Motherhood is full of amazing moments. Moments when I literally think my heart will burst with love and pride. Watching my little people grow and learn is amazing. My days are filled with so many of those kinds of moments.
But between all of those wonderful moments, the smiling faces, the picture-perfect days, there are also moments that almost break me.
Being an only child myself and spending two and a half years with just Connor, learning to split my time between two kids has been challenging. I’ve learned that it’s been just as hard on ME, if not more so, than it has been on Connor.
Today I felt extra-emotional and nostalgic, telling a friend how much I missed spending so much quality one-on-one time with Connor. Now granted, it’s a good thing for both of us that we have had to spend more time apart, but it is still hard to cope with regardless. Connor hardly wants to hug me anymore, much less cuddle. I feel like even though I’m with him every day I am missing the subtle changes that are making him more “kid” than toddler.
Cooper had been fussy and uncomfortable all day. I hadn’t had lunch, a load of clothes was in the washer needing to be switched, laundry was heaped on the bed, Max had just pooped ALL over the bathroom floor- for the second time- and I wasn’t in the best mental state to say the least.
Today after a busy morning at school and a not-so-great hour after we got home, Connor woke up from his too-long-nap groggy and whiny. Before Cooper was born, these were the rare kind of days we would snuggle up together in the rocking chair and watch a movie, me stroking his hair and truly soaking up the moment.
But today couldn’t be like the others.
Now I have an infant, a two-month old - with a cold - who needs me too.
After I got Connor out of bed he came with me to the bedroom where I was folding clothes and had JUST put Cooper down in his bouncer after holding him almost all afternoon. I attempted to start folding the laundry and Connor started whimpering and whining. The whimpering quickly turned to wailing, “Mommy, up! Mommy! Hold me, mommy!”
I knelt down on the floor and scooped him up, eager to get in some much-needed cuddle time. But he was so hysterical that he started kicking and grabbing at me trying to get closer when we were already as close as we could get. His crying started to escalate and I could feel my patience waning.
As I’m desperately trying to hold him to me and comfort him, Cooper starts crying. Just a little at first, but it quickly turns to all-out red-faced crying with his stubby little arms and legs flailing. I knew I had to put Connor down and it wasn’t going to go well.
I pushed Connor to one side, picked up Cooper and tried to hold them both at the same time. Connor amped up his crying and started trying to push Cooper off of me. Gulping breaths between his hot tears and snot he was yelling, “No, mommy! No Cooper. Hold me, Mommy! Hold ME!” Cooper continued to cry, arching his back, his head rolling to one side as he started slipping down my shirt.
My heart literally felt like it was ripping in two. I had to put one of them down. One of them would be second. And it had to be Connor.
I felt a flash of resentment for this baby who needs so much of me and then instantly felt guilty and horrible that the thought even crossed my mind. My precious, helpless baby was in pain and needed me. With every passing second that I sat clutching my two crying children, my own tears streaming, I felt more and more trapped and torn.
On days like today, no amount of encouragement will make me feel better.
Because the reality is:
And it hurts.
Yes, I know that in a few years I will look back on today with fondness and reminisce. Yes, I know that I will miss these days when my boys needed me. Yes, I know that in a short time the boys will be great friends and play and that they will both be fine. And yes, I know, that when I’ve rested and eaten and feel better that things will be better. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow will be better.
But tomorrow is not today.
Right now, today, my feelings are so raw and real that knowing all of those things does not help.
Nothing will help.
And honestly, I don’t even want help.
Because today, motherhood was hard.
I realize that I tend to write only about the “negative” moments of motherhood. My purpose is simply to normalize them. They happen. As a young mom “in the trenches,” these moments are more common than I would like. I know I will remember all the wonderful, happy days, but I also want to remember these real feelings I am feeling as a young mom. I am not suffering from depression, I love both of my kids with all my heart and soul, and I LOVE being a mom!
I sure do love being out and about. But recently getting back in the door and ready for the next thing has been a battle, especially when we come home from school.
Here is a recent example of a time when I lost my cool with Connor:
We come in the door after the drive home from school and I’m anxiously watching the clock. Naptime is 12:45 - on the dot!- and before that we still have to take off our shoes, change clothes (I’ve recently become a germaphobe with all the sickness floating around), wash our hands, eat lunch, put on the pull-up, read a story and brush our teeth. The clock is a-tickin.’ We have discussed this thoroughly on the car ride home- me cheerfully explaining each step and Connor reciting them back to me. I’m giving myself some positive self-talk and vowing that I absolutely will NOT nag or get frustrated this time. I feel good! Today will be different! He IS going to go with the routine and he WILL be in bed on time.
So what happens when we get in the door? The exact opposite, of course.
Connor runs around in circles screaming, climbs on the couch WITH his dirty shoes on, refuses to wash his hands, won’t take off his jacket and laughs his mischievous laugh.
Do I respond with grace and patience? Absolutely not! My heart starts beating faster, I’m eyeing the clock with the anger rising and the frustration gets to me.
I start out calm, “Connor, it’s time to take off your shoes.”
He continues running and laughing.
So I try again, “Connor, your shoes are dirty from school. There are germs all over them. Your brother will get sick. Come sit down and take off your shoes.”
He continues running away, his muddy shoes now tracking dirt ALL over the house.
So I try yet again, but with a sharpness to my seemingly calm words, “Connor! Get over here and take off your shoes. Right NOW.”
He comes and sits in the chair and I think, Whew, thank goodness. I was getting to my limit and I’m so glad he came! But what happens next? As soon as he starts to undo the velcro on one of his shoes, he shoots up out of the chair and resumes the running and laughing.
Annnnnd that’s when I lose it.
I stomp over to him, grab him too forcefully, plop him in the chair, take off his shoes with, again, much too much force, all the while I’m angrily saying, “I don’t understand why you can’t just SIT in this chair and TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES! I have HAD IT! You KNOW exactly what to do and you CHOOSE NOT TO DO IT!”
I feel the anger bubbling under the surface and I remind myself that this is exactly what I didn’t want to do. I’ve let him down and let myself down yet again and I feel completely helpless and inadequate.
I remembered how recently I heard someone explain that how when kids are at school they have to be structured, follow directions, and behave a certain way for an extended period of time. Connor is stimulated by his classmates, his teachers, his environment, and when he gets home it’s his time to be free and safe. At least he SHOULD be able to feel safe to express himself with no fear of shame or punishment.
When I stepped back and saw things from this perspective, it changed my thinking. I realized that just like I need some time to decompress when I get finished with a stimulating experience, he might need the same thing.
So one day I tried a different approach. Instead of spending our time in the car rehearsing the routine for when we got home, I let him talk if he wanted or just eat his snack and we both listened to the radio. As we got closer to home I said, “Okay, Connor, when we get home we have to do two things. We have to take off your shoes and change clothes. Your shoes and clothes have germs on them and we need to be clean. But after that, I’m going to give you ten minutes to do WHATEVER you want to do (imagine my super excited tone here, lol!) before it’s time to each lunch. Start thinking about what you want to do!”
He got excited and started thinking through the things he wanted to do when we got home. He finally decided that he wanted to watch Curious George. He is currently pretty obsessed with this curious little monkey! So, when we got home, he was more motivated to take his shoes off and change clothes so we could get to the show. And y’all, I’m not kidding, the kid literally jumped the ENTIRE ten minutes he watched. I remember just sitting and watching him thinking how all of that energy was just pent up in him all of those days I tried to force him to follow my routine. I felt so stupid.
Did the lunch routine go super smoothly after that? Not exactly. But it was better. It was a step in the right direction. He willingly got in his chair himself without me dragging him across the room!
When I let go of my own controlling expectations and allowed him to have the time he needed to let his energy out and decompress it was better for both of us. I had time to relax and get his lunch ready and actually enjoyed seeing him so happy and playful. I gave myself time to recharge my patience battery that I would need for the rest of the lunch routine and Connor was in a better place to listen after getting his energy out.
Is this going to work everyday? Probably not. But thinking about things from Connor’s perspective and getting out of my own head has been a great improvement.
I found this great little article on the Melissa and Doug blog with tips (and of course their products) to help bigger kids decompress after a full school day. Who knew they had a blog?!
Now getting OUT of the door is a totally different deal! I’ve got nothin’! ;)
Do you have any strategies that help you with getting in or out of the door? I would love to hear them!!
Besides a job at a daycare in high school, I have had only one job in my life- being a teacher. And that job wasn’t just a job for me- it was my lifestyle. I lived and breathed it and loved it and as a result I reached a place where I was fairly good at it and I felt a real sense of confidence and pride. It wasn’t always easy and I definitely had my share of failures, struggles, difficulties, and hardships, but the challenge was exciting and I was constantly growing, learning, and improving. I loved my students, my coworkers, my own little classroom, the smell of the cafeteria and sweaty kids after recess. Ok, maybe not so much the smelly kids, but you get my drift!
When I became a full-time-mom I never imagined that I would have to apply the same amount of work and learning to my parenting. But the reality is- being a mom is simply the hardest job I have ever had.
What makes it so hard? Well, for me, it’s a constant self-improvement project. My kids tend to bring out the worst parts of me. The impatient, selfish parts that weren’t always so present when I was working. No one is home with me offering praise for a job well done and I don’t have a team of people down the hall to collaborate with, plan, and problem-solve. Now that I realize how important those things are I am making an effort to “build my tribe” as the current lingo goes, but doing that takes extra time, energy, and effort that I don’t always have.
Half the time I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. There are so many situations in which I just have to stop and pray because I don’t want to yell or lose my cool. I’ve done the yelling and time-out- and lecturing (with lots of tears- both mine and Connor's!) too many times to count. I can tell you from experience- it doesn’t work!
God knew what he was doing when he paved the way for me to stay at home. I have learned through the situations I’ve faced that God polishes me like sandpaper on wood. The end result is beautiful, but the process is sometimes uncomfortable. Sometimes painful. Sometimes downright heart-wrenching.
I have also learned that we all have our unique boundaries, limits, and struggles. What is hard for me isn’t necessarily a problem for other moms and vice versa. Accepting that my struggles are just that- mine- and that no one can help me truly fix them but myself and God has been humbling. My own experiences, opinions, and frame of reference influences the way I parent and that isn’t always a good thing! For me to be a better mom I have to be the best version of myself and that requires change from the inside-out. Way easier said than done.
Thankfully, along with the challenging situations, he has also blessed me with people who are helping me in my journey. I have learned so much about myself and my children and just like when I was teaching I am constantly learning, growing, changing, problem-solving and improving.
After some soul-searching I realized that one of the things that helps fill me up is writing about and sharing my experiences. I have been so thankful to receive the help I have and I want to share anything that could potentially help just one other mom. Whether that’s sharing a lesson I’ve learned, a challenging moment I survived without losing my cool, a funny thing one of the kids did, or whatever- I just want to share. Writing is about the only creative outlet I have at the moment and I want to make an effort to do it more. I’m going to revisit this lonely ol’ blog of mine and rekindle our relationship. Ha!
So here’s to all of us mommas out there who are just doing the best we can for ourselves and our kids. My hope is that by sharing my journey I just might be able to offer something positive to someone else!