Mother’s Little Helper

Carla: Caryn and I spent an incredible weekend at Christianity 21 and I for one am still so overwhelmed by it all I’m not sure I can write about it yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to connect some dots in the coming days and put words around this amazing experience.

For now, however, I am trying to re-enter my daily life. Today was particularly hard. I am exhausted–in a good way–from the weekend and just want to lay on the couch and process and imagine and nap. But of course that’s not happening–far from it. Precious child #3 woke up at 5:30 ready to eat breakfast. I convinced her to climb in bed and snuggle instead, but that lasted about 15 minutes. She began to get rather vocal about her hunger so we got up in the dark, she ate, I tried not to be bitter, and we got back in bed for a few minutes before the rest of the household woke up and began the day in earnest. Now I’m extra tired and there’s no respite in sight.

We’ve all had days like this, days that for whatever reason start too early, end too late, are too full, are too dull, are soul-sucking or mind-blowing or crazy-making. So what I want to know is, what’s your secret for moving through days that seem endless? Whether it’s something that helps you stay calm, something that perks you up, something that maintains your sanity, or something that brightens the dark corners of motherhood, I want to know what it is.

My list includes–but is not limited to–the following: Diet Coke (although I have given it up for the most part, today was a DC day if ever there was one), a new magazine (I might only get to read it in snippets in the bathroom, but it makes me happy just the same), a plan for dinner, chai tea, peanut butter M&Ms (seriously, these are coated in crack), and my daily dose of wellbutrin. A glass of wine helps, too, but I try to keep the bottle closed until at least 5 p.m..

What’s on your list?

Caryn: Since kicking the DC habit last Lent, I still won’t buy it for the house (though I do drink it socially—you know the drill). So now my vices are confined to my newly acquired coffee addiction, my afternoon tea (don’t think anything elegant here), and the occasional glass of wine (which I used to drink out on the front porch until 1.] I realized I looked like the neighborhood drunk and 2.] It started to get cold).

But, honestly, the things that really keeps me from losing my mind are baby carrots and a good book. Seriously. This is what a dork I am. I go through a bag of the carrots at least every couple days. I crave the crunch like you wouldn’t believe. When I run out, I just about lose my mind. It’s weird.

And the book thing—well—that’s how I escape my life. If I’m not in the middle of a good one, again, that mind-losing thing happens. (Right now I’m trying to get into Anne Tyler’s Accidental Tourist. So far it’s my least favorite of her books. If you must know.)

But I must say—I’m in a better place motherhood-wise right now (Lord knows how long it will last!) than I was, say, a few months ago. So, it’s easier for me to sort of rely on the carrots and books to get me through the craziest days. But when I read an article in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune on the upswing of alcoholism among mothers like us, let’s just say I totally understood why. It ain’t easy.

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Heather on October 15, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I wish I could come up with constructive ways that I get through days, but I usually end up yelling at someone. I want to cry sometimes to release the blahs, but don’t have the time or private space to do so. A six minute commute home from work doesn’t allow for much/any transition time. Essentially, I enter zombie mode and don’t talk. I want to just got to bed for 20 minutes alone in the quiet, but again, don’t have the opportunity. Sounds healthy, doesn’t it? (I’m in one of ‘those’ days today, can’t you tell?)

    Reply

  2. Posted by lisa boylan on October 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Interesting article in the Chicago Tribune and I find it almost uncomfortable. I, too, enjoy the drinks (although usually drink a few beers about 2x’s/week), but do find myself having to limit the intake. If I just let myself go, I could easily drink my cheap beer much more often. I wonder why that is? Yes, I actually enjoy the taste, but it’s more than that … I enjoy that little giddy/light feeling that I get. It makes the end of the say more enjoyable and much more relaxing.
    However, I need to be careful. Alcoholism runs in my family (I think it does in most) and we even have horrible deaths attributed to it. Also, my husband has been sober for over 15 years and while he knows that I am a separate entity and his addiction is ‘his’ addiction, I’m know it worries him if he sees the drinking becoming more regular – which it has at times.
    I am trying to be more open about this struggle in the hopes that I won’t be able to hide behind it if it ever does become more of an issue.

    Now, with all that said – I do have other, more ’socially-acceptable’ ways that I make it through my day. Such as, an addiction to Facebook (Carla can attest to this), multiple cups of black tea with milk (2 tea bags per cup), and a lively online word-game circle of friends.

    With a 2 year-old around the house, showering is not always an option (except for before bed)…….

    And there you have it. A day in the life of a cancer-survivor, stay-at-home mom, wannabe make-up artist, cheap beer drinking, Facebook addict.

    P.S. I accidentally posted this under a different heading – oops.

    Reply

  3. I recently have been struggling to get through some PPD following the birth of my 2nd son.

    The daily monotony of life added to the pressure to be Mrs. June Cleaver is almost overwhelming. As a very liberal, very Christian member of the community, I really struggle under the pressure to fit into the more conservative crowd here. I feel like I have to silence part of me for the greater good.

    I even had a friend refuse to babysit for me because she thought that my task (homework for my Master’s class) should be done after the kids were in bed, and not during time that I should be devoting to either the care of the kids or the care of the house.

    So, yeah, it is THAT kind of a town.

    Drinking helps, but as it was with Lisa, we have strong, traumatic lines of alcoholism in our family and it is a seriously questionable coping mechanism.

    So, what I did was start a local community service network, Seeds Maricopa. It keeps me sane. It keeps me connected to what really matters in life. When I can debate between getting some food to a family without any and dusting my floorboards, guess what wins? It also keeps me grounded. I feel like I want less when I give more, and when I see how grateful people are to get something I take for granted.

    However, even that drives me nuts after a while when people lack empathy or generosity. When I hear people say, “You’re not going to make me do anything too liberal, are you?” more than a few times in a week, I just try to remember that I still have some wine tucked into the cabinet.

    Oh, that and A LOT of dark chocolate.

    And dark chocolate ice cream.

    And anything fried and then dipped in dark chocolate…

    mmmmm….

    Reply

    • Posted by Robyn on October 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm

      Kristi. How dare you have any interest or pursuit outside your children and husband? The horror! LOL.

      I think your grassroots service organization is fabulous. What a wonderful way to reach outside your own life and make a difference in the lives of others! And your sons are learning valuable lessons by participating in your endeavor. Don’t let the motherjudgers get you down!

      Reply

  4. Posted by lisa boylan on October 15, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Mmmmmm …. fried food. Maybe this is why I can’t lose weight.

    Fried food, cheap beer and Facebook – the perfect recipe for gaining weight.

    Kristi, I too, struggle with the Mrs. Cleaver syndrome. After becoming an evangelical, fundamentalist, point-my-finger-at-you Christian when I was 23, my world was rocked when I actually divorced my then-husband at age 28. (shame on me – but dang-it, the guy was really abusive). I even felt as a single person then that I had an image I needed to live up to. When I finally realized I couldn’t do it, I went hog-wild and even got pregnant before marrying my current (wonderful) husband. [waggles a finger at self]. But, this is a whole OTHER subject.

    What I am trying to say is that, even though I continually do things in the backward manner and would so-much like to be a bit more traditional – I also am finding some peace within me. I am finally reconciling with the fact that I am a quirky, Jesus-loving, Facebook addict who recently overcame a rare cancer and likes cheap beer.

    It is wonderful that you started an outreach! I wish I would do that. But, knowing me, I won’t. I’ll just spend my time playing word games and trying to think up clever status updates for Facebook.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Laura S. on October 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    What a great subject… I can already see that so many of us, once again, have a lot in common. The beverages and the sweets, agreed, are really helpful on the long days. If I can just get through the entire process of grinding the coffee beans and filtering the water – the sweet sweet sound of the coffee pot brewing away is as pleasing to my ears as a Patty Griffin tune.

    As the day rounds out around 4pm (approaching crazy time) I’ve also found that I enjoy inviting someone over last minute; a good friend who will not mind a messy me and a messy house. Most of the time this is done on a day when my husband is working late (yes, these are the harder days!) If I think I have some extra food I like inviting them over to share in the pot of soup and the bedtime/bath/storytime routine. It is good for all! Breaks up the day, gets friends involved a bit more in our lives (the nitty-gritty real part of life) and it’s fun for the kids to have these people around. I always feel better; Maybe because if has that “Friday” feel to it. If you don’t have many single and flexible friends who enjoy a last minute free hot meal… I highly recommend finding some.

    One other random thing that always cheers me up are the Little House on the Prairie Christmas episodes. In Walnut Grove everyone is happy and grateful to have a peppermint stick and a penny in their stocking. Home life is un-realistically portrayed as simple (if only) and revolves around the jolly and warm kitchen table.

    Looking forward to hearing from more of you!

    Reply

  6. Posted by Laura S. on October 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Just want to say that I love you Lisa B.

    :O)

    Reply

  7. Posted by lisa boylan on October 15, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Awww – Laura … you just made me tear-up. Thank you, my lovely friend – I love and miss you, too.

    Reply

  8. Let’s pretend that my three year old isn’t yelling from his bed, “Mama Shauna, I’m talking to you! I’m very mad! You’re not listening to me. You’re my best friend. Listen to me!” So much for naptime. We’ve also had a few 5am wake-ups this week, as well as a Trader Joe’s running-away-from-me episode and a face-down screaming fit at church. Ah.

    So what helps me: fresh flowers on the dining room table, the new Martha Stewart Weddings even though I’ve been married for eight years, and cooking–especially the fun, non-hurried cooking. A friend is coming over tonight and we’ll make beef bourguignon, keeping ourselves busy with all the chopping and browning, and I’ll feel much better–the conversation and the kitchen time both heal me.

    Talking with other moms helps me a lot–reading this post helped me. I sometimes find myself in my own crazy universe where every one else’s kids are perfect, and mine’s the only one who drives his mama nuts.

    And yes, I have to keep an eye on the wine consumption–I could easily open a bottle on the dot of five every single day. I’ve taken it down a notch lately, but, man, would it make that pre-dinner post-nap witching hour go a little more smoothly.

    Okay, now he’s kicking the wall and yelling, “Shauna Niequist, I need you!” I’m off.

    Thanks for this post, and super-lovely to spend time with you both this weekend.

    Reply

  9. Posted by lisa boylan on October 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    YES!! I love wedding mags and haven’t looked at anything wedding-ish since, well, since I got married. …and fresh flowers are always lovely.

    Thanks for the reminders.

    I AM craving a beer though. …and let me tell you why.
    The 7 year-old boy that I used to watch last year is here today. So, right when he got here, he crapped his pants. OK – fine – we deal with it. He then proceeded to crunch Chex Mix all over the garage – really, ALL over and then kept screaming while playing (just for fun) after I had told him repeatedly to keep it down since my young-un is trying to sleep. BUT, here’s the kicker … I just walked outside to find him throwing mud, yes-mud, all over my neighbors porch. I was mortified (especially since the neighbor was kind enough to have just brought me over some fresh lemonade). Mud is everywhere including on this little boy. I had him apologize to the neighbor and help clean some of it off (it’s gonna take a long while to clean) and then asked him to wipe the mud off of himself over on the grass. Um – my couch is green, but it’s not the grass. So, I now have a muddy couch.

    If anyone was ever in need of a beer at 2:00 in the afternoon – it would be me.

    Thanks for letting me vent……. 🙂

    Reply

  10. Posted by Steve B. on October 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    True Story:
    Just last week, my wife’s car was making a strange noise so I drove it to work so I could drop it off to get checked out. She takes my car, drops our daughter at school and when she gets back to the car, the battery is dead. She calls AAA (I’m not a total slacker) and they jump start the car. She calls me and I advise her to stop at Pep Boys at the way home and have them replace the battery. She does, but it takes nearly 2 hours and she has a conference call for work. As I’m driving home after getting her car fixed, our daughter’s school calls me and informs me that she’s sick and I need to go pick her up.
    Really?!

    All this to say that if it weren’t for video compilations of people falling down on Youtube, I’m not sure I could get through a day like that.

    Oh, and Lisa B – I’m an addictions counselor who brews his own beer, so I’ve got reconciling of my own to do.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Heather on October 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    okay, i thought of something – semi-sweet chocolate chips in the freezer at ALL times.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Kimberly on October 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Dear Ladies, doesn’t anyone simply increase their hours in prayer, have longer quiet times or simply spend more time in the Word?
    OK, seriously fellow mama’s, thank you for laying it all out there and not giving those often unrealistic “perfect sounding christiany answers.”
    My first response to Caryn’s question, is “this too shall pass.” I have to work very hard to not squish up my face, tilt my head and look with confusion at those older, wise mama-women who assure me it all goes too fast and soon they are out of the house. Instead I nod in agreement with that sweet, well intended nugget of truth I’ve never ever heard before. Then I work really hard to not feel guilty for looking forward to the empty nest years. Don’t get me wrong, I love my babies, as I know you all do, just on those days, I’m ready for grown-up relationships with my kids.
    I also drink my Two Buck Chuck (let me say thank you for the 5:00 permission. I always waited for the kids to be in bed. Thing is, should I start at 5, that bottle will be EMPTY come bedtime. Would that be a bad thing?) Pepsi is my other drink of choice, can’t even go with a diet soda. Unfortunately, I can’t have just a little of that sugar and caffeine cocktail, I drink it by the gallons. So I try to consider my belly and stay away from it. DH knows it’s been a bad day when I ask him to bring home a big gulp.
    I escape and find validation through blogs and groups such as this. I spend time on facebook, even if it is on my cell phone, in the bathroom.
    Oh there’s more, but for now, I got to tell you, I am on a mission to seek out the crack covered M&Ms Caryn refers too.
    Thanks for continuing the discussion. With love and respect and anticipation for sharing a glass of wine with you all one day, Kimberly

    Reply

  13. First off, thank you Robyn for using the word “motherjudger” in your post. In college, my linguistics prof challenged us to someday introduce a word into the lexicon, and I think this is my big shot at linguistic fame!!!

    But I wanted to add something and that is that I KNEW this would happen: Just after I sort of smugly typed that I was in a “better season” of motherhood, all went to pot. These past two days have been pure chaos. Me and at least one child, together at all times from 6 am to 10 at night. Seriously. The only thing that’s been getting me through was the thought that a bed (although I’ve ended up sharing THAT with at least one sick child too!) awaited.

    Thank you all for your comments and ideas. Your words are helping me face this day. My kids right now are trying to out-sing each other (and they’re screaming “Jesus! Prince of Peace! Glory! Hallelujah!” in the background). It’s only 9:40 and my husband is out campaigning all day. How will I make it through?

    Reply

  14. Posted by Carla on October 17, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Caryn: two words–Trader Joes.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Melissa on October 23, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Being new mommy to a kid with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) provides many opportunities for crappy days. One benefit is that you learn a lot of helpful things while your child’s mental health care providers are teaching your child new strategies.

    Okay, I admit that this is going to sound a little too clinical and scientific. But if it works for my kid with PTSD, I figured it might work for me too.

    I’ve learned that when you are stressed, your brain just doesn’t work well, especially the parts responsible for rational thinking, organizing, and memory. With prolonged stress or a really stressful event we go into freeze, fight, or flight mode. No wonder we can’t function!

    I’m trying a new thing with some success. It really did sound too easy to be helpful:
    1. Stop.
    2. Take several of slow, deep breaths.
    3. Ask myself, “How do I feel right now?”

    I am amazed at how well this works. Even better than my former favorite of food loaded with carbs and fat! Learning to kiss salty, crunchy snacks goodbye.

    I’ve also checked out the science on this…

    * When we are under stress we tend to use our adrenal system.

    *Fatty food stimulates dopamine and nor-adrenaline, both responsible for giving us the “rush” we need to cope with crisis.

    * Eating what we crave raises our blood sugar levels.

    * Neurotransmitters in our bodies are temporarily elevated. This is mostly dopamine which releases chemicals including endorphins that give us a feeling of pleasure and serotonin which produces a feeling of well being.

    * One of the stress hormones (cortical) can also shut the stomach down and won’t let food digest (which is why we don’t crave hard to digest food like broccoli).

    I also do some moaning and groaning praying. Thank God for my African American friends and Gospel music who taught me how to do this. It is not uncommon to hear me praying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” or “Help me, help me, help me, Lord.” My kid thinks I’m crazy, but it really does help me.

    Reply

    • Posted by Robyn on October 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

      There is a REASON I crave “comfort food” when I am stressed and actually feel better when I eat it! Thank you so much for that. You have no idea how great it is to know that there is science behind that.

      Reply

  16. Posted by lisa boylan on October 28, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Oooh Oooh – I have another one!

    THIS is getting me through today: putting my 2 year-old down for his nap, eating English Tea cookies, and watching Sex and the City (the movie) while painting my toe nails fluorescent pink!!

    But, that’s just me….

    xox

    Reply

  17. Posted by BornFreeMom on December 24, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has children that occasionally (often) wake up before dawn. Sorry about the rough day. Chocolate does help 🙂

    Reply

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