Finger Prints

There are little finger prints all over my house.

They are on mirrors and windows. Some how they are on the floors and tables too. There are crayon marks on the rugs and tiny little foot prints left behind on my neatly made bed.

It is impossible to keep these spaces clean from the small person who currently heads our household. I could follow up him around with a bottle of Lysol and glass cleaner but that seems to be asking for problems (see the incident where he sprayed himself in the face with wood cleaner).

My husband and I sometimes laugh, or sometimes get close to tears as we remember the days of yore. The days before we would step in something wet at least once a day. With two senior dogs and a two-year-old we have practically given up on true cleanliness and now accept “not disgusting” as our new normal.

The other day, as I surveyed my home after returning from a long business trip, I realized that these little marks are little signs of life. Of happiness and exploration. Of jumping and playing. Defying and pushing boundaries. These are the signs that we are doing what we can to help our son play, respect and learn.

Perfectionism is something that I struggle with internally. I often find that if something is not up to the random standard that I have created out of thin air, then it is a failure. I spend an immense amount of time beating myself up for not achieving some impossible standard. Whether it is through my work, my physical self, the look of my home or any number of things, I doubt my ability to succeed daily.

But, having a small child does not allow for the space of perfectionism. Or I should say, it redefines what perfection is in one’s life.

Perfection is now defined differently. Perfection is the sound of my son saying “Hi Mama” when he looks at me. Perfection is the top speed run my son does in order to hug his daddy at the end of the day. Perfect is the way my son smells after a bath and the way he states without doubt that I will keep him safe when he is scared or needs assurance.

Perfection is seeing my son grow and learn every day.

For several months now, Ben has been obsessed with the car wash. He would ask to go every day, but for many months was scared to the point of crying as we went through. Eventually, he learned to not be scared of the noises and the spray, but he would still ask to hold our hand for the duration. I would point out how the big blue brushes look like Cookie Monster and he laughed, but still he held tight.

Yesterday as I filled up with gas and he asked to go through the car wash yet again, I conceded. He very thoughtfully asked to hold mama’s hand, but half way through he let go and just looked out the window and marveled at the colors of the soap and the “rain”. While I knew this was what I wanted, for him to no longer be scared, I also felt my heart take a beat. He had figured it out on his own and didn’t need to hold my hand. He had determined this on his own, perfectly. And once again, my definition of perfection changed a bit.

Perfectly Watered Flowers

Crying in an airport bar is frowned upon, but as my son breaks down, due to exhaustion, illness, and missing his mama, it is an inevitable side effect.

I have spent the week trying to make a client who doesn’t like me happy. I produced a successful event and kept the the wheels turning and here I stand doubting my professional career. It meant being away from my son and husband for several nights and dealing with the every day stressors of being on show site. It meant answering emails at 6am and 9pm. It meant doing things I was never explicitly taught and enduring frustrating looks for things that were out of my hands.

My flight is delayed by several hours, making my return time almost midnight, which doesn’t matter anymore. I just want to get home and see my son. So I Facetime him and the result is sobbing. He is sick and sad and I am not there to comfort him and put all of my energies into making sure he is ok.

I spent my day dealing with a broken table in an exhibitors booth and accusations of it being the vacuum cleaners fault.

My failings at everything seem to be on full blast today. Watching my son cry results in me crying.

I am not succeeding today. I am barely passing.

On International Women’s Day I am dealing with what so many women face. The crushing reality of thinking you have it together and then suddenly finding yourself crying into a glass of wine at an airport bar because you realize you have nothing figured out.

 

 

The Load I Choose to Carry

mama and benThe skin around my finger has been bitten away. People always think I am glamorous when I have my nails done all the time, but the truth is I have to get them done, otherwise my hands become a reflection of the overly anxious, can’t-let-it-drop, nervous, thiiiiiisss close to breaking down, person I actually am.

These days my anxiousness is much more about the pressure I place on myself. Every day. To be something more than I currently am. To be a better mom. To be a better wife. To be a better employee. To be a better sister, friend, daughter, relative, member of society at large. And there are days where that task seems like a mighty river to cross.

I look in the mirror and see the wrinkles getting longer and deeper. The grays becoming more prominent and the clothing size becoming larger or at least not getting smaller.

I find myself completely focused on the status of my son’s teeth, and not at all able to read a newspaper cover story, much less an entire paper from front to back (tell me what the arts section is like again?).

I walk by the pile of bills on the counter and do the mental calculations of when I have to pay them, on what dates they are due, the even greater calculations of when the various utilities will get really mad I haven’t paid them yet, multiplied by when we get paid, divided by how far we can stretch things this month. It gives me pause because I know I have a certain luxury that I can even figure out how to make sure the bills get paid and why am I not more grateful?

Sometimes the sadness of realizing, as new parents with a toddler, you have stopped being included in invitations to social events, makes one feel even worse. Is it due to the fact that your main points of conversation revolve around the consistency of your son’s poop or the fact that you have to, without warning, cancel 85% of the time because you do not have a regular babysitter?

So I struggle. And worry about how I can become better. At quiet moments, which thanks to me purposely getting up ridiculously early just so I can take a shower every day, I still have, I spend much of my time pontificating about the ways in which I  can wake up, smooth my wrinkles, work out, lose a few pounds, return all those texts and emails in a timely manner, call my loved ones, hang out with friends, give to charity, read a book, pay the bills, make doctor’s appointments, cook dinner and get a good nights rest, all well wearing my cutest PJ’s.

In my real life moments, I still get up early and shower, but most days the wrinkles are even more prominent, I am suffering from a hefty case of an insomnia hangover and wearing my husband’s old sweatpants. I don’t workout, haven’t dropped a pound, sometimes I remember to call my mom, read my Facebook newsfeed and look longingly at my friends in pictures and remember when.

The thing is this though, last night, as I was sleeping. I had a wonderful dream. And it was so simple and pure and even thinking about it now makes me smile. It was simply my son, laying on me, napping and snuggling. I was of course jolted back to reality, because he is toddler and never sits still, but I remembered that all of my worries, concerns and fears do not seem to phase him, whether in reality or in my dreams, because I choose to carry those with me and keep him at peace and that is all that I need to be.

The Chaos Theory

When I first started this blog I sort of subtitled it “I didn’t know what I didn’t know”

No kidding.

I have been reading a lot of things lately about people that take issue with parents who are talking openly about the chaos that is having a family with small children. They correctly state that it was their choice to have a family. And of course, they are right. Mike and I absolutely made a thoughtful and as well timed a decision as we possibly could.

And let me be clear, being a mom is the most fun I have ever had and it has made coming home every day an absolutely joy. There is nothing quite like having my little boy run towards me, arms wide open, sheer joy on his face, to come hug me. Watching him laugh and learn every day is the absolute best.

However, the thing is, when you decide to start a family you have no clue. No clue how tired the human body could possibly be. No clue how many things you could think about at once. Parenting is the most impossible to describe experience. I am not saying this on an intellectual level. I could convey, in my more thoughtful moments, what it is like to constantly think about your child in literally every action you take. How I now maneuver around my kitchen so my son doesn’t see the banana in my hand I am using for my morning smoothie. Or how I spent a good 20 minutes yesterday planning my journey home so I could pick up my prescription, while making it home on time to relieve Carolina. Or how I now put off going pee for hours because I sometimes forget.

How there are no steps I take any longer, whether they be work related, personal, health related, time related, familial, etc. that don’t tie back to my son.

I know I am not unique in this. This is not an Annie thing, this is a mommy thing. My entire day is wrapped up in my family and the constant planning that having a young child requires.

But here is the thing. I had NO FRICKING IDEA before this what that actually meant. I thought I was busy, which I was, sort of. I thought I was tired, which I could be, kind of. But man, this is different. My brain does not quiet down. I can wake at 3am and without missing a beat it can pick up where it left off at 10pm. Like, I wake up in middle of sentence constantly

This is the same as being in labor. I thought I had felt pain, but ohhhhhh boy. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Don’t worry I am not going into detail here, but you just don’t have a clue until it happens.

And that newborn tired you feel in the beginning. That is unbelievable. Here is this miracle that you are supposed to love unconditionally but you cannot even see straight because your body is recovering from labor and your hormones are off the Richter scale in fluctuations and your child thinks 12am is 12pm and oh my god you are never going to sleep more than 3 hours in a row ever ever again, this is how you are going to die.

So I would simply say to those that are getting a bit defensive towards  parents who seem to be complaining, they probably aren’t. I think we are just shocked. Shocked at the fact that we are still alive. That our kid is basically in one piece. Shocked that my employer still keeps me employed and I still seem to do ok at my career. Frankly, it is a complete surprise that I am completely clothed with matching shoes most days. And what is the most surprising? Is that I really don’t care about the chaos because I didn’t know I could love someone as much as I love Ben. Chaos

 

 

The G Word

Guilt.

Guilt is heavy when you are a mom.

And I am feeling it intensely these days.

Here is a quick list of what I have felt guilt about in the last few days in no particular order

  1. Not spending enough time with Ben
  2. Working too much
  3. Not having a clean enough house
  4. Not putting together that stupid Ikea table I bought for him like two months ago
  5. Not having lost all of the baby weight
  6. Not dedicating myself to work enough
  7. Not being a good enough friend
  8. Not being a good wife
  9. Not taking the laundry upstairs yet
  10. Not giving our dogs enough attention
  11. Not organizing our closets
  12. Not working out enough
  13. Not eating well
  14. Getting a migraine

As I said, the guilt is heavy.

I have found that in the last year or so, all the things I thought I could balance, I cannot.

For example, I feel this immense mixture of guilt and contentment when I see my friends going out and I choose not to in order to spend time with my family. I travel for work, and every time I leave I count the days until I can get home to my son. I did the math and figured I miss about 2 months of Ben’s life every year due to travel. Not a ton, but enough that it makes the time I do have with him incredibly precious. It makes it so when I am home, I want to imprint on him that I am his person. But that means that I miss my friends sometimes. I feel guilty for not being as good a friend as I used to be.

Or when the day ends and Ben is asleep, I take a look at the very real dust collecting on the floors under the bookshelf in our living room and think I should dust and clean. And then I think of the time I haven’t spent with my husband. That sitting in our family room and talking to him is far more valuable in the long run.

Each day is this struggle of what will I have time to accomplish today? Will I have the fortitude to organize our bills (no) or the motivation to finish folding the whites (always no, poor lonely athletic socks sitting in our dryer for days on end).

I know I am not alone in this. And I also understand that older, wiser people will say revel in the time that you have with your children when they are little and the sweet quiet moments you have with your husband. But that is something said with hindsight running behind them. I currently have guilt, mom guilt, wife guilt, dog parent guilt, employee guilt, daughter guilt, dusty house guilt, taking up all of the empty space in  my brain. Coming from a long line of Irish Catholics I don’t see this subsiding anytime soon.

For now, I guess I will try to shake it off when I can. Force as many snuggles on my son as I can (poor kid) and enjoy that glass of wine with my husband. In the meantime if anyone comes by and wants to check the dryer for the whites and feels the inclination to fold the clothes, please, feel free.

PS: I will let you know if the IKEA table ever gets put together.

The Guiltiest

The best reason to feel guilt

Passing it on or Passing on It

We have been getting asked the question a lot lately of whether we are planning to have a second child. And despite all of the innate problems with that question in general, I generally don’t have the heart to say to people I don’t know if I can do it again.

As I speak to other moms about having children, be it their first, second or seventh, what often comes up is their fear of PPD. For some, they may be having their first, but their predisposition to depression makes it a concern they have to consider. It is probably the biggest factor for me when deciding if we plan to try for a sibling for Ben. I know how I felt, and even though I know that I would have a plan of action in place, that dark and scary place is not necessarily some place I am willing to visit again.

And then, because we are mom’s or want to be mom’s the worry spreads to what we may pass onto our children.

I was incredibly lucky, because minus the usual pregnancy woes, my overall pregnancy and delivery was pretty standard. Ben was born and has been incredibly healthy. I am not religious, but I do acknowledge every day how lucky we are that this has been his health story so far.

But sometimes, as I gaze at my incredibly smiley, sweet, funny boy, I think to myself, did I give him any of what I have? Not my smile or my eyes. Not my pension for smartassery or weird ability to remember mundane facts. But rather, will he grow up with a leaning towards depression or anxiety? What about alcoholism or addiction. All of which run in my family. These are not things I am ashamed of, since they make up only a small portion of my family story, but they are some of the toughest to work through.

The question of our own mental health, and how we handle our children’s future mental health has not always been a topic of regular discussion. It seems that it is only now we feel somewhat ok talking about it publicly. I can’t help but occasionally grimace at the thought of what I am putting out there on a public forum. I have to power through the words Post Partum Depression, in order to say it so it does not betray the lack of confidence I feel in saying it out loud.

So I stand at a crossroads, as I did a couple of years ago. A few years ago I decided that I had found a man that would stand by his family no matter what traits I passed along to our future child (smartassery included). He would love our family if our child had blue eyes or brown eyes, was short or tall, had anxiety or depression or smiled and played all day or a combination of both.

And to the women who worry about what they may pass on to their children, remember all that you are. You are not defined by your depression, anxiety or any other mental health issues that you work through. You are so much more. You are funny and smart. You are beautiful and strong. All of that will also be part of your child’s future. Make that your mantra, as I work to make that mine. You owe your family and yourself that.

Laughter
Honestly? I am pretty sure he thought he was getting a marshmallow.

 

 

 

 

Your life in numbers

609 Days since I first fell in love with you and found out you were coming

581 Days since we told your grandparents you existed

572 Days since we first heard your heartbeat and saw you for the first time

572 Days since I fell even deeper in love

554 Days since we found out that you were going to be a “he”

511 Days since Daddy first felt you kick

511 Days since Daddy fell even deeper in love with you

413 Days since everyone celebrated you getting here

366 Days since I went to sleep pregnant and your Daddy said goodnight and sweet dreams to my belly one last time.

365 since I woke your daddy up and I said “Don’t panic, but I think I am labor”

12:22am: The time I woke your daddy up

20mph; That’s how fast your daddy was going over the speed limit when we got pulled over going to the hospital

721 minutes: How long mommy was in labor for.

12:23pm, May 19, 2017: The day we formally met and my heart permanently altered

7lbs 12oz: How much you weighed

14 seconds: How long you waited until you pooped directly on me

48 hours: Amount of time Mommy and Daddy were awake for before finally sleeping after you were born

3 hours: Amount of sleep we actually got

2 Days spent in the hospital

37 seconds; approximate amount of sleep received over the next three months

60: Amount of times Daddy and I took turns sleeping on the couch

7: Seasons of Friends you probably saw while we tried to stay awake while you screamed with colic

4,000,000: Amount of times I have kissed the top of your head

5: Times I have gotten peed on

2,000,000: Times you have made us laugh

1,000: Times your cries have broken my heart

1,000,000: Times your smile has saved my soul

Immeasurable: The amount that I love you.

Benjamin Walter Maffeo, I had no idea what I was in for when you were first created, but on your first birthday, I cannot begin to put into words or numbers the amount that my love for you has grown. I did not know I could ever love like this. You are the best thing I have ever done. Happy Birthday.