to gain the strength to lock the door and let them scream outside while we use the bathroom. I wish for a break in the day to call our long-lost friends. I wish for a damn warm coffee each morning.

Here’s to taking a few minutes each day to look in the mirror and dig out the woman in there. Here’s to finding the balance between being the Mom in Mommy-and-Me and the Me in Mommy.

That Mom

Featured on Parent.co
Featured on Parent.co

I am that mom. The one all the other women look at with pity oozing from their stares. The one that makes them hug their little gems a little closer. The mom of a screamer.

 Not a cute “I want my way!” squawk. I may or may not have somehow mothered an alien being with decibel levels unheard of on the earthly plane. A real life banshee, if you will.

Before I hear the chorus of haters who can’t understand how I’d say such awful things about my littlest cherub, just stop. I love my child more than life itself or, trust me, he’d never have made it this far.

I can now understand how wild mothers – the wildebeest, the lioness, the sharks – eat their young. There’s a lot of love in my heart for my little stinker, but sometimes, it feels like if I’d just consumed him shortly after birth my life would be so much…quieter.

My youngest has been a crier from just a few short moments after he was pulled into this world. As all mothers do, I yearned to hear the first breaths of my love as he struggled to come to terms with his new existence. I fought with the IVs and ignored the anesthesiologist as I arched off the table trying to connect with him, pleading with him to just breathe. Until I heard those first yells, I was inconsolable. After all, for ten months, the thought of those sweet sounds carried me when my swollen feet couldn’t.

And then, my prayers answered, he shrieked. Tears of joy fell from my eyes. That sound was the single most enjoyable noise in the room. It drowned out the beeping machines, quieted the shouts from doctors, silenced even the beating of my own heart.

Days, weeks, months later that sound was no longer a sweet hum of life, but rather a bellowing to the depths of hell I felt my life was slowly starting to resemble.

We tried everything. Burping led to spewing of vomit. Rocking led to tears and screams. Car rides were only tolerable with those noise cancelling ear buds. Our lives became a living mosh pit where we not only hated the music, but we were beginning to hate the band.

The love I wanted to have for my bundle of joy was slipping out of reach. The constant noise he produced was becoming too much for even a mother to find adoring.

We sought help and discovered he was suffering from various medical issues: colic, reflux, and an intolerance to the formula we were using. After working with doctors, this fixed the ailments, but didn’t touch the shrieking. Nothing we did stopped the nonstop crying.

Those cute little bouncy chairs: cried. The swing that all babies love: cried so hard he attempted to flip himself out. Bath: he turned red screaming. Swaddling: he would hold his breath in fits of rage. Baby wearing: great idea, brought the screams to ear level, ensuring I didn’t escape the sound for any length of time.

I swear I would have sold my left boob (I am still considering, if there are takers out there) to make this baby stop crying. Day in and day out, out he cries.Image result for free clipart baby crying

Pediatricians tell you to look for exciting mini-milestones to look out for, hoping you’ll hang in there. My favorites: when he reaches three months, he’ll sleep through the night and be happier; when he can crawl/stand, he’ll stop refluxing and subsequently crying; when he’s a year old, he’ll be past all the baby stuff; when he can talk and tell you his problems, he’ll stop relying on tears. Well, ladies and gents, it’s been all these and more, and the kid still brings grown men to their knees with his high pitched screeches.

I should make note that he is the most adorable child. Looks that could adorn the covers of magazines, a smile to melt butter, and a contagious laugh that brings even our grumpiest old uncle to grin. His personality is solid. He’s a leader, inclusive of all children, and learns quick as a whip. He’s a climber, scaling even the highest of counters, and he’s determined too. He’s inquisitive and engaged in life. A lover, never a fighter.

Until, he doesn’t get his way. Until something in his brain cues him to scream, and the water works begin to drown the crowd. Those that “oohed and ahhed” slowly step back. The looks of judgment shift my way, and instantly I become the party-pooper of the playgroup.

I want to tell everyone how sorry I am in every language I know. I want to bury my head in a bag of chips. I want to sip wine from a cup the size of Lake George. I want to be swallowed up by some huge sinkhole. I want to drop him off somewhere and have himfixed. I want to stop mommy-ing. I want to scream.

But, apparently, none of this is possible. I still have to drop his older brother off at preschool while he yells the whole time. I still have to suffer through days of being alone in the house because he isn’t cute anymore to any of my friends and relatives. I still have to bribe and feed him through grocery shopping. I still have to keep waiting until he gets through this “phase.”

And while it feels like I am the only mom suffering in the shadows of my poltergeist, I know I am not. And although sometimes I look at him with exhaustion, and some days wish he was different, I still watch him sleep. As I do, the love that was slowly depleted throughout the day, recharges and the courage I need to face another day, reboots. I hold my head up and face each challenge because I can’t stop being his mommy…I love him too much.

I am that mom. That one you will pity and thank God you are not. The next time you see me, don’t judge. Just give me a high five, and remind me to keep on trucking.

I promise, I’ll do the same for you. 

Rushing Milestones

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Featured on Parent.co

During pregnancy, we anxiously await our little squash’s first kicks. We stare at the screen during ultrasound appointments to catch the first glimpse of our little pea’s beating heart.

At birth we await that first cry. During those precious beginning days, we marvel at the way they learn to feed, cry for demands, even open their eyes. From the moment we pee on that stick, we await their first accomplishments.

As they get older, our kids’ milestones get more momentous as they become little people with genuinely amazing personalities. They learn to smile, coo, crawl, sit up, use a spoon, chew food, walk, talk, the list could fill the page. We document these achievements ad nauseam on social media sites so all of our friends from high school know our child can poop.

We brag to all the moms at the playground that our little love can eat peas, goes potty on the toilet, or has achieved the holy grail – sleeping through the night. We constantly want for our mini-me’s to meet their next big development mark so that we can be proud of them.

No one feat, however, for me, was more eagerly anticipated than my little Bugga ditching his crib and becoming a big boy.

Compared to others, my little love had fallen behind. I mean, after the age of one, the steady stream of giant braggables seem to slow. While I still noticed steps in his development every day, the biggies, like potty training and moving into a toddler bed, just weren’t happening.

Months passed and my little Bugga was turning three. He loved his crib. He didn’t see it as the prison some feel confined to. He didn’t attempt to escape,  he didn’t beg to get out of it — in fact, he loved his sleep, 13 hours a night, with a two-hour nap (I know, pardon the brag). We were blessed with a kid who didn’t yearn for the freedom I so wanted him to want.

Strapped with guilt that we were babifying our eldest son, and due to the urging of family and friends, I decided the crib needed to go. What better timing than when we began potty training him. I was looking to be the envy of the playground — big boy bed and potty trained in three days. HA.

At first, my little love embraced his newest milestone. He grabbed his Handy Manny tool set Cradle_clip_art_hightand donned his construction hat as he helped daddy make his crib into his big boy bed. He gladly handed over his diapers to his little bro and pulled those “undywear” on with a sense of pride that I hadn’t seen since he decided to take his first steps. I beamed. I documented. I bragged.

He initially took to these changes the same way he takes to everything: acceptance with little complaining. But what I assumed would be something he’d love soon became his (and our) biggest nightmare.

If the jack-in-the-box nap times and the full hour it took to get our little gem to bed at night weren’t enough, within a few weeks, we were starting to really fail at potty training boot camp (which might have been the most devastating to my washing machine). The list of poor behaviors exhibited by our normally happy-go-lucky kid started alarming most of those who knew him. 

It didn’t take long to realize my nugget was suffering. While he didn’t complain, all the signs I needed were screaming at me. His sudden mood swings, his exhaustion, his accidents. He was riddled with anxiety over being rushed into a rite of passage he didn’t ask for, and quite frankly wasn’t ready to handle.

So, I took a deep breath, looked the naysayers in the eye, and manned up for my little boy. Once again he donned his construction hat, grabbed his tool kit, and helped daddy reassemble his crib.

We didn’t move backward, we didn’t call him a baby, we didn’t bring back the diapers. I called it like it was: he liked his crib. He liked the comfort and safety it brought him at night. He liked the feeling of security it wrapped him in as he slept. It was his room. It was all he knew, and he wasn’t ready to give that up. And I told him, that was okay.

He went back to sleeping soundly. His behaviors returned to normal. He reestablished mastery in all things potty. He moved right along, continuing to meet each new milestone with boundless energy.

Our children achieve such astounding feats. In this act of pushing mine, I learned that it’s not about our bragging rights, it’s about theirs. And no matter how fast or slow, they all get to the imaginary finish line in this fictional race of childhood.   

Like all proud parents, I continue to brag about Bugga’s accomplishments, but have stopped anxiously awaiting the next. I know he will get to them when he is ready, not a minute faster, and instead of wasting my precious moments waiting, I am restfully sleeping since he went back into his crib.

 

the days

Featured on scarymommy.com
Featured on scarymommy.com

These are the days, they say. The ones we will look back on in our later years as the best memories. The snuggles we receive daily will fade slowly until one day we yearn for the smell of their baby shampoo. The nights we smoother them with kisses will be replaced with sneaking out and slammed doors before we know it. We will beg for the simplicity of time outs and forced apologies. They say.

Right now, it seems those days will never come. I love my little gems more than life itself. Yup, I’d take a bullet. I’d gladly walk through fire if it ensured their eternal happiness. I also could do without the jack in the box bedtime routines, crap in the underwear, and bipolar episodes that rival some the best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moments.

When you are in the troughs of toddlerhood, it is very difficult to see the big picture. Sure there are no shortage of open letters written to pluck at our heart strings and give us the guilt we need to do one more glitter craft, but what about the days you just stop giving a fuck about glue, playdoh, and boa feathers? Those days when you just can’t muster the strength to pull them apart one more time over the Elmo doll? The days when they go to bed less than shiny because the energy needed for bath time was gone before lunch. Does that make us bad mothers? Ungrateful for these days?

The internet has made us think so. The perfect pictures of these wonderful moms that always seem to have it together, that contain endless energy, and shit rainbows. The glimpses of smiling faces destroying their mother’s kitchen with shaving cream activities and crayon doodles. The documents that scream you should meet your child’s every whim within seconds or they will turn into serial killers and take you out in your sleep. But the internet lies. It holds back the truth; it shows only the highlights of life. It shows only, the days.

It doesn’t show the ten minutes of screaming before the snapshot. It neglects to show the mom profusely cursing under breath as she scrubs the bathroom floor for the fifth time cartoon-1082114_960_720after her son can’t seem to find the huge hole that is the toilet. It doesn’t allow you to see the haggled, stain-ridden t-shirt you are rocking for the third morning at school drop off. It doesn’t show you the real effects of the days.

I don’t want to seem unappreciative of the time I get to spend with my boys. I understand the new role in my life is not a chore, but an amazing gift with which I have been blessed. With every fiber of my being I will work to raise beautiful, rule abiding, caring, well-rounded men; but, I also understand that these days will get better and only in hind-sight will they seem magical.

Some of these days we will tour dinosaur exhibits and museums evoking hours of childhood play. Some days we will get through two hours of school work and learn how to count without help. Some days we will go on exploratory walks discussing books we enjoy. Some days we will gather with friends and family and laughter will never end. Some days the boys will collect fireflies from the skies and revel in their awesomeness before releasing them hours after bed time. Some days we will go on vacations. Some days we will paint, and glue, and create masterpieces. Some of the days will be amazing.

Some days we won’t get out of our pajamas. Some days will be a TV marathon. Some days the kid will play with an empty popcorn bucket and paper coffee cup, despite the various toys at his disposal. Some days we will be in time out forty times and still push our brother over the toy train. Some days I will feel like I’m in negotiations with a terrorist over peas. Some days we will leave the supermarket with our pride in our pockets screaming all the way to the car over a bag of goldfish. Some days I’ll secretly snack on bonbons while playing “Hide and Seek.” Some of the days will suck.

Years from now I will look at the boys I have grown into men and will sigh in gratitude for all we have gone through to get to that point. I will reflect on the wonderful days that comprise my memories. I know those days will not just include the magical moments that made me seem like supermom; but, I also know in time all the non-magical, cleaning up messes, scrubbing off poop, lazy Tuesday’s will start to fade. I will let go the days that seem like hell. I will forgive myself for feeling embarrassed that this is my life. I will forget the open letters I’ve read that have shamed me into feeling less than stellar. Over time these days will be the days.

But for now, right now in this trench of toddler-hood, in the hardest, bloodiest fight of my adult sanity, I resolve to go to bed every evening feeling successful knowing my children had food in their bellies (not that it was all fruits and veggies), played with toys (maybe not the top market), and had clothes on their backs (sometimes several-generation hand-me downs). Some days will create our memories, and some days I will struggle to forget.

While I appreciate hearing from someone on the other side of this battle that these are the days, currently, as I struggle leaving the park with my screaming toddler, fail at my attempt to sneak a shower in during their ten-minute nap, stare longingly at my husband while scarfing down my meal at the kid-friendly restaurant, I don’t need the reminder. I don’t need to be told how I should savor the moments, create better memories, strive to be a better mommy.  I am already painfully aware of these days and if I am being honest, some days, I can’t wait until they are the days.   

really?!


So, I took on the supermarket today.

Have you ever taken both a toddler and a preschooler to the food store? Now add in all the last minute shoppers for the coming holiday, a ton of great deals on processed food, and it being 12 noon (an half hour before lunch). Oh, and lucky me, I arrived just as the local retirement community shuttle was dropping off their clientele. I swear, I can’t even make this stuff up.

So here I am entertaining Bugga with all my ramblings of the interesting items I am swiftly plucking from the shelves, (you will never appreciate the entertainment value of a kiwi until you have a 3-year-old) and supplying a miserable, molar growing, shell of my Handsome with water and every toy I have at my disposal, and I have to pee. Are you kidding me, Bladder? I’ve literally been in this store for five minutes. Peeing is not an option. So in true Mom of the Year (MOTY) style, I squeeze my legs, pray to the potty gods, and muster on, trying to remember the last few items on the list that Handsome had apparently deemed his chew toy a minute ago.

Anyway, so here I am gathering the canned goods for our Church baby-985942_1280program (I’m looking for ways to make up last week’s tantrum riddled service to the parishioners, ladies) and Handsome is in no way quietly telling me he is no longer having the food trip. I do a
quick glance of the cart, scan my watch. As I had expected, it had been ten whole minutes of semi-blissful shopping. I had to reach for the emergency, I need five more minutes before you blow your gasket, everyone is watching and I want a hole to open up and drag me down, stash–the lollipop. Only, I still needed a lot more time from that freakin’ life saver.

Of course Bugga also had to have one, we wouldn’t want to slight him of anything, and so began a few minutes of quiet, albeit sticky, shopping.

Then, Handsome dropped his pop, needed a new one immediately, and this set off the water works of a preschool. The irrational, hiccupping, my-life-just-ended, sobbing. How dare his brother receive a green pop, and he not also be given one–regardless of the fact that 30 seconds ago he was sucking on that thing with pure excitement, it was now poison.

Remember when I told you the Golden-agers where shopping with me today? This tantrum, that I was quickly trying to defuse and ignore, was like a homing beacon, and I was the horrible Mommy that just didn’t appreciate all this wonderful time that was so quickly passing me by. As each octogenarian walked by cooing my children and awwing me, I lost a bit more of my cool and the need to end this disastrous shopping trip was imminent.

We developed the sharing game, and the two swapped spit with pops until Handsome, thank god, became interested in the kiwi (which is now squished beyond use) and left Bugga to enjoy his new pop; me having lost the battle, but having won a quiet remainder of a shopping trip.

I’m not so sure why it is human nature to want to offer a criticizing word, or a tad of advice, or a sympathizing nod of the head when we see someone in the thick of a situation.  I suppose we inherently want to interject, but in these moments, in my moment, unless someone had a magic wand to wish my shopping done and me in my house during nap time, I really just wish everyone would have ignored us, as I was desperately trying to. I’m not sure anyone at the market wanted to hand me my MOTY award today, in fact I’m sure some placed me in the lowest tier, but, I did realize that sometimes to get the job done, you don’t have to win, you just need to survive.  And this Ma got everything on her list (well the part that wasn’t eaten, anyway).

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