I spent this past holiday with my family in Florida… 5 adults, 5 children for 5 days. On Christmas Day, there were about 17 of us. Needless to say it was mayhem, and when we were in the thick of it, I found myself enjoying it of course, but also really tired. The thought of nap time and bedtime excited me because it meant a break. It never ended, really… there was always a child who needed to eat, nap, be changed, or bathed, and all on different schedules! My sister and I escaped once for a trip to Target at 9pm and it felt like vacation! We were free, contemplating a Thelma and Louise moment of no return… but during the beautifully silent, child-free car ride home, we both looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. We missed them. Our crazy little lunatics who destroyed the house like category 5 hurricanes and dropped food all over the floor and threw toys and fought with each other and had crazy dance parties and colored the walls/floors and pulled ornaments off the tree and rode scooters around the house and ultimately just made us consume a lot more alcohol than we thought we would were our everything. They make our worlds turn and our hearts melt. As insane as the days were, I realized that the moments are fleeting. They won’t be this age for long. I will miss hearing them yell for me or ask me to help them with everything or need me to pick them up or make them food or give them baths. My son already wants to do things by himself and I find myself saddened when he won’t let me help him get dressed or brush his teeth. I know that as they grow older, they’ll need me less and less. So, during the crazy moments when you want to cry or lose your mind or just walk out, remember that these moments will be gone before you know it, and you’ll likely really miss them. At least I will.
I simply cannot put into words how much I miss you. Mostly because sleep deprivation has resulted in the inability to form full sentences. I cannot wait for the day that you come back into my life for the full 8+ hours we used to share back in the day. Remember the days when we would hang out past 10am or even meet up sometimes in the afternoon?! Oh, those were the good ol’ days… Yes, you and I do meet at night for a few hours, but the intimate relationship we once had changed about three years ago, and it hasn’t quite been the same since. While I was pregnant, a full bladder or the discomfort of a huge belly interrupted us many times during the night. Then the baby came and, well, that was the end of our beautiful relationship.
Sleep when the baby sleeps is all anyone ever told me. Anyone without a baby! I mean, who were they kidding?! When the baby slept, that’s when I pumped, washed bottles, did laundry, hand washed dirty bibs and onesies… and if I was really lucky, ate something and showered. Sometimes I had to choose between you and food, or you and washing my hair—very difficult decisions. You often won, but as soon as the tip of a strand of my hair grazed my pillow, the baby cried.
This happened for months, and truth be told, the baby’s relationship with you became my #1 priority. If he could learn to sleep for more than 2-3 hour intervals, the sooner you and I would reunite—or at least I thought. Yes, 3 hours turned into 5, which turned into 8, and eventually 10-12. It wasn’t easy, and even when he did sleep all night, I did not. I had a physical reaction to every breath, cough, sneeze, and coo. I’d be up checking to see if he was breathing, too hot, too cold, still on his back, and a myriad of other things that keeps a mom awake at night. So, even when we could technically rendezvous again, I just couldn’t.
Cut to when H was about 18 months. We started seeing each other again, and life was good. I was early to rise, but it was okay because I was early to bed. We were finding our groove again, and the 8 hours I never thought I’d have the pleasure of getting became, quite literally, my dream come true. The days of feeling jet lagged and dizzy and uber emotional and super irritable and just utterly fucking exhausted were over. H was a great sleeper and our lives were back to normal.
My friends said I would sleep again and they were right. I even took naps when the baby napped! Life was golden, and I realized that you don’t really know what you have until you’ve lost it. I now know that you complete me. I cannot live my life without you. It’s just not possible. You make me a better person, a happier person. And a better mother for sure.
We had a good run. Then baby #2 came. So, it was great while it lasted. I hope that one day soon, we will find each other again and never let go. I can’t bear to even think about any more nights without you. I know we will meet again, in about a year or so. For now, I will just have to accept that I sleep no more…
Yours truly (as in truly exhausted),
Don’t be so hard on yourself. I hear it all the time. I also say it to myself during those moments when I am most likely holding myself up to some ridiculous, unrealistic standard, aka a mom guilt moment. Truth is, all of the mothers I know are hard on themselves. I’m not sure when the motherhood bar was repositioned so high you can barely pole vault over it, but it was, and we hold ourselves to it. Maybe it’s because our parenting is out there for the whole world to see, so we want to appear to be doing the best job possible. Maybe it’s because we live in an uber competitive society. Maybe it’s because there’s so much more literature on parenting that we have access to that applies pressure to how we raise our kids. Maybe it’s because we are doing so much more as mothers now, juggling home life, careers, relationships, social lives, and taking care of ourselves too (ha!) that we feel like we have to overcompensate for not being at home with our kids. Whatever the reason, I often feel like I am killing myself and have decided to live vicariously through Elsa and just LET IT GO.
So, I encourage all of you to do the same. Don’t sweat the small stuff…and remember:
You are not a bad mom if you don’t puree the baby’s food and feed them jarred baby food or pouches instead.
You are not a bad mom if this one time (okay, maybe a handful of times) they don’t eat organic.
You are not a bad mom if you formula feed.
You are not a bad mom if they go a night without a bath.
You are not a bad mom if you leave your baby in the pack n’ play with some toys in the morning so you can get a few extra minutes of sleep.
You are not a bad mom if you plop your toddler in front of the TV so you can get shit done (or sleep).
You are not a bad mom if plopping them in front of the TV turns into two hours.
You are not a bad mom if you just don’t feel like cooking and make them a PB&J sandwich.
You are not a bad mom if the Halloween costume wasn’t hand made.
You are not a bad mom if you work.
You are not a bad mom if you shut the bathroom door for some privacy… and lock it.
You are not a bad mom if you take time for yourself to go get a mani/pedi, work out, meet up with friends, or go sneak in a movie solo (mostly so you can sleep in peace.)
You are not a bad mom if you accidentally curse in front of the kids.
You are not a bad mom if you give them an iPad when you’re out at dinner so they allow you to eat a meal longer than 5 minutes that isn’t their scraps.
You are not a bad mom if you lose your temper every now and then.
You are not a bad mom if you cry in front of them.
You are not a bad mom if you never book a playdate.
You are not a bad mom if you don’t buy your second child any presents for the holidays because they are so young and will never know and have all of their older siblings toys to play with.
You are not a bad mom if you can’t make the school play/party/activity.
You are not a bad mom if you have to choose work sometimes.
You are not a bad mom if you say NO.
You are not a bad mom if sometimes you reminisce about the days before you were a mom.
You are not a bad mom. Full stop. So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Know that there will be moments that you shine, and moments when you suck. In their eyes, as long as we love them, we’re the best moms ever.