Mommy Burnout

I’m a stay-at-home mom of 3 kids and I’m burnt out. I am mentally, emotionally, and physically tapped. I have no more left to give, but keep giving I must because my 5-year-old, 3.5-year-old, and 16-month-old need me. My husband needs me. My family needs me. My friends need me.

My 5-year-old needs to chatter about her social escapades, ask random questions (“What do mermaids eat for dinner?”), and safely lose every one of her marbles in evening meltdowns while I listen, answer, and herd her back into wholeness. My 3.5-year-old needs to ramble about Rock Star Barbie and princesses’ hair, ask 15 times in 1 hour if we are going to Meme’s house even though his book bag and lunchbox are clearly set out for school, and request impromptu cuddles, while I act enthralled, calmly respond, and happily embrace. My 16-month-old needs to cause calamity, rough-house, and breastfeed on demand, while I ensure safety, fun, and nourishment. My husband needs me to communicate and interact like a loving, appreciative, present, well-mannered partner. They all need me to cook, clean, wrangle, organize, referee, chauffeur, and schedule. And just generally be a decent, happy human.

I have neither the energy nor the wherewithal to effectively do any of this right now. Nope. Not a bit.

I’m done. Keg’s tapped. Peaces!

So what do I do when I’m burnt out? Honestly, I snap more than I should. I lie awake wracked with mom guilt from all that I expect myself to do but can’t due to lack of time. I mentally berate myself for each of my accurate and perceived shortcomings. I replay every misstep and lament what was left undone. I feel every ounce of my overwhelmed state. I feel guilty for being overwhelmed instead of savoring this fleeting precious life stage that, one day, I will earnestly wish back into present time. Then I self-defeat by piling more tasks and to-dos onto my rambling list of expectations. Because I’m a mom… that’s what we do. Life does not stop simply because we are exhausted. There is no vacation day for us… no breather.

Without true respite, how do I pull myself out of these natural and normal burnout blips? Self-care, fortitude, and friends. Mainly, though, patience. I try to focus on things that fulfill me, fuel me, and make me feel healthy overall. For some that may be painting or jogging, yoga or reading. For me, sneaking exercise into my daily routine helps immensely. I fuel myself by focusing on hydration and nutritious foods, without depriving myself of whimsical treats. I surround myself with fun friends that leave me feeling supported, happy, light, and positive. I afford myself patience knowing this blip is reasonable, understandable, and temporary.

I cut myself slack. I forgive myself for my abbreviated patience. I remind myself this is temporary. I’ll be back in the game soon.

Mommy burnout doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. It means you’re human.

 

 

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I Wonder What Outsiders Think

I can only imagine what I look like to outsiders. Every day at kindergarten pick-up, my two boys run and play on the school lawn. There, beneath a shedding oak tree surrounded by grass and partially encircled by a well-tended flowerbed, the younger siblings of the school’s students play as we await the daily exodus.

The preschoolers and toddlers run in the shady grass, sharing toys and digging with sticks in the dirt. Meanwhile, moms look on from the sidewalk, chatting about extracurricular activities and school happenings.

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Then there’s me. I bob from one mom group to another uttering perhaps one maybe two complete sentences before racing to fish acorns from my 1-year-old’s mouth (trying not to get bitten in the process and swiping his back-up acorns from his soil-smothered mitts), fetching him from the flowerbed as he attempts to hurl a rock at the school building, redirecting him when he acts like a chinchilla and hurls fistfuls of dirt over himself as if taking a dust bath, prying him off of a bike left locked to the metal bike rack, reminding him not to tackle bigger kids, correcting him when he uses the metal flagpole as his own personal xylophone. Meanwhile, my 3.5-year-old scampers happily with the others, playing tag or airplanes in the sun.

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Every day I leave pick-up feeling like a haphazard bulletin board. Ideas and phrases, reminders and memories tacked at random but none of it illustrating a cohesive work. It’s simply an organized mess. Harnessed chaos.

And such is my life with three kids 5 and under. It’s a mess. It’s chaos. It’s exhausting. It’s mine.

One day I’ll be able to speak in complete sentences. One day life will be calm.

Until then, I will run and chase and scold and laugh and save and redirect, all while trying to pretend I am still capable of adult conversation. I will live this mayhem — exhausted and fulfilled — every day I’m able.

Who cares what outsiders think? I hope they laugh. I do.

To Dive or Swim?

“Congratulations,” the pediatrician said to #3 during his 1-year well-check, “you’re a toddler now!” And with that, I am now in a weird state of mourning, confusion, and relief.

#3 just had his first birthday and, being the delayed processor that I am, I am only now emotionally experiencing the life event. I am only now coming to terms with this possibly being my last baby.

No more heavenly calm of a newborn asleep on my shoulder, no more hourly nighttime feedings, no more infant coos, no more labor and delivery recoveries, no more baby cuddles, no more diaper explosions, no more tiny footsie pajamas. There is so much that would rest sadly and happily in the past.

As I process my mixed emotions I begin to wonder if we should have another. In no way does my body yearn to become pregnant again. In no way do I look at an expectant mom or new baby and palpably yearn to be in that life season. For the first time in 7 years, I am not craving a baby. But yet I fear letting go of this life stage.

Will I regret it later if we don’t try one last time? Will I regret it if we do? Would the extra addition prove to be just too much?  We’re already testing all of our limits with 3 under 5. Still, as ridiculous of a reason as it may be, having a baby would keep us in this life stage longer.

My children will keep growing, moving further into their own lives and away from me. They will develop and mature, they will identify as individuals instead of as my children. I know that having one more baby wouldn’t halt that eventuality, but it would prolong my stay in this harried, exhausting, yet wonderful time… the glory days of my maternal career.

Then I think of how much easier things are with #1 and #2, being past the infant neediness and the toddler self-endangerment phases. Potty-training is done, strollers are gone, self-sufficiency is increasing. They can communicate their needs clearly. They understand social expectations (though they don’t always meet them.) They can play in a room independently without risk of grave injury or damage. They squabble and tantrum, but they are increasingly independent. It’d be nice to have the demands of very young childhood behind us for convenience’s sake.

With a 1-year-old, 3-year-old, and nearly-5-year-old, I feel as if my head is just surfacing above a rough swell. It’s beautiful beneath the waves, simultaneously tranquil and perilous, but I can only hold my breath so long before I must rise for air. Once I see the world above the sea and breathe freely, can and should I dip down again knowing my submersion will only be temporary? Knowing that the surface I see now would be entirely different the next time I reemerge? Will the sea be too rough next time? But if I don’t dive soon, I’ll lose my chance for good. Will I mourn my missed opportunity?

I know I have months before I could even begin trying (thank you, breastfeeding for delaying that cyclical annoyance!) and I wouldn’t even want to start for a while (I survived 2 under 2 once… once was enough.) Still, as a planner, I want to know. I don’t feel ready now, but will I later? Will life simply make the choice for us one way or another? Who knows?

In the meantime, I’ll just tread water and enjoy the view.

Don’t Believe Social Media

You see this picture? It’s a lie.

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You see that happy, care-free grin on my vacation-tanned face? It’s fake. I was unhappy, distraught, and lost. I was in my mid-twenties battling unexpected infertlity. You see how the photo is precisely cropped mid-bicep? That’s to hide my bloated, distended, pained abdomen occupied by two large ovarian cysts. You see my hair windblown and seemingly naturally volumized by the sea breeze? I had spent mournful time styling it to camouflage the hairloss from my previous bout of ovarian cysts. But all you see — all I allowed you to see — was a sunny seaside picture.

This photo of me on an over-sized chair? A farce.

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I’m bronzed and cheerfully grinning from my perch. It doesn’t show that, mid-vacation, I had an intravaginal and pelvic ultrasound for the umpteenth time due to Clomid-induced ovarian cysts. It doesn’t show that — yet again — I was prescribed birth control to irradicate the fertility-thieving, painful, hormone-razing growths despite me desperately wanting to become pregnant. It doesn’t show how painful it was to walk or stand. It doesn’t show that the reason I’m wearing a dress is because it hurt too much to wear anything with a waistband. All you see — all I allow you to see — is a cheesy posed photo.

You see this photo of a young, happy married couple? A red-herring.

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Yes, we were young. Yes, we were married. But, no, we were not entirely happy. We were struggling to conceive; struggling to hide our infertility battle from the outside world. It was becoming increasingly challenging to camouflage, to duck the questions, to artfully present ourselves as content in our family-of-two existence when what we really wanted was for our bodies to work, to provide us with a baby.

Don’t believe social media. Don’t get caught up in the filtered Instagram shots, toothy Facebook posts, and cartoony Snapchat images. You’re seeing facades, not reality.

You’re not alone in your struggles, we’re all battling something. You’re not lesser or lacking, no one is perfect despite what their photos may show. Your kids aren’t the only ones who meltdown in epic rages at the end of the day. Your dog isn’t the only one that uses your entry rug as toilet paper. Your family isn’t the only one with reality TV-level drama. Your job isn’t the only one that sucks, demands too much, goes nowhere, or pays too little. Your home isn’t the only one filled with more than one junk drawer or clutter heaps or dustbunnies or laundry or all of the above. And that’s ok.

You’re only seeing what others are allowing you to see.

 

A Carseat Wish

Some days you buckle and tighten the carseat straps in seconds as your child contentedly smiles up at you. Other days the straps and buckles are more like a Rubik’s Cube than restraining devices, twisting and misaligning with each effort. Certain days your child  contorts and flails making carseat buckling an olympic contact sport; facepainting a hyperactive octopus would be easier. Then there are the days you get stuck trying to get out of your own carseat.

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

May your carseat straps stay untwisted, your toddlers amenable to buckling, and your carseat exits unimpeded today, my friends!

 

Scared of Being a Boy Mom

When I found out #2 was a boy I was simultaneously terrified and sad. I wasn’t ungrateful for my child. I was mourning a life vision and fearing a new life long challenge. But people don’t admit these things, so I tried to hide my inner turmoil.

I had always understood girls, I had already birthed and begun parenting one daughter, I came from a predominantly female and matriarchal extended family… boys were unfamiliar territory. I had always envisioned having daughters. I hadn’t really considered having a son. Of course I knew it could happen, I just hadn’t banked on it. My life expectation had shifted, I was sad at my dismantled vision and felt wholly unprepared for my impending undertaking.

I knew my fear and mourning were natural, but I felt immense guilt for experiencing the emotions. I wanted to hide my feelings to protect my son from assumed and projected eventual hurt. I would never want my child to feel lesser, unloved, or unwanted; each of my children is a precious and unique gift. However, my gratitude didn’t dismiss my worry of being unfit or my mourning of a broken dream.

20-weeks pregnant with #2, my anatomy scan neared. My mind circled on the baby being a girl. As if sheer thought could solidify my intention. I knew in my heart that the baby inside was a boy, but I was so fearful of my perceived incompetence as a “boy mom” that I willed and wished otherwise. I would repeat the girl name we’d chosen over and over in my head. I wore pink to the anatomy scan. I said a quick prayer in the waiting room. Though I felt — I knew — this baby was a boy.

Just minutes in, there it was on the screen: #2’s manhood in full spread-eagle glory. There was no doubt, #2 was a boy. My heart raced. I choked up. Not in regret, but in fear.

I seriously doubted my ability to parent a boy, to connect with a boy. I adored the pink and the ruffles, the outfits and the sass of girls. I loved the wide open field of options to girls: be a tomboy, be a girlie-girl, be a science enthusiast, or a theater buff… society allowed for it all. Boys, though, their socially accepted fields of interest were narrowed and dangerous prejudice provided steep fences between sanctioned and unapproved interests. That scared me.

And so, I grew rounder and #2 grew larger. 17.5 weeks later, he made his debut. He looked exactly like my husband: nearly black hair, almond shaped eyes, and pointed features. He was precious. He was calm. He was perfect. He was healthy. I could not possibly love him more.

Days turned into months and #2 grew. He lengthened and pudged, transforming into a fair-skinned, round-featured infant with thick black eyelashes and big, crystal blue eyes. He was cuddly and playful, easy-going and a great sleeper. He was the opposite of my needy, assertive, headstrong, sleep-challenged daughter.

#2 turned 2… the tantrums ensued. They never reached the 30-minute screaming fests #1 waged. He didn’t have the stamina, the focus, the stubbornness. He was open to relenting. He also caused a whole new type of mischievous mayhem than #1 had ever attempted. Gates were obstacle courses, air vents were portals of mystery, toilet paper rolls were activity centers, mud puddles were for sitting, and his genitalia was his own personal fascinating, ever-present amusement. The world was to be deconstructed to be understood, limits were to be repeatedly tested to be accepted.

Months turned into years and #2 became a preschooler. Unlike my fashionista daughter, he didn’t care what clothes he wore; mostly he just preferred to go pantless. Best friends with his big sister, enthralled by princesses and mermaids, fascinated by airplanes and helicopters, #2 didn’t fit a standard mold. I learned each day from him. He saw the world differently from me. He opened my eyes. He made me laugh every single day.

Now, I look at my silly, sweet, professional-little-brother son and think how perfectly it all worked out. I am so glad someone much smarter than me is running the show. I am happily a boy mom, though I still have much to learn.

 

Beach Trips Then and Now

“This will be your last relaxing vacation for at least a decade. Enjoy sitting now!” A mom wrangling three young children on the beach once told me as I sunned my 34-weeks round self on a pre-first-baby vacation. I smiled, thinking that Hubs and I were excited for just that eventuality.

As young beach-going adults, Hubs and I would wake up late, go out to a lazy breakfast, get dressed for the beach, walk to the seaside with a towel over our shoulder and drink in our hand, and find our sandy spot as young families made their naptime exodus.

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Hubs would get restless after a while, but witnessing the antics of children on the beach was enough entertainment to satisfy us both. We loved watching their wobbly trudges through soggy sand, reveled in their youthful fascination with the surf, and speculated about how we’d address hypothetical tantrums. “Beach trips will be so much fun when we have kids,” we’d say imagining sand-dusted baby rolls and seaside castle-building.

After a few hours on the beach, we’d head back to the house, shower, nap, get an afternoon coffee, relax, wander through town, and go out for the evening. Now, a decade and three kids later, our beach trips are much different.

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#3 wakes at 6:15, I lumber downstairs with him to pump while trying not to wake the entire house with his pack-and-play protests, #1 awakes around 7:30am and eats her breakfast while watching a show on the Kindle, #3 plays in the tub while I get ready for the day, then #2 awakes by 8:00am to eat. By 9:15am our cooler is packed and we’re lotioning up for the beach.

Seaside, we unload ourselves from the minivan. With #3 strapped to my chest, #1 and #2 hold my hands as I walk ahead of Hubs who pushes the fully loaded beach cart stacked with beach chairs, a foldable tent, beach toys, the cooler, the diaper bag, and towels. Our herd sets up camp near the ocean and there our morning of wrangling and digging, refereeing and shell-hunting, laughing and eating begins. Sitting happens in 2-3 minute increments. Lounging is a distant memory. Boredom is a forgotten sentiment.

Around midday, #2 and #3 begin to melt. It’s naptime and time to head back. We fold, stack, and pack our beach plot into the cart. We trudge to the minivan, the beach clinging to our sweaty, SPF’ed skin. “Get in you car seats. I’ll check your buckling.” I call to #1 and #2 as they scramble into the van while Hubs loads the trunk and I harness #3 into his car seat.

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As we pull out of our parking space, our former selves walk past us, towel over their shoulder and drink in their hand. By the time they hit the sand, we are home. Exactly where we always wanted to be.

Is Having Three Kids That Hard?

“How is it having three kids?” It’s a question people usually ask as they attempt to camouflage their shock (and occasional muted horror) upon learning I have three kids under 5. Honestly, it has its moments — many of them… daily — but it truly is not as anxious and stressful a time as the life-bending, mind-spinning, beautiful upheaval of having your first child. It’s also not as ego-shredding as the inevitable chaos and calamity of shifting to having two children.

With your third child, very little is new. Diaper rash: been there. Growth spurts and potty-training: lived it. Weird, fun, and loathsome phases: check! It’s all familiar. You know all of the run-of-the-mill childhood viruses — Roseola, Coxsackie, Fifth’s Disease — and can generally tell the difference between allergies, teething, and a cold. Though, by your third child, noses are like butts: you wipe others’ more frequently than your own on a daily basis.

By the time you have the third kid, it takes a lot to rile you. Baby licks a trashcan: immune system boost! Baby refuses baby food: temporary cost savings… you know he won’t go to college exclusively breast/formula fed. Baby gnaws on the toy that the kid with the nasal deluge just licked: ehh, you’ve got a Nose FrIda and saline spray. Baby is slow to walk: score… a temporary reprieve from the eventual mayhem. Baby pops a dried leaf in his mouth: ruffage! 

With the third child you’ve learned that child development and parenting books are generalizations, not Bibles or fodder for competition. You’ve perfected your response to unsavory unsolicited parenting commentaries. You’ve realized babies are heartier than you’d suspect. You’ve mastered the death glare and become immune to the public tantrum. Essentially, your give-a-shit has been lowered mightily to a nice, comfy level.

You’re calmer and more knowledgeable, harried and constantly covered in someone else’s bodily functions, but you’re cool with it. Chaos is your comfort zone.

You know that everything — every phase, stage, achievement, and struggle — is temporary. You learn to savor the good and trust that the bad will be but a memory in due time.

Having three kids is challenging but it has its perks. I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or a solid night of uninterrupted sleep.)

 

 

 

In a World of Killer Vegetables

In a world in which even frozen vegetables could kill us, I say choose your battles and keep it moving. We’re guaranteed to seem reckless, overprotective, uneducated, paranoid, lazy, over-achieving, or misguided to someone no matter what we do. There will be studies and articles and blogs and soothsayers that will oppose our every step. So, go with your gut and do your best.

Wearing sunscreen can be lethal, but not wearing sunscreen is also deadly. You should get daily doses of vitamin-D through unprotected time in the sun, but the sun is a cancer-causing fireball of death.

Mosquitoes are hazardous, yet bugspray is poisonous. And don’t even consider pesticides… SAVE THE BEES! Weed-killers are for Earth-haters but the “wild meadow” look has yet to be sanctioned by the HOA. Plastic is toxic but glass is toddler-unfriendly (and dowright hazardous to us accident-prone folks.) Tampons can kill you, yet pads are anything but “green” and menstrual cups are downright unsanitary. Whatever you do, though, don’t you dare go free-bleeding! “Breast is best” or is “formula fairest”? No matter what, hide your nipples and cover that cleavage because boobs are for porn and Victoria’s Secret ads only.

Screw it!

I’ll just be over here in a deadly sun spot wearing my Earth-hating disposable nursing pads and coating myself in the last of my poisonous spray-on sunscreen (because it was on clearance, dammit!), as I maniacally eat my lysteria-soaked frozen vegetables out of a reusable cancer-causing plastic container while swatting at murderous mosquitoes and dodging allergenic endangered bees in my weed-adorned yard. Thanks!

 

Photo Tutorial: Using and Nursing in the Ergo 360

I nurse in my Ergo 360 multiple times daily. People often ask how I do it. So, I’ve created a photo walk-through of how I put on and nurse in the carrier.

HOW I PUT ON MY ERGO 360

1. Pick up the carrier and fasten the hook-and-loop portion of the hip belt tightly around your hips, allowing the front panel to hang upside down in front of your legs while you do this.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2. Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt.

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

3. If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether.

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

4. Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps.

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

5. Fasten the shoulder blade clasp. (I recommend having this adjusted to your preferred tightness and positioned at a reachable clasping height by a companion the first time you wear the carrier and then NEVER loosen or move the strap. It’s challenging to adjust on your own.)

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

6. Pick up your baby, with him/her facing you.

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

7. Place the baby in the carrier, shimmying him/her down into the carrier pouch.

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

8. Check that the baby’s legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Check that the baby's legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

9. Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

10. Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.

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Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.

HOW I NURSE IN MY ERGO 360 

1) Loosen the shoulder straps

Loosen the shoulder straps

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2) OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover.

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OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover

3) Shift baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

4) Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

5) Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Hands-free incognito nursing… ta-da!

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