Give Yourself a Break

Has this happened to you?

Since I became a mom, one of the reoccurring themes I keep hearing from other moms is the constant worry of failure. Am I good enough? Why does every other mom seem to have a better handle on things than me? Why can’t I keep the house cleaner? Why can’t I get my kid to behave like the other kids? What if my fears rub off on my child? Will my mistakes scar my child for life? Should I feel guilty for not wanting to be with my child every second? The list goes on. 

No amount of schooling prepares you for parenting and you don’t get glowing peer reviews to reassure you of your worth. For anyone who had a successful career before staying home with children, this is a particularly difficult adjustment. I know what I am missing and even though I am happy with my decision overall, there have been days of self-doubt. One former career woman I know jokingly remembers that she was “a god” at her company. People came to her for the answers. She had them and it felt great. When you are up to your ears in poopy diapers or dealing with a sassy toddler on a daily basis, it is all too easy to lose confidence and long for the days when you really did have the answers. 

To all of you who feel this way – give yourself a break. Just as everybody plays the fool, every mom makes mistakes. Swap stories with other moms (or dads) and you will see – there simply is no exception to the rule.  

Please share one of your mishaps so others will see that this is true. (If you are on our homepage, you have to click on the big black quote mark next to the title to leave a comment.) One of mine was when I left my toddler alone with the diaper bag. He found some Tums and proceeded to chow down. My doctor made me call poison control (yikes, there is a record of this somewhere) but, fortunately, it was nothing to worry about. Funny but my mom remembers me doing the same thing with Bugs Bunny vitamins!

The Librarian

Old Mom, Young Mom

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There are a lot of discussions I’ve either read or listened in on whether or not its better to be an older mom or a younger mom.  I have had the pleasure of being both!  I’m going to weigh in on the pros (and cons) of each.

Being a young mom

As a young mom you don’t really know the difference, you just “go with it”.  I was lucky to have been around babies my whole life, so it felt really comfortable when I had a baby.  I don’t think as a young mom you really ponder the effects that disposable diapers have on the environment, you don’t over think every little action that happens, you just parent.  As a young mom I was able to take Big E to the park and actually PLAY with him.  And I’m not talking about pushing him on the swing, I’m talking about running around, climbing slides and playing tag.  My energy levels were high.  I also loved taking him to school and being the hip, young mom.

Being an older mom

As an older mom I know the difference and really care about breast feeding, organic clothing and the impact disposable diapers have on the environment.  I have such a great sense of who I am as a person and know firmly the kind of person I want to raise.  I have strong opinions about parenting.  I am able to afford more luxuries for my child as an older mom and provide more now that I am more stable in my life.

They both sound great right?  Well they both aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.  For instance, when I was a younger mom, and since I’ve always looked young for my age people would always ask if Big E was my little brother.  Or give me a ridiculous look of shock and disapproval that I was married with a child at 22.  Don’t get me started how his teachers would act like they knew better for my son just because they had 20 years on me.  Another big con is that I know I missed out on a lot of things that people do in their 20’s like traveling and focusing on a career.  At the time I didn’t feel like I was missing out, but looking back now I definitely see it.  As an older mom I’m having such a hard time with energy.  When I take Little C to the park he’s lucky if I push him on the swing.  There’s no way I feel like running around a playground for an hour, 10 minutes maybe, but a whole hour?  No way.  I’m also starting to feel aches and pains.  I can’t pick up Little C because I get terrible lower back pain.  I’m just so tired these days.

If I had to do it all over again which one would I chose?  I’d probably have chosen to be done having children before I was 30.  I feel like there is something to our nature and our bodies being ready when we’re younger.

My mom always said children are for the youth… I think she’s right!

The Photo Addict

Mean Mommy

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Most of my days are filled with affection and accolades from my son. “Mommy, I love you ALLLL the way to Pluto!”, “Mommy, you are the best, most BYOOTIFUL Mommy in the WHOOOLE world!” But every once in a while, my job as rules enforcer puts me at odds with my subordinate. On these occasions I get, “YOU ARE A MEEEAAANN MOMMY!”  Sometimes I get the door slam. Sometimes I get a toy chucked at me and that look of defiance. Typically he’ll say something like “If you don’t let me do what I want, I am NOT going to listen to you.” Sigh.  It was so much easier when I was just Fun Aunt Ruth to my nieces and nephews.

Let’s face it, being the disciplinarian is a drag.  And yet it’s so necessary.  We parents only get one shot at shaping this little being into a productive citizen of the world. Our job is to give them the tools they need to do the right things and be good people. Hopefully happy people as well. This is an awesome responsibility.  

I am fortunate enough to have a spouse (aka Bad Daddy) who backs me up when I lay down the law. This doesn’t stop the child from trying to get a different answer from the opposite parent. Guess you can’t blame a kid for trying. I can’t help but smile inside at his brutal honesty about his motives. “I asked Daddy if he would give me computer time and he asked me what did Mommy say. I didn’t want him to ask me that, I wanted him to say I could!”

So I saw this episode of a show called “Intervention”.  Not that I make a habit of watching such crapola.  But this family struck me as a perfect example of just how badly you can screw up the parenting thing if you and your partner are nowhere near the same page. The couple had 3 children. The dad was only interested in being their friend and did nothing to discipline them. The mom overcompensated to the point where the kids resented her and chose to live with dad when the couple got divorced. Dad remained clueless and also happened to be a workaholic so was never home. He gave the kids absolutely no boundaries. Can you guess where this is headed? Long story short. All three kids ended up hooked on drugs. Two of them eventually died of drug overdose in their 20s. The third kid still did not get the wakeup call about the hazards of drugs and seemed doomed to be the third victim. This is an extreme case but the message was clear. You cannot simply be their friend, you have to give them rules and enforce them. In a loving way, of course. 

Like it or not, being mean mommy is an important part of my job.  I don’t relish it but it will be worth it in the end.

The Librarian

The Hardest Thing About Parenthood is…

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Someone recently asked the question:  What is the hardest thing about being a parent?   So I thought it over.

Is it losing sleep?  Seriously, you can’t even explain the sleep deprivation thing to your friends without kids because they just won’t get it. For those first few months you become a barely functioning zomboid, snapping at your spouse at 3 in the morning and arguing over who is going to get up the next time. Hey, has anyone else’s husband done that thing where you know he is awake and hearing the babe but pretends to be dead asleep because, after all, only mama can breastfeed. Darn it. Fortunately, this stage of the game usually gets better after the first year or so. So this can’t be the answer. Don’t count on sleeping in much for the next 8 years or so though. 

Keeping baby safe

Keeping baby safe

How about nursing a sick kid and trying not to care when the child coughs and spews all over you, usually when you are wearing a favorite shirt? And you know you are going down hard next, yet you get no sick days. This works out awesomely when your kid bounces back in no time but there you are zapped of all energy for the next week or two. Oh and then there’s the fact that most of the medicines for small children have been taken off the shelves due to the FDA recommending that they not take any over-the-counter meds until they are 6. All you get to give them are children’s Tylenol and vaporub. Not exactly sleep enhancers. The grandparents talk about giving their kids a little whisky to help them sleep. I think sometimes ignorance really is bliss. But this, too, is fleeting so it couldn’t be the hardest part.

What about the clean up?  Ever been scrubbing out the pants (or blankets, shoes, etc) your child poopsploded on and wondered if it’s even worth salvaging these or easier just to toss and get some new ones? If you’re a SAHM like me, there is that small matter of a budget, can’t buy clothes EVERY TIME this happens. But I have thought about it often. Even had awful thoughts about going to Wal-Mart (I hate Wal-Mart). As the child gets older, however, these incidents become less and less. Make it through the first 5 years and this will fade.

Adjusting your life. For a mom who works outside the house, it might mean part of you may feel guilty and/or wish to be home with the kids. For a SAHM, it means being isolated from most other adults until you work up the confidence to get out of the house and meet other moms or dads. In my case, I just didn’t realize what I was missing until I rediscovered having a bit of a social life after finally joining a moms group – thanks, Mommica!  Of course, the game has changed because now you sit around talking about your kids and swapping mom notes because, well, what else is there to talk about when your job is to watch your child 24/7? This means less time, if any, with non-parents. Unless, of course, they truly don’t mind you talking about your kid A LOT. Some actually do want to hear all the cute things that Timmy did today. Well, at least they pretend they do which is good enough for me. 

Sacrificing your time. And I’m not just talking about less time for hanging out with friends,  I’m talking no time to shower or comb your hair when the child is younger and then less time for hobbies, talking on the phone, internet surfing  or simply having time for yourself when they are older. Once the kid stops taking a nap then there he is demanding equal time on the computer and deliberately erasing your favorite shows on the DVR. Time to get more activities on the calendar. I would also add doing what’s best for your child rather than what you would like to do.

How about the frequent state of worry and self-doubt?  Am I doing this right?  Will not making my baby food from scratch affect this child’s health in the long-term? What about the times I’ve used Nick Jr. as a babysitter?  What about those studies which say that this can negatively affect behavior FOR LIFE. Oh, he bumped his head pretty hard.  Should I take him to the doctor today or would I be overreacting?  Look at what happened to Natasha Richardson!  What if there’s a big earthquake and I can’t get to him?  What if there’s a war and he gets drafted? It’s just a constant string of what ifs that goes through your mind that you can never entirely block out.  And there’s a heightened state of awareness. Before having a kid, I hardly paid attention to things like fire escape routes, for example. Now that I’m responsible for this other person, I find myself seeking out fire door locations, counting seats on airplanes, and studying emergency maps behind hotel doors. I now know that the fire truck’s ladders do not reach above the 7th floor. By God, I am not going to be the one whose family dies in the smoke because I can’t find my way out. Retailers and restaurant owners beware because if I see an emergency exit blocked (you’d be surprised how often this is the case – scary) then you are going to hear about it. A lot of the “what ifs” seem irrational and silly but there are some potential dangers that do warrant serious worry. Kids do get molested.  Accidents do happen.  Some will do drugs.  Some will get cancer. Yikes. And take note that I am not a worrier by nature.  I can only imagine how hard this is for someone who worried even before having kids. Now I’m getting closer to the answer.

In the end, my best answer for the question of what’s hardest about being a parent is dealing with the emotional kryptonite that comes with the job.  The love you feel for your child (or children)  is so strong that you suddenly have this huge weakness that you can’t do anything about. It’s like wearing your heart outside of your body. So difficult but so worth it. 

Hey Mom, I finally understand. This one’s for you!

The Librarian