trying to be still

I miss writing.
I need to write.
Whether my words are quickly typed onto a flashing screen, hammered into pulpy white paper on my typewriter or sprawled out in my own messy script, writing holds sanity in its palm.

I miss a lot of things that tend to keep me sane…photography, baking, sewing, knitting, reading…

We had a lovely holiday filled with family and homemade peppermint bark; jammies and baking; late nights and eating with reckless abandon.

As cliche as new year resolutions can be, it always seems a fitting time for rebirth and renewal.  I try to ignore the fact that everyone is looking at the nutritional info of every item on every shelf of every grocery store and that we, in fact, are not all that original in our healthy lifestyle goals.  With toxic bellies and dull skin, we’re hungover from the rich and the dense; the butter and the sugar.

With that comes my second resolution…
I am still struggling to find my breath as a mama of two.
Peace and joy are elusive creatures and I  don’t know how much longer I can stand it.
I hold myself to high ideals as a parent.  Not because a book has told me to, but because I believe it to be right.  Sometimes these ideals make me weary and weepy.
I have quickly learned that when I am anywhere but in the moment my day can crumble.
The days are long and as the inky night creeps into the house I am very aware of how little I have left to give.  I take a deep breath and one look at the (finally) slumbering Gnome + Bird, recover quickly, and send up a little prayer to start again tomorrow with soft eyes and gentle words.
Begin again.  Begin again.  Begin again.

As mind-numbing as it is, my days are better spent rolling with the punches.
My hair is a tatty mess and I haven’t slept 8 straight hours since sometime in 2008.  I wear jogging pants 90 percent of the time.
Silas is happiest when constantly held and Poppy is happiest when making a mess or destructing something.
I have implemented a quiet time everyday after lunch, but Poppy has made it clear she has no interest in naps so she uses the time to tear apart the bedroom while I attempt to read and Silas squeals and hollers.
This morning alone, the dog ate my carefully crafted breakfast while I was changing a blowout diaper, dry kidney beans have been sprinkled around the entire house (I thought I would offer the textural experience of the beans, but like everything else, it turned into an awesome opportunity to make a giant mess), Poppy has played drums with two wooden spoons on Silas’ head when I turned my back for 5 seconds and then proceeded to smack him again just as I got him settled from the drumming incident.  Even as I write this Poppy slams the laptop lid down on my hands.
I don’t even attempt an activity I love or need because it is too difficult for me to stop midway without feeling resentful or annoyed.
So I wait.
I have very little support throughout the week as our small extended family lives far away; it is all me, all day so I am learning to pace myself and forgive myself.
I realize that this parenting plan is in no way sustainable, but these days are about survival and surrender.
Until then I am one hundred percent available.  I didn’t have kids because I thought it would be easy or convenient and no one could talk me into letting go of my parenting ideals.  I do realize that to be a good mama, I need to be good to myself as well.  Doing it with resentment is not good for anyone.  One of the ideals I hold is to teach my children how to foster the authentic self; how to set boundaries; the ebb and flow; when to give and when to take. When I figure that all out I will let you know.

Did I mention that we found our dream house in the country.  On a bit of a whim we listed our house and will be putting a conditional offer in.  Yet another daunting task that makes me feel powerless and frustrated (but so worth it if it all works out).  I have that breathless feeling you have at the top of a rollercoaster or that quiet moment you are suspended on the swing just before you descend.  That moment when time seems to slow or stop and you think about all the possible outcomes and all your fears surface.  I seem to be waiting for something, but can’t name it.  Spring?

It is all about growth and flow.
And beginning again.

How do you do it? 
How do you keep from being swallowed by your children?
I would like to hear your words.

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted January 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm by Anonymous | Permalink

    I wish there was an answer. Parenting is a lot about survival, and I only have one, but he is wild and unruly and keeps me on my toes. He also has a lot of good qualities, and I actually really like how curious and intrigued he is by every single thing in the world, but also wish he might just sit for a moment and allow me the time to do something I Need for myself. It just so rarely happens. Do the best you can with what you've got… and try to get help if and when you can. I find my best days are a play date at home with a friend who has a simliar aged child. They entertain one another and I get to speak with an adult. It doesn't get the house clean or any of my creative juices fulfilled, but I get a break from being ON all the time, and my son gets some socialization with another little one.

    Hang in there.

    Julie D

  2. Posted January 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm by Lenetté | Permalink

    Mine is a teenager now, so much of those early years are a blur. I think, like you, it was all about survival. I just got through it the best I could. I will tell you that at one point I lost myself in there. Please, whatever you do, don't let that happen to you. Find just one thing, everyday, that is just you and be sure to pour yourself into it. If, for you, it is your writing… then everyday you must write. Just let it all pour out into your words. The thoughts, the emotions, the hopes, the weariness… write for yourself and no one else.

    It took years for me to find myself again. I struggled with addiction… which I see now was fueled by the loss of me. You don't have to let that happen to you.

    Take care of yourself.

  3. Posted January 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm by Kelly | Permalink

    I guess I still haven't figured it out. I'm still in survival mode too. I actually quite enjoy chaos, though, so I suppose I've chosen the right field. But this sentence "I don't even attempt an activity I love or need because it is too difficult for me to stop midway without feeling resentful or annoyed." is very much true of me as well. I can't start something unless I know I will be able to finish it. And as f I ever have that kind of time! Especially now that we are home schooling. My days are busy and full, and often beautiful and fun. But rarely any adult work or play gets done.

    Also, I hope you get the home, that would be so wonderful!

  4. Posted January 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm by granola_girl | Permalink

    Erin,

    I remember those first months with a three year old and a new baby. My daughter was colic and only slept on top of me or in the sling, my three year old had a difficult time adjusting and many behavioral issues occurred. I started to feel low, it was a difficult transition for all of us. It eventually got easier as my daughter became older. We are now at a stage where my two little ones are starting to play together and you can see their feelings of love and admiration for each other. There is a light at the end of the tunnel:) It truly does get better. One thing I have learned in all this and dipping into a bit of PPD is that even through the chaos, you NEED to find time for you. Even if it is a bath, a walk by your self etc. Try and make yourself a priority, even if it is only 10 minutes. Now that my little one is 18 months, I get out to a sewing class once a week. It took me alot of courage to get out of the house and do something for myself but it has saved my sanity. Attachment parenting is hard work but it doesn't have to be all mama all the time. The second time around, I have learned to let go and that it is okay for my husband to also do caring for the baby like slinging more and taking care of bedtime. (I always breastfed my baby to sleep, now my husband has learned otherways to soothe my daughter like slinging, rocking, singing). I have true hope that eventually you will fine balance, it just takes awhile. Parenting in general is hard work. We are all doing the best we can at any givin moment with the resources available to us. Hold your head high. You are a great mama to those kiddos of yours!!

  5. Posted January 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm by Jamie Cafissi | Permalink

    E.
    I think your honesty and awareness sets you apart.
    You are an amazing soul and try to remember that those two babe chose you over everyone else in the world to be their Mama. So matter how you feel about being a parent, being you just as you are is exactly what they want and need.
    I too had a 2nd baby that only was comforted by being held in a sling and screamed what seemed like 22 hours a day. Honestly is was really hard. At times I wasn't always the parent I wanted to be, but I did the best that I could. So are you and it is amazing!

  6. Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm by Monked & Fifed | Permalink

    Just thought of you recently! So glad to see your post! Motherhood can be so masochistic at times! So intensely wonderful + insane.

    Cut yourself a break! Laugh…ALOT! And don't be afraid to yell your head off {well, within reason}. Say NO when you need to + call a time out when papa bear gets home…even if only so you can take a 20 minute walk outside. Kids are resilient…they crave structure and discipline {not perfection, dried beans or perfect meals} + they will always challenge you, no matter where you set that bar…But most importantly, THEY LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING. Enjoy them, yell at them, snuggle LOTS! And don;t forget that man of yours! It is amazing how that relationship can change for the INCREDIBLE after baby #2…you'll see :)

  7. Posted January 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm by Kelly Loucks | Permalink

    Erin it's not easy, and you should feel no guilt for feeling the way you do….The one thing that I could count on to give me a few minutes just to get lost in my own thoughts was a drive – even with the kids. Stick them in their carseats…they can't touch each other and if they're anything like mine, are often asleep within a few minutes! Just drive, even pull into a parking lot with the car running (to ensure you don't wake the babes) and read/write/think….it seriously gives you a minute to rejuvenate!

  8. Posted January 20, 2011 at 8:12 am by katiemama | Permalink

    My daughters are 28 months and 11 months old and I completely understand the feeling of not having quite caught your breath yet. It certainly takes time to find a new rhythm to the days. You are very right that it is all about survival and surrender..especially when they are so little. Things became so much easier for me once my baby girl started sitting up on her own or in her high chair. I finally was able to put her in a seat so she could see everything around her and she was mostly out of reach of her big sister. She was an early walker at 9 1/2 months, which has been a true blessing because now they chase each other around most of the day and play together..it's amazing to watch. Just keep doing what you're doing and trust that it will get easier and you will come to find more time for the things that you love and that feed your heart and soul. I have just recently started knitting and I try to pick it up for at least a few minutes each night since I know it will just get easier with practice. If you can drive and have a car at your disposal, the library has been great for us..they have a program called 'just for 2's and my daughter loves it. Sometimes I will make myself a coffee and bring it in the car and just take them for a drive just to have a change of scenery. Hang tight mama, you're doing a great job!!

  9. Posted January 20, 2011 at 10:31 am by Amy | Permalink

    Erin, I don't know you beyond your blog, which I arrived at through serendipitous clicks of my mouse, but I am increasingly enamored by you; your honesty, dreams, ideals, motives, and, most of all, your heart. I too have a first born girl – 2 1/2, a baby boy – 11 mos, ALL family hours away, and even a husband named Mike. :)

    I am smack dab in the same season of life, so I can't offer up wise advice or a view from the other side. I struggle daily and measure success in hours or minutes instead of saying "this was a good/bad day". A day is much too long a measurement.
    I *think* everything you are dealing with is a normal part of early parenting. This is not to diminish your feelings or situation. It's super hard, but I'm told it doesn't last.

    I had some major hormonal imbalances and my thoughts started to go beyond the realm of normal. I honestly believed my family would be better off without me, that I was the problem, that everyone would be so glad/relieved when I was gone. I started making plans to make that happen. Long story short, I got support through meds, people, and prayer. http://www.postpartumprogress.com/weblog/ is a great resource and source of encouragement no matter where you are in the spectrum of postpartum.

    I share my story not to judge or say that you need what I needed. All of our stories are unique yet woven together with similar strands, making the beautiful tapestry of human experience.

    go gently, and you ARE wonderful.

  10. Posted January 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm by JoAnn | Permalink

    You have gotten some wonderful advice. The best advice I received was "Focus on the eternal and not the temporal". Now that comes from a Christian perspective but I think it can be applied no matter ones faith. As we raise our children and they learn and grow, who they becomes will effect those that they come in contact with and so there is a ripple effect. Temporal—dried beans all over the house. Eternal—-a child who feels safe and confident to explore her world.

    To keep myself from getting lost I find ways to take time for myself here and there. The season of life( small nurslings, toddlers, etc.) determined what that looked like. A walk around the block after my husband came home, coffee and time at the beach(older kids), a few hours knitting outside the home with a friend, a bath with a locked door and mama music, a movie for me after they go to sleep….no cleaning up the house, just watching the movie and knitting.

    When we added each little girl after having the bigs it was about 18months before I could leave without my nursling. I had to get creative on how to carve out time to recharge. But it was a season. Now my 5th child is 2.5yr old and I am back to being able to leave for hours at a time and it doesn't bother her.

    Someone else mentioned laughing. Do it A LOT! Silly dance with them, watch funny movies, laugh about the strangest place you have found a bean. I have found silverware in our couch cusions..like a whole place setting.

    The time that they are small is a season that, while you're in it is consuming but it makes way into other seasons that offer more time for you and different challenges. Nothing grows you more as a person than being a parent.

    You are a wonderful mom Erin…light years ahead of where I was when I had my first two. Be
    gentle with yourself!

  11. Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:15 am by Anonymous | Permalink

    i have 3 girls (the oldest is Poppy too) the youngest of which is newly 2- and with her 2nd birthday came my rebirth day. I hear everything you say. All of it. Every last word and the spaces in between those. And I feel it like a dream I just awoke from. Because I did just awaken again… after a long hibernation of 6 years. Some moments are hideous, some breathtakingly, heartbreakingly beautiful, and everything else, a blur.
    Things WILL give. And the deeper you are in it, the more invigorating the resurfacing. It is clear that you go into your life deeply, deeply. Thus with your submergence you will surely be catapulted into wondrous flight.
    Patience. Compassion. Faith.

  12. Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm by Joan Jach | Permalink

    I love to read your blog because your words could have come straight from my brain! I only have one 2-year old and we are thinking about trying to get pregnant again, so reading your experience has been interesting.

    As other commenters have said, laughing is my cure for anything going wrong in my day. Being silly is fun and I think once the laughing starts, it kind of takes over and leaves a residual happy vibration in my body. Sometimes I feel like I get NOTHING done. Dishes:dirty, laundry:dirty, garden:a mess! But then I look back at the last 6 months, year, 2 years and see what we have accomplished as a family. I couldn't do a lot of what I do without the help of my husband and his parents (who luckily live 1.5 hours away). There are some days I just want to be cranky and I let myself have the "cranky time" and come back a happier mom than before.

    I don't have many examples of motherhood that I look to follow, but yours in one of them (even if I only know you in blog land!). Your gentle and realistic view on being a mom is so refreshing and familiar at the same time. I will keep looking for your words as long as you have them out here for us to see!

  13. Posted January 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm by RosieDreams | Permalink

    Still loving to visit here. You've got such an honest space that's nice to check in with. It's refreshing. Ahhh motherhood.
    I too have a blog and have been trying my hardest to find my way back to it. I've decided that perhaps the lulls are good…for waiting readers and for me, who often feels resentful when I try to squeeze it in when it just simply doesn't fit. The pain is that I love writing and photography and creating and I feel resentful having a space to create that I can't get too. That's literally sitting right there providing me nearly instant gratification (right, just push publish) and yet babe’s upset on my back, three-year-old’s telling me she’s hungry now, and five-year-old just turned 15 and is mad because I actually just sat down to write a comment because I felt momentarily moved. Oy.
    Well, I tell you this. I'm nearing the end of this first year of my third's beginning of life and I can tell you that just recently it finally hit me…again…that the first year is just like this. Hard to connect with partner. Hard to keep it together for the other littles. Hard to take care of oneself. And all because in reality we are taking care of the baby as our instincts direct us to. We listen, anticipate, love, cuddle, feed, and do everything by this momentary cycle our babe’s on as they figure it all out and that’s just life. And as the moments drag on, the months literally fall off the calendar. How is it that my babe is turning 1 next month? I miss it already…his babyhood. And yet the sanity that starts to return sounds so incredibly nice. Right. The sanity of the next crazy-@% stage. But still, the sanity of not using every waking and sleeping moment to care for baby. Babies are demanding, in such a beautiful way. So, I hear you sister. And as the insanity reaches those pinnacles, try to remember to breath and ignore the mess. And then start picking it up again as you focus on the positive.
    P.S. I just ordered this book on a whim post-christmas to help me. Not sure if it applies to your spiritual-interests…but its called “Offerings” (there’s another called “Wisdom”) by Danielle and Olivier Follmi. One digestable quote from Buddhist masters daily to reflect on or focus on. It’s been great to help me align with even if only momentarily each day.

  14. Posted January 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm by Melissa | Permalink

    Dear Erin,

    I just became acquainted with your blog. And it is quite beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    As a mom of six kids, I can relate to what you are feeling and sharing in this post. You mentioned coming out of a postpartum fog, and I can completely relate to that fog that you speak of.

    For me, it was not as simple as choosing to be joyful and thankful. There really was more than meets the eye going on with my body. I was depleted. Taking a Vitamin B complex, getting outside into the sunshine everyday (if possible) to help my body produce melatonin, and most importantly getting plenty Omega 3 Fatty Acids (DHA). If you are breastfeeding, the fatty acids are especially important. I also found that exercising (even just a quick, brisk walk) made me feel better. The endorphines my body released really helped.

    I hope that this helps some. Feel free to email me if you need any other ideas.

    Blessings,

    Melissa

  15. Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm by Whosies | Permalink

    it took 2 years to feel totally 'normal' after i had my 4th child. things do get better, but it does take time.
    You are on the right track though– finding an interest, something for just yourself. I found a walk {by myself} helps in the mornings before the chaos begins. :)
    Try fish oil at night– that helps me, check on your vitamen d levels and iodine drops {that is what your thiroid produces}.

  16. Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm by Stephanie K. | Permalink

    Oh, I so felt every single word of this post. My kids were born exactly 2 years apart. I remember the struggle to get the baby to nap while the toddler destroyed the downstairs, the desperation when one's cries would wake the other, the trying to make tea with a kid on either hip, the impossibility of taking a bath or exercising or going to the bathroom. Then I found out I was expecting a surprise third. I felt like an unnatural mother because I couldn't stand the clinging, the neediness, the complete dependence. I finally burnt out this past fall and felt nothing. I'd given up all that made me…me: writing, singing, dancing, photography, etc. It's been a slow climb out because it was a slow slide down. I'm learning about balance. I still struggle with no time to myself, frustration with the endless messes, and guilt because of these feelings. But I forgive myself. This IS hard work. The hardest. The rewards are sporadic and sweet. I wish we could sit with a cup of tea…because so often we are written off for feeling this way with trite comments like "It will get better" "At least they're healthy", and "Someday you'll look back and miss these days". I feel your pain, sister! I have been there, and am there almost daily, and am still learning to just be here in this moment. It's been six years of joy and learning. Let these feelings in, acknowledge them, then let them pass through…they'll be back, but sometimes it helps to just let them go. Love to you, from a complete stranger.

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