Every time a friend of mine gives birth to her first child — and especially if it’s a boy — I hold my breath.
I remember those early weeks, the obsessing over every little thing, scouring Google like it was CliffNotes to parenthood. I remember the crazy every-three-hour feeding schedules, the pumping (oh, the pumping), the bottle warming, the endless laundry and dishwashing. I remember having to apply dabs of apply Vaseline to the area newly circumcised every time we changed his diaper, which was a lot. I remember the cute baby farts that became not-so-cute baby gas that became not-at-all-fun baby problems. I remember my nipples cracking, the pain from pumping every three hours, that initial latch that felt like knives stabbing my boobs. I remember thinking all of this would never end, ever.
Then he grew up.
He slept through the night. He started eating solid foods. He slowly crawled, then stood, then walked.
Looking back, it seems like it all happened so quickly. I mean, it’s only been about two years. And a lot has happened! But when we were immersed in it, it didn’t seem quick at all. In fact, there were times I never thought he would ever crawl or walk, ever stop wanting the bottle, ever climb into his own booster chair at the table and feed himself.
But now he’s running, jumping, dancing, playing in the ocean, hiking with us, even sweeping the leaves outside. (Yes, we’ve already put him to work.) It’s amazing!
But I’m going to be honest here: This has been really hard. Our lives are completely on hold. All of our choices — from the jobs we have to the place we live — revolve around this little guy. I used to travel at least six times a year, including international jaunts, and now I’m lucky I can sneak away to a Neighbor Island for work. I’d love to surf every morning, but that time slot is reserved for making breakfast, walking dogs and tidying up the house. And though it may seem like I have all this time at night — the kid goes down at 6 p.m. — I’m exhausted from a full day of working, cooking, cleaning, walking dogs and playing with a toddler who can’t stay in one place. I’m a zombie.
I’m in total survival mode right now. My life is a strange hodgepodge of my former existence. I sneak away to surf at least twice a week but with no time anymore for leisurely breakfasts before heading to work. I don’t have time (or energy) to workout, so I get my exercise in by walking three miles to the office most days. And my dogs are afterthoughts — just check my Instagram.
I recently checked my Google history and it was very revealing. No more looking for cheap flights to Iceland. My searches look more like this: How to potty train a toddler boy difficult; Monster truck books for kids; Is Albuterol safe for toddlers; Who is Blippi.
There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t feel like a failure in some way. The house is never clean, no matter how often I vacuum and mop. I feel like I can never catch up (forget getting ahead) of my work. I’m so uninspired in the kitchen, I only bake when I’m stressed and I rarely experiment with new recipes. (I can’t afford to waste ingredients!) I’m braindead by the time the evening rolls around and all I want to do is read a book, watch reality TV or sleep. Forget blogging, playing guitar, running or doing anything that requires any type of brain function.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t do this, like I’m going to wither away. I wonder if this is how my life will always be, stuck at home, too tired to do anything productive, barely getting by. I don’t know how other moms are running small businesses or writing books or traveling the world. A friend of mine is in Paris right now — with a toddler just a few months older than mine. And another has taken her kids to Japan and Disneyland more times than I’ve been myself — and her daughter is younger than Landon!
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. And I know other mothers who follow me on social media may think I — me, the one whining right now — have everything under control. Look, I take my son hiking, we go to the beach all the time, I just made five jars of pickled veggies the other day! What mother of a toddler boy has time for that?!
Yes, I do all of those things, but what you don’t see are the moments when I’m serving my son reheated chicken nuggets, a handful of dried cranberries, strawberry Go-Gurt and French fries from McDonald’s for dinner because I didn’t have time — or was just too lazy — to cook anything else. Or when I’m binging on Girl Scout cookies on the couch, thinking about going on a run but don’t. Or when I’m lying in bed, in the middle of the night, checking the baby monitor to see if my son is still alive and worrying if I applied to enough preschools. (At last count, it was 14.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is simply this: We’re all doing our best, and our best is never going to be what we want it to be. Even the most put-together moms have insecurities, feel like failures at times, wonder how they’re going to make it through the week.
And we do. I did. I survived those first two years, when so much change was happening. We went through toys and clothes and gadgets every few weeks. I can’t even remember how to use a bottle warmer or swaddle a baby. Oh, how badly I wanted Landon to walk — and now look at him.
Just be careful what you wish for.