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mind-over-motherhood

Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

Month

February 2012

“My Bathroom is NOT The Visitors Welcome Center!”

Vent.

Not the one in the bathroom ceiling that is infuriatingly attached to the light you want to use, but don’t because then you have to listen to that annoying humming from the vent fan.

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Just typing this sentence makes me thankful for that third light switch in my bathroom that is devoted solely to the vent fan. And never used. — My house: also known as the land of too many useless light switches (three years in and we still have a couple of switches that do nothing. Or at least, nothing that we see.)

– Okay, sorry. My child-induced ADD just kicked in. Refocusing in 3.. 2..1 –

Back to the word of the day: Vent. As defined by Merriam Webster.com:

1vent

verb \ˈvent\

Definition of VENT

transitive verb

1 : to provide with a vent

2 c : to give often vigorous or emotional expression to <vented her frustration on her coworkers>

3 : to relieve by means of a vent <vented himself in a fiery letter to the editor>

I find it funny that the “her” example implies that she let loose on her coworkers like some sort of hormonal fit, yet “his” example implies that he wrote a logical, yet convicted letter. – Or maybe I’m overly sensitive, and my perception of the definitions say more about me than the actual examples say about our society? Maybe I need to do some self-examination on that point more in a later post, but for now, let me attempt to keep myself on topic from here on out:

The real mistake that the Webster’s people made was neglecting to put a photo of me by the word “vent” in the dictionary. Vent is one of my favorite words. Because it’s one of my favorite things to do. Ask my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband. It drives him kind of nuts (in a loving way).  Ask my “there’s been some damage” girlfriends – burning up those venting emails for years with me. They know.  And my neighbors at the bus stop? Yep, they get it, too.

I believe in venting. I believe that when we try to pretend everything is all rainbows and sunshine (when in fact we screamed like a crazy person at our kids as we tried to get them to the bus on time), we do ourselves and other parents a dis-service. I also believe that letting it out has the same effect as a great big yoga exhale. While venting might not be as peaceful as a good long yoga session, it makes you feel better when you’re done, just the same.

So, let’s do some of it. Venting time.

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How do they do it? How do they know?

I think it was those disgusting prenatal vitamins that the doctors made me take.. Maybe they weren’t really for nutrition and healthy formation of the baby, but instead they contained some strange magical super power (or maybe kryptonite for moms) that allowed the children to develop this weird 6th sense. You know the one I’m talking about. That one.

That one that makes them come running from the next street over to ask you a question the minute you get on the phone with a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Never mind that you were perfectly available to answer questions for two hours, but they waited until the split second you get on the phone to decide they need you.

It’s that one that makes a sleeping baby/toddler wake up the second you sit your butt down and put that first bite of yummy food in your mouth, requiring you to get up and let the plate of food get cold.

It’s the one that sets some alarm off in their bodies and switches them to seek and destroy mode the minute you are peacefully in your bathroom with the door closed. –

Oh, how the bathroom has changed since my motherhood began. Showering? This is when they decide for the first time ever that they need to follow the house rules and ask (and it must be face to face.. never through the door) before they get that snack out of the pantry. And tomorrow, the need to bust in on my nakedness – which isn’t pretty – will be for some other equally as frustrating reason (“The phone is ringing!”, “Did you go to the grocery store today?”, “We’re out of cereal!”, “Do you know where my ipod is?”, “She came into my room!”, “He breathed out loud at me!”, etc.) But the scenario will be the same.  They will fling open the door, ask for what they want (or complain about something), get yelled at, sulkily walk out and leave the door open so all the cold air comes into my warm showering haven.  Every day. — I’ve started taking showers late at night after everyone is asleep, because oh, how I love a nice long hot peaceful shower. And that’s not gonna happen if they’re awake.  I’m fairly certain that any day now there will be some sort of metamorphosis of the super magic powers and they will add the ability to sense in their sleep that I’m in the shower (waking them from their slumber so they can bust in on my shower time).

Sitting on the toilet?  Tattle time, every time. If I go to the restroom, they go to fighting. And one or more of them ALWAYS comes tearing into the bathroom with guns blazing, yelling at me about how they have been done wrong by a sibling.  (Mind you, this means they have to open not one, but THREE closed doors.) I then yell at them.

All logic, reason and calm/consistent parenting that I have ever strived to achieve goes out the window for the entire day as soon as one of my kids busts into my bathroom. It makes me crazy, and then it makes me feel like a crappy mom for having let it get to me.

Much to my relief, I discovered that I am not the only one. Last week I had the good fortune of meeting 3 of my hilarious – and very wonderful – friends for breakfast before we broke for our “work” days (some in offices and some in our homes).  So many great topics came up – but one is particularly worth sharing.  My very favorite quote of the day came about when we were on this topic of venting the frustrations we have with our little blessings. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the passion with which my friend delivered the line: “I just want to yell at them, ‘MY BATHROOM IS NOT THE VISITORS/WELCOME CENTER!!! I’M NAKED! GET OUT!’ ” – in reference to the fact that her children bust into the bathroom each time she’s in there getting dressed.

There’s comfort in venting our own frustrations.. and there’s comfort in hearing a friend vent about the same feelings/experiences you have.  When I heard her share her bathroom frustrations, I wanted to stand up in my chair and scream, “YES!!! ME TOO!! WOOHOO!! I’M NOT THE LONE CRAZY MOM!”  The truth is, I always default to the idea that if I’m experiencing it behind the closed (but never for long) doors in my house, most other motherhoods probably look (and sound) fairly similar. Whether they like to publicly admit it or not.

I have no idea how to strip the kids of their kryptonite-like superpower and keep them out of my bathroom (and phone calls, etc.), but I do know that since my friend’s bathroom confession, I have been much more apt to laugh at the visual of the “Welcome Center” sign that pops into my head than I am to yell at them when they bust into the bathroom. So that’s something.

So, vent it out, and just maybe it will help flip that light switch inside of you, so things become funny instead of completely frustrating.

**And as a bit of a post script, I think I just figured it out!! My bathroom is the only one in the house that has a separate switch for the fan! THAT must be why everyone always wants to be in there!

Recycling My Thoughts

I want to revisit The Work/Life Balance post for just a quick minute, because the more I think about it, the more my thoughts on “same, but different mom struggles” are reinforced. By that I mean, that NO MATTER what your particular motherhood looks like (i.e. no matter what your work status), being a mom is hard. We all struggle.  There is no ideal scenario when you are in the motherhood, although I would venture to guess that “the grass is always greener” theory was rooted in the Stay at Home vs. Work outside of the home Mom debate. I think that very many of us look at others and assume they have it good or easier or that we would be happier doing what they do. Whether you work in the motherhood 24/7 or you work a second job outside of the home, there are always challenges. What one struggles with as a SAHM may not always be exactly what one struggles with as a Working Mom (and vice versa), but the effects of the struggle are all the same. It isn’t easy. And it can make us all want to consume mass quantities of wine. (Or margaritas. Or mojitos. Or Beer. Or cups of NyQuil. – choose your medicine.)

We’re all on the same team.

(Is it bad that I want to cheer “Don’t let the kids win! Beat the kids!” now?)

Losing Myself in the Building of Cathedrals

I can’t really claim this post as my own. I received what will follow my comments in an email from a dear friend today. It isn’t the first time I’ve received/read it, and it will not be the last. And yet each time I have opened an email that contained this forwarded story, it has happened to be on a day when I most desperately needed it. Sometimes in our struggle  to maintain some individual identity as M.O.M.s, we also have to figure out how to be OK with those days when it becomes impossible to achieve such a thing (and try again tomorrow.)

This post is for those days when it’s just unavoidable.. the ones where just me has no choice but to get lost in the motherhood. — And today was definitely one of those days…until I read this again. For those days, remember that it’s okay when “the building of great Cathedrals” trumps putting your name in the stones. (And by the way, I’m pretty certain that those who built the great Cathedrals also had some sort of separate life of their own when their work was done.)

As forwarded to me:

THE INVISIBLE MOM
One of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ 
    
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?? 
        
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the 
Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
        
Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock?, Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’ 

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature – but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone! 
        
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’ 

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
     
A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you 
spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ 
     
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
       
No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become. 
        
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’ 
        
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.”

* Thanks to my friend, Jenny, who sent this to me, then did the research that allows me to give due credit for this story to Nicole Johnson http://freshbrewedlife.sonacart.com/content/about-nicole – it appears that the version I have copied and pasted here has been paraphrased and edited by the hundreds of women who have forwarded it on via their email.

And just for fun — some photos of my very favorite “cathedrals” :

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Get A Life!

Really. It’s not easy having a life outside of being Mom. It’s a pretty all-consuming job. You can’t turn it off or clock out or decide that it isn’t the career path you want to take anymore. Once you’ve committed to this job, you’re in it. No advancement, no career change.

It’s easy in this mess of motherhood – especially those early baby/toddler years – to lose pieces of your life that aren’t required to make your motherhood happen on a daily basis. We’ve already established that when you are in survival mode with little ones, things like relationships (with yourself or with others) tend to take the backseat.

People have always told me that it is important to have friends you can relate to – you know, that are in the same “place” in life that you are. That is true – no matter your stage in life, you have to find someone who gets it.

Even the beginnings of my blog come straight from emails with my irreplaceable mom-friends. They have gotten me through times where I could not even begin to see (or smell) beyond the full diaper genie bags and nursing pads. And the potty training days? Well let’s put it this way: during potty training days my sister called me and asked me if I was evacuating ahead of the storm. My response? “What storm?” Sis: “Have you been under a rock [I may be paraphrasing]? The biggest Hurricane in US history is headed straight for you! Get out of there!” —- I had not turned on a TV that wasn’t on PBS or the Disney Channel in weeks. And I wasn’t even sure where one would find a newspaper. Radio? Uh-Uh. Toddler Tunes CD on repeat. All day; every day. — Her phone call (coupled with a few others) prompted me to figure out on which channel one would find local news and weather. Once I managed to commandeer the TV from the revolting littles to see what was happening, we packed up the circus and left town.

So, the point is that during those times I had absolutely NO connection to what was happening in the outside world. The real one. Where people were normal size, wiped their own rear ends, and spoke the English language in a way that included more than one or two-word sentences. My only shred of sanity came from holding onto those late night email chains between us – my mom-friends. They were my rock.

However, something else, vitally important was also a fixture during those times. Someones, actually. Some particular friends (a couple who were also family) who happened not to be “mommy”. Never wavering in their presence in my life, though goodness knows why. There were times when it could not have been easy.

The friends I have that happen not to be moms are just as irreplaceable as my emailing mom-network. And wow, am I ever so grateful for them! They’ve stuck by my side and remained true through the toughest of years. You know. Those years when I hardly knew what day it was or the last time I had a shower, because I was so busy with three petit monsters. When I could never commit to doing things with them because I didn’t know what would be happening with the kids. And when I actually made a date with them, it usually either had to be cancelled due to a sick child… or an absence of a babysitter required that our great girls’ lunch date would include a high chair and a kid’s menu. Those were the years when I did a terrible job of initiating phone calls or emails. And when they called, I was constantly interrupting them because someone was climbing, crying, throwing, hitting or shitting. Sometimes on the floor. (Sorry for the language, but there’s just no other way to put it.) And believe me, they heard about it all. All. The. Time. When your life is consumed by your motherhood, it’s easy to forget that there is a life outside of it.

How did they stand it?!

Having these friends.. well, they reminded and challenged me (maybe without realizing it) to find that dormant me in the midst of my motherhood. And while it is easier to do during some stages of motherhood than in others, they have brought things into my life that I had forgotten existed. * During those rare moments I could manage to steal away with my non mom-friends (and I didn’t have to accessorize with a diaper bag!), they reminded me that I didn’t have to spell certain words in their presence. I could actually say the real words. They banned me from saying “potty” when talking to other adults and encouraged me to use multisyllabic words. They gracefully – and sometimes, not so gracefully – pointed out that my fingernails – etc. – needed some attention (I still ignore the nails, but appreciate that they cared.) They’ve re-introduced me to music that is not sung by a group of people with a pet’s name (i.e. “the Wiggles”). You know, music that has lyrics that don’t include such things as brushing your teeth and flushing the toilet (although my kids should evidently still be listening to those songs at 13, 9 and 8). They have challenged me to set personal goals for myself that I thought were unreachable – goals that were physically and emotionally healthy for me and help me feel accomplished at each year’s end. They remind me that there are restaurants that serve food that doesn’t come with crayons or a plastic movie endorsement… I mean, toy.

And most impressively they have loved me AND MY CHILDREN despite all those things. They’ve come to countless baby showers and birthday parties baring beautifully wrapped gifts. They have called to check on the kids’ health and well-being –even taken an interest in my kids’ interests. They have formed bonds with my kids. They’ve become part of our family.

Some of them have since moved into their own motherhood worlds. But there’s one in particular..

..That helped me get a life. A life outside of my motherhood.

I don’t know how or why they did it, but they did. And I can’t thank them enough.

*Mothers, try not to forget that there are these things called current events (which funny enough, my 13-year-old now reminds me that I need to keep up with).

New Year.. New Goals (Not Resolutions)

I remember the phase in my life when the last of my siblings left for college (I’m the oldest of 3 – by 6 years).  My own stay at home Mom (who had started back to work only a couple of years earlier) was faced with the challenge of how to deal with this new phase of her Motherhood. There she was.. working a somewhat entry-level position, even though she possessed a college degree and years of experience running a very busy household (and at times even her own home-based business).  I watched her struggle to rediscover herself: her passions, her hobbies, her gifts.. and I watched her struggle (or at least what I perceived as her struggling) with her confidence in herself. It seemed from the outside that she defaulted to going back to the point in her life before she was identified by her children.. and that’s where she began to rediscover the things she used to identify herself with (like art and books and learning new things). It’s hard to know who you are when you’ve been identified by other people for so long and then suddenly those people aren’t present in your daily life.  I didn’t have kids at the time, but the lesson I found in watching her struck a chord in me that has – in a more dormant mode – stayed with me.*

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts I haven’t always applied my parenting theories to my real motherhood experience. At least in theory, I have carried with me what I gathered from my mom – and that is this:  It is extraordinarily important to maintain a sense of YOURSELF in the midst of your motherhood.  (..so much easier said, than done.)

I have been determined (albeit at times, only in my head) that my job was to teach my kids what they needed to learn to go out into the world and be successful on their own.. and to instill in them knowledge that they are loved.  My end goal being that when my three little birds** fly the coop, and I’m left with an empty nest, I will have maintained enough of a life separate from them that I will not be sad, lonely, and lost.  – Hang around about 10 more years and lets check back to see how well (or poorly) I do.

For me that meant making time for friendships that aren’t tied to my children, maintaining AND developing hobbies, spending time with “the girls”, having date nights with my husband, and keeping my hand in things tied to my old professional world.

Let me back up and get real for a minute. For the first 8 or so years of my motherhood, my husband was a traveling road warrior, and I was at home with 3 young children, changing 2 sets of diapers, dealing with an allergy-ridden/asthmatic child who was always on breathing treatments, and at times doing contract work from home.  Honestly, I was in pure survival mode.  Just getting everyone fed, bathed*** and vaccinated (while hoping to hold on to some shred of sanity) was all I could muster in the way of goals.  I survived it. Thank goodness.  And I feel pretty good about the fact that I have invested in our future economy, because my kids will no doubt require paying a regular therapist to help them deal with the repercussions of those early years.

But now the kids all go to the toilet on their own (though wiping and flushing are still questionable.  And infuriating.)  They can all take showers by themselves (though I still have to go in at least twice a week and ensure that things like soap and shampoo are actually being used. Oh, and that my youngest isn’t flooding the house. Yes. Habit learned by conditioning.)  And as for the vaccines… well, are they really all that important?

Since the kids have a little more independence and my husband took a new NON-TRAVELING job 4 years ago, I’ve been able to do a better job of putting this parenting theory into action in my motherhood.  I have gotten involved with my Alma Mater’s local Alumni Association Board, taken up my yoga practice, trained for and run a sprint triathlon and a half marathon with a dear mom-friend, volunteered to publish the PTO Newsletter, taken some girls only trips, learned to surf and found fun ways around the house to get my “creative fix”.  My husband and I go out much more regularly without the kids (much to my daughters’ dismay) and we take at least one trip together each year without our little Maniacs.

I have also started the practice of spending some time in reflection and introspection at the beginning of each New Year. I take a look back at the year before, thinking about my accomplishments. Then I ask myself if they’re balanced. Do they reflect the whole person I want to be? Are there accomplishments on my list that don’t aren’t “part of my motherhood”?  — Next step. Set out some goals for myself for the following year. In an effort to diversify and develop more of myself than just my motherhood I have set the following goals for 2012:

  1. Read more. Specifically, I have a list of books that I want to read this year. Reading isn’t a luxury many tired moms of toddlers can afford. Even now that the kids are older, I find it hard.  If you are like me, by the time the kids are in bed and all the daily work done, your brain is too tired to process the words yours eyes are perusing. Go ahead.. read it 3 times and then try to tell me what you just read. (Or is this just me and my Child-Induced ADD?)
  2. Get Organized (More Efficient). Working on it. Pinterest required. I’ve been focused on trying to implement organization in my home that works with my tendencies. (Like the fact that no matter how great my intentions, I do not stay on top of the filing. Or my junk drawer. Or hanging the clothes in my closet…. You get the picture.) 6 weeks into the New Year, I have managed to overhaul the junk drawer, my closet, the laundry room and the kids’ school paperwork — and most importantly, I am maintaining it. I know it’s only been a matter of weeks, but that’s big for me. Don’t judge.
  3. Learn to play tennis. Just because it’s something new that I’ve always wanted to be able to do. I’m thinking that the self-taught matches I’ve been having with my friends aren’t quite going to get me to my goal. I may require the services of a professional tennis coach, seeing as I have hit myself with my racket – leaving painful bruises – each and every time we have played.
  4. Volunteer outside of their Schools!!  The idea for this one began last year when my son needed to have volunteer hours for National Jr. Honor Society. It made me realize that this was another area of my motherhood where I was failing miserably at putting my theories into practice. So, I’m working on it. Outside of my normal school volunteering, I’m in the process of finding volunteer opportunities for myself.. one that is a fun passion of mine and one that is more service oriented. Hopefully, I’ll get those rolling and be able to share more later.

Though it wasn’t on the list, I can add THIS BLOG as #5.  WooHoo. Bonus points!

Now the goals are in writing for the world to see. Just maybe that will help me hold to them. And maybe when my kids watch me shoo them from the nest, they’ll see me transition seamlessly into being  Just Me (and Just Us with my husband.)

But then.. where will they learn a lesson in that?

Thank you, Mom.

* I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing my perceptions (although in actuality, my view of it may not be an accurate representation of how she really felt while experiencing it.)  It’s just one of the many things my Mom taught me without realizing she was teaching.. she’s just that good.

**Hope you caught the reference to one of the greatest songs ever.  I love Bob Marley.

*** OK, this didn’t always apply to me, but at least the kids were bathed.

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