It felt like I was failing at motherhood and while I may not have actually been failing I definitely was not thriving. A lot of the time I felt like this:
And I'm pretty sure my kids had secret conversations that went like this:
I don't think my kids were having a horrible time but I knew that they would be happier if I was happier. We were doing a lot of "just getting by" and I hated living in constant survival mode. I wanted to enjoy the kids I loved so much and I wanted them to enjoy themselves.
This isn't to say that my goal as a mom is to have kids who are happy and entertained 100% of the time. My goal was - and is! - for them to know, without a doubt, that they are loved unconditionally and to live joyful lives. Those two things cannot really happen if Mom is always feeling "bat-crap crazy".
Slowly I learned what I needed to do so that I really was thriving as a mom. A mom who had the time, patience, and humor to play and color with, read and listen to, and give lots of hugs and kisses to her kids.
So what did I do?
Well, the first and most important thing was sleep.
My husband and I eventually figured out that I was exhausted and I needed to get more sleep. He started getting up with the kids at night and letting me sleep in on Saturdays, and a Sunday afternoon nap for Mom became a part of the rhythm of our weekends. Also, now that we are aware of the huge - and I mean huge - difference a good 8 hours has on me we try to make it happen as much as possible. When it's clear that I am becoming overtired again Travis sends me to bed early or arranges his schedule so I can sleep in.
The second thing I did was I stopped comparing myself to other moms. Most especially I stopped reading certain mommy blogs that made me feel like Roseanne Barr. You know the ones... filled with beautiful pictures of their gorgeous homes and beautifully dressed kids and fancy things, while I'm sitting at my hand-me-down, particle board computer desk asking my kids if they can scrape together enough quarters to buy ice cream cones at the DQ. Some women God has blessed with money, good looks, and all the virtues and talents it takes to homeschool 8 kids while maintaining a cleaning/laundry schedule. That is not what He blessed me with, and for my own sake I needed to not look at them because I felt the lack. I hope and pray the day will come when I can read those blogs and look at those women and feel happy for them. I'm not that virtuous yet, unfortunately, so in the meantime I've found blogs written by women who were more balanced and funny and who drink beer, while remaining orthodox, holy, followers of Christ.
The next thing I did was I stopped listening to what everyone else said I "should" do and instead I did what worked for me and my family. For an example you can read my post "Making Peace with Attachment Parenting" but suffice it to say that on rough days when all my kids were crying I learned that I needed to step out on the porch or lock myself in my bedroom for a few minutes. Sometimes the kids cried even harder while I was gone but there was no way I could do a "time in", loving on my children until I took care of myself.
And just as importantly, I became firm about Quiet Time. I arrange it so my nappers go down at the same time in the early afternoon. My older two kids are then shut into the nursery (aka playroom). The rules for Quet Time are simple and clear. They can play with whatever toys are in the nursery - dress up, trains, books, puzzles, dolls, jump on the sofa, whatever - but they cannot talk to me unless someone is hurt or needs their butt wiped. They can only leave the nursery if they have to go to the bathroom. In the meantime I am cleaning, prepping supper, blogging, making phone calls, reading, napping... Quiet time is over when their brother wakes up from his nap, which means it lasts about 2 hours. When it is done we all pick up the nursery together and they get a snack. Besides the fact that I get time to myself my favorite part about how we do Quiet Time is that L and Ben use their imaginations like crazy. It's so awesome.
In the end, if all else fails, I also try to go to confession every 2 to 4 weeks.
How are things different? Well, now I don't need time away from my kids like I did before. I also don't resent them wanting to nurse, sit on my lap, having to be with them so much. I play with them more, read to them more, tickle them more, and play outside with them more. I am more patient, forgiving, and loving. I am enjoying my vocation of mother much, much more and I think everyone in the house is much happier.
Well spoken. I haven't read your attachment parenting link yet but I was just thinking this evening about how much better everything goes with the littlest ones when I just relax and let them nurse. When I run away, I just get followed around by crying, stressed out children. :) And that Confession part? so critical. Thanks for the reminder!ReplyDelete
I just went back and re-read your linked AP article. Well said as is this one. I have three kids - 3yrs, 18 mos and 6 mos and while I have/am breastfed on demand for all of them and I co-sleep the 2nd half of most nights I do not baby carry. Unless I have to! Meaning, if I have a fussy baby then I will baby carry if it means that I can get something done. I do not carry around perfectly content babies. I get tired of the tone from AP'ers that implies that they are better at loving their kids than the rest of us meanies. I often wonder if many of them have their kids as quickly as I did (or you and many other women). If I had AP'd I would have been pregnant, nursing, cosleeping, and baby wearing nonstop for the last three plus years and most of the time I would have been doing at least three of those things at the same time. As it is I have been pregnant and nursing at the same time for a good chunk of it. I have a routine/schedule similar to yours and I too manipulated my kids naps to get them napping at the same time and I pump just enough to leave the house by myself once a week. I would seriously have lost my mind completely had I tried to AP in its fullest sense. I also agree that regular confession is super important. I really would like to know the stats on AP - meaning how many children do they typically have and what is the typical spacing of those kids. At the end of the day we need to find what works for us in terms of creating a peaceful home and most importantly changing things when they don't work instead of following a formula. By the way I can't even fathom a "time-in" when I have had it with my kids. That would go very very badly in this house! Seriously! And tandem nursing - no can do!ReplyDelete
I do think that AP works really well for a lot of parents and that there's bits and pieces that work well for many parents. What I dislike about AP is the way they make outsiders feel. If co-sleeping doesn't work for you it's not because co-sleeping just doesn't work for you it's because you're doing it wrong. And when you're exhausted and frustrated that basically is the same as saying "because you're stupid and a bad mother."Delete
I think, though, that a lot of AP parents have noticed that tone and tried to change it in the 4 years that I've been a mom.
You hit the nail on the head re: sleep, at least for me. I heard a tired mom once say, a little tongue-in-cheek, that a good night's sleep was the last remaining filter available to her to be a good person. And when I heard that, BINGO. I realized I was tired (so tired) and needed more sleep, too.ReplyDelete
Travis is a gem (that is his name, right?). What a beautiful witness here. It would be neat to see him write his perspective and share with fathers.
Thanks Bonnie - I have enjoyed these posts and many others lately. I'm having issues commenting on any blogspot site via my iPad, which is what I usually what I'm reading on. Finally had a chance to get to our laptop. Keep up the great work and writing here.
Yes, Travis. I had one of those "is that his name or one of her sons' names?" moments. People have been calling Jude - Joel and Joel - Jude lately. I was letting that get to me!Delete
Thank you, Lisa. And good memory on Trav's name!Delete
I have had to allow myself to sleep more over the years.ReplyDelete
attachment parenting? maybe I am old now but carrying the baby around all day hurts my back! I think I carried my first 2 kids more though, but now, instant backache!
and those perfect blogs? I had to stop reading so many of them because they made me depressed. In general, I do not know how so many people do it...those that make homemade everything-organic-everything-cloth diapering-homemade wipes-grow their own food-farm 10 acres--shop at all these speciality stores for the most healthiest foods etc...it all blows my mind how they can do this with like 10 kids all day every day all the time. I am sure they are wonderful people/parents and probbaly do have perfect kids but I am far from perfect and my kids are mostly embarrassing most of the time. I have made peace with so many aspects of parenting and I don't really care what people think or do anymore.
I don't think they can do it all. I think they struggle too, or in the least they had to struggle to find the rhythm for their own life. They may be thriving now, but maybe it took them 10 years to get to that point, right? Maybe.Delete
The point for me, though, is that they don't blog about the struggles. That's why I like the balanced blogs, the ones that show the highs and lows.
Man did I need to read this today. Cleaning out my blog reader of the 'saccharine mommy on anthropologie crack' blogs today. I spend too much time on the internets anyway...I should be sleeping when they're not screaming at me :)ReplyDelete
You're an awesome mom, I hope I am doing half the job you are with my guys.
Jenny, you are kind to say so. I'm sure you're doing a great job. Really.Delete
oh, and in our house, we fondly refer to co-sleeping as 'no-sleeping.' little tyrants.ReplyDelete
Love this post Bonnie! Great tips for me, just starting out.ReplyDelete
Yes! Comparing is so huge... That is why I stopped pinterest.. I felt like a loser when I saw how amazing other moms were at baking and arts and craft, but you are right comparing is useless. We all have our own gifts and talents and sometimes the internet can harm our ability to see the gifts we have.ReplyDelete
As far as AP, goes has anyone read that very provocative AP article featured in TIME. "Are you Mom enough?"
I didn't read the Time article. I just wasn't interested - while I haven't done extended breastfeeding I KNOW that that's not what it looks like and I didn't like the tone from the very beginning (literally - the cover!)Delete
Also, on Pinterest I've tried to keep my sense of humor. So, for instance, I have a board called "If only I were crafty". Things I'd like to make but I know I never could. :)
These are all so good and important - sleep, confession, not comparing, and most of all doing what's best for YOU and YOUR family. Not sure how we can all believe that everyone's special and unique but then expect ourselves to do everything exactly like so-and-so who has their act together. I also think people hide the less than flattering details of their lives, just as much from themselves and from their readers. Anyway, my favorite line today was "I knew that they would be happier if I was happier." That's what keeps me going, knowing that their day will only be as good as my day, so I better keep trying.ReplyDelete
Your boys are so blessed, Marie. You're a great mom and I know this from first hand experience!Delete
I totally feel you on the "reading other perfect mommy blogs." I didn't realize how much it affected my view of my life until I read this post. I would like to know what blogs you have found to read! You are the only mommy blogger I have found that is orthodox and holy and talks about it! I would love to hear your blog suggestions!ReplyDelete
Wonderful post. I was losing my mind until we heartlessly let our 11 month old cry it out (it took a whopping 3 nights for him to figure out how to play himself to sleep). Then we got him on a nap schedule and now I am a totally different mother. I had to let go of the feeling that I was a bad mother and think rational thoughts like "He's miserable and sleep-deprived. You're miserable and sleep-deprived. Obviously something has to change."ReplyDelete