Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “struggles”

A change is brewin’

I’m 39.

That might be really old or really young depending on who and where you are.  I have to admit that most of the time it feels kind of old, especially when I look at how much energy my kids have comparatively.

A little over a year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to be 40 and fat.  I knew I had no control over the 40 part, but the “fat” part of it was a different story.

Going back about 8 years now, I decided to become “Off Duty Mom” when I felt that too few people were talking about the ugly side of motherhood or parenting, for that matter.  I needed more people to be open about hemorrhoids, varicose veins, tantrums, post-natal constipation, potty-training, the obnoxiousness of Caillou and the vast abyss of Thomas the Tank Engine and Minecraft into which so many kids fall.

But, it seems that people are talking about those things now.  I am really happy that new mothers now won’t have to deal with what I did:  believing that everyone else had an easy go of it while I was over here crying every night at 7 PM for NO REASON WHATSOEVER (aka:  hormones) after giving birth.  Had my dear friend not said to me, 3 months before I delivered, “when I had my daughter I was not prepared for that much bleeding.  I mean there was blood everywhere,” I might not have known that sleeping on a bed that looks like it was prepared by a serial killer ready to dismember his neighbor and a small elephant or that those giant mesh undie things would be so very, very necessary.  Oh, the joy that was the icepack panty pad.  What a motherfucking fantastic invention.  And, had my mother not given me fiber pills when I came home from the hospital and just said, “TRUST ME,” I wouldn’t have been prepared for the colossal fucking ass-rip that was trying to poop after delivering a baby.

My kids are school-aged now and that comes with new challenges for me.  But, when I hit my don’t-be-40-and-fat “eureka” moment, I knew that I wasn’t just all about the kind of vanity that comes with wanting to lose weight in your 20’s.  It wasn’t about a goddamn thigh-gap.  It was about living a long and healthy life with my family.  I wanted to be strong and fit.  But, most of all, having struggled with depression and anxiety for so long, I wanted to stop the incessant message in my head that said about so much:  “I can’t.”

I repeated the ugly “I can’t” message to myself probably a few dozen times each day, every day.  It related to what I felt was utter exhaustion about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. around me.  “I just can’t stay up any later.”  “I just can’t run and play with my kids outside.”  “I just can’t walk to the park.  We have to drive.”  The list went on and on.  There seemed to be no end to the things I told myself I couldn’t do as a mom, as a teacher, as a wife, and just as a living, breathing human.

So, I am moving on to talk about something else now that I don’t thing enough people are honest about:  aging gracefully.

Actually, cosmetics companies, fashion magazines, celebrities and other people I don’t particularly want to hear weigh in on the subject are talking about it plenty.  But, I am not hearing a dialogue about what matters to me.

So I am going to start one.

Ever seen a video online of some amazing 65-year old bodybuilding and being all “If I can do it, anyone can!  I’m 65!  Get off the couch!”

Fuck you, 65-year old.

I started CrossFit almost exactly one year ago.  I am most decidedly NOT starring in videos, lifting 150 pound over my head and telling people to get off the couch.  I am in no position to tell anyone a friggin’ thing about fitness.

When I tell people I do CrossFit, I get one of two reactions: awe or confusion.  Some people have never heard of it.  But, most think that I am fucking nuts.  They think I throw tires and run 5Ks with kegs of beer on my back.  Actually, I do push-ups on my knees and I get lightheaded after running 100 yards.

That fit, smirking 65-year old in the videos started small, too, I am guessing.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’all.

So, I am recharging Off Duty Mom.  I can’t talk legitimately anymore about how annoying Elmo is because

  1.  I am no longer in a place where Elmo is in my world.  It’s all K.C. Undercover and Avengers movies ’round here now and
  2. It’s been done and overdone.  Blah Blah Blah Being a Mom is Hard.

I mean, being a mom is still hard.  But, what I am finding hard at this point in my journey is how to be better to myself for my family.  How do I increase my life span and breathe in life with more joy and less exhaustion?

I will be sharing with you now the Off Duty Mom journey of growing older, becoming stronger, finding more positive headspace and not being 40 and fat.

Thanks for your readership up to this point.  I hope you’ll be interested in opening conversations about how we can (and must) take better care of ourselves not so we can compete with the 22-year old moms at the pool whose bodies just sprung right back into magazine-cover shape post-partum (“it was so easy!”), but so we can grow from our former selves.

Join me.

…Or Get Off the Pot

How hard can it be to potty train a three-year old?

If you have to ask, you probably don’t really want to know.  

Yeah... This "potty" stuff doesn't always go as planned, I guess.

DAY 1 — After reading some parenting magazine article about how to potty train a kid in one weekend, I decide to employ the potty training technique where you introduce the potty and then usher the kid to it every 15 minutes without fail.  This is even more gruelling than I thought it would be and I get far less accomplished than I imagined in my wildest dreams.  The 15-minute interval regimen doesn’t even last until lunchtime before it slowly goes to every 20 minutes, then 30.  But, all in all we’re fairly successful and pottying and pleasing Mommy seem to be good motivators.

DAY 5 — Making Mommy happy?  Who gives a shit?  Not my preschooler.  So, we hang a reward poster in the hall and my little guy gets to put a sticker on it every time he successfully gets something – anything – in that potty instead of his pull-up.  Thomas stickers work better than Elmo.  And, Toy Story stickers seem to work best of all.  Whatever.

DAY 10 — If Mommy remembers every hour or two to tell her son to use the potty, he generally will.  But, he will NOT alert her to his need to use said potty.  Fine.  I can hang in there.  How long could this process take?

DAY 14 — After reading another theory about potty training, we decide to repeat a hundred million times each day “Pee goes in the potty,” or “poop goes in the potty.”  We hear that these statements are the only ones you need and the only ones that matter.  Bullshit.

DAY 23 — I read another philosophy of potty training for boys that informs me that they will use a potty “when they are each individually ready.”  I am not to pressure a youngster who is not developmentally prepared for this adult endeavor.  So, I feel like an ass for all the yelling I have been doing when pee and poop have ended up in anywhere but in the toilet.  Clearly, I am the worst mom in America for pushing my three-year old to aim for Froot Loops in the family commode.

DAY 32 — Seriously?  32 days now?  He’ll be wearing diapers at his wedding.  Do I even bother to buy more pull-ups or should I just give up and put diapers on him again?  Ugh.

DAY 36 — We haul out the Toy Story and Thomas-themed big-boy undies.  The hope is that he wouldn’t dare crap all over Buzz Lightyear.  That hope is soon lost.  So is the hope of rearranging my living room couch again.  It…um…should really stay right where it is on top of that carpet.

DAY 65 — We set out for family vacation to the beach.  The new plan coincides with yet another theory published by another genius pediatrician.  Let him be naked.  He won’t just pee all over himself.  Oh yeah? 

DAY 66 — Okay.  So, we decide not to put a pull-up or swim diaper under the swim trunks on vacation.  Pull-ups only at night.  For the most part, this works nicely, but we still have to be vigilant about telling him to use the bathroom.  At least he will hold it until we tell him to go.  But, in all this time he has not once told us that he had to go.

DAY 74 — While running around in his swim trunks, little guy says, “Mommy, I have to poop!”  Victory!  We rush to a toilet and he uses it properly, quickly and efficiently.  We’ve done it!!

DAY 99 — Yeah… It’s day 99.  We most certainly have NOT “done it.”  We’re on our 477,000th package of pull-ups, I am sure. 

Fuck you, mom-whose-kid-that-is-who-pooped-where-you-wanted-him-to.

DAY 100 — On the 12-hour ride home from the beach, the little man refuses to use the potty all day.  We find him at the end of the evening, sitting happily on a completely soaked car booster, watching a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD in the car.  He is drenched from the waist down.  He literally drips when we take him our of the car.  Thank God for leather seats.

DAY 102 — Little guy starts preschool.  Surely the positive peer pressure from other trained kids will make him want to use the potty more regularly himself.  Right?

DAY 109 — Little guy stinks to high heaven when I pick him up from preschool.  The kids still PLAYED with you while you stunk like that?

DAY 114 — I start giving prizes (bribes) for successful pottying and dry/clean pull-ups and I start taking away privileges when the little guy sneaks off to another room to crouch down and poop in his pants.  One conversation goes like this:  “Do you want to play with your fire truck?”  “Yes!!!”  “Okay, then no pooping in your pants.  Do you understand?”  “Understand.”  “Okay.  Good.”  “Mommy?  I pooped.”  “Okay, so you don’t want to play with your fire truck, then?”  “Noooooooo!!! I dooo!!!  I dooo want to play with my fire truuuuuck!!!  I doooooooooooooo!  Aghhhhhh!!!”  “Well, I said that you could play with your fire truck only if you don’t poop in your pants.”  “Aghhhhh!!! Noooo!!!  I dooooooooo!!!  Gimme that!!!  Give it to me right noooooww!!!”  “Well, we can try again tomorrow.  If you stay clean and dry, you can play with it tomorrow.”  You can imagine that this went on for some time.  And, on Day 115, he did not manage to stay clean or dry.  At one point, he peed so much, he soaked through his pull-up and pants, it dripped into his shoes and created a puddle on my hardwood floor.

DAY 129 — This all has spun widly out of control and has become a real power struggle.  As he seeks autonomy, his control of his body is really the only thing in his little world he can much control anymore at all.  So, he flatly refuses now to use the potty.  In fact, “Please go potty and wash your hands” is now typicaly the catalyst for little guy throwing himself on the floor violently, thrashing, screaming and crying.  Advice from other parents has led me to believe that ignoring a tantrum is the best methodology.  But, those parents never met my kid. I think he’s better at it than their kids.

DAY 159 — Consult with little guy’s preschool teacher: a 26-year education veteran who owns her own Montessori preschool that has churned out some of the brightest scholars in our town.  She assures us that his behavior is NOT abnormal, that he’s just testing his boundaries and that no kid goes to high school in diapers unless he has a developmental or medical problem.  So we are to chill the fuck out.

DAY 177 — It is hard to stay chill when I have now cleaned crap out of someone else’s crack for three and a half years now.  And, I have another infant in the house now, so I have two in diapers, essentially, though I specifically waited three years between their births to avoid this very thing.  Awesome.

DAY 185 — I give little guy a new toy for staying dry all night.  He is so excited.  Ten minutes later, he throws it on the floor and screams that he doesn’t want it.  He wants Skarloey, a new train.  Tough break, kid.

DAY 198 — 8:00 AM:  little guy tells dad he has to poop, then uses the potty all on his own to take aforementioned poop.  9:15AM:  little guy pees in his pull-up.  7:30PM:  little guy hides under the dining room table and poops in his pants.  His play date, a sweet little girl (potty trained at age 2) lets me know he “is playing hide-n-seek.  I found him.  He’s under the table.  He pooped.”

DAY 204 — Another article in some other magazine suggests that I should help my little man to recognize when he needs to use the toilet.  Lady, he RECOGNIZES it just fine.  I swear he just wants to piss me off.  You got advice for that? 

DAY 205 — The smell of feces is now permanently lodged in my sinuses.  I will never be poo free.

DAY 210 — That’s today.  You thought this was going to have a happy ending, didn’t you?  You thought I was going to tell you what finally worked and I was going to get to tell you about how all of this was worth it and it has been a long journey, but that I am proud of my son and I am so happy to have been a part of helping him get closer to manhood and closer to the independence he so desperately seeks himself.  Well, you must be new to this blog.  My kid just told me, “I pooped ’cause I was being a bad boy.  Now, come change me.”  Hmmm…  

Three-year olds. Yikes.

Now, if you aren’t a mom, or if you don’t already know, my kid isn’t an indignant little jerkface.  THREE IS JUST THE WORST AGE IMAGINAGBLE.  I used to look at friends’ kids and think “God, why is he such a little shit?”  Now I know.  THEY ALL ARE.  Don’t believe the “terrible twos” hype.  If you’ve never raised a child through three-dom, you simply can’t understand  One day, perhaps the Off Duty Mom blog will change from being a rant-filled, angsty bitchfest and be a rosy dialogue about how beautiful children are.  When they’re 34.

Who am I?

 

Trent Reznor made me understand  today.

While coming home from the grocery store, my Sirius/XM memory alert thingy ding-donged and let me know that one of my favorite songs was on another channel.  I absent-mindedly switched over.  

Then, I suddenly found myself alone in my car, radio blasting something from Pretty Hate Machine, singing as loudly as I could.  I was 16 again.

My Sirius is almost always tuned to Lithium.  I often hear them say, “You used to Rage Against the Machine.  Now you just rage against the washing machine.”  

THEN.

That pretty much says it all.

NOW.

Remember just having to worry about whether or not your parents UNDERSTOOD you?  Remember not even having to pay for your own gas money, even though your parents swore that you’d have to pay for all your own gas if you borrowed the car?  Remember knowing that you were going to graduate, go to college, get a degree, get married, have a kick-ass career, have a family, live in a house with a driveway, own a dog who could catch frisbees, and then eventually retire to Key West?

Neither did I.

Thought you were angsty, lost and uncertain when you were in 8th grade, though?  Try becoming a parent.

I realized today that one of my biggest struggles as a mother has been figuring out who I now am.  I thought I knew.  And, as I left my twenties and entered my thirties, I felt like so much more of myself and I was thrilled to leave a naïve, self-conscious young girl behind to become a strong, independent woman.  But, then I became a mom.

Everything I thought I understood about the person I was becoming -who I hoped to be- had changed. 

I had been driven in my career – focused, interested in moving up, begging for more responsibility.

Now I wish they’d let me just work part time.  Or telecommute.  Or just pay me to stay the hell home and do as little as possible.

I had been independent.  I enjoyed nights when my husband would work late because I’d take a long, hot shower, watch my favorite TV shows, read a book and eat Ramen noodles for dinner and drink a glass of wine.

Now I am pissed when my husband has to come home late because I am left by myself to deal with screaming tantrums, a family dinner he may or may not get home in time to eat, pureed peas in my hair, a pile of laundry, a stack of work to be completed for – you know – the people who PAY me, and a bank of shows in the DVR that might be watched  sometime before the summer of 2064.  And, you know, just walk away from your desk and come home, jerkface.  I can’t just stay at work whenever I want for however long I want.  Why are you special? 

When I was in high school, I knew exactly where I was going.  I didn’t need a guidance counselor to help me figure things out.   Now I just wish I could find someone to help me sort out my life.  Since I was born with a vagina, I have to choose now between primarily being a parent or being a careerperson.  There aren’t many ways to be both and to do both jobs as well as they can and should be done.   Interestingly, men don’t seem to have to make these kind of decisions.

Though I always figured that I wanted to have children, I never really knew that doing so would make me feel as though I had lost myself.  I am probably not ever going to get that PhD. I had always wanted now.  I will likely not, conversely, make it to every recital, meet, match, game, concert and event in which my children are involved.  Truth is, I don’t really know who I am anymore, and I don’t know anymore what I want to be when I grow up.  But, trying to be a supermom isn’t working out that well.

There’s a whole lot of animosity between stay-at-home moms and working moms.  Many working moms don’t respect the stay-at-home moms.  And, the stay-at-home moms don’t understand why the working moms want their children raised by nannies or institutions.  We should all start banding together and demanding more of American culture – demanding better workplace-based childcare, opportunities for at-home moms to be a part of working society, job flexibility, job sharing opportunities, more paid time off for family sick leaves,  and more mom-friendly business practices in general.

Though I found a little piece of the 1993-me I thought I had left behind today, I am glad not to be a teenager anymore.  I do really love my children and I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate.  I just wish that I could retreat for one afternoon, listen to Liz Phair on my Discman, paint my toenails with Revlon Vixen polish and watch reruns of My So-Called Life.  Just one afternoon is all I ask.  Maybe it will make me feel a little better…

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: