I found myself driving aimlessly down San Pablo Ave. yesterday, a little sad or lonely or restless. I just couldn’t be alone in the house for one more second, so I put Nico in the car and drove. I watched other parents, better parents clearly, riding with their babies on the back of bicycles or walking their children in sport utility strollers, and I thought, what the heck am I doing in this car on San Pablo? and where am I going? and is this really going to make me feel better?
My friend Rebecca had a great line about parenthood today– something about how motherhood is all about looking bad in public. And we all laughed knowingly when she said it, like yes! We have looked so bad in public! Last weekend, Matt and I were those parents, the ones with the baby on the back of the bicycle and the adorable 4 year old pedaling next to us as we rode to the bagel shop. Except it didn’t look all perfect like those other people! It looked like me realizing Nico hadn’t had a nap and riding home as fast as I possibly could with Nico screaming on the back of my bike. Onlookers were watching me quizzically, actually glaring at me, not understanding why I was still pedaling.
Except that I knew he just needed sleep! and the sooner I got him home the better and stopping would only prolong the process. But then Nico fell asleep behind me and I panicked and thought he maybe passed out or was slumped over and was going to fall, so I reached behind me and shook him awake and that made him start sobbing again. This made me feel better only because I knew he was conscious, but then horrible again so I pedaled home as fast as I possibly could. Total mama disaster.
There’s a metaphor in here somewhere.
And I’m leaving these words and thoughts really messy because I think maybe that’s the point. That parenthood makes you look bad because it’s messy and unpredictable and did I mention messy?
I was with a friend a while ago who just had her first baby. We were on a park bench watching a mom of 3 toddlers try to wrangle them all into strollers. We couldn’t hear exactly what she said, but it was clear she was snapping at her kids and just generally losing it. We watched in silence, both our hearts aching. My friend said, “I can hardly stand watching this. It’s making my stomach hurt. I just want to yell at her.” And all I could say was, “My heart is aching too, but not for the kids. I’m aching for her.”
I think that’s why parenthood is so humbling. It’s messy… and our weaknesses, our flaws, our dark stuff is exposed. It’s all out there for ourselves, our partners, our children, the world to see.
That’s why we need to be sharing our stories with each other. Being alone with this stuff can be dangerous. Do you have a messy story to share? Parenting or otherwise? I’d love to hear it.
Even after nearly seven years, I see other women and believe that they are “real” moms. I see a woman with four kids and assume she knows how to make a dinner that makes them all happy. I see a woman rolling up to the school in her car to greet a 5th grader who happily jumps in and I assume she knows how to talk to him about drugs and sex and death and everything he needs to know at 10 years old. Why do I assume strangers are better off than I am? I know my friends are working hard to figure it all out, and I see them as equal to me. But somehow the distance of not knowing someone makes them seem less messy. Friends are folks with whom you share your mess, I suppose.
Well, I’m not a Mum, so can only take my hat off to anyone who is. But on a broader level I think we are all just hard wired to think that everybody knows how to ” —— fill in the blank” better than us. Parent hood is just one place for this to show up . When will we all realise that we all know everything that we need to know. And perfectly or imperfectly we are doing just fine.
Thanks for your blog Andrea it always gives me something to think about.
amen sister, amen.
This brought tears to my eyes. My son is ten now and my mom struggles are different these days but oh, I so remember when this was the color of my days. Thanks for reminding me.
Oh my, yes. I’ll write out a messy dog story on my blog tomorrow. Because I do know that it feels better to share things than to keep them stuck inside where they fester. I also know that the mess helps me grow. (Though I still wish I could avoid it altogether.)
i totally can relate, of course. i feel humble over and over. i remember i felt exactly that way that one time we took that yoga class together! oh my. we had made plans over and over and that time i was determined to actually show up. messy and all and as you can recall, messy it was. i arrived late because of all the wrangling required with the added stress of a fully pooped baby. gabi had been taken antibiotics which gave her diarrhea, and she had completely messed up her diapers and clothing on our way across the bridge to meet you at yoga. i remembering gathering a breathe (that is what yoga is all about, right?) and finding the stamina to change her messy runny pants among all the other moms (who like YOU :)) seemed perfectly put and ready for yoga practice along with your perfect babies! Once finished I attempted to do some yoga with you all, but Gabi was by then approaching naptime! I nursed and rocked and maybe stretched a little in between moves… Can’t remember exactly. What I remember was a less than perfect and completely messy morning for me, where you & Nico, my friend, were picture perfect! So yes, we all switch roles and need to comfort each other with real stories because that’s life and motherhood. messy, layered and beautiful all at once. love you and miss you xo
ps; sorry for the typos. my “naptime” break is about to expire and i’m rushing on! xo
I left my perfect career job at the top of my game when I was pregnant with number 4. Its been almost 3 yrs now that I traded in my cute high heeled boots for uggs. Its the most challengeing job in the world because being a Mom makes you- be the best person you can be. Too bad that we do feel like we are not good enough quite often. But I think its because we are striving to be the best we can be. Thanks for posting this- I SO NEEDED it today!
Oh yes. There are many, many times I go to the grocery store and leave with my FOUR YEAR OLD completely losing his shit. Anything can set him off! So I’m more than likely to let him eat a banana in the store, or break open the strawberry container and let him go to town.
This morning was a rough morning. He didn’t want to wear his new! Thomas the Train! sweatshirt. Then I yelled at him about brushing his teeth and he was really, really upset. So upset that he refused to get on the school bus. It was kinda awful. I apologized, of course. Then he realized the school bus had LEFT and there was more crying. I had to drive him to his preschool class and he was STILL crying. Holy moly. Thank goodness he calmed down after he got to class and we have had a good day after that.
And speaking of messy this made me think of his take on it:(hope it’s ok I post it here)
I’m working on my rewrite, that’s right
I’m gonna change the ending
Gonna throw away my title
And toss it in the trash
Every minute after midnight
All the time I’m spending
Is just for working on my rewrite, that’s right
I’m gonna turn it into cash
I’ll eliminate the pages
Where the father has a breakdown
And he has to leave the family
But he really meant no harm
Gonna substitute a car chase
And a race across the rooftops
When the father saves the children
And he holds them in his arms.
~Paul Simon “Rewrite”
We are famous for staying five minutes too long at events, which is when it all goes terribly wrong.
In the last year our five-minutes-too-long escapades have included a massive bloody nose (everyone within a foot looked like they’d been at a crime scene), vomiting on someone’s driveway (we cleaned it up), and running all the way through someone’s screen door (we gave them a hefty gift certificate to the hardware store).
Parenthood is nothing if not humbling.
Call it messy or just call it life. No metaphor required. We are ALL “those people.” Just right, just right, just right.
I just want to shout, “YES! YES! YES!,” but I’m in a coffee shop feeling guilty that I’m not at home with my little guy. Thanks for your honesty and messiness. It makes me feel less alone and hopeless as a mom!
After a week of nicely asking my 4 year old not to talk to me in this new baby talk, she asked me for dessert in her baby talk and I yelled “You get nothing if you speak to me in that voice.” She blinked looked at me and then said, “fine, you don’t have to yell. May I have some ice cream.” Parenthood. What can you do? Laugh or cry. Thanks for the story. Messy is right.
Oh my yes. I feel like there is one of these stories so often that it’s a good stretch if I don’t have one for a few days in a row. I’ve so appreciated your posts about family and parent hood lately. I feel like you’ve found your voice in a way that is SO needed to SO many of us.
Parenting can be so very hard. I used to think it was so easy when I was a teacher. I was your friend on the park bench thinking ‘Well if ONLY you’d…’ But raising these little people seriously brings out the best and worst in you.
I just had to write my oldest daughter’s brand.new! Kindergarten teacher a note that Ella had stolen a water bottle from another child. Yikes! It’s the second time she has stolen something in a week. Where is this possibly coming from??
And we have no idea the best way of handling. I mean…we have some idea. But the balance – she is obviously acting out about something, so clearly love and kindness is needed. But, also? Hello, STEALING! So not remotely in the ballpark of OK.
And so between the two of us, one would get short tempered as the hysterics went on and the other would pick up the slack.
Parenting, I have found, has made me equal parts more accepting of myself and feel the worst I ever have about my performance. I guess where I fall in that spectrum ends up depending on the span of days…
Oy – yeah…I guess I had a lot to share on this 🙂
Also – just to keep the conversation going, I watched this on my way in to the city last week and I was snorting out loud (whilst also getting teary eyed)
Ah, and what a beautiful mess it is. Sometimes it takes both kids in bed before I can see the beauty in it, but it is you, beautiful writing like yours that helps me see that the even the ugly stuff has its beauty. It all melds, melts, congeals, blends, into our beautiful lives. So crazy!
Peace to your family! 🙂
Thank you Andrea for this post.
My kids are in high school now and fortunately my days with them are mostly on auto-pilot right now. I haven’t forgotten those nerve-wracking days though when you feel like a failure.
Lately for me, my messiest days are when I get tired of waiting patiently for what I know will be best for me and want to do something that’s self-sabotaging instead. I am single and have been for a long time. A couple years ago, I started a blog about the unsatisfying relationships I kept accepting and how I wanted to change that by only accepting a truly loving and available man.
Most days I feel grateful for my wonderful, blessed life and being single isn’t bad at all. But other days, I’m so lonely for my life partner that I am tempted to respond to ads on Craigslist that are written by men that obviously only want a fling and not a loving relationship. Today is one of those days and I feel hopeless.
But, I will keep doing the best I can.
Hanging on for one more day!
So perfectly, wonderfully put, Andrea. YES to all of it. I’m not typically one to put links in comments, but feel compelled today because of such a strong sense that I was channeling something when I wrote this. I wonder whether it might be a balm for us all in our dark, messy moments.
The woman who will become my mother-in-law in October is a revelation. She raised ten children. Of those ten she buried one, placed another in care (he is in a vegetative state) and bore the pain of a schizophrenic daughter becoming so paranoid she could no longer associate with the family.
It’s messy. It’s loving and chaotic and full of rich memories (some of them clearly painful) and messy.
I’ve had the unique privilege of quietly watching her handle life’s messes over the last 5 years. She’s taught me a thing or two about what messes aren’t important (the chickens that scurry into the kitchen or the horse who periodically wanders into the living room of her ramshackle house) and which ones you need to carefully tend to. I’m hoping I can harness her perspective on what matters and what doesn’t, if we ever have a child of our own.
Do I have a story to share! When I first separated from my ex I decided to make a life-affirming trip, on my own, with my two babies to NYC. Stripping myself from the cardboard cutout of a marriage I’d been in, the trip was my way to embrace the future – to make sure my children saw and experienced the world! I’d take them to the Natural History Museum! Having taken their dad from them just months earlier, now they’d see! Life was going to be better than ever before!
Now, I should say that, until that point, my way of coping in that soul-defeating marriage was to focus on my thriving career and to leave the still-relatively non-verbal kids in the care of their relatively non-verbal father – to leave the lunches, and dinners and tooth brushing to him. But now I was reclaiming my life, and so reclaiming my place as my babies’ primary caregiver. I was woefully insecure in this role and so took great pains to provide for them on this trip. I’d packed trail mix and p-nut butter sandwiches, almonds and granola nut bars – everything a 4 and 6 year old could ask for on a 5 hour flight with no other food available.
We woke up at 5 a.m. to catch our flight, the kids exhausted and unwilling to eat before we boarded the plane at 6:30 a.m.
And then the plane took off, and my little boy started crying and tugging on his ears. Wailing! Screaming, “Get me off this plane!!! I want off this plane now!!” I could feel people all around, loathing me – loathing my loathsome child. I tried to stuff the pacifier in his mouth (at 4 no one yet had bothered to wean the poor kid off his pacifier!) – here! suck on this! this will help! – but he spit it out in order to keep the high-pitched wail going. Food! I thought – the kid needs food! And then the flight attendant announced that someone aboard had a nut allergy, so we were not allowed to unpack anything with nuts. Are you fucking kidding me? I thought. Trail mix, p-nut butter sandwiches, almonds, granola nut bars. Every single thing I’d patted myself on the back for packing had nuts! Now what? And why hasn’t my kid passed out yet from sheer up-at-5 a.m.-and-then-scream-your-heart-out-for-an-hour exhaustion?? Incredibly, not one person on that plane offered to help me – not even, or rather, especially not, any of the flight attendants. Surely it was not because I looked like I had it under control. My boy, my poor boy, screamed “Get me off this plane!!!” for the five excruciating hours it takes to cross this country. I landed in New York City totally defeated. It was impossible to imagine the trip was anything but a bust – and we’d only just arrived.
Far from my expectations, the trip did little more than affirm how much I’d truly been checked out of my role as mother to these children. My son, I learned, ate nothing but hot dogs. How, and when, had that happened? We went to the Natural History Museum and the kids were bored – all they wanted was to go to the gift shop and ask me to buy them things. This was not my beautiful life.
And then it was time for the return flight home.
Determined that history would not repeat itself, I made sure to feed the kids early the night before our flight – to really stuff their little bellies – and to get them to bed early. I had them down by 6 p.m! There would be no exhausted, hungry children flying home tomorrow! I had it all under control! But then my daughter woke up around 8, crying, unnerved for some reason, and woke her brother. I begged for them to go back to sleep. When that didn’t work, I threatened to take things away from them. Hours passed. I’d put them down on the pull out sofa bed and within minutes I’d hear their tiny sobs. They were afraid, unable to go back to sleep. My patience wore thin. Panic set in. It was 10 p.m. 10 p.m! We had to be up in 6 hours! They were going to get LESS sleep than they had on the trip over! The return flight was going to be WORSE and NOW, there was no denying it, I KNEW what I was in for! Ten o’clock became eleven o’clock and, at that point, gentle reader, I freaked the fuck out.
With my little ones crying and sitting up in their bed, I ran my hands through my hair and ranted, shouting, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do??? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO???!”
And then my little 6 year old girl started speaking to me in a voice I’d never heard. “You’re a good mama,” she said. “You just have to try your best. All you can do is try your best. But you’re a good mama. You just have to keep trying. Remember that time when I didn’t know how to put jelly on toast? And I tried to pour the jelly out onto the knife and it didn’t work? And then you showed me how to pour the jelly onto the toast and then spread it with the knife? I kept trying and I learned how to do it. You just have to keep trying. But you’re a good mama.” The lunatic, the wall of shame – they all smoothed away with that voice and those words. Tears welled in my eyes and I grabbed my precious, unbelievable, gift of a child. “Why don’t you guys come in here and get in my bed?” I offered. “It’s almost midnight now. How about I call room service and see if we can get some hot dogs and french fries delivered – you guys hungry? Let’s get some food and we’ll have a picnic in my big bed.” Room service must have sensed the desperation in my voice when I ordered three hot dogs at midnight because the food came mighty quickly, I’ll tell you. The kids got french fry crumbs and ketchup on the sheets, but I didn’t care. We gobbled up our $15 hot dogs and rolled over and went to sleep, the three of us in soiled sheets. And then we woke up 4 hours later to catch our flight. And the kids? They were so exhausted they slept the whole flight home. They.Slept.The.Whole.Flight.Home. And now, two years later, when my family thinks of that trip to New York, our favorite memory is of our midnight picnic in bed.
Lara, I love you.
yes. me. often. now.
My messy story is going on right now. After 10 wonderful, and sometimes frustrating, years as a Stay-At-Home mom, I finally decided to go back to practicing medicine as a Physician Assistant. I found the perfect-for-me job and survived all the time consuming and uber frustrating process of obtaining all the necessary licenses to practice. I was excited to begin and grateful for my part time schedule. My girls are older (9 and 11) so I knew they were ready to deal with me taking on this new responsibility. However; my son is just 2 and for him…this whole dang thing has been a big ‘ol mess!! First, he had to get to know a new babysitter over the summer and hang out with her all day two days a week. Luckily, his sisters were home and it went relatively smoothly. Now that school has started, and our beloved babysitter found other jobs during the daytime hours, it’s meant daycare for him, and he hates it. I’ve shed many a guilty, empathetic, horrendous tear watching him scream and grasp at me as I have to leave him behind to go off to work. He comes home and begs, and begs me to stay home with him (in his toddler talk he says “I want Mommy…no school”. It kills me to leave him, and to make matters worse, I never get to pick him up since I work well into the evening hours. So I’m the bad mommy, and the babysitter, his sisters and daddy are the heros that rescue him. I hope this story has a less messy ending as time goes on. It’s one of my worst parts of parenting and making decisions that affect our whole family.
Mornings are the messiest. There have been way too many snappy/crabby mornings at my house. Just the stress of getting every one out the door can be intense. I hope that if my kids don’t forget some of these mornings, they at least find a way to use them to their benefit one day – you know, things to avoid with their own kids… 🙂
I read this post last night and have been thinking about it ever since…..and now after reading everyone’s comments, I feel less alone. As a stay-at-home mother of three children ages 6 and under I have enough messy stories to write a book or two. But after thinking about what you wrote, I began to realize the times that our family seems “put together” are the times I am most anxious, on edge and not feeling comfortable or at ease. In the past year I have learned that it’s more important for us to be having fun and enjoying our time together as a family than it is to be projecting some image of perfection. Life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect but my hope is to be a role model for my children and teach them how to deal with the random things that life throws our way. And that in all of the mess that is life, my children will feel loved.
I read a great book several years ago called Mommy Mantra’s…I highly recommend it.
I totally needed this today – rough stay at home mum week. thank you for being so honest, as always!
Thank you for the post.
I nearly cried reading this… most of the time I’m worried I’m not raising my 3 year old like I should. I still feel everyone else knows better than me and that I really suck at it. I live away from my family, my friends don’t have children, the parents we’ve befriended at daycare are leaving the country… I feel so isolated it aches. But I’m not even sure… does it make a difference having a community around you?
andrea, your post is beautiful. and Lara, dear god woman, you can write — and what a story. it brought tears to my eyes. such a beautiful reminder that some of our most cherished memories are the ones we didn’t plan.
I don’t have kids, so I can’t say that I understand, but I feel for each of you —
and although I don’t have messy child stories – my emotions are messy. my relationship is messy. and I compare myself daily to all the beautiful, thin, crafty, happy, ahtletic, hip, creative, passionate, [insert another admirable adjective here] people out there in cyberspace and my own inner happiness drops like a stuffed olive in vodka.
BUT … BUT … on a day when I am feeling down and lonely, I come here and read what Andrea wrote and what all you lovely peeps have shared and I am comforted and less alone and a smile returns to my face … and my heart feels less heavy.
thank you for that.
I love this post! looking bad in public – perfect. and the suspension of judgement, and the overwhelming compassion you feel for other moms, esp when you have more than one.. I always picture that scene in I love Lucy when she is on the assembly line, stuffing chocolate everywhere, trying to keep up with the ever increasing chaos… thank you for this. x
um….like the entire last 2.5 years. MessY.
But these last few weeks. Just bad.
I wrote my husband a text at 4:45pm today that said. each word was it’s own text….
into the street.
pleeeeeeeez come home now.
This is more about me feeling messy on the inside and needing to get away. I’ve been feeling this for weeks now. This need to NOT be a full time mama. This Need to not be anything! And a painful memory of the quiet of just being single, with my cat on my lap purring, while I sat and watched the tree move in the breeze, took photos, sipped coffee, smoked cigarettes, and wore vintage dresses and combat boots.
Looking for a nanny. And that makes me feel all sorts of bad, messy etc and like hiding under a rock so supermom’s don’t see me.
Love this post!
I try to cut myself a lot of slack as a parent. If we are all in one piece at the end of the day then it’s all good! I’m now the mom of 3 with kids ages 6, 3 and 3 months. When it came time to potty train my daughter I stressed about taking her out in public after only a weekend of going w/o diapers. She was adamant that she wanted to wear underpants and we had gymnastics class to get to. I said to myself “well if she pees on the floor at gymnastics/target/grocery store/etc. she certainly won’t be the FIRST kid to do this.” That made me relax. And if we are facing major meltdowns somewhere I know that it was some other mother’s turn yesterday. Good days, bad days and many that are in between.
And one thing I’ve grown to appreciate about social networks is that I can commiserate with other mom friends all over the country. We can share our triumphs (“yay the baby is napping!”) and our tragedies (“how do I get permanent marker off my computer screen?!?!”). It makes those difficult days much less frustrating.
Andrea, and Lara, thank you. My partner travels a lot and I have often been home alone and responsible for my step children who live with us. It sometimes isn’t the easiest and has involved a whole load of ‘mess’. In probably my worst stess inducted yelling fit i remember saying (erm, yelling) to the (then) 13 year old boy “I’m just doing my best”. Very calmly and honestly he looked me in the eye and said “I know, I know you are”… They know. They 18 and 21 now, the boy is headed to college next week. I wouldn’t have been without them, the mess, the yelling and the honesty….
Can I just say, there is something so bittersweet about arriving at the age and privilege to experience simultaneous humiliation (in public) by your children and your parents. Is this what we’ve been waiting for? Blessings Andrea and don’t worry, I’ll bet you look fabulous while living this messy life of love and laughter. 🙂
3rd day of school
Hungry and tired kids
Mama who took time for herself (went for a swim in the lake alone to savor these last rare summer days in seattle) after work and did not prep dinner.
8 year old sobbing and moaning (think drama award) that “no one is ever on his side ”
6 year old screams at me for letting daddy help jim open the car door when he wanted to do it himself.
Husband angry that dinner not ready for tired hungry and fragile kids and that I visited with best friend while picking up kids instead of coming home earlier to get dinne going.
Says, “don’t you think the friday of the 1st week of school would’ve been a good time to have a quiet time at home with lots of attention from a parent?”
Said while I try to male dinner very very fast.
I fume angry at everyone, feeling under appreciated and not like attending to anyone’s needs (despite the swim).
But we eat, kids settle and go to he’s, hubbie and I hash it out (he makes all the lunches does all the grocery shopping and usually makes me feel like a queen). And make up.
I stay up to watch a movie (Mother and Child btw) in the quiet house. Go upstairs and lay in bed with each of my sons, smelling their sleeping sweetness, caressing their beautiful faces and then crawl into bed with my hubbie and amazing partner and sigh.
Many typos up there sorry
Typing (poorly) on my iphone
Honestly, I think one of the worst things for all of us has been the development of the nuclear family. I just don’t think we’re meant to be living like this. Think about tribes, think about traditional villages and multi-generational families. There would be someone to step in and help before things got to code red meltdown status. There would probably be someone helping to make dinner while you were with the kids.
These days we try to hide our mess behind the doors of suburban single family homes, but the truth is we shouldn’t have to do it all. It’s just not possible.
And Lara, you are awesome.
OMG – thank you all for your warm responses!! I had no idea that I could turn such a low point in my life into something that resonated with others. So very validating!
And to your point, Tea Austin, I couldn’t agree more! What are we doing imagining that what we need to do – who we want to be, for ourselves and for our children – is even remotely possible when we’re doing it on our own, without a pit crew? I figure the ideal parent to child ratio is 3-1. I mean, really. Really. When was the last time you got a pedicure, or went to a matinee – got to stay up late drinking wine with a friend, without mentally calculating where you should be instead, how you’re going to make up for what you’re not getting done, how much sleep you’re losing…
And to D – sweet thing – you have a community here. You’re doing what you can, and that’s all anyone – even you, ESPECIALLY you – can ask of you. Isolation is brutal. Just keep writing.
Recently, I haven’t been sleeping very well. A mixture of worries, opportunities and anxiety keeping me awake, listening to the husband snore, when I finally drop off, my daughter will wake at 5 am. Turns out, am actually not a great parent when I am very tired. Actually I am not great at anything when I am very tired.
I often watch other parents who have kids who actually eat those healthy lunch box option in the cafe, while my 4 year old thinks coffeeshop = cupcake. In the playground, I sit down on the bench, while the kid runs around and then I feel guilty because invariably there is that mum who goes down the slides, swings on the swings and engages in imaginative play.
On good days, I know that I am just a normal parent and that overall I am doing a pretty good job without having to aim for perfection because hell it simply doesn’t exist.
On bad days, I think OMG my poor child she deserves better than this.
Then she gives me a hug and squeezes me and tells me she loves me and that she is happy. Unprompted. So I think we are good.
I can’t pick just one messy story; seems like every day is filled with them lately. I think twins getting their second year molars will be the end of me. But I want to say thank you. Thank you, Andrea, for your honesty and bravery. Thank you, commenters; I hope you’re the ones around me when we meltdown in public. And thank you, Lara. Do you have a blog? You need one!
Great post, and Lara, your story at 21 above brought tears to my eyes. Life is messy, and it’s our expectations and – dare I say it? – perfectionism that gets in our way.
I’ve got five kids and I’m a lawyer, so I’m often asked “how do you do it?” I don’t feel like I do much – this is just my life, and I chose it (or at least have chosen to play the cards dealt to me ;-)) – but I am about as un-stressed a person as you’d ever meet, and that’s because I realized, after searching and searching for the perfect time management tool, that the secret is “simply” (haha) to have the right attitude — gratitude, perspective, not trying to be perfect, and keeping an eye on your priorities. And enjoying it.
I liken having small children to being in college — when I was I college I felt like my time was not my own, every minute I wasn’t in class I felt like I should be studying or researching or whatever. But I was afraid of not getting perfect grades, so I undermined myself by procrastinating, escaping into TV, partying, etc. — you know the drill. Looking back, I wish I had thrown myself into my studies more, and really learned deeply and enjoyed that pretty special, limited time intellectually.
Having small kids is like that — a limited time in your life that passes SO fast, a time you’ve chosen to go through, and yet often, rather than embrace it and really enjoying this pretty special, limited time emotionally, we worry ourselves about how we look to others, how we’re stacking up, how we will be judged… and forget to just enjoy the kids.
So that’s what I try to do — enjoy it — my way, and without being a perfectionist. Unfortunately for my kids, my definition of enjoyment includes them doing chores and getting decent grades and having manners, etc. ;-). My house is often a mess, I don’t iron all our clothes like the French do (yeah, I know, stupid rule, but since the kids are in French schools their “hand-smoothed” T-shirts are decidedly “American”.. ahem), their English should be better… Oh, well. But rather than over-planning and over-expecting and dreaming of on perfection in our outings, our activities together, our time together, I try to just grab it and do something, and inevitably it works out better than the most perfect plan would have.
I guess that’s what touched me about Lara’s story. That and her daughter’s words, what a sweetheart (and quite verbal after all!).
Hi! Single Mom here… going on 13 years. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost my cool over the years. When my son was a baby and I was a new Mom, I generally chalked my wrinkle inducing tantrums up to inexperience and utter exasperation at my inability to handle those moments in an adult and rational fashion. Back then, my tantrums would only make the situation worse. My baby would actually feed off of my frustration and anger and we would both end up exhausted and spent. Nowadays, if that happens, which luckily is a rare occasion, but when it happens, my son just stares at me quietly and waits for the storm to pass. I think we have both learned, having it been just the two of us all of these years, how to let each other vent and fume if necessary without feeding the fire. And the truth is, his simple look of “thar she blows” helps me calm down a lot faster and realize how ridiculous I am being. And this of course, leads to a nervous laugh on my part and then a hug. It may have taken years to get this point, but what matters is that we got there. it just took a little time, patience and understanding from us both.
man, I couldn’t agree more about parenthood showing our weaknesses and flaws. this is something I prided myself on not showing pre-toddler. i was strong. i had my sh*t together. now, not so much but i’ve come to grips with that because that is my reality. masking my weaknesses and flaws was not real. anyway, recent melt down was at the mall when all i wanted was to be one of those moms who strolls around with her baby and shops to her hearts content while baby sits happily in stroller. not i. my son dislikes being strapped down. not 10 mins into shopping, he screamed. not wanting to make another trip to the mall, i trucked on carrying him while pushing the stroller trying to manage purchasing my items. here i thought i could enjoy my day off work with my boy and indulge in buying myself some new clothes which i hadn’t done yet this year. not feeling sorry for myself though. it’s all apart of this wonderful world of parenthood. i’m in all the way. good times and bad. from meltdowns and sweet kisses.
btw…new to your blog and i’m loving it. thank you for exsisting.
I’m so glad you were feeling for the mom. I had some pretty bad parenting days with my firstborn, who didn’t sleep through the night until she was 4. That’s a lot of nights.
And even though I’ll probably never forgive myself for not doing better, she’s fine. She’s great, in fact, a thriving 18yo, off at college and enjoying life to the fullest.
Sometimes it’s the parents who need to be held and cuddled like a baby, even if only in our minds.
Somehow I fell off reading your wonderful blog for a few months and just caught up (somewhat) again today. THIS POST IS MY LIFE. I know I sound all funny on FB, with the cute anecdotes or something crappy that i can joke about but sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night thinking about what a horrible mom I am to three sweet, bright, vastly different and all very needing of mommy’s attention Right!Now!Every!Minute! Worst moment – #2 has strep on Friday. #3 gets it (of course) on Sat. In line at Walmart for her abx, with other two wanting me to buy them everything in the store plus Happy Meals. Get to the counter and am informed that since I have not filled a script there before, will be an hour while the pharmacist takes lunch (at 1:30 on Saturday?!??!) and then will process my insurance. I say to the poor woman “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME” while holding the 35lb 2 year old and sending glares over to the 7 and 5 year old fighting on the bench. I go to tell them we have to wait, they want to shop. I start yelling (IN PUBLIC) no we are not shopping we do not have any extra money maybe you should stop talking back to me or get a job!!!!!!!! and grab my son’s chin to make him look at me. Brilliant, eh? So instead we get back in the van, go thru the McD drive thru, I use my credit card, and I sit in the car and cry until the pharmacy opens again. Of course I get the same woman at the counter and have to apologize to her. Pretty glad nobody called DFS on my for grabbing my son’s chin! Clearly I am still traumatized by this and I told no one I actually know about it – but writing here has been catharctic. And reading all of these other stories – I have cried. And it was good for me.
Love to you ALL.
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