Monday, November 28, 2011

Picture Me {Im}perfectly: Confessions of a Mom in Survival Mode

As we settle into this life as a family of four, with each passing day, things feel easier. Like we are slowly, slowly finding our new normal. My friends with multiple kids all tell me that there's a turning point at 6 weeks (tomorrow), then at 8 weeks, and again around 3 months, where things just keep getting easier and life feels simpler. I already feel like B and I are getting the whole tag-team parenting thing down a little better (we joked that now its one-on-one defense; we each have a kid all the time. Friday, I had brunch with friends, so I said, "I'll take one, and the other gets a date with you." I have a feeling THIS is how we'll make many, many things in our lives work in the coming months (years?) as we settle into this new chapter).

But, even though things are starting to feel simpler, I do (at times) (okay, often) feel like I'm operating in survival mode. The kind of survival mode where I find myself stuffing my face at 9 pm, completely ravished, wondering WHY I'm so hungry and then realize how little I've eaten all day. The days are just busy. I remember this same thing from when we first brought Sammie B home from the hospital, and I expected it, but still . . .

There are other things I'm noticing. Signs of (or results of) this "survival" mode, so I thought I'd share a few confessions with you:

- Sam is the pickiest eater. Ever. And she has a wheat allergy, so we have her on a gluten-free diet. The two (picky + gluten-free) means that she has very few foods that she'll actually eat. We tried early on to get her to expand her tastes, but lately, I'm picking my battles. So, the rotation between macaroni and cheese (RICE pasta), chicken nuggets, fish sticks and hot dogs will continue, and I will not feel guilt. She DOES eat fruits and veggies on occasion, just in small amounts. She's picky, and a totally hit or miss eater. Some nights she eats a ton, some nights it is a fight to get her to take two bites. And frankly, I'm not above bribing her for those two bites with a dessert (which she never turns down). Nor am I ashamed that dessert occasionally just becomes dinner. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- Sam will eat with a fork and spoon at school and with her nanny. Not with me. I try. She just hands me the spoon/fork and says "mama!" Some days I push, some days I don't. Some days I take her up on the invitation to feed her. But then I feel guilty, like I SHOULD be pushing her in that area of independence. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- I worry about potty training Sam. I worry a lot. With her low-tone, we have no idea whether she gets that "got to go" feeling. We know that she cognitively "gets" the idea. We talk about it with her, and just before Mia was born, the signs were there that she was ready to train. Now that Mia has come, she absolutely REFUSES to sit on a potty, and I've decided now is not the time to push. I worry. She's three. When I change her diapers now, I think about how big she looks and I feel like I'm somehow failing by NOT yet having her trained. But still, I'm PICKING MY BATTLES.

- The same is true with television. I've always tried to limit Sam's television. I always always feel like we "should" be "working" with Sam. Doing PT homework. She LOVES to watch Dora, and I've always tried to limit it. Until I realized how much she's learned from that show. She knows how to count in Spanish. She has started being able to do simple subtraction problems . . . Sammie B is a sponge. So, I've decided to give myself permission to let her watch it a little more. Like the rest of us, Sammie B NEEDS downtime. She can't be "working" all the time. And, with our new addition to the family and my new responsibilities, I too need some time that I know Sammie B is just entertained and happy and content. So, if we sit on the bed together and watch a few Dora shows while I feed Mia, I will not feel guilty. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- It's not just true with TV/Dora. I always feel this sense of "I should be working with Sam" and I HATE that. She could sit at her little table or cube chair/desk ALL day and play with play-dough or learn (she loves going through flashcards, loves ABC games, is starting to like other games, etc.). And, I KNOW that's great for her, and I enjoy it more than anything, but there's still that tugging "I should put her leg braces on her and do some PT homework." On the other hand, learning, and doing the table-top activities is her strength and she ENJOYS it, and I feel like we spend so much time at PT, etc. "working" on her weak areas, that when we are home, just us, I WANT to give her time to be doing what she's amazing at AND what she enjoys. It's a delicate balance and one that knaws at me all the time. I try to give myself permission to JUST be "mama" and not therapist, but then . . . there's guilt. That nagging guilt.

- During the week that Sammie B was so sick with the flu, I gave up on breastfeeding Mia. I just felt like both of my girls NEEDED me all at the same time, non-stop and it was too much. My head was spinning and my heart felt torn all.the.time. I just needed to be interchangeable with B for SOMETHING. So, I made what was probably a rash decision and said, "I can't do this anymore," and stopped. I'm pumping so Mia is still getting the benefits of breast milk but I feel guilty. I wanted it to work out this time, but I just could I worry I gave up too easily, but I know this is another one of those times I have to let myself off the hook. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- I miss work. A lot. I'm jealous that B gets to get up and go to work everyday. I'm certain that I wouldn't feel this way so soon into maternity leave had I not been out on bed rest beforehand, but I just feel like I've been out of the game for so long, and I'm longing for it. I even thought about going back early, but I KNOW that I'll never get this time back, so I won't. But the fact that I've THOUGHT about going back early has made me feel guilty. Again, gotta LET MYSELF OFF THE HOOK, right? Let myself miss it, enjoy my time home, and know that work will be there in February.

- Mia is a "needs to be held" kind of girl. I can usually get about 15 minutes out of her in the swing, 10 in the bouncy chair . . . and then she cries. I feel like I sat on the couch for four straight months of maternity leave with Sam and just held her, just because I wanted to, but I'm struggling this time. I feel like I have so much to do, and sitting still for long is NOT who I am. So, I'm struggling to just sit and hold her and enjoy her itsy-bitsy'ness. I think because I feel so torn all day . . . between being needed by both girls (and simultaneously wanting to be with both of them) and having a million other things to do, finding time to just sit and "bond" with Miss Mia is harder. Because of this, I'm actually enjoying my time with her at night . . . when again, she DEMANDS to be held. But then, the rest of the world (including Sammie B) is sleeping, the house is dark, and I can just SIT and hold her (and doze myself). That said, I was DETERMINED NOT to co-sleep with this baby (even though ironically, this time around, B wanted it -- he was such a hold out on that with Sammie B, but then ultimately fell in love with having her in our bed and said to me while I was pregnant, "we get to sleep with another baby!" to which I replied, "NO WAY!"). This time, it was ME that said its not what I wanted. I didn't want to have to go through that transitioning OUT of our bed period and I felt like it would be really hard for Sammie B to understand why EVERYONE but her in her little family was sleeping in one bed. So, I resisted . . . yet we find ourselves many nights with a Mia Monster in our bed, or a Mia Monster on my chest sitting in the rocking chair. Truthfully, its still not what I want, but I am treasuring the snuggly time with Mia when the house is quiet, and I'm just too darn tired myself to put her down and spend so long soothing her over and over as she wakes up and wants to be held. . . . so there you have it. I'm going to discuss her gruntiness and gassiness and general displeasure with being ANYWHERE but on our chests with her pediatrician at her two-month appointment, and hope that from there we can work on the sleeping thing, but for now, I'm just giving myself permission to enjoy the nighttime snuggles. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- Bedtime with Sammie B used to be difficult. After we finally transitioned her out of our bed, there was a period where one of us had to lay with her to get her to sleep. Sometimes, that meant laying with her for over an hour . . . but then, we finally got her to just go to sleep on her own and bedtime is (generally) easy-peasy. PJs, teeth brushed, two stories, pick animals to sleep with, turn on the stars for her ceiling, kisses and we walk out (and then I get to watch her on the monitor!). Lately, she's requesting some pretty funny stuff to sleep with . . . a bottle (like one of Mia's), spoons, etc. And, again, this is a place where I'm PICKING MY BATTLES. Last night she went to sleep with two spoons, tonight it is a soup ladle. I thought as I walked out, "is that weird? should I not let her have those in bed? IS SHE GOING TO POKE HER EYE OUT?" Then, I listened (and watched) her on the monitor and heard her say . . . . "TWO SSSSSSS-ppooons!" with utter glee as she held them up in bed. We've worked on that "ssss" sound for a long time. So, I say, enjoy your SSSSSpooons, my sweet girl and sleep tight!

By choosing to pick my battles, and focus on the joy of each day, I'm certain my days (and my girls' days) are better for it, but that guilt of "am I slacking? do I need to push more?" is always there. I always wonder if I'm failing at this parenting thing. I always feel imperfect. I know that I have to constantly forgive myself for what I perceive as tiny failures . . . feeling like I haven't spent enough time with Sammie B because Mia has needed me (and vice versa), feeling like I "should" be working on x, y or z with Sammie B instead of snuggling and watching Dora, etc. But, I am NOT superwoman. That said, somehow things DO end up getting done, and our days are never short on love, so perhaps I'm doing alright after all.

* For the story behind "Picture Me {Im}Perfectly" posts, click on the picture above.


schlennerfamilyof4 said...

I could have written your post! I still co sleep. I also let Hayden watch too much tv. He goes to bed with a million things. Things like DVD cases a million cars. Oh, the joys of motherhood!

hill said...

love this and love you.

ParkerMama said...

After a long hospital stay like our recent one, I tend to come home and try to zone out as much stuff as possible. I'm great in the actual crisis, but a bit of a putz afterwards. It's my way of coping and recovering.

Tammy and Parker
@ParkerMama on Twiter

LaurelsMom said...

LOL! I knew a little boy who also slept with spoons when he was abt the same age as Sammie. It was too cute then and it makes me smile to hear Sammie does too. Kids are so funny.

Anonymous said...

The story of Sammie B choosing 2 spoons to sleep with is so cute! You have such an awesome little girl :)