About Me

MoxieTopics

  • MoxieTopics
    Short PDF ebooks on specific parenting topics, in-depth and focused

Coaching and Workshops

Click through to Amazon.com

Moxie's reading

The 10-year-old's reading

MoxieTopics

  • MoxieTopics
    Short PDF ebooks on specific parenting topics, in-depth and focused

« A Case of the Mondays | Main | Why can't I love this, Continued »

Comments

Reese

"I hated this stage but ended up loving the next one" times?"

Oh my, yes. I hated the first year. Hated. We had breastfeeding problems, stomach/gas issues that forced me to completely limit my diet to four foods (chicken with salt and pepper, plain lettuce salads, plain hamburgers, white or brown rice), sleep issues (couldn't sleep without constant human contact), and PPD. It was hell.

BUT. One year rocks. Our daughter was born the day after Christmas in 2005 and on Christmas Eve 2006 it was a whole new world. All of a sudden she was walking, eating table food, sleeping better, smiling/laughing more, talking/chattering all the time, just being an absolute joy to be around. Plus my diet was completely back to normal (thank God).

She is 15/16 months now and we still have our moments. (Oh boy, do we.) But this stage is awesome. I absolutely love it. And I realized something about myself through the past 15 months - I LIKE babies but I LOVE toddlers. It doesn't mean that I haven't loved my daughter through every moment of her life, because I did/do. It just means that I like her a whole lot more now that I did 10 months ago.

And that's okay. :-)

monkeygirl

hoo boy, i am right there with you on this one... and in fact just made an appointment with my long-lost counselor to talk about why i am on the verge of losing it completely most of the time. my daughter is 11 months old, work is back in (more than) full gear, we've somehow gotten re-immersed in house projects, we have expectations of dinners out and seeing friends... and then it all goes to hell because we've somehow forgotten that she's still just a little baby.

a couple things that made a difference for me recently: calling the counselor. literally just calling her. my appointment is today, and i'm not sure what we'll talk about since i'm feeling so much better. most likely because of a couple other things i did: finding a close friend, also a mom of a similarly aged child, who i can be totally honest with. we popped the kids in strollers, went for a three mile walk, talked and talked and cried and talked. (ok, so the crying was just me, but still...) and signing up for a little more childcare, which includes dedicated time for me to exercise. that doesn't start until next month, but just knowing it's coming, that i will get to run at least once a week without having to negotiate with DH for the time, is huge.

and the last thing that has made a difference for me is that i've decided to quit pumping. i was DETERMINED to make it to a year, but my supply isn't so hot and i've been having to pump 3x in a 9-hour day to keep up with her. i finally realized, though, that it's more important that her mama is a relatively sane, happy person than that she gets breastmilk exclusively until this sort of arbitrary date on the calendar. i can still nurse when i'm not working, but losing the pumping eliminates some juggling from my crazy days, which would seem to be a good thing. so, yes, it's slowly starting to dawn on me that perfection is impossible.

KAMI

Three cheers for Lucy and Moxie! Speak up and speak often, b/c these are words every new mom needs to hear. I went into this parenting thing knowing that I would hate parts of it, but not realizing how angry I would be a lot of the time. I took most of it out on my mom (poor soul), but no one ever sat me down and told me it was okay to be pissed off about never sleeping for more than 4 hours in a row or being able to leave the house without packing a day's worth of 'just in case' stuff or being interrupted everytime I used the washroom or not being able to eat a meal at the same time as my husband or ... wait, what was I saying?

Oh yes. This mothering thing is hard, hard, hard work. For me the key was admitting to myself that I wasn't in control of the situation and letting go of that expectation. I learned to trust my child to lead the way and to act more in an advisory role. Now, at 18 months, I can enjoy the world from her perspective without too much stress.

Do the best you can with what you've got and know that it will be enough. At least one part of the old cliche is true - time flies. Whether or not you have fun is neither here nor there.

Hillary

Perfect pregnancy, 42 hours of labor, horrible recovery, botched breastfeeding—lasted a month.

I felt the same way and I realized I needed help. So I got some anti-depressants and started therapy, again. It makes a WORLD of differnece.

I just wasn't ever able to cut myself slack, ever. It's been 4 years now. Life got much better.
Hang in there

Jezer

The other night, I, the self-professed nutrition watchdog, looked on as my toddler ate Cheetos and 7-up for lunch. And it was OK. In the grand scheme of things (and that's what I like to focus on) those momentary dropped balls are just that--momentary. The bad is just temporary and the good is fleeting.

And Zoloft rocks.

Lisa

I understand the guilt, oh yes. In our case we dealt with infertility, so during the many moments of my daughter's first year when I wasn't having fun, I felt incredible guilt and confusion over not feeling happy and grateful 100% of the time. Babies are very needy and don't give a lot back. My daughter was (and continues to be) on the late end of the development curve and I worried myself sick over that. I hate that I spent so much time worrying, but it all goes back to that notion that you should be loving every minute of it.

When I fantasized about being a parent, I also daydreamed about life with a 3-6 year old. Not so much the baby part. My daughter is now 14 months old and just in the past couple of months it's gotten so much more fun and rewarding. Of course now we're dealing with temper tantrums and other not-so-fun toddler issues, but overall, I am having way more of those "wow, so this is what it's all about" moments than before.

Sandra

I had an amazingly wonderful pregnancy and was soooo unprepared for what came after! The first year of my daughter's life was really hard for me. PPD, etc. She is now 16 months old and it is sooo much better. It is fun.

I was in a cafe yesterday and a mom came in with her 7 month old in a stroller. She sat by me and immediately apologised for her baby and hoped that the baby wouldn't disturb me. I told her no worries as I am a mom too. This mom was "me" at that time - stressed, anxious about what everyone else was doing/thinking, certain that her baby was the loudest, etc. And her daughter was fine. She was just being a 7 month old baby. I told the mom that it gets much easier.

I remember too in the early days when it seemed like EVERYONE else was able to take their babies out for coffee or to eat. Not me - Monkeygirl was to fussy. Or I was too anxious. OR a combination of the two.

And people would say "it was sooo easy when they were really little - now it is harder to get out". Well, now at 16 months, it is sooo easy for me and her to get out. We go everywhere.

Hang in there. Get counselling if you want. Anti depressants are a g-dsend. Exercise at a gym with childcare - my saving grace. Breathe.

Megan

Having a baby relatively late in life (35), I was so ultra-prepared for this little one and so NOT prepared for the utter devestation he would wreck on my life! I used to whisper to myself shamefully, "We just have to make it to 6 months." Of course, if it hadn't gotten better by 6 months, what was I going to do? Nothing, obviously, it was just a silly mental exercise. I found my son (who, at 15 months, is utterly engaging, adorable, fun and interesting to be around) as an infant so boring. I loved him completely, but didn't know what exactly to do with myself (or him).

Every milestone made things better, and things were much better by 12 months. Now that he's talking (sort of) and walking, life is awesome. Don't beat yourself up if secretly you're bored or lonely or sad or angry. Don't show that side to your baby, and everything will be fine. I had a sister who I could tell all of my ugly thoughts to, and she totally got it. I didn't tell anyone else, because they would have been horrified. As someone once said, "The days are long, but the years are short."

Be silly with your baby and easy on yourself. Take time for yourself whenever you can. Meditate. Exercise. Eat well. Take long hot showers. Repeat.

Maria

Well – I loved the baby parts. Sure, I got tired and it wasn't all sunshine and roses, but I knew what I was doing, and once we got the breastfeeding worked out (after an excruciating month or two, to be sure) I was confident, we co-slept so I wasn't getting up in the middle of the night, and babywise, things were swell.

Now that she's 3.5 - not so much. I clean all day and make no progress. I don't have 10 minutes to think my own thoughts without hearing "Maaaaaaamaaaaaa!". I don't get to make the decisions unilaterally anymore; my whole day is a long series of negotiations that leave me feeling frustrated and impotent and like I'm 'losing' (whatever that means!). I feel wholly inadequate as a mother and a human being.

At least I had that first year or two of feeling like I knew what I was doing and why. So I have some faith that this too, shall pass and I'll regain a sense of competency. And possibly an attention span, but I'm not holding my breath. I think it must be harder for women who have a hard time during babyhood and have to wait for toddler or preschool time to get their groove on. But I'm here to say - they are all stages, take heart!

Corinne

I hated the first 7 months... well, not fully hated... there WERE moments I loved it, but I was lucky. I didn't have breastfeeding issues, my son had a perfect latch and a healthy appetite. I just hated having to wake up all the time, having to isolate myself at family functions (I wish people would get over their issues with breasts) to feed him, I grew tired of trying to entertain a baby who wasn't mobile yet. I weaned my son to the bottle (I also started Welbutrin at the time, hence the need to wean), and soon after, gained back some of my sanity. I only needed the meds for a month, and stopped taking them right about the time my son was learning to walk. And OH THE JOY!!! Walking made my life so much easier. That, coupled with the switch to milk from formula) brought on a whole new stage... sure, I still have my days where I can't take it, but in general, I love this age. I can run around the yard with my son, chase him around the house... walk places... it's just so much easier when they're off the boob/bottle and walking. SO MUCH... hang in there, it's about to get good....

laura

Nothing, NOTHING prepared me for the violence of the birth experience. You're onto something with that reference to post traumatic stress disorder, Moxie.

I also didn't really think about having to endure the baby parts to get to the three year old (or whatever idealized age it is where everything starts to fall into place and we really begin to enjoy each other!). So having this screaming infant attached to me all the time was also completely traumatic.

I've also been dealing with the food intolerance thing. She's 7 months this week and only now am I starting to successfully add things back into my 5-food diet. (Woot!)

I think the thing I've learned the most is that it is necessary to have a complete and total breakdown every month or so. Things build up, you get crazier and crazier, and then just as you think you cannot possibly go on for another day, you cry and cry and then feel much better.

Last week I was about ready to wean. This week, I am confident that I can make it for at least 5 more months, if not longer.

It's also really super important for me to get out of the house on a daily basis. I notice my angst levels rising if we've been stuck inside with each other for too long. I leave my wallet in the car and browse around Target for an hour. :)

But yeah, anyway, we are the new generation of mothers telling it how it IS, rather than sugar-coating the (literal) hell out of the experience. People ask me how I'm doing at church and are rather taken aback when I say, "Really crummy! This is hard work and I hate it most of the time!" But a lot of the older women then open up and thank me for being honest, since they did this whole thing in a culture that didn't allow for it.

Jennifer

Moxie, Sometimes you just nail it perfectly with a phrase, "fantasizing about a night alone in a hotel on nice sheets." God I do that all the time! And, once before you wrote "say goodbye to daytime sex." Sigh. I so miss the daytime sex....Thanks for this post. I "feel" the same way and it's wonderful to know I'm not alone -- and we should all give ourselves some slack. Someone else said, and I think of it now as my truth: when you have a baby the minutes and hours crawl by until sleeptime, but the months and years FLY. So, true.

Amanda

Oh, I hear you! I am a mom of a 13-month old. It certainly gets a little better every month. I love the little bean, but everything is much much harder than I expected. We now are in the throws of a hunger strike. I have a few things that keep me sane: 1. a friend who is "perfect" mom (bakes all her own bread, kids eat exclusively homemade organic, can travel 100s of miles with her, know 50 baby signs, etc,etc. I use her for good advice. 2. a friend who is like me, and we just call to commiserate. If I am having a bad day with a sick kid, you can bet she is too. If one of the kids has a cold, the other spiked a temp. They got teeth at exactly the same time. We just laugh and cry. 3. Mommy beers - getting together with some other moms to just vent and have an adult beverage! The dads like it because it calms us down and tends to make us more, um, friendly. Haha. Hang in there. And ignore those 'perfect' moms...I agree with whomever said they are lying...

flea

I found I had to have a moratorium on reading any parenting books in the first year of my first child's life. And I tried to avoid magazine and newspaper articles on parenting, and fended off my mother as much as possible. I found almost any kind of advice - even when I really needed help - to be so judgmentally given that it just made me feel incompetent and stupid. (Obviously Moxie was not yet giving advice at that point!).

What I found most helpful was hearing other people's honest experiences - positive and negative. Sometimes this happened in real life, but more often it was reading parenting blogs - it's sad that we have to be talking to the semi-anonymous internet to be honest about how hard parenting can be, and have to keep up a front of "everything's great - I love this!" in front of our families and even our friends. Now I try to be honest. Fair, but honest.

Blanca

I have to say that not everything looks as it is. A couple of months ago a friend told me how well and calm I looked for having a little one. My son was about 5 month old, waking every 3 hours at night and I was in the middle of a breastfeeding crisis. I was so suprise for her coment. I told her that the calm she saw was probably the fact that I was able to be completly awake during the day ;-)

Moxie, loved your coment. It made me laugh out loud at work. ups.

By the way, I've just decided to wean my baby (almost 7 months) because I can not make my milk flow come back up. Feeling soooo guilty here. But it's too frustraing when I just breastfeed him and I have to give him a formula because he's still so hungry.

Hung in there, as you see you're not alone.

Blanca

The part of the daydreaming zen mom it's what made me laugh. Somebody said something about a sleep-deprived mommy brain?

hedra

Okay, I'm supposed to be working, but I'm going to pop in here anyway.

You're sane, Lucy, and normal. Much of this just takes time and practice. And Moxie is right - there's a HUGE amount of propaganda, and maternal guilt/shame/expectations tend to make other moms go on about the good stuff when asked, and ignore (or lie about) the rough stuff. Plus, it is nice to say the good stuff out loud to SOMEONE, when what's going on in the internal commentary is 'this SUCKS'.

So, my thoughts, which will be long, as usual (when I can even get on here anymore!), and which only partly answer your problem...

1) Grieve the dream. If you dreamed of how wonderful this age (whatever it was) would be, grieve the loss of it for the sake of reality. It hurts to lose those dreams. I still go ahead and dream them for each age as my kids get older, and still grieve them when reality kicks me in the teeth. I just do so less often - a) I'm too busy to fantasize about how much I'll enjoy the next phase, and b) I don't really enjoy the grieving much. By the time they're grandparents themselves, I'll have kicked the habit, I expect. ;) Giving myself permission to acknowledge my expectations were x and reality is y, and have that hurt, and let it go... that's important. Hanging onto the pain makes it worse. Mostly I'm down to rueful sigh, not actual tears, at least. As for the rough patches in pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding (and beyond), again, hug the dream to you, love it, and grieve the loss of it. We all dream those dreams, and we all get what we actually get, and we all have to live with what we actually get. You can redeem some losses by both preparing yourself to avoid those losses later (should you have another child, knowing more about what went awry, why, and how to reduce the odds of a repeat may help), and preparing others (the 'wayfaring' part - telling your birth story to others is really a way of saying 'here there be monsters' like old seafarers did for new seafarers - signposts, guides, warnings... just make them useful if you can, rather than just scary). And then realize that while you may learn enough to avoid one issue, that there are other issues out there. I had a really extended labor the first time, prepped for that, had a short labor but polyhydramnios and a bad backup OB the second time, prepped for how to handle those, and had twins the third. Um. The only thing I did 'better' the third time was that I was deeply aware that what mattered most was not what happened, but how I responded to it, and that was really the only part I could control anyway. Still didn't do it perfectly on the fly, but am able to forgive myself for being human, and able to forgive my care team for also being human. (Forgiveness, by the way, is a BYPRODUCT of the process of healing, not the path to healing, IMHO.) 'nuff nattering on that.

2) It gets better. This is what I've found - I enjoy the next phase more than the current one, with one or more minor 'one step back two steps up' hiccups. Major 'step back' phase for me is the 2-to-3 year transition - I like 2 better than 3, but then I like 2 better than ANY age so far (we're up to 9). I'm clearly insane, though! LOL! I remember so much of being 2, the age is just a wonder to me--I remember so much wonder in it myself. Three... well, three is power struggles and compliance issues, and that's not my strong suit. Sigh. But other than that one hitch (and yours will be unique to you and your child), every age is just more fun. Not easier, mind, but I find more satisfying. Perhaps that's partly also due to item 3)...

3) Most people get better at enjoying it as we go. Whether that's small increments or large, whether it takes meds and therapy or a support group or just the usual process of reality setting in, almost everyone I know learns HOW to enjoy it as they go. It is the rare parent who already knows how to enjoy it all when they're doing so much of the work. That you want to love it NOW is at least sign that you're a work in progress, and not oblivious. And that you're asking is more evidence that you're driven to move toward more joy, and that drive is in most parents - they don't want to miss it, or they realized they missed some part already and don't want to miss more, etc. And that pushes, and itches, and niggles at your brain and heart, and so you work on enjoying more and fretting less, and you eventually succeed more. Natural process. Natural process, IMHO, also includes handling PPD, Maternal Depression, anxiety, and long-term hurts that need healing, meds included. Natural to struggle toward whole, healed, here, and happy.

4) Understand that there are ages of natural affinity. Some people love love love the baby stage, and then have a brief letdown when that's over, and then it improves again and goes on its gradual upward track. Others don't like the baby stage much. Some prefer the emotionally challenging pre-teen and teen years (really, I knew one mom like that!). I personally wish that maternity leave started at 6 months postpartum, when, as another friend of mine claims, 'the personality fairy arrives' and suddenly the cute squishy lump becomes PEOPLE. And I have another friend who put off having kids at all for a while because, well, she just doesn't like babies OR toddlers. She's finding that she's enjoying the toddler period more than she expected, for which she's glad, but she still seems wistful, waiting for the preschool and school-age years. My advice to her was that it was okay not to love a given phase, and just take it for what it was worth, and carry on. The long-dreamed of phase won't be what you expect, either, and by then you'll be more comfortable rolling with what you've got, and grieving the loss of your not-based-in-reality dreams.

5) Carrying from my mom's commentary about parenting, the real joy of parenthood is the adult-to-adult relationship with your grown children. The childhood part is way overrated, though it has its own joys. The greatest joy, according to my mom, is meeting on even footing the adults your children were growing toward all that time. That's the longest part of the relationship you'll have with your child (with any luck), and if you're aiming for that as a goal, you'll be less likely to get too caught up in how much you're enjoying or not enjoying right now, and just BE in what you're doing now. Which brings me to my next point.

6) Just be. Yes, the early years are a lot of preparation, setting up patterns and trying to acheive good habits, etc., and that's not the most fun, and provides a huge amount of compost for worry to grow in. If the focus is on being, that cuts back on some of the worry/fret. An exercise for that: Do a body check any time you're feeling worried. Just check in with all five senses. How does my entire body feel right now (relax anything that's tense). What can I smell (if it is foul, come up with the funniest description of the odor you can, see if you can crack a smile over it). What do I hear (if it isn't nice, sing something - I make up a LOT of songs). What do I see (look around to find something nice - when my life is cluttered, I can always look at my kids hands - nothing better than their hands...). What can I touch (hands and hair both work wonders for my worries). And yes, I get all smooshy when I do this, and No, I don't do it enough. But I do it sometimes, and that helps me be here, just being. And that's where the joy comes from.

7) Have a mantra. Or several. My favorites:

When worried about my kids getting hurt: "Right now, {my child} is okay."

When worried that I'm blowing something that will 'ruin' them: "{my child} is resilient, strong, and capable. They'll grow past my mistakes, as I grew past my parents'."

When I realize how much I've blown something: "Therapy works." (then proceed to do something to help reduce the cost of their eventual therapy, LOL!)

When I worry about their health/habits/wellbeing: "Let it go, and problem solve!" (then focus on just what can be done right now, without a fight)

When I feel like there's a gap between me and my child that I'm not navigating well: "I'm so glad you're in my life" (actually, I usually say that one out loud, and as soon as I say it, I feel it)

When I feel like I've wasted a day, week, or month doing something bass-ackwards or focussing on the wrong things: "Today is the only day. There is only now, this moment."

When the child is driving me BATTY (typically due to a fussy stage - and they carry on until well into adulthood, IMHO; or just from age-appropriate behavior that I'd rather they be too old for): "It's a phase, it's just a phase, everything's a phase." and/or "In two weeks, it won't be like this." and/or "In 20 minutes, everything will be different."

When I'm having a problem/power-struggle that I just cannot seem to get a handle on, or am fighting a losing battle against a habit/issue that I have not figured out how to cope with: "When {mu child} is 35, will anyone care about this? Will it still be an issue?"

When the day is awful and doesn't seem to be getting better: "Tomorrow will be a brand new day, in which we can try again." (often said out loud to the child, too - they need to hear it as much as I do, most of the time.)

Most of those are automatic, at this point.

8) Develop a habit of gratitude. Yeah, it is a habit, not something native. My mom did it by finding one moment of joy for or with each child, every day. She refused to go to bed before she could look back on one moment, didn't have to be more than a second long, and smile, for each of us. She says there were days that she kept one of us up past bedtime JUST so she could get that moment. Being grateful for those moments is one of my best paths to feeling peaceful and at ease with my mishmash of a life, full of the collisions of six lives on their own tracks occupying the same space with multiple intersections.

9) Write it down, and make it the good stuff. Memory is faulty, and prone to taking certain paths. Early on, I used a calendar to write down interesting events, and I posted regularly to a message board - and then copied and saved those posts to a file(!!), so I could look at them later. My memory of my own childhood is clear, but my memory of my children's childhood, not as clear. There's more joys there in my notes and posts than I can recall when I just fish around in my head. Okay, so I usually can't remember what I did yesterday, LOL! Write it down.

10) Recognize the seasons of this. Yes, a specific moment may be gone forever. But the moments are a cycle, and the cycles turn and return in amazing ways. It is more like the circuit of the earth around the sun than it is a timeline stretching to the future. The seasons turn and return. No two are the same, but the same opportunites come once more, in new form, in their own time. What seemed ruined regrows, what was ignored has a new chance to be tended. The exact shape of the child, like a garden, is always new and changing, but the chance to enjoy it returns over and over. Treat parenthood more like a gardening process than a 'hit the mark right or lose it forever' series of unique events, and you'll have more sanity and more peace - at least, I did once I turned that conceptual corner. I'm learning to tend my children as I am my garden, learning that doing it well is about the intersection between their growth and my tending, and not about my forcing anything into being. And just like parenting, when people talk about 'having a garden' they talk about the fruiting and the blooming, and not about the weeding and the need to be ever-present in the space, or fighting invasive intruders, or painfully learning that the garden's conditions will not permit you to grow what you dreamed of seeing flower, and certainly not about the tedium and impatience as something that has a long path to maturity takes its own sweet time growing, or the itchy desire to dig something up to see if at least the ROOTS are doing something useful (since nothing else seems to be happening...)! Same same same with parenting. Yes, I still really relish the 'bloom times', but the joy comes more from seeing that this time, I understood where to put that plant so that it would thrive, and this time I spotted that weed before it set seed. As a parent, the more I do it, the more I love the moment that my son spontaneously turns to help his sister take off her coat, or the odd question that shows another's been thinking about something I said, or the fact that WHOA I realized that my oldest was fretting that someone didn't believe him and captured the opportunity to talk about the meaning of friendship, what jealousy is, and why it isn't necessary to prove oneself to others if one had already proven oneself to oneself. That was a good one. That was tending. That was a moment to remember. Likewise, as time goes on, the less I care about the *MILESTONES AND MOMENTS* that were touted to me before I had kids.

11) (yeah, ELEVEN, LOL!) Being a bear stuck in a great tightness (ah, the wisdom of Pooh!), the best way to get yourself through the stuck spot is to be patient, and be sustained by patient companionship and a good book. Granted, it is really hard to find time to read, but I do it in 1-2 paragraph increments (at best, a few pages, and I read fast!), in the bathroom in the morning, before all the kids are awake. Most of the time I read news magazines or fluff that my DH picks up, but when I'm Pooh bear stuck in Rabbit's doorway, when I can neither wiggle nor figure my way out, I read. I recommend Parenting as a Spiritual Journey, by Nancy Fuchs (now back in print, woo!), or In the Newborn Year by Elisabeth Hallet, or Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Myla Kabat-Zinn... really, any book on the spiritual challenges and changes of parenthood, regardless of faith or practice(these are all from different philosophies/theologies). Those books are more sustaining for me during these times, because they talk about what isn't said, and about what I think you are seeking, those scattershot moments of wonder, peace, and joy that you're reaching for. And they reassure me that my shape will change, and I'll make it through that knothole eventually. (Okay, that was a summation of one of my mom's best sermons, LOL! Ah, Pooh, we love you.)

And last, a hug and a cup of tea, and an understanding smile, because parenting is an immense change, and becoming comfortable with the losses that come with it (dreams included) is a change so profound that I can only equate it with a spiritual revelation. The world you knew is gone, ripped away by the curled up helpless hands of an infant. What had been important is irrelevant now, and what is important now is pressing sharp and hard on every newly tender spot you've got. It is profoundly uncomfortable; at times agonizing. And it is slippery, impossible to grip, always there, never really captured until it is inside you. Congratulations for looking for a way to get there.

It is hard to find peace and joy while you're reshaping your mind and learning to understand the mother-you that was born brand new with that child's birth (IMHO, this process is delayed more when there were serious challenges and traumas to recover from and integrate as well). We too often think that the difficulties of new motherhood are *just* the demands of the new job, caring for the baby, loving it so much that it hurts, needing to be as perfect at nurturing and growing this child as the child surely deserves. That's surely enough to flatten anyone (not to mention the other struggles you note). But a big, often-unnamed part of it is that we're new-born as well, and the entire world is new-born in our eyes. The work of integrating our new understanding, our dramatically expanded capacity for empathy (how many of us wept for the parents of those kids on Monday, and hugged our own children tighter?), a new depth of vision into our parents lives, and consequently re-examining and reshaping our memories of our own childhoods... that's a LOT of work going on. Finding one moment to grasp as a joy in every day can be a tall order in the midst of that. Eventually we either toughen our skins or (better, IMHO), learn how to walk through this terrible and beautiful world with our skins off, and at that point, the joys tend to settle in unannounced without us asking or seeking quite so hard.

When I became comfortable with my skin off, and was able to welcome the fact that I was hostage forever to the fates of my children, and when I stopped railing against the truth that as a human my ability to shape, guide, protect, and teach my child was limited... then I found I was much more able to feel the joys and remember them and know that while I couldn't capture every moment, what I had captured was enough.

(Phew, man, when I don't come here often enough, it builds up, huh? LOL!)

hedra

Oh, and I just got the comment this week that I don't LOOK like I have four kids, including 2-year-old twins...

Um. I call that 'good under-eye concealer', LOL! Hides a multitude of sleep-disrupted nights... ;)

Mandy

There was a time when I thought "how dare I not be happy?" After infertility treatments, a miscarriage and finally a healthy pregnancy - how could I possibly not be loving every minute of this?

Motherhood is hard. In the earliest of days (the first week) I had a bit of 'help' which was mostly offers to hold the baby when what I really needed was not to worry about laundry or cooking. Then everyone went back to work, regular lives etc --- and the hard part for me was when my daughter became more alert, wasn't sleeping all the time, wasn't breastfeeding as she should (though we did ultimately get over that and now at 2 she doesn't want to wean), and I was getting no sleep.

I swear I understand now why sleep deprivation is used as a torture method. It also, combined with hormonal changes, is a great recipe for depression. I thought it was depression only if I had harmful thoughts toward myself or the baby - but mine came in the form of apathy toward everything but the baby. I was overwhelmed and couldn't sleep even when she was sleeping. I thought I was drowning. All the while I was supposed to look like a glowing new mother and my face was covered in horrible postpartum acne that had perfect strangers asking "what happened to your face?"

It seemed like every other mom had it more together than me. 2 years later I'm watching my SIL with her newborn and wondering how she can have perfect hair and makeup and not seem tired. Then I realized that she's got a lot more help than I did, she's got an older son, and honestly - she's waay more laid back than I'd be comfortable with.

We're all going to do this differently. If you feel there might be some depression, there's no shame in that - it seems they are finally discovering how common it really is and sometimes we need a bit of help to get over the hump.

Get out when you can - it makes a world of difference. Most of all, be gentle with yourself. We tend to be much more harder on ourselves than we'd ever be toward someone else.

Erin

I'm sitting here in tears after reading all of the responses to Lucy's questions. My daughter will be 8 months old on Friday, and I am on the verge of losing it. I was just telling my husband last night that I wasn't sure if I wanted to have more children, because I'm not handling motherhood well. And I'm someone who has always wanted to be a mom, and I wanted to have 3 or 4 children.

I was fortunate to have a great pregnancy, a birth experience I was okay with, and 4 months of awesome sleep. Then it all fell apart. I got mastitis when L was 5.5 months old, and my supply on my left side has never been the same. It's hard for me to pump enough milk so that I can get some much-needed time away. I no longer enjoy breastfeeding like I did before, because my nipples always seem to be sore, no matter how diligent I try to be about latch and positioning. We're currently in the middle of teething and sleep regression. L is super clingy and fussy right now, and some days I feel as though I can't do anything right. I often feel like a failure as a mother. I think one of the hardest things is that I don't feel like myself. I'm often grumpy when I'm not around the baby, and I snap at my husband an awful lot. I'm not sure why I'm having such a hard time submitting to the chaos right now, but I think if I could, things would seem a bit easier.

hedra

"Most of all, be gentle with yourself. We tend to be much more harder on ourselves than we'd ever be toward someone else."

Big ditto there - that was another thing I did when I was struggling, picture another mom in my position, and feel for me what I'd feel for her, which was sympathy and compassion. This is a tough job.

I also realized I wanted to address the 'was an in-control working mom' transition to 'oh-my-god-I'm-not-in-charge!'... it may help you to figure out what things you can actually control, and what you cannot. Make a list.

And if your house and life was organized before, and is chaos now, let me pass on something I only JUST learned (from a friend who had a home organization consultant come do a visit/consultation/analysis)... until your child is 4 or so, no rational professional organizer would expect you to be able to be organized, in-control, on top of everything. FOUR YEARS OLD, before we have enough time, energy, focus, attention, and time to do more than basic-basic sanity maintenance and occasional emergency salvage efforts.

So there's your baseline. If you know someone who's ahead of that line, bully for them, but they're not the typical ones.

Yeah, my house can look orderly and tidy when someone comes to visit. It takes hours of concerted work and someone babysitting the kids to get there! And don't look in the office... ;)

hedra

Erin, don't discount PPD at this point, either. The snappish is my main feature. Sudden changes in breastfeeding status can trigger it.

Yeah, you're in a rough patch. That fussy stage sucks. Keep in mind that the TYPICAL reaction in a fussy stage is "I'm FAILING at this, I've ruined everything", "I QUIT, whatever it was I've done is clearly wrong, and I'll stop, whatever it was, if it means things will get better!" and general feelings of misery.

Combine those, and who would ever want to be a mom in these conditions? Count yourself sane for registering that this ain't fun right now. But you're not blowing it, you don't suck, and it will get better.

Okay, REALLY need to get back to work... yikes!

Crystal

Moxie, you're sooooo awesome for writing this. It's EXACTLY what I've been going through for the past 9 months and thinking about for the past month or so. I finally told my husband, "This time is just going to suck and there is nothing we can do but wait it out." Yes, we love our son and yes, we are having some good times. But OH IS IT HARD. Especially when he is up for over an hour in the middle of the night, husband is sick, and I have bloodshot eyes and have been feeling sick and faint for days...things aren't so good over here. We thought it would get better with age but that hasn't happened yet.

Thank you for writing this and letting us know we aren't alone.

NB

Just had to comment that you line about dreaming of a night in a hotel made me laugh--for my b-day I did just that! Husband and I went to a hotel just a few blocks away, and I bought a stack of magazines, candy, and champagne. It was awesome.

wendy

All good advice. I've been thinking recently about the isolation I feel. My 8 month old baby is best when we rarely leave the house since the sleep/nap/eating schedule is regular. When I feel cruddy for whatever reason, I have to call someone or read Moxie to find someone with whom to commiserate. The husband is great, but too rational for baby stuff. Sometimes what I need is someone to just walk up, lay hands on me and say "This must be very difficult for you. You are doing a great job" and then take the baby for awhile. What I don't need is for the husband to ask whether I have developed PPD, or ask how I can be crying when we have such a great baby/life.

I think what we need is a temporary village for moms and babies, where we all sit around together in old sweats, watching Oprah and helping each other through the first year with anything that comes up. Sympathetic and empathetic adults only allowed. The menfolk could just toss money over the wall as needed.

Thanks for the good post.

Julie

Expectations will kill you. Literally. My DH went out of town on business yesterday. I was excited to have some time to myself, with just me and my 18 m/o son. I never worry about doing it alone – let’s face it, I do 99% of it anyways. I expected a peaceful evening last night – instead I got 30 minutes of crying at bedtime, which for us is rare. I expected my son to sleep later this morning b/c DH is not tromping around the house at 5:00 AM…..DS woke up an hour earlier than usual. I expected I’d be able to take a shower with DS playing with toys on the floor of the bathroom – for some reason he totally freaked.

This morning I lied to my mother who takes care of him 3 days a week while I work and told her I had a meeting- just so I could sneak back home and have some alone time. Am I enjoying it? Not really. I feel like I am a prisoner of the love I feel for my child. When I’m with him, I enjoy him but am craving some freedom, flexibility, and time alone. When I find that time, I am missing him and feeling guilty (for actually skipping the meeting, for lying to my mother…..the list goes on and on). The things I want are simple: I would like to go to the gym without negotiating times with my husband on a daily/weekly basis (And “negotiate” is the hardball kind – sometimes I feel like I’m buying a car, the number of times we go back and forth over when I’ll go, how long I’ll be, and when I can be back). I would like to be in my own home ALONE for a little bit every day. I resent my husband for the freedom he has to come and go….and REALLY resent it when he gets annoyed when a temper tantrum interferes with his viewing of a Tivo’ed episode of SportsCenter at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon. Resentment? I’m full of it at times.

Motherhood brings great joy. My son is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But motherhood is also tremendously boring (and let’s not even address when it’s stressful, frustrating, or just grating on your nerves). It is f-ing boring to go up and down the small hill in our front yard a million times. Or to go outside to find the neighbor’s cat for the 20th time that day. An 18 month old who is still not talking much has lots of times when he shrieks to get my attention, to let me know he wants something, to register his displeasure….I understand why my husband shouts “Come ON!” when he has to rewind his show 3 times just to hear the score of the game. But when do I get to shout anything? This IS the new normal, and accepting that for a few years it totally sucks at times doesn’t make the now any easier. Get a therapist who will listen to you spew. Find a friend who has been through this, or is going through it with you. Sign up for some childcare. Pay for a hotel room so you can get a good night’s sleep (? Will you? Or will you sit there and wonder if your husband will wake up when the baby cries at 1:30 AM?)

I think the people who whole-heartedly say that it is all worth it are on the other end of it. Like getting a root canal. Yes, it’s worth it in the end. But the “during” part can be absolutely awful. Embrace it, and then figure out what brings you joy and figure out a way to carve some time for yourself to pursue that. And if you have to do that by lying to your mother so you can go home and drink a cup of coffee in peace……well, no one here will judge you.

Arwen

What a great post, and great comments!

My daughter Milla is 6 months old and I'm doing about 500% better than I was 3 months ago, thank God. Part of that is changes in her - she's gotten way less fussy, more independent and more fun - but most of it is changes in me.

Two main things have helped:
1. I seriously adjusted my expectations and stopped comparing myself to other people. I'd thought, I suppose, that I'd still be able to do all the stuff I'd done before, just with a baby along. I know it's like that for some people, but not with my baby - and that was something to get used to.

My sister lives nearby with her baby who is four months older than mine, and she seems to be able to do everything. It was key for me to let go of the idea that I wasn't a good mom unless I kept up with her. So what if she goes grocery shopping during the day, by herself with the baby? If I try to do that I'm a grumpy, exhausted mess by the end of it, so I my husband and I take the baby and go in the evening, and that's okay.

2. I did, and continue to do, my own version of cognitive therapy: I'm constantly adjusting my thinking. And I can't believe how much it helps.

It's so easy to get overwhelmed by all the little things we have to do as mothers, that it's difficult to remember that most of them are little things. When I start to feel overwhelmed I remind myself that if Milla has a clean diaper, isn't hungry and isn't crying, I'm doing my job.

It sounds sort of weak when I write it out, but I can't tell you how much it makes a difference to constantly refocus my thoughts. I'll be playing with the baby in the afternoon and think, "I still have three more hours until Bryan [my husband] gets home" but then I think, "Wait a second, why is that so bad? Am I not enjoying playing with her right now?" I've done this refocusing enough that it has become a habit, and I'm much happier all day with the baby now than I was before.

Charisse

Oh gosh yes!! What everybody said. I've never been a baby person, though experience with my own baby made me have a lot more sympathy for them. For me, every month gets better looked at in the aggregate. Mouse just turned 3 and I think 3 is awesome--the language, the discussions...the negotiations are kind of annoying, but the capabilities and the recognition of them are so cool!

For me the worst was probably the first few months back at work and with her in daycare. Mouse was sick EVERY weekend for about 3 or 4 months. I almost forgot what a cheerful, happy little soul she could be. I wasn't ambivalent about work or daycare, I just didn't know if I could take it. And I really wanted to be happy and enjoy the time with her, but it wasn't possible when she was nursing my boobs off and fussing for most of it. And I was really scared that I just out-and-out didn't have what it took, and all my big talk about being a WOHM was going to fall apart and I was going to be humiliated and fail and...everything.

One book I highly recommend--very WOHM focused by its nature, but covers things I haven't seen elsewhere--is "Nursing Mother, Working Mother". The author talks about how women who sail through the first 6 months (that's me--decent pregnancy, easy birth, baby latched on at age 10 mins and never stopped, nice long leave from friendly company, etc.) often have a crash in the second 6 months. Everybody thinks you should have it together by then--I loved Moxie's description with the great sleep and the clean house and the hot sex life and evenings out.

For me it was so helpful to talk to other moms who worked in my specific company culture and made some of the choices I did in terms of breastfeeding, not CIO, etc. Just to hear from them that they stuck with those choices and it all came out well. It wasn't particularly helpful to hear that it just sucks...I'm talking about the despairing view that motherhood is all spit-stained shirts and you should relax your expectations of ever looking nice or not being tired. For me it helped to be able to realize that today I got woken up by a bedwetting and got all the way to work with a cheerio in my hair...and that's OK...but tomorrow could be better, and in a few months things will be different.

...and the difference will happen slowly. 3 months from now, you'll have a shitty day and realize that you would have called it a fantastic day in April. That will help you realize that in October, your best days will be better still. (But you still get to complain, as much as you need to!!!)

Hang in there!

Megan

Man, I wish I had read this post when I was going through all of this stuff with my high-needs baby. We're past a lot of the stuff I didn't enjoy, but it's fresh enough that I could cry just reading some of these posts. We absolutely need that village of new moms...this is a huge part of the problem.

Most of our moms had relatives and friends who would drop by often to say, "Give me that baby and go take a nap." Or a shower. Or whatever. I personally had no one to tell me, "Give that baby to me." I felt tremendously isolated.

For all of you recent moms, I wish I could come over right now, make you a warm meal, and just listen to your woes. I really do.

shaynee

I'll add my voice to the chorus. I didn't have a lot of expectations going in to parenthood, and I was exceptionally lucky with my newborn experience. Sure, she woke up every three hours to eat, but that's to be expected and she was a very easy newborn: easy breasfeeding, even after a NICU stay; no reflux; very rarely cried; etc. I had it easy, and I knew it. Things continued to go fairly well until we hit about 9 months, with sleep regression, the start of teething, a host of typical childhood colds, and increasing mobility also screwing with sleep. Suddenly waking every three hours became waking every hour and needing to be comforted extensively. I never got a break because she just. would. not. tolerate. my husband's comfort. For a couple of months I actively hated my daughter at night. I would hear her cry and cringe, instead of feeling an "appropriately maternal" flood of sympathy. But that stage (eventually) passed, and although sleep is still not our strong suit, things are much happier in our household these days at a few months past 2. I'm sure there will be future stages that I loathe and ones that I cherish.

I confess that having had such an easy go of it during the newborn period the first time, I'm a little terrified now, tentatively pregnant again, of how I would cope with a challenging newborn stage: colic, poor breastfeeding, what have you. Especially with a toddler running around to take much of my energy and attention. I suppose I must really find a babysitter before a second child enters the picture, given that in my daughter's first year I believe I had a grand total of 16 hours when I was not directly responsible for caring for her. And that's not going to get any better with another kid around.

So Lucy, we've all been there, despite what you might hear from media or other moms who don't feel comfortable owning up to reality. Take care of yourself. There will be brighter days.

Amy

I'm one of the baby people... I think there's nothing better than a 9-month old. But good gawd I HATE the preschool years. I regularly referred (only in my head, of course) to my son (now 7) as the "piece of shit" from about the time he was 3 until he started Kindergarten when he hit this amazing stage of being independent and interesting--and now I can't get enough of him... only he's not so in to me anymore! (though perhaps if I donned a Pokemon suit...). His sister warrants the term "the wretch" (in my head, of course!) as she is not quite 5 and is just basically impossible to be around 95% of the time. She starts Kindergarten this fall and I'm hoping that she too hits the same great stage her brother did b/c I'm not sure how much longer I'll survive her current stage.

I've dropped the guilt about how I feel b/c I know that it's the stage I don't like, not the child or motherhood in general--though I am getting tired of hearing the word "mommy" (said in full whine) before every sentence uttered out of their mouths.

I guess my point is to hang in there until the next stage and to cut yourself some slack. Motherhood is a cumulative deal... when I think back to my own mother, it's not the specific moments of our time together that mean anything to me... it's the overall affect of always having her there for me. Because it's cumulative, we don't have to be great, happy moms all the time.

But I will add this, as my kids are getting older I try to verbalize when I think I'm not being so great. I think it helps me (and them?) to say, "You know, Mommy is really trying to give you more attention/be more patient/etc. but some days are better than others." They are very empathetic during these discussions and we usually end up with some good quality snuggling that makes me feel better about not having been on my "mommy game" earlier in the day.

Slim

I don't know if Lucy has anyone who can fill this role, but if you have family or friends available, ask --shoot, BEG-- for help. What would save your sanity? If someone took the baby for a walk in the stroller while you got a nap? If someone were willing to go out to lunch with you and the baby and didn't mind if you spent the entire meal with a baby latched on in the sling? Ask ask ask. I love babies and would happily snuggle someone else's so she could have a latte and a wander through a bookstore.
I think when we feel overwhelmed, the things we wish other people would do for us seem like unreasonable demands. But to someone who isn't laid low by sleep deprivation and nonstop body contact and laundry mountains, it's really no big deal.
Feeling as though your all your pleasures are on hold for the next howevermany years is going to suck all the joy out of what's happening now.

Ally

I hit rock bottom at 9 months. Things were pretty ok until then, although looking back all I remember is working, pumping and breastfeeding. I watch my cousin playing with her 3 month old and although I know I must have done the same I don't remember it!

Anyway, that's not what you're looking for, although it does lend credence to the idea that the first year = survival mode. No, what I wanted to share was the night I left my kid in his crib screaming because he was safer there than with me. I called my husband and told him he'd better come home because I didn't trust myself with our child anymore, and the next day I called my OB and begged for drugs. I found my hormones were on a crazy high after ds was born, sustained by exclusive bfing until about 6-7 months, and then once solids were introduced, I started to slowly go crazy until he was 9 months.

I'm not saying this is happening to you, but I think I had a misperception that the "hard" part was over at about 8-12 weeks and that isn't farther from the truth.

Good news is I fell in love with ds all over again at 11 months. Bad news? That cycle will repeat over, and over, and over again. Sometimes, daily. Good luck, give yourself a break, and demand support from your partner/family/friends.

caro

It's great to read this. I'm still trying to sort out the mess that was me in the first year of our daughter's life.

She is 23 months old and, though I can honestly say things probably got gradually better & better starting from age 9 months or so, only in the past couple of months have I had days that I purely enjoyed, where I really could say, "This is great. I love being a mom."

The past few days I have really been feeling well-suited (temperamentally, emotionally) to take care of a child this age. There is conflict, there are tantrums, there is screaming about the putting on of socks. But I feel like the challenges of an almost two year old are a good fit for my strengths, and this is something I never felt about the challenges of parenting M as a newborn or infant. The first year, I constantly felt like a fish out of water, and I don't think it was just about motherhood being new.

I bet that it will keep going in cycles like this, and I hope that in the next "not so good a fit" phase, I'll be better able to recognize it for what it is and not blame myself for having a bad time.

When M was six months old and I was a wreck, I couldn't fully admit that I didn't like how life was going right then, or that I was having a really hard time. It seemed like that would be the same as giving up on the whole thing or admitting I was a bad mom.

***

So... I can be all philosophical about it like that, but then I look at all these responses and think, damn, WHY is it so hard for so many of us? It just doesn't seem right, and it makes me angry that things--support systems, communities--are not in place to make it easier. Not sure what to do with that.

Kay

You know, you can love someone without "liking" them all the time. Remember that. It will serve you well.

Especially, when the baby that can't talk now, will talk, and they will flat out tell you to your face that they don't like you. Age 4. Beware.

Rachel

Thank you so much to Lucy and Erin (in the comments) for voicing what I am going through. I just needed to know I wasn't alone. My daughter is 11 months, nursing, waking up in the middle of the night, and an all round fussy girl right now. I'm so tired - Erin I'm right with you about giving up on the dream of 4 kids, how can I have more when I can't handle this one?

But now I know I'm not alone and that means so much to me. Thank you Moxie for posting another great topic.

SusieJ

My very wise friend Marsha said (at my son's first birthday party, days after her youngest had turned two) "I've always loved my kids, but I didn't *really* like them until each turned two."

My son is now two, and there are moments when I feel in control! And there was last night, when he was up for an hour and a half (crying, then tossing and turning) until I growled at him that MOMMY NEEDED HER SLEEP NOW. I love him dearly, feel guilty that I don't spend more time with him, but love working a paid job (with adults! and goals!), and my bi-weekly nights out alone.

Lubna

I can't begin to tell you how perfectly timed this post is. I've been living under this cloud of "OH CRAP!" for the past few weeks and thankfully feel this cloud slowly lifting as I read the comments. Thank you everyone.

My 5 month old son K just went through his 19-week fussy phase (Moxie, thank you a million times over for your recommendation of The Wonder Weeks!), and I just went back to work full-time. Needless to say, my life went from leisurely days at home with K to feeling completely overwhelmed by everything and feeling such guilt and worry that I'm not enjoying this parenthood thing as much as I "should". I won't even get started on the sleep deprivation since that's just a given for me now. :)

Here are a few things I've learned over the past few weeks. Hopefully sharing these feelings will help someone else out there.

1. I've come to the realization that I shouldn't compare my experience of mommyhood to my husband's experience of daddyhood. So many times, I watch my husband play with K and I feel confused. Confused about why his experience seems so simple, so straightforward, so FUN. Why am I not having the same kind of fun? Do I not love K as much as he does? And the always famous thought, am I a bad mom? But what I'm slowly coming to see is that, at this point in time, our parental responsibilities are significantly different. My husband is the one who gets to look to me and ask "What should I do? Should I change his diaper? Should he go down for a nap? Is he hungry?" I'm the one who researches how to start solids, what to do when baby rolls over in the middle of the night, what the heck a developmental spurt is, etc. By default, I've become The Boss. And honestly, it's overrated! I'm just now getting comfortable with saying, "You decide" or giving him a particular thing to research. It's helping, but I'm not that great at it yet, so in the meantime it helps to remember that our experiences are going to be different.

2. I need to separate myself from mommies who can only talk about how perfect their babies are, how well they're sleeping, how perfectly they latched onto the boob right from the beginning, etc. I need to surround myself with mommies who are willing to talk about the good AND the not-so-good. It'll make me feel so much more normal and won't make me feel like I'm doing everything wrong.

3. I need to give myself something to look forward to every week that is just for me. An hour at the gym (ok, more like 20 minutes!), a massage, a solo trip to the grocery store, just something. So that when I get really frustrated when K refuses to go down for the night, I can think "Ok, just need to make it to Saturday." And I need to be a b*tch about demanding that time for myself.

Again, thanks to everyone for all the comments. I can feel my sanity slowly returning. Now, can you all please work on my sleep deprivation? I'd really appreciate it, thanks.

PS. I have a feeling this is one of those posts where I obsessively hit "Refresh" every 30 seconds hoping for yet another comment

Megan

For the moms who aren't sure if they can have another...for just about the first 12 months, I secretly thought, "No way can I ever have another child!" I happily took my mini-pills. But my friends said I would feel differently after he was about a year, and I did! (Don't you just hate it when people are right about things like that?)

I'm not saying you will feel differently, but once DS was past his first birthday, I started wanting another one. We won't start trying again until he's 2, but if it happened right now, I would actually be happy about the news. I couldn't have said that even 3 months ago.

mollyball

You know what really got me? The pumping. I spent Christmas and New Year's hunched over my pump upstairs, while my family and friends whooped it up in my living room. My daughter was about 6 months old then, and she was so excited by all of the activity that she basically stopped eating and sleeping for a week--my supply was a mess, and I was so exhausted. I'll never forget the wheezy sound of a Mendela spring pump as long as I live. I have no idea why, and I don't want to start a whole breastfeeding thing here, but once I traded in pumping and got my sanity back in return, things went way uphill. Pumping was easy in the early days, but after 5 or 6 months it started to feel like I was being punished for something. It is number 2 on my list of things I had to give up in order to survive. The list is:
1. cloth diapers
2. exclusive breastfeeding for one calendar year
3. making my own baby food in little G*[email protected]#% ice cube trays
4. washing my hair. like, ever.

For awhile I was so defensive about these choices that I showed up at every playgroup/dinner party/birthday party ready to rip the head off of anybody who gave me a hard time. But life just keeps rolling along, and every month is a bit better, and my daughter is now 9.5 months old, and I'm looking forward to the good times ahead. I have a feeling she's going to be a really fun 3. Everybody's list of things to give up on in return for their sanity will be different. That was just my list, at one time, with one kid.

Also--my husband is away a lot for work, and we don't have any family here, and I would just like to say that MODERN LIFE DOES NOT WORK WHEN IT COMES TO MOTHERHOOD. There were so many times when I'd just repeat to myself, kind of hysterically to be perfectly honest, I CAN'T DO THIS BY MYSELF. I CAN'T DO THIS BY MYSELF. In the end I did, sort of. It sucked. We need our tribes back.

Hang in there! We're all so normal.

AmyinMotown

Where ARE all you people and why do I only know you on the Internet? I want to give you all big inappropriate hugs.

First, I think the standards we're held to as mothers are RIDICULOUS. Moxie nailed it. I had a tearful conversation with my husband a few months ago about this: That he, who is a wonderful father and supportive husband, gets all these kudos for what he does but by society's standards, I am just BARELY doing an acceptable job.

Here's what helped me get into a mother groove and helps me bounce back when I'm not:

Working, even a little. From your post I presume you're a former successful career woman turned SAHM. If you can do any sort of work for your old colleagues that won't interfere with your mothering values, DO IT. Having "brain" work and meeting people who were judging me only on professionalism and didn't give a rat's ass what kind of mom I was helped so much. If working for pay doesn't feel right, volunteer. Annything that can give you a feeling of competence helps, and let's face it, the baby is not dealing out the five-star performance reviews no matter how well you're doing.

Staying away from the Mommies, my derisive term for women who would never admit this sometimes sucks and are very invested in putting others down to put themselves up. We were assinged a parenting group through our hospital, and the woman who eventually became the leader had the gall to say, IN FRONT OF EVERYONE, after I admitted this was sometimes hard, "I never have negative feelings about this. I love being a mom." She could have slapped me and it would have been less humiliating. That's a post for my own blog, but WOW.
We had gone through infertility, and so everyone expected me to be all sunshine and roses about early motherhood. I wasn't and got some flak from people when I tried to be honest about it. One of my best friends since HS days has an older kid, and I remember the first time she called me after my daughter was born, she asked how I was and I gave the expected answer, and she just said "Isn't it HARD??" She already had my lifelong loyalty but after that I'd give her a kidney if she needed one! My perfect SIL, too, said very honestly that the first few months just suck --and this is someone considered the paragon of wonderfulness in my family, so that was huge. FIND THOSE PEOPLE who will tell you the truth. I haven't done so well with that in real life, but the internet helps.

Especially during that first year, I spent a lot of time telling myself that "this too shall pass."

And finally, try not to beat yourself up. Hardest thing ever (I can literally lose sleep over a stupid thing I said to a stranger at a party, imagine how bad when I feel I've let my beautiful daughter down) but try to understand we all have our moments in parenting that, if they ended up on YouTube, we'd have to drop out of society and become hermits because we'd been too humiliated to ever leave the house again. I often feel that everyone else in the world is doing this better than me. But then one of those people will compliment MY mothering and I realize we all have our struggles and our strong points. All you can do is your best at that moment, and sometimes that's just managing not to completely lose your shit.

Oh yeah, and this post brought to you by Wellbutrin. I was in a horrid depression starting when she was about 8 months and lasting until about 18 months. I kept it together, but barely. If you feel they would help, meds are awesome.


AmyinMotown

Clarifying the working thing: I'm not meaning to lob a bomb in the MMommy Wars. I am someone who needs external validation, and I got the sense from Lucy's post she is too. That's why doing some paid work really helped me. Some mothers do great without professional kudos; I'm not one.

janelle

Mostly I felt guilty that I found much of the thankless baby years boring. I hated going to parks and the whole swingset thing. Seriously, felt like my brain was smoking in the twilight zone. Even watching reruns of the twilight zone would've been more riveting. But yes I adore being a mother, I couldn't imagine it otherwise. But it isn't easy or even riveting. And it takes a lot of energy to consistently be a good mother, one to be proud of. Perhaps that is where the coffee addiction kicks in... and a nice little cuppa joe for mom.

And sleep? Don't even get me started. I reminded myself at 15 months that someday he would sleep through the night, really. By age four perhaps. By 16 months he thought naps were overrated and gave them up. By 18 months he was able to voice at 10 pm that the reason he could never, ever easily fall asleep was 'because my mind is full, mom.'

He sleeps through the night now, he is age 11. He even sleeps in sometimes. And I? I have my cup of caffeine, as a daily toast to self-be-good.

Sandra

Great, great comments - where were you all when I was drowning???? :-)

Just had to add another comment. I forgot to mention how isolated I was when my daughter was first born. We need community to do this - neither of us have family nearby. We were on our own. It was a recipe for disaster - just completely overwhelmed.

Line up the help ahead of time - and ask if you need it, even if it is just an acquaintance. None of us were meant to parent without family and friends.

hedra

I'm snorting to myself remembering when I wistfully asked an older friend if she'd just raise my kids for me. She was so ... perfect. Her kids were charming, beautiful, and kind. They spontaneously shared with others, picked out their own clothes (perfectly coordinated) by the age of 3, and never ever had a tantrum anywhere I ever saw. Her son at 6 was overheard at an easter-egg hunt saying, 'I have an idea, let's all look together, and then we can split up the eggs, and the youngest kids can have the most. I won't have any, it will just be fun looking together!' Big chorus of AWWW and everyone throw approving looks at the appropriately modestly blushing mom, while the child actually organized the kids and did just that! And that was without knowing his mom could hear (we heard him through the window). Please, please, can you raise my kids for me, when I have them?

The answer was no. No, I'm not doing it, and Yes you will be good at it, and I'm not as good at it as you think. It is more them than me, and I neither take credit nor blame for everything that they turn out to be. Which is just as well, since the boy in question decided to laze his way through high school and then appeared astonished that his parents were right that he couldn't get into any school he wanted. Gosh! The daughter still has the most astonishingly fab taste in clothes, though. Stunning. Sigh (as Rowan went to school today dressed in hot pink pants, a flat-paint-red shirt, and purple socks...).

My DH and I quote lines from the movie Parenthood to each other on a regular basis. If you haven't seen it, rent it - it gets funnier after you're parents. It doesn't focus much on the awfulness of the early months, but it does cover a lot of the horrors of parenting, and yet comes out of it with a positive attitude. And yeah, my DH now and then says (wistfully) 'But I *like* the merry-go-round' (where parenthood is a rollercoaster, not a merry go round...).

Oh, and thank heavens for the internet, and phooey on this newest version of that darn Feminine Mystique (raise hands, who else read that in college?)... it isn't all a fairy-tale existance, and we can all stop pretending that we the effort to be perfect isn't a death-trap. Back 'then' it was perfection as wife and mother and home-maker. Now, wife and home-maker don't necessarily have to be perfect, but darn it mother still ended up on that list!

Every mom should have to take a neurobiology/neuropsychology course that goes into the details of how we're evolved to grow up optimally with NORMAL parents, and NORMAL means blowing it and getting it back together in cycles ad infinitum, and resilience comes from parents who aren't perfect and never will be, and kids of perfect-never-mess-up parents have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorders because they never 'learned' that things go wrong, and then go right again, and that you can trust that things will go right again eventually.... sigh.

Normal parents rock. Normal parenting means being imperfect. Imperfection is OPTIMAL for child development. WOO! In which case, we all rock. :)

Kim-Anh

Hooray Moxie and Lucy! Thank you for putting into words what we all feel.

Lucy - think of motherhood like your favourite food, let's say it's ice cream. If you were eating ice cream every couple of hours, if you were woken up several times a night to eat ice cream, if you had to spend all day and night thinking about ice cream, you probably wouldn't love it as much. Motherhood is definitely great - you're just not required to love it ALL the time! It doesn't make you a bad mom, it makes you completely normal.

I've just had my second child and I feel like my first one helped me get rid of all the preconceptions and feelings of guilt. I definitely enjoy being a parent so much more now, because I've accepted that being that "perfect mom" is not only undesirable, it would be miserable!

cagey

My #1 advice to a new mother is to BE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SELFISH. Focus on yourself, your baby and your husband. As a SAHM, sometimes, I feel pressure that I should be "doing more" because of course, since all I do is "stay home". Right? Um, no. :-)

I only commit myself to 2-3 day time activities per week - I try to keep my nighttime and weekends fairly free as well for spontaneous activities. I find that when I over-schedule myself, I am running around, stressed and not enjoying my son's time as much. Time that is slipping by because he will not always be this little.

Because I am selfish with my time, I actually have more time for ME and that makes me more relaxed during my time with my baby. I wouldn't have it any other way. When he is older, I can start to be more giving of myself to others, but in the meantime, I need to keep my sanity.

Charisse

Anybody else remember the cartoon Sylvia by Nicole Hollander and the character The Woman Who Lives More Beautifully Than You? Man, it was funny.

Heather AKA Epiphany Alone

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I needed this today. My 11-month and 4-1/2 year old daughters have been alternately sleep striking for over a week. At 2 AM this morning, I sat down on the stairs, folded my arms over my head and sobbed.

I can't remember the last time I slept 3 consecutive hours.

I hadn't thought about running away in a while, but damn if that wasn't it. The idea of a warm bed and quiet. Somewhere NOT HERE.

Another Erin

Let's all agree, shall we, to never utter the phrase "but it's all worth it" to another mother or about-to-be-mama. When I was facing a very unwanted c-section (which ultimately did not happen, hurray for doctors who still know how to do an external version!), I wanted to lunge for people's throats when they said that to me. Because it was just so beside the point. "Worth it" did not in any way approach the complexity of my feelings, fears, and deep-rooted nameless, shapeless emotions. And I think for many of us babyhood is like that as well. "Worth it" is such a flimsy construction, implying that somehow you have a choice in the matter. And you don't. You just have to make it to tomorrow.

And I am the only person who's had the Buzzcocks in her head all day? I assume that was on purpose...

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search Ask Moxie


Sign Up For My Email Newsletter

Blah blah blah

  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
Blog powered by Typepad