Culturally and historically, New Years signifies a new year, a new start, and a chance to redeem ourselves from the previous year. It has been 17 months since I gave birth to my youngest son. My birth story was pretty standard, beginning with the birth of a beautiful baby boy. However, for the first year, I struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression. It has only been recently I have felt “normal” – if that is even such a thing. Sadly, I feel I missed out on the past year and a half, with my kids and with myself. The countdown to 2015 was the first year my husband and I stayed up to “ring in the new year,” since our oldest son was born in 2011.
Now that it has officially been (over) one week in 2015, and I have yet to post one blog post. This evening I decided to quickly write a post to “get the ball rolling,” so to say. As I was sifting through my saved as DRAFTS, I realized I had no motivation to finish any of them. Instead, I began to think about 2015 and what it means to me, and of course, I realized I hadn’t committed to any resolutions. Like many other, immediately three resolutions popped into my mind:
#1 – Take Better Care of Self: Eat Better, Exercise More
#2 – Be a Better Parent: Talk More, Yell Less
#3 – Be a Better Partner
But what do these really mean? Every year I make the same resolutions and to be honest, within a few days I have (probably) broken 2/3 of them. What makes it so hard to maintain our resolution goals? So, this year I decided to take a different approach. Rather than berate myself for the things I do – since this is who I will always be – I decided to map out resolutions I can stick to and agree with. So here goes…
RESOLUTION #1: Spend more time in today, and less worrying about tomorrow
Since we have moved to a new city and my husband has switched jobs, we decided that it would be best if I stayed home with our youngest and kept our preschooler in part-time. Financially, it makes sense. And when we first moved, it seemed like a good idea. However, now that the holidays have ended and our preschooler has begun his 3 hours of school, three days a week, the excitement of being home has worn off. While I love his school being so close to home – 5 minute drive to be exact – I am torn between running errands in the early morning hours or going home and “tidying up” (and guiltily watching my Netflix queue while allowing the younger one to play in his older brother’s room). Parenting definitely requires we “pick our battles” with our children, but what about with ourselves? Are we allowed to pick battles between being productive and doing something for ourselves? Regardless, I promise that I will spend more time “in the now” and less worrying about the future. If that pile of clothes sits on the bed until my husband gets home, it’s okay. This year, I refuse to feel guilty stepping over that pile of toys and turning on the TV.
RESOLUTION #2 Take care of myself and my family, but allow some wiggle room
On top of my “to-do” this year is spending more time at the gym. I have battled hypertension and anxiety since my first son was born. Unfortunately, it is not easy to “cure” either of these conditions, we merely treat them. While I do take medications to stabilize my health and my moods, I still do my best to eat healthy and exercise 3-4 times a week. However, as any parent and caregiver knows, taking care of yourself can be quite difficult when caring for someone else. While I do plan healthy meals, it is rare all four of us eat the same meal. My husband is a big meat eater, while I can go meatless on most nights. My preschooler would survive off rice and noodles if we let him, and the toddler inhales almost anything we put in front of him. This usually requires I make all the parts of our meal separately and allow everyone to put together their own meal creation. By Thursday or Friday, I end up making noodles for lunch, which the children eat for dinner (and maybe even breakfast the next morning). If pizza graces the menu one evening, it will definitely be breakfast the next morning. I am tired of feeling bad about what I am feeding my family. As long as the nutrients going into their bodies are 60% healthy, I will be happy. They are beautiful, growing children, and life doesn’t get much better than noodles or pizza for breakfast.
RESOLUTION #3: Replace parenting guilt with acceptance of my parenting limits
While I will always love my children, I admit, there are times I definitely do not like them. As the evening draws to a close, the whining creeps into my preschooler’s voice. I plug in my earphones and pretend not to hear. The best part being home is there is an unspoken agreement between my husband and I, that the evenings belong to me. As long as I put the baby to bed, I can slink off to my “office” (which is really the 4X10 corner of our living room).
Since our youngest child was born, my preschooler has become super clingy and always says “he wants me.” It is hard for me to send him away, since I know he just wants love. It makes it even harder to say no, when the baby is clamoring into my lap, begging to be picked up and hugged. Jealousy runs thick with these boys, and I feel as if there is not enough me to go around. I know it’s normal, and next year I will be begging them for hugs and kisses, but for the time being it is emotionally and physically draining to be needed so much. At the end of the day – after spending more than 11 hours a day with these beautiful children – I am ready to sit alone, to recharge the way I like to recharge: good music and a glass of wine. By myself.
Happy New Year: New Blog, New Year
So, what does this mean for you as a reader? Probably nothing. But I do want you to think about what New Years means to you. What I have found, however, that even if I had the worst year possible – I refuse to let it guilt me into trying to create someone or something I cannot be. I do believe in goals and I do believe in changing for the better, however when the goals we set for ourselves are unattainable, it only creates a negative cycle that leads to one place only: disappointment. While disappointment affects us mentally and emotionally, it is not the end of the world. We all make mistakes, and it’s okay.
Now that I am in a place where I am comfortable with myself, with being a mother, and back to teaching the classes, I have decided to focus more on blogging. I don’t know if it means the quantity of posts increase, but I will definitely work on increasing the quality of posts. As a sociologist, a parent, and an educator, it is almost impossible to go through my day without analyzing and critiquing everything and everyone who comes into my life. (If you are reading this and know me personally, don’t be afraid!) I very rarely create hostile environments – in fact I shy away from confrontation – but I utilize every experience I have to guide me in my own self discovery. If anything, ringing in 2015 has encouraged me to focus on myself in a way I have never wanted to: I want to be happy. I want to surround myself with things that make me happy. I want to be with people who make me happy. Here is to a HAPPY New Year!
As a parent, I struggle with finding time for myself. During the last few weeks, while staying with my parents, I have been able to rest and sleep better than I have in months. Last week, I mustered up enough energy to go for a quick “jog” around the neighborhood. Before I continue, there are a few details I must share about the area my parents live. First, the closest grocery store is thirty minutes away. Second, a walk with the children involves a trip to see horses, goats, and turkeys. Finally, it doesn’t matter which route you take, there are hills, hills, and more hills.
I started off on my jog going downhill, which wasn’t so bad, and actually gave me a bit of confidence. I trotted past the horses, crossed the little bridge and before I knew it, I had rounded the bend at the end of the road. Now, I had a decision: either I continue along my path – which would eventually round back to my parents’ place – or I could turn back and trot back up the hill and head home. Since the first part of my jog hadn’t taken too much time or energy, I decided to power on. Before you think I am a hardcore runner, let me clear a few things up. I have not jogged more than two miles in over two years. Also, the last time I strapped up my jogging shoes was over a month ago. So, this spur of the moment jog was driven by no more than hormones and a burst of energy.
I eventually jogged past the goats, many of which waddled their way towards me bleating, as they always did. I started the slow but steady trek up the enormous hill, which seemed to grow larger with every step I took. I now know why they pair the words “uphill” and “battle” together. Going up hills was definitely a battle between my body and my mind. As I reached the top, I noticed the sun begin to set. I reached the top of the hill and sighed in relief as it dipped downwards, giving my legs a short period of rest. For the next twenty minutes, I bounced up and down the hills, skipping through songs on my iPod, trying to stay motivated (and sane). During my entire trip, I saw no cars or vehicles, and only spotted a single person and his canine companion gazing at the setting sun. It was peaceful and quiet, and a little eerie. During the song breaks, I could hear my breath panting and my feet hitting the concrete. I felt like I was in an episode of Criminal Minds (which has been my Netflix guilty pleasure as of late) while shadows crept behind me as the sun dipped below the trees. As I spotted the porch lights at my parents house, I felt my feet run a little faster. Home. I was almost home.
It was calming as I jogged slowly back towards the house. My older sister and my mother sat on the front porch, sipping on wine and waiting for me to return. I couldn’t help but smile at how safe everything felt, despite my childish fears. During this time in my life, with the chaotic situation being “homeless” creates, the simpleness and almost naked nature of farm life couldn’t be more perfect. As I sit here writing this blog post, snuggled into bed with my heated throw, the cows moo in the distance. In just a few short days, I will be back to suburban life, carting my kids back and forth to school and gymnastics; there will be grocery stores and home improvement stores, cleaning and cooking, bills to pay, and Christmas… But, until then, I will enjoy the silence.
Since publishing my last two blog posts about planning my son’s 3rd birthday and my quest to become a better parent, I decided this would be a good time to share my story…
“I’m sorry…but I need help.” Those were some of the hardest words I’ve had to say. I still remember how hard it was to smile and how difficult every simple task was. Now only was I dealing with a newborn, but I had no desire to actually parent. Those of you that know me personally know that I am usually very ambitious and driven – which I thank my parents and family for providing me with many opportunities growing up. However, after the birth of my second child, I was transformed into someone else.
Onward into the haze of parenting
On 8/4/13 at 3:30pm, baby boy #2 was born. He weighed 6 lbs 8 oz and was 19 inches long. I was thrilled! He was not only bigger and longer than our first, but he was not tongue-tied OR jaundiced. The first two weeks postpartum were a dream! My husband took time off, was home helping with the diaper changes and feedings. I was full of energy and LOVED being a mother to two beautiful children. However, the two week “honeymoon” ended too quickly. Even though I was already a parent to a beautiful and smart toddler, I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming neediness of a newborn.
My husband went back to work, the lack of sleep was catching up with me, and my body began to ache from childbirth. The baby was eating every hour to two hours (if I was lucky) and pooped almost just as often. Breastfeeding was not easy for me, despite having breastfed my first son for 15 months. Every day felt longer and longer and the baby’s cries grew louder and louder. I began to stay indoors more during the day, ignored calls and messages and pushed family and friends away. Once my husband was home, I refused to breastfeed the baby. I preferred to pump and let my husband bottle feed him. On the weekends, I pumped enough milk, raced out the door to “run errands” and would spend as much time as I could away from my new baby. When I was home, I would be so angry. Angry at my husband for going to work. Angry at my toddler for wanting to play. Angry at my new baby for wanting to eat. Angry at everyone and everything. And if I wasn’t angry, I was sad. Sad that I couldn’t appreciate my beautiful child. Sad that I wasn’t being a good partner. Sad that I hated being a parent.
Accepting my weakness and finding happiness
During my four-week postpartum visit, they diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I cried and ignored their offer for medication. I thought I could “handle” it myself with exercise and self-care. I was wrong. I felt myself continue to spiral down, deeper and further into depression. I applied for jobs and even went on a job interview in hopes of escaping my new baby. Finally, one night it clicked. I needed help. I emailed my doctor that evening and began to take medication the next day. I finally began to feel “normal.”
It’s hard to believe that three months had passed before I really began to SEE my baby. One morning, while my husband and toddler were still fast asleep, I sat in bed with my baby and we “played.” He smiled and cooed and even tried to laugh as I made funny faces. I couldn’t believe that it had taken me that long to appreciate being a parent again.
Once I began to treat my depression, I started to feel better. I even resumed teaching, which allowed me to get into a semi-normal routine (despite the unpredictable nature of an infant). However, even today, while I am able to leave the house, socialize and feel comfortable in public, there are still days where I would rather avoid public situations where I have to talk to other people. Despite my overall happy days. I still find myself forgetting simple things on a regular basis and have an extremely difficult time concentrating.
Asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH
Now that I feel I am over the hump, I now know how important my husband’s support really is. While he did the best he could (with the information he had), I wish I had thought to give him more resources in the beginning. Even though most resources online are directed towards “dads,” I found this particular article helpful for anyone close to someone experiencing postpartum depression: For Dads: What To Do, What Not To Do. (On a side note, did you know dads can also get postpartum depression?)
The journey has been difficult and to say I am 100% better would be a lie. I have my days where I can’t focus on anything and don’t feel like holding my baby, but there are other days I can’t get enough kisses from my two beautiful loving children. The one thing that keeps me going every morning is the fact that I know this will pass and I will be that ambitious and happy woman again. Until then, I am not ashamed to admit that I needed help.
We all need help from time to time, so whether you are suffering from postpartum depression or are just feeling overwhelmed and stressed out…don’t be afraid to ask for help! You will be surprised at how many people are willing to support you and be there for you.
Patience. We are all expected to have it, but where do we learn it? Or, even better – how do we teach it?
Today, after a long and grueling morning, toting along my sick infant, sick toddler, and sick SELF to Roseville and back, I found my patience dipping dangerously low. Every time my toddler’s voice started to get a liiiiiiittttle high-pitched and whiny, I immediately snapped. I knew he wasn’t feeling well (which he did not hesitate to remind me every few minutes), and I knew I was also feeling ‘under the weather.’ All in all, I wasn’t my best “mommy” to him or my other son, and that was very disappointing, since I chose to be home with my little ones for their first few years.
Flashback: “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
Recently I attended a Positive Parenting workshop with my husband. I went into the workshop thinking it would be for my husband, yet I walked out feeling both motivated and discouraged at the same time. Here I was, thinking I knew everything I knew about being a positive parent. Yet, in moments like today, I realized I had a lot to learn. Why was it so hard to keep my cool? Why couldn’t I recall all that amazing verbiage and techniques we discussed in the workshop? Then I realized something – well actually two things: First, disappointment comes from expectations; when you expect someone to act a certain way, then we are bound to be disappointed. We are all individuals. We all have a mind of our own, with our own opinions, experiences, and feelings. However, disappointment does not have to be a bad thing! Second, disappointment exists, because we care about that other someone. If we were truly selfish people and did not love others, than it would be easy to drop all expectations and therefore be free of disappointment. But what kind of life is that?
Therefore, I have decided I am going to not only practice positive parenting for my children, but also for myself. There are dayslike yesterday where I feel like a big child and want nothing more than to throw my toys and stomp out of the room. But then I remember I am the adult (or at least I am supposed to be…) Sure, I was running on empty and I may have reacted out of frustration, rather than patience. I know how important my behavior is in molding how I want my children to act. I also know that it is still early in their lives and they are open books, which means there is still time to change my behavior and show my children how I want them to be. I truly love, love, LOVE the little people who have the amazing ability to drive me bonkers on a daily basis, which means I am willing to FORGIVE myself for my “bad behavior.”
What is your favorite “positive parenting” technique?
Baby, it’s COLD outside…
February is an important month for my family. My first baby turned 3 on February 1st, and my second baby reached his first “half birthday.” As a second-time parent, I am ashamed to admit I underestimated the power of germs. I thought I was a super-clean person who gets her flu-shot every year AND buys hand-sanitizer by the gallon, yet I have fallen prey to the crazy viruses that circulate households with toddlers and babies. With one child, I had it handled. We washed our hands and weathered out any illness like normal people do – with good food, TV, and REST! However, now that I have two sick kiddos at home, sleep has continued to evade me, both day and night, as I stay up all day trying to get the kiddos to rest and am kept up all night by snotty noses and loud snores (from everyone in the house). What is a tired mom to do?
Okay parents… I know I am expected to write something super motivational and inspiring, but to be honest I am dead-tired and am running off half-eaten cheese sandwiches and squishy apple slices (the remnants of my toddler’s lunch). I am so frustrated and want nothing more than to curl up in bed next to my napping toddler (which is a miracle in itself), but instead I am sitting on my computer tap-tap-taping this blog post with a sleeping baby on my back. But, despite my aching back and tired eyes, I keep reminding myself that this is only a short period in my life and soon the children will be better, I will be better, and we will be back to our normal routine soon.
Arrrrr-gh! Birthday? Pinterest, here I come!
So, on more of an upbeat note! I have been half-hardheartedly planning my toddler’s third birthday party. I am pretty excited for this party, since A. I am not pregnant (like I was during his second birthday) and B. He picked the theme this year. I had no idea that “being three” has made him such a BIG KID (with big ideas, big choices, and big negotiating skills…) We have settled on “Jake and the Neverland Pirate” theme, which means I have a lot of preparing to do!
So, as I scoured Pinterest for “pirate-themed” party ideas, immediately the guilt began to build. It will be rainy on Sunday, so I won’t be able to do any pirate games! Will I have enough time to set-up for his party? Will there be enough food? As anxiety and worry swirled in my mind, I found myself recalling this amazing blog I read last year and it made me stop. Will my child really care if I have cute little pirate ships made out of hot dogs or a watermelon fruit bowl in the shape of a giant boat? No. Will he care if I have pirate-themed games, such as “walk the plank” and “ring toss around a sword”? No. Would he want me to be there with him, spending time with him? YES! It was then that I realized that the party wasn’t for him…it was for me – the parent.
While Pinterest is still the top app opened on my iPhone and is the holder of my idle-mind (and fingers) as I watch TV or wait for my baby to wake up from his nap, I try not to feel the urge to replicate all the amazing crafts and recipes. I still look to Pinterest for clever organizing ideas and sneaky ways to sneak in veggies, but I refuse to let it control how I see myself as a parent. I want to be a good parent to my children, and by being there for them, I know I will be an amazing parent.