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.

 

 

 

 

My First Mother’s Day

This year I get to celebrate my first Mother’s Day. I have been trying to think of the best way to honor my first mother’s day, my past, present and future and all the moms that have ever inhabited my life, especially my mom. But I can’t. It is too overwhelming.

What I do know on this Mother’s Day is that being Ben’s Mom is an absolute privilege. Every night, when I put him to sleep I kiss the top of his head and tell him “I love you. You are the best thing I have ever done”

When my days are hard at work, a client is upset,  or work has taken a bit too much out of me, coming home to him standing at our big picture window in the dining room, waiting for me, waving furiously, makes me understand that I always have an enthusiastic audience.

When I wake up in the morning and I haven’t brushed my hair and my skin has no make up on it, showing all the signs that I am not 20 anymore and I don’t feel like I could ever be beautiful again, Ben looks up at me and reaches his arms up to be held. He tucks his thumb in his mouth and leans his head against my chest and I think, no I know, that I am the most beautiful I will ever be.

When I have those days where I feel like I may never be a good enough mom, and find that balance between work, and marriage, and life and friends and family and my son, I open our door to our kitchen and see my little maniac running towards me and I somehow find my footing once again.

When I think that maybe I am not going to ever be the mom that Ben deserves, that doubt that every parent, every mom has. He will turn and look at me and say mama and so will my heart along with any doubt.

 

 

To all the mamas out there; seasoned professionals, hopeful mamas, grandmas, greats, aunties, and nanas, fur mamas and of course new mamas, don’t ever let the world make you think you haven’t done the best thing ever. You are a mom, and even though we will spend our lives trying to teach our children, they will somehow end up teaching us everything we need to know.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Being a good parent and a good partner

My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a few days in the Bahamas last week, thanks to him winning an incentive trip through his work. We went by ourselves and left the Bubba with Carolina and both sets of Grandparents. Obviously we missed Ben terribly, but it was nice to be able to hang out with each other and not worry about things like laundry, or how much formula was left. We spent 3 days together and did not discuss his poop at all.

But it left me wondering how do you connect with your partner once you become a parent? We may never get an opportunity like this again, and we have to find that balance between being parents to our sweet boy, working full time and still being considerate of each other. Spending that quality time together.

There are the obvious ones like date nights, but even those aren’t always possible and finding a sitter can be tough. So here are some helpful ways to be show you are thinking of your partner, even in the craziest of times

  1. Does the diaper genie smell like it could be used to strip the wallpaper? Take that bad boy out with out being asked. Or at the very least, give your spouse the heads up that something must have died in there so the next time they open it, they can be prepared.
  2. Is your kid a messy eater? Save your partner some of the scraps of the best food your kid missed from their high chair (tots), place it on a paper towel and call it a snack. It shows you care about their nutrition AND made a conscious effort to clean the highchair. Bonus: if your spouse experiences Hanger, this will help stave it off.
  3. Leave a note in their lunch bag letting them know you are thinking of them always. Sweet nothings like “We need wipes” or “Butt paste” will really show them you always have them at the top of your mind.
  4. Did your partner have a tough day at work? Be sure to crack open a bottle of wine, put on a pair of sweat pants that doesn’t have drool or spit up on it and even leave some of the wine for them to drink. It will really help set the mood.

These are all the ways the Maffeo’s keep it fresh in our household. I welcome all of your suggestions for making sure that your spouse knows they are special. And don’t forget ladies, unbrushed hair and make up you didn’t take off from the night before is simply bed head and a smokey eye the next day.