Saturday, February 25, 2012


Apparently, I weaned my baby last night.  It wasn't really the plan, but he made his lack of interest in breastfeeding so glaringly clear that I had to pay attention.  I think it was the screeching and the twisting away repeatedly that made me stop and focus.  Because I am nothing if not observant.

What was it driving me to attempt to force-nurse this kid?  (I didn't, quit freaking out.)  He was clearly not into it at all and yet there I was trying to switch sides over and over, cooing at my poor baby in an attempt to get him to latch on for more than 5 seconds before origami-ing himself away again.  After about 15 minutes of squealing like a tortured piglet and impossible back bends, I picked that baby up and asked him if he was done.  "Are you finished here?  Are you moving on now?  Are you actually, VOLUNTARILY giving me my body back?  All done, Baby?"  And he grinned the biggest grin... and then catapulted himself into a pile of duvet.  I took that as a yes.

So, I'm free I guess.  It's weird.  Part of the weirdness stems from Last Baby Syndrome and the end of an era and blah, blah, blah.  But part of it also comes from my EXTENSIVE collection of mommy guilt. (Seriously, I could center an entire blog around it.  Oh, wait....)  I was planning to nurse him until 14 months just like his big brother for the sake of equality.  You know, so I wouldn't have to hear all that, "MOM.  You know this is all your fault because you stopped breastfeeding me too early.  My brother doesn't have these problems.  POINT MADE."  Those arguments totally happen.  And I was feeling all bummed and guilty that I hadn't made it to that magical benchmark... until my husband reminded me that the babe is just two weeks away from 14 months.  So that counts, right?  Equality maintained(ish).

Apart from being weird, it's also totally and completely and endlessly awesome, because I'M FREEEEEE!!!!!  Well, I'm free-ish. My body at least belongs to me now (although there will be kids hanging off of it for quite some time yet).  I can consume tequila and cold medicine and sketchy untested vitamin supplements with wild abandon.  I can tattoo myself from head to toe and use countless poisonous skin and hair products.  I could, in theory, leave for an entire week and the kids would be fine.  For the first time in four years (!!!), my offspring are no longer dependent on my body for sustenance, and that feels awesome.

Hurry, someone pass me some sketchy untested supplements and let's go get neck tattoos!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Power Struggle

First, some bad poetry by yours truly:

Once a teacher of literature,
Purveyor of words and ideas,

I now disseminate Cheerios,
Teach nose-blowing, please and thank you.

Some days I am lost
In a sea of trains and tiny socks.

While there are a great many things to love about being a mother (and I assure you, there is a lot that I do love), I have found that becoming a stay-at-home parent has created a serious power struggle within me.  And honestly, I did not expect this.

As I and many of my fellow at-home mamas stand on the precipice of sanity, I'm left wondering how it is that we- the stay-at-home parents- can maintain a sense of self.  This isn't to say that I don't have a sense of purpose.  I do.  I believe wholeheartedly in what I do.  At the risk of sounding saccharine and cliche, I will say that staying home with my children has been an absolute gift.  I know the time I've been able to spend with my children is irreplaceable and I am so thankful I've been there for the first steps, first words, and the little bumps and bruises.  Nonetheless, I can't help but think that parts of me have begun to disappear along the way.

I used to be a teacher.  I used to teach and discuss literature all day, every day.  (Or almost every day... there were, of course, the obligatory days of discussing why it is not okay to steal or to yell or to sleep through every class.  Or take your pants off in the middle of a Socratic Seminar.)  I used to create curriculum, discuss ideas and teaching strategies with colleagues, immerse myself in piles and piles of poetry.  I used to meet with friends under the guise of planning, and end up discussing the glories of Walt Whitman or the intensities Heart of Darkness.  

Now, I spend my days playing trucks and cleaning sticky little hands and faces.  I change diapers and fetch tiny pairs of underwear covered in trains or Sesame Street characters.  Instead of reading Emerson, I read Dr. Seuss.  Rather than grading papers, I do laundry and make baby food.

I'm not complaining, exactly.  I like reading Dr. Seuss.  I love getting down on the floor and playing with my boys.  I feel good about making healthy food for the kids.  I do NOT miss grading papers or the politics that are ever-present in public education.  But it's a strange transition from individual to stay-at-home mother.  An individual's decisions are based entirely on the individual.  She may take her partner into account and may even put her partner's needs ahead of hers at times, but she is still her own person.

As a stay-at-home mom (especially of children under 3), my childrens' needs always come first.  This doesn't necessarily sound significant, but it means that everything I do must ensure that the kids are taken care of first.  On the small scale, it means I can't even pee until I'm sure that both kids are safe and aren't going to climb atop a table or pull a pot down onto their heads.  Even then, one or both of them usually follows me into the bathroom.  On the large scale, it means that my needs are sometimes not met at all.  I can't sit down and write when inspiration strikes.  I can't go to yoga or sit and read with a good cup of coffee.  I can't unload the dishwasher when I want to because the baby tries to crawl inside and yank all the dishes out.  It means I can barely complete a sentence without interruption.

And again, I'm not complaining in the way that it sounds like I'm complaining.  I've chosen this life and, as frustrating as it can be, I feel good about it.  I know that despite difficulties, it's the right choice for my family and I feel lucky to be at home with my children.  I know that being a working mother has its own giant set of problems that I can't begin to understand.  I can only speak to my own experiences and for me, it is hard to feel like I'm disappearing under all this mothering.  I love identifying as a mother, but it's getting to the point where that's ALL I identify with.  Most of the time I am no longer Shannon; I am only Mommy.  And this leaves me feeling sad and confused.

Recently, I've had a few opportunities to spend quality time with some wonderful friends and some wonderful drinks sans kids.  (Thank you, Husband o' mine!)  What I find is that I revert quickly to my old self.  I am relaxed, listening intently, laughing and swearing like a sailor.  It's awesome.  This is not to say that I don't like myself as a mother, but I like other parts of myself, too.  Having a few hours of uninterrupted conversation with a friend feels so indulgent now, and I find that I crave it like mad.  I am clamoring to get out and find more opportunities to be me.  To figure out who me is now.  Not separate from Mommy, but in addition to.

And this, in great part, is why I started this blog.  I wanted to have an outlet, a way to nurture the part of me that gets buried under all the diapers and laundry and milk cups.  I still want to be Mommy- it's my most treasured role- but I think it's important that it not be my only role.

I am more than diapers, damn it.  Sometimes I can write words in a row.  Hopefully those words sometimes manage to sound nice and make sense and possibly even cause a person to think or laugh or smile in empathy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Things to Remember

'Tis Valentine's Day and I should probably be proclaiming love n' shit.  But hot damn if those darling kiddos of mine weren't throwing peas everywhere and refusing to sleep today.  They know not what they do and alas, they are not yet aware of little chalky heart thingies.  So... this.

On days like today, I find it important to have something to look at to remind me why I do what do.  When I was teaching, I borrowed an idea from a mentor and that thing was something cheesily called a "Smile File."  I filled it with kind letters from students, notes from fellow teachers, especially awesome assignments and anything else that made me happy and reminded me why I chose to teach.  Teaching is an incredibly difficult job, but a job worth doing.  My Smile File helped me remember that.

I am finding now that I'd like something similar to remind me why I love being the mother of two young boys.  On the days when want to sit down and cry into my applesauce-crusted arms, it would be nice to be able to cut myself off at the pass and take a little look-see at the things that make me smile.  I love my boys and I never, ever doubt that.  Ever.  But sometimes after a hard day and little sleep it becomes difficult to remember why I love being home with them.

So, this is my file o' love for staying at home with my two little whipper-snappers.  Apropos on Valentine's Day, no?  Try not barf.  Perhaps even smile.
(And don't be alarmed by my waxing happy.  I'll be back to my whiny, complainy self in no time.)

Reasons I Love Motherhood:
* Hugging my babies
* Receiving spontaneous and heartfelt hugs, kisses, and "I love you"s.
* Words like "opameal" (oatmeal), "fravrite" (favorite), and "noom" (balloon)
* Actually watching the wheels turn as a new idea develops
* Watching them try something new every single day
* The shit-eating grins they grace me with right before they do something they know is naughty
* Watching them sing and dance and my amazement at how naturally it comes to both of them
* Even on the days I can't come up with a reason to laugh, they give me one

Reasons to Love Having Two Kids Under Three:
* Listening to my toddler sing to my baby
* Watching them crack each other up until each is red-faced and rolling around on the floor
* Listening to them blow raspberries on the living room window with periodic pauses for the toddler to giggle and the baby to chortle like a 90 year old man
* The spontaneous composing of songs like: "Wren, I Love You. Yes I Do."  Soon to be a Top 40 hit.  Look out, Beiber.
* The way the little one looks at the big one.
* The way the big one looks out for the little one when he doesn't think I'm paying attention
* In approximately one year, I will be done with diapers FOREVER and my house will no longer smell like poop

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Morning Parenting

I have come to the conclusion that my parenting before coffee is sub par at best.  I am not a morning person, and attempting to even speak is sometimes taxing the first hour I'm awake.  Handling two cranky, hungry children the second I exit the warmth of my bed at 6:30am makes me want to burst into flames.

And yes, I know, 6:30am is significantly later than many children wake up.  I know many of you are up at 5am every single day.  I used to get up at 5am and it's a hideous, ungodly hour.  I know it could be worse.  But as previously established, I'm a whiny little bitch.  And this morning hustle pisses me off.

I've had this problem for as long as I can remember.  As a teenager, I used to sit in the corner on the kitchen floor nursing my silent contempt for the world while my dad made coffee.  My mom avoided me altogether.  No one spoke to me or looked me directly in the eye.  When the coffee was ready, my dad would hand a cup down to me- without speaking- and I would sit and drink.  Once I'd finished, I could face humans (kind of).  My freshman year in high school, I completely ruined a friendship because my friend of 4 years who generously gave me a ride to school every morning was incredibly bubbly in the morning.  She wanted to talk... a lot.  So my solution was to be a super-duper bitch until I stopped talking to her at all.  Brilliant plan, no?

I'm telling you, morning time before coffee is my kryptonite.

So now it comes to bite me in the ass again.  Kids are morning people.  They enjoy getting up early and demanding breakfast.  They want to run and jump and play LOUDLY at 6:30am.  They want me IMMEDIATELY upon opening their eyes.  All I want to do is sit in the corner of the kitchen floor until I finish my coffee, but now I don't even have time to make my coffee until they have breakfast in front of them.

I get up, pee if I'm lucky (and the piercing screams haven't started yet), get one kid out of bed, get the other kid out of bed, get the big one on the potty and into underwear (which are usually buried at the bottom of the basket of laundry I CANNOT SEEM TO FOLD), then get the little one into a new diaper.  Then we enter the kitchen and I plop the little one on the floor where he beelines for the drawer o' kid dishes and proceeds, for the 80 billionth time, to pull everything out onto the floor (where I trip on it).  The big one starts asking to watch TV and continues to ask every 5 seconds until breakfast is ready.  I begin to make the oatmeal the big one loves while he whines that he doesn't want "opameal" and then step on a tiny plastic fork.  I get milk cups out for both kids and the little one chugs half, then immediately starts to slam his on the floor until I take it away.  The big one returns to ask for TV again and proclaims, again, that he doesn't want "opameal."  The oatmeal is ready so I portion it out, then put the two little bowls in the freezer to cool off.  At this point, I attempt coffee making while trying to herd both kids over to the table where I can strap them down.  Bibs, cups, "opameal" and oh-my-god why can't all of this happen at a more reasonable hour?!?

Yes, it has been pointed out to me that I could get one of those fancy-schmancy coffee makers with a timer so that I can wake up to pre-fab coffee.  Or that I could get up before the little darlings so I could caffeinate myself and be a reasonable human being when they get up.  And those are both probably good ideas.

But then how could I WHINE like this?

Morning parenting blows.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Have Kids

I have kids.  Know how I know?  Because today I tried to put my boot on and found a toy cell phone.  My husband found a truck in his boot two days ago.

People without kids don't have to deal with these kinds of problems.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chaos Personified (aka: "Mommy").

Holy shit, Internet (and by "Internet" I obviously mean "Eight friends who read my blather and kindly pretend to find it interesting"... Hi Guys!!!).  Why can I not get it together?  Why can I not leave my house in under 40 minutes?  Why can I not unload the dishwasher (which was run 24 hours ago) before 10pm?  Why can I not clean up the toys scattered hither and yon throughout the house?  Why can't I do/fold the laundry fast enough for it to NOT resemble Mt. Vesuvius every 2 days?  Why can I not pull a decent meal together while both kids are awake without one beating the other one up?  Why, why, why?  (And, p.s., why can't I stop WHINING?  OR E-YELLING?)

This shit is getting out of control.  I would like to blame this often unfathomable craziness on my kids (because I'm an awesome mother like that), but it's not their fault.  I would also like to blame it on my husband (Hi Honey!!), but it's not his fault either.  All these boys in my life do their fair share o' dirtying, certainly, but I do my part, too.  And it's supposed to be my job to clean it all up.  I am the stay-at-home parent.

This is where I feel like somehow feminism has backfired on me.  What began as, "You can have it all!" turned into, "If you don't have it all, you are an utter failure."  And p.s. look awesome and keep the house clean and cook nutritious, delicious food while reading Tolstoy and writing that brief for your client in Norway.  I am a failure (at life and at properly encapsulating feminism.... damn it!).  I realize this is not technically true (if what my peeps tell me is actually correct) nor a logical thought to have.  Nonetheless,  I feel like a failure a shockingly large portion of the time.

I know this is reality a lot of stay-at-home parents struggle with.  There's no way to actually do it all and maintain your sanity or stamina.  One can certainly keep the house clean, the laundry done, and make breakfast, lunch and dinner daily... but that requires plopping one's children in front of the T.V. and/or ignoring them for the majority of the day.  One can also take the children out on exciting playdates, spend quality time playing on the floor with each child, and maintain a healthy nap schedule... but that means that one's house quickly begins to look like an episode of Hoarders.  Toys are spread in an even foot-severing layer across the entire floor, dishes accumulate on the counters and in the sink, and laundry piles begin to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  So we have to choose: parenting, or housekeeping.

You'd think this would be an easy choice.  Kids should always trump dishes, yes?  DUH.  But eventually, I start to look around and the messiness in the house starts to make me insane.  And then I start to feel like I'm not doing my job, because my job is to take care of the entire homefront, right?  No, actually.  This is where we get it wrong, peeps.  My job is to take care of the children and do what's best for them.  I am not a housewife or homemaker- I actively reject that title for a reason.  I am a stay-at-home-PARENT.  My priority is my children.  If I were working a paying job outside the home, I would expect my partner to pull his weight and help with household duties.  Though my job is unpaid and happens to occur inside the home, I don't really feel like this should change things.  Perhaps I am delusional, but thankfully I have a partner who is willing to pitch in.

When he's here, that is.  When he's not here... well, therein lies the rub.  Try as I might, I still cannot find a way to do it all.  I'd like to (especially as I prepare to- hopefully- take on a little side job), but I just can't figure it out.  Maybe it's just me.  There are people out there who appear to have it all: their houses are always clean, the TV is never on, their kids are always happy and well dressed with healthy snacks filling their go-bags, and inexplicably, they look put together and seem to thoroughly enjoy life.  I don't know how those people do it.  It seems impossible to me.

So... I like to think that those people have a big ole Monica Gellar-style closet.  A closet full of the mess that would otherwise occupy their homes and minds.  It's filled to the brim with dirty dishes, blocks, broken crayons and half-used Swiffers.  It smells of two weeks worth of dirty diapers and sour milk and sweat stained clothes.  There are Cheerios plastering the floor.  Attached to the inside of the door is a giant hidden flat screen with Finding Nemo playing on a 24 hour loop.  And the reason she can keep that smile plastered to her face despite her three children under 4?  She keeps several flasks of vodka strapped to her body at all times.  SEVERAL.