I have friends who say they found their true life calling when they became a Mother. That all their skill sets lined up and they feel mysteriously equipped to raise little humans. And I believe them. I watch their calm and longsuffering reaction to 2 year old tantrums, or magical intuition for the perfect consequence for childish bad decisions, or the most beautiful of all parental reactions- taking a deep breath and reaching out to give your child a hug when you feel like screaming instead.
It's not just the successful correction and instruction and discipline elements of parenting that makes me admire these friends of mine. It is the hours spent combing the library shelves for the perfect books for the perfect age. The organized craft drawers that can focus a toddler on the verge of a boredom-induced melt down. The days structured into rhythms and patterns that make children feel confident and free because they know what to expect when.
These people approach parenting like it is a job. Not in the grudging, doing my duty kind of attitude about WORK, but an excited, prepared and organized serious approach to raising children. They have goals, and they meet them. They research and study and then perform. They know how much time it takes to get themselves and their children ready to walk out the door on time, and thus everyone looks like their clothes and hair were actually pre-destined instead of realizing on the way out the door that one child is not wearing any pants.
I was told that after the first year of having two little babes, I would feel like I hit my stride. Purslane feeds herself breakfast and Knox is walking. They both sleep in their own beds at night and can play independently for at least a few minutes at a time without my intervention. They are getting older, more independent, can express themselves and (somewhat) ask for what they need. Knox is down to nursing only in the morning and at night, and Pursy uses the toilet around 75% of the time.
I am working about 48-50 hours a month, which averages out to one or two shifts/week. I work 3-11p now, so no more night shifts for this sleepy nurse. I really like my job and my boss is great. I get to the gym at least 2-3 days a week and Grant has given me every Saturday morning to leisurely do our grocery shopping by myself. Cup of Coffee Tree Roasters coffee in hand, I walk the aisles of Trader Joe's in the early morning before the hipsters take over and distract me with their fascinating conversations about who will take over Venezuela if Hugo falls to cancer.
I should be feeling the peace. Unlike most Mamas and probably because I am incredibly selfish, I am enjoying not being needed all the time by everyone that shares my house with me. I like that I can give Knox a cereal bar and let him go to town, and hand Pursy a book and let her read (i.e. recite) it cover to cover. I love watching my babes grow up. And I don't want it to go any faster, but I certainly don't want it slow down. I did not feel equipped to be a mother of young babies. I do not have secret reserves of patience or creative alternatives to picking up a screaming baby and hurrying out of a memorial service for Grant's grandmother.
I feel okay admitting that I do not completely adore the baby stage because it does not mean I don't love my children. I also feel okay admitting that I have cried for at least an hour the past two days. I feel incredibly lost. I spent the morning rehearsing how to describe myself to a new hair stylist I have an appointment with today because I feel like being able to define me will help him understand how I want my hair cut. It sounds so cliché, but I don't know who I am anymore. I think I like natural, local food but we only got out to the farmer's market 3 blocks from our house once this season. I think I like indie rock but my Spotify station always ends up on Johnny Cash or Rihanna because those artists give me a consistently good playlist for the babes to dance to without my having to change the station every 5 minutes. I think I like reading but the last book I finished took me three months and I paid the library $12 for the privilege. I think I like vintage dresses but the last one I actually found in my 3 minute dash through the consignment store before Pursy started grabbing belts off the narrow shelves smells permanently like body odor and I can't get it out. I keep it hanging in my closet just to remind me that I have good taste- even if I can't wear it. I think I like CNN but the last time I watched an entire morning show I was pregnant with Pursy.
I don't feel like this stage of parenting is my particular skill set, and I struggle with figuring out how to live life with babies. I might actually need to stop reading one of my favorite blogs, Dear Baby, because even though she is honest about some of her struggles, she still manages to dress her children in things like suspenders and chevron tights and wrap her slender body in vintage clothing. She talks about being tired, but usually inbetween two blog posts about how she hand-made all of her son's birthday decorations and spent the weekend cherry picking at her mother's cabin in the woods. And I want to write her off as an enigma or maybe her husband does all the dirty work while she spends her time making and doing beautiful things, but I just can't shake the feeling that maybe I am the only one who just can't figure it out. Maybe she is the normal and I am in the remedial class.
And I know these friends of mine who feel like parenting gets them hitting on all cylinders have their trials too. Maybe Melissa of Dear Baby cleans up things before she takes pictures of her gorgeously decorated living room and calls it a candid. Or maybe she is as talented and put together as she seems. I want to be happy for her if that is so. I tend to wear my struggles openly because I don't know any other way to be. And before I go clean up Pursy because she just took a bath in the Aveeno baby lotion sitting on her dresser while she was supposed to be taking a nap, I will breathe a little prayer of thankfulness that even if I don't walk out of the salon tonight with a hair style that captures my essence, I have a husband who adores me and two children who would rather I sit on the couch and watch Curious George with them then shop for vintage dresses.