For the Moms Who Don’t Love Everything

I’ve noticed a weird trend and I’m not sure if it’s a recent thing or not…

But somewhere there seems to be this idea that we are supposed to look back on every memory of parenthood and miss them… we’re supposed to love the tough moments and the hard days because that’s what good mothers do. Even if, on the rare occasion we’re not loving this particular moment right now, we’ll look back and treasure these precious moments of motherhood. We’ll miss these moments… even the tough ones.

And maybe you will.

But it’s okay if you don’t.

You don’t have to love the 5AM wake up call now, and you don’t have to love it later either.

You don’t have to love pregnancy.

You don’t have to love breastfeeding.

You don’t have to love the Target tantrum or the days you felt like you were stuck in an endless loop between the dishwasher and the washing machine.

You might look back on some days of life with kids and shudder.

You can love your kids without adoring every single habit and quality.

You can love motherhood without relishing every single minute.

But maybe you do, maybe you cry on the first day of kindergarten and miss the midnight breastfeeding snuggles and that’s okay too.  How sentimental you are about these moments, or which moments you do or don’t enjoy about motherhood does not determine how “good” of a mother you are.

There are many aspects to the “mommy wars” but I think that the most upsetting part isn’t parenting styles it’s the HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE IT competition.

I loved being pregnant and I have encouraged moms to find the joy in it… but I understand why it’s not for everyone. If pregnancy isn’t your favorite season of parenting you’re not doomed from the start. I had a miserable time breastfeeding my second and a wonderful time breastfeeding my third but I don’t love them differently as a result. Sometimes raising children can just be difficult. Not “difficult but…” Just difficult.

We accept that we don’t have to love every single part of our lives… why do we set the expectation on ourselves and others to love every single part of parenting?

So, for the moms who don’t love everything I say this:

For better or worse our crappy days are just that. They’re crappy days. You don’t have to love them, you just have to get through them.  And if you’re making it through and doing your best (whatever your best is under the circumstances)… I think that’s good mom enough.

 

Moms who don't love everything about parenting

 

 

Parenting Fail. The Highs and Lows of Stay at Home Mom-ing.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I decided to be at home with the kids more.  I knew they needed it and I needed it. In fact, the first month after I quit both jobs confirmed everything I had been thinking and feeling about staying at home.

Let’s call it the honeymoon phase.

The house was cleaner, the laundry more manageable.  I was able to make time for kids and clients. I even blogged more than I expected.  I was definitely nailing this stay at home thing.

Then February. An abrupt ending to my January honeymoon. Each day I felt like at best I was treading water, at worst I had already drowned and couldn’t admit it.  So far, March hasn’t seemed any less chaotic.  The beginning of last week perfectly illustrated the parenting highs and lows.

Sunday was beautiful. Jeff was exhausted after a long night of kids not sleeping (it usually bothers him more than me), and I was determined to exhaust them so we might get a good night sleep.  So I packed the four of them in the car, left Jeff at home to doze, and took them to a beautiful local park, Maymont.

Maymont 1

We hoofed the entire park (Langston on my back) from the Children’s Farm, through the Japanese Gardens, up the beautiful steps to the Italian gardens, past the mansion, to the visitors center and back to the Children’s Farm to say goodbye to the pig before we left. We had a great time, and the kids were happy and exhausted. Sunday was a parenting high.

Maymont 2.JPG

Monday came around. I got the kids off to school, and was getting ready for a catch up day when I went to change Langston’s diaper.  I got distracted by a messed up trash bag and in an instant, Langston flipped off the table. I picked him up to hug him before realizing blood was pouring from his mouth; a bottom tooth was out and dangling, root and all. We rushed off to a somewhat-nearby Pediatric ER (at a hospital which I knew happened to also have a dentistry practice), and I found myself standing there, unshowered and barely dressed, with a busted up baby, a shattered phone (which I had broken on Saturday) held together with scotch tape, and a two year old who was wedging himself between a side table and a waiting room chair.

infant fall lost baby tooth.JPG

WHY WAS I ALLOWED TO HAVE CHILDREN?

It just seems inhumane.

We went home, one tooth down from a set of 6; I was utterly exhausted. This was definitely a parenting low.

Tuesday rolled around and I was determined to redeem the day before. The kids were off from school, so I’d planned a great day at the zoo, a trip to Toys R Us and other fun stuff. Except nobody was excited about the zoo. One child (who will remain nameless) had been particularly sour the past couple of days, and  even stepped it up a few notches… but it wasn’t just him. In fact everyone was so uncooperative, difficult, and just plain nasty that I completely lost it. LOST. IT.  Lost it.  I yelled. Loudly. At my children. About the zoo.  They cried. I cried. It was a mess. Evidently, while trying to balance a growing list of things demanding my attention,  I had been missing some big stuff bothering one of the boys. Parenting really, really low.

We took deep breaths, had a good talk, hugged a lot, and told each other we loved each other a lot. We made pancakes. We went to the zoo. We saw baby animals. We laughed. We had fun. We were on our way back up again.

metro richmond zoo

feed giraffes metro richmond zoo

 

The house is still a mess, and I’m behind on a lot of things (like this very blog).  I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few uneventful days.  In fact, I could use an uneventful month… The reality of stay-at-home/work-at-home parenting has proven to be much bumpier than I expected. So, I’m trying to hold a tight grip on the things that matter while I ride out some of these highs and lows.

Ps. Still doing dishes in the bathroom sink.  Big update coming soon.

Saying Yes

Last night I sat and helped my 9 year old sort over 500 Pokemon cards by type. I colored.  I played “mama bomb and baby bomb” with my 7 and 2 year old.

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Chaos at the dinner table. If you’ve ever sorted Pokemon cards then you know a glass of wine is absolutely required.

I would love to say that I always show interest in Pokemon… but I don’t. And it’s been awhile since I’ve played with stuffed animals.   I’m very good at saying “no”. No, I’m feeding the baby/doing the dishes/laundry/working/cooking/reading… I can’t right now.

And recently, my 2 year old said something to me that broke my heart.

“I’m busy.”

I don’t want to be a parent that says no. I want to be a parent that says yes. I’m great at saying yes to the things I already enjoy; I’ll sit and color and talk with them for days. When one of the kids asked for cookies, I got out the ingredients and baked them from scratch… but I’m not sure that really counts.

Yes, I will help you with that thing/watch that terrible show/read that book for the 100th time/play a game I know nothing about/listen to you talk about that thing that bores me to absolute tears.

I can’t always say yes. After all, the things I’m busy doing are usually  important (though, admittedly, not always).  But I can say yes more.

“Yes” when I really want to say no.  “Yes” when it’s easier to say no. “Yes” when I have to make the conscious effort to shut the computer/put down the phone/leave the dishes half done/leave the house unswept and follow their lead.

 

I always end up being glad I did it. After all, who knows… I may even learn a little bit about Pokemon along the way.

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The Not So Picture Perfect Christmas.

It’s Christmas time!!

Time for visits with Santa, sleigh rides, hot cocoa by the fire. Chopping down a Christmas tree, tying it to the roof and singing carols all the way home. Smiling children baking cookies for family members and on the cover of Christmas cards…

… uh. Kinda.

Baking Christmas cookies chaos

The start of the Christmas season at the Cole house looks a little more like this:

– Bins full of Christmas decorations taking up a giant chunk of our postage stamp sized living room.

– Replacing the fireplace only to find it has missing parts.

– Trying to get a picture of the kids in front of our Christmas tree at the lot and not getting a single one with the kids standing still or looking at the camera.

– Someone yelling “I don’t like this music” in response to the 12 Days of Christmas on the radio.

– A child who is terrified of Santa. TERRIFIED.

– A two year old that needs a nap.

– Someone throwing an absolute fit in the car on the way to see Christmas lights.

– Cutting out sugar cookies and then immediately balling up the dough to do it again.

– A fight over the rolling pin.

– Burning said cookies.

– Nobody is wearing a shirt.

– Don’t even get me started on the photo holiday cards. It’s not happening, folks.

Over the years I’ve found that all my attempts to create a stock photo moment of the holidays tend to fail.

Finally I’ve learned to take it in a different direction. As a family of 6 ( plus 2 dogs and a cat) it’s time I surrender to the Christmas Chaos.

Crazy Kids Baking Christmas Cookies Chaos

I should have known better, but those stock photos put together and taken with insta-worthy-pinterest-perfection just aren’t real (at least not for us). But you know, I just don’t care.

We’ll still put icing on our burned cookies. There will be cocoa (complete with schnapps).  At least one of our 4 kids will sit on Santa’s lap. Eventually, we’ll fix up the fireplace and enjoy an evening by the fire (for a minute or two). The photo Christmas cards are still not happening… but who knows, maybe this year we’ll send out a pack of cards we picked up on our 289th trip to Target.

The holidays, I’ve found, are best served up with a nice helping of reality check and a glass of wine.  My kids are making memories whether I have the perfect photo of them or not. If I try to control their fun to make it look picture perfect or hold a perfect pose, I won’t have fun and neither will they.  What good is a beautiful photo if everyone is stressed out about it?

Over the years I’ve learned that the holidays are much more fun when you embrace what it is…

The magic of Christmas Chaos.

Teaching My Kids To Quit

Teaching Kids to QuitIn second grade, my son tested into a Center-Based Gifted program after a recommendation from his teacher.  The program was offered by the county and transportation was provided, and it required a lot of shuffling and some sacrifices for our family, but he decided to give it a shot.

Third grade at his new school proved to be a tough transition. It wasn’t the work necessarily, or the school itself, or the other kids, or the teacher. In fact, it was hard to pin point one thing in particular that made him miserable. Even after working hard and making the honor roll, he still wasn’t happy.

Each morning I told him that there are times in our life that are tough. There are obstacles in our way. There are people who are difficult to deal with.  I told him this year would teach him a  valuable lesson in how to overcome challenges.

In September, he gave Center-Based Gifted another try for fourth grade. Each morning the same pep talk: work hard, be tough, don’t give up, you can do it.  And each day he became more miserable than the last.

One morning he looked at me and simply said, “I’m not going.”

And I no longer believed the pep talk.

I laid out his options and let him decide what he wanted to do; a day later we were switching back to his old school.

We value tenacity so much in our culture. We value hard work and perseverance because those qualities are important for success.

But sometimes it’s empowering to quit.  It’s important to know when it’s time to switch tracks and move onto something else.  Sometimes, you have to cut your losses, call it quits and be ready to tackle something else.

Last week he brought home a stack of tests with A’s on them.  But more important than the grades, he has come back to life.  He’s happy again. Immediately after making the switch, it was as if a weight had lifted off his shoulders.

And really, looking at it objectively, the drawbacks were outweighing the benefits.  He saw that.  I didn’t.

So, I guess the lesson here is, never give up… until it’s time to quit.

 

 

The Not So Supermom Days

The Supermom moments. I’ve had those. The days where I’ve gotten 5 things done before work, the kids sent off to 2 different schools on time, tackled tasks at work, made great sales at work and established relationships with clients, came home to a gorgeous husband who has cooked dinner for me (or maybe I made it ahead that morning in the crock pot) the children are (relatively) clean and homework is done.  Max and Hudson hide and jump out to “surprise” me and greet me with hugs. We sit together and eat dinner. We cuddle at night while I read them stories and they (eventually) go to sleep.

Flash to this morning.  Somehow we’re all running late. I’m on day 3 with no sleep. Max is recovering from a combination of pink eye, an ear infection and a cold. Hudson who threw up the day before is sluggish.  We’ve missed the bus, I pile the kids in the car and shuttle them to Max’s school only to realize it’s 8:45 and they don’t let any students in until 9.  At this point, I will have no time to get Hudson to school and myself ready for work. We make a quick drive back to the house, I leave the kids in the car as I dash inside to throw some food from the pantry into a lunchbox for Hudson, I grab his tote bag and pull out all the work I never looked at from the day before. There is some kind of newsletter in there. I hope it’s not important. I throw some make up in a bag and take it with me. Back in the car. Max just sneezed and yellow snot pours down his face. Back inside for a tissue. On our way to school. I’m not sure where they typically drop kids off from school but Max instructs me (I have no clue how he knows.) A kind teacher is there to greet him with an umbrella. It’s raining and Max isn’t wearing a coat. He hands me his wad of dirty tissues and waves good-bye. Off to Hudson’s school.  Somehow along the way, perhaps when shoving my pregnant calves into a pair of brown boots the zipper pops leaving a gaping hole exposing my grey striped socks.  I slap some make up on in the parking lot of Hudson’s preschool from the bag I brought, smearing a little lipstick on my cheeks in lieu of blush. I am sure it’s just a little too much. My hair has frizzed out thanks to the rain, my sock is still exposed and I’m not entirely sure that my clothes match.  I struggle with my boot zipper as I’m getting out of the car and helping Hudson into school.
The teacher informs me that she’ll be calling about Hudson’s behavior in class.
Fantastic.
I get back in the car. it’s 9:30 and I already want to call it quits.
I remember two things, the boys didn’t get their medicine and I didn’t pack myself a lunch.  Too late now because I’m off to work.  Late.

Things continue to deteriorate from there.

I get phone calls and texts

Jeff is feeling sick.

Hudson cried that it was not me who picked him up from school, he is also sick.

Max has cried because he was not able to play with his friends.

Meanwhile, I faced some of the rudest customers I’ve ever had.

At the end of the day I take the last minute of the work day right after locking the doors to hide in a dressing room to allow myself a few tears before collecting myself and my things and heading home.

I get home at 6:30 and gorgeous husband is asleep, Hudson is just waking up from a late nap and grumpy and Max barely turns from the TV to say hello. My poor exhausted mother-in-law tells me she doesn’t know how I do it before heading out the door.

I reach into a bag and pull out a cold hamburger I had delivered to work at 3:00 after scraping together some cash (since the boys doctors appointment and medicines left my bank account with $90 to be desired). I had not gotten a chance to eat it until now.
Today (and yesterday, and the day before) was not a Supermom day. Tomorrow may also not be a Supermom day. In fact, I feel like this week will probably be a wash when it comes to Supermom days.
But that’s alright.

I suppose I could pretend like today didn’t happen, focus this blog and my attention more on the Supermom days…

But we’ve all had some version of this day. Or at least, I like to think we do. In fact, I have had many.

And despite my miserable failure of a day, (or week as it may be) as I sit and eat a mushy burger (which was probably delicious at 3) I remind myself that it’s not about either the super or the not-so-super days.

Despite my failings (and I have many) I’ve got a couple of little people who want nothing more than my love and attention. I have a beautiful (albeit small and frequently messy) house and that is more than some. A cold burger to eat and clean water to drink.  And a husband who has a good enough sense of humor to love me.

So tonight I sleep (hopefully all night) and tomorrow I give it another go.

Maybe we’ll even make the bus.