I know I promised to keep going with the beginning of V’s story (and I will get back to that), but I was inspired to write this post in particular. I was at work this past week and since it was slow I started to think about how my life has really changed, in fundamental ways, since I became pregnant and gave birth to my little guy. Every day V astounds me with what he learns and discovers, he brings so much joy to our lives…but as we watch him learn himself, sometimes I feel like we, as parents, get a little lost.
Before I was a mother I had so much confidence in my abilities. I thought I was pretty good at school, work, teaching, keeping in touch with friends, taking care of myself physically and adept at my home/life balancing act. I was very solid in my identity and took advantage of the many great opportunities that were offered to me. I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced many cultures and lived on all sides of the world (except the super cold parts!). I went to university and even completed a post-graduate degree. I was luckily to receive some great job opportunities in both retail and teaching and loved expanding my skills in both areas. In short, things came easily to me and I never found, luckily, that I had to work too hard to move forward at work or get good grades. I feel self-conscious about saying this and I’m not boasting but this is just how I perceived my life to be like…before I was a Mom.
After giving birth to baby V however, I feel like I’m still trying to pull myself back together and figure out who I am now. Especially since V was a preemie and spent his first year pretty much in solitude, I spent a whole 12 months of my life at home, caring for an infant, cut off from the ‘adult’ world. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of that time with my baby boy but since returning to work and the outside world, I’ve been struggling on how to mesh my new identities as ‘Vaughan’s Mommy’, and ‘Andrew’s wife’ with the ‘Me’ I knew before.
Before I was a mother I took chances, not crazy, life-threatening ones, but I took exciting job opportunities, be they at home or overseas. I went on trips. I made executive decisions at home and at work, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Maybe it’s something inherent to being a mother but I now find myself second guessing my decisions and abilities in ways I never have before, which creates a lot of anxiety! I know that whatever decisions or mistakes I make now, affect not just me, but the two most important people in my life. I spend so much time mulling over which option to take that often times I’m too late or make some careless error. My memory is also shot! It’s a good thing that I have a cell phone because usually I’ll get halfway to work and remember the really, super important thing I had to tell Andrew about Vaughan’s dinner/day/routine/dr’s apt. To attack this issue I’ve started leaving myself post-its and lists like a senior citizen…some days it works, and other days the laundry sits in all of its damp glory until I re-run the cycle the next day.
Before I was a mother I balanced school, a job, housework and an active social life. Even on my maternity leave I felt that I had a good handle on balancing baby and home. My house was usually pretty clean (with a few dust bunnies roaming around), dishes were done and meals were planned in advance. Now that I’ve added work into the mix, even part-time, and tutoring my niece, I find that the house becomes a disaster zone and I’m overwhelmed with where to start. Laundry becomes mountains, dishes pile in the sink and really all I want to do when V isn’t running around like a mad man is sit on my duff or have a nap right along with him. I feel like I’m failing as a woman and wife when I stare at the pile of unfolded laundry, or I have to pull out ‘adult’ towels for V’s bath because his are still sitting downstairs, waiting for their turn in the washer. My husband is fantastic and never, ever mentions how little gets done each day while he’s at work, and he helps so much when he’s home for the weekends, but I hardly feel it’s fair to pass it on to him since he’s bringing home the majority of the bacon. Where did my old organization skills go? Before I became a Mom, when I was in school, I’d work 40 hrs a week, have 20 hrs of class, managed to keep an A average and go drinking with friends on the weekend, all in clean clothes! Why all of a sudden is 20 hrs of work a week and tutoring on average 3 days a week such a mountain to climb? I’m trying to resolve to look at the housework in small sections and set little goals for myself each day….for example: By the end of today I’d like for all of the laundry to be clean and dry, not necessarily folded, but clean. I finding that this helps but I really miss when all of this stuff seemed to take care of its self and I wasn’t collapsing into bed at 10pm.
Before I was a mother I was pretty proud of my physical appearance, not vain, but not totally unfortunate looking either. I had an enviable closet packed with current fashions, cute haircuts and the time to do makeup. Now, I really see a difference in my appearance…and it has nothing to do with the extra pregnancy pounds still hanging around. Regardless of weight, my body just feels different, from my hair all the way down to the width of my feet. This has also contributed to a fair amount of my decline in self-confidence. When you get up at 7am to take care of your beautiful baby it’s hard to get all excited about getting dressed up. You know that by 10am you’ll be covered in milk, food, snot and possibly other bodily fluids that do not mesh well with dry-clean only materials. As a nod to the aforementioned laundry mountains I prefer to not go through 10 outfits a day and so, I pick the easiest thing to put on…which sadly for my husband happens to be jeans or jogging pants, t-shirts and slippers. I put my effort into making sure V looks adorable since I wouldn’t want other parents thinking my child looks like a hobo! I can’t even discuss hair and makeup, because to be honest I can’t remember the last time I did mine. This year I’ve also resolved however, to take baby steps and make more of an effort in my appearance, not just for me but for my newlywed husband as well. Flannel Pjs just aren’t a sexy look for the first year of marriage….My first tiny step has been keeping my nails well maintained, and I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to keep it up! It sure does help when OPI makes such pretty colours….
Before I was a mother I thought that Mommies became a part of this super supportive, secret sorority where everyone had your back. That’s one thing that no-one tells you about being a parent… some Mommies are competitive, mean girls! I don’t think anyone can exclude themselves from this bunch because as first time, or even second time, etc parents we’re all looking for validation that ‘yes’ we are doing it right. Mommy groups, Facebook and message boards are full of exclamation point filled posts about how their 10 month old is running marathons, has perfect hand-eye coordination, is juggling college offers from both Stanford and Harvard as well as orating epic prose at genius level. This doesn’t help your confidence as a parent when you look down at the adorable, drool covered 16 month old child whose sticky hands are clutching at your leg to avoid falling down, still drinks from his bottle and babbles with very few actually discernible words. The first thought is ‘Where did I go wrong?’ followed closely by ‘Oh my God! I’ve failed my child, he’s going to be left behind his peers’. The doctors say he’s meeting his milestones but what do they know?? Pfft…experts…
Nowadays I just stare at my little miracle, think of how far he’s come, and get a little teary-eyed when I think of all the things he has yet to do in his no-doubt, remarkable life. I’m not saying I won’t push him to be his best at what he chooses to do…but helicopter parenting is not for me!
Other Mommies will also judge you on what/how/when you feed your child along with what/when/how they play with toys, sleep, dress etc. Anything anyone can have an opinion on, you’re doing it wrong!! And this doesn’t help when you are your own worst critic. I’m finally learning to take a deep breath, say ‘Good for you’ and keep going in my own routine and beliefs. Everyone was a first time parent once and for the most part it seems to go well. I always appreciate well-meaning advice and help, however if someone is trashing my child-rearing efforts to make themselves feel good? They can kiss my stretch-marked behind and let the door hit theirs on the way out!
Before I was a mother I used to have actual conversations with friends that, most of the time, didn’t involve kids. Now, when I actually do have time to call up an old friend, which sadly happens less frequently than I’d like, I find that I babble about V and his milestones, simply because I have nothing else to talk about. When you’re home 24/7 with a toddler for company it really limits your conversational topics. I can absolutely update you on the current episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, however I’m sure that would be even less interesting to my child-less friends. I do appreciate the effort that they all put in, however, to show interest in our little guy. I love being able to share the greatest happiness in my life with friends but I do wish I had more time to do it! Friends with kids understand when you don’t call for three weeks because you didn’t have time. Even staying at home all day doesn’t leave you with the same free time it did before you had kids. When V is napping, I’m cleaning, paying bills, calling various government agencies to update someone’s records, or heaven forbid…napping. Sometimes I just forget….and I feel terrible! Motherhood guilt doesn’t just surround your child…I find it has seeped into other areas of my life and sometimes a good meltdown is called for when I’m feeling like a particularly bad friend. I’m trying my best to at least reply promptly to emails, and make a few phone calls a week but to be honest the results have been weak…although tomorrow is another day and maybe it’s time for a good phone chat!!
I also used to go places before I was a mother. Like the mall, movies or even out for coffee. Now those trips involve a car seat, bottles, snacks, toys and often a cranky child. If I’ve been lucky enough to make it out the door for a little ‘girl’ time there is still the issue of a babysitter, and making sure that it is someone we trust. With so much effort going in to 2 hours away from home, to be honest, some days it just isn’t worth it and I’d rather snuggle up with my boys and watch Netflix. I am trying to be better again this year however and have made a dinner out, once every two weeks, my achievable goal! So far, so good!
I’m feeling like a real downer for this post, but everyone always extols the virtues of ‘new parenthood’ and sometimes someone just needs to vent and tell it like it is, at least some of the time. I am having the best time of my life as Mommy and wife. I love my little miracle and my amazingly supportive husband…but sometimes my identity gets lost and I need a few minutes to find it and integrate it into my daily life.