Friday, October 25, 2013

The monster wave



(aka why I gave up)

In the spring when I left this blog I was in a bad place. Not a terrible place of loss or depression, but a difficult one just the same.

Back when I had just one child I noticed that everything went in phases. Things would be really hard for a while, but then right when it started to get a bit overwhelming an easy age would begin. This cycled continuously every few months or so for the first 3 1/2 years of her life.

My second child was just plain easy. She rarely cried, she was asleep most of the time and we could take her anywhere without any fuss or disruption. She fit perfectly into our family and aside from the needs that any baby would have like being fed or changed things were running smoothly. I was happy, I was smug. I thought I had this second child thing nailed.

Then I hit a monster wave.

Over a decade ago when I was at sea, the captain of my boat explained the basics of waves to me- how smaller waves can meet head on and combine into larger waves, and then those larger waves can meet other larger waves and combine into monster waves. That was the first thought that popped into my head when I thought about what happened to me this spring.

I won't bore you with too many details, but let's just say it wasn't easy. Neither of my children was sleeping at night (one was waking every 2 hours, the other was waking up terrified and would be up for several hours). During the day the little one was starting to climb EVERYTHING and needed to be followed everywhere, and the older one was having massive tantrums, especially when the little one was trying to nap. My oldest didn't nap at all anymore and refused to respect quiet time. Once potty trained, she regressed, having multiple accidents a day. My husband, although extremely helpful while home, was out of the house 12 hours a day with a long commute to work. I had no family or friends to help and the kids were making messes faster than I could keep up with them. Every morning I would wake up on almost no sleep and face a 12 hour day with no break, no help and no hope. I was drowning and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I think the hardest part was the guilt. I didn't mind the mess so much as the feeling that no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, that time was slipping away from me and I wasn't enjoying it as I should. It was both the last few months of my oldest being home with me until she started full time school and the last few months to enjoy my youngest as a baby. But I wasn't enjoying either of them, I was miserable.

What compounded that was looking around at all the other mothers I knew both in real life and online and wondering how they managed when I couldn't. Why weren't their dishes piling up for days in the sink? Why were they dressed in nice clothing that wasn't covered in peanut butter? How were they finding the time to work out? To see their friends? To keep their houses so clean? To do educational crafts with their children? What were they doing differently that made it so much easier for them?

I tried everything I could think of. I would turn off my computer all day so I could stay focused and not be distracted. I gave up down time in the evenings or weekends to catch up on housework. I enlisted my husband to help even more than he already was. I gave up on any sort of standards beyond pure survival, at least for the time being. I did whatever I could, but most days it still wasn't enough. And in the end do you know what the magical solution was? The thing that pulled me out?

Time.

Nothing lasts forever, good or bad. And while most of the time I lament the loss of all those sweet moments as my babies grow, it also means that all the terrible ones pass too. Fevers break, teeth finally cut through, tantrums are replaced with words, hands become steadier. Things get easier (and then harder again) and no matter how hard things get you can always find peace in knowing that in time, it will pass.

I've recently just experienced the best couple of months I've had in a very long time. My oldest was recently diagnosed with Aspergers/high functioning autism, which has alleviated a lot of the confusion and guilt I have felt for a very long time. We are figuring things out and she is thriving. She started full time school last month and loves it and when she's at home she's no longer bored and plays happily with her toys and her sister.

The time she's at school has given me a chance to really get to know my younger daughter as her personality emerges and our days together are wonderful. With only one child at home I'm able to take long walks with the jogging stroller, see friends, get things done around the house and best of all- get a break every day when she takes her nap. I never knew exactly how much I needed that daily silence until I got it back again. I think that more than anything has made all the difference. Anyone who has stayed home with small children knows how hard it is and how important it is to get some time away from it each day, even if it's just sitting for 20 minutes with a cup of tea that's still hot before you tackle another load of laundry.

I know that things won't stay this way forever either, that things will get hard again. But like all hard times, this recent one has taught me something and I feel like next time I'll be better prepared.

What I started to notice after a while when I was comparing myself to all of the other mothers out there is that no two situations are the same. Nobody has an equal playing field and it's impossible to compare when there are so many variables. That mother who keeps her house so clean? Her mother comes over twice a week to help with the kids so she can get it done. The woman who goes to the gym every day? Her husband is home by 4 pm every afternoon and takes over so she can go work out. Some women's children sleep through the night at the age of 2 weeks, some nap 4 hours every afternoon. Some can afford a part time nanny, or have a friend that helps out on a regular basis.

But it works both ways and while many women have advantages that you may not, you also don't know what they might be dealing with behind closed doors. I know women with struggling or failing marriages, with chronic physical and mental health issues, with crippling financial issues, with special needs children. You may judge them for how they are handling things in comparison to yourself, but you never know everything they are dealing with either. To the outside world they can seem fine, but like me they could be shutting their front door and dissolving into tears at sight of mount dishmore and the food splattered floors.

I've wanted to come back to this blog several times in the past 6 months with various ideas, but never really knew what to say. Also, like with motherhood, I was too apt to compare myself to the output and efforts of other bloggers and think that it had to be all or nothing. After deciding to post on my cooking blog less frequently over the summer when I was too busy to keep up, I discovered that the sky didn't fall after all, and I could do things in my own time. So with both, I will post when it works for me and not worry about when it doesn't.

Thank you for waiting patiently while I struggled. Next time I'll know not to keep silent about it because I know that as much as it may have felt like it at the time, I probably wasn't the only one.


7 comments:

  1. No. You definitely are not the only one out there. In fact, I bet the vast majority of mothers feel this way. A lot.
    I'm sorry you were in such a rough place but I'm so glad it's passed.
    I am a hot mess pretty much every day. I'm struggling to find my rhythm and routine in our new life and as a Mom to two school-aged kids now! It's such a different place and yet the days go by even faster that I feel like I haven't even had the time to take a breath.
    So take heart, strong Mama!

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  2. I stumbled across your blog with teh post about Christmas toys and have read a few posts down.

    thank you for sharing this. You are completely not alone with the guilt of wanting to be there and wanting to have time for yourself. I believe the hardest part of being a parent is finding ways to not feel guilty. Guilty for wanting a hot cup of coffee when everyone else has already been fed. Guilty for having to put one child on the back burner so you can give attention to their brother. Guilty for going to work and leaving them at daycare. Guilty for serving macncheese b.c thats all you could manage to put together in sanity. Guilt is a hard cross to bear, but we all do it. It is truly amazing what a 20 minute mommy time out can do to the overall mood of the day.

    Thanks for the witty posts that made me laugh earlier and kudos to you for this brave post about your monster wave.

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    1. Thanks.. Even today I've struggled. I've been up for 4 hours, but in the flurry of getting everyone fed and dressed, teeth and hair brushed ,changing diapers, packing a lunch and school bag, bundling up for the bus stop in -30 degree weather, and nursing a baby (twice!) I've only just been able to sit down and eat something myself. I've done that without wiping and sweeping up the food that is now all over my floor, table and high chair, nor have I cleared the dirty dishes let alone wash them. Before my oldest daughter was in school I wouldn't even be getting this chance to sit down now, after 4 hours straight of tending to the needs of other people, because she would be demanding a snack right now, or help in the bathroom or elsewhere. Because she's in school while my baby naps, I get a chance to eat sitting down.

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  3. Seriously, this is the most "normal mom" post I've ever seen. I felt the same waves and read in a parenting magazine that every 6 months it's bad because they are learning new things, then the next 6 months are smooth sailing because they've started to figure stuff out, then something new comes along. Scientific FACT! I have an 8 year old a 5 year old Kindergartener (1/2 day-ew I hate 1/2 days-even worse it's PM!) and a 3 year old who goes 2 full days a week to preschool, which means every week I have exactly 4.5 hours without kids at home. It's amazing. Then I have the same guilt you do. Looking forward to full-day school every day next year and my "free time" but at the same time realizing their teachers will be spending more time with them than I will. Mommy guilt never seems to go away, does it?!

    My kids were backwards of you... my oldest was so easy I used to take him to business meetings with me and give him a few paperclips to keep him busy for hours. I only had him for only 4 years, then I had two normal kids within 20 months and couldn't tell if it was the 2 being close together or the 3rd that was making things so hard. I'll be continuing to read your blog (I've loved all your posts-it's like you are putting what is in my head in coherent sentences!)

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    1. I cried when I put my daughter on the bus for school the first time thinking of how I should have appreciated our time together more, but in reality our relationship is so much better now that she's in full time school. She's home by 330 every day and I am recharged and able to enjoy her company far more than when she was here all the time. I am starting to notice that my little one is also getting bored and in need of something more. She's going to be starting part time daycare in the spring when I go back to work part time and I think that will be good for her too. When they are babies it's natural to want and need and enjoy having them with us 24 hours a day, but I'm seeing that as they mature both parent and child need the room to grow and the chance to miss each other.

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  4. just stumbled across your blog today and really appreciate your creativity, humor, and honesty (in this post especially). thank you. :)

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