Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Internal conflict and mommy guilt

I don't have a lot of time to blog anymore; therefore, most posts I've put up are either to narrate an event/reflection in order to preserve it for the future or to vent about something so that I can let it go.

This post is a reflective vent, I guess. It's honest. But it's also not likely to make me any friends. I will qualify my statements in a little bit, but here's the crux of my emotional stress:

I think three kids might have been one kid too many for me. I feel completely incompetent when I have the three of them by myself.

Qualifiers: I love all of my children dearly, and I obviously don't have one specifically in mind that is the one too many. I wouldn't trade them for the world. I can't imagine life without them. And honestly, the only slim glimmer of regret I have about being done having kids is that I am emotionally grieving that 4th child we could have had.

But the last week or so has been really hard. I've had help--and it's still been hard. Josh and Sophie have been going to day care most days since shortly after Noah was born. However, Josh got a nasty cold last week, and I kept him and Sophie home one day just because I could. The morning was rough, but my mom came up around naptime and helped make dinner and wrangle kids. It was manageable.

Josh was nearly 100% improved Sunday night, and then he woke up Monday morning blazing hot. There was no way I was sending him to daycare, and if he wasn't going, I didn't want to battle with Sophie that she needed to go. I did think about sending her--mostly because Noah was up Sunday night with what I presume was his first cold. But, I kept all three kids by myself. And it was ok--Josh was right back to his regular self with some Motrin, and he ate and played like normal. He went down for a nap, and when he got up at four, he was on fire. His temp was 103.2, and I called and got him the last appointment at the doctor's office. Tim was able to duck out of work to take him to the appointment at 5 so that I didn't have to drag two sick boys and Sophie to the doctor myself.

Turns out it was an ear infection, and after a bit of a debacle at the pharmacy, he got his first dose of antibiotics Monday night. Tuesday morning he wasn't even warm when he got up, but the kids have to be fever free for 24 hours before going back to daycare, so I had another day home with all three kids yesterday.

That second day was much rougher. I hadn't really slept in several nights because of Noah. He was gagging himself every time he ate. And he'd fall asleep and then start coughing, which would wake him up. My nights were spent trying to settle him every 15 minutes or so.

By Tuesday, I was exhausted, and I happily accepted help from my mom. Tim had to work late. I knew I would be completely wiped out on my own. Mom came up and let me catch a 2.5 hour nap, which is the longest stretch of solid sleep I've gotten since Noah was born over 5 weeks ago.  She bathed the big two kids, cleaned up the kitchen, and made the house look like a hurricane hadn't hit it for two days straight.

Even with a nap, I am completely exhausted. I was secretly relieved that the big two were headed back to daycare today. Noah still isn't himself, and today was spent with him glued to me (and with multiple clothing changes for both of us). Tim worked late again tonight, so I took Noah in to pick up Josh and Sophie at day care. Josh threw fits the entire way out because I couldn't carry him. Then he threw fits when we tried to go outside on the deck and enjoy the first 60 degree day in months. 

And this is the soundtrack of dinner this evening:
Sophie: Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom...
Me: Sophie, one second. Sophie, sit down. Sophie, use your fork.
Sophie: Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom...
Josh: No! (swats at air). More, more, more (throws spoon). No! (swats at air). More (and repeat).
Noah: screaming as I hold him in one arm and try to cut Josh's carrots one handed. Screaming as I try the bouncy seat, the swing, the bassinet, etc. Calm for a minute, and then coughing--which restarts the screaming.

I had an almost out of body experience at that point. I looked at my kids, and while I loved them, I didn't like them very much. And that made me feel awful.

I thought about the billions of women around the world who do this mothering thing so much better than I do. What mom doesn't like her kids? While that feeling only last a split second (though the guilt will last a lifetime, I am sure), I couldn't believe that I was so bad at this. I had three kids--two of whom have been at daycare most of the time--and I was overwhelmed. My mom was one of nine kids, my dad was one of eight, and my mom stayed home with the five of us until I was in high school. I know tons of stay at home moms. They all make it look so easy. How could I suck so badly at this? Isn't mothering an instinct or something?

I felt like I was in over my head. I'm stubborn, and I somehow end up doing things the hard way much of the time (exhibit A: my PhD). I thought that if I could overcome all of these external barriers that had been put in my way throughout my life, surely I could handle something as natural as having kids. And three kids is not a crazy huge brood, especially compared to what I grew up with in my extended family. I can handle three.

We thought about the third child rationally: we can afford three in daycare (for a year, anyway). We have the space. The timing means we are done before I start residency.

We thought about it emotionally: we love our kids, and wouldn't it be great for them to have another sibling.

And like I said before, I wouldn't trade any of them. If I could go back in time to a year ago, and talk to myself before I got pregnant, I couldn't tell myself not to have a third. Having met Noah, I can't imagine life without him. So this is a very weird place for me to be in. I felt like I was treading water as a mom with two kids, and I feel like I am in completely over my head with three.

What a selfish feeling. I don't stay home with them, and I am about to start a time in my life where I will work 80 hours a week; where I will miss dinner at least two of every four nights and miss bedtime one of every four; where most weekends will require me to work at least one day; and where I will rarely (if ever) get to drop them off or pick them up at daycare. Most of my mommy guilt revolves around not getting to see them enough. And now I am selfish enough to be overwhelmed when I do have all three of them together?

I feel like total crap. I feel like I don't have enough of the good parts of me to split between three kids. I suck at being a stay at home mom. I was thrilled if we were were all out of pajamas by noon and had eaten something that wasn't completely crappy food for three meals. I know these moms who are super organized, have well behaved children, and are able to go out and do educational things with a herd in tow. The thought of me taking three kids four and under out anywhere by myself scares the tar out of me.

We were blessed to be able to have kids; we were blessed to have that happen three times; and we are blessed that they are all pretty healthy. How dare I not be grateful for that every moment of every day.

Maybe it's the hormones. Probably it's the lack of sleep. And I know it will get better. That's actually part of what bothers me--looking ahead instead of enjoying today. Sophie is at this amazing age where she is asking questions all the time. She's so inquisitive. But I feel like I am constantly dividing my attention, and because she can amuse herself, she gets the short end of the stick. I make sure we have one on one girl time, but I don't have the undivided attention she deserves.

And I worry about Josh. He's the middle child, and he's always been a challenge for me. And now he's moved into the terrible twos. We've tried to set up the house in a way where we don't have to constantly be telling him "no." I don't want him to live in time out. But he's taken to swatting people when he doesn't get his way, and hitting means time out. So--he spends a lot of time in time out. I don't want that for him. I try to get one on one time with him too. He loves books, and I think I probably read 30 or more books to him on Monday (they are still short books...) I make sure we cuddle, and that he sits on my lap, and that he gets time to choose the activity we do. I don't know if it is the age or the new sibling (or both), but I've really noticed that he has been acting out a lot more.

And then there's Noah. Poor kid hasn't been himself for days. And a little knowledge is a terrible thing--six weeks of pediatrics experience and I'm thinking about all the things it could be. I'm praying every time that his temp is under 100.4 so that he doesn't have to get admitted for a sepsis workup (which involves a spinal tap). Because he hasn't had nasal drainage--just a cough--I'm thinking maybe it's reflux. Then I think about the few episodes of forceful spitup, and instead of thinking that it is due to air (which is probably is, since it usually comes with a big burp), I start to think about pyloric stenosis (he's the right age, male, etc). He's eating well and outputting well, which is basically all a baby has to do, but I keep going through all of these scenarios. It doesn't help that I worry about whether there really was something wrong with him that caused his NICU stay (instead of attributing it to transient tachypnea of the newborn, which is what it probably was). The doctor thought he looked fine at his two week visit. The one month visit was just a nurse appointment to get his second hepatitis shot. I'll talk to the pediatrician again at the 2 month visit, but I just need to find a way to stop worrying.

I just feel like I am failing each of the kids in a different way. Maybe if I only had one or two, I would fail them less. Again, I could never pick one child over another. I just wish I was better at this mom thing.

Even when it is only Noah and I at home, it's a struggle to do even minor things. Some days he sleeps in the bassinet, and I can actually cook/clean/cross things off the to-do list. Other days are like today, where he doesn't rest unless I am holding him. I've tried the Moby wrap and a baby carrier, and he'll put up with them for a short time, but he doesn't like it for long. None of my kids have like to be swaddled, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I just feel like I'm a veteran mom now. It was ok to not get out of bed when I was home on leave with Sophie. She was my first--I was still learning. Noah is my third. I should be a domestic rock star by now.

Instead, I need help. Lots of it. I'm so tired by the end of the day that Tim does most of the dishes/toy pickup. Dinners are usually quick meals or leftovers from days when I did cook. I sometimes get bursts of energy that let me clean a room or two. Honestly though, without my mom's help yesterday, I would've been even more of a wreck. And I don't begrudge Tim the nights he has to work late. In a few months, he'll be covering for me when I work late half of the time.

Shouldn't I be able to take care of three kids by myself without feeling like I want to pass out at the end of the day? With just a newborn, shouldn't I be able to cook and clean during the day so other people don't have to pick up the slack? Shouldn't I be reveling in every day I get with my kids while they are young instead of daydreaming about a time when we won't need a diaper bag and we can actually all go to a restaurant without a meltdown? I know time is short. And with the recent tragedies all over the news, I know that each day is a gift. And yet, I still find myself looking at the clock during dinner and counting the minutes until bedtime.

I know that this makes me sound like a crappy mom. I'll say it again: I love my kids, and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. I really try my best to teach them right from wrong, how to be compassionate, how to share. I try to keep them safe from every danger. I want to do what's best for my kids. And that is where the guilt comes from: would I be a better mom if I only had one or two instead of three?

That's my internal struggle, but it is also a moot point. We have three, I love all three of them in ways I could never quantify, and I just have to find a way to be a better mom to them. Whether or not they are going through tough developmental times, it doesn't give me the right to not be the mom they deserve.

One other qualifier: these moments of bad mommy-ness feelings aren't all the time. There are plenty of times (mostly when the kids are not trying to kill each other) where I feel like we must be doing ok. Sophie and Josh can antagonize each other, but they also love each other. My heart melts when Josh runs up and hugs Sophie when she falls, or when Sophie brings Josh a toy so that they can play. I love that they have each other. And I love that someday soon, Noah will be able to interact with them too. I just pray that the sibling experience they will have with each other counteracts all the mistakes I make as a mom. It's that sibling love that makes me feel better about deciding to have three. They will have each other. I loved having siblings, and I know Tim wishes he had some. It makes a house chaotic. And it creates much drama. But what I learned growing up is that even if you fight with a sibling, you always love them, and they always love you. And no matter what, they are always on your team. No one will fight for you like a sibling will. That is what I love about family. Even if you don't like each other sometimes, you always love each other.

And that is what I told myself tonight. I still feel bad for not liking my kids, even for a millisecond, but I will always love them. God help me when then become teenagers, but I will always love them.

I am going to try and be a better mom. I don't think I'll ever be a supermom, and I think it is good for everyone that I am not a full time stay at home mom, but I love my kids. I'm trying my best. Hopefully, when I start getting sleep again, I'll have more energy to give. I don't want to be in survival mode forever. I want to enjoy each second with my family. Those seconds will be much more scarce in the near future. I need to remember that.

(And PS: just so you don't think this is all hormones, I did take a postpartum depression screen. The high score is 30, the cutoff for possible depression is 10, and I scored a 4. No thoughts of hurting myself or the baby. No crying. Just the occasional feeling--like tonight--of being overwhelmed, and some infrequent worry about if everything is ok with Noah. Like I said in the first part, the blog is a venting tool for me. Most of the time has been just fine, but I really needed to air this out tonight).

1 comment:

  1. You know EVERY mom has these feelings! I probably go through this at least once a month. I honestly do feel we ARE overwhelmed at times with the children and it's OK to be honest about it! There are days where I am a rock star and EVERYTHING on my list gets done and then there are the days where EVERYONE stays in PJs and watches the Wiggles just so I could get some caffeine in before we embark on yet another trip out! The truth is, it SUCKS either way. Being a stay at home mom SUCKS but so does working full-time and wondering if your child is being cared for properly. I thank you for 'venting'! I always tell my husband, 'if these kids weren't mine, there is no way in hell I would stay home with them!' LOL

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