At the end of last summer I bought Mac 5 pairs of 4T pajamas to be worn this summer. Since he’ll turn 4. And his clothing size should presumably match his age. Today I wanted him to wear two-piece jammies (instead of the cozy footies he prefers) and so I busted out one of the long sleeve/long pants combo jammies that I bought last summer.
They’re too small. Like, noticeably too small. The legs are too short, the shirt is too short, but everything is also too wide. They’re a mess.
So apparently I need to get some 5T jammies for this summer. Uuuugggghhhhh.
I finished reading All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior last night (this is the problem with the kindle — you think you still have 25% of a book left only to discover it’s a list of acknowledgements and references) and as I mentioned yesterday, this book definitely brought up lots of feelings for me and things I want to talk about.
The book is broken up basically into 5 segments: infancy; toddler/preschool; school age; teenagers and life after children; and why we choose to be parents. Despite the fact that I’m straddling the infancy and preschool worlds right now, it was the teenager/grown children section of the book that really gave me the feels. Most of the discussion centered on what parents are left with once their children start pulling away from them and it definitely caused me quite a bit of introspection.
"…adolescence is especially rough on parents who don’t have an outside interest, whether it be work or a hobby, to absorb their interests as their child is pulling away.
…Mothers who’d made the choice to stay home were especially vulnerable to a decline in mental health. But so were parents without hobbies, and so were parents who didn’t find fulfillment in their jobs and viewed them more as a source of pay than a source of pride. It was as if the child, by leaving center stage, redirected the spotlight onto the parent’s own life, exposing what was fulfilling about it and what was not.”
I’m not gonna lie — these statements left me scared. I currently work from home. I have the best and the worst of the worlds of working parents and stay-at-home parents. But for all intents and purposes, it’s a pretty sweet gig. My ultimate goal would be to be a stay-at-home mom, though. Being able to take my kids to story time at the library or to the children’s museum in the middle of the day or music classes or, hell, even grocery shopping in the middle of the day when I’m not clenching my teeth and trying not to murder every other shopper in my way would be absolutely ideal for me. Knowing that I’d be able to drop Mac off at school and pick him up without having to enlist help from a variety of family members would thrill me. I dream of being able to volunteer in the classroom and be on the PTA and pursue community service work while the kids are at school. All those stereotypical stay-at-home mom things? Yeah — I want that.
Before Mac, I had an office job. I’ve had lots of jobs. Please note the word — job. Never a career. Never something I found fulfilling in and of itself, but simply a means to an end. A way to pay my bills. So what will adolescence mean to me? If all I ever have is jobs, how do I define myself when my kids leave me? If I’m ever able to be a SAHM, how will I define myself when they’re gone? Will I be disciplined about pursuing passions outside of my children? What even are my passions?
And then I’m led into a shame spiral of whether or not it’s pathetic to define yourself by your children. How shameful is it to be a mom first and everything else second? Is it any better or worse than defining yourself by your career? My dad was robbed of his career and when he couldn’t be defined by his work anymore, it left a void. Parenting, working — presumably none of that is permanent. One day our kids leave us. One day we get fired or laid off or retire.
I am a person who defines herself by her relationships. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend. So if one day, when I do my job right and my children leave me, is it really so wrong that I’ve spent 18 years pouring all of myself into them? I’ve spent my prior years pouring myself into friendships that haven’t lasted or relationships that haven’t panned out. Is it really so bad to be so mom-oriented? I just don’t know. I don’t know what kind of tragic case I am or will be in the future. But I know that it certainly seems to be more pathetic to identify yourself as a mom only and for that to end one day than it is to identify yourself as a teacher or a lawyer or whatever. If I am both a mother AND a friend is that better? A mother AND a wife? Is it the AND that’s important?
And lastly, what the hell do people even have as hobbies anymore? At the end of the day, I shut my brain off. My hobbies are making kickass stovetop popcorn, watching TV, reading magazines, and attempting to read as much of a book as I can before falling asleep with the kindle on my chest. How could I possibly muster the energy for building a ship in a bottle or researching coin collections? Who even does those things? What constitutes a hobby these days?
So anyway, I thought I had a neat way to wrap this up but I don’t. Only that I loved this book, but it has certainly created a bit of an internal identity crises for me.
For nearly 10 months, Mac has been a ceaselessly patient and supportive big brother. He has willingly shared toys with his baby bro, kept an eye out for choking hazards, and remained unruffled whenever the baby had a frustration-induced meltdown.
But Fitzgerald The Destroyer is now mobile and Mac’s patience is wearing thin. Fitz has long admired his brother and watched Mac longingly as he played, but now that he can get around, he’s trying to find ways to participate. Which Mac does not appreciate. You can see Mac try to contain his anger and frustration as Fitz dismantles the train tracks or shoves jigsaw puzzle pieces in his mouth or knocks down tall block towers. But there’s only so much tolerance for disaster you can ask for from a 3-year old and Mac is reaching his limit.
For nearly 10 months, we’ve lived a blissful sibling companionship existence. But I suspect the end is nigh.
The kids are all:
Mac spent the 5 mins leading up to dinner last night BEGGING me for a snack because he was SOOOOO hungry. And he did this while actually standing in front of the oven and watching dinner cook.
So, ya know, A+ parenting, obvs.
Before Fitz was born and even in the early days of his infancy, I worried a lot about Mac still feeling like he was getting enough attention. He’s used to sharing me all day every day with other kids, so I knew it wouldn’t be a huge adjustment for him to have another baby in the house, but there’s a difference between having to share me from 7am-5pm and having to share me 24 hours-a-day. I worry constantly about trying to give him one-on-one attention and not letting his brother commandeer all of my time and [physical and emotional] energy.
I’ve recently realized, though, that Fitz requires the same consideration. A couple weeks ago, we were over at my parents’ house and Mac went to a parade with my dad while I stayed back with my mom and played with Fitz. It was like he blossomed under the individualized attention. Despite it being way past his bedtime, he was in a fantastic mood and couldn’t stop “performing” for us. Within the last week or two, I’ve noticed Fitz getting jealous when I’m holding another baby. When Mac climbs up on my lap to cuddle with me and Fitz, Fitz will suddenly start squirming around and trying to occupy more space. It has gotten to the point where he DEMANDS my individual attention.
And so now I worry all the time about giving each of my boys the individual attention they want and need. It leaves me feeling spread thin and like I’m half-assing everything, but I keep thinking I’ll stumble upon the perfect balance one of these days.
One of the starkest examples of my failure in attention management is the complete lack of a bedtime routine for Fitz. One of the reasons I’ve held off on sleep training is because I don’t even know where to begin creating a routine for him. He’s sleepy a full hour before Mac is, which is when we’re winding up dinner. How can I squeeze in anything else in that time period? But then I feel awful for not prioritizing my baby’s SLEEP! I mean, it’s obviously important. Why don’t I just make the time for it? He needs sleep and he needs me. But making time for Fitz’s routine means taking time away from Mac and then I feel horrible for that. There just isn’t enough of me or enough time to go around.
I dunno. Will it always feel like an unbalanced juggling act? Will I always feel like I’m shortchanging someone? I suppose they won’t always need me quite so much, but when that day comes, I want them to feel like I was always there for them as much as I could be and as equally as possible. Of course, it’s the lot of siblings to always claim their parents love one more than the other, but I’d prefer that’s something said in the heat of an argument rather than a belief they actually hold to be true.
How do other people do this? Or are we all walking around with the same guilt?
And you see the end result.
I wonder how many times a day I make this face.
Mac: (watching The Lorax) mom, that wall died.
Me: not exactly, bud. That wall isn’t a living thing so it can’t die. Trees and animals and people and plants are things that can die because they’re alive. But walls aren’t living things, so we just say the wall fell down. Understand?
**30 seconds later…**
Mac: When something dies it goes away and doesn’t come back, right mom?
Me: Yeah, that’s right. How did you know that?
Mac: I don’t know
Me: Who taught you that?
Mac: I taught myself
Me: Wow dude. Good job.