Prior to February 7, 2019 I had it together. I could do anything, be anything, try anything – HANDLE ANYTHING. And I could do it cool, calm and collected. Having my first child in 2017 threw me for a short term loop. Becoming a parent is an adjustment, for sure. Working full time with a baby is hard and I’m a worse employee for it, but I still made it work. In fact, I more than made it work – I pushed harder, took on more responsibility, got a promotion. The phrase, “momming like a boss” comes to mind. Cocky much?
Despite the fact that we were just finally finding our stride when our son was little over a year old and I thought, “one kid is easy”, we got pregnant with our second child. We did IVF with both our kids, so having another baby was a very intentional, planned and scheduled act of parenthood.
We welcomed our second (and final) child into our family on February 7, 2019. I had already vowed to handle things a little differently this time around – from birth to breastfeeding to maternity leave and on. Naturally, I learned a few lessons the first time around, both good and bad, and I decided to prioritize my sanity above my pride on all levels. That sounds obvious, but I assure you, the first time around I learned some really hard lessons and paid a high price because of my pride.
My maternity leave was more or less a breeze this time around. My toddler was in daycare full time, the baby was the best and easiest baby in the history of the world and I was bored. Under no circumstance did I ever consider not going back to work. I am a worker, a really hard worker and I love it and take a lot of pride in being good at what I do.
I’ve been back at work six months and I can confidently say that I am unequivocally closer to drowning than I’ve ever been in my life. This is so, SO difficult. Rarely do I go a full day feeling like I have a handle on my life. I’ve never missed so much work. I’ve never disciplined so much. I’ve never cried out of sheer frustration this much. I’ve never reduced a two year old to tears so many times. I’ve never yelled “Enough!!” more than I have in the last six months.
It is 7:03 am and I am rushing around to get everything ready to leave at 7:20 as usual. I change the baby, fill my coffee, put the puppy out to potty (Did I mention we also have a puppy?), make sure my lunch is packed and look over my shoulder to see that the toddler, who is still in his jammies, STILL has not made a dent in his breakfast. “Eat your food or I am turning off the TV!” I say louder than I need to for such an early morning. I pick up the remote and pause the show – my typical tactic to threaten the food into his mouth.
He crumples, his face screwing up in dramatic fashion as he reaches out to the TV like a long lost love, “nooooooooo, I want my TeeeVeeee!” The baby starts whining as she crawls over and pulls herself up on my leg. Her hand promptly slips off my leg and she slams her head on the cabinet. She starts screaming. The toddler still isn’t eating and his wails are getting louder. “Please eat YOUR FOOD!” I plead. I start to cry as I reach over to pick up the baby. How is it possible to be this frustrated, tired and annoyed so early?! It is 7:18, all three of us are crying, the baby has a knot forming on her forehead and we aren’t close to ready to leave yet.
A year ago I never had this problem.
It is 6:04 am, I am sitting on my couch, alone, drinking a hot cup of coffee. My husband scooted out the door 10 minutes ago. I get up at 5:00 a.m. daily in hopes of setting myself up for this moment. The puppy is very active and I pick up the rope to throw to him for the 12th time just as the baby starts making enough noise on the monitor to go get her. I put down my nearly full coffee, lock the puppy in with the baby gate and run upstairs.
I walk back downstairs, a happy, but hungry, baby on my hip and a bottle in my hand. As the living room comes into sight I can see my now empty coffee cup is now laying on its side and a huge, brown, wet stain is forming on the ottoman fabric and floor beneath the tray where I set the cup. Our ottoman is a large chaise piece of our couch and it was expensive. My heart drops to my feet and then explodes into my head as I register what just happened.
I look at the culprit – the sweet, innocent face of our 14 week old puppy. The puppy we recently adopted because just a few months ago we had to put down the love of our lives, our precious dog Cali that blessed us for nine amazing years – our first baby. Resentment, anger and rage boil up in me as I think, “Cali would’ve never done this.” I throw the dog outside, I set the baby down (more aggressively than needed), still unfed and starting to scream, as I try and clean up the mess – tears running down my face in frustration, anger and shame – knowing this was really MY fault.
A year ago I never had this problem.
I’m sitting at my desk at work, my hands run through my hair for the fifth time in seven minutes as I feel the stress starting to overtake me. The kids have both been sick on and off, I have been missing work or trying to work from home, taking kids to meetings with me and I feel six steps behind where I need to be. My phone rings, it’s a media call. I can’t handle this. But it’s my job, I answer, hoping they can’t sense my weariness.
Christmas is in two weeks, we are hosting a party on Saturday, I have my work party the next day and I need to get two ugly outfits, several side dishes and find time to clean my house before we entertain guests. I can’t find the paperwork I need to send our banker, the dog needs his monthly medicine, I need to submit daycare receipts for reimbursement and order our prescriptions before the end of the year. I need to finalize our Christmas card, update the address book, figure out why the baby always has a diaper rash and pray my son doesn’t hit his friends at school and get sent home.
I haven’t had a proper workout in weeks, I am gaining weight and I eat when I am stressed out.
A year ago I never had this problem.
The next day is different. I found the paperwork, I ordered the medication and I took a day off work to clean the house and get in a run. My son didn’t hit anyone, I decided NOT to dress in ugly Christmas clothes and I bought prepared food to take to the party.
Today isn’t a bad day. Both kids are in daycare, I am fully focused on work, the housecleaner is working her magic and I think I have most of my Christmas shopping done.
Tomorrow I will feel overwhelmed with wrapping and grocery shopping and one of the kids will inevitably catch the cold my husband currently has and I will probably miss work, again. If I am really lucky I will get sick myself, call in reinforcements and sleep for eight uninterrupted hours under the haze of Nyquil.
2019 has been the year I learned I don’t have it together. I can’t do everything, be everything or try everything – I can’t handle everything. But the beauty is, I don’t have to. I have a competent husband, an amazing family, a tribe of girlfriends and an understanding boss that all work to make things easier in my life when I just ask.
When I just ask. Didn’t I just vow to prioritize my sanity over my pride? But I haven’t asked. I rarely ask. And that is insane.
But 2020 is going to be the year I ask. Because in a year, I don’t want to have this problem anymore.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “2019.”