September 16, 2009
Parenthood really tests your limits. So far, our family consists of a mom, a dad, a two-year-old, a neurotic 11-year-old dog and a very active fetus. I know single moms taking care of two children, happily married moms taking care of four children, and others with two to three children who are happily married but whose husbands are seemingly constantly away on business.
I don’t know how they do it.
I have to remind myself from time to time that no one “does it all.” Even if it seems like they do, it’s probably just what it looks like to someone on the outside. And even when you scratch beneath the surface and it still looks like they’re “doing it all,” they’re not.
Anyone “doing it all” is neglecting something, usually themselves.
I have to remind myself of this because it helps keep me from despairing when I feel like I’m failing as a mom, wife, translator or member of society. In fact, I have to remind myself in general of the deceptiveness of the feeling of “the grass is always greener on the other side.” For example, some of my favorite blogs include Soule Mama, Betz White and Angry Chicken. And when I read their thoughts and see their pictures, it’s easy to think my life would be easier and more harmonious if I didn’t live in a big metropolis. So many of the things I value in family life seem so much easier to include in said life when you live somewhere a little quieter. And then I have to remind myself that a) I’m not seeing the whole picture of any of these women’s lives, and b) there are things about living in a big city that I would miss horribly. I see my Ozzie friend Amanda raising her two young children while her husband jets around the globe on business, and I see her do it with such seeming effortlessness, that I wonder if I’m just plain incompetent.
But if I really stop and think about it, I’m not incompetent, and while city living does make certain family rituals much harder to establish and uphold, it’s not the reason I feel like a failure sometimes.
I am, quite simply, overwhelmed right now.
Why, you ask?
- I have a two-year-old;
- I am six months pregnant;
- This pregnancy, while not high-risk, has been very hard;
- I have been laid up with a sinus infection for the last seven days;
- My social network in Berlin has shrunk to miniscule proportions;
- We’re going through a major financial rough spot (oddly enough, totally unrelated to the global financial crisis, but I’ll address this whole can of worms in another post);
- And lastly, alas, after 28+ years of life in this body, I still tend to bite off more than I can chew.
February 23, 2009
One of the hardest things about parenting a high-needs child is the self-doubt that accompanies the journey. There’s no health-care professional who “diagnoses” your child as having high needs; it’s something you figure out as a parent over time. You notice that your baby seems to cry more, louder, more persistently than others. You spend the vast majority of the time carrying your infant because it HATES to be put down, like EVER, while your friend’s baby sleeps 6-hour stretches in his crib, and his “crying” is practically inaudible compared to your child’s screams. Depending on how long it takes you to figure out that there is such a thing as a high-needs child and that yours is one of them, you’ll spend a little or a lot of time thinking your baby’s otherness is your fault. Your inexperience, your ineptitude are the reason why your baby cries so much or why it takes you ten times as long to convince your toddler to let you put her shoes and jacket on than any other parent at daycare. It’s really easy to blame yourself and think you’re a bad parent. Even after you pick up that first book on high-needs children and have the life-saving revelation that this describes your child with frightening accuracy and that your kid is simply wired differently, it’s easy to slip back into the doubt cycle: “Have I been saying my child is high needs because it’s a convenient excuse for my failure as a parent? Am I just not cut out to be a parent?” And that’s why it’s so important to hear others confirm that yes, your kid really is different, and it’s's just his or her particular personality. Some parents might cringe when a caregiver describes their child as “difficult” or “willful.” I feel a huge sense of relief.
“Marie is so funny.”
“Yeah, she’s like a little princess. Always putting on a show, always doing things her own way.”
“She’s definitely not a follower. I think she likes to do things differently from the rest of the group.”
“Exactly. She’s willful. I mean, they’re all willful in their own ways. But Marie’s just … different.”
This was what two caregivers told me when I picked her up today. The subject came up because Marie had insisted on eating her post-nap snack while standing on her chair, while all the other kids were sitting in theirs, happily munching away within bounds.
Just a reminder that I’m not imagining things.
January 18, 2009
Marie has been quite sick for five days now. High fever, persistant cough, fatigue, crankiness and no appetite. The works. I’m not sure why my paranoid self thought this, but my first suspicion when she suddenly developed a fever on Wednesday was measles. We’re delaying the MMR vaccine for a variety of reasons, mainly because our daughter developed such high fevers in reaction to her second and third round of boosters, and since she’s in daycare, there’s a realistic chance that she could get measles. But now it’s the fifth day and she has no rash, so it’s very unlikely that she’s got them. We saw the doctor on Friday to rule out a urinary tract infection and pneumonia. It’s probably just a pretty nasty upper respiratory infection. We were given a prescription for antibiotics just in case (as in, just in case it gets worse over the weekend and we want to do something before Monday morning but don’t want to take her to the hospital), but we haven’t given them to her yet. Anyway, Marie’s general misery has had an interesting side effect. Since she’s so tired and cranky and has practically no interest in playing pretty much all the time, we’ve taken to putting her in bed awake whenever we think she might be able to fall asleep and just telling her that she should try to get some rest. We leave the door open and tell her she can join us in the living room if she wants. She cries for about two seconds as we leave the room, then she stays there. This kind of compliance is totally unheard of in our spirited daughter. Any attempt to leave her awake in a dark room has always been met with the most fierce protest. But I guess she just feels so rotten right now that she’d rather get some rest than make a big fuss about not having a warm body next to her. We’ll see if this will last once she’s feeling better. My bet is on no.
August 15, 2007
For the most part, Marie is a very happy baby. She greets us every morning with smiles and flirty eyes. When you tickle her, she laughs and squeals, and she generally makes all kinds of cute sounds indicating the pleasure she takes in everyday events. But then comes the witching hour. Sometimes as early as 5 pm – and definitely by 7 pm – the demons come out and Marie becomes inconsolable. It’s never really clear what’s wrong. Sometimes it seems to be insatiable hunger; other times a tummy ache appears to be the culprit; and still other times she seems to be genuinely sad. And whatever the cause, I invariably end up trying all sorts of tricks to calm her down – from marathon breastfeeding through singing silly songs to her and carrying her around on a seemingly endless “tour” of the apartment to putting her in the BabyBjörn, swaying back and forth and hoping she’ll conk out while I do chores or check my email standing up.
Recently, I’ve been trying a new tack. Since she sleeps so well at night, Marie generally takes only pretty short naps during the day. So I figured she might just be tired by early evening. But it’s not as easy as putting her down for a nap. I have to catch the right moment when she’s still content but on her way to tired and/or hungry and then cuddle up in bed with her. Eventually (and by that, I mean after anywhere from 1 to 3 hours later), she falls asleep and sleeps peacefully through most of the evening. But the road to get there varies. Most days, it involves a fair amount of crying. But every few days, we get in a groove and spend any time awake making goofy faces at each other. Then, after a little fussing and squirming, she falls asleep and gets that angelic look on her face that all sleeping babies have.
I still don’t know what ails her on these afternoons and evenings. It doesn’t seem to be a textbook case of a colicky baby (and even if it was, no one knows what causes colic either). But I call it the witching hour, because whether or not Marie has demons that haunt her little mind yet, her inconsolable suffering inevitably brings out mine, and it takes a lot of strength not to let them get the better of me. I know that these are not the times to be questioning my mothering skills because my anxiety becomes contagious and only makes little Marie more miserable. I never realized it before, but hearing your own child in pain – whether emotional or physical or both – is just about the most brutal experience imaginable, and I think it might just be one of the few things in life that makes us capable of rising above our own demons, telling them to shut the hell up for a while because the only thing that matters at that moment is to rescue someone else in pain. It reminds me of the fact that my own mother is scared of spiders, but she always killed them for me because that’s what mothers do for their babies.