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Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
My last post made it clear that we are in the thick of things. Thanks for your comments and private messages of support and commiseration. All very much appreciated.
One of my favorite pearls, from Anti-Jen: “You’re doing a good job. That job is to make sure those kids know you love them. That’s pretty much all there is to it.” A nice way to boil it down. Plus, it makes me feel semi-competent. I may not be able to find the magic solution that immediately cures Roy’s separation anxiety, or gets Vera to sleep through the night, but making sure they know I love them? That I can do.
We are moving in the right direction. The last two days at daycare drop-off, Roy’s clinginess and pleading disintegrated into nervous whimpers, rather than heartbreaking wails. And last night, at one point, Vera slept three whole hours in a row. That’s enough to shove me over the hump and into the “well rested” category.
I’m fine with copping to difficulty. I certainly don’t see much good in perpetuating the myth that parenthood, or life, for that matter, is a breeze. I’m not, however, one to wallow for too long, if I can help it. I feel uncomfortable if I’m not doing something to make things—at the very least, my mindset—better.
Here are a few things I do to get by:
1) Exercise. For me, it’s running. Always has been. On extremely stressful days, my husband will hand me my running shoes and force me out the door because he knows I’ll come back happier. I also appreciate yoga. These days, I’m doing baby yoga, so I can bring Vera with me. I like to multitask my bonding.
2) Drink. Coming off nine months basically alcohol-free, I’m still a lightweight. A little glass of wine or one quality microbrew after the kids are in bed slows my brain down to a better, more manageable speed.
3) Vent. I’m lucky to have some incredible friends. Ones kind enough to ask how things are and then be ready to listen to the honest answer. Sometimes it helps to have a sane second party help you sort through things. They know I’m always willing to reciprocate. As soon as I’m sane enough to do so, that is.
4) Appreciate. Especially when I’m feeling like everything’s too much, I make a point to focus on a few very specific things that make me feel incredibly lucky. An awesome writing assignment. A clear view of the moon. Vera’s roly-poly thighs. Roy’s nonstop hugs. Clint’s mean meat-smoking know-how and Manhattan-making skillz. I’ve no shortage of things to appreciate.
5) Blog. If you’ve been reading Love & Diapers long, you know that I kid. During times of stress, it’s crickets over here. I’d like to be showing up more regularly. I’m going to try. Apparently, it would help. Did you see the recent study that shows the blogging relieves stress in new mothers?
What helps you feel less overwhelmed?
Image: Red wine pouring into wine glass via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 11th, 2012
Funny thing about motherhood—we’re all having totally unique experiences doing the exact same thing. My post about the Time breastfeeding cover earlier today further highlights that often discordant commonality.
It’s a paradox that, to me, illuminates the compulsion many of us feel to read the experiences of other mothers and to get our own experiences down.
If you’re in the latter camp, do I have the book for you. Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers just came out last week. It’s by Kate Hopper, a writer and writing teacher with an MFA in creative writing, who specializes in helping moms write about motherhood. The book addresses various parts of the writing process (chapters include Getting Started, Using Humor as a Tool and Publishing: From Books to Blogs), with exercises and example essays from seasoned writers including Anne Lamott and Catherine Newman. It’s meant to be explored at your own pace; to be dipped in and out of as inspired. Smart, no?
Full disclosure: I agreed to feature Use Your Words because I love the topic and often get asked about it. After doing so, I happened to run into Kate at an event here in the Twin Cities. Turns out our families are rooted to the same small Minnesota town. We gabbed like long-lost cousins, but I have a feeling that’s just how it happens with Kate. Her writing knowledge and accessible nature mingle comfortably in the book.
Check out this realistic pep talk (excerpted):
“My hope is that you will get started on a number of pieces as you work your way through this book, and that when you finish it, you will have enough momentum to keep going. It’s wonderful if you can write a little bit each week, but I don’t believe you need to write every day to be a writer, and as a mother, I know that writing can be difficult to fit into your day. But as you begin this journey as a mother writer, think about when and where you can squeeze writing into your life. Maybe you have one hour every Friday morning. Maybe you have 20 minutes three times a week as you wait to pick up your children from preschool or soccer practice. If you work outside the home, maybe you can go somewhere quiet on your lunch break and write twice a week. Be realistic about planning your writing time and be flexible. If you miss a day or a week, don’t worry; there’s always tomorrow.”
In other words, you can do it. And Kate can help.
If you’ve ever wanted to write about the mothering experience, or if you already do and crave a little fresh insight to your craft, I highly recommend checking Use Your Words out. Also: I fully intend to post about a writing contest where you can win the book, and possibly a consult with Kate and publication at Literary Mama, but have to get a few things ironed out. Check back if that piques your interest.
Happy Friday, all!
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Monday, March 26th, 2012
We’re at the 7-week mark now, and things are going pretty well. I’m finding the baby thing a little easier the second time around.
I’m not coming fresh to every little thing, and that contributes to an overall feeling of (relative) competence. I’m comfortable being around a baby. Handling a baby. Having a baby.
Her cries and do not scare me, nor do the various hues and consistencies of her bowel movements. I know how to use a breast pump and what to carry in the diaper bag. We’ve already got a kid-friendly schedule in place and a daycare provider we love and trust.
It’s more about managing/balancing the family’s time (there seems to be less) and emotions (there seem to be more).
We’ve had some unseasonably warm weather here, which has made things easier. It’s drawing us out of the house, and out of our heads, much sooner than if it were the typical chilly Minnesota March. It makes a huge difference.
The most common outing is “around the block,” followed closely by “to the neighborhood park.” We sometimes swing by and pick up Vivian, Roy’s bud, and her family, too.
Check out the protective arm around the shoulder. Roy loves Vivi.
Vivi got a new brother the week after Roy got a new sister. Franklin and Vera kick it on the playground’s edge for now. Oh, the little siblings will be tearing it up soon enough.
As the weeks pass, we’re getting more adventurous. Last week, for example, Vera and I went out to lunch to celebrate Romelle’s birthday.
I’m still at that stage where showering and putting on clothes that do not double as pajamas feels like a major coup, so this was big stuff. Romelle is totally worth it.
And guess what? Clint and I went out, together, without the kids. We got them snuggled into bed, put on spitup-free clothes, then drove off to spend time with other grownups for a couple of hours. (Of course, a sitter was involved. Thanks, Bubbe!)
It felt so novel. I do not have any photos of the occasion because I was too busy talking and drinking wine and just completely enjoying what it felt like to be out talking and drinking wine. It’d been a really long time.
Yeah, things are going pretty well.
Babysmiles make everything better.
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Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
This morning, I unwrap a granola bar before heading to daycare to drop Roy off. I usually refrain from doing this because he is obsessed with granola bars. He can hear the rustle of packaging from anywhere in the house, or from the front seat over the John Prine, and then all I hear is, “‘Nola bar? ‘Nola bar? ‘Nola bar?” I want him to eat breakfast at daycare, so I usually wait until he is out of earshot.
But right now, I’m super pregnant (still) and hungry, so I unwrapped that granola bar anyway. Immediately came the pleas of ‘nola bar?
Me: OK, Roy. You can have a little. But what’s that special word you say when you want things?
Roy: Silent and staring at me, clearly stumped.
Me: You know. The special word?
Roy, searching: Toys?
Me: Nope, not toys. I know you know the word. It’s puh… puh… puh…
Roy, triumphantly: Police car!
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Saturday, January 28th, 2012
I usually work four-day weeks; Monday through Thursday. Friday’s Mom & Roy day. Since he naps in the afternoon, we pack the fun stuff into the mornings. We’ll hang around in our PJs reading books and coloring, or go on play dates at a park, zoo, museum or friend’s house. Sometimes, we’ll go grocery shopping. Not too long ago, I said, “Roy, we get to hang out together all day tomorrow. What do you want to do?” “Oh!” he said immediately, as if the perfect idea just sprang to mind. “Run errands!” Whatever we do, it’s a good time, together.
We’ve had fewer of these Fridays the last couple of months since I’ve been trying to hit all my work deadlines before disappearing into babyland, which could happen at any moment. Since these work Fridays took place over the holidays, it didn’t seem like a big deal. There was always some extra-fun weekend event or non-Friday holiday that equaled special time together.
I obviously didn’t have the baby this week, and though I’ve gotten many of the things wrapped up that I want to get wrapped up, there’s always more to do. On Thursday, I stared at that blank Friday on my calendar contemplating: Day with Roy? Or day care and more wrapping up?
I decided to give him the choice. He chose daycare. I was happy that he likes daycare so much, and for another day to TCB, but also a little sad.
I asked Clint if I should override him or just accept the guilt-free work day. “Well, this could be the very last time you can spend a day only with Roy,” he said.
Me: “Don’t say that! That’s not true!”
Clint: “I think you’re misinterpreting me. I just mean it may be your last real full day alone together.”
Me: “What? No way. I’ll still spend time alone with Roy.”
Clint: “No, I mean on Fridays. You’d have to get someone to take care of the baby and, well. We will have two.”
Me: “Just… stop.”
I asked Roy again, and he’d changed his mind. “Day with Mommy,” he said.
Then again, before bedtime, just to be sure. His reply: “Mommy.”
We started with a leisurely breakfast, including shared kiwi. Play-doh. Lots of books read while tucked under a puffy blanket on the couch. And a laid-back walk on the relatively balmy January day. It was all just so perfect and sweet that I had to pause for a second to remind myself that this moving from one to two kids business isn’t just an end. It’s a beginning. And an exciting one at that.
C’mon, little one! We’re ready for you…
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