Dear New Mom

Because even when you finally get their room clean, they have a mind of their own. Fact: you can’t get crap done with kids.

Hello friend. How are you? Tired? Overjoyed? Overwhelmed? Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. You’re not alone. Millions of mothers have done this before you, and there’s probably nothing you can throw at us that we haven’t heard before. And all those books you read to prepare you? They only tell about half of the story. Yes, they talk about dads taking turns “getting up with the baby during the night.” But you know what? Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Some men are just wired differently and can’t function the next day with little sleep. (Moms always can, even if we’re face-plant tired.) And some men can actually sleep through a baby screaming for more than half an hour straight. Yes, it’s annoying. The books don’t talk about this. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good dads, it just means your expectations will need to shift if you’ve been counting on them to share nighttime parenting duties 50/50. And sometimes, you’ll hit them with a pillow over the head or curse at them while they’re happily snoozing. That’s ok, too. (Just don’t use anything harder than a pillow, and if you’re tempted, seek therapy.)

And at some point, when you’re starting to get your sea legs and actually feel like putting on makeup again, you’ll start to feel a false sense of optimism. You’ll tell yourself, “This isn’t so bad, I CAN do it all! My house can be clean, my kid can always appear in public in un-stained clothes with a snot-free face, and my stomach will someday return to its former state.” Well, for some women (Hollywood celebs), this might be true, but it’s just not realistic. Or desirable, even. When your daughter has her own child someday, and is struggling with these same issues, wouldn’t you rather be able to tell her, “Oh, honey, it’s ok. I’ve been there too.” I mean, who wants to hear, “Well, you know, I did it all. There was never cheese smashed into the carpet, and I got back into my old jeans in six months.” Blech. Don’t be THAT grandma.

There’s another thing I’d like to add. You know those moms who make it look so easy? Unless your’re intimately familiar with what goes on behind her closed doors, it’s probably all a front. That’s what Instagram, selective Facebook status updates, and Spanx are for. She wants you to think she’s got it all pulled together, that her kitchen counters would always pass a white-glove inspection, her kids never smear boogers on her Coach purse, and she and her husband make wild, passionate love with the lights on every night. For some reason, she needs her image, and that’s ok. She probably needs more help than the rest of us (ok, she definitely needs more help).

If you just remember these three things, you’ll feel a little better about your new role, and not feel like such a massive failure.

1. Your hormones are whack, and will be for a long, long, long time. (Try years.) Just accept this new roller coaster ride, and maybe you’ll even throw your hands up and say, “Whee!” when the car comes crashing to the bottom. Or, just keep lots and lots of chocolate on hand. It helps, too.

2. You can’t get crap done. Just let it go. Those Christmas cards might not get sent. The kitchen floor might be perpetually sticky, and your backseat might never be completely free of Cheerios, milk splatters or an explosion of toys.

3. You’re their mom for a reason. You’re not perfect, but they don’t need you to be. Someday, they might even tell you they hate you (even at three years old during a massive meltdown). But you know what? They don’t mean it. They love you. They need you. You’re just right for them.

And remember, when you’re feeling down, we’re here for you. You can come over to our messy house, let your snot-nosed kid play with our snot-nosed kid, and help us polish off that hormone-induced pan of brownies we just baked (and burned a little).

She works hard for no money, so hard for no money…

Alright. Before I made the decision to stay home with my girls full time almost five months ago, my SAHM friends tried to warn me. They told me how hard it was to live on a frayed shoestring budget, never get a sick day, be with your kids from sunup to sundown and the kicker? Nobody really appreciates you for it. While I never thought for a second that this job would be easy, I had NO idea how hard it would be. No idea. I work so hard…for no money.

They appreciate me, right? Right?! I sure appreciate them.

But it’s not just about the money. I left a career I was good at. Really good at. But I was in the right place at the wrong time in my life. And time was slipping away at home. My babies are small, and seeing them for only a few hours (if that) every day just wasn’t enough for me. I craved their company. And while I don’t regret this decision to amputate half of our income in exchange for more face time with my children, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This isn’t my calling. I just don’t feel like I’m any good at what I do. I mean, I’m not the most terrible mother to have ever sleepwalked across this earth, but I’m no June Cleaver either.

Then again, I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m cut out to be an at-home mom. The usual metrics of the working world don’t apply. Paycheck? Nope. Bonus? Nope. Quarterly evaluation? Nope. Promotion? Nope. Verbal praise? Nope. Sure, my three year old has said, “You’re my best friend mommy. I want to be just like you when I grow up and stay home with my kids.” But that’s quickly negated with, “I hate you! I want you to go to work and never come home.” That sure made me feel like a pile of poo.

I never knew before how much I need Words of Affirmation (one of my love languages), until I stopped getting any. Sure, money is nice (and we could sure use some right now), but nothing quite fluffs my ego like an “atta girl.” (And if you’re a future employer, I don’t take payment in compliments. I’ll still negotiate for that higher salary.) At this current job, I have one daughter who’s unintelligible (but adorable), another daughter whose loves me one minute and hates me the next (also adorable) and a husband who wonders why the house looks like it’s been “ransacked” when he gets home every day. (Because we were robbed by a gang of diaper-wearing bandits, that’s why.)

I am not a lazy person. I work so hard to scrimp and save and educate and pacify and cook and clean and clean and cook and bathe and play and clean some more. And at the  end of the day, it’s so hard to determine if any impact has been made. It’s just me, faced with a dirty home after the family has gone to bed. Every night.

So, why not just polish up my resume, slip back into some heels and re-enter the workforce? It’s not that easy. First and foremost, I would miss my girls. I. Love. These. Girls. When we end our day on a sour note (bedtime battles are going to be the death of me), I know I have all day–all day–tomorrow to make it better. When the weather is glorious, we head to the park because we can. When we get the itch to check out some new books from the library, we head into town because we can. That quality time I was craving? I’m swimming in it now. And it’s awesome.

But I also don’t want us to be swimming in debt before the year is through. What if I have to go back into the workforce, and nobody will have me? What if quality childcare isn’t available? These are the questions that haunt me. Those, and “What’s that smell?” Something always smells around here…

No, I’m not ready to make any major life decisions. I’m just venting. Perhaps whining a little. But I’m giving myself permission to do so. After all, not everybody has a job they’re highly qualified for. That cashier who rang you up today? She was a little slow, but she got the job done. That fast-food worker who handed you your french fries? He could have been friendlier, but you got what you ordered. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And that’s pretty much all any employer can hope for.

Listen up, young couples

Children will eat you alive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Hey. You two. With the lovey-dovey nicknames and hands that seem magnetized to each other’s backsides. I have a bit of news for you. Right now, you’re enjoying the freedom of youth and childlessness. As you should be. Live it up. Live it up now.

Because someday, you’ll be just like me. Maybe not within the next five years, but probably within the next ten. No? You think you’re so different? You think you will forge a different path to parentdom? Maybe. But I doubt it. Few get by unscathed. If you think parenting is as hip as the celebs make it look in that glossy magazine you’re reading, then you’d better find out a way to get rich real quick.

Soon enough, you’ll be the one in yoga pants (today’s more fashionable sweat pants), dangling a baby off your hip while you stir Hamburger Helper with your free hand and kick a half-deflated beach ball across the scratched-up linoleum floor for your toddler to chase. Yes, if it were a dog, it would be called “fetch.” But, it’s your kid, so you call it “ball-a-rific” or some other fantastical name. Classy.

And yes, you’ll be the one with split-end infested hair thrown up in a sloppy bun sitting in the doctor’s office, trying to entertain your feverish baby while she screams uncontrollably and your bored toddler keeps asking (loudly) why “that lady standing in line has such a big bottom.” So proud.

And finally, believe it or not, you’ll one day be standing in line at Target, arguing with the cashier over a discount on diapers, causing quite a scene, when a young couple behind you will snicker and unabashedly roll their eyes. You’ll turn to them and say (with a forced smile), “This will be you someday.”

Oh yes, this will be you someday.

One thing leads to another…

I can SO relate to this. (from cafemom.com)

Playing…leads to…stealing…leads to…screaming…leads to…pushing…leads to… refereeing…leads to…hugging…leads to…biting…leads to…crying…leads to…scolding…leads to…more crying…leads to…feeding…leads to…flinging…leads to…cleaning…leads to…bathing…leads to…splashing…leads to…whining…leads to…more crying…leads to…Googling “at-home vasectomy.”

If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry, so might as well find the funny!

Poke Momma Bear When She’s Hopped Up on Diet Mt. Dew and See What Happens

Need to make an on-the-spot major decision on household conduct? Chug one of these first.

“I think we’re going to have a grease fire. Honey. Honey?! Are we? You’re a firefighter. Can you tell me? Do we need the extinguisher?!”

“Mommy, get me a snack. I’m hungry,” my three year old whined while following me around the kitchen as I frantically flung open the windows. “I’m hungry. A snack. Snack. Can I have a snack? Please?”

“Anna, in just a second! Mommy’s trying to prevent a fire. Dave, do we need an extinguisher?!” Meanwhile, the baby is running around with an obviously poo-filled diaper. Whee!

My husband casually looked up from the laptop, where he was surfing truck listings on Craig’s List. “Oh…there’s a lot of smoke. Maybe.”

Maybe? Maybe?! That’s it! I wasn’t going to risk losing our house, or at the very least, inconveniently have to utilize our fire extinguisher just because I had a hankering for fried chicken. Burner off. It was going in the oven as baked chicken. My routine after-church Diet Mountain Dew had given me a little too much confidence on a Sunday afternoon.

“Mommy, my snack. Can I have ham? And cheese? In the living room? With baby sister?”

Oh, why not? Anything to get them out of the kitchen, where grease covered the stove and countertop, and smoke still billowed from the blackened piece of chicken in the pan. And besides, hubs and I were going to have to eat sandwiches now, anyways.

Several minutes later, I heard Anna’s feet pounding into the kitchen, and she breathlessly reported, “I have some bad news. Baby sister made a BIG mess! Come look.” I followed her running toddler legs, only half concerned. I mean, how much mess could be made with sliced turkey and cheese (Anna asks for ham, but she means turkey).

Wrong. So wrong. Erica had balled the cheese up in her little chubby hands and was sprinkling the crumbs all over the couch cushions (which were strewn about the floor as a picnic area). Not only were the cheese crumbs spread in hundreds of tiny pieces, but she’d begun smashing them into the fabric of the cushions.

“No, no, no!,” I yelled, frantically picking up pieces before she could grind any more in. I stormed back into the kitchen, and told my still-surfing husband, “That’s it! I’m so tired of cleaning this house only to have it destroyed again in five minutes. I’m tired of the filth!”

“Oh…there’s only one solution for that,” he said casually, still not looking up from the computer. Before he could explain, I started in on him, “I clean and clean and clean, and it just doesn’t matter. So don’t tell me I need to clean more!”

She was tickled to eat her pickle in the kitchen.

Calmly, he stated, “No, I was going to say we shouldn’t allow food outside of the kitchen anymore.” Oh. That’s all? And although I was frustrated from the fried chicken fiasco and cheese crumb catastrophe, I had to admit he was right. (He’s going to love reading this one.) But why had I not enforced this rule before? Because I just want my kids to eat, and I didn’t really care where. I was content to clean up their messes rather than struggle through a tough couple of days of enforcing a new house rule.

I’m not sure if it was the Diet Mountiain Dew induced energy rush I had, or the fact that my long fuse finally lit the stick of dynamite, but I knew this would be for keeps. I pulled Anna into the kitchen, and announced our new house rule. We only eat food in the kitchen. Period. No exceptions.

She whined. She cried. She flailed herself about on the floor. But an hour later, when she wanted a pickle, and I insisted she eat it at the kitchen table, she didn’t protest much. And she even put her plate in the sink without asking after she was done.

Maybe this momma bear needs to drink Diet Mountain Dew more often. But don’t poke her just to find out what happens.