The past two months have been a blur. My heart has been full and at the same time I’ve felt hopeless at times in my ability to ever be a fun mom again. Before Cora was born I felt adventurous and accomplished, but at soon as we brought her home I was met with circumstances that I was not expecting.
I didn’t expect Cameron to throw fits and argue constantly for the first three weeks. I could tell he didn’t like being at home all the time. He was used to having more interactions with friends and more activities outside the house. He was used to getting more attention from me. A few times on the way home from preschool he told me that he didn’t want to go home. Stab me in the heart little man, stab me in the heart.
I didn’t expect my house to be so chaotic at times. I’m a fairly organized person (understatement) and I could feel my standards being washed out to sea and I swam like mad for a while to try and get them back.
I didn’t expect to have a baby girl who cried all evening, most evenings, making it almost impossible to spend any time with my husband. Some nights, literally two minutes after Jon walked in the door, she would go from calm and quiet to crying. On average the crying would last about three hours until she was asleep for the night. One of us would take on the toddler while the other paced around the house, rocking an upset baby girl. I wondered how my husband and I were ever going to feel like friends again if we never had any quality time together.
I didn’t expect to feel an overwhelming anxiety at times about messing it all up. It wasn’t all that uncommon for me to have a brief crying spell sometime within an hour or two of waking up, some days even more throughout the day, when I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with the demands associated with keeping two small humans alive.
I didn’t expect to have a pinball machine for a brain; feeling like as soon as I started to do one thing I was interrupted by another. I didn’t expect to feel so physically exhausted considering I was in pretty good shape. Hunching over to nurse and carrying around a newborn can drain the energy out of anyone I think. I didn’t expect to feel so torn when both kids needed something at the same time and I was forced to choose which one to focus on first.
Call me crazy, but I really didn’t expect having two kids to be all that different from having one. Not that I should have expected the worst, but I should have expected for things to be MUCH different once the new baby arrived. That way maybe I could have embraced a bit more of the crazy.
Catching a theme? There were a lot of things I just did not expect. And to top it off I was upset at the fact that I was upset. I was unhappy with the fact that I wasn’t happy. I felt guilty over the fact that I was having a hard time transitioning. I felt like it should be easier. So I felt like I must be doing something wrong in all this. Lots of people have two, three, four or more kids so how come I couldn’t even handle two?!!? I was starting to feel like a giant failure. And guilty. Really guilty because I had two stunningly beautiful, healthy kids and all I wanted to do was run away and be by myself. Or just sleep. Sleep would be nice.
I started listening to Tim Keller sermons last week. That was a good choice. I scrolled through the list of sermons on his podcast list and found one called “Peace – Overcoming Anxiety.” Sounded right up my alley. In this sermon he talks about expectations. To paraphrase his words, he says: Imagine a room. Someone tells you its a honeymoon suite. But when you go in it’s simple and dirty and you’re disappointed. Now imagine the same room, but this time before you go in you’re told its a jail cell. Upon seeing the room you think, “Well that’s a really nice jail cell.” So the same room is viewed completely differently because of different expectations. He says that’s why we sometimes have a hard time in life; when we expect it to be easy and then it’s not. Then when we freak out we freak out over the fact that we are freaking out.
I think a huge part of the reason the transition in adding another person to our family has been so rough is because I went into it with warped expectations. I envisioned having a newborn as a huge relief from being pregnant; which it was in some regards. Waiting and enduring are challenging. However, the burdens associated with pregnancy are quickly replaced with new challenges and a steep learning curve that come with having a new baby around. Plus, all I wanted to do was snuggle my sweet baby girl and take naps, but how was that supposed to happen with an energetic toddler running around? The other part of the rough transition was due to the postpartum emotional tidal waves I was experiencing. It happened in the months following Cameron’s arrival as well, so I don’t know why I was surprised. I took medication for just over a year after having Cameron so I am now faced with that same decision again.
In the past few days the words of a close friend, who also has two kids a tad older than mine, have been running through my brain. She’s always joked, or not joked I suppose, about it being a miracle and a success if she has kept both kids alive for another day. Prior to having two myself I think I took her statements as a bit of an exaggeration. Surely she was making it sound more sensational than it really was. Umm, no. I’ve recently discovered that she has been quite on point all this time.
Another friend told me last week that in her life with three kids she came to the point where she had to make a decision to focus more on relationships than on getting things done. (Picture an arrow shooting out of her mouth and striking me right in the heart with that one; right where I needed it).
So for the past few days I decided to try out using these new perspectives: If I can keep both kids alive for another day and have some meaningful interactions then I can call the day a success. I can’t tell you how much lighter my heart felt going through my day using this approach.
Previously, my success list consisted of:
If I can keep the house clean,
If I can keep up on laundry,
If I can prepare super healthy snacks and meals,
If I can shower and put on make up and style my hair,
If I can provide fun activities for my toddler
If I can get in some exercise
If I can find some time alone for myself
If I can get out of the house and interact with an adult
If I can stay on top of my life and not get behind in any area,
…then I will feel successful.
That list is a tall order and basically impossible at this point in my parenting journey. Maybe some people abandoned their huge perfectionist list after having their first child. For me, I managed to hang on tight with one, but now with two I’m having to adjust my standards accordingly. Right now, keeping my kids alive and giving myself grace so that I can still be a fun and happy mom for my kids and my husband is more important than accomplishing my large list. If I can accomplish one or two of those items each day on top of just taking care of my kids then I think I could consider that an exceptional day.
I know that as time goes on I will probably get back to feeling like a really fun mom. And I will say that after completing the first two months things seem to be getting a bit easier. I will probably also eventually feel somewhat put together again at least a few days a week… at least until I have another child and then I’m sure we will enter into a new level of craziness again. But I’m grateful that the Lord is helping me focus on what’s really important instead of trying to just keep all my ducks in a row. Ducks are dumb. I’d rather be happy.
Here’s a picture that’s guaranteed to make you smile: