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It’s been nearly fifteen months since my son was born and 363 days since I went back to work. Maintaining a full-time working mom status is like a life sentence of feeling like your half-assing everything. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s true. There is a hell of a lot to do and not much time to do it.

My mornings are like wrestling with multiple personality disorder until my husband shoves me out the door for our commute. There’s my egocentric teenage personality who we’ll call “Lizzy” (because adding a “y” to the end of any name makes it egocentric-in case you didn’t know). When my husband turns on the light in the bedroom at 6AM or my dog does that annoyingly loud shimmy shake while I still have my head buried in the pillow, “Lizzy” wants to tell them to get lost. There’s my playful, snuggly, maternal side who we’ll call “Lindsay” (because I wasn’t going to assign my own name to a negative aspect of my personality-duh). “Lindsay” just wants to huddle with her adorable son on the couch and sing the theme song to “Little Einsteins” at the top of her lungs and call work to report that she’s developed a last minute case of something terrible. And then there’s my driven, independent, career-focused side who we’ll call “Lynn” (because one-syllable names aren’t messing around). “Lynn” usually tells “Lizzy” to get her lazy ass out of bed and reminds her to make the bed once she’s out of it, then notifies “Lindsay” that if she doesn’t get herself and her son dressed and out the door, “Little Einsteins” will be nothing but a memory because the cable bill won’t be paid.

Like any goal-oriented, hopeful woman, I strive for a balanced, integrated personality, but most days, it just doesn’t happen. Tricks I use to present the façade of balance and integration include a healthy layer of make-up, an outfit that matches, chocolate, and a smile. In addition, if I’m going to cry or bang my head up against the wall, I try to do it in the privacy of my own office or quietly in a bathroom stall.

In any case, these days, when I happen to strike a balance, it is a matter of pure luck. But at least I’m trying (and faking it) as much as possible.

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It’s happening. As I sit at my desk at work shoveling the delicious layers of milk chocolate and crispy wafer into my mouth, I am slowly screeching down the list of my own priorities. Before I became a mom, my own self-care used to be my number one priority–above my relationship, my family, my friends, and my love of chocolate–because I was a firm believer that you have to make the effort to take care of yourself first in order to be happy with others. Before I was pregnant, I was rollin’ into yoga class four times a week and balanced my indulgences with healthy eating. I was never naïve enough to think that things would go back to the way they were then after Ben arrived; I knew my priorities would change. However, I thought that with some effort, I would still be making time for myself and leading a healthy lifestyle. It was clear to me as I broke myself off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar that the candy’s jingle rang true to my situation. I needed a freakin’ break.
I have become so caught up in keeping up with the hamster-wheel-paced lifestyle that I lead now that I’m just running from one thing to another. Daycare-work-eating whatever lunch I can get my hands on-work-daycare-home-say hi to the hubs-let the dog out-play-dinner-bedtime-collapse from exhaustion. Not even a hamster is fast enough to keep up with this crazy schedule. Not to mention I’ve been forgetting to hydrate throughout this busy-as-hell kind of day and you know what that means–dryer skin=the wrinkles are easier to see. So as I finished my candy-for-lunch meal, I thought, “what does a mom need to do to stop this cycle of madness? How do I get some of my old self back?” My best guess was humor and some smart, deliberate decisions…although the night after I ate that Kit-Kat for lunch, there may have been some wine and crying to my husband involved (ie. dramatic assertion that “I can’t live like this anymore”).
Ed Asner once said that “raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare.” As moms, we have to fight to fit ourselves on the top of the priority list. We have to make time for self-care because, let’s face it, leaving your kid for a few extra hours during the week to go to some yoga classes will make you feel a hell of a lot less guilty than all the expensive therapy your kid is gonna need later if he has to put up with your miserable, unfulfilled, martyr self. I decided that I have to make the decision to put some major effort into taking care of myself because I’ve been doing a crappy job. I want to feel more healthy, fulfilled, and happy in my own shoes–because not only do I deserve it, but the poor gents living with me (my husband, Ben, and my dog Sammy) deserve to experience the best version of me.
So let’s all agree to support each other in stepping away from the King Sized Kit-Kat and the guilty voice in our head that says we have other things to worry about before ourselves. Screw that voice! It’s time to start scheduling “me” time in our agenda books every week and spending the extra time to prepare healthy meals for ourselves and slowing down enough to drink some water during the day. And let’s laugh more too. That always helps.
On that note, let’s all bow our heads for a prayer that Tina Fey wrote for her daughter in her book, “Bossypants”:

And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50AM, all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.”

Amen.

ImageEver since the day my son was born, one year and twenty days ago, time seems to go by so much faster than it did before he was around. Okay, let me back up here…the day I gave birth and the first three months of colic hell moved like molasses, but after that, the days started to fly. I think about my life before he was born–the neon, shoulder padded 80’s; that awkward transition from a tween to a scrawny teenager; the years I spent at boarding school and college; the ups and downs of my twenties; and settling down with my husband closer to 30. Looking back, there are all kinds of memories; there were some crazy fun times, but like may people, there were lots of struggles too. There were those periods of time that seemed to last forever–ones full of hurt, self-doubt, and sadness.

I think that time started to fly after my son was born because I was able to experience myself differently. Before he arrived, no matter how hard I tried and despite the crazy fun times, genuine self-acceptance and self-love were my biggest challenges. I’m not saying that I have an easy job patting myself on the back now or recognizing my strengths, but it is easier than before and I’m happier. My son is this indisputably amazing, living, breathing proof that I created something wonderful. And every time he makes a funny face or laughs or opens his eyes wide with wonder, I accept and love myself more knowing that I was part of making this beautiful boy.

Elizabeth Stone articulateImages my feeling more eloquently in her quote: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” He is the best thing I have ever done in my 32 years.

 

When you get old enough, you start to experience those moments in which your adult self smacks your kid self on the forehead and says: “this is what your parents meant all those years ago. They weren’t really talking just to hear the sound of their own voices. They had a point.” Being a young adult with a baby has its challenges, but one of the perks is how my relationship With my dad has changed. Looking back now, I know with certainty that I wasn’t an easy child, let alone teenager, but at the time, I thought my dad was pretty tough with the rules.
He was always a hard worker and expected the same from me. Around report card time at school, his work shirts always seemed to have extra starch in them and his loafers clicked a little louder down the hallway. He expected a lot of me and I was afraid to disappoint him, but not because I thought he would love me less. It just seemed like he was always holding himself to such high standards–working a little harder than he did the last time–that I felt like I had to push myself like he did. I wanted him to be proud of me because I looked up to him and cared about what he thought of me.
Of course, there were plenty of times that I was not on the straight and narrow path, resulting in moments that I’m sure were far from “proud dad” moments for him. There was the time my dad had to bring my brother and me to work with him when we were about 4 and 5 because my mom was working the same shift. We had been instructed to play nicely with some benign office supplies like paper, pens, and labels, but somehow I caught a glimpse of the intoxicating shine that was the stapler and several minutes later, my father was rushing my brother to the ER. I had decided his fingers were much better candidates for stapling than the copious amounts of paper in front of me. Shortly after that incident, I wrangled my brother and his best friend, Ryan, into the back seat of my mom’s t-top white “Z” sports car and settled myself into the driver seat to show the boys how I could turn the radio on without turning the car on. That night my dad came home to my mom’s car smashed into our garage door. (A very mischievous move on my part, but let me just point out that I had enough unsupervised time on my hands to set this whole joy ride up AND the keys were in the ignition, car was in gear, and no e-brake on. So..perhaps my mom and her friends were hittin’ the wine coolers a little too hard that day and were busy crimping each other’s hair instead of, you know, watching us.) There was the time when I was 12 (a time I detailed in one of my earlier posts) that I attempted to light a Newport Light cigarette on our gas stovetop range for my first smoking experience and singed off the tips of every one of my eyelashes. Talk about instant karma…or just a really poorly conceived plan. And as the teenage years rolled on into the early twenties, there were a couple of boyfriends that made my dad question my decision making skills and mood swings that made him wonder what the hell had gotten into me. And there were lots of days in our father-daughter relationship that seemed so hard that we couldn’t optimistically count on better ones ahead at the time.
At 32, my relationship with my dad has really changed. I’m married to a good man–which has proven the positive development of my decision making skills. And I have an 11-month old son who has acted as this magical lens that has brought everything into focus for me. I can feel the love for a child that my dad felt for me as he held me in my first year of life. I have whispered the same promises to myself and to my son that he whispered to himself and to me. I have accepted the responsibility that he once did to protect my child and to raise him in a way that pushes him to be the best person he can be. I feel scared the same way he once did about my ability to live up to that challenge.
When my dad holds my son and becomes Pop Pop, it feels like one of those full circle moments–a moment in which my mischievous childhood mistakes, teenage trouble, and our father-daughter debates were well worth it. Because in the end, as a daughter and now a parent, I want to make my dad proud. Because I look up to him and I care about what he thinks of me. Here’s hoping I’ll do as good of a job with my son so that he might be thinking the same thing one day.

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Somewhere between 30 and 32, that asshole crow left imprints of his feet by my eyes. And the combination of my near-sightedness and skeptical scowl stamped the number “11” between my brows. At the cosmetics counter, I can no longer flippantly ask the sales lady for normal-combination skin products. I’m eyeing up the anti-aging serums now. I turned 32 last week and while my skin is dryer, I’m happier and more confident than I was at 22.
At 22, life was definitely more spontaneous and I do love an unexpected adventure, but most of the 22-year old surprises I remember were along the lines of “surprise, you overdrew your checking account again!” “Surprise that guy you thought was a total catch is actually a total douchebag.” “Surprise you’re waking up with a hangover next to an empty pizza box and by the gurgling in your stomach, it looks like you finished the whole pie, girl!” The ups and downs of life at 22 required a thick skin, despite the fact that it may have had more elasticity.
Sometimes I miss the 22 year old drama when I feel like the only way my 32 year old self experiences it is by watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey or having some Pinot Grigio and rooting against the Packers with my husband in the room. (That Pinot is like liquid courage, I tell ya). What I don’t miss about 22 is that unsteadiness..that feeling of being afraid to be your genuine self with no apologies–for fear of rejection. Insecurities still linger at 32, but there is a greater authenticity and less worry about what people think of you. Perhaps my older self does not have as much energy to care about other people’s opinions of me or maybe my husband and baby’s approval act as a stabilizer.
A lot has happened in 10 years besides my skin aging. I graduated from college. I moved out on my own. I gained and lost weight. I gained and lost love. I waitressed. I studied. I went to school some more. I got my heart broken a couple of times. I met a guy who put it back together and has protected it ever since. I gained friends and lost others. I made some awesome decisions and some pretty crappy ones. I fell apart and got it together. I worked hard. I found yoga. He put a ring on it and we got married. I got pregnant and ate chocolate for three meals a day. I gave birth to a baby even though I assured the doctor that “I can’t do this!” The baby cried. A lot. And I almost went off the deep end. Got some support, went back to work, and regained my sanity-mostly.
Emphasis on the mostly part.
I’m not trying to say wrinkles are awesome. I will still buy overpriced serums to try to recapture that reckless 22 year old’s complexion. But if that’s all I want from her 10 years later, that’s pretty damn good.

B’s “Ugh” face

It’s not that I like to complain.  I’ve just always felt that you can get over something more quickly if you vent about it.  My poor husband quickly mastered the ability to look like he is actively listening to my dilemmas, while he is quietly reviewing the details of his fantasy football team.  And without fail, I will pause from my rant to get his feedback and he will give me an appropriate response like “that sounds tough, babe” so that I cannot accuse him of daydreaming about Donald Driver’s reception stats.  He’s good.

I once had a therapist tell me that your significant other is not there to listen to your complaints…that’s what friends are for.  He said I should be focusing on positive conversation with my husband, as complaining is just boring.  When I told my husband what the therapist said, I think the co-pays we had been forking over finally became worth it.  So what is a frazzled new mom to do with all of her stress?  Who the hell really wants to hear about chronic fatigue, the overwhelming hampster wheel of work and home, and my son’s sneaky fraternal twin who showed up with him unannounced: cellulite.

I’m trying to work through my inclination to sink into my ugh’s and feel sorry for myself some days.  I think this habit comes from my Mediterranean heritage.  My Yaya (Greek for grandmother)  seemed like she could never fully appreciate the peaks of her successes until she tore them down and received some positive encouragement.  “This shrimp and rice I made is okay, but the rice is undercooked and I put too much salt in it.”  “No, Yaya, it’s perfect!”

However I’m feeling, I’m always able to smile around my son.  He makes ugh’s worth it.  But I don’t want to just rely on him to snap me out of a pity party.  I want to be able to do it more for myself, counting my blessings more naturally.  I want to roll around in my gratitude and project some positivity. I mean, I’m not walking around all the time like that sad donkey, Eeyore, but I have been feeling a little gloomy lately–like I have so much to do that I’ve been doing everything half-assed.

So I’m writing to acknowledge that I’m forgiving myself for getting comfortable under my gray cloud and that my intention is to tell that cloud to “scram”.  After all, intention is half the battle.  “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

Ok, people. I’m gonna try to get real here. Call it like it is.

Back in the early days of my relationship with my husband, date night had that intriguing air to it. A new outfit that I spent all week searching for that laid perfectly across some wonder-mega-bombshell Victoria’s Secret bra. Good thing Victoria didn’t tell my husband at that time that the secret was my boobs were half the size they appeared. A spritz of some new perfume that smelled like flowers, vanilla, and spontaneity. J would show up, puffed up chest and some casual whiskers, and have the whole night planned…dinner, drinks, meeting up with friends, outdoor concerts, movies. Life was easy and fun. It’s not that we never had issues, but we were too naive at the time to know that our issues weren’t really issues.

Fast forward 6 years and freeze…(just so you know, this is where things start to get real). 7 month old baby. 3 year old dog. 1 house. 2 jobs. And bills. Lotsa bills. The Victoria’s Secret bra is still around somewhere, but let’s face it, it’s just as worn out as I am. But new bras are not on the budget, so it’s staying. Husband still has his whiskers, but they aren’t so much casual now as tired. I can still get the same pants on, but my ass is hanging a little lower in them. Outdoor concerts only happen if we are in the backyard cleaning up our dog’s poop and the next door neighbors are blasting a shitty American Idol cover a little too loudly. Nobody cares about your edgy version of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart”, damnit.

Spending quality time together is really hard work and date nights outside of the house don’t usually happen because they require money and a babysitter. Not to mention we both work and like to see our kid during our time off. Sometimes date night will be watching an episode of “Teen Mom” together in an effort to make ourselves feel more competent as parents. Sometimes we play Scrabble over a beer until the game inevitably ends with my tantrums over my husband’s knack for triple word scores. Sometimes I volunteer to watch ESPN or he volunteers to go get me ice cream. Romance with a kid and a job takes effort, creativity, and the ability to adapt. And some weeks go better than others. But struggling to find the balance between everything is absolutely normal! And anyone who says it’s easy is lying.

I asked some of my mom friends about date night these days and they had plenty to say. Jessie said: “date night? What’s that?? It seems like sometimes, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth.” By the way, Jessie sent me that comment from the hospital as she was in labor with her second child. Props for that, girlfriend! Becky agreed with Jessie, sharing what a project it is to make the preparations to go out with her husband since they don’t have any family in town to offer free babysitting occasionally. And Kristin and Bernie had similar points..once you get out of the house with your man, it’s a challenge to not worry about the baby or talk about them the whole time. Sarah and her husband are at that stage with their baby where she screams “bloody murder” whenever they leave the room, so it’s hard to get over the guilt enough to get out the door. Meghan added a wonderful point, though, about how the effort to find romance post-baby is worth it: “it seems to me that a couple of extra hours of babysitting is far less expensive than therapy down the road!”. And Elisa summed up the importance of adapting to the new definition of date night perfectly when she said: “date night=watching a DVD while sharing a bottle of wine or ordering in a delicious meal and eating it over candlelight while we listen to the baby monitor play xylophone renditions of Beatles hits.”

These ladies are keeping it real too. Sometimes post-baby romance seems like another item on the to do list and other times, it comes more naturally, but it’s definitely different than it was before. In my seven months of experience, I think you have to give each other a break here and there (sometimes, despite best intentions, sleep will be the other woman/man in the relationship); try hard; roll with it; and laugh at this wild ride that you’re on TOGETHER!

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Before: Date out on the town

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After: Date trying to watch TV together around our precious son’s large head.