The second post in a series about being a newbie stay-at-home mom.
This is my first official day on the job. For those of you read my last post, you know that I quit my job and wrapped things up last week. Today, Monday, it's all-Mom, all-the-time. Several of you have checked in to ask how it's going. So I decided to post this update. Here it is: the raw, unadulterated truth about living the dream life.
The day started with anxiety. Again. More dreams about not doing enough, not producing enough. These dreams happened to be about my physical therapy workouts, but they echoed the theme from last week: not enough. So much for the short-lived bliss from the day I left the office. Now, during my first morning, I was struggling to hold my temper with my two-year-old, snapping at my husband in the process, and generally feeling overwhelmed at what to do next and how to do it.
The breakfast routine started with physical therapy for my littlest one (she's dealing with a gross motor skills developmental delay), which completely stressed me out. Lily screamed through her workout in general frustration at not being able to move the way she wants. All the while Gunnar, her big brother, wanted to take her therapy toy and interrupt play with some play of his own. Of course, these interruptions increased Lily's frustration which increased the screaming which decreased Mommy's patience threshold. I thought to myself: I will pray a lot more now that I'm home full-time.
That was the first fifteen minutes.
After my husband helped me calm down, I corralled the kiddos for a trip to the gym. Yes, that's right. I had been on-the-clock for a whole hour before seeking refuge in the sanctum of Kids Club. Don't judge me until you've stared down a one and two-year-old, thinking, "I'm supposed to entertain you for a full day?" It's tougher than it sounds!
Kids Club was a success. Both kids had fun and lasted the full hour-and-a-half. I, meanwhile, was able to finish my morning pages* in the sauna (talk about multi-tasking), get in a long swim workout, and actually take a shower. By myself. In silence.
I finished a little early and decided to veg out for a few minutes. Several minutes later, after flipping through a magazine I indulged in at the grocery store, I gathered my things and headed to Kids Club. I glanced at the clock. "Oh no. How did I let twenty minutes go by? I'm a horrible.... No, wait a minute, I am not a horrible mom. I gave myself twenty minutes - twenty minutes. Get over yourself. You'll need a lot more than that if you're going to do this well. And besides, your kids probably need the time away from you as much as you need non-productive down time."
All of this self-talk whizzed through my head on the short walk from locker room to Kids Club. Self-talk happens a lot in my brain (I know - you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?). In fact, hours later, it's still happening. I'm quite sure the loving me hasn't won the back-and-forth with the harsh me yet. I still feel guilty over that twenty minutes.
Anyway, we decided to treat ourselves after the gym. Actually, I needed some carb's after my long swim, and I wanted to be able to give my kids a little focused attention. We went to Einstein's and sat together. No agenda, no timeline, just snacks and catching up. I heard all about Gunnar's adventures at Kids Club and watched in fascination while Lily realized she could put her food inside Gunnar's empty milk bottle. I was very impressed, as was she. She squealed in delight every few minutes when another bite actually made it into the container.
When Lily began rubbing her eyes we headed home. She fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep through the transfer. Another opportunity to pour into Gunnar was presenting itself: I decided to keep him outside so that Lily could sleep in peace. After pretending to wash his Gunnar-sized car, he decided we should wash Mommy's car. I told him we didn't even have to pretend. I mean, what's better than playing and getting stuff done at the same time. I'm brilliant, I tell you!
Out came the buckets, brushes, and hose. Everything went swimmingly for the first several minutes. And then, I looked over to see a shivering two-year-old dripping wet and exclaiming that he needed to go potty. "Okay," I said. "Here I come, honey." I ran over, pulled down his pants, and told him to pee in the yard (yes, the front yard). I ran inside to get a towel only to hear a panicked "MOMMY!" come out of Gunnar's little mouth. Racing back outside I screamed, "what's wrong?" "I pooped," he calmly replied.
I ran over, checked out the scene, and asked if he was done. "Yes, I'm done. I need you to wipe me." "Okay," I replied. "Wait here and don't move. I'll be right back with toilet paper." Asking a two-year-old not to move is like asking the Titanic not to sink. What was I thinking?
I came back outside only to find Gunnar rooted to the same spot - a miracle, I thought - but with a rather disconcerting look on his face. He was clearly concentrating very hard. And squeezing, holding something tightly. But what?
"Mommy, my poop is waiting for you." Huh? I looked behind him to see one large log on the ground and another long and skinny one holding on for dear life between clenched cheeks.
Yes, it took all I had not to laugh.
I won't go into the gritty clean-up details, but, needless to say, they involved a hose. Fifteen minutes and several hand-washings later we all sat down for lunch together. I called my husband to tell him about our little poop adventure. He laughed as hard as I wanted to.
Deep breath. Post-lunch signaled time for round two of Lily's physical therapy at-home workout. I geared myself up for another melt-down. It's a wonder how things don't always turn out the way you plan, and thank God for that. It was perfect.
I calmly explained to Gunnar how he needed to help Lily, and he happily obliged. I arranged the "workout" in such a way that they were playing together. We even had an object lesson: when either child achieved a goal, however small, I taught them to clap for eachother because, as I explained, "in this family, we celebrate one another's accomplishments." It was beautiful. Truly, I say this without sarcasm. I was having a great time and loved, absolutely loved, being able to be the one who gets to do this with these two precious children.
So two poo-poo's, two physical therapy sessions, and one gym trip later, I'm wondering what made the difference between morning and midday? Why did the second session go so much better? I think it's a combination of factors, really.
First, Mommy was calmer. That always helps. Second, both of my children had had their cups filled with concentrated Mommy-attention. Third, and probably most important, I chose myself this morning. Not because I didn't want to be with my children, but rather because I did. I knew that I needed to get a little space to clear my head before I dove into our new routine, so I took it. And that extra twenty minutes clearly has made all the difference.
*Morning Pages are a medicine prescribed by Julia Watts, author of The Artist's Way. I highly recommend her book to everyone, artist or not.