The Days After

T1 had been sleeping on the couch during his stay with Nana and Papa, but asked to sleep in the same bed as me and T2 the first night after our reunion. It’s a king-sized bed and there was more than enough room for me to have my own sleeping bubble, not touching anyone while I slumbered, while listening to his breathing deepen as he drifted off across the mattress from his sister. Little kids are so generous, so tender, so ready to love and be loved in return. I’m grateful I had the chance to work through some of my own shit before they are old enough to to start stressing about their own and realize what I mess I’ve been.

I watched their chests rise and fall, thinking about my last post and how they had reacted exactly as anticipated. It’s me who is unpredictable, sweet and patient one moment and snapping the next. How unnerving that must be for the little ones who crave stability and a knowledge that their caretaker will always be there for them. I see T1 seeking assurance that he is loved and accepted less often now that he’s had this month with Nana, which is one of the reasons I did this break, because it was killing me how often he told me he loved me in an attempt to hear that I loved him back. I could see what I was doing, but each day I tried to do better I slid back into the same old patterns. Self-awareness does not always go hand-in-hand with an ability to solve the problem at hand. I needed to be stress- and anxiety- and depression-free in order to understand how to address the stress and anxiety and depression in my life. If I can’t fit it in between my child-free hours between 9-5 M-F I’ve got too much on my plate and need to look into simplifying somehow

On the second or third day I opened my to-do list app and that’s when the regression into old patterns was stark. I was frustrated with them, short because it’s hard for me to be interrupted in the middle of a task once I start. That’s why a crucial part of our plan going forward is a combination of outsourcing and family time that forces me to set boundaries for when I’m in to-do list mode. 

I think my favorite day in Royal was the morning  we rode horses with the neighbors. The kids were delighted, we were able to connect and bond in meaningful ways with the sort of people who remind you how good humanity can be, and I was completely present with no worries about what came next or what I should/could be spending time on otherwise. This is the feeling I want to replicate over and over throughout the coming months. This is what I’ve been missing.

9 thoughts on “The Days After

  1. If you have to put them on your to do list, do it. Section off holy, sacred, mandatory chunks of time for them. And remember that if it takes you a while to get engaged in a task, the same goes for time with them. 20 mins of kid time isn’t enough. Give them large chunks of time and just pretend, make believe you’re loving it, play the part. No camera allowed. I’m basically taking a page out of my own playbook. I am over scheduled and under medicated for ADD, and have chronic pain. It’s hard, moms like us need to think about things other moms don’t. But the time for thinking is over, this is the time for doing. They aren’t slates that wipe clean at age 7, this stuff COUNTS. GO FORTH AND PLAY PONIES!! 🙂

  2. The thing about To-Do lists is they give you feedback that you are valuable. Every check is like a gold medal. Kids do not feed our self-esteem. We have to realize that our value as mothers of young children comes from scaffolding and supporting our kids, not from “achieving” them, or achieving anything per se ourselves. They are the narcissists, we can’t be. In the early years, we have to watch our need for approval and recognition very carefully.

    This changes when kids get older. When they are 9, 10, 12, I believe they benefit enormously from mothers who achieve.

    And, of course, mothers have every right to fill the holes in their souls. But the early years isn’t the best time for that. Try to find a community who understands that you are valuable just by existing. I get it’s hard in Silicon Valley. But it’s just as true here as anywhere, especially as a mother of young ones.

    Steph Reply:

    This! It so important to realize we each have value just by existing. I struggle with this a lot as former high-achieving kid. It’s important to find that balance: you’re valuable regardless of what you do; that doesn’t mean you can’t milk life dry!

  3. Steph has a great idea! Put them on your to-do list too, and maybe even plan one outing a week to a children’s museum or nature center. Make some good childhood memories … their little brains are in critical stages of development right now. What they do now influences how their brains develop, quite literally. (There’s a book about childhood brain development called “What’s Going On in There” that’s really good.

    Anyway, I know you have a lot on your plate and you’re seeking fulfillment yourself, so good luck to you! You can do it!

  4. If your plan is to hire a live-in nanny/house manager (shopping/laundry/cooking/errands/waiting on repair men – ok I’m already jealous!), plus a deep cleaning weekly service, I’m going to be supersuper jealous! Not really, the part I’ve always hated was the driving around, I figure if I could get a driver, my life would be so much easier! True Story. Good Luck with your plan, both of you and those kids deserve a happy, healthy life. There’s an old saying my dad used to tell me “sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free”. Love those kids!

  5. A lot of these posts really resonate with me, because this is basically my number one fear about having children – that I’ll resent them for interrupting me, or at least deal badly with interruptions. I sometimes snap at my husband, like when he wants all my attention during nap time, and I’m just sitting there thinking “this is the only time I get to myself all day, just let me be alone for one second”. But I’m definitely an introvert and like my alone time. And so before deciding to get pregnant, I spent a long time preparing myself (as best you can before you have a child) for the loss of freedom/alone time/etc that would come. And so far, I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy parenting, but I still worry about the ages/stages to come.

    My son is only 10 months old, so I haven’t been a parent for very long, but I was pleased to discover that I’m sort of a baby person. (Which I know not everyone is – my husband definitely enjoys parenting more the older our son gets. He has always loved him, but now he will point out cute things/get excited over stages/etc, which he didn’t do much of when our son was tiny.) Previous nannying experience made me think I’m definitely NOT a toddler person, so we’ll see how things go when that stage arrives, which is why, like I said, I enjoy reading these posts and preparing myself for the sacrifices that parenting requires, or at least the ways we need to change how we think about time.

    I read something once about parenting, like how we should think about raising children as your main to do every day, not raising children as something that gets in the way of everything else. I’m paraphrasing really badly. But when you talk about giving yourself boundaries for family time, that was when I thought, yep, that’s it exactly! No one can be “on” all the time as a parent, and some people can definitely do longer stretches than others. Both my parents worked full-time, and my mom worked long hours and traveled a lot. Looking back, this clearly made her happy and we were all perfectly happy, too, because she used to give us stretches of “undivided attention” when she would pay attention only to us. I’m currently a SAHM and another reason your posts resonate with me is that I regret my career plans/lack thereof. I have several basically useless degrees and I’m left trying to do freelance work from home – most jobs I find aren’t really worth it, since the money would barely pay for child care and it isn’t something I love. All this rambling is to say that I’ve loved hearing about your coding experience, and though I can’t afford a coding bootcamp (and there aren’t nearly as many options where I live), I’ve started to look into the free things, just to give myself some extra knowledge as I continue to look for a job that I could have to juggle with childcare duties, etc. Maybe I’ll be a SAHM for years longer, but either way – parenting is hard, changing habits is hard, and I’m excited to see what sort of plan you are implementing.

    I think this might be the longest comment I’ve ever left on a blog, but I love reading your blog (I almost never comment (maybe never have? I’m not sure)) – I discovered you right around when T2 was born, and I’ve read a lot of your archives. Anyway, I know you are very busy and probably have a lot coming up, but I like it when you post real things (even though I do enjoy your instagram, too).

  6. I am so glad that you are doing well! I wish you joy and happiness and peace moving forward!

  7. Such beautiful, beautiful children!

    One thing I’ve learned from dealing with anxiety and depression is that you can’t really trust your feelings in the way that maybe people without anxiety/depression can. I so often feel like something is wrong, some doom is impending, some disaster is imminent, and it’s very easy to want to structure my life around that feeling and live in a fearful response, you know? Because when something *feels* wrong, it’s really hard to retrain my mind to compartmentalize that and accept that feelings aren’t reality and that they shouldn’t have the power to control me. I wish for you many many moments of things feeling happy and carefree and wonderful with your kids, like with the horseback riding, but I think it’s so important too for our own growth and for those around to use to refuse to let feelings dictate how we’re going to live, even as we live in the tension of what can almost feel like two realities (how things might feel vs. how they are). Our children deserve unconditional love and support and stability even when it *feels* hard, or painful, or terrifying, or boring–parenting can’t revolve around how things make us feel. I think we have to learn to separate that, whatever it takes (therapy, CBT, a great support network, brutal honesty with ourselves, lots of uncomfortable practice, etc.).

    Wishing you lots of strength and grace as you turn this new page!

    Laura Reply:

    Kelly, I think this is really well articulated and an important idea! As parents we have to try to practice parenting in a steady, constant way, even when we can’t replicate joyous moments like the wonderful bond and worry-free feeling of horseback riding. You won’t be able to feel like that most of the time when you’re back at home with your incredibly busy lives.

    Jenna, I’ve been reading about these recent developments with a lot of hope for you and your lovely family. It sounds like there are big, good changes coming. Do you know the poetry of Adrienne Rich? Her story reminds me of yours in a small way–having kids in her 20s, then slowly rejecting convention and remaking her life as a political poet. Here’s a good one. (Click on “more” at the top for more about her.)

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