January - Counting By 12s Update
I have to say that this was one of my best Januarys ever. And I think a big part of it was participating in this Counting by 12's challenge. It was so fun to go down this list and do each thing. And I feel like it made me more productive in other areas of my life too! I highly recommend doing something like this even if you didn't start already.
Check. Did it today. What can I say - I do better under pressure sometimes! I started a new "chapter" today and probably wrote about a page. Not super-impressive, but it's something! Also, this makes me glad that I made it one of m y 12 things - otherwise my (first!) book might NEVER get written. In my defense, I did start doing some things to "get going" again a week or so ago. I printed out everything I wrote over the summer and read through it all. I even edited a little. It also got me excited about it again - I actually have a good start! And I'm getting pretty close to a title. Yee haw!
To fulfill this goal for January we bought a sweet potato and put it in a glass near a window. (We're starting small here.) I didn't do this until late January so we don't have a lot of growth yet, but there are some roots sprouting. I like this because it is fun for Marisol to see too. I'm not sure what we're going to try this month.
I called my Grandpa on New Year's Day. I used to be able to talk to him whenever I called home to my parents when he lived with him. Now he's in his own place again and I want to make sure to keep in touch. Also Marisol and I made our thank you cards for Christmas this year which took a while but they came out really well. So #3 is taken care of!
My first idea for a painting actually turned out to be a drawing. But then I painted too. So check and extra credit for #4.
Crock pot oatmeal (sooo yummy! And I was even adventurous and added a few things not in the recipe - crazy I know!)
Chocolate chip banana bread (very similar to making zucchini bread, but this was still a first I believe)
Black beans and rice (Thanks to a friends crock pot recipe for the beans)
Kale chips (had made these one other time, but with different seasoning)
Also Mike would like you all to know that he made us homemade chicken noodle soup twice now. It is awesome. I love him even more now. The second time he made it was on Martin Luther King day after I had to pull an all-nighter staying up with my wild partying son. It was delicious and I'm sure part of the reason I didn't get sick after major sleep deprivation.
I knew this one was going to be one of the hardest and it was. I noticed all month when I got some time to myself - and I thought I was going to have to "cheat" and call one of those my "date" but I managed to actually get some planned time alone with "me, myself, and I" this past weekend. I walked to Whole Foods to get some groceries all by my lonesome. Now I know this doesn't sound like the glamorous, romantic get-away that you were imagining, but believe me it was very nice. I put my ear-buds in listened to music, took my time wandering the aisles and made some impulse purchases. Plus I ran into a friend on the way there and was able to chat without anyone telling me to stop talking. So it was quite heavenly.
On the walk there I also thought about how I might be able to make time for myself a more regular occurrence. The truth is, with our current set-up it's not easy. Mike works during the normal work week and when I'm teaching that takes up a whole day on the weekend.
So I'm taking steps to find a teen to come to our house about once a week to play with the kiddos. Those of you that know me, know that this is a big deal! I'm excited about it, I'll keep you updated to how it works out.
I was really glad that I waited on this one. Towards the end of the month a friend on Facebook posted about a friend in need and I felt moved to give to the to help them in a really hard time. Here is her post:
Hey, facetribe ♥ Do you remember my friend who just last week lost her baby at 8 months pregnant? Her little family is having some financial difficulties, and i was wondering if any of you feel called toward contributing to cushion life a bit for them while they are grieving and healing. Every dollar helps. If you have paypal, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't have paypal, contact me for other options. Loving comments to this post heal, too, as I am sure she will read it. And feel free to share and spread the word. I know there are people out there who would love to help this beautiful family in their healing. I will be posting this throughout the day to reach as many beautiful souls as possible ♥
I'm sure that they still need and would very much appreciate any donations if anyone feels called to.
Did this early and only one time. I wrote about a Bedtime Conversation with Marisol. I'm debating whether I want to keep two blogs going, but for now, I think I do. Hopefully I will get better about putting some "everyday" type updates over there. We'll see! As for next month - I think it's time for a little Gerry update!
So I've modified this one a bit. That's another thing I love about this "list" - it's mine and I can change it as I see fit. Instead of a journal I've been doing two other things. I've been posting my gratitudes regularly on my TW FB (that's Together Walking Facebook) page. For example today's:
Today I'm grateful for:
The other thing we started was a jar - this idea was thrown around a lot on the internet. We called ours the "Awesome Jar" and we are writing anything awesome that happens or we do this year on a slip of paper and putting it in. Then on New Year's eve this year we can open it up and read all the awesomeness from the whole year! Yay, AWESOME!
Marisol and I are enjoying this so far. I feel pretty good about us keeping it up.
This month I worked on cleaning up and organizing (again) our craft area. I got it done. It wasn't perfect but it was a lot better. This is what it looked like after I was done:
Not too shabby, right? This is what it looks like now (like, right now as I type... except Katie's not eating anymore):
This is why I don't take organizing too seriously. Looks like I can organize the craft area again in February. Although I do have my sights set on my dresser - both purging some clothes and cleaning off and organizing the top. We'll see.
Not the best picture, but I'm running out of steam here!
Mike has also made "organizing" one of his main aims for this year. He started with the dining area (which doubles as our computer desk area) and it looks great. He found a new-to-us round dining room table with four chairs, and a bookshelf - both on craigslist. We also bought some rug squares. Without Mike, our house would be doomed.
I took a multifaceted approach to this one too. And I know those of you who are my "friends" are probably thinking, ah - here is the one that she didn't do!
But I did! Promise. A couple of times I took the facebook app off my phone which was great. One time I did it for several days and another just during the day. The other break I took was for a day. So it doesn't really appear like I took much of a break if you look on my pages, but I found even short, set times helpful.
Whew! There you have it - January's Counting by 12's update. I think my #13 thing may be to work on this post as the month goes. It was a lot to write and update this all at once!
I was going to add some miscellaneous things that made January awesome (new hula hoops and a visit from Aunt Laura for example) but I'm beat and it's almost midnight. I guess those will make some good updates for that "other" blog I pretend to keep up with. And it looks like I'm ringing in the new month now!
Here's to February and doing it all again!
Life is Lumpy
My recommendation is that if you have a child you're sure is fantastically superior to other beings, keep quiet about it. She might grow up to be literally or figuratively 5'2", if you're lucky enough that she grows up. Don't be so ecstatic now that you can't help but be disappointed in your children for being the people they are.
I love this passage. And although I love and believe every word of it in regards to our children, I especially like it because it also reminds me to be gentle with myself. That *I* am going to be brilliant sometimes and exhausted others. That *I* am going to be the wisest person I've ever known one day, and the next possibly the most immature. That *I* am going to learn and relearn lessons that I thought I had mastered long ago, and have "aha" moments about the most basic, mundane possible things.
I have a tendency to the "up and down". To be higher than high and then slide down into a valley of... low. Today was a low. I miss my sister who was here for a couple of days. I miss my family. I want my tribe. But focusing on things that aren't here and now do not lend themselves to a happy, present person. So that was my lesson today. Again. And that just because I have some bad moments, that doesn't mean the whole day is lost. There are still plenty more moments to be had (Thanks again to Sandra et. al. for that one!)
And again I am reminded that this path I'm on isn't really "just" about parenting. It's really about me and becoming the person I want to be. As I do that I am also becoming the best possible parent to my children. And I am slowly learning that when I love myself in my lowest of lows, then I am quicker to forgive myself, recover, and move on the next moment.
Life is Lumpy and that's ok.
Community, Independence, and HELP
I had a total lightning bolt, epiphany moment today. I was taking part in a couple of wonderful conversations in one of my favorite private Facebook groups. One beautiful mama is struggling with postpartum depression. The love and support that flowed from the other women was almost palpable. And it came up more than once how we all wished we were closer so we could physically help this mother instead of just give her "virtual" support. The word "tribe" and "commune" came up and I was moved to tears.
I know that very recently I put forth the idea that maybe parenting isn't all that hard, and that we make a lot of the difficulty ourselves. I still think that is true. But I also think that parenting - especially mothering - is really, REALLY hard in the modern world. Especially in the first months and years when our babies are tiny and depend on others for EVERYTHING.
A few neighborhood friends had babies recently and we chatted a few times in the first few months. Most of them were not first-time moms. One couple admitted that they questioned their sanity in adding another person to their family. I could completely understand where they were coming from. I flat out told the mom that the newborn months are all about survival. Especially when you have older children. It's just the truth.
I have had a refrain in my head lately and it is, "The way we live is just not natural." We long for our tribe. I remember saying those exact words to my mother on the phone when Gerry was a newborn. I have a dream of starting a commune with like-minded families. It's like my own personal utopia. Let me tell you, I have not found a mom yet who thought I was crazy for this idea. Every single one of them either wants to sign up and join my commune or says, "oh yeah, I've thought of joining one too!"
Men seem to be a little more hesitant. And I really think it's because they don't sense the urgency of our need. I know my husband doesn't. And here is where a positive attitude may actually be detrimental. Because I *do* love my life and have really embraced every step of our path so far, it's difficult for my husband to understand the depth of my need - for sisters surrounding me and other children mingling with ours. For someone to talk to. For more hands to help with food and other everyday activities. For camaraderie. For the natural flow of sharing life with others.
I love the neighborhood we live in now. And we've been building up our own support network here: people to check in on our cats when we're away, and friends who bring me soup when I'm sick, lots of neighborhood kids that we play at the park with and have awesome parties with, a neighbor who is like Marisol's third grandmother. And I've learned a lot about how I can build up a supportive network - mostly by giving myself. Because the more I give the more I receive in return.
Ideally we have our "tribe" established before we have children. People who live close to their families often already have a great foundation. But many women (and some men) find themselves very lonely when they bring home their first (or second, or third, or...) baby. Perhaps it is because we are so busy reveling in our freedom and independence when we are young adults and first married. I know I loved our first few years of marriage. We explored, traveled, shopped, worked, played, and relished our time together, just us. We got to see the world through our eyes as a new family. It was wonderful.
Then BAM. We had a little baby and a whole new world opened up before our very eyes. We were responsible for this new little soul, who was completely dependent on us - and it was overwhelming and a little scary. When our first was just over one year old, we moved away from both of our families and struck out on our own. I was without a tribe.
This is true for so many mothers. They are home alone with 1 or 2 (or 5 or 6) children with very little support.
So I was thinking through all of these things this morning when it hit me.
At a time when many mothers (or fathers) are really needing help themselves, children are pushed to be "independent" before they are ready.
Whoa. There *has* to be a link there. Subconsciously how many moms are realizing they just can't do it all alone... and then they turn around and try to make their kids do "it" (whatever "it" may be) themselves? The lack of support given to mothers becomes a weight that is shifted to children, as we all try to cope with our (relatively) new "nuclear" way of living.
And as quickly as this realization came I also knew that until we support our mothers the way *they* deserve to be, kids will not get the lives they deserve.
Does this resonate with you at all? Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments!
It seems like whenever I write about sleep or taking care of oneself or how parenting isn't really *that* difficult my kids like to help me put my money where my mouth is. They're cool like that. This past weekend Gerry woke up Saturday and Sunday in the wee hours of the morning (think 2-3 am) and stayed up for several hours. The second time I had stayed up to write and had barely gotten to sleep when he woke up. He didn't go back to sleep until 6:30 am so that night I basically pulled an all-nighter with a couple doses of dozing in there. Believe it or not the past few days weren't that bad though. I've learned a lot about dealing with sleep deprivation the past 6 years!
This post is mostly aimed at parents of babies and young children. A lot of the suggestions are more for stay-at-home moms (or dads), but some may be adaptable or applicable to working parents too.
Without further ado, here are 15 Things To Do When You're Sleep Deprived:
1) Maintain your coffee/caffeine intake at the same level as usual (I try to stick to my normal 1 cup in the morning) This way you will be able to rest when the moments arrive and you will feel better too (I don't like that jittery feeling I get with too much caffeine).
2) Shower and get dressed early. It will make you feel more awake and able to tackle your day. Or stay in your jammies and enjoy the fact that you can. Either way works.
3) Try to get out of the house early - go to a friend's house, the playground, or take a walk. Nothing too ambitious, just something to get you moving. If it's nice outside fresh air is especially helpful. Getting together with friends is an automatic spirit-lifter too.
4) If you don't have enough energy to get out, don't beat yourself up about it. Remind yourself that you need and deserve rest. Call your mom or a friend if you can't see someone in person.
5) If you have small children and are trying to get rest, lie down on the couch with them while they watch a show (or two!) If you cuddle with them they may not even notice your eyes are closed.
6) Listen to a meditation track on earphones while you "rest your eyes" (I have a few on my iPhone). A 15-20 minute meditation often leaves you feeling refreshed, sometimes even better than a long nap!
7) Play Music (I have nothing to add to this one.)
8) Have a nice, hot, cup of tea in the afternoon. My favorite right now is peppermint which is good for your digestion but it also can make you feel more alert.
9) Use of essential oils - I like to breathe in some peppermint for alertness too! If you have a headache some lavender is nice on your temples.
10) Make sure to play with your kids early and often in the day. If they have your focused attention early on, they will be more likely to accept you need some rest later in the day when you need it more.
11) Instead of focusing on how little sleep you got (recounting exactly how many hours, what time you were up and for how long etc.) give yourself positive affirmations that you will get the rest you need.
12) Make sure you go to bed earlier than usual when it's possible. If your kids are actually asleep at a decent hour go to sleep when they do and DON'T STAY UP TO BLOG... er, I mean stay up doing whatever it is *you* do late at night ;-)
13) Make sure you eat well - healthy, real, and immune boosting foods (I'm thinking garlic here... mmm garlic). Homemade chicken soup is good, and if you're lucky like me your husband or someone else who loves you might make you some. But keep food simple - especially for the kids. Leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies, frozen food, and if you are really desperate anything in a box. Again, do not stress about exactly what you are feeding your kids - some days you're just trying to get through the best you can!
14) Slow down as much as you can and release all expectations. Let go of accomplishing housework, cooking, your latest project etc. If your kids are tired too (which often happens) they probably need your presence more. Just be. Play games or watch shows together. Shower or take a bath together. Cook together. Nap together. I think you get the idea.
15) Remember all the times you've made it through tiredness and became rested again.
As I wrote this I was struck by how many overlapped with my list of things to do to lift your mood when you feel depressed. Also this could be a list of things to do when you're sick and you're home with your kids too! A lot of these things are great things to do every day but when I'm tired they are even more important. And the more habitual these things are, the easier they are to do and remember when you really need them!
Do you have any tips you can add to my list? What helps you get through your tiredest days?
Me Time? No thanks.
The phrase "Me Time" irritates me.
It seems like such a selfish term: "Me Time". In my opinion this mentality pits you against anyone getting in the way of you getting your "Me Time". Usually the people "competing" with your "Me Time" are your closest loved ones - for moms, most often their children.
I'm not suggesting that we don't take care of ourselves. And goodness knows many women and mothers have reputations for putting others' needs ahead of their own far too often. But if I've learned anything as a mother, it is that the more I can be creative, flexible, and kind, the more likely everyone's needs will get met. In my personal experience, "Me Time" mentality makes me rigid - as in: I have this idea in my head about how I'm going to get some time and space to myself and gosh-darn-it, I want my "Me Time" now, and if I don't get it then NONE of us are going to be happy! (hmmm, I wonder where that phrase, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, came from?! Guess we kinda created that doozy ourselves!)
This "Me Time" idea is so common now that everyone knows what it means. To me it is a "band-aid" solution to a deeper problem in our culture. For example when we get "Me Time" we often end up just wanting more. I have two theories about why this happens: 1) We didn't really respect others' needs while trying to get our "Me Time" and so when we are back to "Not-Me-Time" everyone is out of sorts. This leads us to feel like we need to get away... AGAIN. AND NOW! And/Or 2) Because we've put our own needs off for so long waiting for special "Me-Time" when we get it, it isn't nearly enough!
So I propose a new paradigm (I like new paradigms). We need to start cultivating a true, deep, and constant Self-Love for ourselves. When we do this we will start to have better Self-Care. Self-care means taking care of your needs all the time, or at least as soon as you can. It means taking loving care of your body by taking the time to spruce up, feeding yourself nourishing foods, and moving (If this sounds like a fancier version of New Year's resolutions, I promise you it's not. When true Self-Love is nourished, you will start doing these things automatically). Self-care is getting enough rest and slowing down -when you are feeling tired, before you get sick. Self-care is connecting with your loved ones every day in ways that are meaningful to each individual, and thriving on the energy this creates. It means if you need time and space to yourself, you work to create it in ways that respects others' needs for you to be around - because they love you and depend on you for comfort and security.
This may sound the same as what you think of as "Me Time" - but in my experience they are not. They are vastly different philosophies. I know some people are impressed with my ability to go without "Me Time" (are you annoyed with that phrase yet?!) - but it's really not that remarkable and I know others, like me, who spend almost all their time with their kids. I've learned to adapt and meet my needs in ways that don't usually require separation.
And, as my kids get older I am getting more time to myself. It's actually one of my things on my list of 12 - a date with myself (got that from the book The Artist's Way). So please, do take care of yourself. But do it in a way that not only nourishes you, but those around you - it's way more fulfilling and instead of your energy getting quickly zapped to nothing again, you will be revitalized to the point of having your energy overflow. LOVE YOURSELF, it's good for you and everyone around you.
ps If you like or use the phrase "Me Time" I still like you. I just don't like the phrase. :-)
pps I'm not REALLY irritated... because that wouldn't be very ZEN of me, would it? It's more like the phrase causes slight ripples on the smooth as glass water surface of my mind (is anyone else laughing yet?!), and then I look at the ripples with interest and curiosity.
Do you have a story about when you tried to get some "Me Time" and it didn't work out the way you were envisioning? Or how about a time when you were creative about meeting your needs and felt great about how you handled things?
This morning I read an article, "Jealousy, Judgment, and Motherhood," and I got all worked up about it, and even got permission from an old friend to write about her, and now here it is 11 pm and I'm having a hard time getting the flow going. I even started once and lost what I had written, which may be a blessing because I didn't really like it. So as I lay in bed helping kid #2 fall asleep, I thought about what I wanted to say, and how I could get my point across in the kindest and most interesting way. And I realized that I really just needed to tell my experience and what I've learned. I don't need to get preachy or philosophical because I believe the message will shine through the story.
My story begins in the 6th grade. Actually it may begin even earlier than that, but I have a really crappy memory, so we'll begin there. I have one very vivid memory from that year. I was in the girl's bathroom washing my hands and one of my teachers was beside me also washing her hands. And she said to me, "Susan, I just know that you are going to be something really wonderful someday, like a Doctor or a Lawyer." That's it. That's all I remember. I don't remember what I said back, but I'm sure I nodded or smiled because I've always been pretty agreeable and polite.
But even then something about it struck me wrong. And I remembered it for many years.
Fade out. Fade in to middle school study hall with my best friend since kindergarten. We're giggling and passing notes. The main topic of said notes are, "I want a boyfriend SO. BAD!"
Cut to my Senior year of college. I'm crying on my bed and my boyfriend (Mike!) is trying to comfort me. I'm so confused and anxious because even though I'm am closing in on graduating I still don't know what I want to "do". I cry to him, "I just want to get married and have kids!" He reassures me that it will be ok and things will work out, but I know he thinks I'm a little bit crazy. (haha)
In college I started out as a math major but quickly switched to Brain and Cognitive Science when I couldn't get all "A's" in my math courses. I was an intern for a researcher at the hospital one semester, and also in a couple of labs on campus. I considered research and going on the medical school. But none of that felt right.
I was so incredibly lucky my senior year to have an amazing Professor who encouraged me. I told him how "everyone" thought that since I was "smart" I should be a "doctor" or something like that. This wonderful man advised me to follow my heart and told me that we need "smart people in all professions". So after school I pursued my teaching degree. (I have to also give major props to my mom here. She has always supported me in whatever I decided to do. And deep down she really just wanted me to get married and have kids too. ha.)
Teaching was an incredible learning experience for me. But I'm forever indebted to my daughter for coming along and giving me a reason to leave - almost entirely guilt-free. I was good at teaching and my students and I had great relationships, but it was not "my (final) calling".
After Marisol was born, I just looked at her and thought, "All I have to do for a long time is take care of you!" I felt an incredible sense of freedom. I couldn't believe how lucky I was.
And so began the most life-changing, life-affirming journey of my life. It's still going, and I imagine it will until my time here is up.
But this is not the end of my story. Since Marisol was born a little over 6 1/2 years ago I have learned a lot. There has only been one stretch of time, from the time Gerry was born until he was about 9 months old, where I was not "working" in some form even though I would classify myself as a full-time stay-at-home-mom. When Marisol was just 6 weeks old I started babysitting a little girl. Why? Because Mike had big plans to go to business school, and I wanted to build up my reputation as a good caregiver so I could nanny while he was in school. I think I knew before Marisol was born that I was not going back to the classroom, but once she was here I was sure. I wanted to be with her for as long as possible.
And it worked! When we moved to Washington DC I found an amazing family whose little boy was almost exactly the same age as Marisol. And they lived about one mile from where we lived. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect work situation.
They quickly became like family to me as I adjusted to living in a new city and being away from my own family for the first time. The mom, Ida (pronounced: "Ee-da"), and I were (and are!) about as different as you can imagine. Ida is a Doctor and went back to work soon after the births of both her boys. What was amazing to me that year, as I helped take care of her son, was how well she handled working and being a mother. She never showed insecurity or jealousy about my relationship with Nils. She never agonized over whether she should be working or not. And when she came home she was joyful to see him and jumped right in to playing with him. I still remember them laughing together.
Ida and I talked a little bit about this modern "motherhood/work" phenomenon, and how so many women struggled with it. It seemed that we were in the minority of women who really embraced our choices. Even though Ida and I were very different in our parenting and lifestyle choices, we had a great relationship. I have always admired how she embraced her life and her choices instead of constantly second-guessing herself or letting feelings of doubt or guilt into her life.
And my own journey was still barely beginning. I continued to care for two other children through Mike's second year of school and while I was pregnant. After Gerry was born I was happy to "just" be home with the kids for a while.
In the spring of 2010 I tried tutoring for a company called "Tutored-by-a- Teacher" but never really got too into it. Then that summer I decided to look into becoming a childbirth educator and that is when Hypnobabies came into the picture. Since becoming certified and starting to teach I really feel like I've hit my stride. Not just as a "mom" or as a "teacher" but really as a human being.
That's my story, my history... So what do *I* think is the main take-away from all of this?
1) There is no such thing as "just" a "teacher," or "mother," or "housewife," or any other job, vocation, or calling.
2) Sometimes we know what we really want (as I clearly did from the time I was a young girl) but our inner voices are completely drowned out by the messages that we are receiving outside of us.
3) Women (and men!) need to get clear on what they want. And not just what they want, but how they want to feel.
Talking about wanting to "have it all" is just a catch phrase that we've adopted since having more choices available to us. But the truth is NO ONE can have it ALL. Luckily for us it isn't necessary to have it all to live happy, fulfilled lives.
We are fortunate to live in a time when many women have more choices than their grandmothers could even dream about. But more choice is also confusing and even paralyzing sometimes - heck, I can't even pick out what toothpaste I want at the grocery store these days. It's not surprising that figuring out what you want your life to look like, when the possibilities are even longer than aisle 15, and the choices much harder than baking soda or fluoride, has more than one woman awake at night worrying over whether they're making the right choices.
It's a wonderful time, but it's also a little chaotic and messy - like we are reorganizing our whole house in one day.
I am so grateful that I was able to process and clear my confusion up at relatively young ages. I hope more women are able to work through their own so they can stop feeling judged, judgmental, and jealous. Then they will be free to feel supported and supportive, loved and loving. In this way, maybe our daughters and granddaughters will have even more freedom and less confusion than we have today.
I do know that it has to begin with loving yourself. It sounds so cheesy, but I cannot begin to tell you how transformative this truth has been for me this year. Love yourself and be kind to yourself whatever it is you choose. When you do this you will be able to offer more to everyone else in your life. Stop telling yourself that your life is so hard. And if it feels that way, start taking steps to make it feel less so. Stop letting others decide for you what's important to do. Decide how you want to feel, identify things that make you feel that way, then start doing them.
Make your life awesome. You only get this one and you're the only one who can do it.
Sleep, oh, sweet sleep. It's on the minds of most parents in our modern world. Parents are warned that they will never sleep again. And then our expectations are largely realized - sometimes even exceeded - when we compound our difficulties by resisting a baby's true sleep biology.
Marisol started in a bassinet next to our bed. When she was about one month old we put her in a crib in the BEAUTIFUL nursery we prepared for her. It went relatively well for a few months. I went to her when I heard her wake on the monitor, changed her diaper and nursed her back to sleep in our comfy glider, then put her back down. Until she was about 5 months old. Then everything seemed to fall apart (what?! Babies have sleep REGRESSIONS?? What do you mean?!) This period of time was very hard for me - and it coincided with Thanksgiving and Christmas that year.
I did not want to let her cry-it-out and she would wake up almost as soon as I put her down almost every time. I would try patting her to sleep, sometimes even lying down next to the crib. At my low point I was actually making a bed on the floor with blankets and pillows and when I got too tired to try keeping her in the crib we slept together on the floor. Yes, you read that correctly - I was sleeping with my newborn on the floor in our house that had a perfectly good Queen sized bed and full-size futon. Looking back on it now, it's amazing to me what I went through trying to have her sleep in a crib. And I had even read Dr. Sear's book, Nighttime Parenting, while I was pregnant! I loved the idea of co-sleeping before she was even born. So why was I so stuck on her sleeping in the crib?
I think there were a couple of factors. First, I don't think Mike was ready to try anything so "out there" (ha! So funny now - poor guy, he really had no idea what he was in for! To be fair though, neither did I). So I really tried for his sake not to be "weird" about the baby's sleep. I already had a natural birth, was using cloth diapers, and was breastfeeding almost constantly so I think I wanted to do something "normally". Why I wasn't just proud of all those things, I don't understand now, but I'm a different person then I was 6 years ago.
Also, for a couple of months she did ok in the crib. So I think I was lulled into thinking we had sleep "figured out" (I know, I know - what a rookie!)
I remember my father-in-law asking me almost every time I saw them (which was often since we lived in walking distance) how Marisol was sleeping. I dreaded the question and wanted to say, "No!! She's not sleeping through the night! I'll let you know when she is!" I remember calling my mom after a particularly hard night and being so tired but she wasn't able to come over and I thought, "How am I going to make it through the day?" (Spoiler - I did live to see another day.) I babysat a little girl and I remember loving when she wanted to play pretend and it was "nap" time - I lay on the floor a lot at that house!
Fortunately for me, at Christmas time we went to Florida and I was like - "She's sleeping with us!" I didn't want to be exhausted for the whole vacation. It was such a beautiful relief. When we came home from vacation I was not going back to the floor. So I slept with her on the futon for a while and eventually we both moved back to the big bed with Mike. We haven't looked back since.
I remember asking my pediatrician when she was tiny how I "should" put her to sleep. I asked, "So I should put her down sleepy but awake, right?" (I think I probably read that one in a magazine.) And the wonderful man, bless his heart, confirmed that yes, ideally this was the best practice for babies learning to sleep on their own. Even now I can still see his gentle, kind look that pretty much defied the words even as they came out of his mouth. It's like I can see a thought bubble over his head in my memory, "Poor, naive, first-time mom. She's trying so hard! Do I tell her the truth or just agree with her?"
Nap-time was another struggle Sometimes she slept in the car and I would then continue driving her, she sometimes slept in her in a swing, and I remember one time walking in the rain for an hour and a half because she was asleep in her stroller and I didn't want her to wake! And she never seemed to be on a "schedule" - it was just all so confusing and HARD! Even my mother, who is about as supportive as you can get, sometimes questioned my "methods" (or lack-thereof).
When Gerry came along I didn't think twice about co-sleeping. He has slept with me since we came home from the birth center the day he was born (we did use the bassinet a bit when he was tiny too). He's always been pretty good about going back to sleep if it's the nighttime hours and I'm just more relaxed about nap. When he was a baby I thought he was "different" than Marisol was, but as he's grown I've seen them largely follow the same pattern - which tells me it is more me (and Mike), our "sleep-practices", and our attitudes that have changed. Neither of our children really slept through the night till they were about 2 1/2 (and Gerry still wakes during the night sometimes at 3 1/2). This sounds awful to most people, but I can honestly say it's fine. Because I'm right there they go right back to sleep. I've also read enough "studies" and "stories" as well as talking to real live parents to know that night waking is very common.
Am I tired sometimes? Yes. But I don't know parents who aren't.
I'm not trying to push co-sleeping on people who don't want to do it or who don't think it's right for their family. But I do think it would be way more helpful to new parents everywhere if people were more honest about how sleep really looked in their homes. It's another example of everything being so private and hidden in our isolated, nuclear family units/homes. When Marisol was little I would always "admit" that she slept with us a little sheepishly, like I was letting people in on some dark secret of ours. I would "justify" it because when we moved to DC we only had a small one-bedroom condo. So it was a "good thing!" that we *did* co-sleep. In reality, I would have been sleeping with her even if we lived in the Spelling's Manor in Hollywood.
Now it seems so normal I just don't even think about it. All of our friends who come to our house know our sleeping arrangements. Marisol is 6 1/2 and still loves to sleep next to me. I'm not worried about it. I know when she's ready and the time's right she will sleep in her own bed.
So many people are looking for "solutions" to the children's sleep "problems". Most of what are considered problems are actually a child's natural way of sleeping. That or they really want to be close to their parents. Peter Gray PhD calls our culture's issues with our children's sleep an "Evolutionary Mismatch." I love this perspective (of course!) and highly recommend reading his short essay on the topic.
So - Sleep. We make it way harder then it needs to be. Being tired is a big problem because it makes everything else seem difficult to deal with. When we are sleep deprived there is little else that can be right in our lives. I know from experience. But the more we let go of our expectations, embrace the truth or how children sleep best, and then make our decisions based on that knowledge, the more rested we will be (even if we are still tired!)
ps Sometimes we *will* be exhausted when we have little babies, no matter how we do things. This is not about those times. For those times we need love and support and listening ears to commiserate with us - not people trying to "solve" our sleep issues. These are the times that I wish we had our tribes surrounding us.
What is your "sleep story"? (I know you have one, every parent does!) I'd love to hear it. What has made things harder or easier for you?
Parenting is hard. It's the most difficult job you'll ever do. Parenting is challenging but rewarding.
The message is everywhere and it is beat into our heads almost constantly. PARENTING IS HARD. Not only that, we reinforce it to one another often.
But what if parenting *isn't* intrinsically difficult, we are just making it so? How many times have you seen a mama cat complain about motherhood - all those kittens suckling! And later she has to teach them to hunt - and they never even say thank you! Or a bird - does she ever complain that the babies are hungry *again*? Why do we as humans seem to believe that we have such a hard gig? Is it because we're smarter or more aware?
I was mulling over this question a few months ago after reading some comments on one of my favorite blogs. Everyone was chiming in with their own stories and feelings about how difficult motherhood is. Some women admitted that they didn't even like babies; others said they couldn't wait until their kids were out of the house.
And it just got my wheels turning. One thing that I've learned from teaching Hypnobabies is how powerful our minds are and that we create what we dwell upon. If the constant refrain in our lives is how difficult things are then we are likely to get a lot more choruses of... hard, Hard, HARD!
I'm not saying that I can't relate to the stories all these mamas share. I can. I know sleepless nights and crying for almost no reason other then exhaustion. I know losing my patience and feeling guilty for it later. I know feeling extreme anxiety as my child gets more upset about something seemingly insignificant. I know feeling uncomfortable as I worry about what others think. I get all that.
But that doesn't mean that these things become my focal point. And it doesn't mean that I accept that this is just the way things are and there is nothing I can do about it. Not at all. I know now that it's possible to shift almost all of those things into a more positive state.
A very common theme in our culture is that the teenage years are often years of rebellion, less connection between children and parents, emotional, and just generally trying. But I've found a small subset in our culture who says that it doesn't have to be that way. (Just like birth doesn't *have to* be an excruciating experience that a woman just has to get through.) Maybe this is true of many accepted ("difficult") aspects of parenting.
Anyways, back to my churning mind. I wondered if all of this "positive thinking" wasn't just a little too much. I mean parenting can be hard, right?! Even I, Sunshine Susie, admit to having difficult days. I wrote to my Tribe and asked them what they thought. I got some amazing, inspiring responses. Here is a line from one of my favorites, "Forging awesome, respectful, nurturing relationships takes time and effort and intention." Yes! There's a perspective shift that resonates with me. Don't we put effort into our adult relationships? Why shouldn't we expect to with our children?
But still not satisfied, I examined the problem from another angle. One of my favorites - The Evolutionary perspective. Did parents of the Hunting and Gathering era get together and grumble around the campfire (did they even have a campfire??)
I went to the most direct source I have, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Old Way, who was kind enough to let me interview her on the phone last spring.
Here is what I wrote to her:
It's amazing to read the comments and just how HARD parenting/mothering is for so many women. And I'm not disagreeing with them exactly - I mean I've had plenty of challenges and less than proud moments with my kids. But overall I just LOVE my life and them so it kind of makes me sad how many mom's are actually saying, "I don't like babies" or "I can't wait till they are out of the house" or any number of other things. And always the refrain, "it's hard, Hard, HARD!"
And here is what this incredible, generous woman wrote back to me:
I think you’re right by saying that the Ju/wasi just took parenting in stride—they wanted children, enjoyed children, and anyway, they didn’t have a choice about having children. Then too, all the people in an encampment looked after children in general—if an adult or an older kid saw a little kid in some kind of trouble that person would help immediately as a matter of course. Also, the Ju/wa kids could self-amuse. They played all the time, the boys playing hunting games or some rather formal games with rules, and the girls making patterns with their footprints or dancing. I don’t think I ever saw a kid wheedling at an adult about anything. Good social behavior was simply expected of children.
And it was so wonderful to hear from her and her perspective. And it definitely affirmed for me many ideas I have about parenting, our modern culture, children, and whether it necessarily needs to be so HARD. You may recall that Elizabeth also told me that children were not punished in the Ju/wa culture.
Some of you may be thinking but she says the children "self-amused - my kid doesn't do that!" This is another area where I think the tribal culture is very difficult to compare to our isolated, modern culture. Yes, they "self-amused" -- with all the other children in the tribe. And with plenty of adults around too. Not the same as expecting a kid to play alone or with one (or even a few) other sibling(s).
Really it's quite ironic. Back in the day when we had to travel miles and miles to dig up roots, then carry back heavy loads (again miles and miles), and hunt animals down - all just to survive - then we weren't complaining about raising our young. Now, we have refrigerators full of food (and a grocery store just down the road), we have dishwashers and washing machines, we have TVs and computers, we have light with the flick of a switch, we have roofs to keep the rain off of us, and heat to warm the chilly nights... but now parenting is so hard. What if the culture we've created is actually really difficult for our children? If we could shift our perspective then our parenting difficulties might diminish greatly, or even disappear.
I'd love to hear thoughts on this from other parents. What feels better - thinking that parenting is terribly difficult, or thinking that we are made to parent and can rise to the challenges, forming beautiful relationships with our kids as we go? The last thing I want to do is make more people feel guilty. This is not about feeling bad for finding parenting difficult. This is about creating a new paradigm (and from that a new culture!) so more of us can see that it doesn't have to be difficult.
There's lots of talk about "Random Acts of Kindness" (RAOFK) lately. I think that more kindness in the world is a wonderful thing. But I've been thinking about that word, "Random". Here was one of my Facebook updates last week:
Random Ramblings: I've been thinking about "Random Acts of Kindness" (as many people are talking about and doing them to do more GOOD) Anyways, does doing thing for friends, family, and neighbors count as a "RAOFK" - for example, I've taken to making my lasagna for friends and neighbors that have a new baby - already made 3 in the past 6 months and 2 more are "in line" (it's a baby boom in our neighborhood!)...
So while I love the spirit behind the idea of RAOFK I'd like to concentrate more on Everyday kindness. Kindness to our neighbors and loved ones. And yes, kindness to strangers we see in our everyday lives (should we even classify this as "random"? I mean, I hope we all strive to be kind to people whose paths we cross every day).
Of course a topic that especially important to me is being as kind as we can to the children in our lives. What does it mean to be kind to our children? Some people think it *is* "kind" to punish a child if it is out of "love". Some argue this is the (only?) way that children learn important life lessons.
I do not agree with this assessment. A great barometer to use if you are unsure if an act is kind: would you say or do this same thing to your best friend/sister/partner/mother? If the answer is no, you probably shouldn't do it to your child either!
I'm not a fan of guilt, judgment, and finger-pointing either. No one is perfect. This is not about being perfectly kind 100% of the time. It *is* about recognizing how we can be kinder in our everyday lives. Patience, listening, putting ourselves in others' positions, taking deep breaths when we struggle - these are all ways we can demonstrate kindness in situations that don't bring out our best selves.
This is why you must start with yourself. If you aren't being kind to yourself it will be difficult, if not impossible, to be kind to others.
Up the kindness factor in your life starting with yourself. Love yourself, give yourself compliments and affirmations. Do kind things for yourself. The ripples will extend outwards to your family and community. Just think, if we all started doing this kindness would become so common the term "Random Act of Kindness" might become obsolete! Or even if it doesn't become obsolete maybe they will feel less urgent and necessary. Kindness anywhere is awesome. Kindness that changes the world will come from being kind close to home.
I LOVE MY BOOBS
Ok well let me begin by saying that my hands are clammy (yet cold) as I type this, and I certainly have some reservations about writing this publicly. But I'm also giddy and almost giggling out loud. AND I really believe that when we feel like we are about to jump off of something really high (like a cliff) and are trying to talk ourselves out of something... well that might be the most important time to do something.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking (just a little bit) about what some people might think about this post. But I'm guessing (hoping?) the most scandalized (or judgmental) will be too embarrassed (or polite) to bring it up. And in the end there are bigger more important reasons for this post then myself and what others think about me. Besides, it's my blog... and they're my boobs, so there. (grin)
Deep breath. Ok so here we go.
I took a shower this evening. It was necessary - it had been a couple days. And as I looked in the mirror I looked at my breasts and I thought, "I love my boobs. I wouldn't change one thing about them... I wouldn't 'enhance' them (even if my husband might like that), or erase the stretch marks, or take them back to their pre-nursing days..." Ok, well I didn't think *all* of that, but it was more like, "I love my boobs, I wouldn't change them" and then I just *felt* the rest.
So then I wrote some more in my journal a bit later thinking maybe *some day* it would make a fun blog post. Here is some of what I wrote:
My breasts have helped feed my babies for 6 1/2 years now - for 1-2 years they alone kept them alive.
I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to! Kids are so funny.
Back to the deep thoughts (about boobs). I was thinking as I showered how weird it is that in our culture we are all worked up about breasts. I mean it is skin. They're part of our body. And they do something really amazing. In a way, I kind of wanted to put an actual picture of my breasts in all their glory at the top of this post. But I'm not quite there yet (and as it is, my husband may think I've lost my mind!) But really, it's just so mind-boggling to contemplate how our culture regards breasts, breastfeeding, and women's bodies in general. And women want to change themselves all the time. Why?!
So this is my way of fighting back. With my boobs. Some may think I'm looking for attention (by using my well-loved, very-used mammary glands) but really this just struck me out of the blue tonight. And I'm going with it.
And now I'll probably go to bed and not get any sleep because I just posted for the world to see that I love my boobs. And I'll wake up to find that everything is just going on as it always does... but that's ok.
I hope some day all women can love their bodies for the amazing, wonderful, life-giving and sustaining entities that they are. Love your boobs ladies. They deserve it.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.