Parenting is hard. There are some days that I dread getting out of bed, some days that I wish I worked a job that required major travel so I could wake up in the confines of a cozy hotel room, swaddled in a down comforter with endless hours of mindless television before me. And then, there is the guilt associated with having those dreams of solitude, making my life as a mom, an emotional rollercoaster ride. Parenting is an endless battle that is marked with occasional sweet moments that help us feel like "it's all worth it." I say, "us" because I'm hoping that other mothers feel this way and I'm not the only one who feels like she is going to lose her mind on any given day.
This morning, in particular, was exceptionally hard. Charlotte woke up early, and just when I thought that she was playing sweetly with her talking stuffed animals in her room, she started banging on the door, demanding I dole out milk, chicken nuggets, and "nuggles" (short for 'snuggles'-like, how can I pass up on that, right?) Emily had already woken and was, much to my surprise, dressing herself for camp. I submitted to their daily demands and got things rolling. Loaded the car with the bags that were pre-packed the night before on my mission to lessen the burden of my upcoming day. I fed the dog, got the girls' breakfasts ready and served, including the chicken nuggets. Milks were drank, a diaper was changed, and I managed to put my own clothes on before Emily demanded her second course..."salami, I want salami."
I had intentions of getting the salami, but I got sidetracked along the way...with the cereal that Charlotte had stolen from Emily and dumped on the floor, with the dog that needed to be administered his allergy meds, and with my own need to urinate. So, I forgot about the salami, and maybe it's for the better, since Emily could benefit from not having greasy meats first thing in the morning. By this point, it was time to get both girls out the door and to their activities for the day, which happened to be in two different towns.
But, Emily wasn't letting go of her dreams of salami in bed first thing in the morning, and her head started spinning. Picture a sweet little redhead transforming into Linda Blair from the exorcist. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little scared when these tantrum fits occurred, which seemed to be every other day lately. As if she was reverting back to her toddler years, she started emitting this piercing monster-like screech if you can imagine such a thing. Her body then turned into one of those little puppets that punch rapidly when you pull the trigger. This was followed by claws digging into my arms when I tried to restrain her. She had one more thing to do before we could leave the house for the day and that was to brush her teeth, but she didn't want salami after the minty toothpaste touched her teeth. I can't blame her, but by this point the salami was a distant memory and she was flailing and kicking and using her body to convey how much she despised me as a parent. Meanwhile, Charlotte is walking around somewhere downstairs in only a diaper, likely flirting with the soft spoken man who is currently painting the interior of our new house.
I consider myself to be a pretty strong gal, but it took all my force to keep Emily pinned down before she hurt herself or damaged the walls. But, my bootcamp classes paid off and I kept her contained until I could convince her to brush her teeth. Her breathing was back to normal and after she told me to "not talk to her, look at her, or think about her ever again," she slammed the bathroom door and hopefully brushed her teeth. By this point, I was trying to wrestle Charlotte into clothes and get her into the car.
This is where the whole "mom guilt" thing comes in. After a relatively quiet ride to Emily's day camp, she confessed that she just wanted "more time with mama." With tears surfacing in her innocent blue eyes she said, "I just miss you so much and I just want to stay home and 'nuggle' you all day." Yes, she stole Charlotte's word to sound even sweeter.
Let's Talk About It
By 9:00am nearly every single day, I feel defeated. Parenting, in my opinion, is harder than any job I've ever held, it's harder than any college exams or essays I've had to write, more difficult than any half-marathon or obstacle course race I've ever attempted, and even more mentally challenging than the Air Force bootcamp I went through all those years ago.
And the only thing that managed to comfort me through this rocky morning was bumping into a couple of other disheveled moms on my way into the office. They too, had stories to tell about their mornings and looked as frustrated as I feel every day, and it made some part of me feel at ease. Unlike college exams, there are no study materials that can truly prepare you for parenthood. There are no extensions on a kid's health that allow for more time like a writing deadline, and you have to face everything in the moment, regardless of any other things that may be considered a priority. Unlike a bad job, you can't beef up your resume and find another. You are IN it. WE are IN it, and the only way to relieve some of the daily stresses and emotions of parenthood, is to talk about them, to laugh about them so we realize that we aren't alone in this rollercoaster ride of a life.
So, what's your story? Do you have any daily exorcisms or salami-obsessed children that make your blood pressure rise?
Mom guilt. The first time I heard this phrase, my oldest daughter Emily was only about six months old. At this point in parenthood, I had experienced bouts of guilt-induced emotions, but I never imagined my mom guilt would get worse over time.
"Do you ever have 'mom guilt?" a friend and fellow mom had asked me one night. I hadn't thought much about it at the time, but I soon learned that mom guilt is a legit feeling of remorse that can leave you on a major emotional rollercoaster ride. From chatting with fellow moms, I've also learned that the majority of us suffer with mom guilt in some capacity or another. What I didn't know is how much it can affect your well-being as a parent. Guilt as a single emotion, is the sense that we've done something wrong, but as a mom, how do we know what is right and what is wrong with many of the situations that we face every day? And we quite obviously can't predict the future, so how do we know if the guilt that tugs at us will come up later in our child's life?
From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, Charlotte, I felt as if I was having a full-blown affair on Emily. I was cheating on the sweet little bond that we had built for three and a half years, and life would never be the same. I would literally watch Emily sleep at night and cry my eyes out thinking about how our bond would soon be infiltrated by a sibling. Would she feel like she was enough? Would I damage her confidence? I even feared that I'd have less time to focus on her and worried that my lack of attention would cause her physical harm. Would I be too busy paying attention to Charlotte that I'd accidentally forget to buckle Emily into her seatbelt?
Considering there are billions of people who have navigated their lives perfectly fine with a sibling, Emily's role as a sister has suited her well and she seems better off because of it. But, the guilt didn't stop there. This guilt was inflamed when Emily started getting upset about going to daycare, gymnastics, preschool, or any place where she wasn't within an arm's length from me. Her eyes would well up and her lower lip would quiver and she would cling to me like I was her only source of happiness. This started during my pregnancy with Charlotte and hasn't let up since. It happens when I drop her off at the daycare she's been attending since she was three months old and it happens when I drop her off at gymnastics camp and friends' houses or on the rare event when we hire a babysitter. And it never gets easier on me. After I peel her off of me, I always walk away feeling deflated, as if I've committed the worst crime in the world. I've murdered her confidence to trust that I would always be by her side. Sounds dramatic, right?
The mom guilt has been at an all-time high since we moved houses and towns. I'm guilty of pulling her away from the friendships she's had since she was old enough to sit upright on her own, and now she has to work through her immense shyness to meet new friends. Not only do I feel guilty about that, but I singlehandedly blame myself for any lack of time I've had with her before she heads off to kindergarten in the fall. My 20-hour-work weeks always linger in the back of my head, and make me question if I should just forego the job I love to spend every second of the day with her. The phrase, "they are only young once," tugs at my heart every time I punch the clock, or in my case, open up my laptop and write.
So, while it's pretty safe to say that mom guilt is my "new norm," I'd like to know some ways that other moms have battled the ongoing guilt. Any advice? Whether you stay home with your little ones or you are in full-time work mode, how do you ease the guilt about the things that range from a forgotten lunchbox to what you may, in your "mom-guilt induced state," perceive as a lack of quality time?
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You see that sweet, angelic little girl right there? That's me. That is me in my element. Sitting on the dock of my grandparent's camp on Suncook Lake in New Hampshire. That is me at the place that is still my favorite place to be today.
When I really stop and think about it, I haven't changed much at all, and now that I'm approaching 40, I've finally learned to embrace who I am. I'm guessing that I was about 2.5 in this photo, which means that it has literally taken me 37.5 years to actually learn who I am. Sounds like a lot of wasted time exploring who I was not, right? A lot of wasted time spent with the wrong people. A lot of wasted time spent doing jobs and hobbies that I didn't like. A lot of wasted time, worried about making others happy while pushing aside my own wants and needs. There is a lot that this little girl has learned over the years, but if I could go back, here are a few things I'd tell her, and keep in mind that these are still things that I have to tell myself every day.
Never stop dreaming. As you can see in the John Maxwell quote above, "The dream is free but the journey isn't." I'm a dreamer. I'm a hardcore dreamer, and I can assure you that I was definitely dreaming about something in this photo. Maybe I was dreaming about jumping off the dock without swimmies, or maybe I was simply taking in the sound of the water gently hitting the worn tires that served as bumpers for the boat that I loved riding on. But one thing I wish I had known then that I know now, is that a dream is easy, but the work to get there is not. It is the constant lifting up of oneself that makes the majority of us toss our dreams aside, and settle for things that don't make us tick. Keep lifting yourself up little girl.
Write. From my first self-published book, "The Great Turtle Catch," which was released in my third-grade classroom, to the release of Saving Jason in 2014, there was a lot of years in between spent NOT writing. That makes me cringe, thinking of all the characters I could've created by now. But I was set on my path for a reason, and in some sense, my own life can be looked at like a book. All the challenges and struggles from then until now, is the plot. All the seedy characters I've happened upon along the way, are no different than some of the characters I've developed in The Gift and Buried Secrets. All leading up to that climactic moment of today.
Don't let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish a dream. My dream is to be a best selling author. Heck, I'd be happy just being a mediocre author whose books are known amongst a handful of hardcore readers. And this is where it gets hard little girl. This is the struggle where I have to tell myself to keep writing every day, to keep pushing past the "no's and the doubts" that drift along the surface of my thoughts.
What would you tell your young self today?
In exactly four days, and about ten hours, I will start the last year of my thirties.
Having prepared for this big moment, I've really tackled some dark and deep questions over the past few weeks. So, what's my biggest fear of getting older? I'll start with my top three.
1. Losing time.
Because I'm an emotionally-charged thinker, I have a tendency to examine some pretty dark fricken thoughts. I like to conceal this by portraying a somewhat sunny outside persona, but the truth is, I think about dying every day. Sound morbid? Well, there is no need to put me in a straight jacket yet. I worry about dying because I'm so afraid of missing out on something. Yep, I have a major case of life FOMO (fear of missing out). My bucket list has gotten so long, I'm afraid I'll never get to everything, and time is only running out. I'll admit that some of my bucket list items are a bit far-fetched but I'm a big time dreamer, with goals galore and a new self-help book every week to guide me along the way. From taking a cross country road trip to writing a children's book, I'm hoping that these self-help books will give me the tools needed to somehow organize my life and put together a plan of attack to accomplish my five million goals.
Unless some genius scientist comes up with a solution that will ward off health issues as we age, I believe this is a pretty rational fear. It is for this reason that I question every ache and pain that I have. Headaches could be a brain tumor, lower back pain could be spinal cancer, if there is even such a thing. Numbness in my arm could be the beginning stages of ALS. Yeah, my mind is a petri dish of toxic thoughts.
3. Losing a loved one.
As the natural process of life goes, when we age, everyone else around us ages too. Which ups the chances of some tragedy or illness happening to a loved one. So far in my 38.999 years, I've had the good fortune of not having to suffer too much loss, but I know it's inevitable and each new year of life will bring me that much closer to losing someone close to me.
So, now that I've presented you with this platter of sobering thoughts, tell me what your biggest fears are.
And to mark my 39th year, I'm giving a gift to readers everywhere...the digital version of The Gift will be FREE from 10/24 until my big day on 10/28.
Okay, so my title may have been deceiving. I don't want to see little Johnny's first drawing of a house or little Susie's version of her family. I want to see where your kids decided to PUT their artwork.
Let me show you an example of what I'm talking about...
Now, don't get me wrong...I'm beyond joyful that Emily loves her Pops, and I love the guy too. But, I don't need a reminder of my dad in green marker every time I decide to relax in my living room.
This, like all mischievous incidents, happened one afternoon last week while Emily was being extremely quiet. I thought she was coloring in one of her Little Mermaid coloring books, but instead, she was tagging our furniture with her grandfather's term of endearment.
And the devious artist knew that she was wrong the second I walked into the room. Naturally, my eyes automatically diverted to the dark green print on the coffee table and she knew. In fact, she is so in-tune with her emotions that she predicts them, and she ran out of the room in tears before I could even say anything. "You're mad at me," she said from her perch at the bottom of the stairs.
Long story short...if this ever happens, don't be alarmed. A magic eraser will do the trick. Moments after the incident, I sent out a panicked text to my mom tribe, and it turns out they were right...a magic eraser is magical.
Never forget. Those two words have inherited a new meaning since the tragedies of 911, and for good reason. Two simple words that when put together have the potential to dredge up so much sorrow, fear, compassion and anger. Two simple words that are the result of a day that changed the world forever.
I know where I was on that fateful day, but where were you?
I was enjoying a simple cup of coffee and getting ready to plan a simple day off from my job as a Command Post Controller in the United States Air Force. I say simple, because I feel like everything prior to 911, felt simple in my life. It was a simple day to me, until I got the call from my ex, who was a Marine stationed on Camp Pendleton. He told me to turn the TV on and the rest was obviously history. Like everyone else in the United States, I was bombarded with images of planes colliding into towers, collapsing debris, and a chaos that was similar to what my then innocent eyes had only witnessed in action film scenes.
Seconds later, my phone, along with all my fellow military brothers and sisters phones rang. Report to base, until further notice. At the time I was stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, also known as the "Hollywood base," because it was minutes from Hollywood boulevard and was quite honestly, the most painless base that someone could be assigned to. Compared to most who were in the military, I had it easy. The most daunting thing that happened to me while in the Air Force was my terrible commute from Orange County to Los Angeles. But, when I got that call, nothing was simple anymore.
I put on my wrinkled uniform which had been tossed in the laundry basket on what I was expecting to be my four-day break. Crisp uniforms became obsolete when the country was under attack. I made my commute, but this time it went by fast because I was accompanied by the rest of the world. Suddenly I was joining forces with strangers who were stopped in traffic next to me, listening to the radio and absorbing the news the same way I was. We may have been listening to different stations, but the message was all the same. America was under attack. As was the person on the other side of me, and the business man who was five cars ahead. And the mom who was driving the mini van two cars behind me with a car full of kids, the grad student in the beat-up car diagonal from me. We were all in this together. We were all receiving a message that would ultimately make us see the world differently.
As to be expected, extra security was outlining my base, which was also only two miles from the Los Angeles Airport. So when I got there I was greeted with a guard who was on high alert, instead of slumped over and waiting for something to happen like in the days prior.
The Command Post was the loudest and noisiest I'd ever seen it and I did more work on that day than I probably did in my entire four years in the Air Force. I wrote and submitted reports to Headquarters Air Force, one after the other, in a whirlwind, all the while I was still trying to grasp what was happening. The world prior to this day looked a lot different to me, as I'm sure it did for most of you. So, in the words of Alan Jackson, "Where were you when the world stopped turning?" Tell me your story.
And on my mission to bring PTSD awareness to the surface, I'm offering my debut novel, Saving Jason, for FREE from September 11-September 15th. I'll also be giving away a few autographed copies.
Please never forget our veterans and military members who face their own war every day, because of the horrors that they have faced.
Get your FREE copy today. And please leave a review to help spread the word.
Think back a few years to the summer months of your youth. Surely you remember spending your days in a damp bathing suit, running from one neighborhood game to the next while miraculously surviving on ice cream and freeze pops.
Somewhere between the intense games of hide-and-go-seek and doing cannon balls off the end of the dock on Suncook Lake in New Hampshire, my summers were jam-packed with activity bookmarked by sun and water and more sun and water.
And the best part about all of this is that I get to see my two daughters experience the same joy as I did when catching a toad in the dark, counting the endless stars in the summer sky above the lake, and feeling utter satisfaction when roasting that marshmallow to the perfect golden brown.
The proof is in this picture and it cannot be denied. Emily had a stellar summer and here is the image to sum up the end of every day at the lake.
your kid's best
If you are a parent, then you know exactly how important that one stuffed animal or blanket is. It's the item that your young child forms their first bond with, and in most cases, if there is ever risk to that bond, your child can feel lost, alone, which in turn, can wreck havoc on your life.
I was faced with this mess of a situation last week, while on a stroller run with the girls.
Now, for those of you who have a double stroller, you know just how hard it can be to run while pushing an almost five-year-old 50 pounder, and a baby. It's like running without the use of arms, which can be quite the challenge, but it makes for one hell of a workout. I also decided to throw in a couple of those lovely steep hills that overlook the harbor and the Boston skyline. It was well worth it when Emily, Charlotte and I got to the top and played around on the rocks.
The morning was going as smooth as glass.
Until we were on the drive home. After I jammed that beast of a stroller into the small trunk of my Jeep Patriot, and started to make the three minute drive home, Emily yelled..."Manew!" For some clarification, 'Manew,' pronounced "MA-NEW," is her go-to blanket. While only a square foot of material, this is the item that she simply cannot part with. In fact, she has gotten so attached to this piece of fabric, that my mother, the designer of the blanket, has made four additional backups in the event of an emergency like this. The thing about Emily though, is that she is pretty smart, and she knows when we try to trick her with a 'backup Manew.' She prefers, what she calls 'the stinky curvy one.' Stinky because she drools on it every night and curvy because of the way the edges are sewn. She has gotten very used to those edges and falls asleep rubbing the texture of the stitches.
I turned around right away, and like a hungry mama lion hunting for her prey, I was determined to find that blanket. I pulled out the stroller as Emily peeked over the backseat, with tears in her eyes, "Is she in there, is Manew in there?"
Meanwhile, Charlotte was starting to unravel. If that baby could talk she would've said, "Get over your damn Manew and just move on to a backup. Stop being a tit." Charlotte was so over it.
No Manew in the car, so I packed those two girls back in the stroller and ventured around the island a second time, up every hill, tracing every nook and cranny those wheels rolled across. And I ran, only slowing down to ask passerby if they'd seen a teal and pink polka-dot blanket. I had the sewage treatment workers on the lookout, a couple of friendly ladies, and even some fellow parents who knew my exact situation.
"Oh no," said one young woman when I approached and asked if she'd seen the missing blanket. "I'm so sorry." She knew exactly what I was going through and looked at her friend and said knowingly..."This is like when I lost blue hippo." And just like that, me and this strange woman and her friend bonded, over a blue hippo and a stinky blanket. It's one of those moments when you realize you've been welcomed into a club...I was officially in the parenting club. We were in it together. I wanted to melt into this woman's arms and cry because she understood, but...I had a long road ahead of me. We were only halfway back around the almost three-mile trail.
"Mommy ask them, and ask them!" Emily chanted as we passed others, who much to Em's chagrin, hadn't seen Manew.
There was only one more place she could be, and that was by a bench that we had stopped at so Emily could take a selfie. As I made my way toward the bench, it was like I saw the light at the end of the tunnel...peeking out from between the bench's metal bars, I saw the pink and shiny teal material, glowing underneath the sun's rays.
"Emily, look, look!" I shouted, caught up in the moment like I was watching a major sporting event.
She saw it too and immediately jumped out of the stroller, ran to the bench and held that stinky Manew up to her nose and hugged it with all her strength. I could hear the lyrics of an old song playing in my head while this moment was unfolding..."Reunited and it feels so good."
It was only 11:00am and I'd already experienced one of my biggest fears and had logged over 12,000 steps on my Fitbit...but I got an insanely good workout.
Have you experienced a major missing lovey moment like this one?
There is nothing clean about parenting. Even the tidiest of parents will be faced with situations that are downright dirty and horribly unpleasant.
It happened while we were driving home from New Hampshire last weekend. Slinger and I were hit with a ghastly scent. Naturally, we ruled out the 150 pound dog in the rear of the car and the child and baby in the back seat. We began questioning every other possible cause. At one point I even rolled down the window, convinced that it was rubber tires or a skunk permeating the air on the highway.
But, as always, Emily, our four-year-old, confirmed our worst fear.
"It's Charlotte, it's coming out the side of her diaper!"
An explosive diaper, while not the most pleasant thing to deal with, is certainly doable. Been there done that. We decided it would be a quick stop at the nearest rest area. Until, Emily furthered our fears and gave us a play-by-play of what else was happening.
"Oh my God, mommy, she's eating it! She's eating it!"
As luck would have it, an impressive rest stop, paired with a diner and a liquor store, was only three miles away on the side of the highway. A one-stop shop for booze, bacon and bathrooms.
Of course, it was pouring rain when we pulled into the parking lot, because what's better than a kid eating her own shit? A soaking wet kid, with shit dripping off of her and onto me. Perfect.
I took the lead and went to work unstrapping the belts that held the pooping princess into her seat. And as luck would have it, we had no wipes. So, without a wipe in sight, I just succumbed to the mess, and pulled her up and out of the carseat, held her close to me until we got under the roof of the rest area.
If you can believe we had a bigger problem, the main obstacle was laid out before us. This was a rest area on steroids and you had to go through an area that had tables and chairs that spilled outside of the diner. Because who wouldn't want to eat their breakfast in the public portion of the area, while people marched in front of them zipping their flies down on a mission to get to the bathroom fast after a long drive?Well, I was about to give these diners a moment they'd never forget.
Without making an ounce of eye contact, I did what I had to do. I held Charlotte out in front of me, facing outwards, as her glorious shit-covered paws reached out proudly before her. I walked as fast as I could to the bathroom and of course there was a line.
I knew that this moment was going down in the baby book as Charlotte's first major moment in the spotlight, as I charged ahead of the line and plopped her down on the changing table. For the first time that day, luck was on my side and there happened to be a cleaning cart right next to the changing table. It made the moment more cramped, but it was the perfect opportunity to pilfer some quality paper towels and get to work cleaning up the mess.
With a front row seat to Charlotte's "shit show," the line of bathroom-waiters looked on in disgust. I could feel their glares penetrating the back of my head as I repeatedly wet the paper towels in the sink and went to work cleaning out the creases in Charlotte's every nook and cranny.
A few minutes later, and I was greeted by Emily and Slinger outside of the bathroom, so we could do the walk of 'shit-shame' out of the rest area as a family. But, when I went down to hold Emily's hand, she refused my grip.
"Ewww I'm not touching your hand, now," she said in disgust. At least Charlotte was as happy as a pig in shit, and still loved me.
So, Charlotte is now called, "The Diaper Digger."