A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: personal acceptance

The Not So Sham of SHAMing

Before the idea of having children of my own, I remember repeating the very line that so many utter: Remaining home to rear children is the most difficult employment commitment one can choose.  While this is true, I guess, there is so much about it that escapes all of the nods I participated in.

To answer the question of what I must do all day; sometimes I don’t know, yet the day ends and somehow my children are sleeping. I suppose that’s the point; our days can be filled with anything, and it is entirely on my shoulders to consider. And, really, when declaring the difficulty of the SHAMing pursuit, it isn’t so much the schedule or the explicit childcare needs, but the complete ambiguity of my existence.

Having two small children in tow throughout every day without a break, regardless of any ailment that might consume me, can be grueling. It can be even more so knowing that my child care duties often continue into the evening despite a very involved, supportive, and helpful husband; but so long has this been my life that my former freedoms no longer whisper their truths. In the beginning the tasks were a sudden torrent of immediacy, but the winds died sooner than I expected, and the isolation and loneliness remained.

As elated to have my son with me, I wasn’t prepared for the lack of human contact and complete blank slate my life became so suddenly. On the one hand I loved my time with Little Man; on the other the vacancy of an outside world carried an oppressive weight, but I was too sleep deprived to consider how to remedy my situation. Fortune smiled on me, and I did not succumb to postpartum mental health issues, but I didn’t quite escape a rut of who I was now that my individual importance diminished caring for an infant.

The intensity of my struggles with the transition is likely due to how very sure of my identity I was prior to Little Man’s appearance. Forced to forego my previous career as I knew it pushed me to reinvent myself when I was so very enamored with who I had been. But, aside from recognizing my shift in identity, I had no notion of what a reinvention should look like. My choices seeming vast, much like each day before me.

But, I managed, and by the time my son was eighteen-months-old with a daughter on the way, I entered an inroad for some notion of my new identity. My toddler almost two-and-a-half years old, I almost don’t recognize the woman returning my gaze in the mirror. She is stronger, more empathic, more content and joyful, and astoundingly more ambitious. So trite that my life isn’t about me anymore. It isn’t solely about my children either, as society assumes to be the case. My vantage point is more panoramic. My thoughts drift to my legacy and the path for the humans I birthed who will inhabit the sands I leave behind. With all of my human service involvement it took having my children to understand both notions of humanity and servitude, and with that understanding I found who I am meant to be, even if my story is only a prologue as I write this.

But, as gratifying as my process feels much of the time, I am unable to shirk awkward conversations among strangers and mixed company. When asked, how do I explain my conventionally unconventional occupation? My halted and insecure acknowledgment of remaining home often met with an immediate and ungraceful termination of conversation.

Image result for uncomfortable confused face

(“So, you say you do nothing productive with your time?”)

I often feel a compulsion to explain the choice to stay at home or describe the other pieces of my existence: the writing, the volunteering, the consulting. But, it all seems so complicated and unofficial that tending to my children full-time is my default answer.

Like many of the SHAMming mothers I speak with, my most withering challenges aren’t the concrete trials of caring for my children, but rather the all consuming uncertainty of my daily rigmarole. What does it mean to rear a good person, yet tend to my self-preserving needs, all the while in the throws of life interfering?

It is finally an honest answer that I wouldn’t trade any piece of my choice to stay home. I love it. I love the time. I love the experiences. I love who I am because of this choice, even when it isn’t quite so lovely.

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Having it All, When You Don’t Have it All

I never wanted to get married. According to my philosophy college major self, the institution is outdated and a mere social construct. Marriage is oppressive, and I wanted to be free. I loved dating, and meeting new and like minded pretentious people. Then I graduated and suddenly found myself thrust into the adult social pool. I hated dating with such a vehement passion, having scores of stories to show for it. Only now are they funny. I suppose for some the institution is nothing more than the very outdated social construct I presumed all those years ago, but I met my perfect partner in crime. Our shared life is filled with humor above all things, and it carries us through our dichotomous trying times.

Our relationship spans just shy of fifteen years. We found each other when I was lost, struggling through things common for those floundering through their twenties, as well as encountering challenges mostly whispered by friends of friends. While I don’t believe another person can save me, my husband is my trite but true boulder. When we joined paths, I stabilized and dared to become a person.

Over the years I found my ambition, our union giving me the strength to take risks I never imagined awaited me. I’m proud of my professional accomplishments, but the decision to have children was always something so far away…until it wasn’t.

I was unexpectedly out of work just before becoming pregnant with Little Man. The plan was to work part-time, but plans are designed to be unfulfilled. My current path unfathomably different.

I read other mommy blogs and assorted online published pieces. Sometimes the thread of having it all described; its impossibility mostly. Two years and four months after my son joined our outside world and the addition of a rapidly growing sprite; I can finally say that I managed the SAHM purple unicorn.

Pre Little Man I craved the ambition of power and authority as a symbol of my success. My ambition changed raising my children, but surprisingly the same desire continues to burn indigo within me, maybe even stronger and more focused. However, to have my all I’ve had to consider what it entails beyond the superficial employment ranking. I have sponges absorbing their ocean now. I have precious little time for myself, squirreling my opportunity nuts when I have a thirty minute feast. Some days I rely on my surprising efficiency to accomplish some small task in an impossibly scant amount of uninterrupted free time.

Staying at home I see the world through separate eyes, and while I don’t want my identity to be solely with regard to others, I can’t escape their impact on they way I envision my unique identity. My all is about nurturing my ambition. Rank doesn’t hold the same promise of importance anymore. I concern myself with impact over position. After seemingly endless false starts, I found the avenues for the good work and impact I need to feel fulfilled. I can leave my small mark on humanity with the little time I have for myself. The best piece of having this all is that I see endless possibility with the opportunities I managed to discover, and maybe for the first time excited about the journey over the destination.

 

Is SAHMing a Gymnastic Event?

I had a morning the other day that left me feeling as though I absolutely kill it as a stay-at-home mom.  My daughter woke up just shy of 6.30, making almost nine hours of straight sleep.  She is pretty much four-months old, and if this is what her regression will look like, I say, “Yes, please.”  I managed twenty minutes of exercise before the Warrior Queen requested her breakfast.  Unfortunately, I fed her just as Little Man greeted his day.  Thirty minutes of bottle time, left my son on the edge of his patience.  I generally shower before retrieving him, but not this day.

The morning routine was all over the place.  All the required tasks before our outing were completed with amazing efficiency, but in such a random order I felt like surely we would be late leaving the house.  My son behaved himself with independent occupation for the duration of my tasks, and  not one toy was launched into our kitchen sink that rivals Mr. Man’s dog stuffed animal that missed its calling as a Center for Disease Control sample.  Usually when I have the capability to complete all of the mundane tasks that a toddler finds excruciatingly boring, there is a gift waiting for me in his diaper that I pretend isn’t there, so my immediate chores can be completed…or so I can use the restroom.  But, with increasing frequency, my son will be wonderfully behaved without harboring a fugitive.  Maybe the plethora of time-outs he’s earned over the past several months and the end of the nap stand-off finally allow me to reap some reward.

Even taking my shower with the almost two-and-a-half year old Little Man roaming the upstairs somewhat freely was reasonably uneventful.  He only flushed the toilet once while I was scouring baby residue off my person, and helped me restore his entire bookcase of literature and toys he emptied onto the floor with marvelous efficiency.

But, my unicorn of a morning did not end there.  I managed to feed Mr. Man freshly made eggs and toast and throw together a spur of the moment pasta salad from scratch.  For those new to my work, food is extremely important to me, and knowing that I was flowing through my discombobulated morning without delaying incident, yet highly aware I missed my breakfast, motivated me to take along something a bit more tasty and substantial than my usual gallivanting feast assortment.

After each accomplishment around the house, I waited to be hailed upon by other shoes.  The snoozing Warrior Queen was bound to awaken suddenly and spew the contents of an entire bottle, and provide an additional far reaching spray all over me just after I change her, right?  Little Man would surely manage to open the bathroom door for the first time and dismantle the toilet I forgot to flush, right?  I kept waiting for my luck to end, but it never did.  I loaded all of us into the car, and we were off precisely when we needed to be.  I even managed to purchase my favorite tea beverage, at a drive-through, of course.  When we arrived at our magic play place without incident, I couldn’t believe the car accident I anticipated didn’t materialize.

But, as I changed Warrior Queen’s diaper with my son roaming the family style restroom; his still small, but growing hands plunging into the toilet water and his sister increasingly unhappy with her lady parts exposed, it occurred to me my miraculous morning wasn’t idyllic.  Some might call it a rushed shit show.  Upon further reflection, either I’ve adjusted to having two small blessed beings in my life to the point of ignoring the annoying mishaps that otherwise would prompt me to tear off my face, or my threshold for happiness is pathetically low.

The Buddy System

My husband and I were talking last night about how we became accustomed to the fairly profound change of having a young child; well, I was speaking of the transformation.  My husband was partially lamenting about not having time for himself any longer once he enters our homestead.  A part of me shares that lament, but I’ve been at home with my soon-to-be two-year-old so long that much of the independence I gave up is a very distant memory.  I also have the benefit of the end of my second pregnancy to haze any productive use of my nostalgia.

It isn’t so much that my husband was complaining; most of the facets of our son’s loud plod through his life are things he loves and embraces, giving purpose and unique happiness to his existence.  But, there is the constancy of care and attention that can drain as much as it bolsters.

As I mentioned, I’m used to it.  There are very few moments that are solely my own.  Sure, I have the daily nap time…assuming my kid doesn’t decide to take Mommy’s bad day and increase it ten-fold by forfeiting this one meager break that cascades into an avalanche of awesomeness until it is late enough to bid him goodnight.  But, when all goes as “planned,” I amaze myself with how much my life’s changed, and how little I think back to the way it was.  This was not the case during the first year.  Maybe I’ve finally found myself along the way, or at least enough of myself to feel comfortable with uncertainty.

While I most definitely appreciate my Saturday free time, it occurred to me during the conversation that my Saturdays don’t hold the same desperation they did in the beginning.  I find myself not having the dramatic personality transformation after that single extended break.

The Warrior Queen may be born in as little as three weeks, and I wonder what it will be like, aside from the predictable sleep deprivation and all the spousal and life hatred that brings.  Little Man was my first for so many things, but my daughter will be my first with me as a person as well as Mommy.

The Simple Truths of a Cover Girl

There are certain things I do as maintenance, which is my code for small physical upkeep that consists of vanquishing Bubbe from the old country by waxing my eyebrows and mustache or clipping my toe and fingernails.  If I manage a haircut before it becomes reminiscent of a shag carpet that’s been trampled upon for decades, so much the better.

I’m not particularly vain, but I don’t like to look horrible either.  Sometimes it’s a struggle to feel good; the weeks I’ve been experiencing as of late with a relentless cycle of tenacious, albeit relatively mild, illness reminds me of that.  Mommyhood is hard in simultaneously trite and inexplicable ways; the grind easily apparent on my face from time-to-time.  Exceedingly sensitive skin interferes with my ability to wear make-up, so a sleepless night or two becomes the following day’s black luggage.  With all the pleasure and joys the experience of primary caregiving brings, it saddens me that the toll becomes more perceptible to the world than the better person I’ve become from this new life.  And, while I am not necessarily concerned about judgment, I’m not comfortable that the struggles might be more obvious to the world than the peace and beauty of my experiences.

Since my son was born almost two years ago, I think back to what helped pull me through the initial consumption quagmire of his external life, knowing this will be my reality once again in a few scant months.  I’m sure I should say that the blessing of my beautiful newborn son carried me through sleep deprivation and other jarringly unpleasant conditions; the pressure of such expected jubilations are an undercurrent to part of the harsh reality for a mother caring for an infant in the first months.  On some level combustible joy exists, but on many others a cloud of regret and fear hovers not all that far off.

But, perhaps oddly, when my hair was fixed and my nails were short just the way I like them; when my lip and eyebrows are waxed, and the most alluring aspects of my shadowed, sleep deprived complexion; I feel a certain strength and loveliness about the pulls of the experience.  There are other important efforts for my self-care that are pivotal in my enjoyment of my Mommydom journey, but these simple, controllable pleasures are profound constants for me.

Pursuing a Diverse Diet of Fruit

This was not going to be my next blog topic, but I find myself, once again, perseverating on what to do with myself that doesn’t involve an eighteen-month-old appendage.

A bit of history, I was unemployed when I was pregnant, and kept myself busy with volunteering opportunities that were not all that engaging, but they engulfed time, and I had the freedom to waste my time as I saw fit.  Pregnancy was a type of limbo holding tank; the consumption of parenting unknown in every possible respect, and I drove myself crazy.  I decided that I would pursue part-time employment because that is what every mother who has the option should choose, right?  Because I wasn’t already working somewhere I loved, considering full-time work carried my personal judgment that I would be a terrible person if I made such a choice; we don’t need what would amount to my paltry income when staying at home was the more appropriate, noble choice.  Mind you, I don’t have such a judgment of other women who choose full-time work for any reason; perhaps it was because I was so ambivalent about having my own children for so long that choosing a role as primary caregiver would convince others and myself that I was invested.  Regardless, the choice was made, and finding someone willing to hire a pregnant woman even part-time was elusive, so I remained unemployed and the interesting positions available ceased to appear.

Time trudged; my son was born, and the first year of Mommying was spent with moment to moment things.  The gods of good social fortune blessed me with valuable friendships through that time, something I was hard pressed to find in the fifteen years I’ve been living here.  I organized a new mom social group and waited; for what I still can’t say.

Staying at home has a strange internal clock.  I took up this blog at a transition toward normalcy that I only vaguely understood, but craved it nonetheless.  No longer could I say there was a blur of infant tasks to accomplish that absorbed every ounce of brain power I possessed.  My little man was growing, and I eventually exhibited coherent thought that couldn’t be denied by anyone…mostly…as well as the ability to actually plan a dinner.  Yes, the times were changing.  My friends and I stopped meeting quite so frequently as they experienced similar personal drives.

I’ve written about it, but not as often as I consider it, probably because I actually have readers, and no one wants to read pages upon pages of self-important whining even if my struggle is the same struggle of so many Mommies over.

The core question is, “Who am I?”  In some respects my future is a blank slate, which is horrifying or at least unsettling despite the envy of some for the liberating possibilities, even if they aren’t entirely limitless.  It occurred to me, last night actually, that my personal endeavors outside of raising my wonderful little boy are not as vacant as I’ve managed to convince myself all this time, and it has been, and will likely continue to evolve as all dynamic things do.

I think part of the problem with how I’ve considered my pursuits are that I label them as needing to fulfill requirements I’ve made up, but have no real bearing on anything real.  For so much time I only considered my work legitimate if it adhered to a specific schedule outside the home and I was receiving monetary compensation for my toiling.  I guess if I decide to ever run for a political office, no one can say that I’m not an American…  But, if I stop minimizing my fairly recent accomplishments and look through a larger lens, I’ve managed to meet much of my need for independence while living an example that make me proud that I am a human with the capacity to help improve the world in my small way, as well as enjoy and challenge myself at the same time regardless of the lolls that inevitably transpire throughout this process.

As I said, things are ever evolving, but what I’m living is more than dreams; I’m managing to take risks and do things that are new and interesting, and I feel confident they will lead to somewhere unknown and unexpected down the road.  I’ve been talking around the particulars, but I think we are all friends or at least friendly acquaintances by now, so perhaps the specifics are prudent at this point.

Obviously I’m writing.  This blog has proved more popular than I ever envisioned it would be.  I always assumed this would be a document to aide my memory and perhaps help or entertain a person here and there, yet I have a small, steadily growing following despite my limited exposure and publicizing; a far cry from reaping financial benefit, but why not call this expenditure of time a success?  Even if my readership does not flourish from here, I’ve found a voice that I’ve never particularly had, and that has value…and witnesses…  Along a similar vein, a few months ago I started writing short stories and submitting them to contests.  I’ve had dreams of having something published since college, but I never had the determination nor courage to set finger to key.  And, true, my chances are probably slim in winning one of these literary magazine contests, but an editor sent me a very kind unsolicited rejection last night.  I did not make the finals, but she liked my story quite a bit.  Again, no financial gain, but, wow, I never envisioned something like that either, so maybe someday I will be in print after all…and a check wouldn’t be so bad either…

Then there are my longtime, consistent passions.  For a couple of years now I’ve been an educational consultant and adovate for disadvantaged families, and even though I’ve had several cases, I have difficulty claiming it as an occupation because I don’t accept payment.  Perhaps it is strange to dismiss my work because there is no financial gain, merely a human one…  I’ve had the privilege of helping struggling families form clarity and a plan that is in the best interest of their child.  It seems I have been successful, so when people ask what I do, why can’t I tell them that?  I don’t know.  I’ve enforced a narrow dogma to myself that because the opportunity that would lead to financial reimbursement has not been what I had hoped thus far, the rest of my work cannot be declared as legitimate.  I’m trying to convince myself such thoughts are foolishness as ardently as my conviction that success must be traditional…and paying…

Even more recently I’ve started volunteering through an agency that provides pschoeducational groups and educational classes/tutoring for the Department of Corrections.  This opportunity is developing at a vertigo inducing rate, and the most frustrating for me, probably because I want this so much that it resonates in my mouth every time I think about the possibilities.  My work with the agency started as one thing, and has rapidly changed course in a timeframe that could conceivably be calculated in days, albeit it would be a tad cumbersome.  At this juncture I’ve written a few different group and class curricula, one I want desperately to teach myself.  However, even if the process becomes too complicated to achieve fruition, I managed to impress people with my creations, which is satisfying…granted not as satisfying as formal program approval would be…  At the end of the day, the constant evolution I find myself in with this particular investment will likely have me tutoring small groups of inmates a couple of evenings a week in reading comprehension and expository writing remediation for the new HiSET exam, which is close in some respects to the whole class literacy program I hope to run someday before God retires.  Eventually part of the tutoring responsibility will include supporting other tutors, creating curricula, and likely some program development once this matures from a seed to a sapling.  Again, I won’t receive a paycheck for my work, but I will have the rare schedule outside my home and participate in one of my deepest passions in life.

All of this in maybe the last six months, so why do I torment myself with the fallacy of personal stagnation?  Admittedly, this isn’t ideal on every count, but my next pursuit is to give myself permission to enjoy the fruits of quite a bit of labor and the patience to know that nothing is an end unless I determine it is.

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