7 Quick Takes: Things I Said I’d Never Do.

Pass the Salt,Photo credit: Max Braun

Time and tiredness teach a lot of lessons. I’ve had some pretty grand ideas about how things in our household would/should run, and I’ve had to let a lot of those go. I’m not saying any of these are bad, just that – well, I kind of thought they didn’t apply to me. Humility is a tough medicine to swallow sometimes.

1. Feed the baby formula – I’m going to start right off with the biggest one for me. I began parenthood as a young and idealistic person. I thought that breastfeeding was best and if it was then obviously everyone should do it or die trying. I became a LLL Leader and worked hard to “help” the cause. Guys, I peeked in other moms’ diaper bags at the mall and judged them for having bottles. I had the fever bad. I’ve long since been over that stage, so please forgive me for my young and stupid past. I had my first wake up call when my oldest went to school and met other smart and wonderful kids. I eventually found out that some hadn’t been breastfed at all. In fact, I couldn’t tell who was and who wasn’t breastfed by looking at or talking to the kids in her class. Huh. Who knew? I also developed friends who genuinely could not breastfeed, even after they tried their hardest. They were still amazing mothers who I looked up to very much.

Still, for myself, breastfeeding was kind of my thing. It was how I parented, how I fed the baby, how I got them to sleep and so much more. When I had a baby, which was often, the baby went with me and I breastfed on demand and it was just how we did things. Then I had a baby at 43 and suddenly things aren’t so peachy. Suddenly we began to notice long stretches of time when the baby had no wet diaper. She got constipated. She was super into solid food as soon as we introduced it. I gulped down my pride and bought some formula. Suddenly she was a lot happier. She pooped and peed just fine. I tried to be happy about it, I mean, there are some benefits here too. She is still nursing some, but my supply is dwindling. When I have to fix a bottle and give it to her in public, I feel uncomfortable. Is there a young, idealistic mom peeking in my diaper bag? I want to tell anyone who looks my way, “You don’t even know, man! I did my best!”

2. Sleep train – My 9th baby was a record breaking terrible sleeper. I think he was at least 18 months old before he slept a two hour stretch. We tried just about everything with him, except crying it out. That was where we drew the line. He did have some health issues – severe seasonal allergies kept his nasal passages swollen, but even with treatment he was a terrible sleeper. When baby number 10 began the same shenanigans, we decided to help her learn how to sleep better. I thought that first week was going to kill us both. But now she goes to bed at night and has one long stretch of sleep. She also takes naps that don’t involve me sitting motionless for an hour and a half ruminating about all the things I need to get done. She is still a crappy sleeper much of the time, so it wasn’t the magic bullet to fix all sleep issues, but going to bed is not the hard part.

3. Leave the baby for an extended period of time, on purpose. For Valentines day this year, my husband gave me a night in a hotel all by myself. He offered me two nights, but since I hadn’t done this before, I wanted to start small. Gwendolyn was already good at taking a bottle, and I pumped every 3-4 hours, except when I was sleeping. I needed this time so desperately and it did a lot to help me recharge my batteries. I never would have considered doing this in the past, even if my husband had suggested it. I would have seen it as him not being supportive of the mother child bond or some such nonsense. In reality though, it was the opposite. My husband knew that I needed to recharge so that I could have a better bond with all my children.

A couple months later, I went away for two nights. It was wonderful – I spent much of it in complete silence, writing or sitting in the bath.

4. All the other Attachment Parenting things I have just given up on. My baby sling – I’ve become a stroller mom. Cloth diapers – the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, and I already couldn’t keep up with the laundry. Baby food – those little pouches are the bomb!

The next ones are a little more of a stretch – I never said I would never do them, I was just pretty consistent about always avoiding them.

5. Put the baby in the nursery. Years ago I investigated joining a MOPS group. But when I found out that there was an expectation that toddlers or even babies spend their time in the nursery I decided not to go. Didn’t they know that babies needed to be with their mothers? And if my 18 month old was still nursing… I mean, that is still basically a baby, right?

This year, for the benefit of my 4 year old, I joined a MOPS group. He had a lot of fun and it was nice for him to get out of the house and do preschools things. My favorite part though, was when the baby would be calm enough to stay in the nursery too. Then I could sit and chat, do their little craft, drink a cup of coffee, whatever it was we were doing. My baby wasn’t too crazy about the whole nursery thing, so she did end up spending some of the time in with me, which wasn’t a problem for anyone. Yet it was good for me to have those moments when she was lovingly cared for by someone else.

And now I’m sure you are thinking that all I ever want to do is get away from my kids. That is entirely not true. I have spent a lot of years though, being too hard on myself, believing that everything had to come from me and me alone. It doesn’t. My children have lots of people who love them and who are willing to help so that I don’t spend every moment stretched to my very limit.

6. Get cleaning help. I swear, the more I write this post, the more I think I am still a toddler yelling, “ME DO IT!” Getting cleaning help wasn’t something I was against because I thought it should only be me doing the work. I’m WAY too lazy for that attitude. No, sometimes I would consider it and then I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on something I was perfectly capable of doing.

Then in that notorious 10th pregnancy at 43 years old, I hit a point when I really and truly could not do that work. I also didn’t have the energy to do the amount of nagging it would take to get my kids to do all of it either. So out of desperation, we hired some help. Oh my goodness. What a wonderful thing! It relieved a ton of stress for me, it made my husband happier, and our home ran a bit smoother. I have continued to have help because I am babysitting my grandson at least three days a week. Having two babies in the house is not conducive to getting bathrooms cleaned and floors mopped.

7. Wear jeans to mass when I had perfectly good church clothes clean and ready to go. I’ve always had the idea that I should put a little extra effort into getting ready for mass. I would dress up to meet the President, why wouldn’t I dress up to go to God’s house? Well. When I can’t get enough sleep, my body goes after energy and rejuvenation in whatever way it can. This means that sleep deprivation equals weight gain for me. So, to be absolutely honest, none of my skirts fit. So jeans it is. I dread going shopping or trying to figure out something else. I still try to look my best. This time is temporary and I will be able to lose the weight before too terribly long. Then I will get some church clothes again. But for now, if it fits and isn’t stained, it’s good enough for public viewing. I’m trying, I promise.

Head on over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

Comments

  1. Stay strong! You’re just being smart. I say WW – Whatever Works! More power to you.

  2. I’ve had the fleeting thought before that maybe life is just a chance to experience the reality of anyone I’ve ever judged before. Little by little I seem to be facing my own set of “absolutes” in order to increase in love and compassion.

  3. I have personally liked nursing my kids, but to varying degrees I always needed to supplement with formula because they weren’t getting enough. The main reasons I like breastfeeding though, are personally selfish reasons: it’s easier and cheaper than messing with bottles!

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