The Blog You’ll Never Read

In my childless days before Oliver, I felt like I never had enough time to get it all done. Between work, the drudgery and obligations of every day life, and spending time with family and friends, my schedule was always packed. When Oliver was born and I suddenly found myself knee-deep in diaper changes and marathon feeding sessions,  I couldn’t imagine how I ever felt busy before. How much time I must have wasted, I thought. Watching television, spontaneous lunch dates with friends, lounging on the couch all afternoon in my pajamas—those were frivolities I could only dream of. If only I had the luxury of that kind of free-time in my new mother-of-one life.

Then I had another kid.

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If caring for one little being feels like a climbing Mt. Everest kind of feat, imagine strapping a twenty pound weight to each leg and keep going. That is life with two kids. Now I laugh when I think about how busy, how all-consuming caring for one child felt. I marvel at how I could ever feel stressed or pressed for time. This mother-of-two thing, this is hectic. Not only do I have to do so many of the things that made my pre-baby days feel busy, I now have to do it with two kids in tow. It can be overwhelming on a good day, panic-inducing on a bad. Simultaneously nursing a baby, cooking dinner, and reading Spot Goes to the Beach with your toddler—that requires some serious multitasking skills.

When you have two kids finding time to do anything for yourself becomes a challenge. A minute here. A minute there. Seconds carved out between feedings and naps and building Lego towers, all strung together into a few precious hours a week. That time is sacred. It’s essential. It helps to create an identity outside of “mom;” it adds definition and layers to a life that can feel very one-dimensional at times.

Knowing this will help you understand the story I am about to tell. Let’s call it “The Only Time I’ve Been Reduced to Tears Since Having Two Kids.” Or maybe “Sleep Deprivation and Hormones: The Perfect Recipe for Sweating the Small Stuff.”

This story is about a blog—one that you will never read. I wrote it last week, or more accurately, I wrote it over the last eight weeks in one or two sentence increments. Sometimes I wrote at night after both kids were asleep. Other times I wrote while nursing Parker in the carrier while Oliver played in the other room.  On the rare occasion when both Oliver and Parker would nap at the same time I’d tip-toe into the kitchen, open my computer and see how many sentences I could churn out before Parker woke up and decided the only acceptable place to nap is in mommy’s swaying arms.

After eight weeks of mini-writing sessions, I finally finished the blog. “I can have it all!” I chanted enthusiastically as I danced around my kitchen, arms fist pumping into the air. I can balance two kids with all the other responsibilities of a stay at home mom and still find time to pursue my passions. It might not be easy, but it is possible. I closed the computer, planning on doing a final read-through later that night before posting.

But my computer had other plans for that blog.

During a routine, automatic update, the blog disappeared. Poof. Gone. Vanished into thin air. I stared at my blank screen, bleary-eyed and on the verge of post-pregnancy hormonal tears, willing the auto-recovery to work. When it didn’t I called my on-call tech support husband and begged him to work his voodoo computer magic. When that didn’t work I resorted to less rational tactics—relentlessly tapping the keyboard, restarting countless times, blowing into various ports hoping to dislodge some evil, blog erasing dust. Nothing. The blog was simply gone.

I started to cry—big, ugly tears that were equal parts sadness and pity. It’s not a big deal, I told myself. It’s just a blog. You can write another one. But like most people on a downward spiral fueled by hormones and lack of sleep the irrational part of my brain took over. All that hard work for nothing, it screamed. All of your “me time,” wasted on something that won’t amount to anything. It’s not fair! (Note: nothing is ever fair to the irrational part of the brain).

I took a couple big breaths, paced the room and stomped around angrily like a toddler on the verge of a meltdown. I let out a big, loud, guttural groan.

“Mommy, what are you doing?” Oliver asked, looking up from the picture he was painting on the table.

I stopped in my tracks, my cheeks turning pink from embarrassment. In my frustration I forgot Oliver was sitting front row and center to my mini fit. I realized I could either lie or use this as a teaching moment.

“I’m mad right now because my special story I wrote is all gone. Sometimes when I’m mad I scream to let the anger out, then I take a deep breath and talk about it.” I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back for my imagined parenting win.

Oliver stared blankly—a cricket chirp inducing stare. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. And back to coloring he went. I moved on to the growing pile of dishes.

Five minutes later, my hands immersed in soapy water, Oliver came up to me wielding a pink sheet of construction paper.

“I write you a story,” he said, proudly presenting his scribbled paper. I took the paper, feeling tears welling behind my eyes again.

“Will you read it to me?” I asked. “What does it say?”

Oliver looked at me contemplatively, smiled really big and yelled, “poop!” He laughed. I laughed. I wiped away a stray tear and gave him a hug, marveling at how far my arms had to stretch to reach around my no longer little baby. It was a very real reminder of just how fleeting this phase of motherhood is—how, by the time I stopped to note how quickly these first two years passed, they were already gone. And it got me thinking.

Yes, motherhood is stressful, hectic, and overwhelming, especially with two. At times it truly does feel like I can’t possibly handle anymore, like “me time” is my one life-line to sanity in a never-ending cycle of diaper changes and crying spells and sleepless nights. For most parents who are lost in the haze of the baby stage it feels like it will never end. But it does, often without us noticing. Oliver is proof enough of that. One day all too soon that completely dependent baby will turn into a toddler who is capable of independent play, a toddler who can feed himself, walk on his own two feet, a toddler who needs his mommy just a little bit less than he did before. Life will once again settle into a predictable pattern and from that pattern, free-time will emerge. Maybe it’s not as abundant as before, but it’s there, a few hours of calm in the midst of the chaos.

Yes, losing my blog was unfortunate, but it’s not as tragic as it initially felt; it’s not a moment really worth my tears. There will be time for writing in the not so distant future, in a time when both my babies don’t need me as intensely as they do now. And it’s in that moment, when I’m alone with my computer and the thoughts in my head that I’ll finally understand that the moments really worth crying over are the ones lost because I didn’t realize how precious they were until they’re gone.

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In Search of “Me Time”

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It’s Saturday night at 8pm, only 30 minutes until Oliver (hypothetically) goes to bed for the night and only 31 minutes until I start fantasizing about climbing into bed myself. My husband offers to take full responsibility of Oliver so that I can have some “me time.” Without thinking twice I jump at the offer.

Now if only I could figure out how to spend my “me time.” I start in the kitchen thinking a snack might be in order. I’m in the middle of comparing the merits of kettle corn to buttered popcorn when I can’t help but notice the awful state our kitchen has fallen into. Before I know it I’ve forgotten about the popcorn and I’m loading the dishwasher, washing bottles, and tying off the overflowing bag of garbage. My husband shouts in from the living room couch, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be doing something fun.”

Fun—that’s a concept that’s changed a lot since having a baby. Sometimes when your choice is between trying to calm a screaming baby and scraping day old baked ziti off of plates, the plate scraping can seem like a trip to Disney World. But he’s right; the kitchen can wait. I reluctantly put down the dish soap and move into the bedroom. Maybe I’ll read a book.

The first things I notice upon entering are the hamper of washed clothes waiting to be put away and the dirty clothes laying all over the floor waiting to be washed. I resist the urge to tackle that chore and shuffle into the living room where my husband is sitting with the baby. I plop down on the couch next to him.

“You want a foot rub?” I ask, reaching to yank his socks off.

“I’m not going to say no, but this isn’t exactly doing something for you.”

I audibly sigh in agreement, but I’m not quite sure what else to do. I’ve grown so accustomed to filling any free time with must-dos like cleaning, cooking, and baby care that I feel a pang of guilt for doing something that I want to do. Surely having clean underwear takes precedence over any purely selfish pursuit. No?  And as a stay at home mom, handing baby care off to my husband for the rest of the night feels like I am slacking on the job. Because when am I not at work?

When raising your child is your “job” of sorts, how do you learn to clock-out when you’re always taking your work home with you…or, more aptly, you’re always at home with your work?

Learning to take “me time” in the face of other pressing obligations and errands requires some practice. I’m nowhere near perfect at taking guilt free time for myself but here are some tips that are helping me get there.

1. Give yourself permission. Taking care of kids is hard work; you don’t just WANT a break you NEED a break to be at your best.

2. Acknowledge feelings of guilt but recognize they stem from unreasonable expectations you have of yourself.

3. Talk with your partner or other care provider and agree upon a set time when you can renounce all baby responsibilities.

4. Get away from the baby during “me time.” Get out of the house or ask whoever is watching the baby to leave. It’s hard to focus on you when you can hear a crying baby the next room over.

5. Make plans with someone so that you can’t back out.

6. Ask for help getting all those lingering chores accomplished. If you don’t feel overwhelmed by a mountain of to-dos, it will be easier to focus on you.

So what did I finally decide to do with my “me time?” You’re looking at it.