Saturday, January 31, 2009

Do Mommies Ever Get a Vacation?

This is a question that has been on my mind the past few weeks, among a few others. But the more I mull it over in my mind, the more irritated I get, and the more certain I am that the answer is an unequivocal, "No." Don't get me wrong, I do love being a mom, and especially a stay-at-home mom. My kids amaze me, crack me up, infuriate me, and make me melt all in a single day. They are such wonderful little beings, and I am blessed that I am able to stay home with them and witness the everyday miracles and accomplishments that they experience.

But, seriously, when do I get to clock out? Just for a few hours...or even a weekend?

I do not envy working moms. I know that it has got to be impossible to get it all done when you are trying to work outside the home, and then come home and try to take care of kids, get something to eat, keep the house from looking like a bomb went off, and squeeze in a little sleep. I know that many women need to work outside of the house, for their own sanity, and because they really love their jobs. I commend these women. I am fortunate to have chosen a career which is not technologically or economically driven, and should be fairly easy for me to re-enter in a few years when my kids are in school. As a licensed social worker and therapist, there are almost always job openings. And one can usually find a job with as few or as many hours as you are willing to work. So I don't feel the pressure to get back in the race, lest I be rendered obsolete after being out of the workforce for too long. But I completely understand the need for adult interaction, and the mental stimulation that non-mommy work can bring. I frequently feel like my brain has become a completely useless organ, incapable of even completing a sentence. I am getting better about trying to keep up with the world, reading news publications and discussing things with Alex when he gets home. But there are some days where I feel like I exist in a vacuum of goldfish and chocolate milk, and my new friends are Handy Manny and Dora.

I have been fortunate enough to have had a part-time nanny for the past 2 years so that when I do need to go to a doctors appointment or get some major grocery shopping done, I do not have to worry about snacks and drinks and where the nearest bathroom is in case of a potty emergency. Since we don't have any family close by to help out with these things, she has been an absolute lifesaver for me. So I do get to have some peace and quiet. But while this has been a huge help for me, I don't always feel like it gives me a true break. Most days I make my list of the 5 or more places I need to go, and I am out the door for 4 hours trying to get everything done. It feels like a race against time, one that I can never win. And with being pregnant, I have had more difficulty getting a lot done in one afternoon because my body tells me it is time to sit down for while. So the past month or two, I have been better at trying to stop and have a cup of coffee and relax for 20 minutes before moving on the the next round of errands. However, as we are cutting back on everything in these economically difficult times, we are also cutting back on the amount of help we are able to afford. I will still have help one day a week, but am also feeling the pressure to try to squeeze as much as I can into those 6 hours so that the rest of the week I am not dragging my kids all over creation. And on top of all the kid-related stuff, there is the cooking, cleaning, laundry, dog, various appointments, and house maintenance that all need daily attention and effort.

Now I know that I signed up for all of this when I had kids and decided to stay home, but I have a feeling that even if I was working outside of the home, "my" responsibilities around the house would be pretty much the same. Now to my husband's credit, he is willing to help out whenever I ask him to do something for me. But there is not a spontaneous jumping in to help out when he gets home from work. He expects to have time to relax when he gets home. He doesn't understand why I can't fall asleep at night even though I may be physically and emotionally exhausted. The thought that I am lying in the dark thinking of all of the things that I did not get done that day and how I am going to fit them in the next day is something he finds very difficult to relate to, as he can fall asleep in about 3 seconds. Snoring. Dead to the world. I am very envious of this ability. Even when I do fall asleep, more often than not my work continues through the night. Even though my kids are no longer infants I am up with one or both of them many nights. And when there is any kind of illness or teething, forget sleeping altogether.

So back to my question after all of this rambling. How come mommies never get a vacation? The last time I was truly on a vacation without kids was almost 2 years ago for our 5th anniversary. But even that was 2 nights at the Borgata in Atlantic City, not a true vacation where you actually have time to relax and sleep and enjoy the blissful silence. I have not had one of those since I was pregnant with Georgia, over 4 years ago. Because even when we go on vacation, I am still mommy, and still need to cook, bathe, play, clean up, get up in the middle of the night, and do all the other things that I do at home. I frequently threaten to go check into a hotel for a couple of days by myself. I don't care where it is. It could be the Holiday Inn a couple of miles from here, but at least it would be just me in a room with no one asking anything of me. Just 48 hours of peace and quiet. Just thinking about it right now, I have a smile on my face. But I feel like there are always a million things going on that prevent me from taking such a hiatus from motherhood. I mean, I have an amazing bathtub which I have used once in the 18 months we have lived in this house. And that was only because I needed an oatmeal bath for some insanely itchy dry skin. Even right now the next 3 weekends are totally consumed with birthdays, family visits, and other obligations. I do try to take time for myself, even if it is just 30 minutes reading a book while the kids are upstairs napping or resting. But rarely is that 30 minutes not interrupted by a crying child, the laundry buzzer, or the dog needing to go out. And it is so difficult to sit down, when there are 10 things that need to get done and are staring you in the face.

Hopefully, I will find some way to take a break before this next one comes along, and the work gets cranked up another notch. I would love to know what any other moms do, or any suggestions people have to help get away from it all. Any and all information is welcome......

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Simple Gifts

I just need to talk about how wonderful my kids are for a minute. (DISCLAIMER: If you aren't in the mood for some serious mommy bragging, please do not read any further.) The past few weeks I have been in a bad place, a very bad place for mommies. Feeling just terrible about myself as a mom, because we have been having a lot of whining, crying, yelling, and tantrums in our house. I don't know what changed. Maybe it was coming off of the high from the holidays and all the attention and new toys. Maybe it was just another phase that we were entering. But for whatever reason, I have been going to bed most days feeling absolutely drained, and not really wanting to face the next day when it would inevitably all repeat itself.

Today could have been a very bad day. School was cancelled, and we were stuck in the house all day because of the snow/ice/rain can't make up its mind weather. Normally this would lead to stir-crazy children, who are bouncing off the walls and beating each other by the end of the morning. But today my children gave me a gift. They were absolutely wonderful. Of course there were a few squabbles between them, and they had a few warnings for unacceptable behavior (thank-you Supernanny!), but overall they were great. They played nicely with each other, and left each other alone when they needed to. We did puzzles, games, played dress-up and make believe. There weren't even any mealtime battles. I feel good, and bedtime is less than an hour away. I can't remember the last time I felt this way about being a mom.

And then, my daughter Georgia amazed me. While cuddling in her bed this afternoon SHE read ME two books. Now, granted, these are very simple books (e.g. Pat sat on a mat.), but she sounded out all the words and read the sentences to me. I had tears in my eyes, I was so proud of her. And the best part was seeing her be so happy about this accomplishment. I have no idea where it came from. I do think she is quite smart, but all parents feel that way about their own kids. She has always been curious about letters, their sounds, and reading in general. She would have us read 10 books at bedtime if we would be willing. She memorized "The Cat in the Hat" when she was two and a half. And she has always had an incredible ability to focus and concentrate on something. So much so, that she gets upset if she does not have enough time to complete whatever task she is doing. But reading, actually reading on her own.....I just didn't expect it to happen this early. To see such happiness on her face was just amazing.

And, not to be out done, Noah did a 12 piece jigsaw puzzle on his own today. He is also a smart little cookie, knowing much more at his 26 months of age than I ever thought he would. You always read about how boys are later to talk and learn things like letters, colors, numbers, etc. And believe me, I thought he was a typical, rough-and-tumble boy. I remember watching him ram the play shopping cart into the wall over and over again, laughing the whole time, thinking, "oh, my God....he is such a BOY!" And he has always had a natural affinity for any vehicle. It is amazing how some of those gender differences really do seem to be born into them. But when he did learn to talk, he surprised us all by learning words at an astonishing rate. He also became obsessed with the alphabet, even learning all the sounds of the letters. However, patience and focus definitely do NOT come easily to Noah. He likes to throw things, have tantrums, hit his sister (or whoever else may be in the way), and just generally go about life like the proverbial bull in a china shop. So to see him concentrate so hard on this puzzle, and actually complete it on his own, was a wonderful thing. And when he said, "I did it! I did puzzle all by myself ," it was one of those priceless moments of parenting that I was fortunate to witness.

Sorry for the shameless bragging about my kids. I feel they really deserve it today. We all do. They gave me a gift today that was better than anything I could have asked for. They filled up the well inside me that had been sucked dry of energy, positive thinking, and enthusiasm for what I do every day. I know not every day will be this peaceful, with these momentous accomplishments for both of them. But now I know it can happen. These fun days have not been lost forever, and we hopefully have many more in our near future.

Thank God for the snow.

Snow Day!!

So here we are on the first snow day of the year. We had one decent snowfall before, but this one is going to keep us all inside for the day. And I couldn't get my car out of the driveway even if I did want to go somewhere. I am excited to have the day to spend in my sweats, drinking coffee, and just generally taking it easy with the kids. Hopefully, they will have fun, and not be too thrown off by not doing the usual run-around routine. I am trying to come up with art projects and things we can bake today to keep things interesting. The jury is still out on which way it will go, so I am trying to stay optimistic.

After my last totally depressed and on-the-verge post I cried for a good hour, got a good night's sleep (a small miracle in and of itself), and got up the next day ready to get to work. We even went to IKEA to try to get a few things to help organize our playroom a bit better. I am just in the mood to start throwing things out. I don't know if it is the nesting that is kicking in or what, but I am suddenly ready to just have a dumpster come in and completely empty out my basement. I know that every organizer will tell you to purge things you haven't used in a year, but I also don't want to be throwing money in the garbage with it. I am trying to motivate myself to start taking pictures of all of the things we would like to get rid of so they can be sold on craigslist. We have so many random pieces of furniture that still have a lot of life in them, but we are not able to use them for whatever reason. I am also having trouble trying to figure out what baby stuff should be kept for the next little one (and possibly any more after that one), and what really is not needed and could be donated to a school/daycare or also sold. I am trying to make a plan so I don't get too overwhelmed by it all and just give up, which is usually what happens. So hopefully this afternoon I can tackle a room, or even a closet, and have one little corner of zen in my home.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

So today I am feeling like a terrible mom. Not for doing anything in particular, but more for not doing things. I am just so not in the mood to play today, and my poor kids are the victims. I have had trouble motivating lately, though I can't quite put my finger on why. I am generally tired and hormonal from the pregnancy, which I know has something to do with it. And things are just unstable and up in the air in our lives right now. Not knowing where we may be living in a few months, or if I may have to plan a major move, seems to just paralyze me. I seem to wake up not in the mood for it all. I love my kids, I really do. I think I am just getting to the point of chaos in my life where I get so overwhelmed that I break down. It happens now and then, where I feel like the everyday chores of cooking, cleaning, laundry, organizing, etc. are all beating me down. After the minor meltdown, I usually manage to get it together and start doing what I need to do in order to put things back together. And, unfortunately, the drain I am feeling is affecting my children.

Normally, I love to play with them. I really do. I LOVE to color and do puzzles, and am thankful that Georgia likes to do the same. I also love to read to my kids, sing songs, cook with them, and build things with the many, many sets of block-type toys we have. I am also very excited and amazed to watch Georgia develop an imaginary world, where we dress up in crazy concoctions and pretend to be teachers, mommies, doctors, and dancers. But all of this takes a lot of energy.....which I am sorely lacking right now. I just don't know what to do to get out of the funk and get my butt in gear. I am not depressed, but just feel like I need a good kick in the pants. Someone to come in and show me the way. I know that my kids would probably not be as obnoxious if I sat down with them and played more. I feel like I can hear Supernanny in the back of my head saying, "just play with them, they only want attention." And I know that the negative attention they get from misbehaving is better than none at all. I know that if I could muster up some sort of plan of events for each day we all would come through it much better. I know all of these things. But where is that time, energy, and level of organization going to come from? I have no idea how teachers do it, planning an entire day of activities for their classes all year long. I know I need to get more sleep, to clear out all the unnecessary crap from my house, to get organized. But who will do the laundry, cook the meals, clean up, and take care of everything else while I get it together? The thought of possibly having to move and sell the house just adds a whole new level of crazy to my stress.

I am trying to commit myself to being better at being with my kids. Just being with them. I know that it is not the end of the world if the laundry doesn't get done, or they eat macaroni and cheese AGAIN for dinner, or even if I can't see the playroom floor from all the stuff that is out. It is way more important to them to have a mommy that wants to play with them and has fun. Plus, trying to do everything I think should be done in a day means nothing gets done the way it should, and I just end up even more exhausted and frustrated. I know all the logic and reasonable things to say to myself. For goodness sake, I was a therapist before I had kids!! It is interesting being on the other side of the coin and knowing how hard it is to put that advice into action.

Hopefully, acknowledging the problem will help me start to change things. I can't keep feeling this way, like I am doing a terrible job at the most important thing I will ever do in my life. And with another one coming in a few months, I need to get a new routine going soon. Now I am going to get off this friggin computer and go play with my kids!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day

So no new news on the job/moving front yet. We are still in that lovely state of limbo, but I have managed to not think about it very much the last few days. I have many other things that need my attention to worry about something that may never happen.

My kids have still been driving me crazy, but I think that is every day in the life of a parent. I just need to accept that there will be some days that are better than others, and that I will be forgiven for the mistakes that I make. That is perhaps the most wonderful thing I have discovered about being a mom. No matter what happens during the day, tantrums, yelling, is all forgiven when the kids wake up the next day. Once I just give in to the chaos, and accept that my house will never be perfectly organized, my kids will never stop arguing with each other, and there will always be laundry to do, I will be a much happier person and a better mommy to my children. It sounds so easy, but is so difficult for me to do.

I had another ultrasound a few days ago to just take a peek at this new little being growing inside of me. No matter how many times you see the pictures, or feel the kicking and tumbling going on inside of you, it is still amazing. I could actually see his mouth opening and closing, a slight smile on his face, and his hand coming in and out of his mouth. It really is a miracle that my body can provide everything this baby needs to grow and become a new human being in a few months. I never stop marveling at that.

On a broader note, I am so proud of my country today. It is Inauguration Day, and I feel like I am witnessing one of the most important moments of my lifetime. I am an unashamed liberal, a crazy liberal, actually. So, of course, I was happy with the results of this year's election. But when I walked out of the polling station with my son in November, I actually cried. I was overcome with emotion at what might be, what could actually happen. I can't imagine what members of the African-American community must be feeling right now, to know that something generations of your family fought for is actually coming true. I just know that I have never before been more proud to be a citizen of this country, to see the American dream truly come to fruition, to have faith again in my leader. I am excited to see where the next four years will take us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Do you ever just wonder if you are about to completely lose your mind?

I know that is sort of a vague and open-ended question, but one that I am sure many mommies can relate to. But lately I feel like all the forces of the universe are colliding with the express goal of me losing any thread of sanity that I have left. Let me elaborate.

First of all, I am 6 months pregnant. I feel like that statement in and of itself should explain quite a bit of my mental instability. My body has been taken over by another life force. I have two other children, so I should be used to what I am going through. But waking up everyday to a new feeling in your body, and hormones taking over your emotions is a little unnerving, to say the least. And as I grow I am more tired and cranky, which isn't helping my other kids out at all.

I have a nearly 4 year-old daughter, Georgia, whose sole purpose in life right now is to argue and disagree with everything I say. She will literally argue over whether the sky is blue. My favorite is when she tells me that I really do know the answer to a question where I have said, "I don't know." She will insist, to the point of tears, that I do know and I am just not telling her. What on earth do you do with that? Fortunately, she also does it to her little brother, so I have a companion in my frustration. And getting out the door to go anywhere has become such an ordeal, with one or both of us frequently crying on the way out.

Now onto the other one......Noah. He just turned 2 in November, and plunged full-throttle into the terrible-
ness of the age. I used to long for the day when he would defend himself against his sister's barrage of, "no, that's mine, you can't play with that, I don't like you, GO AWAY!!!" However, he has become more-than-capable of holding his own against her in the past 6 months. So much so that he will chase his older sister around the house to push her, hit her, and pull her hair. He has also learned to talk back to me. I am often told by this three-foot-tall being, "that's not fair," or "i need that, right now!"

Thank God my kids are so really saves them some days. So does the knowledge that every phase we go through is just that: a phase. It just seems like when I finally have a handle on one set of issues, a whole new ball game starts and I have to figure it out all over again. I have also managed to realize that they are pretty smart cookies. I think this is why I get so much attitude. I mean, what 4 year-old can make a reasonable argument against what you have told them. Or remember back a year ago to when you told her something different. And what just 2 year-old knows and recognizes all his letters and their sounds?

But the thing that has been underlying all of the above for the past few months is more complex and serious. This past October my husband found out that he would be getting laid off in April. He works in the financial industry, and things just suck right now, so it was not totally unexpected. Nevertheless, it is not something we were overjoyed about either. While this alone is enough stress for most people, I was okay with things, knowing that we would make it work and could handle whatever came our way in the next year or so. (Did I mention that we found out we were pregnant only 4 weeks before this?) Over the next month or so he came to terms with the possibility that he might not be able to find a job for 6 months to a year. Actually, I thought it might be nice to have him home for a few months, especially since he would stop working a few weeks before our next child would be born. Of course, our peace would not last long.

About a month ago, my wonderful, amazing, and adoring husband found out that the company of his dreams was going to have a job opening. Not just any job opening, but the perfect job in a newly created arm of the company, working for intelligent people that he really admired. They would be hiring someone to start around March and the salary is even in a good spot. Must go for it, right? He started talking to some
people there, has had a few phone interviews, and things sound good so far. We are waiting to see where we go from here. Alex has his own self-doubts about his chances, although I am not sure why. He is so smart, and has this natural affinity for finance and investment-related information. He actually thrives on it. Plus, it just seems fated that he should end up working at this company that he has followed since high school, that happens to create a new opening in his field at the exact time he is getting laid off. I should be so excited for this, especially in this terrible economy and job market. So what is the problem? The job is in Virginia. We live in Pennsylvania. I know, I know, what is the big deal. It is not that far of a move. I have always told him that I would move back to the DC area in a heartbeat, since we both went to school there and feel connected to it. So if it works out, let's go, right? This is what my head has been telling me. However, my gut is in knots, doing triple back flips over the thought of what this job would mean for us right now.

Let me start to explain by saying that in the 10 years since we have graduated from college we have moved 9 times. No, that is not a joke. We seem to have a knack for it, actually. And Georgia has already moved 4 times in her almost four years of life. I have handled all of our moves rather well, I think. I have even been excited about them most of the time. I am a social worker, and I long-ago accepted that I would be able to find a job pretty much anywhere we lived. People everywhere need help: mentally, emotionally, and physically. And since my salary would never compare to my husband's, I knew that we would need to go where he could get a job that would allow him to reach his full potential. I am more than okay with this, and thankfully he has never seriously considered a job that would take us too far away from family and friends. We have pretty much confined ourselves to the Northeast I-95 corridor. My kids have also handled moving remarkably well, although being so young helps.

Now I know that the DC area is not that far from where we are, and that we have access to planes, trains, and automobiles to get us around to family and friends. So why is the thought of THIS move causing such inner turmoil for me? Well, if (and I know it is still a big if) this works out for Alex, I face making this move largely on my own. Being very pregnant. And taking care of 2 young and energetic children. He would have to work away from home for the weekdays for a while, and I would basically be a single parent during the week. I know lots of parents and spouses travel for work, but this is not something I have ever had to deal with. And being worried about what will happen if the baby comes earlier than expected, with the closest family an hour away, I am a little nervous. Also, the thought of selling our house, especially in this market, makes me want to vomit. I am not kidding. Having to get and keep this house in shape to show to potential buyers any waking hour with two kids and a dog, and being able to get everyone out of the house at the ring of the phone is a daunting task for me.

But I am also selfish in my not wanting to move anymore. This is what has been causing the majority of my stress, I think. After our 9 moves I have finally found somewhere that I feel can be home. I love our house, especially the big backyard that the kids can run around in. I love that it has the ability to meet our growing family's need for space. We are mid-way between NYC and DC, where most of our high school and college friends have settled. And it is about as close to some family that we are likely to get. But most of all, I feel settled here. I am comfortable in my life right now. I love the school that my kids are in, and so do they. I know my way around. The best part is that I have real friends here. I haven't felt that way since I finished grad school and the migration began. Sure, I made friends through work, and neighborhood
acquaintances. However, we were rarely anywhere longer than 2 years, which is what they say is the average length of time it takes to really settle in after a major move. I have kept in touch with a lot of amazing friends from college and grad school, but haven't had them close enough to go grab a drink after work. Or have a girls' night out where you can really let loose. I have that here. I found some women that give me that amazing feeling that only comes from close friendship. And our kids are friends. And our husbands get along! I have that friend that will literally drop everything to help me in a crisis, and already has. And I would do the same for her in a heartbeat. THAT is what I have been agonizing over in this whole discussion. And it really has been agony....tears are coming to my eyes right now thinking about having to say goodbye to people that have truly become a part of my family.

Alex has been amazing through this short, but emotional, process. He has repeatedly told me that I can say no to this at any time. And I am so tempted.....I really am. But I can't. In my heart of hearts, I know that if this works out, we need to go down this road. This could be his dream actually coming true, and how many people are able to have that in life? I could never take that away from him, nor would I ever want to. I told him we must have an amazing marriage, and he asked me why I thought so. I said that we manage to pack every major stressful event that life can bring you into the shortest time period, and we are still here, happily married. I mean, within a year of Georgia being born we sold a house, moved 2 times, I quit my job, and Alex took a new job. And we are still here, together. I know that I will get through it if I have to, and many people are willing to help us do so. But I am just really tired. Tired of the physical planning of a move, at the thought of packing up a whole house and be a good parent to my two kids. Tired of starting over.....again.

I am trying not to think about the whole thing too much until we have a better idea of where things stand. Why worry about what may never happen, right? And most days I am successful in my attempt to keep the whole thing out of my head. But every now and then it creeps in, and the knots in my stomach start up. I am hoping that by getting my thoughts out of my head, I will feel a little bit better.

And these days, every little bit helps.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Here we go.....

So here I am entering this world of blogging for the very first time. I am not sure what has inspired this move to get "involved" in the online community, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. Having recently signed on to Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with so many people from my past that I feared would always be people "I used to be friends with." In talking with some good friends online, I have connected with them in new ways. We are now all grown up, with real jobs, some are married, and many of us have kids around the same age. And nothing seem to bond women like everyday highs and lows of motherhood. In fact, I now finally understand why so many people say that you may have many "best" friends growing up, but none will ever compare to the true understanding and acceptance from another mommy friend. They are the only ones who know what life is like right now, from the mundane details of meals, carpools, and bedtime, to the unbelievable moments of pure joy that come with raising your kids. And they also know how truly challenging this job is, and what it is like to feel like the worst mother in the world.

So it is with these ideas floating around in my head that I am starting to blog about my day-to-day activities with (an without) my kids. I don't know if I even want anyone to read this right now, or ever, for that matter. But knowing that I have somewhere that I can unload all drama and BS of any given day is sort of comforting, even if I am the only one who ever knows about it. If I do choose to one day share my musings with the world, then I hope that other mommies will find humor and confort here, and that everyone else will at least have a better understanding of what it is that I do all day, and why I think I have the most challenging and amazing job in the world.