Last week marked a milestone for me — I’ve been blogging for a year about being a mom! I started this blog because kids are funny, parenting is challenging, and it’s a nice feeling knowing that you’re not the only person who has been projectile-vomited on because your baby gagged on a piece of mashed nectarine, or who felt like it took longer to bond with their second child than it did with the first.
I like to write, and unlike the writing I do for work, which is all about things like the automation wonders of chicken counters (Did you know that newborn chicks actually double in size in just about three hours, making it harder for you to count them?? You can take THAT little nugget of information to your next adults-only function. You’re welcome), blogging about my misadventures in parenting is much more fun.
Don’t get me wrong, my work writing pays my bills, but my blog writing makes me feel like I’m supported by a community of people all who have done this, or something very similar to this. That sense of community, from people commenting saying they know exactly how I’m feeling, or offering advice because they went through a similar situation, all makes me feel not so … crazy … or inept … or both.
It’s a little shocking that a year has come and gone so fast. My life from a macro perspective hasn’t changed much. Husband and I are doing the same jobs, we live in the same house. But oh yeah, we DID double our offspring!
At six months old, my sweet Bean is really starting to reveal her multi-layered and complex personality, giving us little peeks into what she’s thinking.
The more obvious changes have been with Monkey as she sheds the vestiges of “Toddler” and moves ever closer to the “Preschool” category. We’ve left the silverware- and cup-throwing stage and officially entered the “Why” stage — I have a feeling this is going to provide me with A LOT of blog material.
While my kids are changing, one thing about parenting that hasn’t changed is the mommy guilt. Or maybe it’s really mommy doubt.
Why do moms have so much self doubt?
My latest mommy doubt centers around Bean’s Rhesus monkey screaming and these articles that Elizabeth Pantley keeps posting about babies “crying it out” at bedtime. Apparently new research shows that periods of unattended crying releases the stress hormone cortisol and that this is toxic to a baby’s developing brain, with possible permanent negative effects.
Now, I know that letting Bean sit on the floor screaming for two minutes while I help Monkey pull up her underwear is not exactly the same as letting my baby cry herself to sleep, but I still can’t help but wonder. Are these periods of her screaming her head off for a couple of minutes at a time throughout the day irretrievably harming her??? Is she afraid that I won’t respond to her needs?
I know, I’m probably overreacting. So sue me. To quote Father of the Bride a la Steve Martin, “I come from a long line of major overreacters.”
I get that Elizabeth Pantley has a vested interest in convincing everyone that “no cry” is the way to go so she can sell her books. AND, I still feel bad when I’m not attending to my screaming infant to care for my other child and it makes me wonder if I’m harming her.
(And readers, if you do use a cry-it-out method, please know that just because it’s not something I’m comfortable with, doesn’t mean I’m making a judgment against you. Everyone has to do what’s best for their family).
I’ve also been wondering lately if I’m “living in the moment,” enough. Can it ever be enough? There are so many tiny, itty bitty moments with the kids throughout the day, the afternoon, even the span of an hour, that I think — I have to remember that. The way they laughed. The way she said her name in a funny southern accent. The way Bean looked when she had that first bite of fresh zucchini. Will I remember these things? Or will I just remember in a general sense that they were happy, silly, goofy and laughed a lot? Does taking pleasure in these moments mean that I’m being present in their day and living it to the fullest? That I’m appreciating them enough? Does it make up for the frustration I feel on some days?
These are universal mommy guilt questions. Maybe not these exact same scenarios, but there’s kind of a formula. Fill-in the blank scenario yields mom asking:
Am I a bad mom?
Am I doing “enough?”
Do my kids know I love them?
Will my kids remember having a happy childhood?
Now before anyone thinks I might need to be committed to a pysch ward, let me say that I *think* what I’m experiencing is a normal amount of mommy guilt. It fluctuates on a day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis. Ninety-five percent of the time I feel like a good mom and am secure and confident in my abilities. Sometimes I even think I’m the greatest mom on Earth … and then inevitably there are days when I feel like I’m not doing a very good job.
We’ll never get rid of the mom guilt completely. My own mother assures me of that. She just keeps saying, “Wait until the teenage years.” Whatever that means. I don’t particularly remember making her feel guilty. But apparently, I DID.
So let’s take a collective deep breath and try something to help relieve the mommy guilt. Or, if you are COMPLETELY relaxed and nonplussed when it comes to the whole parenting thing then this will just boost your ego more!
Here’s my idea: I think we should start writing down five parenting things we did well or are proud of in a week. It’s so easy to get stuck in the things we didn’t do: the tasks we didn’t get accomplished, the fact that we served peanut butter and jelly for dinner because we didn’t have time for anything else, or that there were two baskets of clean kids’ clothes sitting in the family room for 10 days (10 DAYS!) that I never folded and then my mother-in-law came over and she did it. True story.
For example, for me it would look like:
- I made homemade baby food for the first time! Yay me! I don’t know if I’ll keep doing it, but it was nice to do foods that you can’t find in the store, like zucchini and strawberries. Oh, and those aforementioned nectarines.
- Monkey and I made cookies together. She loves to bake with me.
- I’ve started telling Monkey on almost a daily basis that I’m really happy to be her mama. She lights up when I say it.
- I showed Monkey a map and started pointing out different cities and states where our loved ones live.
- We got Bean’s six-month pictures taken and pulled out all the stops to get the teething girl to smile.
What does your list look like this week?
Thanks for reading my humble blog. You have no idea how much I appreciate the comments, the shared laughs, the advice, and above all, the community of support.