Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taking control of Motherhood....HA!

A couple years ago I had a discussion with a good friend. Lydia was 2 and I was just getting the hang of motherhood. Remember, Lydia was a very difficult baby. My friend was wondering if she was cut out to be a mother. When I asked what her fears were, she was very specific.  She said that she recently was at the park with a group of friends who all had children. She said the conversations completely surrounded their kids. Discussions on potty training and preschools, nursing and tummy time. She was dismayed that this group of highly educated, well traveled, formerly career minded women were so...boring.

"Natalie, when I am pushing my baby on the swing, will anyone ask me about the career I had before I was a mother? Will my masters degree be trumped by conversations of poop? I'm terrified that I will be living in this shell of a life, where all I am is a mother and nothing I accomplished before that will matter."

My friend now has a child and one on the way. I've often thought of asking her about this conversation and her thoughts on this subject now that she is a mother. I just don't want to embarrass her. The last time we chatted, she was peppering me with questions about when I started potty training and telling me about the funny things her toddler is now saying.

Motherhood is an interesting change. Maybe more so for those of us who are very independent. I worried how it would change my style and body. I worried about not being able to spend my time studying and traveling. I worried mostly about the way it would change my marriage.

Before I got pregnant I started writing a book. I had all of these ideas of how things would be after I became a mother. I had plans of how I would maintain the woman I had become, even with a baby in tow. I decided to write this book in three parts. The first section written before I had children, about how things would be. The next section addressing the same issues, from a new mom perspective. The third section written after my kids were grown and I could look back on these issues with more experience and wisdom.  I really never planned on having it published, but I thought it would be a way for me to see my own progression and address my fears of becoming a (gasp!) stay-at-home mommy.

I wrote the first section in a whirlwind of ignorance. I'm almost embarrassed to read it now. A few tidbits....

"I will not subscribe to the mommy "wardrobe" of a ratty t-shirt and yoga pants with my hair in a bun. I will get ready everyday. How hard can that really be? It's just 20 minutes out of your day to get ready!"

HA! How could I have known no matter how hard I tried, my clothes would literally become snot rags and napkins to my children. How could I have known that a shower that included washing my hair would be so rare it would feel like a blissful spa treatment. Now I have my clothes divided into kid friendly clothes and going out clothes. Even my going out clothes have been thrown up on a few times. My "dry clean only" clothes from when I worked......they look at me with accusing eyes. They know I've abandoned them along with my size 8 jeans.

"We will not be one of those couples who have to be home every night by 7 just because we have a baby. We will just bring our baby to events and let her fall asleep in the stroller." 

HA! We became one of those couple who never left the house ever as our baby would scream bloody murder if she was not in her crib at bedtime and naptime. Dinner out? HA! We couldn't go out with Lydia until she was 2 and a half. Before that, we never made it past the appetizers.

"I will keep my house organized and clean by always picking up messes right away. I don't understand how young moms let their houses become so chaotic." 

HA! While I made the bed this morning, Collin dumped out the entire contents of our bulk Q-tips. While I cleaned that up, he unraveled the toilet paper roll. Lydia meanwhile, was turning her bedroom into a "train" by piling up every book in the house and "seating" dozens of dolls and animals on these book chairs. And don't even get me started about cleaning up after three meals everyday of my existence, several spills and a baby who loves to throw bananas at me - please refer back to mommy wardrobe.

"I will not allow my child to throw a temper tantrum in public."

HA! How could I have known what little control I would have when I had a two year old in my arms waiting in line at the grocery store. I have to finish checking out, but how do I get her to stop screaming!?! I waited until after she napped. I had snacks. I have to buy milk! I want to scream at the people who are glaring at me "What the hell do you want me to do!?!?!?".  (I admit. I do use the work hell. It's one of my favorite words.) My mom actually told me that before she became a grandmother, she thought that children who threw tempter tantrums in grocery stores were abused at home! This is such a cruel injustice. I finally arranged to swap babysitting on grocery day so I could go alone and save face. Though to be honest, Lydia and Collin are wonderful when we go out now and I feel myself slightly judging others. Oh how quickly we forget. Don't worry. Collin will be two soon enough and I will feel that shame again.

"I will not feed my children fast food and will make a healthy dinner every night. Since I love cooking, this should be easy."

HA! Sometimes we go to Wendy's just because I cannot even think of doing one more dish. While I do try to cook, the idea of doing it EVERYDAY kind of takes away the fun of it. We have Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup with crackers often.

"I will not let having a baby change my sex life."



If I could go back to that conversation with my friend I think I would tell her this. Being a young mom hijacks your life. It really does take over everything. You will feel like you are going crazy when you can't remember words like "fridge" and "map". Mommy brain is a real thing. You have to be completely focused on these little children and the hundreds of things you have to do each day just to maintain existence. You think now that a minivan is the worst thing imaginable, but you change your mind when you attempt to load a baby, a toddler and 17 sacks of groceries into your sleek sedan. You think that having sex less than 4 times a week would be the end of your marriage, but you can't imagine how blissful sleep will become.

After I have totally freaked her out and she stares at me with disbelieving eyes (because she knows deep down she will not let motherhood change her like that), I would reassure her. All the things we are as women are still a part of us. We may be exhausted and dressed in a teal top and olive sweatpants (literally what I am wearing as I type), but we are still the stylish, educated women we have always been. The reason we moms talk about our children all the time is because we are fascinated by them. Because you cannot understand how you will feel about them. Even though we complain about them ruining our new clothes and freshly painted walls, watching them grow from a tiny baby to a child and beyond is the most incredible adventure.

Maybe I do talk about my kids a lot. Maybe my nights have switched from attending rock concerts and art walks to being thrilled with a good book and popcorn. So maybe I know that those without kids are judging me at the grocery store and church (and on this blog).

That's okay. I would have judged me too.


Krulls in Haiti said...

This is so beautifully written, and resonates deeply with me. I love when other moms are transparent... we are in this together!

Unknown said...

wonderfully written! publish your book. i have 5 children (ages 20 - 5 months) I always chuckle inside when i hear young pregnant moms talk. they have no idea how wonderful change is. motherhood is by far our biggest investment as well as our biggest accomplishment! thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I have the same thoughts you had before you had kids... knowing that I will be sadly mistaken, I'm okay with it. I especially don't want my kids to eat fast food. We'll see how long that last. But I'm glad you wrote this. i know I'm not the only one with the fear that my life is about to change DRASTICALLY! but definitely for the better.

Jennifer said...

I have been reading your blog for about 18 months now and although I don't have kids myself I have always appreciated how honest you are in your writing. You say the things that many people are probably thinking, but don't have the courage to say out loud. You don't sugarcoat and you sound like a "mom" who is also a "woman". It is very clear you adore your children, but it's refreshing and encouraging to hear the things you have to say. I am going through IVF right now (egg collection tomorrow!) and if I am lucky enough to become a mom I think I will refer to you as a source of inspiration on keeping it real. Thanks!

Amy said...

im a new mom and i had NO idea how life with a baby would change me. I knew it would change my life, but me? ha.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely! A woman with no children has no idea what we moms go through on a daily basis. No offense to women without children, you just can't understand it until you go through it. It really is an experience required type of thing. Ask Carolyn had a great answer to that in one of her columns - a woman without children wrote in wondering why her friend now is so worried/concerned over her children, after all how hard can it be to take a shower/go out in public/clean the house when you have a child? Carolyn laid out a stay at home mom's day with emphasis on how the entire time you need to be completely worried about that child 24/7. It didn't look so simple after that! It is always funny to think about the before and after with kids - they change your life for better and for worse.

Anonymous said...

As a mom of 4 I can totally relate!! I think you need to continue writing your book and eventually publish it. You have a talent!! :-)

Unknown said...

Oh, wow, this sounds just like the last few years of my life, and even now, with my girls being 6 and 7, it's hard for my friends (most of whom have not even started having kids) to understand what it's like.

S Club Mama said...

This is so well said and written. The only difference is now I do dress up daily (although I still throw my hair in a ponytail or messy bun bc I don't know how to do anything else) and before I had kids (and for the last 2 1/2 years of having kids) I dressed in sweats & t-shirts.

It's so hard to have these ideals and watch them not be true, but the most important thing is being a good mom. And a good mom can take her kids to Wendy's! :)

TGS said...

amen...I got nothin'

Kristin said...

Like Molly, I've wondered about all of this and more with kids soon around the corner for me. (Molly & I were good friends in highschool by the way, nice to meetchya ;) It's nice to know the before and after, and most especially to hear how perfectly happy you are with your life after. Thanks for sharing.

Nama said...

Thanks for your honesty and openness, Natalie.

I don't have children yet, but I do worry about a lot of the same things you worried about in your pre-children days. It's so refreshing to hear your perspective now, and it comforts me in knowing that, yes, my life will change and probably not in the ways I want/expect it to...but it's going to be okay! And it's well worth it. :)

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