Enough is Enough

Day 8:

Ever since becoming a mom, I spend a lot of time saying “it is never enough.”   I go all day.  I work hard.  I don’t rest, and yet I get to the end of every day for the past year, look around the house and say, filled with disappointment, “It is never enough.”  

Tonight as I stood doing dishes, cleaning bottles and pump parts, I was thinking to myself about how a mother’s work is never done.  But the part that I struggle with more than it never being done (because, after all, I don’t mind working, so having more work ahead of me — even if it is the same work day in and day out– is doable) is the fact that I feel like not only is it never done, but it never done well enough.  All the work we put in and it is never up to my standards  

For example, we spent the weekend at home.  I would imagine for the amount of time we spent in this house, the house should be perfect.  In fact, it is so far from that.  It frustrates me.  To keep from getting really down on myself, I started writing down one mantra from Abundant Mama’s list to end my day feeling like “it” is/I am enough.  So each night in my journal, along with my 3 accomplishments and my two items of gratitude, I try to write down one “enough” saying.  

Tonight I will say:  “It will all get done.”  

I don’t always believe the mantra (especially this one), but I try.  

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Negative Nellie Returns to Gratitude

Days 6/7:

Since I missed yesterday’s post, I am putting up two today.  

My daily journaling generally includes 3 accomplishments and 2 things to be grateful for.  Since starting this blogging challenge, I have slacked off on my paper journal and therefore on my version of a gratitude practice; therefore, today I will return to it here:

Accomplishments:

  1. Family pancake making and eating
  2. Zumba and family walk
  3. Yummy, healthy dinner (lettuce wraps)

Grateful for:

  1. A partner who makes me a yummy, not so healthy chocolate cake to celebrate an important accomplishment in my life
  2. A weekend without any plans

Choose Joy…or not….

Days 6/7:

My mother once called me a “walking contradiction.”  Not to my face, but I overheard her. It really hurt my feelings at the time, and I resented it.  In the years that followed I tried to embrace it.  It is simply called being human.  Humans are complicated and complex.  Contradictions are a part of that.  I love fruit.  And I love chocolate.  Generally I don’t want the two mixed.

I love my life.  I really do.  I have the most amazing and beautiful son (says all mothers of all sons everywhere…for the most part…).  I have a real keeper for a partner.  I live in the suburbs (and while this would never be my first choice for where to live, I admit that I live in a nice neighborhood, in relative safety, close to everything yet also with trees and a river).  I have a job that I love and that allows me the flexibility to keep my son (see statement one) out of daycare (not that daycare is a bad thing or a poor choice, but in the month of January with sickness all around us, it feels like a little luxury for sure).  More importantly, the flexibility allows me to spend quality time with my son every day.  And I have so much more than all of this:  supportive parents, a caring brother with his own wonderful family, A-mazing friends.  I am healthy, in shape (or, well…I was once in shape and plan to be again some day).  I have to be careful with money but don’t have to worry about every little expenditure.  I could go on and on, but a gloater I do not want to be, and it is not really the point of writing this.  The point is that I have the “it all,” and yet in spite of this, my default is “negative nellie”/glass-half-full girl.  And this…well, this makes my partner crazy.

The strange thing is that I don’t even know why I go there.  It’s that automatic.

Example:  Today Levi falls asleep earlier than his “normal” nap time while nursing.  The plan was for Dawn to go to the gym, come home, and then handle Levi’s nap while I went to the gym for a class at a certain hour.  Levi is now asleep on my boob with only minutes left before I would need to get ready to make class on time.  What do I do?  I start freaking the f- out and sending frantic text messages to Dawn about how my life is essentially over because I am going to miss my class while this child is on my boob.  Finally I get him to unlatch, and Dawn sneaks into the room to take over.  In the “transfer” process, he wakes up.  I stick him on my other boob and shoo Dawn out of the room.  I try hard to get him back to sleep:  I nurse; I rock; I bop; I pat.  I go through my extended repertoire, and then….  He is awake.  Not just a little awake from being jostled where he settles back into sleep.  No, he wakes all the way the f- up!  More frantic text messages follow.  I am now losing my mind completely:  Not only has he not gotten his nap, but I am missing class (((insert devastated face emoji))).

I have read enough self-help books to know that in that moment I can choose to tell myself a different story about what is happening.  Like one about this sweet little child who won’t be little for much longer, and how he is sleeping peacefully at my breast and is loved and well cared for and content.  And about how this won’t last forever, and I should savor these cozy, cuddly moments.

I also know that every moment is a choice.  And that as all the pretty little self-help memes tell me, I just need to:  “choose joy.”

Now, I have nothing against joy.  In fact, I think the concept of choose joy is a valid one and something worth pursuing.  I find the pursuit of joy to be a valiant one.  And I think the simplicity of two word reminder is necessary and often helpful in this pursuit.  However, I also think that when we just paste two words over a pretty back drop, we are diminishing the difficulty of actually doing/accomplishing those two words.  We are apt to forget the part about it being both that simple AND that hard.  It goes without saying, and yet the more I look around, the less these contemporary gurus seem to be saying it:  If simply “choosing joy” were that easy, the world would be a pretty joyful place.  The point is, it is not easy.  It is easier to choose freak the f- out and fall apart mode.  And I know this deeply, as someone who has lots of reasons to choose joy and yet still defaults to (((insert devastated face emoji))) a good deal of the time (especially since becoming a mom).

It’s like when we are stark raving mad about something and somebody tells us to calm down.  There are many times when simply tossing out “choose joy” (or some other simplified version of every moment is a choice, make it a good one.  I am only using “choose joy” as a representative example), can only make the person on the receiving end dig in his/her heels and more firmly commit to anger/sadness/fear/loathing….

This is not to say that I am going to continue falling apart and ranting to my partner when every little thing in my life feels less than perfect or less than joyful.  I do think the idea of a gratitude practice is super, incredibly helpful in moving from default Debbie Downer to Joyful Jenn.  After all, as the Buddha tells us:  “What a person considers and reflects upon for a long time, to that his/[her] mind will bend and incline.”  And I just have a feeling that Buddha would never reduce everything to “choose joy.”

 

 

Working Mommy Blogger

Day 4/5:

I am putting up two posts today for my personal 21 day blogging challenge because I missed posting yesterday.  Wednesdays are kicking my a*s, as I teach until 8:45pm (and total mommy brain last night — I let my students out at 8:30, forgetting that the class runs until 8:45.  No wonder I wasn’t able to fit everything in…).  All that is to say, that getting a post up yesterday wasn’t possible.

There are a number of issues that I am running into with this blogging challenge:

  1. It is taking away from my evening journaling time.  If I get to the end of the day, and I haven’t posted (which has been every day so far…) I use the my journaling time to get a post up.  The problem with this is that the blog challenge was intended (by me) to be additional daily writing, not in lieu of….  Le sigh…such is the life of mommy/wanna-be writer/blogger.
  2. Related to number one is that many of posts end up reading like journal entries.  They are either too raw/unpolished for my liking or they are writing about writing (or trying to write), which is what I tend to call “writing my way into” whatever I am actually supposed to be or trying to write.  It’s turning it into a mommy/writer blog as opposed to the kind of reflective first-time parent unabashedly in pursuit of perfection blog that it originated as.
  3. I already forget what the third thing is….  Oh, right…the third is related to the second in that the advice that Linda Felder gives in her book, Writing for the Web, is not to sacrifice quality of posts in pursuit of meeting a challenge (see below) to get out fresh content quickly.  I feel like I am doing that, yet I persist.

Despite all of this, it does feel good to make time to be at the keyboard writing regularly.  The point of the blogging challenge was to overcome this fear of publishing unpolished or not-ready-yet posts.  I need to start practicing what I teach, and in the recent chapter (12) that we read from Writing For the Web, Felder lists a number of possible blogging challenges including things like 365 days of posts, 52 posts (weekly), and so on….

Lastly, I will just say that I really want to finish this challenge (accomplish it), because I already have an idea for my next 21 day challenge that will involve prompts and networking with other mommy bloggers (a kind of carnival so to speak).  I am really excited about it, but want to prove first to myself that I am capable of putting up content daily.

 

It Changes You

Day 4/5:

One of many “pearls of wisdom” that you hear as a soon-to-be parent is that it changes you.  And like most of the other parenthood cliches, I thought I knew what this one meant.

On one level, I knew it would change me:  I wouldn’t have the freedom I once had.  I was ready to give that up.  I knew that I would be more stressed.  And the my worries would change focus.  I figured I would be more stressed and yet have to do a better job of hiding it.  I knew that I would have to become way more patient and way more flexible.  I knew that I would feel a kind of love I had never known (though they level of its intensity I could not imagine).   I knew I would be responsible for another human and so need to become a different kind of responsible.

But I didn’t know that it changes you to the core.  That you can no longer see the world through the same eyes you once had.  I didn’t realize that every child in every movie, story, TV show, hell…commercial even…becomes my child.  To the point where I found myself crying during Last Man Standing (of all things) the other night when Eve didn’t get into West Point, because suddenly her disappointment is Levi’s disappointment.  I cry during Biggest Loser now when parent/child team members shed tears for the other, because suddenly I “get it” (a little bit.  I still think they get paid extra for every tear shed…).

Again and again in this parenting thing, I find myself returning to the cliché as truth.

The Conflict of Continued Breastfeeding

Day three:  

I am part of a fabulously supportive and inspiring breastfeeding group on Facebook.  It has members from all walks of life — every form of education, every income level, all colors of skin.  I have seen women in this group overcome every kind of issue that can come along with breastfeeding (thrush, plugged ducts, mastitis, general pain, breastfeeding strikes, sore/cracked/bruised/bleeding nipples, overproductivity, under productivity, unable to pump, unable to get little one to latch, and so on).  Many of them have suffered from multiple problems at one time, making them want to give up.  And who could blame them?  But without fail other members of the group would come to the rescue with some cheerleading:  the ra-ra-ra you can do this, hear you roar, mama; shared stories of you’re not alone, I went through this too….  Like I said, it’s an awesome group of women.

Once in the middle of the night I was in the Emergency Room with questions about medication.  How great that I could count on a group of mamas to be up at all hours, on social media, and willing to help me with my concerns.  (And yes, I trust the shared experiences of other breastfeeding moms more than I do the ER doc reading from a book).  Again, what a fabulous resource.

But here is the thing — despite the diversity of women in the group, the common narrative is that breastfeeding is something we want to  or should want to continue.  We want to overcome the myriad issues in order to continue breastfeeding our little one.  I use the collective “we” here, because I am going so far as to say that there is an assumption that this is what we all want:  to breastfeed as long as our little one wants to.  The WHO (World Health Organization) currently recommends breastfeeding to two years (or longer).

The stories I read on the group page are stories of overcoming the odds accompanied by the “I’ve breastfed my baby for… however long” badges.  I keep reading over and over:  “still going strong” and “I love breastfeeding.”

Levi and I too are still going strong.  Too strong, perhaps.  And, I still “love breastfeeding.” Most of the time.  Now I think most of these mamas who profess their love of breastfeeding are doing so during the light of day, probably after a strong cup of coffee, maybe during nap time. I doubt that many of them would say they love night nursing.  No, this love of breastfeeding is definitely a more abstract concept, I would guess.  It doesn’t apply to all nursing sessions as a whole.

For me, though, I feel a bit differently (surprise).  With the exception of our daytime nap feeding, most of our nursing sessions are a version of what a friend of mine has called “nursing aerobics.”  This involves Levi starting on his back, ending up on his stomach, coming on and off the breast repeatedly while whipping his head around (occassionally whipping his head around with breast still in mouth), and my personal favorite, popping into downward facing dog with my breast in his mouth.  Additionally, this involves coming off the breast in order to examine it, deem it some kind of punching bag or button to be pushed and then proceeding to bat it it around.  While some of this is occasionally funny and endearing, it can also be downright annoying.

And then there is the larger looming issue of my fertility.  My avid little nurser has been effective in holding my cycle at bay, which in some ways has certainly been a blessing (my nearly year long recovery process after delivery would have been even more uncomfortable with the return of Aunt Flo).  But by nursing this long and strong Levi might effectively be removing the option of having a sibling.  I am not young.  And despite the fact that more women are giving birth after the age of 35 than ever before, I don’t want to be well into my 40s and putting my body through that (again).  And I believe strongly that I despite the connection between selflessness and motherhood that are frequently made, I continue to have agency over my own body (even if it often doesn’t feel that way with breastfeeding).  

The decision to continue breastfeeding can be a complicated and fraught one, and there needs to be a space to voice that breastfeeding struggle as well.  

Back to Blogging?

Even the dog is sleeping….

So I rushed to the computer.  This was it:  My chance to write!  I never get a nap time out from under baby.  I had two typing hands, and I was going to settle down and accomplish my recently set goal of writing two posts per week.

As I sat down and scanned for my wordpress tab, there it was, my half completed virtual LOFT shopping bag.  Maybe I will just squeeze some online shopping in….

On November 1st, I started an Instagram challenge (#30mamamornings) created by the founder of The Abundant Mama Project.  Each morning @awakeshawn gives a prompt for a photo + text that represents the beauty of our day as it begins.  Technically it is supposed to begin early — before the little one(s) have risen.  That is not currently possible in my life as a night nursing mom, as I need all the sleep I can get, and getting up before a babe who is often up at 5:30 isn’t exactly fulfilling that need.  Even though I am not technically a #riseandshinemama, I am a up and at ’em early with little one mama, and so I’ve been actively engaging in the challenge (only missing one day so far, and that was because I was so busy actually enacting the prompt — to get moving — that I didn’t take the time to capture a photo).  I must say, it has been a little life altering.

Update:

Day 2:

So while I did not end up returning to the blog back in November, I did end up completing the Abundant Mama Instagram challenge.  And it did actually lead me to this new challenge (21 consecutive days of blogging) that I have set for myself.  The small group of abundant mamas that I found via Instagram along with those who participated in Shawn Fink’s free webinar at the start of this year really inspired me in terms of recommitting to a regular writing practice, which requires unearthing a bit of the old me (teacher/writer/academic/thinker) from the “new” me (woman who is proud to be wearing clothes when she leaves the house/mama who has managed to keep her child alive for a year).  The “rise and shine” aspect of The Abundant Mama project really appeals to me as a former morning person, and I was hoping that as we hit the year mark and slowed down on breastfeeding (more on that in an upcoming post…) I might be able to get my mornings back.  

For a week now I have tried every morning to nurse Levi back to sleep at his 4:45/5/5:30 am feeding and transfer him successfully back into his crib so that I might have the mornings to write.  Every morning for a week now Levi has refused to go back into his crib, so I end up not sleeping AND not writing.  I have to come to terms with the fact that this new writing schedule that I so looked forward to starting clearly doesn’t jive with Levi’s schedule.   I must find the workaround.