Puck & Pearl
It’s only been fifteen and a half months of parenting for us. We have a 15 month old and a 3 month old. Granted, we are on the fast track. Having kids back to back, not to mention being pregnant for virtually two years straight, is quite the challenge. Still, you might relate to my experience. After this short time period, I’m shocked at how difficult parenting is, and how so many people do it. I would argue that parenting is a most difficult endeavor, at least the most difficult one this chick has undertaken.
Back in my old life, I used to go to bed late and then sleep in. I’d tuck myself in with my headphones to listen to music, and go prowling for new bands on youtube. Later, when my husband came into the picture, he and I would fall asleep in embrace after long bouts of gazing into each other’s eyes . Or, we would fall asleep mid conversation. We thought it was a sign of being in love: staying together as long as absolutely possible, and resisting sleep’s calls in order to talk endlessly about trivial things. NOW my husband and I chase sleep. We go to bed early, and rise early. We will give in to sleep willingly at any opportunity. These days my husband puts A to sleep at 8PM, and usually I kiss them both goodnight because I know that my husband will not resist the urge to fall asleep too. And I go to bed with M, and know that she will wake me about twice every night, and I will be lucky to fall quickly back to sleep after each awakening. My husband may make an appearance back in our bed in the middle of the night, and I will wake up happily to greet his tired body, but anxious that I might not fall back to sleep. NOW sleep is a tremendous force, seemingly stronger than both of us and even our love.
Back in my old life, I would take long daily showers. Showers that often involved some singing. The falling water would make a drone that the musician in me enjoyed, and I’d often hear a melody or two in the sound of water that I would try to capture, embellish and memorize so that I could reproduce it. NOW the only thing I hear in the shower(if I’m lucky to get one) is the sound of babies crying- that’s what water sounds like to me. Because I know this about myself, I now take a monitor into the bathroom so that I can confirm that what I am hearing is a baby crying and that it is not just my imagination.
Back in my old life I used to be in a band and I’d wake up to my husband playing his digital piano in our bedroom. My shoegaze band was my outlet for both aggression and creativity, and my husband used his piano to figure out what he was feeling. NOW our life is still musical. every moment and event can be turned into a song. There’s the morning song, yum yum song, bath time and the good night poem with the wind chimes. There is a lot of twinkle twinkle little star, and itsy bitsy spider. But my love of reverb is postponed, and my husband is estranged from his piano because the little one naturally won’t stay put while he plays. On occasion, I play some songs for the kids from the Fleet Foxes albums, or some of the songs on my iphone that I had uploaded from right before A was born. I have no idea what’s happened in the world of music since then.
Back in my old life, I would go to the bathroom unaccompanied and not worry that someone is crying or hurting herself in the other room while I pee or poop, or while I have to wipe for longer than expected. Back in my old life, I had adult words for such things. Back in my old life, I would eat relatively slowly, and pretty much on schedule, and I’d pick out what I wore, often trying on different outfits. NOW you can imagine sometimes I delay going to the bathroom because Puck needs something and Pearl needs something else, and I am the only one able to give it to them, and ultimately it would cause me more stress to go to the bathroom now rather than delay it. NOW I strategize: I’ll feed Puck first, then play with Pearl and when both will be calm, then I’ll make a break for the bathroom. I eat when I can, because the next moment might bring a crying baby. I’ll put on whatever clothes are sort of clean, and I’ll organize my closet later (I WILL do it later). Forget the makeup, it will just run, and no one but the kids will see me anyway today. If I run into another mom while I take our daily walk, she will surely relate to my predicament and I won’t really make much of her messy updo and a few stains on her jeans.
Back in my old life I worked hard to earn a higher degree. I read and studied and considered things deeply, issues such as parenting and creating mental health in folk. I would go to work every day and people would listen to what I had to say, often asking me for my advice as a psychologist. The main topic of conversation was moms and dads and childhood and I’m familiar with many of the common complaints that adults have about those three. NOW everyone in my life seems to have forgotten this part of my history or identity. My parents and in-laws and anyone else seem to have their own opinions as to how to parent and mother, and they offer their advice freely, not usually asking me for my opinion as either a parent or a psychologist.
Back in my old life I had time to write music or draw or read or watch a series like Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones. I had lunch or dinner dates with friends whom I kept up with on a regular basis. Now I read what I can about parenting, and psychological theory of early childhood, and write a post when I can (my husband will be impressed and envious that I found the time to write this post). Neither one of us knows what happened on Downton or GOT, and more importantly I have no idea what’s going on in my friends’ lives. Dear Friends: I’m sorry that it turned out to be true what they say about your friends dropping off when they have kids…..
Back in my old life I was into meditation, and yoga, and staying calm and still. I would take the time to sit when I could and just relish the stillness, and I would teach mindfulness meditation to groups of people. Now is the time of the true test of my “mindfulness”. There’s no more time to actually sit quietly, but every waking moment is an opportunity to be mindful or…….. not.
So why do I use the word insane to describe parenting? Well, it’s partially the revolutionary change that transpires from the BEFORE kids lifestyle to the AFTER kids era, as you can see. But more insane than anything is the fact that despite this total take over of our lives, it is by far the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done and I’ve never been happier (yes, happy, despite what all the research on the subject says).
And I’m not just saying it to add a silver lining to this post. I know it makes no sense, unless you are a parent yourself, but my son’s giggles as I put the colander on my head, or hide behind the arm chair, or emerge out of my pretend turtle’s shell just light up my heart in places I didn’t know existed. My daughter’s first smiles, and cooing, and the way she fits so snuggly into my body, burying her nose into my armpit just makes me feel high, as I allow her to merge back into me. Through my babies’ eyes, I am a magical being that has the power to entertain, comfort, enlighten, or torment, depending on how I use my powers. It makes me feel like I’m a character in a children’s story book. So even though some of my own comforts are compromised, I am now a magical being in a world where the protagonists are my own beloved children…..And at the end of the day, when I lay my head down on the pillow I am a very very tired and worn out super heroine with an insanely difficult job.
What about you? Do you find parenting babies and toddlers difficult? Do you have challenges too with balancing self-care and the care of your babies?