I Need an Extra Day a Week

I Need an Extra Day a Week

If only I  had an extra day in the week, then I’d be able to get things done. I’d stick it in somewhere between Tuesday and Wednesday, right when things are always starting to pile up. Right when it’s all starting to feel like too much.

I’d finally have time to exercise, meditate, to write. I’d find the perfect dance class at the perfect time in the perfect location. Smack bang in the middle of my extra day. Boogie all my cares away.

I’d get ahead of the laundry, organize the piles of clothes that my kids are growing out of faster than I can buy them new ones. I’d cook nutritious food that they’d both love, and I wouldn’t order pizza and eat it in an exhausted heap on the couch watching episodes of Friends for the millionth time.

This blog would always be updated. And it would be better written, more insightful, and outrageously popular on social media.

I’d fit in a couple of hours of volunteering, spend quality one-on-one time with my kids, and top it all off with a date with my dear husband in which we have enough energy for a real conversation. And I’d have time to change my clothes and wax my lip beforehand. And we wouldn’t waste half the night speaking about logistics for the rest of the week. And maybe we’d even have sex when we get home.

But there’s no such day, of course. And if there was, daycare probably wouldn’t be open and I’d still have work to do, so my lip would look just the same, and this blog would still be hanging on for dear life, and the laundry would be peeking out of the basket taunting me the same as it always does.

So I guess I have to go for Plan B.

Acceptance and prioritization.

This is the reality of my life right now: I have two small children, a husband and a fairly intense job that requires a 2 hour plus commute every day. These are the priorities I have chosen for right now.

So I’ve gotta own them. And stop beating myself up for not fitting in all the shit that I think I “should” be doing, everything I’d do if I had that magical extra day per week. It’s just not feasible right now. I can’t do it all.

If I heard one of my close friends, a fellow mother, beating herself up like I do in my head, I’d stop her in her tracks. I’d tell her she’s supermum, that she’s beautiful just the way she is, that to her children she is everything she needs to be, that no one at work realizes when she feels like she’s just barely keeping it together and that she totally just zoned out in the middle of that meeting. That she’s doing just fine.

I’d also tap into the voice of the older, wiser, mother inside me, and tell her what I know to be true, though sometimes it seems like a platitude. That this too will pass. That soon she’ll sleep through the night, most nights, then one day every night. That she won’t be breastfeeding forever. That things will be different, maybe even easier.

That everything is perfect just as it is. Messy and exhausting and intense, but perfect all the same.

So screw the extra day, for now. It’s not like I’d get any sleep beforehand anyway.

Life is perfect, just as it is
Life. Messy and happy and perfect, every day.
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Meditation, interrupted

Meditation, interrupted

I finally have a few minutes to myself. The boys are out, the baby is upstairs asleep, and there’s no pressing work to do. It’s Saturday morning. All is still.

My mind whirrs into action, trying to figure out what to do with this precious gift of time. Do I sit and write? Cook? Clean? Declutter? Do I call a friend? Dust off my yoga mat and move my body?

I choose to meditate. It’s been way too long.

I grab a cushion, sit myself down among the toys strewn around the floor. I set a timer for 20 minutes. On one hand it seems like nothing – I used to sit for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening – and on the other hand… 20 uninterrupted minutes? That’s an eternity.

The bell dings, I settle in. My mind is a mess. Loud and frenetic. But of course, after a few minutes, it starts to settle. I sink into that familiar old sensation of being here. In the moment. In my body first and then in my mind.

At 9 minutes and 45 seconds a different bells dings – Little A, crying upstairs. At first I wait, maybe she’ll go back to sleep. Not happening.

So I take my meditation upstairs with me, I notice the cold of the stairs on my feet as I run up to her. I gather her up in her blankets and smell her little chocolate milkshake smell. I notice how my heart swells.

Something’s bothering her. She twists in my arms. So big and so expressive yet still such a baby.

For once, I’m actually there with her. Not looking at my phone over her shoulder, not wishing she’d hurry up and get to sleep so I can start getting GG into bed, or get back to work, or go to sleep myself.

She gets herself comfortable in the nook of my elbow, rests her little head and drifts back off. She reaches for my face in her sleep.

And I’m still there, still meditating, present with her. I am hers and she is mine. I’m pretty sure I can feel the oxytocin flooding my body.

I look down at her peaceful face and realize I don’t take photos of her sleeping anymore. I used to do it all the time when she was little. Another reminder that time is passing. As it always does. That it’ll pass no matter what.

To be honest, at first when I heard her voice as I was meditating I felt annoyed. I can’t even get 20 minutes uninterrupted.

But as I snuggled her back into her bed I felt so grateful I could cry. I feel so far away from my kids through long days at the office during the week. Through rushed bedtimes and difficult mornings.

This is the antidote – actually being with them when I’m with them.

She relaxes into her bed and I come back downstairs, free again. Time to chop veggies, sort out bags for the new week, tidy up a bit. Maybe I’ll finish the meditation later. It’s the usual grind, but hopefully I can be a little more present as I move through it.

To Love a Rainbow

To Love a Rainbow

My rainbow baby is almost one.

She’s happy and she’s calm. She’s obsessed with her big brother and blowing raspberries and with the patterns on our couch. She’s a beautiful, integral, magical part of our little family.

She’s been with us for almost a year and yet, somehow it still hasn’t completely settled within me that she’s here. That it’s okay. That we made it.

That she’s safe. That she’s here to stay.

This isn’t about guarantees. I know that there are none.

This is about trauma. And anxiety.

Every little rash and I’m on edge. And Little A’s got sensitive skin. Literally a few splotches of red and my heart starts thumping and I’m on my way to a full blown panic attack. Waiting for routine blood test results feel like waiting for her to come out of open heart surgery. And don’t even get me started on digestive issues.

I’m not like this with GG. I’m calm and confident in his existence. I trust him to stay.

But with my rainbow baby I’m different, the relationship is different.

Is this what it’s always like with rainbows? Does the trauma of loss ever go away?

Because I really want it to. I don’t want my relationship with her to be tainted like this. I don’t want her to have to wear my pain forever.

I can rationalize it all away, of course. The combination of two pregnancy losses between GG and Little A, holding my breath through half of the pregnancy, some stress around the birth and a rough time with food sensitivities are simply taking their toll. Not to mention natural parenting neuroses coupled with sleep deprivation and a healthy dose of Jewish guilt.

I know it’s okay, that it makes sense to feel this way.

What I don’t know is whether or not it will pass. But I guess everything does, right? And if it doesn’t pass completely, at least it will change.

Or maybe I’m overthinking it, as I am wont to do. Perhaps our relationships with our kids are just different. They push different buttons within us, bring out different parts of us. Maybe the narrative I’ve strung together isn’t necessarily the story.

For now, I guess my only option is acceptance. To love her with all of my heart and surrender to the fear and anxiety that’s mashed up within that love. And to hope that as time goes by, as we wrap up her first year and move into her second, that I’ll feel more secure in her existence. In her solidity.

That in time the story of what came before will just be a blip at the beginning of the epic tale of my beautiful Little A.

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A List of Things that May Have Eased My Anxiety This Week

A List of Things that May Have Eased My Anxiety This Week

It’s been a rough few months. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing that ripples past the inner circles of me and my little family, just a tough transition. From maternity leave to full-time work for me. From home to daycare for Little A. From private to public kindergarten for GG. From summer to a new year. From known to unknown. From comfortable to oh-my-god-what-have-I-done-I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this.

And somewhere in all this, my old friend anxiety raised her ugly head and came back for a surprise visit. The whole bit – panic attacks catching me unawares, largely imagined health scares, loops of negative thoughts plaguing me night and day.

But the last week or so, things have started to feel different. Lighter, more manageable. Possibly just because time passed, because all things come and go, and possibly because I so desperately needed to push this weight of anxiety off my chest that I tried everything I knew how.

And maybe one of those things worked.

So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Meditation 

You’d think I’d know this by now – meditation works for me. It clears space and grounds me. As usual I don’t manage to sit as much as I’d like to, but whenever I do, it helps.

2. Movement 

At the moment it’s walking and yoga. In the thick of anxiety getting sweaty makes me feel like I’m bringing it all to the surface. Whatever “it” may be.

3. Therapy

I’m blessed to have a supportive therapist that knows me well, who I can check in with when times get rough. Sometimes just talking helps, and other times we’re doing what feels like real work. Reaching down into the depths of the bullshit, making some order and releasing what I no longer need.

4. Rescue Remedy

Maybe it’s just a placebo, who knows. It seems to help at times.

5. Massage

Enough said.

6. Getting a check up

When my anxiety gets bad, I pretty much always decide something is wrong with me. I have some crazy physical symptoms and then the cycle of worrying gets started – and it gets ugly in my head. This time I decided there was something wrong with my brain – sparked by a spat of dizzy spells and weird sensations up and down my arm.

As it turns out, I have carpal tunnel syndrome. And probably not a brain tumor causing numbness in my forearm and fingers and electric tingles. I think, oddly, that diagnosis probably did more to lift my anxiety than everything else on this list combined.

And apparently I’m somewhat sleep deprived. Which brings us to.. .

7. Sleep

Not like we’re getting full nights or anything crazy like that, but I’m doing my best to prioritize rest.

8. Recognizing anxiety 

This is a big one for me. I think I was having panic attacks for a couple of weeks before I realized – hang on a minute, I’ve been here before. This is anxiety.

And it helps, calling a spade a spade. Knowing that it will pass, that it has passed before and it will pass again.

9. Eating well 

And

10. Eating pizza

Because balance, right?

 

An Afternoon Oasis in a Sea of Stress

An Afternoon Oasis in a Sea of Stress

What a perfect afternoon.

An afternoon to remind me of the power of one-on-one time. Of observation and connection. Of slowing down.

Straight after GG’s nap – when he’s often super grumpy – I took him out for a date. And yes, I totally bribed him out of his bad mood with ice cream, I’ll admit it. But watching him eat it was a meditation. He loved every lick, every bite of the cone. He was so in the moment he couldn’t even speak to me while he ate.

Every meal should be like a 3-year-old boy eating ice cream.

After the ice cream we ran around an empty mall. Hopped, jumped, fell to the ground at his whim. I showed him how to do somersaults in a baby play area. I fought the urge to play with my phone when his attention wandered from me, and instead kept mine glued to him. Yet another exercise in mindfulness. In staying in the present for once.

On the way home we stopped to fill the car up with petrol. He got out with me and asked questions. A million “why’s” that for once I had the time and the head space to answer. Or try to answer.

Why is petrol dangerous for little kids, anyway?

It was just an hour and a half, but we so needed that time, GG and me. Time together with no agenda, no bathing or dinnertime or bedtime battles. No baby sister or other adults. Just us.

When we got home, some kids from his new kindergarten were meeting in the local playground, so his dad took him to join them. And so it was just me and Little A at home. Again – a rare treat.

Babies seem simpler, but I think that’s just because we don’t pay them enough attention.

Every move this kid makes is an exploration, an experiment, an expression. Every turn of her hand is a preparation for her next move, or bite of food, or request. And I’m her mama, I know her back to front, I can preempt her requests before she’s even made them – but sometimes it’s beautiful not to. Rather, to lay next to her and see the world through her eyes for a few moments.

We ate, played, bathed. For once I wasn’t rushed as I washed her, fending off GG’s “help” in the form of buckets of water on her head. Instead I watched her examine each toy with her mouth, giggled with her, cuddled and marveled at how big she’s gotten, though it seems like she was born just yesterday.

It all sounds awfully flowerly, I know. But that’s really how it felt.
An oasis of joy in a sea of stress, emails, anxiety, drop offs and pick ups.

A reminder of what it’s all about.

Fuckup Nights for Parents

Fuckup Nights for Parents

There’s this global movement in the business world called Fuckup Nights that I think is brilliant. It’s a simple concept; a series of events where people get up and tell their stories of failure. Like TED, but with a twist. Businesses that crashed and burned. Deals gone wrong. Product recalls. That sort of thing.

Along with being generally hilarious, the stories tend to be quite inspiring. Largely because the people who have the humility to be able to get up in front of a crowd of people and say, “yep, I fucked up,” those people are the good ones. It shows real strength of character. These are professionals who are able to look failure in the face, move on, and ultimately to learn from it.

So, I’m thinking, we need Fuckup Nights for Parents. A time to get together and share the times we totally screwed it up. To support each other through it, and to bring failure out into the open. To take the shame out – because we all fuck up, sometime or another. It’s just a matter of how we frame it.

Of course, getting out of the house, on time, without the kids is probably easier said than done for parents of young kids, so I guess a virtual Fuckup Nights will have to suffice for now. Here’s one of my tales of failure to get the ball rolling:

It was about 7 months ago. Little A was a few weeks old, and GG was in the thick of coming to terms with the new addition to our family. About to turn 3 and just having a really hard time of it. He was acting out left and right, but usually the trigger was when he needed me and I was busy with the baby – generally nursing or holding her when he wanted to be held.

His kindergarten threw a holiday party one afternoon, and for some reason I thought nothing of turning up by myself with Little A in tow. She was fussy so I just brought her in my arms, no carrier, no stroller. I’m cringing now just thinking about it.

The party was a low-key affair, just a few little songs and dances and then food, but somehow for us it turned into a borderline catastrophe. GG wanted me to dance with him and Little A was screaming. I had nowhere to put her down even if I wanted to. He wanted me to pick him up and had a total meltdown. The baby needed to eat. I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask for help – or I hadn’t learned yet that sometimes the only way to survive with more than one kid is to get help.

Before long the poor little guy was a total mess. Screaming for me to pick him up, surrounded by kids who had all of their parents attention, and there I was, baby in my arms, failing him. I hadn’t even thought about it, about how much GG would need my attention in there. I’m so embarrassed to say that but it’s the truth.

I could have asked someone to come with me just to hold her, I could have thought to bring the stroller in, I could have asked for help. Now that I’m writing this, I could have even run outside right then to get the stroller from the car! But I didn’t. I was so busy fucking up that I couldn’t think straight.

Eventually we made it out. I let GG eat some gross unhealthy food because I felt so guilty and inadequate, and somehow I got both of them and an armload of bags and jackets into the car.

And that’s it, that’s my fuckup story. Sounds insignificant I guess, and maybe it was, but to me it was huge. Because I realized it, plain and simple. Failure.

So, why am I thinking about this right now?

Because yesterday I had my chance for a corrective experience – the end of year kindergarten party. And this time I got it. I understood what was expected of me, prepared accordingly and we all had a great time.

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I don’t have a photo of that day, but this was around then, and it seems symbolic. The two of them and me, all on top of each other, trying to work out what fits where. 

Accepting my own imperfections is a real challenge for me. My therapist is always reminding me that the aim is not perfection – but rather acceptance. Sometimes I feel like, umm hello, what am I paying you for if we’re not working on making me perfect here? But of course, she’s right. And I think owning our failures can help us move towards acceptance. Not to try to get to a point where we don’t fuck up – coz that’s not gonna happen – but rather to except that we’ll make mistakes, and to learn to see failure, nod and carry on.

So, who’s up next?

On Tiredness

On Tiredness

When I was first learning to meditate, I remember feeling so left out of this tiredness thing that the teachers were always speaking about. I’d see people on retreats falling asleep while meditating, standing up to avoid nodding off, asking questions about how to avoid it. And I just didn’t get it. I was so filled with energy, with movement. I struggled with the opposite issue – with restlessness, the urge to fidget, with excess energy.

I was so out of touch with what tiredness meant that I couldn’t even label it to observe it.

Now, some 7 years later, I’m a fucking tiredness master.

I am perpetually exhausted. I can observe the sensations of tiredness in intricate detail, I can feel it in every cell of my body. I can observe what it’s doing to my mind and my emotional stability. My sex life. My work. My relationships.

I’ve always been able to function on relatively little sleep. My father is the same, and his mother before him. Six hours and I’m golden. Eight hours and I’m diamond encrusted, sure, but it’s not a necessity. Even as a baby I had mega FOMO, always preferring to stay up to avoid missing any fun over getting my beauty sleep.

In recent years, largely thanks to my sleep-worshiping husband, I’ve learned to value my rest. To prioritize it when necessary. To identify the times when I’m tired and would be better off refueling than burning the candle at both ends, as is my natural tendency. I’ve intentionally rewired, in a way. A good way, I think.

Nonetheless, my ability to get by without that much sleep has served me well in the initial months with both my babies. Whereas I know many new parents suffer from exhaustion in the first days and weeks after bringing a new baby home from the hospital, I run on adrenaline through the Fourth Trimester and beyond. I relish the early morning hours up with my babies, the excuse to be texting round the clock, the afternoon naps. I’m tired, sure, especially the second time around, but not exhausted.

Until somewhere around the 6-month mark. that’s when I hit a wall.

And right now, I feel like I’ve been running into that wall, reversing, and running into it again, over and over, for about 3 months.

It was the same with GG. I put it down to going back to work, but I think it’s probably a combination of factors. A hormonal shift, developmental changes in the little one, and a sleep deficit so huge that I can no longer power through it with homemade dark chocolate and a good attitude alone.

This afternoon when I was driving home from work I was terrified that my eyes were going to give out. I guess I mean I was worried that I’d fall asleep, but it didn’t feel like that. It felt like I just couldn’t focus anymore, that I could only see the dashboard and not the road. So I pulled over and set my alarm for 7 minutes – the most time I figured I could afford in order to still make it to pick up the kids on time – and closed my eyes. I woke up with a start to the timer going off, felt much better, and had a nice afternoon with the kids without passing out and leaving them to fend for themselves. That felt like a win.

This sort of exhaustion is something totally foreign to me.

If I stop typing right now and pause, I can feel it. In the aching headache always sitting just behind my eyes, like two tiny hands squeezing my eyeballs. In the almost unnoticeable lag in my vision, like my brain is only just keeping up with the information it has to process second-to-second. I can feel it pulling me downwards into the couch, like a sleepy gravity-booster. Willing me to just give it up, to lay down, to become one with the cushions.

And it’s not just my body. My mind is also a victim. I went back to work after a 6-month maternity leave 2 months ago, to a new job. A job at which a high-functioning brain is a solid prerequisite. And multiple times a day it’s like I can feel my mind trying to think and just stalling, over and over again. Like it knows what it needs to do but just can’t do it. At least not at the required speed.

And this tired mind of mine, it plays tricks on my emotions. It makes me sensitive and anxious and easily irritated. A winning combination for when I’m already feeling like the stupidest version of myself.

It’ll get better, I know. Little A will sleep better and I’ll settle back into being a working mama. We’ll all sleep through the night again one day.

For now, I take solace in being able to call a spade a spade. In hanging onto some last thread of mindfulness in recognizing tiredness and how it feels right now. I’m grateful for the rest that I do get, and I hail its restorative powers by pondering its very absence.

Enough musing. You get it. I’m exhausted.

Time for sleep.