Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where Did All the Time Go??????

This post should be multiple posts, but I don't have time for that...which is what this post is about anyway. Where did all the time go??? Seriously, friends, I'd love advice.

Last night I read this blog article (second time in a row I've linked to this blogger - seriously, she's good!). It's a great read and it hits home, though it's not always like that. Most of the time life is pretty routine, and I don't necessarily feel empowered OR drowning. But I did smile in a feeble, self-aware sort of way when I read bits like these:
Motherhood is a refining fire. It is sanctifying love, like marriage. It doesn’t smooth things over, it brings sin to the surface. And that process is unforgiving. Everything we’ve been able to keep under wraps, under control, escapes and reveals itself. 
We’re not used to struggling. And we’re certainly not used to the thanklessness of it all. Succeed in school? Get an awesome grade and praise from professors. Succeed at work? Get fantastic performance reviews and feedback from your boss or clients. But there’s no awards for surviving one more day of motherhood. So here we are, formerly successful ladies, drowning for the first time in our lives and there’s no award at the end of the day.
You haven’t slept in a year. Let me repeat that: YOU HAVEN’T SLEPT IN A YEAR. Sleep deprivation is real. Sleep deprivation is a method of torture. Don’t be disappointed in yourself for falling apart in physical circumstances that would break any human being.
The hardest thing I've ever done? Yes. A thousand times yes. Worth it? Many times over. What my kids bring to my life and how they have changed me is like seeing in color after living my whole life in black and white.
...that overwhelming love I have for my kids. That love so good it hurts. That love that makes their laughter golden. That love that hits me in the gut when I’m least expecting it. 

I loved that she pointed out that sleeplessness has literally been used as a torture device. My girls have had bad colds this last week or so, and the coughing and the sneezing and the temperatures have kept them up at night....and all during the night...but then they get up in the morning and they're up all day. I don't do well on no sleep ;)

But hey, we're surviving. I went to the store today - loaded up the two girls and headed the few blocks to the nearby Super Walmart. I put three loooong, under-the-bed plastic storage bins on the cart bed under the basket (you know, that thing between the wheels) because Anna was in her car seat in the basket and Madelyn was in the front of the cart. It made me wonder: why on earth do those cart beds slant down? The bins made it through most of the store (I think I only had to push them back in three or four times), but then they fell out three times on my journey across the parking lot!! Then it was quite the puzzle trying to get them to fit in the trunk of my car over the two strollers. Silly bins, I was just trying to organize the girls' clothes a little so that I wouldn't have to keep heading out to the garage and tearing open tied plastic grocery bags full of Madelyn's old clothes hoping to find something that actually fits Anna.

Anyway, we got ourselves back home and I got the groceries put away. It was a small moment of pride - everything was healthy. Like, really healthy. Tons of veggies, fish, and fruit. It's been a busy six months (buying a house, moving, husband starting a masters program, husband starting a new career and a new job, lots of wonderful family events and occasions to celebrate). But we're determined to be healthier. I think most of what we have been eating at least for dinner is healthy, but we both want to make a real, concerted effort over the next few weeks.

But it made me wonder - as I sat thinking about the huge pot of steel-cut oatmeal I need to cook up and portion into baggies so Dave can grab them on his way to work, and the eggs I need to hard boil for the same reason, and the huge pots of brown rice and dried black beans I need to prepare for lunches - how do people have time for more than just one extra thing?

I mean, let's just assume that my very top priority is spending time with my girls and making sure they know they are loved and that their cares and interests and worries are respected (because it is). That takes up - well, almost all of my time. There's playing with Madelyn (who is soooooo social. It's hard for her to have Mommy as her only friend; she so desperately needs her sister to grow up and be a playmate), and spending time outside, and preparing breakfasts and lunches and dinners for her (and me and Dave), and  reading books and singing songs and changing diapers.

So there's that. But then there's a teeny, tiny sliver of time for everything else:

  • Planning for and shopping and cooking healthy meals (as above).
  • Exercising....honestly to look good, but also to feel good AND to give me the freedom to do fun things with my family, like hiking the gorgeous Utah mountains this summer.
  • Cleaning my house...I can get away with a few hours of cleaning a couple of days a week because Madelyn loves to follow me around and be my helper, but too much cleaning and she goes away to play by herself, which most often means emptying all my kitchen cupboards and filling the front stairs and the kitchen floor with all of her "cooking" accessories. 
  • Landscaping and gardening....or just mowing the lawn (the grass is almost a foot tall in the backyard. Poor Dave mows the front lawn when he has a spare hour on a non-rainy Saturday, but he's a pretty busy guy right now). 
  • My own little projects....blogging, sorting pictures for photo albums so we can actually enjoy them, reading and researching things that I'm interested in - you know, to keep my mind going, to take much needed ME time, to keep me feeling human and connected to the wider world.
  • Important personal things that take time, like scripture reading and journaling. I've written through Anna actually being born, but that's as far as I've gotten. So many things about life and my girls that I want to record though! They're growing so fast. If I don't take the time to write, how will I remember that Madelyn says things like, "What. heck?!" and "Mommy, hard time now" (while she droops her head sadly and shakes it back and forth), or that she yelled "Bye store!" at the top of her lungs while we wheeled our purchased goods past the registers today, or that she showed everyone we passed in the aisles the owie that she got when she tripped on the pavement yesterday? 
But yeah, those to-do things up there ^^^? I look at them and think, I should be doing a little of all of those things every day. But HOOOOOOOW? 

And that list doesn't even include things like having (and seeing) friends, catching up on lost sleep, or, and here's my other new big goal: Trying really, really hard not to let Madelyn watch (very much) TV.

Ok, so here's sub-blog entry #3. Advice still needed friends. 

These colds we've had have been persistent. Anna had it first, but then Madelyn and Dave came down with it pretty badly. No 24-hour bug for us, we spent days inside, cooped up, trying not to get anyone else sick while we've croupy-coughed like crazy, sneezed, tried to ignore sore throats, blinked through watery eyes, and blown our noses a thousand times (ok, that last one is wishful thinking. Madelyn's nose has been the worst and she doesn't bother to blow, she just uses her sleeve, sigh). Last weekend we spent three days straight on the couch watching movies and PBS TV shows all day long. Literally. (Our solution for helping our sick Sunday feel like a different day than our sick Saturday was to watch Veggie Tales and family videos all day long instead of Curious George and Daniel Tiger.) 

By Tuesday I was ready for a complete TV fast. Madelyn was breathing and dreaming Daniel Tiger. She gets addicted to things anyway, sweet thing, and I wanted her to remember that there is life after TV. But we don't actually DO no TV around here. We haven't had cable in our home for years, but we do have Amazon Prime. I was thinking about it and maybe that's worse, because instead of watching our one half-hour program each day, we have all of the whole seasons. We can watch endless Curious George!! Usually we watch two, three, four episodes in a row...oops. 

But here's the thing. I was having a conversation with one of Dave's cousins a few weeks back. He's in his early 20s, starting his first "real job" and one of the greatest idealists I've ever known. At some point in the conversation he shook his head and said, "The more I think about TV, the more I realize I never want it in my home." I looked at him, young, unmarried, childless, and thought, "You have that conversation with your wife when you're off to work and she's sitting around wondering when she's going to get a shower!" Or clean the dishes. 

I'm not a TV hater. I definitely don't feel the need to go off TV totally. We did for a day because of the we're-all-sick TV binging we did over the weekend. But the ONE DAY I kept the TV off completely was hard! I had to get out of bed as soon as Madelyn was up. I didn't get a shower. I didn't do the dishes. I didn't get a moment to myself to check my email or work on my current little project (a little research packet that means nothing to anyone really, but it makes me happy). Madelyn was cranky and whiny in the late afternoon, but there was no opportunity for her to calm herself down and so she cried and I made dinner. 

It was a good object lesson in that it reminded me how TV became a crutch in the first place. It's so nice to put on an episode (or two) of Curious George in the morning so I can sleep in after a night up with Anna, then let Madelyn watch another episode so I can shower, then let her watch some Daniel Tiger in the afternoon for me (so I can clean the kitchen and cook dinner or do some personal work on my computer), and for her (so that she can have some downtime sometime in between her nap and bedtime). 

And I get that some of that is okay, but it also bothers me that she expects her TV time and begs for it when she doesn't get it and that Anna is obsessed with watching the screen (doesn't matter if I put her down facing the other way. She cranes her neck to see!)

Proof!! And thumbs up to anyone who can name the movie ;) 
So, questions for all you people: mothers who have gone before me or are at it now or anyone else who has given some thought to this before! Will the TV thing get better when Anna is older and the kiddos can play together? Right now TV gives me that extra time so I can actually DO some of those things that need (and want) doing. How do you find the time without TV? Or at least, with less of it? Or how do you get the time even with the TV, because let's be honest, there's still not enough time in the day to do all those things in my bullet list. How on earth do I prioritize the things to do when I have such limited time but when everything seems so important??? Any and all wisdom will be appreciated!!

...PS, in the spirit of full transparency, I wrote almost this entire article while the girls were sleeping - and I was forgoing my nap which I'll probably regret later - but I AM having to finish the last little bit while Madelyn is sitting on the other side of the couch watching Daniel Tiger. "Use your words and say how you feel," the TV is singing. That counts for moms writing blog entries to the wider internet world too, right ;) 


Jamie said...

Love your honesty! I think it's easy to feel that other moms are accomplishing so much more or spending so much more "quality" time with their kids, but the more I talk to other moms, the more we all breathe a sigh of relief that Netflix and the like exist in our day and time. :) We pretty much had a similar TV-watching schedule when Charlotte and Will were very young. As soon as the baby was down for a nap, I was in the shower and the older kid(s) got to watch something, because getting up earlier wasn't something I wanted to do on such little sleep. Since Will does sleep through the night though, and his schedule is pretty predictable, I get up at 6AM to be able to read scriptures, exercise and shower before (hopefully) the kids wake up.
I think right now though you are totally still in the survival mode stage. And believe me, we still have Netflix days and sit around eating Little Debbie snacks because I just can't do anything else---my body and brain are all spent.
My advice for you to pick 2 or 3 things that you feel are most important to have in your life right now, other than the obvious things, and make a plan of how you'll fit them in.
I got a Denise Austin Daily Dozen exercise DVD for like $7 on Amazon---it's 12 minutes of non-stop exercising, so it's a great workout in a short amount of time. I figure, I can do that. Maybe someday I'll have time for a longer workout, but for now this works great. For scriptures, I try to read for at least 15 minutes. Sometimes I make it to 30, which is awesome, but usually it's about 15. I figure as long as I do that and say a good prayer in the morning, I'm doing pretty well.
As far as eating healthy, I've decided to simply aim for 3 fruits and 3 veggies/day. So I grab a handful of carrots or slice up an apple or whatever, and it counts. :) I find the kids are eating healthier too when I do that. I like your ideas of preparing things (like oatmeal and eggs) ahead of time too. That's always helpful.
You're doing great.
Some days I'm just glad we're all alive. :) Other days are much better. I think that all pretty normal.

Allie said...

Ah, Amy, I feel your confliction. We have a very limited TV watching rule in our house (only one half hour show 2-3 times a week). And sometimes I wish we allowed more (with sickness, we do). We have 3 kids now (3, 18 months, and 2 months) and definitely aren't sleeping through the night. For myself to feel better, I try to get up at 6:30 and exercise/shower (20 min workout video) while Chris feeds the kids breakfast and gets ready for work. After that, I feel like I have already accomplished something.

As far as getting things done, I have tried to slow down and be more patient with my kids. It definitely goes in swings, but we're doing good right now. Anything that my kids can help me with, I try to let them. Cooking, cleaning, "folding" laundry (as a tip, when my kids reach about 18 months, I stop folding their clothes and just shove them in their drawers so they can help with that, too), etc. It definitely takes longer, gets messier, etc, but it allows me to feel happy, knowing that they love helping me, even if I'd rather be there by myself. As far as my me-projects go, my kids usually nap for 1-2 hr all at the same time in the afternoon. I try to do as much stuff as I can while they sleep that I don't like doing while they are awake - computer stuff mostly. As soon as my kids wake up, I power down and walk away. I will still do hand sewing if things need repairs, or other low key physical projects when they are awake, but only when I am in the same room as them. Everything on my own to-do list gets a second chance after bedtime or put on the next day's list. I know I am a big attachment parent, but I think I finally found a balance that works for me.

Don't worry. It does get better when your kids start playing together, or even side by side. I know that Dave is a lot busier than Chris, but if you can somehow find a way for him to give you a half hour or something for just YOU, it goes a long way (even when sleep sounds so good). Just play around with things for a while and settle on a routine that works for you. We have to play outside every morning, or else my life is ruined. :) You can do this! Just remember, whatever you do, that is what is right for you and your family!

**I sometimes read the scriptures while I nurse (even though it's only 5 minutes). After a while, Madeline will get used to seeing you read and will stop pestering you, or mostly will. :)

Sarah Machado said...

I don't have any good advice. I'm just glad to hear there's another mom struggling to find that balance too! Thanks for sharing.

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