Notes to Self

September 17, 2015

The baggage I carry

I mean this literally…the number of bags I carry each day is pissing me off. I feel like a mule.

 

Each school and workday morning I pack four lunches; one for each of my two children, one for me and one for my husband. That’s 3 bags I have to carry (I take the kids to school on my way to work). Then I have a purse. I downgraded from a backpack to a relatively large messenger bag. That makes 4 bags. Sometimes my eldest want to bring toys to school so she needs her backpack. Of course then my youngest wants his backpack as well. Guess who ends up carrying them? We’re up to 6 bags. On occasion, I go to the grocery store before I pick up the kids so I will either have the empty reusable (and insulated) grocery bags to take to the car in the morning and/or (if they are already in the car) I have a few bags of groceries to bring into the house ALONG WITH the kids (I can’t leave them in the house alone and it would take a good 30 minutes or more to permit them to return outside so I can make a second trip, once you add on all the playtime, dawdling on the stairs, etc. That can bring the total up to 8 or 12. But that’s not all. Some days I either have to carry my son or end up bending down with the 8-12 bags to pick him up because he’s too busy playing and won’t just walk into the house so I can put down all of these bags. The kicker is that I wonder why I am so annoyed by the time I actually get into the house and struggle to walk around my kids or their shoes (which my daughter takes off as soon as she gets into the door and then leaves in the middle of the floor) or the meowing cat to peel the bags off of my body and use the bathroom.

 

Yesterday was show and tell for my daughter’s class. I suggested that she bring the pop-up tent my kids had been playing with for the last few days. Of course that meant that I had to carry this awkward item, in addition to all the bags and my son. Great idea! Anyway. Last night I propped the tent against the car and apparently forgot it because it was leaning against the stairs of the daycare this morning. My kids saw it and were very upset. I planned to bring the tent to the car after I dropped off the kids but my daughter wanted to retrieve the tent immediately. So, carrying the two lunch bags and watching my son so he doesn’t run into the street or get hit by a car coming out of the driveway, I also then had to take the tent from my daughter, chase down my son and pick him up so I could put the damned tent into the car. As I began losing my temper and becoming overwhelmed with anxiety/frustration, I heard myself complaining mumbling something like “this is why I wasn’t going to take it until later”. I looked up and caught a glimpse of a man sitting in a car watching us. I felt awful. What he must think of me and my parenting. How terrible that must look to everyone and how absolutely wretched it must be for my children to experience. And for what? The inconvenience of too many things to carry?

 

Sure, that seems like a simple thing. Oh – what’s the problem…it’s a few bags! But it isn’t that simply and we shouldn’t downplay these kinds of situations. If it were one day, here and there of too many things then it may not be cause for a blog post. But every day (weekends are not much different because I have the diaper bag, extra clothes, water, food, toys…..) of carrying and struggling is just too much for me to handle. I strap the lunch bags and my purse across my body so they don’t fall off my arm but then they strangle me and fall forward when I bend down. I am weak and sometimes feel as though the muscles in my shoulders are ripping from the weight. It’s very painful. And I look around and don’t see ANYONE with as many bags as I have. Sure; there are other folks who pack their kids lunch but the bags are small and don’t even have straps. Because I pack so many things in my kids’ lunch bags (two fruits, a hot meal, yogurt, vege’s, etc), I purchased larger lunch bags. I didn’t realize how large they actually were, but I wanted to make sure there was enough room for all the Tupperware and the ice-packs. And they have pockets for miscellaneous things (hair clips, vitamins, extra clothes, etc). So from the start I created this enlarged baggage. But it’s form fits function….right?

 

But the issue isn’t really about the bags. Sure; it’s not easy and not fun and no one would voluntarily do what I do (well, actually, mothers do voluntarily do what I do – I just haven’t met any like me and with a similar number of bags!). The issue is my perception of the situation and of me and my performance as a mother and a woman. When it comes down to it I feel like, and believe that I look like, complete chaos; a “hot mess” as some would say. I feel silly. Lame. Pathetic and clumsy. There is something inherently wrong with me that creates this situation, and many more like it, and makes me feel completely isolated and like a total failure. There is a better way to do this and I am not capable of figuring that out. Here’s another fundamental belief; one of a few songs that get sung over and over in my head without me realizing it until it’s too late. They cloud my judgement, fill me with anxiety and make me say and do things I instantly regret. I may realize I am in this state but not until I am too far gone. I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t know how to calm down and pour water on the fire. I thought about getting a really tight bracelet with “CTFD” written on it….perhaps it would be so tight that I could never ignore it and I would have a constant reminder to calm the fuck down. But I didn’t think it would be workplace appropriate, and wasn’t sure it would work – feared it would actually make me more anxious.

 

So. How to start “fixing” this? Medication. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist to see about some medication for my anxiety. I haven’t been to therapy in a while (too much going on in my life that demands my time) but I plan to return soon. I wanted to start medication several months ago but couldn’t get an appointment. Funny….mental health practitioners can’t give appointments for 1-2 months. Somehow that seems contrary to the purpose of the care. But I digress. I am hoping with all my might that medication will help lessen the reaction and I can stop myself before it’s too late; that I’ll stop becoming my anxiety and exploding inside and out. It’s all about behavior modification. But without a trainer following me around I need help.

 

I cannot stop carrying so many bags but hopefully I can stop doing so with so much baggage (and yes, I am now referring to baggage in the figurative sense! LOL!). What baggage do you carry with you every day?

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March 9, 2015

How normal is my abnormal?

Yes; it’s been a really long time since my last post. I am just too damned busy. While I haven’t been writing in this blog, I am still going to therapy so progress is still being made. I have often wanted to post; even came up with the title and started writing it in my head, but just couldn’t get the carved out time to sit and type. How lucky I feel to be doing this now!

 

So, to the point: yesterday was an awful day. I was alone with the kids. I started the day exhausted (my now 1.5 yr old is constantly waking throughout the night and screaming until you rock him back to sleep). The weather was to be nice so I wanted to take the kids to the park. My daughter wanted to ride her bike. OK. Before my husband went to work I unloaded some stuff from the trunk and got the bike and pump for my daughter and then shoveled out a push-trike for my son (it was buried under many feet of snow). A few frustrating hours later we got into the car. Toddler fell asleep quickly so we drove for a bit – went to a drive thru coffee shop (I could barely keep my eyes open). The “awful” of yesterday started here. The shop didn’t have the cake pop my daughter wanted and she didn’t want anything else they did have. As soon as I drove onto the highway she starts screaming that she wanted this or that. Oh how hungry she was and now what was she going to do? (Of course she didn’t want to eat before we left the house and also didn’t want to eat any of the food I brought with me). As she continues to scream and cry the toddler then starts crying. Such fun. Soon she calms down and we get to the park. I ask again if she will eat something but she declines. Then we have to fight over her outerwear; too cold for the minimal vest she wants to wear but I let her get out of the car and find out for herself. As I unload the bike and trike my son falls and hits his head (not hard but keep this in mind for later). So, finally everyone is properly dressed and we are ready to go. The coffee I so desperately need still hasn’t made its way into my bloodstream, but continues to spill out everywhere else (oh what fun). I have to navigate a kid on a push trike, a 4 year old and a bike (with my coffee) through the parking lot and across a patch of ice, slush and water. My daughter finally gets on her bike and three seconds later is screaming to get off. The wind is too strong and she is scared. I realize that she is also hungry and feeling weak. Tears and screams and I declare we are going home. Daughter wants ice-cream from the shoppe. I say no (she hasn’t had anything decent to eat all day and I am not filling them with ice-cream). More tears and screams. And no, you’re not watching anymore TV either (after several hours in the morning it was too much). Silence on the way home.

Get home and ask her to pick what she wants to eat. She chooses frozen pizza. I make it. Neither kid will eat it. Chicken nuggets it is. At this point I have totally shut down. I am withdrawn and unavailable to my kids. No emotion (other than some annoyance). My daughter asks me if I am frustrated. I tell her to let it go and take opportunities to tell her it’s not her fault. Nuggets are done. The toddler just wants to use the nugget to suck on ketchup. Eventually he eats some. Need to change his clothes. Done eating and they go play. I start cooking. Amazingly the two kids play together without me and they are having fun. So I am cooking and I think all I have to do is pretend I don’t love my kids – then they’ll play together (instead of fighting) and I can do chores. I think that’s absolutely pathetic, ridiculous and it makes me feel totally useless and unloved. Then I start feeling selfish and childish and shouldn’t I just grow up. They asked for ice-cream; I gave them an ice-cram pop. They ate silently. My daughter even wiped off my son’s face. I finish cooking (I imagine that the kids won’t eat it anyway so wasn’t that a total waste of time). I sit down with them. My daughter offers me a hug. I start crying (just tearing)- she starts crying/tearing. I again remind her it’s not her fault (within context of a conversation).

 

Not wanting to play with them I turn on the TV. I can’t bring myself to open back up. I can’t initiate interaction without feeling like I would be a big fake. I literally feel turned off, as if a switch was thrown and I don’t know how to flip it back on. On top of the event itself, I am dealing with guilt. Guilt over losing my patience and getting snippy. Guilt that I let myself get like this again. Guilt that I ruined the day. Guilt that my kids have to suffer me. So the inward hatred gets worse. I just stare.

So the toddler heads up the stairs and I must follow (a favorite game is to go up and down, up and down…on the plus side, my daughter, who did the same thing. was really good at the stairs!). My daughter runs up to be with us, yelling that she’s angry with me for leaving her alone. The two kids play on the bed. The toddler spits up a bit but it gets in my daughter’s hair. Yeah – now I need to figure out how to bathe her and deal with him. Eventually I have to put him in his crib so I can wash her hair. He does nothing but scream and cry. Ok. Now everyone’s washed and dressed. They play some more and he spits up a bit more (not on her) – third change of clothes. Takes some time to calm him down but eventually he falls asleep. I told my daughter (who is now watching TV) that I was going upstairs to get my son to go to sleep and that she wasn’t to call me unless she saw fire; I wasn’t coming back down until he was asleep (she has a habit of calling me for every little thing and it ends up taking 3 times as  long to get my son to sleep). Fine – done – he’s asleep. I return downstairs and she tells me she didn’t see fire and didn’t call me. My heart breaks a little.

We sit there as I try to offer some love. Try to cuddle her. Watch TV. Finally my husband comes home and my daughter tells him all about the awful day (in snippets that aren’t cohesive): she said no to ice-cream and I didn’t see fire and then she came downstairs again (I thought it was interesting that my daughter referred to me as “she” and not “mommy”). Then the remainder of the night was all around frustration. Everyone annoyed and tired. Everyone being cranky. What a wretched day.

 

So, today I woke tired and unhappy to have to get up. The toddler was cranky too (daycare called to say he is hitting and they think he should move to the next class). My daughter seemed to remember the pain I caused her the day before. Dropped the kids off at school and the toddler didn’t care that I was leaving. Gave his sister a sweet kiss and long hug. When it came time for me to leave my daughter clung to me. Eventually we both start crying. I didn’t want to let go either. I wanted her to know how sorry I was and how sad it made me to know that I made her sad. But I didn’t know how to apologize again. I didn’t know how to apologize for being a shitty mom and a selfish person. How can I say I am sorry that I am so pathetic?

 

Today I am trying to make sense of this. Trying to figure out what went wrong, why and how I can stop it from happening again. I get annoyed that things don’t go smoothly; perfectly. That my daughter didn’t have her food and that I didn’t then have anything that she wanted to eat. That I was on the highway and couldn’t stop. That somehow any other mom would have done this morning better and no one would be crying and everyone would be having fun. I am the reason my kids’ life sucks. I am incapable of being a good mom and I am failing, and failing them. So from there, on to the fight about clothes and that my son fell (which, had me thinking later that he had a concussion b/c of the spit up, which wasn’t a lot and his crankiness), the spilling coffee and trying to do too much with only two hands. I think the internal message to myself is that there must be something I am not realizing – there is a better way to do this and I just don’t know what it is. I am inherently a failure and I am pathetic. My kids will grow up unhappy and hate me and really I don’t deserve to be their mom. Frustration descends as I tell myself how much I suck. I feel trapped and helpless. Now trying to maneuver the push-trike, the bike and the kid back over the slush, ice and water…and then there’s a guy who seems to be telling me I am in his way – I ‘m not sure what he’s doing but it’s adding to my frustration (or is it anxiety??). I am aware that I have fallen into this again. I am aware that it is happening but I feel like it is too late. Like I have gone too far and the feeling of failing (that I let it happen again) is consuming me. I am consumed by guilt and hatred (for myself) and a feeling of helplessness.

 

I have to wonder how much of the first part of yesterday is normal. Do other kids cry and scream when the shoppe doesn’t have what they want? Was I stupid to take the kids with the bikes to the park? Was the coffee just too much? What is normal, what did I do that was abnormal or silly to even attempt? Shouldn’t I be able to do it all? Doesn’t everyone else? What’s wrong with me? My therapist and I have talked about the fact that while I may realize how unrealistic my expectations are or how irrational my thought process is, the emotional piece is on autopilot and I have the emotional reaction and can’t stop it. He says that the more I am aware of the reaction and sort of talk it down, then the less it will occur. I am not sure that the state of “less” is happening, although I really have no data to support it one way or the other. All I know is that I feel awful – guilty and sad and so so sorry for making my kids’ day full of sadness. I grew up sad and I don’t want that for them. I just can’ seem to change this reactive state.

I don’t know how to make it up to my kids. How to undo the damage I have done. Will they hold it against me? Will they remember? Do they hate me already? These precious years that I can never get back and I am wasting them on silly frustrations.

May 16, 2014

It was a beautiful moment

Two mornings ago when the baby woke at 4:30 AM-ish, I asked my husband to take him, which he did. But he sat in the next room such that I could hear every beautiful babble and coo the baby made, thereby preventing me from SLEEPING! Finally, in a sleep-deprive induced huff, I snappily said “why don’t you go back to sleep and I will take the baby downstairs”. And that was that.

 

Let me first give you some background and perspective. Over the past 6 and a half months, I have nursed or pumped every 2-3 hours. Think about that for a moment. I bet you don’t even go to the bathroom that frequently. Take a day (and I mean all 24 hours of it) and see what that’s like. Every 2-3 hours, stop what you are doing (or wake up) and imagine being sucked on for 20 or so minutes. I calculated that I have nursed or pumped approximately one-thousand and sixty times (1560) since my son was born 6.5 months ago. And that’s an underestimation which doesn’t include when he nurses one side and then the other. And I will do that for the next 5.5 months.

 

Lately, my baby has been going to sleep around 7 PM (after I nurse him) and then waking after 20 minutes and being wide awake until he finally sleeps at around 9 PM. Sometimes he can go back to sleep without nursing again but lately I have had to nurse him three times (both sides at each session) before I can go to bed. Last night was no different but I thought that my husband could take him and get him to sleep while I read to my daughter etc. No dice since my daughter wanted us to “switch kids”. So after a myriad of things, and while my husband cuddled my daughter to sleep up in our bed, including time in the bouncer, a pacifier (which he doesn’t use or accept) and three nursing sessions, I was spent and the baby wasn’t even close to going to sleep. And I knew that my husband was asleep upstairs, which made me angry. So I deposited the baby into his crib and handed my husband the monitor. Baby started crying and my husband took him downstairs (yeah!).

 

Fast forward to 3 AM when I have finished nursing the baby, moved my daughter to her bed because she took up my space and finally settled in….crying begins and the baby is up. I nudged my husband and said “he’s awake”. Again, he took him downstairs. Here comes the beautiful part –

At 5 AM I woke up and heard nothing. No cries, no alarm and no need to get up. The kids were all safe and the baby was with his dad. I wasn’t needed and I didn’t have to do anything. In that moment I felt serene. I smiled. If I wasn’t so damned tired I would have cried. I fell back asleep.

 

I am not sure whether I have conveyed to you the enormity of that experience. After so much time of non-stop giving, in that one, beautiful moment I could just be (and sleep!). So if you know a mom who breastfeeds, tell her how amazing she is. Give her encouragement and maybe even a hug. We aren’t in the business of saying we are better than moms who don’t breastfeed (and if you do, shame on you and you shouldn’t!), but it is a different experience and it can be very difficult. And for heaven’s sake – if the opportunity arises, give her the chance to have a beautiful moment like I had. It will do wonders for her.

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