“Before I Was a Mom”

The following text was sent to me as an email forward a few months ago. I’ve tried to track down the author, but so far, my internet searches have come up empty. Whoever wrote it really got to the heart of being a mother. Reading things like this help me remember to take a deep breath and enjoy this crazy, wondrous ride.

Before I was a Mom,
I never tripped over toys
or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn’t worry whether or not
my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.
Before I was a Mom,
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind
and my thoughts.
I slept all night.
Before I was a Mom,
I never held down a screaming child
so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night
watching a baby sleep.
Before I was a Mom,
I never held a sleeping baby just because
I didn’t want to put her down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces
when I couldn’t stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small
could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.
Before I was a Mom,
I didn’t know the feeling of
having my heart outside my body.
I didn’t know how special it could feel
to feed a hungry baby.
I didn’t know that bond
between a mother and her child.
I didn’t know that something so small
could make me feel so important and happy.
Before I was a Mom,
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night
every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth,
the joy,
the love,
the heartache,
the wonderment
or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much,
before I was a Mom.

Wie geht’s dir?

I just read an entry on the blog Rookie Moms about joining a mother’s group and how difficult it can be to talk about all the real issues we may be having. So often, we want to demonstrate to the world that everything is fine – no post-delivery pain, sleeping babies, easy breastfeeding, etc. – as if we’re supposed to be instantly transformed into Super Mom when we give birth. We put way too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. But how often is that really the case?

I have been fortunate enough to find a group of supportive women to go on this journey with. We met in prenatal yoga. Our instructor encouraged us to get to know each other outside of class, and it’s some of the best advice I got during pregnancy. Five of us began meeting after yoga for lunch and for walks in the park. We’d ask questions about each other’s pregnancies and check in to see if what we were experiencing was “normal.” I learned so much from these amazing women. One by one, we each gave birth to a beautiful baby boy (yup, all boys!). For over a year now, we’ve been meeting every Thursday at each other’s houses (I call it the Boys’ Club). We’ve gotten to watch each other’s boys grow from infants to toddlers. And we’ve benefited from friendships that are open enough for us to talk about everything we experience as new moms – from all the joys to all the difficulties.

I don’t know what I’d do without these incredible women. They have been my lifeline since Aleksander was born. I think there are at least two reasons we’ve been able to be so open and honest with each other. For one, we were drawn to each other as like-minded women (although we all certainly have our own ways of raising our boys!). But we all made the effort from the beginning to talk about anything and everything. Second, I think it helped that we met during pregnancy. Even before our children were born, we were engaging in pretty personal conversations. So making the transition once we became mothers wasn’t too hard.

But not everyone is so fortunate. It saddens me to think of moms out there who have to one to turn to. The author of the Rookie Moms post suggests some phrases that might help open up the channels of conversation when joining a mothers group. Things like, “This is hard to talk about …” or “I’m embarrassed to say this …”. These openers could be really helpful to talk about the difficult issues we face as new (or even experienced) mothers. Still, while these phrases help open the door, they can still take quite a lot of courage to initiate. Wouldn’t it be nice of the women in a mom’s group asked each other how things were going … and really meant it?

When I was studying in Germany as a grad student, my friends and I used to meet at our favorite pub on Friday nights. Over a beer, we’d ask each other “Wie geht’s dir?” In German, that means “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” For an American this question is taken rather lightly. The conversation goes something like: “How are you?” – “Fine, thanks, how are you?” – “Fine.” – and the two people go their separate ways. In Germany, the question is only asked if one wants a real answer. So even though my friends were also American, we asked the question in the German manner: Wie geht’s dir? It was great. We all had an opportunity to talk about our frustrations and difficulties at the university or in the culture or whatever.

So next time you’re at a mom’s group, try asking one of the other moms, “How are you? Really. How are you?” (You don’t have to do it in German!)

Question: Do you have other moms you can really talk to?

Homemaker

The term “stay-at-home-mom” has been bothering me for a while. Yes, I’m a mom. Yes, I work from home. But somehow “staying at home” makes it sound a little like I also do this while reclining on the couch eating bon-bons. I most certainly do not! I am a lot more than just a mom, too. I cook, clean, do laundry, get groceries, take out the garbage, and just about everything else that makes our household run. Yes, my wonderful husband pitches in a good bit, too. But my job at home is a lot more than just being a mom to Aleksander.

That is why I am currently opting for the term “homemaker” instead. It sounds a bit old-fashioned, I know. But by taking care of Aleksander and just about everything in the house as well, I feel that I am making our house a home. I take a lot of pride in that job. Although I admit I get frustrated by having to do the same household chores over and over again, in the end I really like the idea that I am making a lovely home for my family. I like the idea of making things easier on my hard-working husband. And of course, I like being the one who gets to take care of Aleksander, too.

So until I – or someone else – comes up with a better term, I’m going to start calling myself a homemaker.

Question: Do you have any suggestions for this job description?

P.S. — I don’t mean to imply that you working mothers don’t do all these household chores as well! Maybe we need a new term for the “working mother” too!

What a Prince!

Sometimes I get into a snit about all the things I have to do around the house  . . .  again. How many times will I empty the dishwasher, make dinner, do the laundry, clean up the house, take out the garbage … and, and, and? All this and more in addition to taking care of Aleksander! It’s overwhelming at times. I don’t know if I realized that my decision to stay home with my kids meant taking care of everything in the house, too. When did that become part of the bargain?

And just when I’m feeling particularly (and unreasonably) annoyed, my prince of a husband does some little (and wonderful) thing to help out and remind me that we are indeed in this together!

PER was sick this past week with a bad cold and fever, so it was just like a week when he’s traveling. That is, I had full-time Aleksander-duty. I moved into the guest room, so we could both get a decent night’s sleep. He finally felt better by the weekend. Before moving back upstairs, though, I wanted the sheets and duvet cover to be washed. But when?! I had to teach Saturday morning, and we had a birthday party that afternoon. When I got home from teaching, I was so surprised to see the bed completely stripped! The sheets were already washed and in the dryer! When did my Prince have time to do that?! It may sound like a little thing, but it meant an awful lot to me.

My Prince is always doing things like that. Just when I think I can’t take it anymore, he swoops in to my rescue, taking care of some “insignificant” but ever-recurring chore in the house. (It’s usually cleaning up the kitchen.) He puts in a lot of time with Aleksander, too. Sometimes I don’t know how he does it all. He works so hard at his job and yet, when he gets home, he jumps right in. He doesn’t even ask for that 10-minute buffer period before being handed the baby!

So why am I telling you all this? Because it is so easy to forget what an amazing partner I have. It’s so easy to blame him for the messy house (usually more my own doing!) or some other thing that is annoying me. But every time I go down that loathsome road, I only end up loathing myself for going there. So I’m trying to focus on all the wonderful things my Prince does. I’m trying to appreciate him more and more. It’s amazing how paying attention to all the positive aspects in him somehow magically makes any frustrations just disappear! And in the end, I’m so much happier for it. 🙂

Question: What do you do to avoid taking your frustrations out on your spouse?

Laughing through the “Small Stuff”

Today Aleksander sneezed just as I was putting a spoonful of pomegranate applesauce in his mouth. It’s a nice dark red color. You get the picture.

After the moment of shock wore off  . . .  I burst out laughing. Yes, there were little wet, red specks covering Aleksander, his tray, and me. But it wasn’t actually so hard to clean up. And it was a pretty funny moment.

This kind of thing happens all the time when there’s a baby in the house. The spray of pee that goes shooting up in the air just as you’re about to put on a diaper (yes, we have a boy), the little hand that plunges into the poop in a lightening flash moment when you open the diaper (how do they move so fast?!), the milk that gets shaken out of the bottle and all over you (I love smelling like formula), and let’s not forget the spit-up (Aleksander was like Mt Vesuvius in those early months – luckily the volcano dried up by 6 months!). That’s just the tip of the iceberg. And I don’t even want to know what’s in store for us as Aleksander gets older….

These are the kinds of messes that made me nervous when thinking about having a baby. I don’t like messes. Well, at least the dirty, wet, smelly kinds of messes. (I don’t like the clutter messes either, but alas, my house is generally in some state of cluttered chaos.) My mom tells me I played in mud puddles as a little girl. No way. I just don’t believe it. It’s soooooo not me.

But these are the typical messes that happen on a daily basis when you have kids. So I have to pat myself on the back. In the past year, I have gotten really good at letting these things slide. Instead of freaking out or getting upset, I usually just laugh. After all, I can’t change the situation. And when you step back, it usually is a pretty funny moment. 🙂

Question: Are you able to laugh at the small stuff? Got any good stories of these classic moments?

Part-Time Single Mother

My husband, PER, travels a lot for his work. It seems to come in spurts. He won’t have a trip for months, and then suddenly he’s traveling three weeks out of the month. Sometimes it’s just a day-trip, and then other times it’s a whole week. Luckily he’s almost always home by the weekend. It makes me feel like a part-time single mother. I have to make certain adjustments and lower my expectations when he’s gone.

A friend of mine recently wrote to me to ask for some advice on being such a part-time single mother. Her husband is going through some training for his work that requires him to be away during the week for the next six weeks. That is an awfully long time!

Her situation inspired me to use this outlet to talk about what I’ve learned in the past 14 months about surviving the time on my own. So here it is:

  • Make sure you have support. If you don’t have family close by, line up the babysitters. I sometimes have someone come every day, even if it’s only for an hour. It’s important to be able to get some rest, get a break, and/or get a few things done.
  • Prepare over the weekend. Cook, clean, do laundry, run and empty the dishwasher, etc. We try to get these things done while one of us is able to take care of Aleksander, so I have less to worry about during the week on my own.
  • Prepare to make easy meals. I often have soup, spaghetti, or baked chicken – quick and easy. Or you can cook double ahead of time and eat the leftovers during the week.
  • Take a nap and/or get to bed early. Having the care of a child all day takes extra energy, so you’ll need extra rest.
  • Go easy on yourself! You’re not going to get as much done when you’re on your own. You may have to let some things slide. And that’s okay!! I generally don’t count on getting anything done other than taking care of Aleksander. I usually do end up getting a few things done, but then it feels like a big bonus 🙂
  • Still make time for yourself. Don’t let that tank drain down to empty, or you won’t be able to take care of yourself or your child. Get a pedicure, do some yoga, or even just sit for five minutes with a cup of tea – whatever you do to rejuvenate yourself.
  • When your husband gets home, remember to take some time for just the two of you. Go on a date if you can. If not, spend a little quality time together after your little one goes to bed. It’s so important to stay connected with each other.
  • On that note, remember that your spouse has probably had a rough week, too. It’s hard to imagine, but PER actually puts in more hours when he’s on the road than when he’s home. Add to that the flights or driving, and it’s a pretty strenuous time for him. As much as I’d like to just hand Aleksander over to him when he walks through the door, I know he needs a little time to wind down. You might want to talk about how you want to deal with that transition time, so you’re both clear about your expectations.

So there you have it. My tips to surviving part-time single-motherhood. I can’t imagine being a full-time single mom. To all you single moms out there, hats off to you!!!

Question: Do you have any tips to add?

Ever Changing

Just when you think you have things figure out… WHAM! Along comes yet another change. As my friend Anika says, “it’s never boring!”

The last three days, Aleksander has not taken his second nap. For about three months now, he’s only slept for about 40 minutes in the afternoon and would wake up utterly miserable. He was usually crying or even screaming, and the only thing I’ve found to settle him down is Baby Mozart. It’s bizarre – it actually makes him happy … ridiculously happy! So for the past three days, I’ve gone through the bedtime routine and put him in his crib. He lies in his crib and chats and squawks and squeals and occasionally screams. The next bizarre thing: when I go to get him after about 30 minutes, he’s happy! How can it be that after sleeping he wakes up über-cranky, and when he doesn’t get a wink, he’s mister congeniality?! We’ve actually been having a ton of fun. We roll around on the bed in the guest room, giggling and tickling and being completely silly. And I haven’t had to watch Baby Mozart in three whole days!

So now I have to figure out how to adjust to this new situation. Do I continue to put him in his crib in the afternoon? So far, it’s been working out. But I imagine I’ll have to start pushing his first nap back as it becomes his only nap. That also means adjusting his eating schedule. And then there will be the issue of going out in the world. We usually go out around 1:00 or 2:00 (before or after lunch, depending on the plan). But pretty soon, he’ll probably be sleeping around then, right?

Well, as with all his other changes, I try to follow his lead while at the same time keeping as much stability as possible for him. It’s frustrating to have to make these changes, but I can’t change that! In the past, I’ve let myself get stressed out by them. But in my attempt to slow down and remain calm, this is a good test. So I’m just going with the flow. There’s no need to rush into anything. We can proceed slowly and figure all this out. And then, of course, things will change again!

Question: How do you deal with all the changes in your little one’s life?

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