The Kind Of Mother I REALLY Want To Be

Pre-motherhood, I had a vision of the kind of mother I wanted to be.

(left to right) Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley and Tony Dow in "Leave It to Beaver"

Ok, maybe not this extreme, but I thought it would be all butterflies and sunshine and playing together and being nice. Apparently, my mom made it look EASY.

Spoiler alert: What I envisioned is nothing like the mother I am. Not even close.

Sure, I hit most of my babyhood/toddler/early childhood milestones – I changed a gazillion diapers (we’re still going with that one), I breastfed for a million years (well worth the time and effort, they are some of my favorite memories), I did the whole not sleeping then, which I then followed it up with the whole sleep training thing. I am diligent about vaccinations. My kids get flu shots and go to the Dr. for they annual checkups. I have done hours of research on fevers, colds, coughs, diarrhea, and vomiting. I spent countless hours worried about those same things. I kiss them a million times a day (I would if that were possible) and I tell them how much I love them even more than that.

But, motherhood is so incredibly different. Of course, it’s harder – but it’s more than that. There are so many more dimensions to it than I ever thought possible. I frequently use the phrase “herding cats” — but it’s even more than that. Actually, I think my issue ISN’T the kids part. I mean, I love my kids. I would do anything for them. However, they are kids. They don’t know what the hell they are doing. It’s my JOB as a mom to make them the best people they can be. I think what gets to me the most is that society/most people you know think you are are going to have the most perfect children alive – from birth. I totally accept my kids’ flaws and that it’s my responsibility to teach them right from wrong. But there is so much pressure — so much more than I ever imagined — to be the perfect parent. I would love to the parent who is always there, always watching, always volunteering, best friends with all of the teachers, and constantly involved with my kids. If anyone wants to share me the secrets to doing that WITH a full-time (and demanding job), I’m all ears. Quitting said job is not an option, nor would that be true to who I am as a mother.

That said, I’m fairly certain I’m never going to be THAT mother. No, it just doesn’t suite me. Instead I think I’m a little bit of this…

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combined with a little bit of this…

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and a little of this…

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And a few other inspirational, yet imperfect, moms over the years.

I’m going to be the mother who loves her babies (and they will always be my babies) with reckless abandon. I will kiss and hug my kids in public, even it embarrasses them (ask my 3rd grader). I will tell my daughter she is beautiful, smart, and can do anything her brothers can do, and maybe things they cannot – not because it’s a positive message, but because it’s true. I will tell my sons that they are handsome, smart, and can do anything their sister can do, and maybe things she cannot- not because it’s sexist if I don’t, but because it’s true. Ultimately, my kids can and will do whatever the hell they are capable of doing. That’s not up for me to decide — just to steer, guide, and some day… let go.

I am and I’m going to continue to be the mom who struggles with each stage.. who questions if she is doing things “right.” I am the mom who worries. I am the mom who tries to fix things. I am the mom who sweats the small stuff. I may not always appear to be that mom, but I can put on a good show. I am ALWAYS that mom.

I am  also the mom with amazing friends who don’t define themselves by what TYPE of mother they are. Stay-at-home, work-at-home, work-out-of-home… you know what? I don’t give a f**k. Do you understand the struggles of being a mom? OK cool, let’s be friends and bitch about it — and also plan fun events together. We all have different experiences as mothers – why not focus on what we have in common? There’s always something.

So after all of this rambling, do you want to know what type of mom I WANT to be?

One who is needed and loved. One that makes mistakes, but keeps trying. One who knows when to ask for help. One who sets a good example (most of the time). One who teaches her kids that sarcasm, humor, and being silly are just as importance as book smarts and an education. One who values friendship and encourages best friends. One who can crack jokes and play tricks — and expect the same in return. One who pushes her children to try new things, even if they aren’t good at them. One who recognizes and celebrates the strengths in her children – even if they aren’t ones that she can related to or identify with. One who swears – and teaches her kids that words are powerful so they should be used sparingly/appropriately. One who travels with her kids and shares experiences with an open mind. One who doesn’t act like she’s perfect. One who understands her limits. One who dances with her kids, even if it embarrasses them. One who isn’t afraid of what people think of her. One who doesn’t judge other moms for their choices, mistakes, and imperfections. One who makes memories, preferably good, that they will hold in their hearts and someday share with THEIR families. One who spends quality time with her family and makes the most of those moments despite busy schedules, deadlines, travel, and everything in between. One who lets their kid look like a disaster out in public because if meant they had amazing time…

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Will I ever REALLY know if I’ve been a “successful” mother? Doubtful. What is success?

I will be content if I can manage even half this list. Hell, I will be content if I managed the first item on the list. Being needed and loved — deep down, who imagines motherhood being more than anyway? It’s the best part.

What kind of mother do YOU want to be? What kind of mother did you think you WOULD be?

What Nobody Told Me About Parenting (So Far)

When I first found out I was pregnant with Braeden many moons ago (umm… almost 10 years ago!), I was scared to death. And I was so, so, so focused on ME and how my life was going to change, what I was going to do with a baby, how I would be a better parents than so many of those “bad” parents out there. You know, the ones who suck.

HA.

Hahahahahahahahahaha.

Did I mention HA?

In the past 9 years I have discovered they write a million and twenty baby books BECAUSE THAT IS THE EASY PART. You can write for days about typical baby behavior. You can solve sleep issues with a little patience, a lot of white noise, and  little crying (both you and the baby).  Keeping a baby alive? Just read about it in a book and follow the directions. You can do it! As long as you feed, change, and hold that baby — you are the BEST parent in the world. Ahhhh… sweet bliss. I’m still enjoying it with Evan. Kinda.

You know what’s really kicking my ass? Everything past age 5 – especially with my oldest.

Yeah – it’s that’s time of year when testing is over, the teacher’s patience is gone ,and the kids are acting a little wilder than usual. However, third grade has been particularly difficult and we are finally going to see a specialist about B’s behavior next month (who knows if it will help, but at least someone can listen to us). Thanks to his amazing teacher this year, we’ve actually been able to pinpoint his issues (opposed to just hearing “Braeden’s behavior is horrible.”) He’s constantly in his own little world at school — drawing or ripping up pieces of paper or playing with erasers. Nothing motivates him. He couldn’t care less if he has to sit out of recess (hey – at least he has it this year!) or move his “clip” down in class (in fact, I think he actually like the attention — PS behavior charts are the devil when your kid doesn’t care about them). He’s passing (and I’m sure he did fine on his FSA tests), but his grades are mediocre at best and there’s really not an excuses. This kid — he is SMART. Smart enough to be an A student. He just doesn’t want to do the work or care about it at all. AND I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT MAKES HIM TICK.

Truthfully, this is a side of him that we rarely see. To me, he’s a great kid. He’s sweet, he’s fascinated by learning, and he’s FUNNY (he loves making people laugh). At home he does his homework with little issue, he loves reading, and he loves playing outside with friends. Although he doesn’t always admit it – he loves spending time with his brother and sister. We limit the electronics/technology. He doesn’t have a phone or an iPod. We don’t watch much TV during the week, and we encourage both play amongst siblings and alone time.

SO… WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Why isn’t there a book on THIS? Or at least one that tells me EXACTLY what I need to do.

In addition, I’m raising a little lady who LIVES for telling me how good she is being when he brother is in trouble (a lot). I have to admit, she’s really good. She does well in school and rarely gets in trouble (and when she does it’s mostly for talking). She’s also sassy, headstrong, charming, dramatic, and she scares the hell out of me. And she’s ONLY 6. I’m happy I’m raising such a dynamic little lady who is so the opposite that I ever was (I was definitely a lot more like Braden), but I have a feeling I’m in for it.

And then there’s E. Oh man, I am smitten by him. He is forever my baby and truly still a baby (for another 6 months — GIVE THOSE MONTHS TO ME), but how spoiled is he going to be? I rarely say no.

So yeah, I really DO love being a parent. Their happiness is the world to me and there is nothing better than making them laugh or smile — except maybe a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you.” But, there are so many things I didn’t expect to suck at — and I’m sure this is just the beginning.

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Good thing they’re cute.

Yay parenting!

What do you struggle with as a parent? No struggle is too small. In fact, it’s the small stuff that frustrates me the most.

Breastfeeding. The End.

It feels weird to be writing this post now. Evan is just shy of 18 months and I fully intended to continue to breastfeed him until he was 2+. I know most women would be happy making it 3 or 6 months let alone 18 months – but I guess I’m a weirdo. It’s not like I wanted to breastfeed until he was 8, but with the my oldest I had to wean them at 26 months. Who’s weird now.

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Two weeks ago, without really a sign or warning that it was the end, E decided he was done. Too cool for the boob, I guess. We made it through various nursing strikes, teething, Hand/Foot/Mouth (which I don’t wish on my worst enemy), marathon training, and even Chicago… and then he just dropped the mic. I guess that’s how the third and final kid is supposed to do it. No warning, no weaning. Just… boom.

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“Surprise bitches!”

At first, I was in denial. I couldn’t believe he was just over it so quickly (it you consider 18 months quick).

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Then, I was sad. I mean really, really, crying real tears, sad.

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He’s my baby. He’s supposed to stay my baby the longest.

I’m now in limbo stage where I vacillate between sad and happy. Happy because it takes less time to put him to bed and there are less wake ups. Sad because it takes less time to put him to bed and there are less wake ups. And, of course like the other times breastfeeding has ended, it’s been hormonal. Damn stupid ass hormones.

Motherhood is weird.

Unlike the other times I’ve weaned – there was always a notion that there would be more to come. This time though, I’m done. The shop AND the ice cream parlor are closed for business. As much as I loooooooooooove babies, they grow up and my tolerance and checking account only stretch so far. Ok, maybe just my tolerance (I could sell a kidney or something for the cuteness).

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Ahhhh breastfeeding…. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was an experience I will never regret, a gift that I was given, and it saved me about 40 gajillion dollars (probably more). If I could go back in time, would I do it again? You betcha.

So, after 9 years of thinking/stressing out about babies (I actually found out I was pregnant with B 9 years ago today!! God, I’m old.), boobs, breastfeeding, engorgement, lopsidedness, Raynaud’s, milk bags, pumping, liquid gold, mastitis, and wearing every bra size from a 36A to a 32DD — I say goodbye. Adios. It’s my first really big last and I never expected to miss it. It’s bittersweet.

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Bottoms up.

Volunteering at Second Harvest

I’ve been saying that I’ve wanted to volunteer with my kids for years now. It comes up, I think about it for a few days, and then I do nothing about it. Part of it is because it’s HARD to find volunteering opportunities for kids and the other part is that I’m just full of excuses about being too busy and too consumed with my own life.

That’s changing.

This week I FINALLY had a chance to volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Second Harvest collects, stores, and distributes donated food to more than 550 feeding partners in six Central Florida counties. Their food goes to food pantries, daycares, soup kitchens, emergencies shelters, and senior centers (to name a few). Over 50% of their food comes from retail stores – but chances are, when you donate goods in Central Florida, it ends up at Second Harvest.

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Second Harvest has many, many volunteering opportunities for adults, but every other month they offer a “Family Night” where kids from ages 5-9 can volunteer, which is where I went (with B and L) last Wednesday night.

Also joining us was Paula, who, by the way, my kids decided they want as their new mom. #tryingnottobeoffended

My kids decided that @eatwatchrun is their new mom. #coolerthanme

And just think, she only thought she was signing up to volunteer for a few hours!

We got to Second Harvest 5 minutes before 6 (the program ran from 6-8), signed in, and then was sent to the volunteer break room. The whole process was very simple. We waited for about 10 minutes before they raffled off two tickets to Fun Spot (that thankfully we did not win — shhh don’t tell the kids I said that) and then we were directed into the warehouse to sort food.

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And sort food we did! There were 18 pallets of food (about 15,000lbs) that we placed into a variety of bins (cans, dry goods, chemicals, non-food, candy, etc.).

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It was a simple activity, but seeing all of the kids working hard was so fun! B especially got into it, while L made friends with an older boy (seriously) and helped collect the empty boxes.

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Is it too early to lock her up?

We ended up smoking through the pallets (they anticipated 12 pallets taking 2 hours and had to bring in 6 more after 45 minutes – which still wasn’t enough) and finished up a little early.

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Paula and B REALLY wanted to take home the candy, but I’m mean and I said no.

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As we were leaving B BEGGED to come back (he actually wanted to stay and do more), so I signed up for September as well. As of right now there are still about 25 spots left if you are interested in volunteering with kids!

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And by the way, another event that Second Harvest is involved in is Taste of the Nation Orlando which is coming up on August 9th.

Taste of the Nation

Taste of the Nation is a HUGE fundraising event for both Second Harvest and the Coalition for the Homeless – raising money together for their No Kid Hungry campaign.

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It also happens to brings together some of the BEST local restaurants (as well as a few chains) where you can eat and drink your little heart out. It’s a one of a kind event where you can feel gluttonous about eating massive amounts of food, while also feeling good about the cause.

You may remember that I went last year as Paula’s date and had a FANTASTIC time. I cannot wait to head back again this year!

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So, long story short — if you’d like to dedicate a few hours of your time check out the Second Harvest Food Bank. If you aren’t local, it’s worth checking out your local food banks.

AND If you are looking for something to do in August, which just so happens to support a fantastic cause, you can buy tickets HEREDo it! It’s for the kids!

A Working Mom With Three – One Year Later

A year ago, I went back to work after my (final) maternity leave. E was 9 weeks old. I was tired, stressed, and SO ANGRY. I (obviously) didn’t want to go back so soon, or (at the time) at all. No matter how much self-talk I did, I didn’t want to drop my little guy off at daycare every day. Going back was harder with each kid and with E it felt like complete torture. It sucked that I only got 6 weeks off (with 60% of my pay — I took the extra 3 weeks as vacation), in fact it sucks that the US doesn’t have a maternity option. The only reason I had 6 weeks off is because recovering from childbirth is considered a disability. I’m pretty sure hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is go back to work when I (and the baby) wasn’t physically and mentally prepared.

Got to see my bub at lunch today #happy

Fake it till you make it.

My days were pretty much a blur. I can’t tell you many details except that I hated pumping, I had absolutely zero schedule, and I didn’t know how I was going to fit anything (running, reading, friend time, husband time, etc) into my life again. I was OK with that though. E was sweet, snuggly, and worth it. I preferred to spend most of my free time with him in my arms and I think he would do anything to be in my arms.

After a fussy night, E is back to his smiley self. Smiling > Shots

Who can resist this??

I was also very, very anxious. I couldn’t define what I was feeling as postpartum depression (though, I don’t doubt I was experiencing it to some small degree), but my postpartum anxiety was fierce, lifesucking, and out of control at times. Looking back, I was in a far deeper hole than I imagined. I never thought I was going do anything to harm anyone, but I constantly thought about all of the horrible things that could happen to everyone that I know. Do you know how stressful that is?

Over time, things have gotten so much better. For starters,  handling all three kids — with very, very different personalities — has gotten easier. Going into all of this, I didn’t realize that L at age 4 was going to be SO dramatic and hard to deal with (although, it was easier than when L was born and B was almost 3). At the same time, I also didn’t realize how amazing B would be with his little brother — so obviously these things balanced themselves out. I think over time the kids have realized that E is here to stay and he’s quite the little charmer. You want things? You go through E.

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A year later things are… the way they are supposed to be. We (kinda) have a routine. I can get to work before 8:30. I’m no longer pumping. I feel like me again. I’m no longer angry. I’m still tired, but mostly because E is still waking up a few times a night (I’m still breastfeeding, so I guess I don’t mind). I don’t have to squeeze workouts in and when I do work out, I don’t feel guilty that I might be needed or missing something.

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<3

As for work – I’m enjoying it again. You know, as much as you can enjoy work. I like getting to my office every day and I like the work I am doing. I’m busy, I feel productive, I’m constantly learning – and when I see my coworkers I’m no longer putting on a happy face. I’m genuinely happy.  I’m reminded that this is WHY I’m a working mom… I truly do love what I do — and the people I work with too!

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Birthday lunch with some of my favorite people. I’m pretty lucky!

I’m still anxious, but it’s lessened immensely. It hits at weird times and I can now attribute it to being overtired or being overwhelmed. I still worry about things I cannot control – but if I take deep breathes and focus on the things I CAN control, it helps. But, for the record… I’ll probably have to live on Xanax when I hit menopause.

It’s amazing to me how much can change in a year. I can’t really pinpoint when these things all clicked, it wasn’t all at once and there was no real “a ha moment” — it’s just when reflecting that I’ve realized how different things are, in a good way! While a baby’s first year is the most amazing, sweetest, and snuggly year imaginable it’s also just plain hard. I’m not going to pretend subsequent years aren’t hard – in fact they are harder, just in different ways and they are FAR less hormonal.

I especially look forward to this next year with Evan. I like to think of it as the year of wonder – when kids are aware of their surrounding, are starting to communicate, and just think everything is AMAZING. I do think each year of childhood contains a little bit of this wonder – but this year between 1 and 2 is the most innocent and gratifying. It reminds you to consider the little things, to enjoy the simple moments, and to be silly — because when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about.

Birthday lunch. Who says you have to grow up? #beergoggles

So for all of you mamas — whether you’re raising baby #1 or #10 – just remember, this too shall pass. Sometimes you just need a little reminder (or a glass of wine) that things will get back to “normal.” I also caution that if you are feeling completely out of it. See a Dr., find a therapist, or talk to your friends. There’s no shame in admitting that things aren’t perfect or that you don’t feel right. I SHOULD have been more proactive, I think I suffered a lot longer than I should have because I didn’t realize it was abnormal. It’s OKAY to ask for help — and also know, you are NEVER EVER alone.

So basically, things are better and sometimes great, but I still live by my mantra… Parenting is hard, yo.