Diary of a Woman Who Has Three Hours to Herself (to Squish In Everything)

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[preschool dropoff]

Woohoo! I’m free!

Are they ok? Wait, doesn’t one of them have a stomachache?

I’m a bad mom for needing to send them away.

I’m so happy!

[anxiety attack]

Breathe slowly, you idiot!

I’m really gonna enjoy my time off this time.

I’m not going to waste it.

I have to stop at this store first.

Dang it, they don’t have it.

Just one more store.

They don’t have it.

Argh! I’ve wasted a whole hour. For no reason!

Drive home faster so you can relax faster, you dork.

This anxiety attack is giving me an anxiety attack because I’m wasting time on the anxiety attack.

What do I even want to do? What do I even like anymore?

Oh, lemme just look up this thing online. Maybe I can find it.

Dang it! You wasted another HOUR!

Ok, Melissa, buckle down and write. For real. It’s the only thing that helps you.

Virus warning? WTF??

Did I lose that work? NO NO NO NO NO NO

I’m gonna stare at this ceiling for a while in the depths of despair like Anne of Green Gables.

ONE HOUR LEFT? LOOK AT THIS MESS! Why haven’t I cleaned anything?

What is wrong with you?

[pace, pace, pace] Which mess should I start with? The worst one or the easiest one? When was the last time I cleaned this dog bowl? OMG.

Maybe I should put on some music. Or take a bath. Those things always help.

Music. Ok, Talking Heads is my cleaning music.

“Slippery People”? How can I not dance to this? Dancing helps anxiety. Dance it off!

Wow, why can’t I dance like that when people are around?

Maybe I’ll unload a few dishes while dancing.

Wait, look at that pile of clean clothes.

Look away. Look at it again.

I really need to clean the toilet. Maybe I can dance-clean the toilet.

Ok, focus, Melissa. Sit down and make a list. Prioritize.

Look at that pile of clothes! JUST LOOK AT IT!

Oh, wow, DJ Shadow? [lost in a romantic college-era dorm-room Christmas-light trance]

OMGosh I have to LEAVE TO PICK UP THE TWINS!

Wait, I didn’t eat.

Isn’t it a beautiful day outside? Why wasn’t I outside?

[start the car]

Get it together, woman!

A Survival Guide to Three Kids in Diapers

Let’s all just relax, take a deep breath, and stop competing to be Mom of the Year. Let’s just settle for World’s Okayest Mom sometimes.

I am posting this list because I often hear “How do you do it?” Well, I set the bar low, for starters. I know my kids won’t have a “normal” life right now, and I’m okay with that. I figured that admitting to some of my survival tips would help free other moms from some guilt. Sometimes other moms will “confess” something to me that I don’t think is bad at all. Please,  don’t be so hard on yourselves.

Conversely, unless you have spent 24 hours in my size-tens, don’t judge.

PS, I have come to the conclusion that I would have far more creative energy if I hadn’t spent of all it teaching five years of kindergarten. Those 100+ kids got my best. My kids, eh, not so much.

Here is a list of things I do that make me more sane.

1)      I don’t do chores during afternoon nap. I only allow myself to read, nap, watch TV, or blog. That’s it. Just four choices for me.

2)      I do not really play with the kids much. Seriously, I rarely do.

3)      I only do one big chore per day – and it’s during morning nap. Don’t ask me what I’m going to do when they drop down to one nap per day in a few months.

4)      I only go one place per week – at least right now while we are on a twice/day nap schedule. That means I can take my kids to storytime at the library, or the playground, but not both.

5)      I hire an 11-year old mother’s helper from church for a mere pittance for three hours a week, so I can do some other chores. She entertains the kids while I work. I don’t leave her alone and she doesn’t have to change diapers or anything. She is super happy to be making some money and getting “babysitting” experience. I am super happy to have some extra hands, but not pay an exorbitant rate.

6)      My mother-in-law comes  here for an entire day, once a week. I consider myself extremely fortunate for this one. That day is the day that I take my older son for a date to the pool, or get bigger chores/ shopping trips done.

7)      I let my 3-year-old play outside by himself (but he only goes if the dog comes too- otherwise he says he’s “wone-wee”). However, I do live in a private spot in the woods and I have a huge back deck that serves as a playpen. It’s so big that he can ride his big wheel – and every other wheel –while I watch him through big glass doors. Also, I have a very careful 3-year-old and I understand that not all kids are created equal.

playing on deck alone

8)      I have friends come over to our house for a playdate while the babies are having morning  nap and my older son is awake – rather than going to their house.

9)      I feel really really happy when they go to bed!

10)   I put them in their own rooms from a young age. And I am not the devil for doing it.

11)   We did cry-it-out. And I am not the devil for doing it.

sharing room again

12)   I do not go to them at night unless they’re sick.

13)   I have my husband do the grocery shopping. During a really hard week,  when it is more important to have my husband home than it is to have food right away, I have been known to use a grocery delivery service (which was not as expensive as I feared).

14)   I completely childproofed one room, so that we have somewhere to go in the house where I can completely relax.

15)   Our LDS church service is three hours long, and it’s during naptime. We have a system now that isn’t perfect, but it allows us to get there. We take two cars and go to sacrament meeting as a family. Then, Mr. Okayest takes the babies home for nap, while I stay with the older one. It’s not ideal, but we are doing our best.

16)   As for laundry, I do 1-2 loads of kid laundry every day. Kid laundry doesn’t have to be taken out of the dryer immediately because, well, it’s kid laundry. Who cares about wrinkles? I do the adult laundry, including my husband’s button-downs, on the weekends when we have two adults.

17)   My kids never get bathed enough.

18)   I don’t do chores after they go to bed. My husband goes to bed very early because of his work schedule, so the 1-2 hours between their bedtime and our bedtime is sacred couples’ time. Or sacred TV time. Or whatever floats your boat time.

Now, lest you think I have got it all together, let me assure you that I do not. I have been known to burst into tears as soon as Mr. Okayest walks in the door, for any of the following reasons:

  • Migraine
  • PMS
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stomach viruses
  • The dog
  • My toddler crying for two hours at the playground because “he wants to go home” and then crying all the way home because “he doesn’t want to go home”
  • Seeing a book that I used to read to my oldest when he was a baby and then sobbing because I can’t remember the last time I read a book to my current babies and now they’re going to have low IQ’s
  • Realizing that my 3 ½ year old doesn’t know how to play hide-and-seek and, therefore, has a lot of huge holes in his childhood from my bedrest/ recovery period
  • A mean librarian
  • A kid at the playground making fun of something my kid can’t help
  • There was more than one suspicious fluid to mop up that day
  • My babies aren’t cuddling me anymore because they are simply getting too big to cuddle
  • Not showering that day
  • It was the day of the week that Mr. Okayest went to grad school and was gone from 5AM until 9PM
  • All three crying at the same time (PS, I am now accepting applications for what to name this particular phenomenon.)

I don’t have this mothering thing all figured out at all. I just want mothers to relax and let go of the guilt and do what works for them. World’s Okayest Mom says it’s okay.

19 Things That Help a New Mom (And I Should Know!)

Clueless about how to help? Here you go.

After months on “modified bedrest” with a high-risk twin pregnancy and a 2-year-old, then almost dying during birth, and then spending a month learning to walk again and get my strength back, I learned a thing or two about service. Other people took over my life for me. They cared for my bodily needs, the needs of my toddler, the needs of my home, and the needs of my new babies. My husband cared for me with the strength of an army, but it wasn’t enough, between working full-time and going to grad school. So another army came. Several people have asked me for a list of things that would be helpful for a new mom, and, dang, I should know!

19 Things That Help a New Mom – Don’t ask! Just do!

1)      Come over, but call first. Call the husband if you have to. Ask them to tell you honestly if they are overwhelmed with visitors.

2)      If they are too tired for visitors, ask if you can take the older child away for a lunch date or a playground date for an hour or two.  I guarantee he hasn’t had enough attention or exercise lately.

3)      Arrive in your jammies, with no makeup, and your hair in a scrunchi, so momma won’t feel like such a slob.

4)      Bring food. Preferably:

  1.  Fresh veggies or fruit that are already washed and cut, or
  2. A dinner that can go in the freezer if someone already brought dinner

5)      If there is an older child, pay attention to him first. Maybe bring him a trinket. Nothing fancy. A crazy straw. A cool leaf. A matchbox car.

6)      Take out the trash.

7)      Take the baby in your arms and insist that mom go upstairs and take a nap. Insist again.

8)      Take the baby in your arms and insist that mom go upstairs and take a shower. Insist again.

9)      Ask her how her pain is. Let her cry.

10)   If she’s feeling down, or doesn’t want to talk, just sit with her. Maybe just watch TV together.

11)   Load or unload the dishwasher. Wash the dishes. Don’t ask. Just do it.

12)   ASK if you can throw in a load of laundry. Unlike dishes, laundry is a little personal and momma may not want you to wash her afterbirth-y undies.

13)   Fold any laundry you can possibly find.

14)   Vacuum.

15)   Quietly wipe down the bathroom counter and toilet seat when you’re in there. Use a baby wipe if you have to.  Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Just do it.

16)   Bring in the trash can and the mail.

17)   If they have a (nice) dog, ask if you can take her for a walk. I guarantee she hasn’t had enough exercise lately.

18)   If the mom has recovered enough, ask if she’d like you to help take her and the baby on a walk. I can guarantee that she and the baby haven’t had enough fresh air. The sunshine will help her mood improve and help the baby sleep better at night.

19)   Don’t ask  “Do you need anything?”   Instead, when you are on your way to the grocery store or Target, call and say, “I am on my way to the grocery store or Target. What can I bring you? Diapers? Wipes? Dog food? Hemorrhoid cream?” Ask again. Insist that you are going anyway. Be specific.

Someone did each of these things for me at some point. No one has to do ALL these things- just pick something! Each person has her own strengths. My mother-in-law always brought fresh fruit – and washed and cut it and fed it to my toddler. She always sent me upstairs for a nap. My mother always did my dishes and my laundry. She would bring ingredients for a meal, and then make it here, while enlisting the help of my son. My father-in-law always took my son to the playground or out to lunch. He also always brought in the trash can and the mail and fixed anything he could find. My church friends always brought dinner – in an orderly fashion, on a schedule, for five weeks. When nursing was slow-going at first, they poked and prodded my boobs, checked my latch, and brought fenugreek pills and tea. (Also, during the bedrest, my church sisters made a schedule of who cared for my son each day.) My cousin Emily redirected my toddler’s tantrums with fun and laughter. She also cut all 60 of my childrens’ nails while I was in the shower once! My Aunt Susan cleaned all my bathrooms, vacuumed, mopped, and even washed my kitchen trash can! My Aunt Cindi provided me the valuable service of letting me cry. She also just sat and watched TV with me while we held babies and laughed until my stitches almost burst. Each of those things was exactly what I needed at that time.

I never expected (or wanted) any one person to act like any other person when providing service to me. All together, they covered everything. The list of people who helped me is enormous, and I can’t name them all. I am indebted to every one of them. They volunteered their time – including, in some cases, time off work without pay, time away from a dying husband, and time away from their own children – to help me literally get on my feet again. I cannot express the love I have for them all. They have taught me how to help others in the future.

blessing day(the babies’ blessing day, 2 months old, with just a fraction of the people who helped us…)