I have been reading some posts online about being a mom and "doing it all" lately. Joanna at A Cup of Jo had a superb post, as did S from Simply Bike (who I have been collaborating with for some time now, with posts on riding with a toddler and riding during pregnancy). I figured it was a long time since I wrote about being a mom, and thought I would weigh in.
The following statements are all true:
- Having Dexter was the best decision I have ever made
- Caring for, teaching, and providing for Dexter is the most important and rewarding thing I do
- Dexter is an endless joy and challenge
- Having a baby hasn't really fundamentally changed the things I care about (active transportation, genuine friendships, good communication)
Sure, there is a lot of monotony in some tasks. Like how we get up every morning and I help him visit the potty, wash his hands, brush his teeth, get dressed, and make him a good breakfast. Same goes for after work when he has a snack and we do the whole bedtime routine as well. Getting "stuff" done is just a normal part of everyday life, whether you have a baby or not. I've always been very efficient, so the most stress this causes in relation to little D are when other people are trying to be helpful, but they're not actually helping because they are slow or doing it wrong or can't follow instructions (insert comments about being a control freak here).
By far, the most challenging aspect of being a working mom (first of all, being a mom is a full-time job all its own) has been childcare. Being self-employed, I returned to teaching piano approximately 3 months after Dexter was born. Daycare was useless to me because my hours are not 9-5, and Don and I both work late into the evening (I work weekends too). Let's just say we are very lucky to have lots of supportive family and friends that help accommodate my work and our busy schedules.
This was even more challenging during Don's most recent election, where 10 hour days turn into 16 hour days, and please include weekends in that count too. AWESOME.
Even with all the family and friend help, all it takes is for somebody to get sick or for my parents to go away on vacation for 4 weeks - And everything quickly unravels. This does not take into the account the normal ferrying of the baby back and forth and the general ongoing coordination and scheduling that happens between me and Dexter's various caregivers. It's very time consuming.
In one scenario, your baby is being cared for elsewhere... which results in not seeing your kid very often. The other scenario has Dexter being cared for at the bungalow, which can be noisy and distracting since I run a home-based business.
Layer on top of this a baby that is always changing and the whole "project management" aspect of being a mom is elevated. The development of your baby from zero to 2 years is phenomenal. You might have a routine that works for a while, but things are always in a state of flux, which is difficult to communicate and translate to various caregivers who are in charge of a baby's nap time and meal times. This is all very stressful. There were many times that I thought (and this still happens) it would be more straightforward to stop working and just do it all myself. But, from what I have seen and heard, doing "baby" 100% of the time can create problems for mommy too.
Also, I happen to love my work so I'm not ready to give it up either.
Also, I happen to love my work so I'm not ready to give it up either.
One of the parents of my student put it really nicely. She said you can't have it all... at the same time.
It's true! If you're looking to care for your baby by yourself, have a great marriage, maintain your friendships and relationships with your family, make the same amount of money as you did before and/or further your career, go on amazing vacations, have a clean house where the laundry and dishes are always done, complete all your home projects and renovations, have time to work out and be healthy... uh, these things are very difficult to accomplish even when you tackle them one at a time WITHOUT a kid.
It's busy. And although I am proud that I do A LOT without breaking a sweat (I was bred by my mom to get things done from a very early age - Think Tiger Mom), when I stop to think about it... it's a little crazy-town. I'm the sort of person that derives satisfaction and fulfillment from accomplishing tasks. If I don't feel as though I am reaching expectations somehow, my self-loathing sets in. Also, making lists and that sort of thing keeps me organized - For better or worst, it's how I roll. But I am the sort of person that puts a lot of pressure on herself, and I get resentful when I feel there are people around me that are hindering my progress (this doesn't make me the most understanding and enjoyable person to be around). I am also the sort of person who gets incredibly impatient and frustrated when things don't go according to plan, or when something or someone falls short of my expectations. I am really hard on myself, and I am hard on others too.
I know, it's not healthy.
So I am Dexter's mom, I am a piano teacher to many kids, I am wife to a super busy guy who has a whole world of his own preoccupations (Don's work is very consuming), and then there are my other supporting roles like trying to be a good friend, blogger, and volunteer, etc.
I usually stick to bike-talk and fun times on the blog, because those are the things that bring me smiles and are the sorts of things I enjoy sharing. Blogging makes me happy! Especially in the summertime when I am off work and dub myself a "lady of leisure." The sunshine and almost daily bike rides are truly blissful. I don't want anybody to misunderstand me and think that I don't enjoy keeping up with G&B, I only aim to reiterate that it is but one part of my life.
Here at the bungalow I refer to myself as the project manager. I am quite certain that this is the case in many households.
There are tons of moms out there doing it every day, and each in their own way. I don't think my position is unique amongst mamas, and I know each mom faces her own challenges whether she is "working" or not. I haven't even touched on the subject of hormones or lack thereof, which affects each lady differently.
Everybody has to figure out what works for their family and lifestyle, and just get it done while trying not to be too hard on themselves.
Despite the scheduling and working and project management, I rarely feel like I am doing a bad job raising Dexter. I feel really good about that one:)
So behind all the biking and enjoyment of fresh air, there is definitely a whole machine or organization and coordination that drives the Miss Sarah lifestyle. It's been challenging to manage time and to balance the important aspects of our life (including being able to determine what isn't so important), but I am still proud of everything we manage to get done and the quality in which we do it all.
Most of all, having a great husband, family, and friends on my side are key to everything functioning (despite my dysfunctional ranting).
I don't think all these feelings of being misunderstood or feeling inadequate at times is specific only to mothers, though being a mom gives you another lens in which to experience these emotions. Plus, people take motherhood very seriously, so it's not surprising that it becomes one of the predominant ways ladies with children frame themselves.
I have plenty of ongoing challenges and areas of self-improvement I must continue to work on, but I realize I'll have to let time be my helper in sorting some of these things out.
The most important thing is that despite my reservations and frustrations - Don and I are churning out a pretty exemplary little Dexter. I'm not sure how much of it is the raw materials he was given at birth, or if it's the choices we make for him or the way we treat him, but he is really awesome! So despite my misgivings about my shortcomings, I still feel confident that I am on the right path.
Being a mom is the best!
And I'll be doing it with TWO kids in about 10ish weeks. Stay tuned for more self-deprecation ironically mixed in with lots of fun times!