What’s Really Bothering Me

Thank you all for your kind words on my last three posts. I’m sorry I’ve been such a little drama queen. First I’m all, MY KID WON’T EAT! (except that he still wants to drink 36 ounces of formula a day and is clearly thriving) and then I’m all, I WANT TO EAT A BAG OF CHEEZ-ITS! (but of course, well duh, doesn’t everyone?!) and to top it off I’m all, BUT YOU GUYS! I HAVE TO WEAR GLASSES! (you know, like (evidently) 75% of the adult population does at least some of the time). You all must be thinking, Hey E, it’s cool. These are first world problems. Actually, these aren’t even first world problems, these are crazy-postpartum-women-on-a-diet problems. So yeah, chill the fuck out.

And you know what? Fair enough.

I don’t really know what my problem is. If I don’t get my period in the next day or so I’ll chalk it up to a lot of stress at work. Morale is really low at my school because we’re getting a lot of top down pressure to make really big changes in what, and the way, we teach (Common core? 21st century learning? Project based learning? Anyone? Bueller?) and there is tremendous pressure and very little support and it’s starting to wear. We also spend A LOT of time talking about how we want to implement these changes, only to have our input ignored while parent input is implemented. It’s incredibly frustrating and makes us feel like no one, not even our administration, views us as professionals with valuable experience and opinions.

I spent a great deal of time this year changing my child care coverage–calling in favors, making extra commutes and getting home really late to meet with our superintendent and other district officials about some exciting possible developments in our district, only to realize at the end of the year that all the discussion led absolutely no where. I suppose I should have know that it wasn’t worth putting in all that effort, but I really did feel blindsided by the abruptness of the whole thing. In the beginning we were talking about making sweeping changes to the foreign language program in our district in the next few years, but in the end it was clear that we would do absolutely nothing new next year. Changes cost money and of course they don’t have it. That’s fine, but they knew that when we started talking… why ask me to dedicate so much time when they couldn’t make any of the changes they were thinking about anyway (and no, this wasn’t a case of funding falling through, there was evidently never any funding to begin with).

Anyway, I’m just so sick of the higher ups blowing wind up our skirts with grandiose plans that never come to fruition. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve asked us as a staff to come up with propositions on how to change things, only to concede that they don’t have the money to make any of the changes. It’s fine if you don’t have the money to do things differently, but please don’t waste our time asking us how we’d want them done if they were to change.

So that is where I have been, just feeling frustrated and annoyed by work. I’ve already felt so stagnant there, for so long, and I guess the possibility of trying something new, challenging myself and learning new skills was intoxicating. It sucks to have it dangled in front of me and then just ripped away, without a justifiable explanation.

I know I need to leave my district, there is absolutely no room to grow there anymore. I’ve been there ten years and I need a new position, a new age group, just something NEW. I have to stay a few more years, until we find out where Osita is going to Kindergarten. Once I know where she will be in school, I can figure out where my new job needs to be, and I can start looking. In the meantime I can wait, I can even wait patiently, but I sure as hell don’t plan on expending a lot of energy giving my district a lot of great, innovative new ideas that they won’t do a damn thing with.

I guess that really was what was bothering me because after writing this post–and a letter to our superintendent–I feel like a veil of frustration has been lifted from my eyes. Suddenly I can see everything much more clearly, and instead of feeling stymied by minor annoyances, I jubilant about all the exciting events that will happen after school is over.

Man, writing really can be a cathartic release.

What is the biggest frustration at your job (be that away from home, or at home)? Is there anything you can do to make it better?

On Being a Working Mom in America

I haven’t written about this in a long time, but it’s something I think about constantly. I am a working mom in America, a country where working mothers comprise half the workforce and yet earn not only less than men in their same positions but also less than women who don’t have kids. I am a working mom in America, one of the only developed nations without a national paid maternity leave. I am a working mom in America, where quality childcare is difficult to find, where most employers do not support flexible schedules and where women with children are frequently pushed onto the “mommy track” where they will get less responsibility and fewer promotions.

I will be the first to admit that, as far as working mothers go, I have it pretty darn good. As a teacher in a public school my salary is dependent on my level of education and my years of service in the district; there are no men (or childless women) at my level making more than me, and I don’t have to worry about men or younger, childless women getting promotions that I feel I deserve. While it can feel stifling to only take a miniscule step on the pay scale every year (I’m actually approaching the place where I no longer move up on the pay scale, I’ve been working in my district for so long), at least I know what I should be making and that no one is paying me less than anyone else.

There are other benefits to being a teacher, the obvious being the (cumulative) month off of school during the year and the eight weeks off during the summer. The hours are a double edged sword, I have to be in so early that I don’t see my kids in the morning (and my husband has to managed them without my help) but I’m also home earlier, so my kids aren’t in daycare until dinner time (yes, teachers work a full eight hour day, plus all the extra time they spend in meetings, planning and grading papers).

Being a teacher can also be restrictive. The nature of my job means there is very little flexibility when it comes to schedule. I have been lucky enough to have accommodating administrators and was able to create schedules that provided the wiggle room my family has needed over the years. But that has also meant that I have had to move to part-time (80%) which affects my financial security, especially my retirement. My family never once discussed if Mi.Vida should be the one to take the cut, even when we made exactly the same amount of money (I actually made marginally more than him for many years), and I imagine that is the case in many families. For most Americans, it’s the woman who leaves her job, or reduces her hours, when kids come.

Being a working mom is hard. Really hard. (And I know being a SAHM is hard too–I’m not trying to compare the two, I’m only speaking about my own experience here.) You constantly feel pulled in a million directions, with your job, your children, your partner, your friends, and your chores all vying for your attention. There is never enough time for any one thing and there is a constant awareness of how much you are failing everyone. You’re exhausted and behind at work, thinking about your kids and then you’re overwhelmed at home, distracted by work. You are plagued by guilt, judging yourself for the ways you’re not being the employee you want to be and deriding yourself all the ways you’re short-changing your children. (If you had time, you’d also beat yourself up for what a shitty wife you’ve become.) And if you weren’t judging yourself enough, you’re aware of others judging you too. Your co-workers question your commitment when you have to leave early to pick up your sick kid and other moms ask you what it’s like for someone else to raise your children for you. My in-laws favorite jab is the timeless, “We didn’t raise our kids that way,” with which they mean, “we raised our kids ourselves, we didn’t ask family, or pay strangers, to do it for us.”

There are some days when it feels like entirely too much, like I’m drowning in a pool of ever deepening expectation. Some days it feels like a rat race, like I’m just racing from one of my many personas to another, never inhabiting any of them fully. Sometimes my alarm goes off at 5:30am and I’m literally moving non-stop until 11:30 at night. During those 18 hours I transition from one identity to the another over a dozen times. It’s exhausting.

I recently read Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink and seethed with rage at how difficult mothers have in America today. While I don’t have as stressful a job as the author, I could relate to so much of her experience. Reading the statistics she listed about working moms in America left me feeling incredibly depressed. It shouldn’t have to be this hard. When the majority of families need two earners just to get by, it shouldn’t feel so impossible to make it work.

Mi.Vida and I live in the most expensive city in the United States (yes, both San Francisco’s rents and home prices (this is average dollars per square foot of living space) have surpassed New York City, and childcare also costs more here than anywhere in the country). With the current tech boom, the difference between the rich and the poor is greater than anywhere in the country. The middle class is being pushed out, and for a public school teacher and city employee, just making ends meet is a Sisyphus-ian endeavour. I know we could choose to live somewhere else, but this is our home. Mi.Vida grew up here and my family has been in the Bay Area for 20 years. Both sets of parents live nearby, and if we want to have them in our lives, we have to spend a lot of money to stay here.

Some days I wish Mi.Vida made enough for me to stay home (he’d have to make at least TWICE as much as he makes now). Some days I wish that there were other options, that I could stop working if it became too much. But I must also admit that most days I’m relieved that I don’t have a choice, because honestly, I don’t know how I’d make that choice. The unknowns of leaving my job, even for only 2-3 years, are so debilitating. What if I couldn’t find a job when I was ready to go back? What if I were only able to find a job that paid significantly less than my current job? What if I weren’t working and my husband lost his job and we lost our house? What if I hated being home full time? What if I loved it and never wanted to go back? I don’t know if I would have the courage to make those sacrifices, if the choice were available to me. I know the choice would torment me, no matter what I decision I made.

Being a working mom is hard, whether you have a choice or not, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways our government, and our  employers, can make it easier. In fact, it benefits individual business, and the nation as a whole, when dual earner families are supported. Flexible work schedules, production-based expectations (where employees are paid for what they produce and not how much face time they put in at the office) and increased sick leave all increase not only morale but creativity and productivity. Caring for children hones many valuable skills that are transferable in the workplace. If we valued care giving, and recognized how difficult it is and the skills necessary to do it well, maybe women wouldn’t be so afraid to leave a gaping hole in their resume when they stay home for several years. If part-time positions or job shares were more accepted and available, women wouldn’t have to make the definitive choice between working outside of the home or being confined to it.

I am a WOHM, and I don’t have any choice in the matter, but I wish I did. I wish other women, who do have choices, had more and better ones to choose from. I wish it weren’t such an all or nothing game, where striking a balance feels all but impossible not matter what you choose. I wish the work mothers do was valued and appreciated. I wish that systems were in place so that even if I couldn’t afford to leave my job completely, I still might spend more time with my family, and that I wouldn’t have to be terrified of the ramifications of doing that. I wish it were all just so very, very different.

If you are a working mom, what is the experience like for you? If you’re currently a stay at home mom, how did you make that choice? Do you think the US should do more to support dual earner families? Why or why not?

A Day in the Life

I don’t remember where I first saw someone do this, but I’ve read a few posts where people chronicle their day, simply relating what they did for 24 hours. I like the idea, it’s kind of like leaving a map of one’s daily life, so that a future me might come back and read it and remember what my days were like when I had two small children. I’ve been wanting to do it, but never settled on a day before. I think yesterday was as good a day as any. It was a bit crazier than most days, but I also think it gives a good idea of all the many things I feel like I’m juggling on any given day. So here goes. (I tried to keep this brief, but of course I failed miserably.)

5:38 Monito wakes me up before my alarm. I sleepily check my phone for the time, turn off my alarms (so they won’t go off while I’m in with him), turn off the sound monitor (so it won’t wake Mi.Vida), put on my robe and make a bottle. I feed Monito, change him, and put him back to bed, praying he’ll fall back asleep. Miraculously, he does.

6:00 Lie in bed a bit, reading emails and blog posts. Try not to calculate how much sleep I got the night before.

6:05 Tip toe around our bedroom and scrounge for something suitable to wear. It’s light enough now that I don’t have to use the flashlight app on my phone to find an outfit.

6:10 Take a quick body shower. Get dressed in the bathroom.

6:24 Run downstairs to get the cloth diaper pockets and inserts from the laundry. Throw some into a dry, clean wet back and bring them upstairs. Sit on the couch and put together 18 diapers. Pack them into the wet bag, add some clean clothes for the week, and leave it next to the stairs.

6:39 Freak out when I realize the plumber is coming today and I haven’t made arrangements for leaving him a key. Wake Mi.Vida with a start. Debate with him whether I should hid a key in the potted plant behind the gate or not lock the garage door. We decide on the potted plant.

6:45 Leave tenant’s unit key in the potted plant. Feel guilty for jarring Mi.Vida awake when I could have figured out myself. Feel resentful that he left all the coordinating of this huge plumbing job to me.

6:50 Get into car. Text the girl I drive to school some days that I’m coming. Drive over to pick her up, using talk to text to message Mi.Vida and the plumber.

7:05 Finally on the highway, headed to work.

7:13 Get a text from the plumber saying that he’s coming the 13th, which is tomorrow. It’s true that we had agreed on the 13th, but we had also agreed on Monday/Tuesday the 13th/14th. Of course Monday/Tuesday is the 12th/13th. I realize my mistake and curse myself loudly. Poor 8th grader tries to look busy on phone. Spend the next 15 minutes using talk to text to get a hold of my tenant and tell her she doesn’t need to out of the unit until tomorrow, and ask the contractor if he can come Thursday/Friday now to install the new cabinets, counter top and sink. He’s not sure that will work but he’ll let me know. I spend the rest of my drive down cursing myself for my stupidity.

7:47 Arrive at work. Decide on a plan for one of my classes. Start looking for the little teaching clocks I need to do the lesson. Never find them, despite tearing my classroom apart for a good 15 minutes. My mom comes in and I yell about not being able to find anything. She asks me what I’m trying to find and disappears hastily.

8:05 Let my class in seconds before the final bell rings. My mom also shows up with little learning clocks that she borrowed from a 2nd grade teacher. I thank her profusely. Take attendance for Advisory.

8:15 Teach 5th grade ELD

9:13 Teach 7th/8th grade Spanish.

10:05 Enjoy a short break.

10:20 Teach 7th/8th grade study skills. Three of my 8th graders are in danger of not graduating.

11:15 Teach 6th grade Spanish. There is an unannounced fire drill and NO ONE finishes the stories we are writing and illustrating for Open House this Wednesday. I won’t see this class again before Wednesday. I declare the day a total failure.

12:07 Dismiss my last class. Run over to my mom’s room to confirm what time she’ll be at my house on Wednesday to meet my in-laws with Monito. Grab a bar to eat in the car.

12:25 Finally driving home. Listen to What Rachel Forgot on the way up. (I am totally obsessed with that book.)

13:07 Arrive at in-laws. Find out Monito’s nap schedule was weird and he just woke up at 12:30pm. Relay plans for Wednesday when I won’t be home because of Open House.

13:35 Head home with a happy baby.

13:57 Arrive home but realize that Monito doesn’t need to nap yet and I have time to drop off a bunch of baby items at the Young Family Resource Center. Hastily pack up car with a bunch of baby crap.

14:10 Lug a bunch of stuff up to the YFRC. Try to keep Monito awake on the way home.

15:00 Give a tired Monito a bottle, change his diaper and put him down for a nap.

15:23 Fill up the inflatable pool in the backyard for a play date I arranged for tomorrow. It’s supposed to be 85* in the city and Osita’s friend will come to splash around in the pool. I’m filling it up today because the plumber will be here tomorrow and I’m assuming the water will be turned off during the day. (I’m proud of this foresight.) Cover the little pool with a tarp so crap won’t blow into in the next 24 hours.

15:46 Decide I’ll definitely do yoga today, since I won’t have time to walk to pick up Osita. Instead spend next hour making a survey about blog use to post here (that later I can’t get to work). Also text with my BFF. Evidently, according to a BuzzFeed quiz Mandy Kaling would play me in a movie about her life, and Zooey Deschanel would play her in a movie about my life. I retake the quiz three times, each with totally different answers, and still get Zooey Deschanel every time. My BFF is amused. She decides she must embrace her “quirky side.”

16:38 Monito wakes up. Change him, feed him and let him play in his exersauser for a bit while I make a shopping list and find reusable bags.

17:15 Leave with Monito to pick up Osita. We head to Safeway. Both kids are actually really good while I do a big shop for the week.

18:23 Finally arrive home. Put on Daniel Tiger for Osita and give her butter noodles and fruit for dinner. Put Monito to bed.

18:45 Come out and help Osita finish her dinner. She begs for another episode. I say she can watch one more if she promises not to fuss during her shower. She happily agrees, proclaiming that she loves washing her hair because the water tickles. Make Osita a smoothie for desert.

19:13 Daniel Tiger ends and Osita balks at prospect of a shower. We lock heads in a power struggle. I finally put her in the tub, literally kicking and screaming. The whole shower is a battle. She comes out sniffling pitifully, eyes red.

19:30 Get Osita into bed and give her her precious warm milk. Brush her hair and teeth, putting her in tomorrow’s school clothes. Negotiate books. We read two books. Mi.Vida comes home but disappears immediately into the back room for a Skype meeting. Ostia asks for one more book. We negotiate: one more book but no cuddle time. After the book she has a meltdown about not getting cuddle time. I leave her in her room screaming because…

19:55 Osita’s screaming wakes up Monito. He won’t be consoled. I make him a small bottle but he only takes two ounces. I leave him screaming and go talk to Osita. This back and forth continues for 15 minutes.

20:55 Finally, everyone is quiet in their rooms. Throw a load of Osita’s laundry into machine. Start making dinner. (Would ditch this but the chicken is use-by today.)

21:20 Mi.Vida finishes with his meeting and comes out to help with dinner. We eat in front of the TV.

22:10 Mi.Vida retreats to the kitchen for clean up. I put the laundry in the dryer. I pull the car out so he can move the trash cans to the curb.

22:30 Collapse into bed, exhausted. Make sure timers are set to do it all over again tomorrow.

2:34 Monito wakes up wanting a bottle. He already ate 34 ounces during the day so I don’t give him one. He cries for 30 minutes before passing out. I pass out again too, trying not to count how many more hours I get to sleep.

6:00 Wake up with my alarm.

Oh, he’ll do it plenty more times…

I got the following text from Mi.Vida today. I read it sitting in front of my class, as they went, row by row, to put their papers away.

photo-25{We call Monito Fry a lot. It started with Small Fry and has morphed into many different kinds of fries. 😉 }

His parents must have called him to let him know.

And that is how I experienced one of my son’s first major milestones.

I have to admit, it stung. It stung a lot.

Today I read a post by a woman in Canada who is starting her maternity leave tomorrow. Not only does she get a year off, but for EIGHT MONTHS she gets paid her full salary.

I read that today and I cycled through so many emotions. At first I was shocked. Flabbergasted really. I just couldn’t believe it. Then I was sad for myself and all the other women in this country who have to go back to work too soon, some of them MONTHS too soon (and yes, I recognize how lucky I was to have three months off). And then I got angry, that this country–that claims it is family and child-centric–does so little (nothing really) to support the families of young children. Blerg. It just makes me mad.

It’s so hard to miss so many of his firsts. I saw a lot of this stuff with Osita because I didn’t go back until she was six months old (I took my maternity leave after summer break). This time he was so small when I went back–I’m missing out on so much more.

I think we’ll ask our in-laws not to tell us when he does something for the first time (this is what SIL suggested when she watched Osita when I went back), but I wanted to know as soon as he rolled over so I could make informed decisions about our swaddling situation. I’m glad I know he can do it now–he has been so close for so long–but it’s hard to know I missed it, that I wasn’t there to comfort him when his arm got stuck and he freaked out.

I told my mom about it and she just shook me off, assuring me that I’d see him do it tons more times. But this is not about all the times I WILL see it. This is about all the times I WON’T.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but I been struggling this week with the feeling that my son is already starting to like my MIL more than me. When I come to get him he barely looks at me, but when he looks at her he smiles so wide, and laughs and coos. It takes almost an hour at home for him to warm up to me, and respond to me that way. It’s heartbreaking. And I didn’t want to write about it because I fear it makes me sound crazy or something, like I’m too sensitive, or over-reacting, or seeing something that isn’t even there. And who know, maybe all those things are true. All I know is that he seems different when I pick him up. He shows my MIL the love I want him to show me. And with me he acts distant and reserved. And it breaks my heart a little every day.

I know my heart will become calloused to it, that eventually it will get easier. I know it’s Friday and I’m exhausted from my first week back at work, and now I’m upset that I missed a “first” in my last baby’s life. I know everything is going to be okay. But right now, it’s hard

If you are a WOHM, is it hard for you to miss your baby’s firsts? Do/did you ever feel your baby loves his or her care giver more than you?

{Also, now that he can roll over do I have to stop swaddling him immediately? Can we start in a week, when I have some days off for President’s Day? Ugh, transitioning out of the swaddle is going to be rough…}

Two weeks left of maternity leave

Today my parents came over to help us move our elliptical trainer a few feet from one wall to another. Tomorrow I’m building Monito’s crib. In three days my son will be three months old. In two weeks I’m going back to work.

It’s all happening so fast. Way too fast.

I’m not ready.

I’m not ready to leave him every day. I’m not ready to negotiate the very early mornings and all I have to do and all the ways both my children need me. I’m not ready to have to think about what I’m going to teach every day. I’m not ready to be prepared–mentally, physically and emotionally–to stand in front of middle schoolers and keep them engaged. I’m not ready to wear so many hats over the course of the day. I’m not ready to keep all those different balls in the air.

I’m just not ready.

This maternity leave has been so nice. It got off to a rocky start and the transition with Osita has been challenging, but the six hours I have with my son each day have been amazing. I so enjoy just staring into his eyes. He smiles all the time now, and laughs. He grabs at things. He is so happy, almost all of the time. He sleeps like a champ, day and night. I am so incredibly grateful for my son. I’m so incredibly thankful for this time. I’m not ready for it to end.

We’re so lucky that my in-laws will be watching Monito while I’m at work. I’m so lucky to be part-time so I can still see him for the better part of each day. I was so fortunate to have over three months at home with him in the first place. I don’t feel like I have any right to complain about how hard it will be to go back. We really have the ideal situation.

And yet here I am, writing this post.

Because honestly?! I DO NOT FEEL READY.

And I suppose I never will. My sweet baby boy is already sleeping though the night–10pm to 7am–every night. I can get plenty of sleep. I should be able to manage going back to work. And yet… the idea of it fills me with fear.

I really like being home. I really like having some time to work on small projects, to get the laundry done, to empty the dishwasher while I listen to a book on tape.

I really enjoy giving back to people. I feel like, since having my son, a part of myself that wants to give back as been reborn. That giving part of myself was such a huge piece of who I was before I started TTC. I didn’t realize at the time, but I totally shut that part down when we were trying to get pregnant, then dealing with our ectopic loss, then trying to get pregnant again, then having our first baby, then dealing with secondary infertility. And now that our family building journey is behind us, that part of myself has reawakened. Suddenly I am compelled to do things for others. I am clearly aware of how I would want to be treated and I am trying my darndest to treat people accordingly. Even here, I’m trying so hard to be a better commenter. I’m trying to link to at least one post on Mel’s Round Up every week. I’m trying to give back to this community, because for so long, this community has given so much to me.

I’m trying to give back to my family and my friends, who have been so, so good to me.

And the only reason I have the time or energy for all that is because I am not at work. As soon as I go back, I’ll be thrown into survival mode, and all these things I’m doing that make me feel good are going to be pushed to the back burner.

The next 4.5 months are going to be totally crazy. It’s going to be a challenge just to keep my head above water. I have no desire to be at school, which is going to make my time there even harder. I want to do more than the bare minimum to get by. I want to write posts and comment on them. I want to make things for my friends and family and gift those things, just because. I want to have the time to appreciate what I have in life, and let people see that appreciation.

Blerg. I’ll quit complaining. Like I said, I have no reason to. We are so, so lucky. We have the ideal care situation. I need to suck it up and face the music.

But it’s going to be hard. So, so, so, SO hard.

How am I supposed to find the time?

All the books cautioned that when you have a second child, you trade in any possibility of free time. It made sense; my first child required so much of my time I couldn’t imagine how I’d have any left when a second child came around. All those little moment I stole to read an email or blog post, to put a load of laundry in the drier, to go to the bathroom by myself… they were about to be co-opted. Yes, I understood that I was about to lose the ability to do anything for me personally, but I didn’t really GET what that might mean, what it would feel like, how I would manage it in my own life.

I have to admit, it has me struggling mightily.

I miss having my own time. I miss being able to read a blog post in one sitting, or–godforbid-comment on it. I miss being able to leave the house without kids in tow to see a friend. Now, even if Osita allows me to leave, I usually have to take Monito so that Mi.Vida doesn’t get too overwhelmed. (Luckily Monito is still very amiable to doing whatever so I can still get shopping done or even have lunch with a friend and he sleeps in his car seat or sits happily in my lap. I can’t imagine how difficult it will all get when that stops). Right now Monito’s longest period of wakefulness is the three hours right after Osita goes to bed. That long period of playing, and eating, helps him to sleep until 6-7am (which is amazing) but it effectively destroys my only opportunity to read or write or watch a TV show with MV or do some cleaning around the house.

At this point there is no dependable time during which I can get things done. With Osita at school I do have some 45-90 minute stretches when Monito is sleeping but I never know how long they will last. I usually utilize that time to get laundry folded or to do the dishes and get the kitchen to a functional state.

But when I need to actually be productive, like get some copy-editing done or write an article for the magazine I volunteer at, I am at a complete loss. When I want to read a book about Playful Parenting or managing a child’s challenging behavior I get frustrated when I realize there is just no way to get it done. It’s hard to know how I’m going to maintain any semblance of my self when every minute of every day is already accounted for.

I go back to work in less than a month and when that happens, my days will be an endless stream of moving from one intensely packed part to another. At this point I am driving to pick up Monito during my lunch hour–I don’t even have a scheduled time to eat lunch! It’s going to be insane waking up at 5:45am so that I can spend some time with both my daughter and son after I get myself ready and before I step out the door at 7am. And then it’s off to teach four classes that I probably won’t have had any time to plan for. Then I rush to my in-laws to pick up Monito, who I get to spend two hours with alone before I have to pick up Osita. The 2-3 hours at home alone with both of them is the most stressful time of the day. By the time they are both asleep I’ll have to be heading to bed too, otherwise I just won’t get enough sleep to make it through the day. I honestly can’t fathom when I’ll have time for laundry or dishes or picking up around the house. I already know my weekends will be reserved for catching up on all of that, plus actual cleaning and a week’s worth of grocery shopping. Ugh. Just typing that out exhausts me. I can’t believe that in three weeks I have to start living it.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that a lot of infertility bloggers stop writing after the birth of their first child. I am always saddened when someone I follow slowly stops posting until one day I check their blog and see that it’s been three months since they wrote. As someone who absolutely NEEDS her own space to unpack all the goings-on in my life, I never understood how people could walk away, even when I knew first hand how hard it was to carve out time with a baby at home. But now I see. With two kids, I will just not have the time. Something will have to give and when the other possibilities are laundry or dishes, I don’t see how I can justify writing here, at least not as much as I do now. I don’t know how I’m going to cut back, but I’ll probably have to.

And that makes my heart hurt.

This having two kids thing is no joke. I thought I could make it work. I thought I could find ways to protect the things dearest to me, but when it comes down to it, I doubt I can. I can see how small pieces of myself will keep falling away until I’m left at the end of the first year with nothing left of the person I know now. That thought scares me.

And I haven’t even mentioned Mi.Vida–and our relationship–in this post. That is a whole other issue to tackle and I haven’t been lately only because things between us are pretty good. I’m equally–if not more–worried about how our relationship will fare in the coming year. If we don’t have time or energy for ourselves, how will we have time and energy for each other?

Jeez. How are we going to do this?

Unpacking My New Motherhood

Finally, I have a moment to write.

So we got married on Satuday, January 4th, and when the dust settled it felt like a bomb had gone off. First Osita was home from school, then Christmas happened, then Osita was still home from school, then New Years happened, then Osita was STILL home from school, then we got married and then… finally it was all over… and FINALLY Osita went back to school.

During that time so much happened and I was in strict survival mode. In fact Osita and I seemed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight the entire time. To say it started to wear on me would be an understatement. By the end I felt like a shell of my former self.

I learned a lot about myself in the past two weeks and most of it was hard to accept. But I am doing my best to incorporate this knowledge so that I can better manage myself and my expectations, because when I do, we all benefit.

Osita went back to school yesterday and it was tough for both of us. She clearly didn’t want to go, though she didn’t say as much. Our near constant reminders on Sunday that she would be returning to school the next morning were met with muted avoidance. She never once acknowledged what we were saying and even Monday morning she hardly seemed to understand that I was getting her ready to go to school. When we finally got there she seemed sad, and I felt terrible for her. I know it’s been hard to go to school when she seems to realize (even though it’s never been said out loud) that I am home with the baby. Walking back to the car after I dropped her off I thought I’d be filled with the light airy sensations of FREEDOM but instead I felt the wretched, unbearable weight of GUILT.

I cried backing out of the parking lot. I thought I would be jumping for joy but instead my body was wracked by sobs. This motherhood thing is so fucking complicated.

On Sunday night I was looking for something on my FB page and I came across some videos of Osita from late 2012 and early 2013. I couldn’t believe how little she was just a short year ago. Her little voice sounded like a baby’s and I watched those videos with an ache for that time, when everything seemed simpler.

Except I just read some posts from those months in which I declare us more miserable than we had ever been, in which I describe horrible meltdowns and physical violence so extreme that we feared for her safety, and ours. Does this parenting thing ever get easier, or do the challenges just shift?

Getting Osita ready for school yesterday and today, and dealing with her last night, my mantra was compassion. I tried to approach every situation with empathy. Having watched those videos, I was able to remember the little girl trapped in this new preschooler body and mind. I was able to see how completely her world has been turned upside down, how devastatingly difficult all the upheaval has been for her. She is no longer the cutie-pie that everyone fawns over. She is no longer the center of attention. It’s no wonder she’s so angry, so defiant. We have totally screwed her and it’s understandable that she’s pissed as hell.

These past two days, every scream, every demand, every meltdown, has been met with compassion and empathy. And it’s not faked either. Now that I have some space from my daughter I can better see how much she is hurting, and I want desperately to make it better.

And you know what? Things were SO MUCH BETTER. She still had just as many tantrums as she has been having but they didn’t last as long and I didn’t feel resentment toward her when they were over. In fact, we had some very tender moments after her meltdowns and I could tell that she really appreciated knowing that when she tested me, I would still love her.

I tell her I love her every single day, but I haven’t been SHOWING her. Not nearly enough.

I wish I could have handled her challenges like this for the last 16 days but the truth is, I just couldn’t. I didn’t have it in me. I wouldn’t have it in my now if she were home every hour of the day. I NEED that time away from her to recharge, so that when she requires all my reserves, I have something there to give her.

I am not the kind of mom that can be with her kid all day every day. At least not well. And I know this past two weeks was exceptionally bad–I’ve spent two months at home with my daughter in the summer and we were fine–but honestly, I’m just not cut out to be a SAHM. I thought I could do it, if I wanted to, if the opportunity ever presented itself, but now I’m certain. I could not stay at home with my kids. I would not be a good mother to them. They deserve better than the me they would get.

And that is a hard pill to swallow. Really hard. It feels stuck in my throat at times, leaving an acrid taste in my mouth. But it’s the truth. And hopefully it will dissolve slowly until the fantom feeling of its presence finally fades away.

I have so much more to tackle and unpack. I have so much more to say about what I’m learning about myself as a person, and as a mother, through the birth of my second child. None of it is particularly positive, at least I don’t view it as such yet, but it is enlightening. I have felt some strong feelings toward my first born in the past two weeks, feelings I’m not proud of, feelings I may not even share here. I have felt suffocated and overwhelmed. I have felt anger and resentment. I have felt, for the first time in my short tenure as a mother, like running away. I have wanted to scream at my child and I have had to leave the room to avoid doing so.

In short I’ve been a terrible mother. And I’m not proud of it. But it’s who I am. And I suppose I have to get used to it.

I’m sad to drop my daughter off at school every day; I know she would rather be home with me. But I also understand, possibly for the first time, that I NEED to drop her off, otherwise I can’t be there for her in the ways she requires. I can’t be the mother she deserves if I’m with her all day. And I’m thankful that we can both have a break, so that when I do pick her up, I can approach her with compassion and empathy that she so very much deserves.