“It’s Not Your Season,” Says My Mom

“Mom, I just wish I could have some energy to do an exercise DVD after they go to bed.”

“Honey, it’s just not your season. There will be plenty of time for that.”

 

“Mom, I just miss reading so much.”

“It’s just not your season, honey. Do you think your aunt ever read a book when she was raising her five boys? Now look at her!”

 

“Mom, sometimes I feel like I’m going to scream if I have to eat PBJ for lunch one more time! I just want to go out to lunch ONCE! Just once!”

“It’s not your season.”

 

My mother is referring to The Book of Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1)

Before I was a mother, I heard a quote from one of our church leaders that stuck with me: “[A woman] need not try to sing all of the verses of her song at the same time.” [i]

Sometimes I try to sing too many verses simultaneously. Then I remember to back it up and focus on one thing at a time. But, on a larger scale, that line explains perfectly why I am a stay-at-home mother. I had a long career as a student. I had a five-year career as a kindergarten teacher. I had an eight-year career as a wife, but not a mother. I am currently having a career as a wife AND mother. And, someday, I will be able to read/exercise/go out to lunch again. It’s okay with me to do things sequentially.

I love being a woman. I love being a stay-at-home mom. My husband checks in with me frequently to make sure that I don’t feel “marginalized”. I ask him what that means, exactly. Does he want to know if I felt like the margin on a page, when he is the main print? If so, the answer is no. I am not a margin. This here, this work that I do every day, IS the main text. Everything else – work, friends, distractions, hobbies, reading books/exercising/going out to lunch – is the margin. Everything else is FOR THIS.

all three at sink

He works for THIS.

r cuddles

I quit my career for THIS.

storytime

He comes home for THIS.

tied down

I wake up for THIS.

e cuddle

“Your children are not distractions – they are the very purpose.” [ii]

He wants to be sure I don’t have regrets. I assure him that even though this is hard, this was the plan. This is what I was meant to do. I am a nurturer. My decisions are supported by wonderful friends and family.

Nevertheless, there are times when I feel like I am going to cry. And I do. There are times when I feel like I am going to scream. And I do (in the bathroom, silently). There are time when I feel like I am going crazy. And I do – but it passes. Today, I was changing one baby’s terrible terrible diaper mess, and the other baby was getting into the prescription diaper cream, while they were both crying, and the dog was barking, and the oldest was whining, all together. And I told myself, “Breathe. Just wait for this to pass. (And don’t let any poop go flying while you wait.)” Experience has taught me that those moments do pass.

There are times when I feel like nobody ever recognizes the good that we stay-at-home moms do. My husband might get an award or a bonus or a good grade, but I don’t. I just get more poop and more diaper rash and more barking and more whining and more crying. Bless his heart, though, because he says, “WE got an A-plus today. WE got a bonus. WE got a time-off award.” And often, my husband recognizes what I do around the house and with the children. But, as Dr. Phil says, there is a lot of “invisible work” that spouses don’t see – like the way I mop under the table three times a day. Or the way I miraculously read twelve books to wiggly one-year-olds today. He assumes, but he doesn’t really know. It’s the same as how I don’t see all the invisible work that he does to diagnose, repair, and maintain our dryer/ lawn mower/ beige minivan.

I remind myself that heaven sees what I do. God, Jesus, maybe my grandmother who died – I believe they see me and my hard work and my love for my children every day. There are countless witnesses above who may be watching me.

On earth, I have only three witnesses of what I do every day: my children. Most of the time, they don’t care, but every once in a while I will catch them showing empathy to each other in a way that mimics me, and I am so grateful. I will catch them pretending to read a book in the same sing-song-y fashion as me, and I am so proud. Every movement of their bodies can be attributed to something I have taught them- words from their mouths, spoons to their lips, hugs from their arms – it all attests to my hard work.

All that is the point. The main text. Not the margin. And that’s why I quit my career. That’s why I have no regrets. That’s why I don’t feel marginalized. And that’s why I have to remind myself that “it’s just not my season” for the things in the margin. Or, more accurately, I can call my mom and she can remind me.

My work is the main text, not the margin.

 

***

 

[i] James E. Faust (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/09/a-message-to-my-granddaughters-becoming-great-women?lang=eng)

[ii] Richard and Linda Eyre, from a fireside address, as quoted by Dwight Egan, Church News contributor (https://www.lds.org/church/news/father-of-8-missionary-sons-shares-advice-that-helped-him?lang=eng)

 

This post was originally written for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website.

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Things a Momma Thinks as She Gets *Really* Sick

See the fear in my eyes?

See the fear in my eyes?

As every mother knows, there is nothing quite so bad as being very sick while caring for sick children. A mother’s brain is full of thoughts as she sinks into a delirium from loss of electrolytes.

Panic thoughts: NOOOOOOOOOO!

Denial thoughts: I’m sure that I just gave myself salmonella from that raw cookie dough I ate. It’s not really a virus. The kids will be fine.

Desolate thoughts: I am all alone. No one can help me. No one can come in or out. We are on our own. I am Tom Hanks, and this toilet is gonna be my Wilson.

Calculation thoughts: It’s 5:45 AM. I can puke uninterrupted for another 20 minutes before the kids wake up. I have to call my husband before 6:30 AM if I want any hope of dragging him back home again before his meetings start. But I can’t call him just yet, because it will wake the kids if they hear me talking. So I will call him at 6:20 AM. He can make it back maybe within one hour of my call. This means I will have to fix breakfast for the kids while puking.

Ridiculous thoughts: Why didn’t we eat that leftover chicken kabob or those ripe avocados already? Now we’re gonna waste all this expensive food this week. It’s just gonna sit in the fridge while we drink Gatorade.

Berating thoughts: Why don’t you ever freaking keep Gatorade in this house?! You have a year’s supply of food storage and five 72-hour kits, and you can’t remember to stock up on Gatorade?! Oh, wait, I remember now. Mr. Okayest drinks it all. It never lasts in storage. And why haven’t I cleaned this toilet lately? Gross.

Self-pitying thoughts: Why now? Intestines, are you really serious right now? The one weekend I had arranged for a sitter? I babysat a friend’s kids last week to earn babysitting co-op hours FOR THIS?!

Confused thoughts: I can’t do this. How do other mothers do this? What if all three puke at the same time? Do you use buckets or towels? Or Tupperware? Do you lean them over? Why don’t I know this already? The twins books didn’t really explain double-vomits. Furthermore, how will I even get down the stairs? I’m so tired.

Maudlin thoughts: This is the end of me. It will never be spring again. I will never eat food again. I will never smile again.

Bargaining thoughts: Please, God, please let me get my strength back before my husband goes down too. Please please please. Someone has to care for these children.

Oh, and remember how I said there is nothing quite so bad as caring for sick children while being sick? Well, there is. It’s when your cousin calls and says he has an extra ticket to your favorite band tonight.

wpid-img_20141208_092748.jpg

Carts.

My whole entire life revolves around carts. Store carts. Okay, not my whole life, but most of my mother-strategizing revolves around carts.

When I had one child, the extent of my tactical planning about shopping was 1) bring some goldfish crackers, and 2) park near the cart corral in the parking lot.

Once I had three children under three, however, the logistics were cranked up to a whole new level. We’re talking The Situation Room just to leave the house. Intelligence analysis. I had one who couldn’t reliably walk through a store and two who couldn’t hold their own heads up. Shopping carts were not an option at all. My only option for shopping alone was to take my triple stroller. I could only buy what would fit in the basket of the triple stroller, and (I’m speaking from experience here) that was NOT a pack of diapers or a can of formula.

costco cartOnce the twins could, you know, sit up, my options improved dramatically. Then I could actually fit two kids in the front of a cart, and one kid in the back. The problem with this plan was that the only place that had double-seater carts was Costco. So, at least I could go to Costco, right? Right – if all I wanted to buy was maybe a can of formula. Not much else is going to fit in the back of a cart with a kid back there.

Once my oldest could reliably walk beside me in a store, my options opened up ever more. Then I could go to Costco, with the twins in the double-seater front of the cart, and my oldest walking beside me. (I still couldn’t go anywhere else, because nowhere else has double-seaters. And I can’t trust either twin to sit in the back of a cart yet.) I could fill up the back of the cart with all our groceries, instead of my kid. Well, I could do that… when I wanted him to whine “I’m tired. My legs hurt. I want to go home. I can’t walk.” through the entire store.

Another option that became possible was shopping with the double stroller, which is SO much lighter than the triple stroller, while having my oldest walk through the store (again, while tantrum-ing). I could only buy what would fit in the bottom basket of that stroller, though, or what would balance precariously on the top of the handles of the stroller.

I, of course, buy diapers in bulk, so I have to balance that bulk box on top of the handles of the stroller, while steering it, and while a grouchy kid clings to my legs. Suddenly, he will decide he wants to steer the stroller himself, which keeps him happy and then I can carry the big box in my arms… until he careens into innocent bystanders.

And SPEAKING OF BYSTANDERS,

Why does no one ever help me? I think I look pretty friendly and open. Maybe it’s because I have the look of a crazed animal in my eyes. Maybe it’s because I haven’t slept in years and my ponytail is always askew. I think if I saw a mother with three children careening around and a giant box of diapers balanced precariously on top of the extremely-heavy-and-hard-to-push stroller, I would offer to help. But nope. Never. What’s the point of living in the south if no one is going to be chivalrous? Sheesh.

Other options I have tried include:two carts

-getting two carts. I push one and pull the other. I look ridiculous, I crash a lot, I usually amputate one of my kids’ legs, and it really hurts my wrists. But it works in an emergency.

-asking a friend to meet me there and push a cart for me. This only works if you have friends without children. Or friends with children in school. Since I am mostly friends with other Mormon moms who have about 17 children each who aren’t yet in kindergarten, this option is a pipe dream.

-parking next to the BIG DADDY CART.

My oldest said, "Look, momma, we found a cart that fits all our children!"

My oldest said, “Look, momma, we found a cart that fits all our children!”

<— You know what I’m talking about. Each Target has, like, maybe one of these things.

The Holy Grail of Carts, The Big Daddy Cart, is the monstrosity with the cart and the wagon all together. This cart fits one child in the basket and two children in the wagon. Sadly, my Target does not have one of these. Sometimes, I will drive ten more minutes to the next-closest-Target, hoping against hope that I can get that cart. I believe the next-closest-Target has one of these crazy contraptions in its entire store. ONE TIME, I was lucky enough to snag it… and my husband happened to be there that time, so I didn’t even need it anyway.

And, the only possible way that I can even USE the Big Daddy Cart is if it happens to be in the parking lot cart corral. I will circle the entire parking lot in my minivan, looking for that thing. If that thing is in the store, how exactly am I supposed to get all three kids across the great expanse of life-endangering parking lot? One of my kids is a bolt of lightning who doesn’t hold hands. I would have to secure the twins in the double stroller just to get them across the parking lot, then hope that the Big Daddy Cart would be waiting for me inside. Then I could fold up the double stroller and put it inside the Big Daddy Cart with all three children. Then I could shop.

It never works. I usually can’t find the Big Daddy Cart and then I am just stuck with buying, again, what will fit in the basket or what I dare to balance on top of the handles, while my oldest yells that his legs don’t work anymore and he needs to lie down on the Target floor for a rest.

And, oh, yeah, he has to go to the bathroom now, too.

Just then, a mom with merely twins casually strolls by me in the only Big Daddy Cart in the whole store, with ONE EMPTY SEAT. How dare she? She smiles at me with her non-askew ponytail and I want to make it go askew.

 

***

Just FYI, I don’t attempt any of these maneuvers on a regular basis. My husband took over the grocery shopping when I was on bedrest – and I will take it back when the twins go to Kindergarten. Or college. I do the shopping for the diapers/household goods/accidentally-purchased-cute-dresses when my sweet in-laws come for their weekly visit. I am a very lucky momma.

 

Sharing vs. Oversharing

oversharing 2

How does a momma get support for medical challenges without oversharing? When does sharing become oversharing?

The beauty of having more than one child is that I can say, “One of my children was diagnosed with something,” without throwing one of them under the bus. If I had an only child, I wouldn’t be able to say that.

One of my sons recently received some diagnoses. (He is healthy; not to worry!) As a mother, this ranks high on the list of challenges/ priorities/ things about which I want to vent. As a mother, however, protecting my son is my number one priority. Therefore, I (obviously) can’t spill medical business on a public blog.

However, as a mommy blogger, I also know the value in sharing weaknesses. Not only does it help others who might be going through the same challenges, but it also provides a support network for me. Perhaps if my first priority is protecting my son, then my second priority would be advocating for my son. And, sometimes, as a stay-at-home mom who has a vivid online social life, advocating can mean gaining knowledge and strength from other mothers who have been there before me.

How do I do that without oversharing? How do I do that without compromising my son’s privacy?

Reading good old-fashioned books is one way. Privately reaching out to friends who have already shared their children’s situations is another way. Keeping up with appointments is another way. I am doing all that. I am trying to absorb and grieve a little bit too.

But when I open the vault, when I bare my soul online, the outpouring of support that I receive is just true “balm of Gilead”. I wish I could do it this time. But I can’t.

What I will do is share some of the beautiful things that friends have said to me in private, when I opened that vault in a non-blog way.

“You were chosen to be his mother, and he was chosen to be your child. You are equipped for the journey. Even though you may not have all the tools right now or feel up to the task, you can do this.”

“I think it is so important to sit in our sadness for a while so that we can be better equipped to forge ahead. Be assured that God has a plan and although this is news to you, it is not news to him.”

“Do take time to adjust to the new information. You deserve to let yourself be sad, mad, confused, relieved that it isn’t your fault, anything you need.”

“You are his best protector and advocate. The good news is that nothing has actually changed. He is still the same sweet boy.”

Oversharing” is such a four-letter word. It’s such a bad thing to do, especially if you are a mother, especially if you are a mommy blogger.

Sharing” is such a beautiful word. Sharing my trials with these friends meant that I received these warm words in return, right when I needed them.

When Do You Find Time to Write? I Wake Up at 4:30AM – Yes, On Purpose

I wake up at 4:30 AM with my husband. Why? I have to physically and mentally prepare for my three little ones. And I like to write.

I didn’t sleep for seven months. (Well, if you want to count the nine months of hellish twin pregnancy, I didn’t sleep for almost a year and a half.) I was completely delirious. I was about to crack. Even though the babies slept well for newborns, as any mother of multiples can tell you, their night feedings didn’t match up…and I slept about two (non-consecutive) hours a night. After my twins finished nursing and then we cried-it-out at seven months, they started sleeping through the night. They have slept from 7PM to 7AM very reliably ever since.

It took me about a year after that to catch up enough on sleep that I didn’t feel fearful every night when I lay down my sweet head.

During that whole year, my husband said, “You really just need to wake up with me.” He was right. I knew he was right. I was waking up to one, two, or three kids crying. I was waking up to poop and urine-soaked jammies and sheets that needed changing. I was leaping into the shower, only to have my oldest spend the whole time whining on the bathroom floor beside me. I was finding no time to read my scriptures, think, or have quiet time. (Naptime and bedtime don’t count, because by that time of day, I was too wrung out to do anything but stare at E!News.)

My husband, like all commuters in our area, leaves for work before dawn to beat the traffic. (Not sure how that works, exactly, since they all do it…) He reasoned that my whole day would go more smoothly if I woke up with him and had some alone time before the kids woke up.

We have always made it a priority in our marriage to go to bed at the same time – even when he woke up at 2:45 AM to drive 72 miles to work and, thus, had to go to bed while children were playing tag next door and lawnmowers were going. These days, he goes to bed at 9:30 PM (technically), and I do too. Waking up at 4:30 AM should be no big deal, right? I was (technically) getting enough sleep. Plus, as my husband reasoned, I would be far more likely to help us actually get to bed at 9:30 PM if I were waking up with him. (“Just one more show, honey?!”)

Even though my husband was right, my job as a stay-at-home mom of three kids in diapers was incredibly physically demanding/ exhausting. And even though I was sleeping through the night, I was still completely brain-dead from the damage caused by the newborn phase. It took me a good year until I was ready to try to wake up early with my commuter husband.

I know I am not reinventing the wheel here. Many of my mom friends have paved this road before me. One of my best friends, who happens to have five children, sets her alarm for 6:30 every morning because she doesn’t want her many little girls to see her putting on makeup. They were starting to primp and preen and she wanted to cut back on being that kind of example. Another friend of mine, who has four children, sets her alarm for 4:30 AM, but, instead of playing on Facebook like I do, she does all her house chores and even starts dinner in the crock pot. She says that is the only choice she has if she wants to get things done. Wow.

One day, I was ready. (Ready to try to take a shower and blog – not mop the floor.) I surprised my husband when I said, “Honey, wake me up when you leave.” And, thus, you see, the title of this blog post is a semi-fib, because he actually wakes me up at 5:15 AM, when he leaves. But I figured it was kind of true that I woke up at 4:30 since I usually hear his alarm.

It sucked. But only for about five minutes. I didn’t expect the benefits to be immediate!

I felt more relaxed. Waking up to my husband kissing me awake, instead of little kids’ crying/whining/pooping/urinating was blissful. I got in the shower in silence. I didn’t rush. I took time to shave. Condition. Put the shampoo on my head instead of my face. (Yep, I’ve done that.)

After my lovely shower, I took time to blow-dry my hair. Well, that was a mistake. That woke up the children. And THAT was a long day.

Ok, I started over on Day 2. Relaxed wake-up, thorough and pleasant shower, and, yep, wet hair in a ponytail just like every other day. No blow-dryer.

My favorite chair in the house does not allow children, unless we read scriptures together in it (which we do sometimes before the twins wake up).

My favorite chair in the house does not allow children, unless we read scriptures together in it (which we do sometimes before the twins wake up).

I settled in to my big papasan chair in my bedroom. This chair was a birthday gift from my husband, who knew I always wanted one. And I never sat in it, because, well, I never sat down. Now it was time to put it to work.

My first rule for myself is that I have to read at least one chapter from my scriptures before I check any emails or social media. (That was the rule I gave myself during nighttime breastfeeding, and it worked so well for me… until I quit nursing!) As a Latter-day Saint (LDS/Mormon), we are encouraged to read our scriptures daily. We are well-versed in scriptures in our church, but we are to read and study daily to gain spiritual strength for the day. I can tell you that it works. My life feels like a careening train, or sometimes a raw exposed nerve, on the days that I don’t read my scriptures, and that has been true for me ever since I was in high school.

I feel immediate peace as I settle in to read my familiar books of scripture. I gain strength for my day. I gain the ability to be a more patient mother for their day.

After my study, it is time to play. I check email, I actually respond to email, read through my Facebook Newsfeed, read the real news, check my blog stats, and giggle and/or feel horrified at the search engine terms that lead people to my blog. I check the weather, and cry if it’s going to be too rainy/cold/hot/pollen-y to play outside that day.

After all the social media, if the children are still quiet, I start to write. I love to write. My handwritten journals that I kept for years are a thing of the past. They are precious to me, but I can’t bring myself to read them. I have so many of them… and they are mostly all way too much teenage maudlin heart or too much grown-up infertility pain. I keep them closed. Now I write for my children on this blog. And it’s mostly done before they wake up, here in my favorite non-child-friendly papasan chair.

When the children start to cry, or stir, or treat their crib as a trampoline, or do their pterodactyl shriek of joy (“WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE A TWIN AND HE IS STILL HERE BESIDE ME IN THAT CRIB?!!”), I am ready. Instead of feeling a sense of urgency and dread, I am ready. I’m ready for them. I’m ready for the poop and the pee-soaked jammies. I’m ready for the whining. I’m ready for the day. I’m ready to focus on them. I’m ready to be less anxious. I’m ready to be more patient.

I go into their pee-smelling rooms with a smile on my face. I’m ready.

 

***

Dang it. It’s 6:05 AM and I just finished editing this article and a baby cried. Of course! The moment I pat myself on the back a little bit, they decide to wake up an hour early to make us all miserable. I shouldn’t have said anything.

Did She Have a Bad Day Today? (Clues for the Husbands)

If…

She asks him to bring home more carpet cleaner and/or Spray n’ Wash,

The carseat is in pieces, drying on the deck,

The kids’ sheets are clean (think about it),

The living room rug is outside,

The van windows are down (think about it),

She’s standing in front of the pantry with a quizzical look on her face,

It’s raining,

The migraine medicine is out on the counter,

Her ponytail is askew,

The kids’ breakfast is still glued to their hair,

You call her from your work number and not your cell number at dinnertime,

You start a conversation with, “You know how tomorrow was supposed to be my day off?”

…then she probably had a bad day.

How I Ended Up on the Side of the Road in My Undershirt with Someone Else’s Vomit in my Mouth (Did I Go Too Far?)

My Mom is Just Okay

Okayest Mom’s Okayest Week

Moms can have REALLY bad weeks. Perhaps especially stay-at-home moms can have really bad weeks, if for no other reason than time. Maybe we are more likely to experience a disgusting event simply due to the amount of hours we log. It’s all about statistics, baby.

Sometimes things happen that may have never happened in the history of the world. Like #1. Sometimes things happen to moms that must happen to every mom in the whole world, but no one ever talks about it. Like #8.

Here are some parenting-fails that happened this week:

  1. Two of my sons were driving matchbox cars ON MY BOOBS during church and I didn’t even notice.
  2. One of my 1-year-old twins shocked my dog. I only knew this when the 100-pound dog yelped and leaped into the air. My son had gotten his fat hands on her shock collar remote and sent her flying.*
  3. One of my 1-year-old twins threw his big brother’s jammies into the toilet. I lifted the lid to pee and found dinosaur jammies in there. Bonus: because the jammies were fleece, they had soaked up ALL the water in the toilet. Try getting THAT to the basement washing machine.
  4. All three of my children have splinters in their hands that I can’t get out. Bad news: Our stupid deck is so rotten that it constantly gives the kids splinters. Good news: Our stupid deck is so rotten that the splinters just dissolve on their own.
  5. We finally left the house and, upon arriving at our destination, I realized that my twins were sharing Crocs as footwear. By “sharing”, I mean that each twin had one black Croc and one blue croc on his feet. Bonus: all four of those Crocs were on the wrong feet. What is the statistical likelihood of that? Bonus: all four of those Crocs belonged to their older brother.
  6. One child pooped ON the deck TWICE in one day. **
  7. One child vomited ON another child.
  8. One child vomited IN my mouth. I’m not talking baby spit-up in my mouth- that happens to everyone. I mean real kid-vomit. I didn’t sympathy-barf because I was too busy telling myself “That did NOT just happen,” while trying to keep the barf off the van upholstery.
  9. The child who vomited in my mouth did so on the side of the road, while I was only in my undershirt. (My sweatshirt had already been ruined earlier.)
  10. I made dinner for the kids and put them to bed in between my own pukes.

Not trying to gross you out here, I swear. I just think that there may be other moms out there who will find relief in knowing that they aren’t alone. Instead of crying, I texted a friend immediately after #8 and begged her to tell me that has happened to other moms. She simply replied, “Yep.” So, if your week was gross and terrible, I am here to tell you, “Yep.”

 

*And, okay, people, I don’t want any hate mail about that shock collar. It was recommended to us by a trusted professional who has extensively trained us and our dog for reasons that you don’t know anything about.

** Isn’t it awesome to have more than one kid, so you can share something as embarrassing as this semi-anonymously? I mean, you will only have a 33 1/3% chance of getting it right if you were to guess. And I am not accepting guesses.

Crocs Fail

Crocs Fail