Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekend means…

The weekend used to mean yoga in the mornings and a leisurely coffee and pastry date with My Guy after my class at the cafe by our house. It would involve a concert or a movie in the evenings and plenty of time to just chill on the couch. And a chore didn’t feel like one when I had all the time in the world to wander around the numerous aisles at the grocery store, taking my time, reading labels and contemplating future meals.

I don’t remember what that feels like now. With two kids, this is what it’s like for us these days:

Weekend means…

- trying to cross off our to-do list for the house except there’s always something more pressing to tend to like not crossing off a to-do list. This explains why we still have unpacked boxes from our move two  three four months ago.

- classes for the toddler aside from her preschool because if we don’t sign her up for something, her brain might just waste away. And what would the Joneses think? Although really, one class per week isn’t so bad is it?

- no cereal! We aim for restaurant brunch one day and homemade pancakes or eggs the next. It doesn’t always work out that way but I read somewhere it’s good to have goals. If you dream it, they will come?

- the occasional date night when we have energy leftover from corralling the toddler and entertaining the infant. Although sometimes we pick a random Tuesday instead. We’re crazy like that. Fine print: Reservations to popular restaurants are also hard to come by on weekends. And since we’re not great about planning way in advance, Tuesday it is.

- attempting some r&r only to stress about the fact that I’m not getting any in between chores and social engagements.

- more time to fit in a workout. Except it hasn’t happened. Yet.

- more time to write. But with less energy from all that running around, that time is used for some mind-numbing activities instead. Like a marathon night of Californication. And by marathon I mean three 30-minute episodes, tops. I feel so old.

- trying to cram in as many activities with the family as possible to make up for the full-time job during the week, which means Monday morning feels especially brutal.

- we get to sleep in. Wait, sorry. I confused this with my wish list. With two kids under three, what sleep?!

You get the point. Weekends just aren’t what they used to be. Hmm…Why did we have kids again? Oh right.

For this.

ChubbyThighs
(Love those chubby thighs!)

 
And this.

RedTutu(New tutu day)

And this.

milkbabies (Multi-tasking)


Yes, my pre-baby weekends were nice. But with babies? Much, much better.

(Sometimes.)

* * *

Do you remember what your weekends were like before kids? What are they like now? What’s your favorite part about spending the weekend with your child(ren)?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The sins of our fathers…and mothers

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As some of you may know, I ended my maternity leave with a new job a couple of weeks ago. I admitted on Twitter that I was happy to be home with my girls but I was happier to be a working mom again. Feeling somewhat guilty by that confession, I posed the question, what kind of a mom am I?

A fellow mom tweeted a response that blew me away: “If working makes you happy that makes you a better mom! Your kids don’t want to look back and think they ruined your life.” Very simply said, but so very profound.

It struck a chord with me, especially lately, as the burden of having played a part in ruining my own mom’s life gnaws at me. Granted, that wasn’t how she put it, but she did mention she stayed married to my father, who made her life miserable, for my sake. And I’ve known that all along. Her statement wasn’t meant to be malicious; she was just stating a fact. A truth. The kind that hurts.

To think that I had a part in her unhappiness makes me feel like I should do something to make up for it. That I should be a better daughter now to deserve the choices she made that she thought would benefit me. But yet I have to remind myself that those were her decisions. I had no part in them. I am grateful for the sacrifices she made, absolutely, but I didn’t ask her to forsake her happiness for mine.

Now, many many years later, I feel like I am failing her because I’m not the person she hoped I would be when she made those choices. I feel guilty that I can’t right the wrongs in her life and make it better for her now because in the years we’ve been away from one another, I’ve grown into my own person.

And this person that I am now isn’t able to make up for that past. This person can’t even promise a better future because so much of our current expectations and actions are marred by the path that led us here and continue to plague us even as we try to forge new ones.

To my mom I want to say I am sorry I can’t change our history. I can only learn from her experience and promise myself that I will not go down that same road. Now that it’s my time to make difficult choices - ones that affect me and my daughters - I know what I must do. I must make decisions that will make me happy too because only then will I be able to be the kind of mom that my girls need me to be.

Martyrdom and motherhood seem to go together, and I see many moms sacrifice their time, energy, career and even their own happiness for their kids like it’s a rite of passage. From one parent to another, a little sacrifice here and there is to be expected, but if you’re going to look back someday and all you think you will see are the things you’ve given up for the sake of your kids and the life that could’ve been but wasn’t, then perhaps you should re-evaluate your decisions now. Don’t let your kids bear this burden of your unfulfilled hopes and broken dreams.  Trust me. This bitter pill of guilt is hard to swallow. Resentment? Harder yet.

I also learned that to love my girls, I first have to love myself. And that involves finding a middle ground between their happiness and mine. I have to find a way to be happy now. Because if I don’t, how will my kids find it themselves?

It has to begin with me.

Thank you @Sjgpotter for this epiphany.

 

image source: Mobscene by amuchkin77.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Small change, big difference

Big news here: Mama’s got a brand new job. (High five!) I’m really excited because this position allows greater flexibility, which means more time with my family and less time worrying about following archaic company policies that undermine my need for a better work-life balance.

It has only been a week, but I’m already really enjoying the changes. I finally get to wake up later than the sun, which is wonderful for this night owl, and it also means I get to leave the house with my toddler and My Guy, who drops me off at the train station before taking Little Miss to preschool. A cheery hug and kiss from my family to kickstart my day? Why, don’t mind if I do!

Unfortunately, that’s the only good news I have. Little Miss has developed a fear of bedtime (or naptime for that matter) from the thunderstorms that raged at us several weeks ago, which means a daily battle to get her in bed, and then to keep her there. To quell her fears we leave all the lights on in her bedroom per her request (and there are many), with music playing all night. It’s like freakin’ Madison Square Garden in there.

The baby, on the other hand, sleeps well through the night. Since I only get to see Thumper after I’m home from work, I’m rarely away from her when she’s awake. The smiling, cooing and gurgling never gets old, although by the time she’s asleep in the evening, I’m spent.

BabeInArms

My nocturnal ambitions, like writing and reading blogs, dissolve with the setting sun as my post-work routine devours what little energy I have left: preschool pickup, engage toddler, make dinner for family, breastfeed baby, make sure toddler eats, bath and bedtime with toddler, engage baby, keep toddler in bed, lull baby to sleep, wonder if I have time to write, convince toddler to stay in bed, think of something to write about, lay down with baby in bed…and fall asleep myself. So much for writing.

Ah the glamorous life of a working mom. However, I’m grateful to be back in the workforce again. Not only do I feel lucky to be employed in this troubling economy, I also feel like, and I hate to say this, I’m a better mom when I get the chance to be away from my kids. As much as I loved being home with the girls on my maternity leave, I felt restless and confined, and I was easily agitated. I also felt torn and guilty because as much as I wanted to be with them, I also longed to be out making adult conversations and decisions that affect just me. Not having to come up with five meals a day (breakfast + morning snack + lunch + afternoon snack + dinner) for Little Miss? Bonus!

Now that I’m here – and away from my kids for a large portion of my day during the work week – I miss them desperately. Yet it’s the kind of missing that makes the homecoming that much sweeter. And the homestaying that much more pleasant when I’m not at my wits’ end trying to entertain a toddler with a case of  the Terrible Twos.

I have great admiration for those who choose to stay home with their kids because I know how tough it can be. It’s not the “easier” gig as some people might assume. Both working and stay-at-home moms have their work cut out for them, though they confront different beasts. I may love my kids to pieces but alas being with them 24/7 is just not for me. 

It’s funny how I once thought staying home with my kids is the only thing that would make me happy when in fact it was finding a job that allows me the flexibility to work from home when I needed to that was enough for me. Knowing that I am away from them not because I have to but because I choose to – that makes all the difference in the world.

I just hope they will understand…

SummerGirls

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

‘Twas a dark and stormy night

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We were preparing for bed when the house jumped at the deafening crack that seemed to have torn a hole through the sky, releasing a downpour so fierce I could barely hear myself think. That’s when we heard our Little Miss, who was asleep in her room at the time, scream. We ran to her room and found her clutching her ears, her knuckles white. We’ve never heard her scream that way before, nor have we seen such fear in her eyes.

The thunderstorm got to her, and it was the first time she has reacted so violently to one. Since then, our evenings were never the same again. That was almost a week ago.

That night, we took turns going in and out of her room, trying to calm her and lull her back to sleep. It took her awhile to settle down; there was no rest for the weary.

The next day, it happened again. She went to sleep with little fuss because we assured her there would be no rain or thunder. Oh how wrong we were. We should have checked the forecast before making such promises. Thunder. Scream. Repeat. This time, we kept her in the room with us until the rain subsided but she didn’t sleep until her dad lay down beside her in her own bed at 2 o’clock in the morning.

That was the last night she went to bed quietly. Now she delays bedtime as long as she can and pleads with us to stay with her every night. Then she cries a million tears before finally succumbing to sleep. The first couple of nights, I went in to quell her fears only to realize she didn’t mean to see me go. She wanted me beside her all night. And I just couldn’t. There was another baby who needed me. And there were other things that needed to be done. Besides, we just didn’t want to perpetuate this habit, especially since she was fully capable of falling asleep on her own before this.

It’s Day Five and she has not shown much of an improvement. She has awakened in the middle of the night more than once and cried for us every night. Even though we’ve left lights on and stayed way past her bedtime to assure her, reassure her and triple assure her, she has sobbed furiously, sometimes pulling at my clothes, arms, legs, anything she could get her hands on to make me stay.

This fragile mother’s heart can only endure so much mama please don’t go... mama please sleep with me... mama please mama mama mama... I yearn to be with her yet I know I’m not doing her any favors by staying. To fix this issue in the short term by giving in to her every whim is to ensure a long term disaster where we create a cycle that we as parents resent and one that she depends on as a crutch to fall asleep. We know. We’ve been here before.

When she was almost 11 months, we bit the bullet, let her cry it out and we got our evenings back and she had the best sleep. It looks like we may need to revisit it again. I don’t mean to be flippant - it’s hard. So very hard. When she was an infant, she could only cry then, and it was easier to harden my heart and stay resolute with our conviction. Not easy. Just easier.

Now she calls out for me and begs me to stay, and with each desperate plea that I force myself to ignore I feel I’m failing her as her mother. I want to go into her room; I want to take her in my arms and let her know everything will be OK. But I also know that very act would render all of the parenting decisions we’ve made in the past that led us to a happy little girl at bedtime moot, and we’d have to start over.

Until we give in to her, she will not stop crying. Unless I’m ready to give up our evenings and I relinquish my role as mom to my new baby at that time of the evening, I know I can’t run to Little Miss each time she cries for me. And so I suffer her tears for now, hoping it would get back to where we used to be and she’ll be that same girl again at bedtime, kissing and hugging us goodnight, turning off the lights and going to sleep on her own.

But that’s our plan for the quiet nights. What of these ridiculous thunderstorms that seem to only come after she goes to bed? I used to look forward to it. Born in tropical Malaysia, I relished the relief of a thunderstorm. When the thunder and lightning find me here, it takes me back to a faraway place, a childhood I cherish.

Now, when I look at the forecast, I cringe at the sight of stormy weather. So that’s how the Starks of Winterfell feel when they utter the ominous saying, “winter is coming”*.  As I am writing this, I hear thunder rolling in from a distance.

A storm is coming.

I don’t know what’s in store for us tonight. Or the nights hereafter.

I only know that my pulse is racing, and on the other side of this wall is a little girl who cried herself to sleep.


* Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin.

image source: Lightning by Greg Boege

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