17 March 2015

Can I Really Call Myself A Writer?

"What do you do?"

It's what grownups ask each other by way of a greeting because we so often identify ourselves by what we do professionally.

"I'm a stay-at-home-mom," I reply.

And if I'm meeting someone who is not another SAHM, but instead a member of the "working world" that statement is often met with a blank look or a tepid, "Oh, well, that's nice."

So, then I add, "Oh, and I'm also a writer."

At this point the non-SAHM perks up with a, "Oh! Really? What do you write?"

Apparently learning about what I write is more interesting than hearing stories about making snacks, wiping butts, and hanging out with my 3.5 year-old daughter.

"I write a blog and I'm working on my first novel," and then I add with a laugh, "which is languishing in my laptop."

So there it is.

I'm a writer.

Of sorts.

Truth be told I have not worked on my novel in earnest since my daughter arrived in our lives three and a half years ago.

I always knew when I made the choice to stay at home with my daughter that my creative life would take a hit. Raising a kid is hard work. It takes time and energy. When we decided to adopt one of the conditions I laid out to my husband was that we would need to live on his salary. I knew full well that I would not be capable of raising of a small child  and holding down a job outside of the home. And so I left a career in which I had burned out and started my SAHM gig. And for the most part it has been awesome.


It didn't occur to me that I would not be capable of raising a small child and at the same time having a creative life. That I would stop writing.

But I did.

Only recently have a I resurrected this blog.

And my novel?

Still languishing in this laptop.

Am I really a writer?

I don't know.

10 March 2015


"It's a LOT of togetherness," I often hear myself saying in conversation when I'm talking about my life as a stay-at-home-mom.

"A LOT of togetherness."

I wouldn't have it any other way.

But, man, is it ever a lot of togetherness. Oy.

Here's the thing that you aren't supposed to say about being a stay-at-home-mom:

Being a stay-at-home-mom is kind of driving me crazy.

Don't get me wrong...I LOVE my daughter. I love love love love love her. I love her like I've never loved anybody. It's an intense, crazy, deep love that makes me ache when I look at her. How did I get so lucky to be the mom of this amazing person??? When I see her wicked smile and her dimple. Omigod...the dimple. It's the cutest dimple EVER. And I hear her laugh. Pure joy. It fills me up. I know that I am the luckiest mom on the planet. Bar none.


But then she has one of her spectacular meltdowns. Omigod. The meltdowns. Brutal. For both of us.

Or we get done with swimming lessons at 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. We get ourselves dressed and I look at the clock to see that it is 10:52. Dear God...WHAT am I going to do with this child for another SEVEN HOURS AND EIGHT MINUTES until we have dinner???

Or the day where we have NOTHING on the schedule and she flat out refuses to go to gymnastics open play or Kidz Wurld indoor play center. 

And the fact that she stopped napping when she wasn't even two and a half years old. What kid stops napping that young???

"Oh, he naps for at least two hours everyday. Most days it's closer to three," a mom I meet at gymnastics open play tells me. Her kid is four and a half.

Four and a half years old and he naps for THREE HOURS???

In my dreams.

Moms hate naps at first because infants take so many of them which makes it hard to schedule your life. But then as life gets crazier when the kid starts becoming more mobile and active, moms come to appreciate and NEED The Nap. The Nap gives moms a break from the togetherness. You use it to clean the house, have a cup of coffee, sleep, or sometimes just sit and relish the quiet.

When my kiddo officially gives up her nap I feel like I might actually have a nervous breakdown.

No napping leads to a LOT of togetherness.

Twelve straight hours of togetherness most days.

Without a break.

Here's something that many people don't know about me: I'm an introvert.

You wouldn't know it about me because I am super chatty, I like to meet new people, and I do like to be out and about. I have decent social skills. I'm not a typical introverted introvert. I'm an extroverted introvert.

But I need alone time.

I need it. Crave it. Have to have it.

Serious quality alone time to recharge my batteries.

Alone time where I have an opportunity to be quiet and creative. When I can make art, write, read, and use my brain in a different way than when I'm in mom mode.

But with twelve hours of togetherness with my three and half year-old daughter...there ain't a lot of quality alone time to recharge. I'm pretty much totally exhausted at the end of every day. So my end of the day alone time isn't quality alone time AT ALL. I collapse in a heap on the couch where I watch television as my body twitches and vibrates because I am over-tired and over-stimulated. Watching television doesn't really help much, but in general I have little brain power for anything else at the end of my day.

Here's the other thing you aren't supposed to say about life as a stay-at-home-mom:

Being with a small child for twelve hours a day is a grind.

It is.

Wiping butts, cleaning up crayon on the walls chasing your kid through the library to get her to stop running and yelling, searching for the same lost toy every single day, watching the same episode of Curious George for the 47th time, keeping your kid entertained and clean and fed and engaged every single day, being the primary educator and disciplinarian every single day. It's. A. Grind.

Please, don't get me wrong...there are SO MANY parts of the day that are also TOTALLY AWESOME. I love watching my kid running and jumping and walking the balance beam at gymnastics open play time. And our couch tickle fights are spectacularly fun. Hearing her whoop with excitement when she hears the theme music for her favorite cooking show, The Pioneer Woman. Listening to her tell her hundreds of stories everyday is the stuff that makes life with her the best. Watching the wheels in her brain turn and seeing her learn something new. Completely awesome and amazing.

However, it's a lot.

A lot. A lot. A lot. A lot of work. A lot of togetherness with no break.

And I know...this is MY choice to stay at home with her. Please, no one needs to remind me. I chose this life. I choose this life everyday even when I think I might have a nervous breakdown because of it. I choose to be the person who raises my daughter.  I choose the grind. And I am SO LUCKY that I have that choice. That my husband earns enough to keep us in house and home so that I can spend twelve hours a day with our kid. That my husband is OK with me "opting out" of the work force to be a "SAHM." I KNOW that I am lucky.

Really. I do.

But, man, it's still a LOT of togetherness.

03 March 2015

No Comfort

"I DON'T WANT YOU!" my three and a half year-old daughter roars, fists clenched at her sides, body rigid, tears and snot coating her face.

"I DON'T WANT YOU!" she roars again mid-meltdown then jumps up and down screaming at the top of her lungs.

I hardly recognize this enraged little person. 95% of the time my kid is joyful, happy, hilarious, and extremely kind.

But that other 5% of the time.


Spectacular, epic, blow-the-roof-off meltdowns.

Filled with rage.

In the midst of these spectacular epic meltdowns my normally super affectionate, loving, huggy girl directs all of her rage at me.

"What can I do for you?" I ask her in my calmest voice. "What can I do for you?"

"NOTHING! GET AWAY FROM ME!" she shrieks, body still rigid, fists still clenched and eyes now closed as if the very sight of me is just too much to bear.

She rejects my attempts to comfort her.

She rejects me with every fiber of her being.

Sometimes her meltdowns last for just a few minutes, but on occasion she can rage for close to an hour. It is so awful to witness her fury and her suffering as huge emotions overtake her.

If I'm honest with myself, it's also extremely painful to have all of that rage directed at me.

It's especially painful because I secretly worry that she rejects me in this way because I'm not her birth mother, K.

Is there some deep part of her that understands that I am not the woman who gave birth to her? Does she subconsciously want K and thus rejects me?

When she screams "I DON'T WANT YOU!" I secretly panic that she will always reject me because somehow I'm not her "real" mother.

I wonder and worry, if K were raising her would Esme just collapse in K's arms and allow herself to be hugged and comforted? Would she let K do that for her when she won't let me? Will she ever let me comfort her through a meltdown?

"I don't want you," Esme says again breathing hard, but she is running out of steam.

"What can I do for you?" I ask again.

"Nothing," she snuffles then walks to the couch where she seizes her beloved purple fleece jacket. She takes her "worry spot" (the bottom front where the zipper comes together) and gently rubs it under her nose. Her preferred method of self-soothing.

I take a step toward her and ask gently, "Can I give you a hug now?"

"Not yet," she says hiccuping, a few tears still rolling down her cheeks.

"OK, I'll come back and check on you in a few minutes."

I walk into the kitchen where I sag against the counter exhausted and hurt, trying and failing to not take it personally. Trying and failing to be confident in my role as Esme's "real" mom.

Wondering and worrying.

A few minutes later I return to the living room to sit down near her on the couch. "Can I give you a hug now?"

She shakes her head, but she moves closer to me and we sit together, not quite touching, in silence for a long time.