Lessons Learned from Month Six of Parenting Two: Finding My Way

Something feels off. The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler. The tomatoes in the narrow garden that lines the side of my house are turning crimson and the acorns are beginning to infiltrate our backyard. Late August is upon us, but I’m not scurrying about trying to finish my syllabi in time for the fall semester. Instead, I’m experimenting in the kitchen (omg – I baked the most unbelievable carrot applesauce bread yesterday), chasing after Clara and snapping as many pictures as I can of six-month-old Elyse. I’ve turned in my suit jackets for sweatshirts, lecture notes for children’s books and highlighters for Crayons. Yes, DTT readers, I am a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since last winter when I decided to forgo my position at Bridgewater State University to spend as much time as possible with my two little girls. Lord knows how much Taylor and I went through to get them here safely. And because of Taylor’s generosity and ability to provide for our family, I don’t have to work outside of the home. Instead, I get to spend my days perfecting the most difficult, but rewarding, job there is — motherhood.

As you know, over the course of the last six months, I have learned much about parenting two little girls. When Clara was an infant, I felt as if I barely had time to breathe. And now that I have two little ones to care for, it’s a wonder that I remember to breathe at all. As I’ve expressed many times in my writing, my days are full and fly by in a flash. When I finally get a chance to sit down at night, I usually fall asleep before I even get a moment to mull over that day’s successes and failures. Much of my “free time” is spent on the treadmill or in the shower. And it is in these places that I get a chance to reflect on where I was and what I was feeling 6 months, 9 months or even a year ago. I sometimes challenge myself to remember what life was like before children and, you know, it really is quite strange. Before I was a mother, I would hear other parents claim that they had a hard time imagining their lives without their own kids. I would smile and think to myself, “Hmm. Even after I have kids, I’ll still be able to remember what it was like before they were born.” Of course, it wasn’t until after Clara and Elyse came into my life that it finally dawned on me that the message these parents were trying to convey wasn’t quite so simple.

When looking back at my life before my children were born, I see Taylor, myself and our two kitties. I see myself completing mundane chores like going to the grocery store or cleaning the house, walking around the UCONN campus with my arms full of books and my brain brimming over with deadlines and ideas, driving to and from my tap dance class, and a host of other tasks that were the focus of my existence before November 2009. The thread that ties all of these tasks together was that I was doing them alone. Before Clara and Elyse existed, it was just me. I only had to worry about getting myself ready in the morning, myself through the day and myself to bed that night. (Taylor is pretty self-sufficient, I’m not just a lazy, self-absorbed wife. But, I think you get my point. :0)) But now that I’m a mom, I spend my days living the lives of three people — three of us need to be dressed, fed and ready for the day each morning. Three of us need to eat lunch, be entertained and put to bed at night. There are days when I bathe three people, get three of us into our jammies and put all three of us to bed (these days are otherwise known as Taylor’s travel days). Although I absolutely love being home with my girls, in the midst of all of this beautiful chaos, I sometimes feel as if I’ve lost a small part of myself.

Sometimes I don’t feel as if I know where I fit anymore. Now that I don’t have a “job,” I’m having a harder time defining myself. I don’t work, don’t have time to stay up-to-date with current events and watch all of my TV shows well past their air-dates (thank you, DVR). But, in order to ensure that I don’t become consumed with diapers and Dinosaur Train (one of Clara’s new shows), I force myself to do things like run, bake and blog. I need to keep the part of my brain that once was a very busy place — i.e. before kids — up and running. As much as I love my children, I can’t be a good mom unless I’m a happy mom. And doing things like going to The Paint Bar, running a 15K on Block Island and trying to learn the science behind baking so that I can create my own recipes (so excited about this latest challenge!), ensures that I don’t lose that part of myself that once was the only part I knew.

So, dear readers, month six, the month when dear Elyse finally allowed me to sleep eight-plus straight hours, was all about uncovering the “new me.” Believe me, this process is far from over, but I think I’m starting to make some progress — progress which will be periodically reviewed on this lovely blog. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some parting wisdom as I gear up to complete the last couple of days of my 33rd year of life during this Labor Day weekend: “All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.” — George Harrison.

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