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For the Sake of My Sanity

I looked at the clock tonight, counting down the minutes until my husband got home from work. I took the kids upstairs so that I could change out of my spit-up stained clothing into my running gear. I quickly peered out my front window scanning the street for his car. Much to my surprise, I noticed my dog running around the front yard. Panic set in (for the 48th time today) and I ran downstairs to find that in the 14 seconds it took me to change my shirt and shorts, my two year old scooted down the stairs and let himself and the dog into the front yard. Again. I know, I know. Get babyproofing locks for the door handles. And I totally intend to do that, as soon as I find the free time I need to go out purchase them. Thankfully, my husband had pulled in and collected the toddler and the dog. As soon as he came in and changed out of his suit, I slipped out the front door for my run.  

My body hurt, it was hot out, my ankles ached – especially after hours and hours of chasing three children. But a three-mile run is the only thing that can sometimes save what little sanity I have left after such a long day. 

After my first child was born in 2012, I went through what many first mothers experience. Looking back, I’m certain I had postpartum depression and anxiety. I quit my job, I stayed home, I consumed myself with his caretaking. In a very cliché mom way, I lost myself. I forgot what I liked to do. I became miserable and resentful. I ended up in therapy, and slowly I found my way again.  

Having experienced that once, I have been bound and determined with my second and third pregnancies to continue to be “me.” I think it’s important to maintain a sense of self – and equally as important for my kids to know that I am much more than Mom. I’m a human, I have interests, I need five seconds alone to pee sometimes. I like to go to work. I like tattoos. I like to drink four (or more) cocktails on Friday nights. So far, I’ve stayed true to this. But although I’ve been able to continue to be ME and MOM, having a third child has brought on another challenge. It’s not “myself” that I’m at risk losing this time around – but more so my sanity.  

sanity

The first child is hard. You can’t do anything, because you haven’t yet adapted to the multitasking of motherhood. But slowly, you learn to get a few things done when the baby is asleep. When the second arrives, you’re a pro. You put the baby down for a nap, you put a show on for the toddler, and you get as much shit done before you hear Mickey announcing the arrival of the final mouseketool, hence signaling the end of both the show and your toddler’s attention span. Then the third child arrives, and if you manage to get even two out of three kids napping/relaxing at the same time, you sit. You just be. You breathe, you pee, you chug some coffee, and you stand at the front door and threaten to kill anyone who even THINKS about ringing your doorbell while your babies are sleeping.  

After Owen was born, I quickly realized my sanity was at stake.  I decided I needed to get out. I needed time away. I needed to be me. I signed up for weekly personal training sessions, which have been a life saver. Fitness is something that’s always been important to me – so working out has helped me work toward getting back to my pre-baby body AND my pre-baby mind.  

During my sessions, my trainer offers the typical trainer encouragement, saying things like, “Come on, Cait. You can do this. There is no such thing as fatigue.”  

One day, during the last five minutes of my kick ass session, he said, “Come on. Finish it. This is the hardest thing you are going to do today.” 

I laughed, because of course, he was right. Physically, it was the hardest thing I was going to do that day. But mentally, it was the easiest. The most enjoyable. The thought of going home and getting three kids fed, bathed, and in bed would most likely be the most challenging thing I did that day. Like a boss, I finished that workout. And then I went home and somehow survived bedtime routine without losing my shit on anyone. 

I guess my point is this: It’s important to maintain my sanity – for myself and ultimately for my kids. Despite the mom guilt I feel when I leave to go out by myself, I know that time away only makes me a better mom. And when things get really mentally tough, when I’m up for the fourth time at 4:00am feeding a teething and overtired baby, I’ll channel my trainer and chant to myself, “You got this, Cait. There’s no such thing as fatigue. This is the hardest thing you’ll do today.”

Motherhood: My New Normal

Two boys and a tunnel. Just another normal day around here.

Two boys and a tunnel. Just another normal day around here.

 

After a long week of work and parenting, I sneaked upstairs tonight with a glass of wine and slipped into the tub for a quick ten minutes alone before starting the bedtime routines. I made a mental note to thank my husband for this brief break, since any alone time these days is rare and precious.

I carefully poured the baby bubble bath into the steaming water, pushed aside the boats and bath toys… and I didn’t think twice. Then it occurred to me that four years ago, I would have laughed (and probably cried) at the strangeness of this situation. It would have felt awkward and hilarious to be washing up with tear free baby shampoo and setting my wine on the edge of the bath next to my son’s tiny squirt toys. But now, four years and another baby later, I realized that the reason this no longer feels so odd is simply because motherhood has finally become my new normal.

Some will argue that a woman becomes a mother when she conceives, but accepting the title doesn’t mean that the role comes naturally. I remember how weird it felt to carry the infant car seat around with me everywhere I went in those first few months (which wasn’t many places, except for drive thru coffee shops and the occasional trip to Target). I felt so anxious, so aware of the people around me who I was convinced could tell that I had no idea what I was doing.

I even felt like a stranger in my own house. My bedroom at night looked as though a baby bomb had gone off – diapers and wipes strewn around the changing table, the bassinet pushed closely to my side of the bed to make for easy nighttime breast feeding sessions. My night stand was stocked with anything that I could possibly need to survive the night with a newborn, like diaper cream, extra pajamas, receiving blankets, nose suction, a thermometer, infant Tylenol, and a multitude of other items that I surely did not need.

The first time we took my son to the pediatrician, the final page of the paperwork required a parent signature. My mind went blank. Parent signature? Omigod. That’s me. And next to my signature was the “relationship to patient” line where I wrote “Mother” for the first time. Surely I was not old enough (albeit I was 26) or mature enough to be solely responsible for another human being…. Right?!

After eight weeks at home, I reluctantly returned to my full time job. My son’s diaper bag was the size of a small suitcase, packed with enough stuff for him to survive at least three weeks. And then I packed my lunch, my work bag, my pump, and a cooler for breast milk. Did it seriously take this much preparation and planning for one day out of house?! I was fairly certain that I wasn’t capable of this chaos – and I eventually did resign from my position before returning to work 18 months later.

Now, ten months after my second child was born, motherhood in general has become, well, normal. I’m used to the fact that my dining room will always be used as a playroom for the boys. I’ve accepted that I will probably never sleep soundly through an entire night ever again. It doesn’t feel weird to me that my grocery list is dominated by baby products and kid friendly meals rather than steaks, scallops and other delicious food I’m sure I ate prior to having children. It doesn’t bother me that it takes at least two hours to get myself and the kids out of the door each morning before work. I don’t think twice when I crawl into the backseat on road trips and make animal noises for an hour to soothe my fussy baby. These things would have all felt absurd, hilarious, and overwhelming a few years back. And now, four years after I accepted this role in motherhood, I can finally say that I really feel like a mom.

So for all of the new mothers out there who feel as though they aren’t as natural and prepared as they had expected to be: hang tight. After a couple of years, a few tears, and probably another baby – motherhood will finally become your new normal. And you most likely won’t ever want to change a thing (except maybe the sleep deprivation– a few uninterrupted hours would definitely be nice).

Top Ten Things I’ve Learned about Four Year Olds

Two weeks ago, my oldest child – my first baby –  turned four years old. I have to admit, I’m happy to say goodbye to the “threenager” who’s been bossing us around for the past year. I fanaticized about life with a four year old to be something like this: my child will all of a sudden put on his clothes and shoes by himself in the morning, he’ll stop crying over ridiculous shit, and he’ll wipe his own ass. Sadly, none of this has proven to be true. We are two weeks in, and here’s what I’ve learned about kids who are four.

1.) He’s right – ALWAYS. He thinks he knows more than I do. Actually, sometimes he does know more than I do. Apparently all the time he spends watching PBS has paid off.

2.) He’s more than capable of putting on his own clothing, coats and shoes. Unfortunately, not only do children need to be capable of doing these things, they need to be WILLING – and four year olds are NOT willing.

3.) He still thinks he’s the boss. And why wouldn’t he? If someone put my clothes on for me and wiped my ass every day, I’d assume I was in charge as well. And FYI – four year old boys are not capable of wiping themselves. Give it up and try again next year.

4.) Four year olds – and boys in general – are competitive. Occasionally, this works in my favor. For example, I can tell him anything is a race and he moves faster. On the other hand, he constantly needs to be winning and he must always be first, be faster, be the best, etc. – this drives me insane and makes my husband proud. Typical.

5.) Four year olds hate all food. Except fruit snacks, plain pasta, and dessert. Even if your child ate everything as a toddler, they will turn four and ultimately realize they can refuse all food and live solely on Cheez-Its and juice (which must only be served in their official Snackeez cups).

Four year olds are obsessed with Snackeez, and all other As Seen on TV items, FYI.

Four year olds are obsessed with Snackeez, and all other As Seen on TV items, FYI.

6.) Four year olds are OBSESSED with You Tube. They will literally watch anything on the internet. It’s amazing. It’s a bargaining tool. You Tube Bribery. Because really, the thing that four year olds love best about life is watching other kids open and play with toys. Right?! Why would they bother playing with their own shit when they can watch other kids play on You Tube?!?

EvanTube - The Ultimate YouTube channel for watching kids play with toys. #creepy

EvanTube – The Ultimate YouTube channel for watching kids play with toys. #creepy

7.) Three year olds think they are teenagers – hence the term “threenager.” Four year olds straight up think they are adults. My kid literally talks about what he’s going to do when he goes to college – no joke. Slow your roll, dude. Let’s focus on Kindergarten before we get too far ahead of ourselves.

8.) Four year olds should NOT need a cup with a top. But low and behold, they still spill shit every day.

9.) Four year olds have selective hearing. I can scream at my son to get dressed in the morning and he stands there zoning out to Paw Patrol for 45 minutes straight. But you bet if he hears the slight creak of the pantry door as I attempt to have any kind of snack, he’s immediately at my side begging for food.

10.) Four year olds want to play pretend. And they want you to do it, too. I spend the majority of my time at home with him fighting bad guys, wearing capes, throwing batarangs. I’ve gotten an entire education on the Avengers, the Green Lantern, the Ninja Turtles and their escapades versus Shredder and his foot clan. In case you weren’t aware, pretend play as an adult is torture (unless there are a few glasses of wine involved, of course).

So there you have it. The Top Ten Things I’ve Learned about Four Year Olds. I’m sure the course of the next year will bring some surprising challenges, but just like every other stage of parenting, I know we will survive.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll embrace this age – pour some wine in my Snackeez, binge on some creepy YouTube videos, and thank my lucky stars that I survived the Terrible Twos and the Year of the Threenager.

How to Get Your Children to Sleep through the Night

How to Get Your Children to Sleep Through the Night

So now that I have your attention, I have some disappointing news to share. I do not know how to get your children to sleep through the night. And after welcoming my second baby last year, I have finally figured out the truth.

“Sleeping through the night” is a myth. A fucking myth. It’s like the Santa Claus of parenthood. We want to believe that this is a real thing – that it does exist somewhere in a magical sleep filled land – but in our hearts, we know the truth. It’s all a big lie. Children do not sleep through the night.

And the older you get, the more children you have, the more you come to realize the truth. You will literally never sleep through the night again.

I find the phrase, "sleep like  baby" insanely ironic. Babies don't sleep for shit, people. Just saying.

I find the phrase, “sleep like baby” insanely ironic. Babies don’t sleep for shit, people. Just saying.

Our pediatricians tell us this sad lie is for two important reasons: marketing and money. That’s right. You clicked this post, didn’t you?? You read the title, “How to get your children to sleep through the night” and you rejoiced and you clicked it. It sucked you in the moment you saw it. You prayed that I was going to tell you exactly how to solve your sleepless problems. Because we are taught that children actually sleep through the night, we are desperate to read, buy, and believe anything that “the experts” have to say about how to make this unrealistic miracle happen.

Years ago, some douche bag doctor decided that he would lie to parents, tell them that if they bought his book and followed his instructions, their kids would sleep. And then he giggled as parent after parent sought after his advice, purchased his materials, and slaved over the 5 S’s of sleeping (shushing, side sleeping, swaddling, blah blah blah). Well screw you, Harvey. That shit doesn’t work.

I was just like you. I googled “healthy sleep habits.” Once, I even considered speaking with a sleep consultant. What the hell is a sleep consultant, you ask??? Someone who you pay to tell you lies about how to get your child to sleep through the night.

I prayed that my baby would sleep. And when he didn’t, I told myself that eventually, he would not be a baby anymore and he would learn to sleep. But every time your children tease you with one night of decent sleep – and by decent I mean a five hour stretch – some shit storm happens and it disappears as quickly as it ever arrived. Teething, illness, a chilly bedroom, too much light, not enough light, loud noises. Who knows? Anything and everything will keep your baby from sleeping.

Then your baby will get older, transition from a crib to a bed, and realize that they can actually get up and walk around at night. Good fucking luck.

At age three and four, they become scared of their own fucking shadows and are absolutely incapable of even falling asleep in their bedrooms. Monsters under the bed. Night time potty training. The list goes on.

And don’t you dare think that when they are teenagers, you will finally get to catch up on some zzz’s. It’s true – teenagers like to sleep all day long, but they also like to stay out all night – which will most definitely keep you up as you lay in your bed and worry that they are getting drunk and breaking laws and making children of their own.

So just accept it. It’s never going to happen. Your rested life as you know it is over. Give up and learn to drink coffee.

You’re welcome.

The Parenting Pendulum

A pendulum is a weight that is suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely back and forth. When resting, it sits quietly in its equilibrium position. Now let me just say that this info came straight from Wikipedia, solely because I failed physics in high school and barely passed it in college. It looks like a simple object to me, but is definitely characterized by some complicated physics shit that I will never seem to fully grasp (gravity, force, acceleration, blah blah blah….).

My life as a parent feels very similar to what I can observe and understand about the pendulum. Parenting may seem simple, but is often more complicated than can ever be described. As a mother of two who works full time, I am constantly swung in separate directions, feeling myself pulled by the forces of both career and raising kids.

When I had my first child, I struggled with finding the balance between being my best as a mother and an employee – as I’m sure almost every parent does. I felt the mom guilt sweeping over my skin well before my sparse eight weeks of maternity leave came to an end. I was unhappy in my position at work in general, and in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth losing the time with my son. I quit, stayed home a few days a week, and spent a few days watching another mother’s children to make some extra cash so that I could afford to be away from “work.”

Luckily, I fell into my dream job two years ago. With this brought the financial ability to welcome another child – which ironically has also created my current dilemma. Between caring for two children and upholding my responsibilities as a full time employee, I am constantly swinging in opposite directions. As I care for my kids, a small part of my brain is still carrying the energy from work – the stress, the demands. When I’m at work, a large part of my heart is hurting to be with my children who need me, especially when they are sick, tired, or sad to see me go.

It’s a constant struggle – passing my attention back and forth between the two things that I care so much about. I’ve worked my ass off to earn a Master’s degree in Education and I’ve finally landed the position I’ve dreamed about – the position that has allowed me to afford to have a second child in the first place. But sadly, the ludicrous cost of childcare in this country combined with the lack of reliable options makes things even more challenging. I refuse to give up my career, because it keeps me sane many days, but I still find it hard to give 100% of my time, attention, and energy to my kids and my career at any given time.

As mentioned before, when the pendulum is not moving, it sits in its resting, equilibrium position. One thing that I know for sure is that in motherhood, there is often no resting position. Whether we work full time, work from home, work as a full time mother, or some crazy combination of these things, maybe the answer to this never ending struggle is to find our equilibrium. As my parenting pendulum swings forcefully from side to side between home and work, I am going to make it my goal to slow down every once in a while and find my resting place.

My First Post-Baby Post

Four years ago, my husband and I were getting ready to welcome our first child into our family. We were still enjoying long nights of uninterrupted sleep and hours of free time spent preparing for our tiny addition. We were 26 and 27 – what many would probably consider young for having a child nowadays – but we were excited. With a few months to go, we couldn’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.

Reality set in when we brought Greyson home from the hospital in February of 2012. We had no idea what we were doing. We were both overwhelmed and in over our heads. We missed free time, happy hours, and daily trips to the gym. And after eight months of feeling like an absolute mess of a mother, The Honest Mommy began.

My blog became a way for me to vent about my insecurities as a new mother. As it turned out, lots of friends and strangers began following my stories and I felt less alone – I realized that what I was going through, the feelings of being inadequate and frazzled, were more the norm than the exception.

Fast forward three years, I am back to working full time during the day, and recently welcomed our second baby, Gannon (which explains my absence from regular blogging). It’s not that I ran out of things to say, I’ve just run out of time to say them.  But last night, as I looked around my room at the explosion of baby gear, teething toys, breast pumps, overflowing garbages filled with dirty diapers, I started feeling the need to share my experiences of life with two. I can’t promise I will find the time to post every week, considering the majority of my free time now goes to shoving a quick meal in my mouth and catching up on as much shut eye as possible – but I’ll do my best to fill you in on the craziness of working full time while caring for two active baby boys.

So far, I’ve realized that caring for two kids is very similar to caring for one. However, life has become a game of carefully calculated choices. Let me explain.

After Grey was born, I definitely felt like my life was a shit show the majority of the time. Nonetheless, I did find the time to shower regularly, get dressed most days, and even got my hair cut and colored every so often. With only one child, you can utilize nap time – two hours of blissful child-free time and space each day. Additionally, it’s easy (and less expensive) to find a sitter to watch one child, so my husband and I even got out once in a while. I remember seeing a mother out in public whose children looked well rested and dressed adorably only to find that the poor woman looked as though she hadn’t slept in a decade even though she was wearing pajamas that look as though she’d been wearing them for days. It wasn’t until I had a second child that I realized the cause for such confusion. Life with two (or more) – it’s all about the choices. You dress the kids or you dress yourself. Clearly, that mom I witnessed – she chose the kids.

My days have become very similar. In the mornings, I have time to put on makeup or to blow dry my hair. I can shave my legs or brush my teeth. I can stop for coffee after dropping the kids at daycare or I can be on time to work. I can make them dinner or I can make myself dinner (because god forbid we all eat the same thing for once). I can grab a snack or I can pour myself a glass of wine. You get the idea. At this very moment, I’m deciding between finishing this blog or picking up the baby who is beginning to fuss in the swing. And in this game of choices, most of the time, the children win.

The work is similar – bath times, bed times, bottles, diapers – but the amount of time per day that I have to get anything done seems to have been cut in half. It may be a while before I leave the house in which myself and both my children are fed, dressed, and well-rested. I probably won’t have an evening when both the laundry and the dishes are done at the same time. And I may never again have the time to paint my nails and pluck my eye brows in the same week. But when it comes down to it, and I look at my boys playing together on the floor, I have to say that so far, it’s totally worth it.

gannonandgrey

Top 5 Ways to Piss Off a Pregnant Lady

For a lot of women, pregnancy is a miraculous, joyful experience spent planning and preparing to welcome a tiny life into the world. Some women adore their growing baby bumps and revel in the attention that is sure to come their way by practically every stranger on the street. They read the breastfeeding books, attend all the baby care classes, and decorate beautiful nurseries all while sporting that gorgeous pregnancy glow. And then there are people like me – who are pretty much uncomfortable, awkward, and irritated for the majority of the nine months. I want to be one of those perfect pregnant ladies, but I can’t help but think that having another human inside my body is slightly strange and frankly, planning for a new baby is nothing short of seriously stressful in my book. Between trying not to pee my pants every time I sneeze and not being able to pour myself a glass of wine after a long ass day, I’m pretty much just annoyed the majority of the time.

And as if simply being pregnant isn’t challenging enough on its own, I’ve realized that the people around me are only adding to my annoyed attitude. So today, I want to share with you the five most annoying things that people say and do that only further piss off an already annoyed pregnant woman. Here goes.

belly

1.) People who comment on my growing belly. At least a handful of people this week have commented on the fact that my baby bump is growing noticeably bigger. Thanks for stating the obvious, people. I’m six months along….. so… yeah, I’d say it’d be a major problem if I wasn’t getting bigger. But seriously, it makes me feel really awkward when people say shit like, “Oh, your baby bump is getting bigger!!!” Whether you’re my co-worker, my OBGYN at my latest monthly appointment, or some random ass stranger, I’d rather you didn’t share your opinions on my massive midsection.

2.) Random people who rub my belly. The only thing worse than people mentioning my expanding waistline is people who feel the need to actually touch it. I’m not walking around rubbing people’s beer guts, so I’m not sure why you feel the need to pat my belly because I’m pregnant. Not appropriate.

3.) People who share their labor horror stories. Listen, ladies. Let’s all make a pact to stop sharing the disastrous delivery stories. First of all, I’ve been through labor once before and I survived, so I don’t need to know the dirty details of how your own personal delivery when down. And secondly, if you can’t help yourself from discussing your own experience, then just fucking lie to me and tell me it was amazing. Let’s keep it positive and talk about how amazing epidurals are rather than comparing how many hours we all spent suffering through contractions before the anesthesiologist showed up. Am I right??

4.) People who ask me how I’m feeling. I know, I’m being a bitch here – and I know you mean well when you ask how I’m feeling. But most of the time, people who ask this question don’t actually want to know the answer. They ask it because they think it’s the polite thing to do. But do you really want to know how I’m feeling?? I mean, I guess I could be honest and start telling the entire world that I’m exhausted, sweaty, sore, cramping, achy, huge, and nauseous. Other than that, I’m fucking great.

5.) People who ask if we are going to try for a girl. For god’s sake people, let me push out baby boy number two before you start asking if we are going to have baby number three. I’m not even 100% convinced I’m capable of handling two children, so the fact that people are already asking if we are going to have another one is laughable. And even if we have a third child, the answer is NO – we are not “trying” for a girl. We are going to thank our lucky stars that so far, we will never have to face dealing with an emotional, hormone driven, drama-filled teenage daughter.

So there you have it. And while I’m sure there are many other things that I could continually add to this list of shit people do to piss me off on a regular basis, I’m going to stop there for the moment. And please, if you know someone who is pregnant, escape adding to her daily annoyance levels by avoiding the items on this list.

Bad Parenting Moments

Well, fellow mothers. The day has come. After many months spent dreading this one inevitable parenting moment, it finally happened. It was bad. It was worse that I had imagined. And if you are a parent, you might have an idea of what I’m referring to here. Maybe it’s even happened to you.

Yup. You got it. My kid puked ALLLLLL over the backseat of my car.

When my husband and I were deciding whether or not we should have a baby, we had a lot of fears. Were we ready? Would we be able to handle the responsibility of raising a child? Were we financial stable enough? And most importantly, what the fuck would we do if our kid puked? Who would clean that shit up???

Vomit is by far my worst fear in life. Just thinking about barfing makes me want to barf. I swear, I was scarred for life after watching that scene in The Sandlot where the kids are blowing chunks at the carnival after chewing tobacco. Screw being afraid of “The Beast,” that puking was more horrifying than anything I had ever seen in my eight-year-old life. I’m actually nauseous just thinking about it.

So back to my gruesome story. Last week, we were invited over to our friend’s house for a play date. My son was acting totally normal. Happy. Fine. No indication of what was to come. He was playing contently in his car seat, chugging apple juice (yeah……. It wasn’t the last time I was going to see that apple juice). He started getting pretty obnoxious towards the end of our drive, so I told him to settle down. He screamed once or twice, which was weird… I peeked in my rearview mirror but he looked fine. As we were pulling into my girlfriend’s neighborhood, I heard him yell that his stomach hurt. God, I wish I took that comment seriously. Within moments, he was hurling apple juice all over himself, the car seat, and the back seat of my car.

Luckily, we were almost in my friend’s driveway when this all went down. I’m pretty sure I had at least three minutes of complete parenting shock. I might have momentarily blacked out while trying to decide how to the hell to handle this situation. I jumped out of my car, called my friend from the driveway, and yelled at her to come outside with supplies – I needed bags, wipes, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc. (You know your friend is a good person when you make that kind of phone call and they actually come outside with all said supplies, no questions asked).

I cleaned everything up as much as I could without tossing my own cookies, plopped my son into the extra car seat that I just happened to have in my car that day (THANK GOD), and prayed to sweet Jesus that we would make it home before he puked again.

It was an intense drive home. I’m fairly certain that I ran at least three red lights and drove twice the speed limit. In my defense, there are two times that breaking traffic laws are totally acceptable: 1) when you are on your way to hospital with your wife who is in active labor and 2) when your kid is losing his lunch in the backseat of your car. And yes, I’m fully prepared to defend that in a court of law.

Thankfully, we made it home before my kid decided to engage in round two of ralphing. Actually, it turned out that his puking was a one hit wonder (THANK GOD). I spent the remainder of the day with nose plugs and rubber gloves, attempting to clean out the car seat and the back seat of my car, which is really an entirely different post of its own. FYI – assembling, washing, and reassembling a car seat is pretty much comparable to cracking the Da Vinci Code.

So all in all, we both survived (although my son and I are both equally traumatized). I’m pretty sure throwing up was one of the most confusing and scary experiences for my two year old (AND me). He will most likely talk about the back seat barfing every single day for the next six months and I have will nightmares about it for a similar time frame. I was lucky to have made it two and a half years vomit-free and I will spend every day praying to the parenting gods that it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

And if it does, hopefully it will happen on Daddy’s watch.

The Biggest Challenge After Becoming a Mother

Finding a balance between career and kids has been a long time battle for many mothers. The decision to continue to pursue a career or to spend those precious years at home when your kids are young is complicated to say the least. In my short two years as a parent, I’ve somehow managed to spend time as a full-time working mother, a part-time working mother, and a stay at home mother. Just to be sure the grass wasn’t greener, I apparently felt the need to test out every option before deciding what was going to be best for my family. Most recently, I’ve returned to work full time once again. But through it all, I’ve learned an important lesson. No matter what decision you make – to work or not to work – parenting is hard. It isn’t easy to be at home all day with crazed kiddos who’ve been cooped up with a bad case of cabin fever all winter. Similarly, it isn’t easy to work full time and to spend hours on end packing lunches and setting clothes out and fighting rush hour traffic on the way to drop the baby off at day care. Simply put, either way, it’s all hard as hell.

During the time when I was staying at home with my son, I wrote a post called “Things No One Told Me About Being a Stay at Home Mom.” It was a weird time for me. I was adjusting to motherhood in general and getting used to the fact that I had given up my career to be at home with my son (and two other children that I was nannying for, for a little extra cash). I found myself becoming jealous of my husband’s quiet commute to work, the fact that he could actually take a lunch break, and maybe even pee in peace once in a while. That post was probably the most honest thing I’ve ever shared and I was terrified of the negative feedback I was sure I’d receive. I figured I’d get people telling me to be grateful for the opportunity to choose to stay at home and to treasure the years when my son was little. I was shocked to read the comments that I received from so many other mothers who felt like they were also becoming maniacs from spending all day long taking care of kids. I realized that full-time, long term, stay-at-home-mothers are practically saints and I didn’t make the cut. I gave in and returned to work part in September.

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By January, I took on a full-time teaching position. I was thrilled to be able to regain my career (and to be able to have eight hours a day without succumbing to the constant demands of a toddler). I absolutely love my job and it’s been amazing, but that doesn’t mean that being a mother has become easier. There are times that I dread making lunches and ironing outfits before going to bed, which is probably what I should be doing right now… I hate having to wake my son up on the rare occasion that he actually sleeps past 6:00 just to rush him to get ready for daycare. And on the weeks that my husband is traveling for his job, I feel like I’m drowning in a pool of solo-parenting , counting the hours until he returns home to help me with the demands of our daily grind. It’s definitely tough, but the rewards out-weigh the challenges. I am a happier person and a more patient mother after having returned to my career.

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Now that I’ve gotten a taste of both sides, I have the upmost respect for mothers who have taken on either role. Unfortunately, there is often a line drawn in the sand at the playground separating the working moms from the SAHMs. I’ve heard mothers who work full-time make negative comments about those who “just” stay-at-home. Additionally, I’ve listened to stay-at-home-moms judge others for leaving their children in the hands of daycare center for 8-9 hours a day.  The fact of the matter is that every mother is just trying to find a balance that works for her and her family – to figure out how to pay the bills, how to manage their kids, and how to maintain their sanity.

When a woman becomes a mother, there are a multitude of things to learn about raising an infant. But the breast feeding, the sleeping-training, and the bottle-weaning – all of that can be learned. Books, websites, and support groups can assist you in the basics of care-taking. For me, it’s finding the perfect balance between career and kids that has been the biggest challenge in becoming a mother. What I have learned is this – the grass is not any greener. Both working and being at home are equally amazing and challenging options. Both have pros and cons. Both are wonderful, difficult, and exhausting. I think it’s time that as a whole, we ban to together and support our fellow mothers no matter what decision we choose in regards to our families and our careers.

Maybe you spend your day battling a small brood of children who are capable of capsizing an entire household before 10:00am. Maybe you are that mother who pumps breast milk in your office with the shades closed while shooting off a few e-mails to your boss. Either way, kudos to you. In my book, you’re a kick ass mom who deserves a quiet bubble bath, an evening of relaxation, and a good night’s sleep (not that any of those things are actually attainable, but a mom can dream).

5 Things that I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming a Parent

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested that I write a post sharing “what I wish I had known” before becoming a parent for all those people who read my blog that might not yet have children. It sounded like an awesome idea, but I have to admit that I struggled with it. In a nut shell, here’s what I wish I had known: EVERYTHING. Parenting is a seriously overwhelming undertaking and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what information would have helped. However, there are a few things that I wish I had better understood and here’s my attempt at trying to share that with you.

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1.) Parenting is Mentally Exhausting: It’s common knowledge that parenting is physically exhausting. I won’t even bother boring you with the lengthy details. Waking up with a newborn is the most tiring task you will ever endure. If you are as lucky as I am, then the exhaustion will continue right on into toddlerhood. I’ve had a few parents that tell me that their toddler sleeps until 10, and honestly, I want to punch them in the face. Unfortunately, my kid is an early riser. 6:00am is now considered sleeping late in our household. But just like everything else that comes along with parenting, you get used to the exhaustion. Your body adjusts. Being tired is just the norm.

But what I was really unprepared for is the mental exhaustion. Having a newborn requires being on high alert at all times. You are constantly checking on your child. You analyze every facial expression, every odd movement, even the color of their poop. When you finally get them to sleep, you’ll spend your time glued to the monitor, making sure you can hear them breathe. I thought this mental exhaustion would pass, but then my child became capable of moving and I was constantly chasing him and childproofing things and making sure he didn’t fall down the stairs or smash into the coffee table. Once he became more stable, I again thought this stage would pass, but then he learned to talk and he wants to converse with me about everything under the sun and ask me 4000 questions for the entirety of the day. Here I am, at this very moment, thinking AGAIN that the mental exhaustion will pass, but then I know at some point soon he’ll be in elementary school and I’ll spend my mental capacity organizing his sports schedule and forcing him to complete his homework every night. It’s probably safe to say that I will be mentally exhausted for a very long time. At least until he’s married, I’m sure.

2.) You Will Have No Idea What to Expect:  There’s really no efficient way to prepare for parenthood. And no, having a puppy is not at all like having a child. As a dog lover and owner, there’s a chance I uttered that phrase before I became a parent. It is true; a puppy may require you to get up now and again at night to let it outside to pee. However, a puppy won’t latch itself to your breast and suck the life out of you for 45 minutes at least three times a night. Additionally, you can’t just open the back door and let your newborn out into the yard to take a shit and then conveniently lock him in a crate while you head out to run a few quick errands.

You can enroll for all kinds of classes about how to care for a newborn, but that doesn’t entirely guarantee that you won’t put the diaper on backwards during the first mid-night change in the hospital. You can read 14 different breastfeeding books, but that doesn’t ensure that you will be able to breastfeed successfully for the minimum of 12 months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. And you know what? That’s totally fine. Parenting is a learn-as-you-go kind of undertaking. And as unprepared as you feel, don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.

Similarly, I can’t say that having one child has prepared me in how the hell to handle having another one. I’m guessing that the transition from one child to two will be just as insane (if not more so) as welcoming the first child into our family. But like I said, I’m sure I have no fucking clue as to what it will really be like until we get there.

Come to think of it, it’s probably a good thing that we go into parenthood without really understanding what is about to go down. Otherwise, we might just be smart enough not to have children at all.

3.) Parenting Doesn’t Change You: When you hit a milestone birthday, like 21, 30, or 40, people always ask things like, “So how does it feel?” or “Do you feel older?” And the answer is this: “No, dumbass. I feel the exact same way that I felt yesterday.”

Similarly, I think a lot of people assume that becoming a parent will change you. Let me fill you in here. Just because you carried a baby around in your belly for 40 weeks doesn’t mean that in the exact moment your child enters the world, you become a more responsible, more knowledgeable, more capable person prepared for raising a baby. Surprisingly, you are the same clueless, naïve, inexperienced person you were the day prior to giving birth and it will take many months (or years) for you to actually feel like a parent. On the day we brought my son home from the hospital, my husband and I sat in the kitchen eating lunch like normal. Then, we laughed and laughed at the hilarious, weird fact that there was a newborn sleeping in the next room. And not just any newborn, OUR newborn.

In addition, just because you enter the world of parenting doesn’t mean that you ultimately want to give up your pre-baby hobbies, like drinking wine or getting your nails done (though you may do these things much less frequently). Depending on your personal interests, becoming a parent doesn’t mean that you can’t still be a marathon runner, or a career driven woman, or someone who enjoys some alone time now again. You don’t have to replace your monthly book club meetings with mommy and me classes or your weekly date night with your husband for catching up on laundry and a good night’s sleep. You will still be the same person with the same hobbies and interests as you had before you had a child. It’s totally acceptable to still make time for those things (and very healthy, too) and you don’t have to feel guilty about that.

4.) It Doesn’t Get Easier: Every time I see a new mother struggling, I immediately feel the natural need to try to comfort her by assuring her that in time, it will get easier. However, I have to stop myself. The truth of the matter is this: it doesn’t actually get easier, ladies. But don’t get discouraged. Let me explain.

Every stage has its challenges and its perks. Having a newborn is a total pain in the ass because you’re up all night and the breastfeeding can be really tough. Then again, newborns are pretty portable since they will pretty much sleep wherever for long stretches of time. Now that my son is two, it’s so much easier because he’s a little bit more self-sufficient, but at the same time he is sassy and stubborn and energetic almost to a fault. I’m sure that when he’s a teenager, it will be so nice to have finally passed the needy newborn thing, but I bet waiting up all night praying to God that he’ll make his curfew without crashing his car will be super stressful. So here’s the deal. It doesn’t get easier, but you get better at it. You get better at managing the chaos and anticipating the challenges. You get better at staying organized and being prepared. You learn to stay patient and to handle your anxiety. Parenting is a lifelong process and it will always be challenging, but just like all the other parents in the world, we will be just fine. With that, I’m going to go refill my wine glass before I continue on here.

5.) It Doesn’t Always Come Naturally to Mothers: Many people assume that women are born with a natural maternal instinct that immediately kicks in as soon as they become pregnant. One person actually told me that women become mothers when they get pregnant and men become fathers when they meet their baby. Here’s a more realistic version of that statement: A woman becomes a mother when the baby is born because she doesn’t have a choice and she is the only person who can provide breast milk at 2:00am. A man becomes a father when his wife finally threatens to divorce him unless he starts helping with the baby.

Additionally, they say that women begin nesting even before the baby is born because of this natural motherly instinct. The truth is that not all pregnant women want to take on the task of researching and registering for 4000 baby items and washing bins of baby clothes, but that shit has to get done before the baby is born and someone has to do it. It doesn’t automatically mean that she is more prepared or more “ready” than her husband.

On the same topic, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the instant motherly bond during that skin to skin contact right after the birth of a baby. I only know my own experience and I’m hoping you won’t judge me for this, but I’m not exactly sure I felt that “instant” connection. Here are the honest thoughts that went through my head immediately after giving birth and they occurred in this exact order: “I’m so thankful my son is here and healthy. It feels SO amazing to have that weight of a massive baby out of my body. I AM VERY HUNGRY.” I didn’t cry tears of joy or feel like I had become a mother instantaneously. And you know what? I think that’s perfectly fine. Maybe it took me a few weeks (or months….) to settle in to my new role, but I don’t feel guilty about that. I think it’s normal and honest to need some time to adjust. In my experience, it turns out that parenting was not a “just add water” kind of concoction and that’s totally acceptable.

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All in all, there’s nothing that I (or anyone else) can say that will prepare you for parenthood. Plus, everyone’s experience is totally different. I’m kind of an anxious, frazzled hot mess in general so taking on motherhood has been an adjustment for me. But trust me ladies, if I can do it, you can do it. And in the mean time, after our babies are born, we can drink as much wine as we need. Thank God for that, right?