Lessons from a mom of two

Five lessons from mom of twoIt’s been a while, hasn’t it? Welcoming Gregory into our world has not been an easy ride. Being a mom of two is hard! H-A-R-D! I’m beyond exhausted. Some days I can barely keep my eyes open. I could sit here and make a million excuses as to why these pages have been blank or why I’ve neglected you, but the truth is they aren’t blank and I haven’t forgotten. I have so many draft posts sitting here, waiting for me to hit publish, but for some reason, I haven’t. At the beginning of this blogging journey, a friend and successful blogger said that the success of her blog was due to always finding a way to make it positive. There are bad times for all, but it’s important to leave the reader feeling positive. Always blog purposely. 

Do you want to know what makes for hard positive content? Being a parent. Toddlers. Two children under the age of three. A baby who is terrible at sleeping. Potty training a stubborn toddler. Being a full time working mom of two and desperately trying to cram an entire day of quality time with your children between dinner and bedtime.

I’m exhausted, constantly. Every minute is an internal battle of which child to give attention, while feeling uneasy from the dirty dishes piling up in the sink. Then using the next minute to vacuum the third spilled bowl of cereal scattered on the rug, while simultaneously feeling guilty for not using your “free time” to play with your children. And outside of that, trying to give time to your marriage. And finally to yourself. The latter seems further and further away most days. However, we are surviving. I guess that’s the positive. I’m learning how to manage along the way. I can’t say that we are thriving, but surviving, yes. At some point, perhaps I’ll have both feet firmly planted but for now, I’m chasing a toddler who found a marker and is far too determined to draw all over her baby brother. 

Hard Truths and lessons from a mom of two (four months and counting): 

Let me repeat. Being a mom of two is hard. Being a parent is HARD. I was barely keeping it together when I was chasing after one, and now we have another one zapping our energy. From all of this, I’m trying to figure out how to survive. Here are just a few hard truths that I’ve discovered on this crazy journey. 

1 – Toddlers are assholes – and it’s not your fault.

I’m sure toddlers who are only children are also jerks (so do not think I’m discriminating). They are all jerks. The determination and stubbornness of a toddler trying to tie their own shoes is enough to make you pull your hair out while you wait for 20 minutes as they scream “No, I do it!” over and over again. I never once thought in my life I would have to blame being late to a meeting on a toddler who trapped herself in her dress but would flip out if I attempted to help.

Survival tactic – start any task 30 minutes to one hour earlier than when you need to logically start it. The worst thing that can happen, your toddler is completely ready with time to spare. This has yet to happen. Typically, I now end up only 10 minutes late (depending on if her cereal is up to her standards – Too much milk. Not enough milk. Too crunchy. Wrong color. Oh the complexity that is breakfast).  

2 – Babies are gross. So very gross

And they have this sixth sense of knowing when you have a big meeting and spent too long selecting the perfect outfit. And they will wait until you are walking out the door, already running late, to projectile vomit all over your nicely pressed shirt. (I’m lying. My shirts are never pressed. Who has time for that?).

Survival tactic – invest in cardigans. Keep multiple cardigans in your car and wait until after daycare drop-off before putting it on. Never before. Trust me. On top of that, keep a brush and wipes in the glove compartment – to get that fun spit up out of your hair. I had someone actually compliment how shiny and smooth my hair looked like one day. I just hope they didn’t come to close to smell it. 

3 – You will not have a warm meal – just give up. 

My children get picked up at 6pm from daycare. That means we have approximately 2 hours to make dinner, eat, and get ready for bed. Dinner typically consists of constantly getting up to appease each child. I must say, Abby is pretty good at eating what is in front of her (most days). But, as soon as I sit, she’ll want the blue fork (not the green), or a glass of milk instead of water, or needs one thousand napkins because she’s being a toddler. And once she’s settled, Gregory will need a bottle or his own baby mush heated up. Since he’s four months old, you must learn to master feeding a baby while also feeding yourself. And while feeding the baby, your toddler will magically forget how to hold a fork because see lesson one. 

Survival tactic – go out to dinner without children whenever possible. 

4 – Your house will be a disaster – let it go

My house is barely staying together. I try to clean up as we go but to be honest, with the limited amount of time I have with Abby and Gregory each day, I’ve mostly given up. I’m doing the bare minimum to get by. The laundry is being done and dishes cleaned, but it may be a few days before I put either away. There may be longer periods between vacuuming or dusting. And anytime I attempt to clean, Abby demands a book or blocks or tea party. 

Survival Tactic – Let your toddler help. Letting your toddler help makes tasks take three times as long but also needed. Abby loves helping. It takes her three times as long to accomplish a task but she loves contributing in anyway she can. She’ll help wash Gregory’s bottles, putting things away, and even vacuuming. It will never be perfect and I’ll have to redo it later, but letting her help makes her happy and prevents tantrums.  

5 – Life will be constantly chaotic  

Your life will never be the same. Children (whether you have one or one hundred), will completely change your life. The way of life you knew before is no more. These little humans (who have your mannerisms and attitude – watch out) demand so much of your time and energy.

Survival tactic –  Give in. Give them all of you. The errands and chores will be there another time. Trust me. They always pile up. I’ve tried ignoring them but eventually you run out of diapers and dry shampoo (both staples needed in a working parent household). But for the moment, let it go. Accept the fact that a typical trip to the grocery store will take three hours as you attempt to steer clear of the cookie aisle and hope no one has a poop explosion. Or that your baby will wake up every two hours one night even if they were sleeping through the night the last three weeks. And it will, of course, be the night before a big presentation. Your toddler will throw herself on the ground because her goldfish are too “fishy.” You’ll find a sippy cup or a bottle from months ago behind the couch and not be able to recognize the substance inside of it. Tip – just don’t open it. Throw it out. Trust me. No good can come from looking in it.

Bonus – Make (don’t find) time for you and your relationship

It’s ok to need a break. Trust me. But, breaks will not come knocking. Believe me. There are not many people in this world who will watch your tiny humans while you enjoy a night out. And there are even less who will do it for free (thank you mom and dad!). Take advantage of any and all babysitters you can find. Go out to dinner. See a movie. Can’t get a babysitter? Enjoy a date night in. Once the kids are asleep, open a bottle of wine and just spend time together. Send the kids to daycare when your office is closed and treat yourself to lunch and a manicure. Just do it! It will be better for everyone involved. Children are amazing but also…see lesson one.  

The Art of Improv: When a Toddler Runs Your Schedule

Survival guide for type a

I’m a classic Type A personality. My life is color-coded. I value time given and use it to the minute to ensure all projects are completed early. And I create scenarios in my head to overcome all obstacles you may face that diverts you from the original plan. I create spreadsheets for fun. I even created a color-coded agenda for my sister’s bridal shower (I’m sorry again to all of her bridesmaids). And I pride myself in advancing my career. All of these characteristics have been invaluable when it comes to work – those color coded spreadsheets on event day are no joke – but not so much when it comes to pregnancy, or even parenting. The worst (and best) thing that can happen to a planner is pregnancy because pregnancy and parenthood is filled with unknowns you could never imagine.

Lessons I’ve learned from Pregnancy (and Parenthood) as a Type A personality:

Your time is not your own.

Prior to becoming pregnant with Abby, my life was set on a schedule. Wake up, go to the gym, head home to get ready for work, commute, work, commute, dinner with my husband, me time, bed. It was a perfect balance of life and work. I had time in the evenings to work on projects, writing, or simply unwind with my husband. During the first pregnancy, everything changed. By dinner time, I could barely keep my eyes open, so any post-dinner activities became nonexistent, which meant those precious hours of completing projects or unwinding also disappeared. For a planner, losing those hours creates a cascading effect on your mindset. I actually remember doing the math. Each night, before pregnancy, I had about 3 hours of time after dinner for the aforementioned. That means each week (if you only count weekdays), I lost 15 hours of time a week, which roughly estimates to 63 hours a month – that is a little over 2.5 days. So every month, I was losing 2.5 days. That may not sound like a great deal, but for me it meant I was losing 2.5 days of opportunities. Of course, now I know it was all worth it. I look at that crazy child and I would give up weeks just to hear her laugh. And now, with a toddler, I can make plans months in advance, block my schedule in a way that I know will work around nap time. Ensure that we are packed in advance, so there are few delays getting out of the house. And, just like that, my baby girl will decide she hates naps and will fight me with every ounce of energy she has left. Just this past weekend, we were all set to meet up with people at 2 pm for pumpkin picking, perfect timing following her normal nap routine, and she decided that naps were no longer important, screaming and running around the house until 1:30, two hours past her normal nap start time. And then slept for three hours, which is very unlike her. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch.

Planning doesn’t exist

My entire life, I have set a plan – where my career would be by the time I was 30, the years until I owned a home, and the timeline for pregnancy. Of course, this plan has adjusted over the years as the life I thought I wanted at the age of 10 is completely different than where I eventually ended up. Though, I still stand by the fact that I could have been a lawyer who spent her nights and weekends singing on the side, except for my complete lack of musical talent and that I spent that one semester in law class during high school bored beyond belief. But, generally speaking, I followed a plan. Went to college, landed a job, got married, bought a house, adopted a dog, and had baby number one right away. Except that it didn’t work out that way. When you live your life by a plan, and it takes almost a year before you see two lines on a pregnancy test, you spend your days believing you made some sort of unforgivable mistake because the pieces weren’t falling into one-another perfectly. And after I finally conceived, there was no plan or course correction in place to overcome the scare we had at 8 weeks or the spot my doctor saw on my ultrasound at 20 weeks or the fact that my body wouldn’t allow me to push out a 9 lb 3 oz baby girl. However, everything worked out. But each time something diverted from the plan, each time something was out of my control, I would breakdown.

And now, as a parent, the world tells you by that age, your child should be doing this, and by that date, your baby should hit this milestone. And you plan for your child to meet each milestone on time, if not early. And then you discover that your child does not care in the slightest about milestones. I see children around the same age as Abby reciting their colors, numbers, and shapes. Meanwhile, Abby is picking her nose and trying to lick the cat. Everything happens at their own pace and on their own time. If you don’t believe me, try getting an “independent” toddler ready in the morning in under 15 minutes. I bet you all the money in the world, that she will scream that she can put on her own shoes, and even after 30 minutes of trying, will yell at you “I do it!” when you offer to help.

Work will have to come second

I’m ambitious by nature. I made it a point to have a job in place right after graduation and I work very hard to advance. Before Abby, I would come in early, stay late and sacrifice personal time for work. Let me just tell you, that isn’t necessarily a healthy attitude in the first place, but it worked for my lifestyle. I had plenty of time to spend with John and friends after work was complete, so I didn’t think twice about it. Even while I was pregnant with Abby, I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I worked until the very end of my pregnancy. For some reason, I believed if I didn’t, I’d miss out on something important at work, and my years of hard work would be for nothing. And, I convinced myself prior to delivery that I would be back at work no later than 12 weeks, despite having the option of more. And then I met Abby and my life changed. I’m not saying work isn’t important anymore. My career will always be important to me. But, that baby girl flipped a switch in my head to understand that there was more. I took 20 weeks off after my daughter was born, and honestly, if I were given more, I would have taken it. And today, now that we are in a rhythm with daycare, I do need to make sacrifices at work to be the best mom I can be. That doesn’t mean I slack off or I stop working as hard; it just means that I learned to balance my time more constructively. I can’t come in early or stay late because daycare opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. I can’t easily attend an after-work function or late night meeting without notice as I have to schedule child care or, at the very least, coordinate with my husband.

Surviving Pregnancy (and Parenthood) as a Type A Personality:

So how do you survive all of this? How can a Type A accept that time is fleeting, planning is obsolete, and work may need to move down the priority list?

Learn to adjust.

You may not have all the time in the world to finish, because your evenings are cluttered with playtime with your child or exhaustion from the pregnancy, or taking care of your children. I can barely keep my eyes open past 9 pm right now. Between pregnancy and chasing a toddler, I could nap for ages and it wouldn’t be enough. And, even if I find energy, my brain has been going for so long that I can barely think. So, you learn that your brain stops functioning after a certain time and adjust your life to find time for you. Even now, it’s 5 am as I write this because I know I typically have a clear window between 5 am and 6:30 am as my house sleeps. Though, every so often I do look at the monitor as I know while Abby typically sleeps until 6:30 am, she has been known to wake up early and throw off the schedule.

Throw out the schedule and stop apologizing.

This is a hard one but I promise it’s an important one. I only have a few friends with children. Those who do typically understand that it’s important to not deviate from the nap schedule. And I make every effort possible to ensure I can attend gatherings (asking to schedule them before or after naps, ensuring that nothing will keep her out later than 8 pm, and finding childcare if it would be impossible for me to miss it) but, I do preface all meetups with the notion that I have a toddler and she makes the final schedule. I have had to cancel plans at the last minute, which I do hate to do, because Abby decided to throw a tantrum over not being allowed to eat cookies, or she woke up with a fever, or she simply was just not in the mood. In the beginning, I would apologize constantly and I would feel terrible. But, I’m learning to understand that this is life. My baby’s needs have to come first. And generally, the world understands.

Use your work time wisely and set boundaries.

Another hard one but an important one. I have never looked at myself as anything less than a hard worker. As mentioned, I sacrificed my own time to ensure work was completed early. But now, I’m tied to the schedule of daycare. I’m also an even harder worker now, though. While others may have the time to stay past 7 pm at the office to finish a project, I can’t. So I work as hard and efficiently as possible to ensure the work is completed by 5 pm because that is the latest I can stay in order to pick up Abby. But, of course, there are late night meetings or conference calls after hours in my field. I accept that. But, after being back at work post maternity leave, I knew I needed to set some boundaries in order to be successful both at work and at life. I have a personal rule that no work can happen between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm, because that is the only time I actually have with my daughter, and a portion of that is spent making dinner. I turn my work phone off and refuse to check my email. After her bedtime, I’m open for a conference call or a webinar or late night cram session, but not beforehand. Of course, not everyone will accommodate this timing but, for the most part, my supervisors and colleagues have understood, especially since my work is still being accomplished successfully, just on new terms.

Just remember, this isn’t going to be easy. I still struggle with these life adjustments every day. Just yesterday, I needed to be at an early work event, so I knew I had to leave the house 10 minutes earlier than normal. I work up early and prepped as much as I could, as early as I could. And I alerted John far in advance of this change. And, Abby decided that she wanted to sit on the potty (yes, she now asks to sit on the potty, does ABSOLUTELY nothing but enjoys sitting on the potty). And, of course she needed Mommy to help her, not Daddy (despite the fact that she has been attached at John’s hip for the past few weeks, for this one moment, she needed Mommy). So, I sat with her in the bathroom, as she sat on the potty and exclaimed “Potty!” and “I did it!” over and over again, clapping at herself. Yes, it was very adorable. And no, she didn’t do anything, she just sat there. I’m still proud that she wants to sit on the potty – step one, right? So, I left the house 10 minutes later than I normally would, got lost attempting to get to the event because of an accident on the highway, and ended up arriving a few minutes later than intended. Everything ended up being fine. I alerted the team that I was running late and went straight to work when I arrived. The event went on without a hitch but I was still frustrated in the morning because the schedule was thrown off. And then, as I was about to walk out the door, angry, Abby grabbed my leg and said “Bye Bye Mommy” with a big smile. I melted and took a few more minutes to get a last minute hug from my baby girl. Parenthood is going to throw you curve balls constantly, you just have to learn to course correct and breath when things don’t go as planned.

Tell me about yourself

Define yourself

You blink and just like that, three months have gone by without a peep. Three months of tears and laughter. Three months of frowns and smiles. Three months of learning new skills, and three months of mastering previous ones. You blink and just like that, your baby is no longer a baby.

I’m now the mom to a 16 (almost 17) month old. I’m now the mom to a child who I no longer count her ages in months. I had to do the actual math in my head to figure out what her actual month in age is just now. (Fun fact: apparently, I have been completely miscalculating her age in months in my head and I just had to use a calculator). My baby girl, who not too long ago would stare in amazement at her hand’s ability to open and close until the excitement exhausted her, is now flying through our living room trying desperately to grab the cat for just one hug. She has not once been able to catch her, but I know the wheels are turning in that sneaky head of hers, calculating her next move. If only she could figure out how to climb the fridge. And yes, she has tried.

Abby is growing faster than I ever imagined. Every day she is changing and growing. And in these past three months, I’ve realized that this is the same for me. Before becoming a mom, or even a wife, I felt like I had a better understanding of who I am. I remember sitting on a job interview ages ago, easily hitting the needed points when asked “Tell me about yourself” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I had a plan. I fit into the correct template, or at least I was on my way to fitting into where I thought I needed to fit. I knew myself or at least I thought I did. But today, I struggle defining myself. Immediately, my response to the iconic “tell me about yourself” question is “I’m a mom” followed by uncertain silence. I’m a mom. And more importantly, I’m Abby’s mom, and I work hard every day to deserve that title. But, outside of that, who I am?

  • Am I still a writer? Well, it’s obvious from the lack of posts here and the empty pages in my journal that I’m losing that title.
  • Am I still crafty? My can of electric blue spray paint drying out in my garage, that once transformed an old broken chest into the Toy Chest that Abby rummages through trying to find the perfect stuffed animal, while hoping she doesn’t lose her footing, begs to differ.
  • Am I still a runner? Only when it comes to chasing Abby through the store as she giggles and runs from one aisle to the next, giggling and not looking in front of her.
  • Am I still me? No. At least, I’m not the me I was before. But who is the me now? And three months ago, I turned 30 and realized, in this past year I transformed me to be a mom and lost everything else that I thought defined me.

As a reasonable and fully adjusted new parent, who just realized she had no real clue of herself, I did what any sane person would do – I celebrated my baby girl’s first birthday and then hopped a plan to Ireland to forget all of about my responsibilities. (And Abby got to spend the week with Mama and Papa – my parents.). Then, after returning home and after realizing Guinness in the states would never be the same, I took a hard look at myself, trying to figure out where the pieces fell. It was as if the puzzle pieces that once fit perfect had gone missing and in it’s place were pieces from entirely different puzzles, ripping corners of others while trying to jam themselves into the vacant spaces.

And it was then that I decided, I needed to get to know the new me. I needed to take myself out on a date and dive into what makes me, me. So, who is this new me? Honestly, I have NO idea! But, I’m trying new things constantly to figure it out. For example, I found out that this new me, still enjoys a bottle of wine that is under $10, surprisingly loves meditation, and unsurprisingly, easily falls down during yoga. AND in my journey, I’ve also discovered that sparkling rosé from a can is both delicious and practical – this new me is just as fancy as the old me. And still terrified of opening Champagne bottles.

So, here I am, trying anything and everything under the sun to figure it all out. It’s time to throw a bunch of things at the wall and see what sticks.