October 30, 2014

working mother guilt

I sat in the chair in my therapist's office the other day, filling out a brief questionnaire to guage my level of depression. The answers had numbered scores next to them:  0, 1, 2, 3. I ticked each one off -- 0, 1, 1, 0, then came across the one asking me how guity I feel. 3. Guilty as charged.

So here's a not-so-brief confession and list for my typical week's full of working mother guilt. I feel guilty for:
  1. Working part-time
  2. Working at all
  3. Considering working full-time
  4. Wanting to work and not having the desire (capability?) to stay home
  5. Having my child in daycare
  6. Considering having my child in daycare full-time
  7. Having my child in therapy someday for all the daycare he endures now (if some parenting experts are to be believed)
  8. Not fixing healthier meals more often
  9. Feeding my child a steady diet of mac & cheese instead of kale (no wait -- I don't feel guilty about that)
  10. Weight gain
  11. Spending money on clothes as a result of weight gain
  12. Imperfect parenting
  13. Judging my husband's parenting
  14. Not potty training my child before he's 3
  15. Inconsistent potty instruction
  16. Not using sticker charts for potty or chores or whatever the hell else they're used for
  17. Letting my son swallow gum instead of fishing it out of his mouth (or giving it to him in the first place)
  18. Praying and reading my Bible inconsistently
  19. Forgetting to pray or read
  20. Blowing off prayer or reading
  21. Not volunteering more
  22. Not wanting to volunteer at all
  23. Wondering whether I should volunteer
I should do this, I should do that... pretty soon I'm shoulding all over myself.

Why in the world am I beating myself up? No wonder I'm halfway to being a basket case every time my son has an unstoppable, stratospheric temper tantrum. On some level I'm busy blaming myself and, yes, feeling guilty for not preventing it.

I realized something recently. It's not just the guilt of a working mother. Because of the living hell I endured through my two miscarriages and infertility diagnosis followed by God's gift of my son, I have this tendency to think of my gift of motherhood as “happily ever after.” As in, I should spend every day being grateful and not blown apart by the challenges every other mother on the planet experiences especially if she's working outside the home. Some might call this survivor guilt.

Not that I'm not grateful every day, but that’s just not realistic. Tomorrow has its own set of challenges. My biggest challenge right now isn't finding my next job (although that does take a lot of mental energy). It's accepting the reality that parenting is hard emotional work regardless of the journey to get here, and that I'm as human as the next mom with a mind and heart and needs of my own. The fact that my needs generally come dead last on any given day is, I suppose, beside the point.

I don't think antidepressants are going to absolve me or otherwise erase these guilty feelings, so I'd better look elsewhere. I'll explore that more in an upcoming post.

October 27, 2014

losing his last nap and my sanity with it

My son's life is a series of transitions, and currently he is transitioning away from his midday nap. I'm not sure, but I think this transition is supposed to last a couple of months decades. Some days, he naps. Others, only if he's strapped into a carseat and forced to sit still for an hour. Still others, like this past weekend, he skips the nap and slips into a coma right before dinnertime.

Friday we let him nap since we couldn't reasonably wake him, then he was a major crankybutt until bedtime. Sunday we just gave in and put him to bed. Predictably, he was awake at 5 this morning. Argh!!!

Meanwhile, I've started seeing my therapist again, and my next appointment is tomorrow. I’m thinking of going back on antidepressants for a while. My insomnia is just an absolute plague, and when I can’t sleep I can’t handle my son very well (let alone the rest of my life). Case in point: Yesterday was day 6 of terrible sleep for me. The day went okay, but of course the boy didn’t nap. Late in the afternoon he just got more and more upset, throwing tantrums over next to nothing. I knew it was because he was exhausted, but every episode just ratcheted up my stress level. I was trying to put lotion on him after his shower and he got all fussy, yelling etc., then he full-on hit me in the face (not hard, of course). I grabbed his arms and rather yelled “I know you’re upset but I won’t let you hit me!” This shocked him enough that he burst into tears, so I held him and he continued fighting me. My husband took over and I just sat in the chair in our son's room sobbing, helpless to the situation.

In a way, it was a blessing that he crashed at 5 and my husband and I had a quiet evening together (we even got to eat dinner in front of the TV!), but then of course I couldn’t sleep and then he was up at 5 this morning… Whatever "it" is, I’m starting to lose it.

As my therapist reminded me last week, a happy mom is a good mom. What's a stressed-out, depressed, overweight, insomniac mom??

The most productive thing I did last night, since I was awake, was go into the living room in the dark and talk to God. Actually, I argued with him. As I poured out my frustration, I said I felt like I was talking to a brick wall, and asked Him to let me know He was actually listening. After a while, I turned on a light and started reading my Bible -- a Good News Translation version that my dad gave to me on my 13th birthday. I randomly flipped over to the middle section, wordlessly asking for a Psalm. Up in the left hand corner was a drawing of a person leaning over another one who was lying in bed, and the caption was from Psalm 23:4. "Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me." Tears in my eyes, I turned off the light and went back to bed.

October 15, 2014

hyperactive or spirited?

I resist the tendency to call my son things, slapping labels on him. Certain labels like Sweet, Lovey, Cuddly, Active, Busy... those are fine and appropriate. I have a harder time listening to someone use the term Hyperactive. Labels like that tend to grow suckers and attach themselves before being proven appropriate.

Case in point: Monday we returned from a three-night stay in a cabin in the mountains. My son was surrounded by family, mountains, s'mores, and a couple of new toys without access to television or even radio for the most part. Once we got home, he spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with his toys. Every one of them. He was so focused on bouncing from one toy to the next and the next, and seeing what we all were doing that it took several minutes of coaxing to get him to the dinner table. Somewhere in there a relative remarked on how he seems hyperactive. I've heard this person use the term before, but I don't think they realize exactly what they're saying.

According to the great collective wisdom of the internet, a hyperactive child is engaged in constant activity, is easily distracted and impulsive, can't concentrate, and is aggressive. Um, he's 2 years old. I'm pretty sure almost every 2 year old is like this to some degree.

Oh yes, he's very active. He's a bouncing Tigger most of the day. However, he is also capable of playing with Play Doh for 45 minutes unless I take it away because he's eating it, and loves to watch the animated movie Robots for at least 20 minutes at a time (when we usually turn it off because it's a bit too stimulating). I'd say he's capable of concentrating when he's interested in something.

But hyperactivity is generally associated with ADHD, and that is impossible to diagnose in a child as young as mine.

Another label that I'm less bothered with, but still hesitate to use, is Spirited. Spirited kids are more active, to be sure, but also more sensitive to environmental stimuli, and changes in general, and are more deeply affected by other people's moods among other things. They're also more intense and dramatic. Hm, actually this sounds more like my husband who happens to be an artist, but I digress.

All of this means very little to me. It doesn't impact my parenting choices, it doesn't make me look at him through diagnostic lenses, and it certainly doesn't make me want to medicate him. My son is not quiet (and I'm scared when he is). He's not introverted, to say the least. And he's not shy. He's just beautiful. I would say he's a bright rainbow of colors all day long.

Now if only I could convince him to turn down the rainbow at bedtime...

October 9, 2014


In a book about mothering, I read recently that the average woman goes through some kind of life transition about every 3 years. Looking at my life, I know the author is right. Apparently it’s time for me to brace myself for the winds of change again.

Last month, I blogged about experiencing what must be the onset of perimenopause (or the coming apocalypse of my reproductive system). Yesterday I learned that my position will more than likely be phased out due to budget cuts, and my boss is very kindly giving me a heads up to start looking.

Stress? Me?

At first I didn’t want to tell my husband for fear of worrying him before I had some kind of good news to go with it, like I Have a Plan! or Guess Where I’m Going to Start Working? But I confessed my situation early this morning and he was grateful for it.

As usual, I want to be wildly optimistic about my choices given my level of experience and strong networking ties. But I also don’t want to make any choices out of fear, jumping to a rock just because it gets me out of the creek. In other words, I’m scared. Which makes me angry. But I don’t have any person to be angry with, including myself, so it just frustrates me.

The hardest part about being in any tough situation is to just be in it. To not jump for safety or solve the problem as fast as possible, but to reach for God’s hand and be quiet and wait. And so I am. Kind of.

The Lord has brought me through the hell of infertility, through multiple layoffs, through bad relationships, and toward peace in every situation. In short, he gives me what I need most: Himself. And that is certainly what I need now.

My biggest question isn’t where I should work, but how. Full time? Part time? Contract? Ugh.

I’m putting out feelers and inquiries in a few key places today, and trusting God to lead me where he wants me to go. To me, that’s what waiting on the Lord means – doing what’s in front of me and looking for his guidance along the way, knowing that by putting my life in his hands I can rest knowing that he will lead me toward peace.

The irony of my daily devotional never ceases to amaze me.

Hebrews 13:6
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

October 8, 2014

things to remember when your child gets angry

This is a link to an article I received yesterday from a website I'm following very closely -- AHaParenting.com. 11 Things to Remember When Your Child Gets Angry

At first I thought "Oh, so now I can't even put my two year old in time out?" But I guess it's more situational. I don't send him away because he's screaming. We give him the "uh-oh song" when he does something inappropriate like banging a toy on the wall after we've warned him a couple times not to. I have to say that this distinction is helpful and important.

My son gets pissed off about a lot of things, like waking up too late or not wanting mommy to pick him up -- "No! Want Daddy!!" Well excuuuuuse me...

As if on cue, this morning I had a chance to live out the website author's advice. I'm pretty sure my son has an internal compass that tells him when Mommy wants to get out of the house early (so I could attend a Weight Watchers meeting, no less). He played, he ran away, he dawdled. I think it took half an hour to convince him to put his pants on. Yeah, that kind of morning. I was frustrated enough when it was time to leave that my husband (God bless him) stepped in to gently force him out the door. The boy then didn't want to get in the car seat, and my blood was about to boil. I stated very firmly that we had to get into the car seat so I could give him a mint, and that we need to leave because Mommy's running late.

Seriously. When has the argument that we need to leave EVER resulted in compliance? Never. Ever.

He went ballistic. I mean, practically foaming at the mouth screaming and crying. I stopped. I changed my approach instantly, realizing that a) he had no control over these big, scary emotions and b) this wasn't an emergency and I could spare a few minutes. I gently put my hands on him and said soothing things like You're okay. You're safe. I'm right here. I love you. And I let him cry for a bit. Then he told me he wanted some things, including a snack bar. I said "You got it. Let's get you into your car seat and I'll get you a snack bar." He was still crying, but let me buckle him in. I got the snack bar and we drove off and he was fine. Darned if that loving tactic didn't work beautifully.

Lesson learned. When my son is at his worst, that is when he needs me or Daddy the most.