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We just came off one of our worst parenting weeks ever. Comedy of errors, tragedy of errors, whatever you want to call it, the week was filled with parenting chaos. Kids with runny noses and hacking coughs, domestic disasters, flat tires, children who wouldn’t sleep, broken bones, sagging bank accounts, you name it, we experienced it.

Sometimes I wonder about parenting two young children while in my forties. What, I ask myself, were you thinking? Funny. I don’t blink an eye at the thought of other herculean feats in my forties (running a marathon? pish posh. Training for an ironman? no big deal. Switching careers? easy peasy). But the children. Oh, the children. God knows, I love them, but this is truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Some of it is the crazy-making behavior (tantrums, pulling absolutely everything within reach down for inspection, the sea of toys underfoot, the refusal to eat yummy food I cooked especially for tepid appetites). And some of it is just sheer monotony. Oh god, oh god, oh god, I can’t take it sometimes.

I willfully grab moments of calm where I can – like when I washed the dishes last night to give myself a sense of satisfaction in having a clean sink while the girls played past their bedtimes. I had the classical music station on, the older was engrossed in books and the younger was clinking on something, I don’t know what, but it didn’t seem dangerous. They were just – occupied. For a moment. This was soon after the segment where they were playing underfoot while I cooked in the kitchen with five or six baby dolls spread out over the kitchen floor.  I felt like I should have, I don’t know, engaged more. Should I have been that mom that ignored the meal I was cooking to crawl around on the kitchen floor with baby dolls? Should I have most definitely not concentrated on dishes after they had moved out of the kitchen but followed them to see what pursuits they were undertaking? I just sort of left them to their own devices. The baby gate was up so they couldn’t wander too far. And I could hear them, mostly. And I was just so tired and somehow doing the dishes seemed so incredibly important at that moment.

Funny that last part. My domicile has received one of the hardest hits in this parenting gig. It is in constant disarray. Piles of stuff on tables as I try to keep things out of the kids’ grasp. Really. I don’t think you’d believe it if I showed you pictures. You’d think I faked such clutter. It’s real. And I live in it. And I am slowly dying inside because of it. I never thought I was the kind of person that wanted neatness and order until I had children. Now I crave it, desperately.

And there’s the constant fatigue. Picking up children, picking up their toys, not getting sleep. Even an everyday mundane task like going to the grocery store becomes a physically taxing feat when you have to tote two children with you. Both of them still in diapers. Because we are failing at potty training. Failing, I say. Older expresses no interest whatsoever in peeing anywhere but in her diaper while at home. Unless it’s on the floor.

I just didn’t honestly think it would be THIS hard. Really, I didn’t. And I hate that I feel it’s so hard. It feels, I don’t know, wasteful. I feel like I should be singing about rainbows and letting the house go to shit and telling the girls, let’s make cookies, with happy faces, and licorice hair. I think about being that mom who was so crazy and spontaneous and maybe we had a messy house, but goshdarnit, we had such fun. Only, in my girls’ situation, they just have a messy house and a crazy grumbly lady for a mother who wore the same tank top for the entire weekend – yes, into bed and out of bed all weekend long, from Friday night to Monday morning.They have a mom who collapses into a chair in the backyard and checks email on her iPhone while they drag themselves in and out of the sandbox, who keeps an eye on them while multitasking on twitter until they wander just too far out of sight.

I do engage with them some of course. But I also feel like I’m biding my time. Will we reach a point where engagement seems more natural because, oh I don’t know, they can hold up their end of a conversation with more than the endlessly-repeated word “why”? Or, because I am not literally wiping shit off their butt two or three times a day? I know there are wonderfully happy moms who adore these ages (1 and 3). And there’s a lot to adore. In small doses. With a waiting back-up in the wings in case you need to run away quickly.

I can’t watch a movie. I can’t sit on the sofa and eat take-out Chinese. I can’t have complete conversations with old friends on the phone without being interrupted by squawking. I certainly can’t take a little nap. Ever. Getting out of the house is tantamount to embarking on a trek up Everest. We have so much damn gear and then there’s the potty/diaper situation (is everyone in a fresh diaper, just how much water has older consumed in the last half hour?) and then we have the “pick me up” pleas and children who are perfectly capable of doing so who won’t walk their own asses to the car. Then we have issues over carseats and straps and just who is touching which toy that suddenly becomes so important that someone is going to dissolve into tears if she doesn’t have it in her hands. right. this. very. instant. And if I try to leave the kids behind, we have to deal with separation anxiety AND I have to take out a loan to pay the babysitter.

I knew my life would change. Sure, the kids will become the priority. Of course, I wouldn’t want it any other way. That was the easy part, those big changes. What I didn’t know was how much it would change on such a mundane level. Like bathroom time (it’s absolutely insane how much/how long I put off going to the bathroom b/c I am either knee deep in kids or can’t afford to stop somewhere and go b/c I’d have to drag two kids out of the car and into a likely filthy restroom where they will be apt to touch everything/sit on the floor). Every little thing is hard. I did not know this. <blink blink gulp> And I am struggling.

And I don’t know how to end this post. It seems disingenuous to wrap it up by saying something like, but golly, they’re so cute and charming sometimes and we have these moments when they make my heart melt and suddenly everything seems worth it. phhhhhhhht. Hallmark bullshit, I say. Of course I have nice moments. Most of them are in retrospect. Currently, I have at least as many equally terrifying moments, probably more – terror in the moment (oh god, someone’s going to poke their eye out with that), terror of the future (is that really our checking account balance? Didn’t the man get paid this week?) or a vaguely existential terror (why am I having kids right now in this world? what will they do about the debt? the earthquakes? the Road-like scenario that’s constantly just at bay?).

So, no wrapping this crap up in a big pretty bow. Parenting: it really might kill me. I shit you not.

Update: After writing this last night, we experienced night/morning from hell. No sleep, messes all over the house (carrot juice, coffee), flat tire, the list goes on. I totally should blog about that, but not today. Today I’m going to stay under my rock. As you were.

A battle I face daily is how to get domestic crap done around the house. I seem to spend the majority of my time a) at work b) keeping children safe while they play or c) sacked out on the sofa with the computer. I realize that the latter is a bit indulgent. (It’s what I’m doing now, by the way.) But it also connects me – to the world, to friends (via FB and Twitter and email) and it’s the kind of time-wasting that one needs pretty regularly to relax.

So, when do I bake or sew or knit or clean? At the risk of sounding a wee bit old-fashioned, I actually like these  domestic activities. Well, except for cleaning. I don’t like cleaning. Even so, I agree that it’s a necessary evil and many times my house is a bit, er, filthier than even relaxed me is comfortable with.

I like to think of myself as a somewhat-inspired baker, though. I have long had big plans for sewing (and remember fondly putting my costuming skills to practical use as a theater major eons ago). I am a half-assed knitter and I’d love the chance to get better at it. I want to make homemade gifts for family members, bake my own bread, sew the girls Halloween costumes and at least put one project on Ravelry. I just can’t get the motivation to do these things, though, amid my current state of affairs. And I haven’t even touched on the cleaning. As much as I don’t like to clean, a clean house makes me feel calm. I imagine it will make the girls feel calm too – I certainly remember how the disarray and disorder of my childhood home (and the subsequent Mommy Dearest-inspired cleaning marathons) made things feel, well, churned up, if you will.

I just wonder if this will change. If so, how? Everyone tells me I’m in the thick of it, with a one year old and a nearly three year old. I’m in the thick of something, that’s for sure, but it’s hard to come up for air and imagine a life where I’ll have both time and energy for activities that seem like a far far distant dream right now. I just. can’t. see. it. Not right now.

I am so needed right now, by everyone. I shrug off official work because it is the only one I can shrug off. Yet, I desperately need the money it brings in. Egads. This is my current existential bane.

We can’t afford for me to stay home all the time and if Spring Break was any indication, that would simply leave me in a pool of drool anyway. Because I get that mamas need downtime. And if you could barely eke out an existence with one parent not working, how in the hell could you afford any downtime? No MDO, no babysitters – we’re talking bleak. If I could stay home while the kids were in daycare, I’d get loads of stuff done, but then I’d feel selfish and wasteful. And that kind of financial picture doesn’t exist for us right now, not while the man’s in school.

(Have I veered into whiny here? Forgive me. It happens. Far quicker than I intend. I start to hear this little annoying buzz in the back of my head and realize it’s me, whinging on. Again.)

So, buck up, right? Either let the house fall into hovel-status and forget any apron-clad dreams of making your own jelly or ignore the kids and bake and craft in blessed oblivion, assuming they wouldn’t make off with necessary supplies like yarn and feed your new bamboo knitting needles to the dog.

I want a reality in between. I want to feel like a person with a normal domestic life. Somehow, in the case of me, I feel that this helps me with the non-domestic stuff. I feel, I don’t know, fuller? Like somehow having the time to bake a pie satisfies a creative need in me that is not entirely unrelated to the novel I write in my head on a daily basis (the one that is slightly existent on google docs).

Let’s face it. One person can only take so much pretend play. Day after day of acting out the eating of invisible cupcakes coupled with my uninspiring career-ish worklife begins to make little streams of my brain leak out of my ears. I’m sure of it. I just want to make a goddamned loaf of homemade bread once in a while. Is that too much to ask?

Welcome to my corner of the web.

The What

Perhaps you are wondering what this is all about. Actually, I am too.  As far as I can tell at this point, it’s a journey I’ll uncover through writing it. It is, for now, an anonymous blog about raising my kids in a crazy, sometimes crappy, sometimes utterly sublime world. It’s about raising them in the United States, in Texas, as an atheist, far-left-of-the-dial, irreverent, working-away-from-home mama. A mama still hoping to realize some of her own adventures while supporting two feisty and independent girls and also supporting a working husband who’s currently mired in a full-time job and a candidacy for a doctoral degree.

So, why is it anonymous?

Because I’m a pussy. I worry about my family reading it, my co-workers, even some friends. What will I confess to here? My sexual escapades? The way motherhood empties me out sometimes? My on-the-job slackitude? Texting while driving? Who knows. For now, it feels safer to be anonymous. It feels freer to remain so as a writer. Let’s not get into the neuroses evident in this; for now, let’s let sleeping dogs lie.

What Do I Do for a Living?

Goooooood question. Right now, I hate my job. I’m supposed to be a computer programmer. Currently, I spend a lot of time on Facebook and write documentation. You’d think that in today’s economy I’d put more effort in. Really, you would. But let’s face it, being a mama is tiring me out. I’ll put my ugly truth out there. I don’t have enough in me to go around. I’d rather slack at work than slack with my kids. Er, sometimes I slack with my kids too, though. I guess I’d rather regularly slack at my job than with my kids. And truthfully, I’m just uninspired at work. I wonder about women who seem to love their jobs so much and still be mothers. I’m currently working 30 hours a week and am set to go back to fulltime soon. Honestly, I don’t know how it’s going to work out. I can’t imagine it will work well. I fear the slacking will continue.

The Girls

I have two girls – an older and a younger. They are 22 months apart and they are both toddlers. I am worn. the fuck. out. I am in my early 40s. One (the older) has sleep issues. I am at a sleep deficit most all the time. Some of this has to do with the older’s wonky sleep habits, the rest has to do with my addiction to my iPhone and my willful and perverse drive to extract a few hours for myself after the girls are abed. Our lives are busy, hours extracted out of pretty rigid schedules of work time, daycare and the man’s demanding class schedule.

Heretical

Why the Heretic label? Because Apostate Mama doesn’t have the same ring.

I was raised Southern Baptist, spent a little time with Disciples of Christ-ers (as well as in a bad marriage), became an Episcopalian (and met current man, much better), embraced Agnosticism, then apathy, then agnosticism, and finally admitted (quietly) that I don’t believe in god. I’m admitting it a little louder now, a little more publicly, but it’s a hard brand to feel comfortable with in our culture. Still, despite what some religion-heads want me to believe, having kids doesn’t make me more inclined to believe. If anything, I have become more outspoken and firm in my own convictions.

And let’s face it, I just have a bone to pick with religion. I think it’s bad juju and does us no good for the most part. I live in the South, so this comes up as a continual sore spot in my life. Whether it’s the well-meaning stranger who speaks of my children as a gift from god or the not-so-well-meaning scorn of the churched who surround us, it’s a lonelier path than believing to be sure. It’s a particularly thorny path to be on as a parent.

So,

There you have it. My reasoning behind writing. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to leave a comment. It gets lonely out there on the web.