Enjoy every moment

Last week, I posted something on Facebook about how my 3-year-old hadn’t stopped talking all day.  I wasn’t complaining– well, not really.

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Many of my Facebook friends have children, some with children around my daughter’s age, so I guess I was just looking for a little solidarity.  It was one of those “I’m due for a status update” kinda posts that I didn’t give much thought to before posting.  The comments were mostly “ooh, girl, I feel ya” type commiserating where everyone traded war stories about their own overly chatty spawn.  And, then, there it was… a comment from a business colleague who has grown children, admonishing me and the other commenters that we should “really try to enjoy these moments, because there will come a time when they’re grown and won’t even answer your phone calls”.

*Groan*  There it is.  Someone who is years removed from the challenges of daily life with a 3 year old reminding me to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.

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My daughter is the light of my life.  I adore her.  I’m intrigued by her.  She fills me with pride and wonder and joy and all those squishy, sparkly, wonderful feelings I never expected to feel.  But, sometimes, I gotta admit… I. Am. Not Enjoying. It.

Picture it:  It’s 7:00 p.m., I’ve just gotten home from a 10 hour day at work.  I’m still in my work clothes, I’ve had to pee since 4:00 p.m. and for no particular reason, I still haven’t managed to make it to the bathroom, and I’m just now starting dinner.  The dog is whining to go outside, even though I’ve already let him in and out 3 times since I walked in the door.  And it begins. “Mommy.  Mommy mommy mom mommmmaaaaa I need a Bandaid.  A Paw Patrol Bandadid.  I want an applesauce.  Mommy apple sauce.  Apple sauceeeeeeeeeeeeee.  Paw Patrol apple sauce Bandaid sauce.  Mommy look.  I have a boo boo (no she doesn’t)… Mommy my doggie, where’s pink doggie? I no want pagetti (spaghetti). Pagetti is yuck mommy.  I want a Pop-Tart.  Mommy Bandaid.  BAND AID.  MOMMY.  I wanna watch Paw Patrol McStuffins.  MOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY!!!”.  It’s not that I’m ignoring her.  I’m listening as intently as I can and trying to simultaneously boil the spaghetti, sautee the chicken and find the goddamn box of Bandaids my husband put in the wrong place the last time she needed a Bandaid (like, 8 minutes ago), and trying not to escape to the bathroom just for a moment of silence.

So, I’m supposed to stop, take a deep breath and revel in this moment?  Cause I can’t.  I’m not enjoying this moment… I’m enduring it.  I’m exhausted.  It doesn’t mean I’m not happy being a mom.  It just means that for this moment, I want to fast forward, just a tiny bit, maybe an hour or so… maybe to bath time? Bath time is fun.  We always fill the tub up all the way with plenty of bubbles. Our 12 year old cat always comes in during bath time, and my daughter squeals with delight.  Seriously, every time, like it’s the first time ever. Our cat, Maynard (who she’s renamed Meathead) saunters over to the edge of the tub every night, and we place a big pile of bubbles on his head.  My daughter cracks up, Meathead looks proud, and I still find this genuinely funny.  It’s predictable, it’s routine, but I enjoy it immensely.  And then, we get out of the tub and sometimes she throws an epic tantrum if I’ve dared to grab the wrong pair of Elsa pajamas, and I’m back to wanting to fast forward… just a few minutes, until we are snuggled in her bed and my husband sits on the floor and reads us one or two (or seven) books as she drifts off into the most angelic sleep.

Parenting is just full of ups and downs and in-the-middles.  Many moments are simply wonderful.  Some are god awful.  Most, however, are just plain average.  And that is perfectly ok.

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Life is a mixed bag.  Just because you’re a parent– or more specifically, a mom– doesn’t mean you are required to bask in the magic of every single nanosecond of every single day.

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Will I feel guilty some day in the future when she thinks I’m embarrassingly uncool and doesn’t need my snuggles anymore that I didn’t enjoy EVERY MOMENT, down to the tantrums and the whiny ultimatums?  The truth is, I have no idea.  But I do know that the sudden reminder to stop and enjoy every moment of motherhood fills me with guilt.  Why do I, as a mom, have to feel guilty about not finding every last interaction with my daughter to be full of magic and wonder?  If I suddenly landed my dream job and had a bad day at work, would anyone reprimand me for saying that I couldn’t wait for the weekend?  Probably not.  If I complained that I didn’t enjoy some mundane task at work, like filling out my expense report, would anyone suggest that I should stop and savor the moment because someday I’ll be retired and bored?  No.

I am acutely aware that time is passing.  I can’t believe that I already have a preschooler.  It seems like 18 minutes ago that I was holding a tiny little baby.  Ah, she was such a sweet little baby.  It was so much easier then… I wish I could have held on to those moments a little longer.  I wish I could remember what her head smelled like. Why didn’t I stop and commit that exact scent to memory?  I wish I could remember what it felt like to hold her at 6 weeks, 6 months…  Why didn’t I stop and will my brain to burn that sensation to my memory forever?  Gah. God, I guess I squandered those precious moments.

Except that I didn’t.

I did what I am doing now.  I enjoyed the bulk of it– the sweet little coos, the sight of that little infant falling asleep on my chest, the first tooth, the first time she laughed, the first time she said “Dada”, the amazingly sloppy messes she made whilst mastering putting mashed sweet potatoes in her mouth.  And, I’ve glossed over the rest– the colic, the 4 month sleep regression, the clogged ducts and the PPD, the late night frantic trip to the ER when she was 5 weeks old, the almost painful exhaustion those first few weeks…. it all feels like such a distant memory.

Today, I had a meeting in a medical building.  I got into the elevator and there was a couple there, holding what looked to be a one to two week old baby.   He was so tiny, so content, asleep on his mom’s shoulder.  The mom had that look of sheer exhaustion and fatigue that is a requisite part of the new mom uniform.  I felt this sudden rush of nostalgia and even deeper pang of jealousy. We exchanged polite smiles and I told them their baby was beautiful.  But, part of me wanted to beg her to stop and enjoy these moments because it won’t be long before that little sweet angel is demanding Paw Patrol Bandaid Apple Sauces at the top of his lungs.  But I didn’t.  Why? Because no matter how much someone tells you that you’ll miss these days, you can’t appreciate it until you do.

When I encounter someone saying they’re having a miserable pregnancy or complaining about colic or reflux or sleeplessness, I remind myself that it’s part of the package deal to have these moments you don’t enjoy.  Just because I’m feeling nostalgic doesn’t make their struggle any less real.

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Someone once told me that the easiest phase of parenting is the one you’ve just come out of, and I can’t imagine anything truer.  Although we are in the thick of Threenagerdom right now, I am certain that there will come a time when we have a sassy five year old or a broody twelve year old on our hands and we’ll long for the days when potty training and tantrums over pajamas were the biggest of our concerns.  And some day, when my daughter is away at college, or moved to another city to start her life as an adult, I know I’ll yearn for these days.  But, until then, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not enjoy every minute.

And, when an older, wiser person in my life admonishes me for squandering these cherished moments of tantrums and potty accidents and Bandaids stuck to my carpeting, I have to remember to be a little more forgiving and realize that they were probably just like me at one point, wishing away the less enjoyable moments–even if they don’t remember it.

 

 

 

When did you feel like a “real” mom?

A few weeks ago we had a family emergency that required my husband to go away for an indeterminate amount of time. As much as I fuss over the way he does things and his tendency to be more “free range” with the kids, without him was a bit like tumbling backwards into a free fall.

I never realized how much I watched the clock all day for my 5pm reprieve. How helpful it was to have someone there who loved the kids as much as I do, so that even on the bad days we could commiserate about all the ways they ruined our life. It sounds awful, but I never realized how much he did and focused instead on the laundry he left on the floor next to the hamper and the half full cups I found all over our house.

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I’m going to say something that might shock you, but I’ve never really felt like a real mom before this experience. Despite two kids and bills and doctors and a full stay at home life, there was a part of me that was kind of faking it to make it. I did things that moms were supposed to do, and got through the days feeling like I was an imposter around all the other moms who carefully packed snacks and organized crafts. I was going through the motions of motherhood until my partner got home, then we’d put the kids to bed and I’d go back to being my old self.

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About 4 days after my husband left, somewhere around the time my son was totally melting down at a McDonald’s, I realized I was feeling like a real mom. There was no 5 pm shift change, there was no post bedtime return to the real me; this was the real me, this was my real life.

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There’s always that moment when your head is screaming “shut up! shut up! shut up!” and you have to draw on reserves you didn’t know you had in order to say “wait just one second, baby, mommy’s using the potty.” That’s real motherhood. The moment where you take the high road and acknowledge that you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.

I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t the perfect moms stuff like baking and band aids that would make me stop feeling like an imposter,  but the times I was so close to losing my shit and at my absolute limit. Like some kind of bizarro velveteen rabbit, I became real huddling in the bathroom with my kids, all 3 of us sobbing because we missed daddy and didn’t know what to do with the limitless expanse of time his absence left us with.

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Things have settled down somewhat in the last week. I gained a colossal amount of respect for women whose husbands are deployed, or travel for work, and I think single mothers are basically candidates for sainthood. We’re settling into a routine, getting to know a few new babysitters, experimenting with skype. But with every small inch forward, there’s a hurdle to clear, a part of myself I didn’t expect to see. Who is this new woman embracing motherhood, flaws and all, and not always anxious for the opportunity to return to her pre-kid self?

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I’m curious if this would have happened without this situation. Would I have eventually felt like a real mom if I hadn’t faced this emergency and been forced to sink or swim? Were there glimmers of this real mom in me all along and I just finally got the confidence in myself to embrace her? When did you start feeling like a real mom? The moment you held your newborn and knew you’d do anything for her? Or, like me, did it take a while to shake off the imposter veil and step into your new role? I can’t wait to hear all about it, let me know in the comments!