Dark Time

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My life is busy.

Anyone who knows me will confirm this for you. We have three young boys – one still breastfeeding – and I started law school at the beginning of September. Our youngest decided that daytime formula feeds are just NOT acceptable, and so he reversed his feeding cycle and now feeds every 2 hours at night. I have 30-40 hours of reading and school work to do each and every week, which I wedge in on lunch hours and after bedtimes and over top of the one on one time I have allotted for me and my husband. (Side note here: if you ever decide to go to law school while you have young children, get yourself a househusband. Unlike the mythical house hippo, the househusband is a very real and very valuable addition to your life.)

My life is busy, and I am tired.

In addition to the craziness of life, the demands of going back to school full time have made me seriously wonder if my family is getting enough of me. I fought so hard for this family. I Love them more than anything and anyone else in the world. I take time – however short it may be – to be with my husband and my kids each and every day. I set aside one day each weekend where I forget about school and remember I’m a mom and a wife. But going from full time mom to full time student is bound to change the dynamic of our little home. While I love watching as Lazarus starts to fall deeper into sync with Tory, it is bittersweet knowing he is falling slightly more out of sync with me. The natural rhythms of our early months together are fading as he grows and I can’t help but feel a twinge of loss. Tory has been incredible taking care of our home and our children, but he gets almost no help from me on those fronts, and almost no time with me alone. The older two boys are already with us only half the time, so the time we do have with them carries so much more weight.

My experiences are no different than those of working parents everywhere. Tory struggled for years and under far more difficult circumstances being away from his family. It is a struggle – knowing I am doing what I need to do both for our family and for myself, but also knowing it comes at a cost. Life is full of difficult realities. And those realities, those worries, the busyness and tiredness, they can all create so much noise that we get lost in the cacophony.

And that is where I found myself tonight. I walked in the door to find Tory was frazzled and exhausted from a particularly long day. I tried to juggle feeding Lazarus and making some dinner for myself, while Tory took care of dinner for the boys and himself in between trips to the sink to finish up the dishes. All the while, the boys were in and out, asking questions, playing with friends, wanting to connect with us both. All this noise swirled around me and I wondered how we would handle it all.

But we did. We got through dinner and homework, a mishap with paint, a thumped head and some hurt feelings, another feed, bedtime for the baby and playtime with friends. We recorded L’s first adorable phone call to a kindergarten friend and set up a play date for the weekend. We talked about lying and laziness and work ethic. We played catch the caterpillar. And still the noise of things to do yet tonight were ringing in my ears.

As I poured myself a glass of wine and finished up a pot of boiled eggs for snacks, L invited me to sit with him on the porch. Now, I don’t know about you, but when one of my boys invites me to do something, I will do everything I can to participate. It took us a long time to get to a point where they wanted me to be a part of their worlds. And as boyhood quickly marches forward, who knows how much longer I will be invited in.

So I went. And I sat. And I listened. We drew words and pictures in sidewalk chalk on our steps and on the sidewalk in front of our house. L talked about how mommy’s favourite colour is orange now, not purple. We talked about how L prefers egg whites to egg yolks and about how wine is gross and about why there was only one purple chalk stick. We sent mommy some pictures of the beautiful clouds. We talked about the deep blue of the night sky.

It was nearly bedtime when L said “Brynn, I’ve always wanted to go on a dark time walk, but I never have. Will you go with me?” I told him it would have to be quick and we hurriedly gathered up the sidewalk chalk and got on our shoes. And out we went.

First, we looked at the clouds. “Look at how beautiful the sky is Brynn! See over there?! It’s God peeking out! He’s looking at that boy. Look at how dark blue the middle is. It’s my favourite colour! I love the sky at dark time.” We walked down the sidewalk, our shadows stretching out in front of us. “Ow, something pricked me! Did you know mommy punched a rose bush and the thimbles poked holes right through her glove. The electric for that street light just went out! I’ve never been to the park at dark time. Will you swing with me?” “Quickly” I say as we run across the grass.

I push L as high as I can, then hop on beside him. “I’ll try to keep swinging myself. Why are you going so much higher?! How do you do that?”. I explain that bigger people can more easily create momentum. “I know how to swing too. I’m really good at it.”

As we head back home, he laments that he can’t stay looking at the sky. “How about one day, we can sleep in the backyard and look at the stars” I say. “But what if we get scared?” “It’s ok, daddy or I will sleep with you.” “Can I sleep outside when I’m five?” he asks. “Yup” I answer. “YES! I’m five next year.”

We are almost home, maybe six houses away, when L says to me in a serious tone, “Brynn, this is the beautifullest time in my life.” All I can manage to say is “I agree”.

These next few years will be hard. There is a lot on my plate. There is a lot on all of our plates. But even though there is so much going on, even though it is all important in some way, none of it takes away from the beauty of the life we are living in the midst of all the noise. Our children remind us that life continues on, even if we are too busy to notice. And they remind us that those moments we do have – no matter how few or far between – matter more than we think.

It took the quiet of a dark time walk to let me hear the most important noise in my life – the voices of my children.

Take time for some dark time. It may be just what your soul needs.

 

 

 

The Many Moods of Motherhood

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*Disclaimer: This post is about motherhood. I have two other children – my stepsons – who I Love deeply and uniquely and with my whole heart. But because they have a mom who is present and active in their lives, being “main mom” is not my role in their lives. Even though I have been stepmom for 2 1/2 years already, being main mom has still been a completely new experience.

 

 

Six and a half months ago, a mother was born.

Standing on this side of the motherhood experience, I can say with absolute certainty that there is nothing anyone can say to you that will prepare you for being a mom. Sure, you may know how to care for babies and change diapers, have your dos and dont’s of discipline laid out and understand your position on vaccines and playdates and private schooling, but there is nothing that can make you understand the emotional impact being Mom will have on you.

Everyone talks about the overwhelming, life altering love new parents feel. It is true – you will Love this child of yours in a way you can’t comprehend. It’s an incredible reorientation of self that occurs. Everything in your life passes through a new filter now – that of parenthood. Priorities change.

But not everything in motherhood is butterflies and roses and lollipops.

I spent a lot of the first few months of being a mom feeling like I was a bad person. Why? Because while I felt all the love that everyone always talks about, I also felt a lot of other not so nice things.

For one, I felt a lot of resentment. Resentment that I had lost my ability to just go out for a night with my friends without having to get a babysitter and pump and leave instructions and then worry the whole time anyway about whether or not the baby was doing ok and if the babysitter could handle it. Resentment that my husband could turn over and go back to sleep whenever the baby cried while I had to get up to feed him. Resentment that I couldn’t browse through clothes at a store without a baby hanging off of me or the looming deadline of having to be done in 2 hours so that the baby could eat again. Resentment that even when given the chance, I was unable to nap, as the phantom cries of my sleeping child would wake me. And I didn’t just lose my physical independence (at least for the time being). Even more than that, I lost my mental independence. This baby invaded my every thought. I couldn’t even eat or drink without having to consider how it would affect him. Every single choice I made had to be made with consideration for the implications it would have on another human being. It was totally and completely overwhelming.

I was also frustrated. Before having a baby, I was the most efficient person. I got things done, and I got them done quickly and completely. Now, I found myself struggling to accomplish even a quarter of any given task. Everything took ten times as long and only (maybe) got finished after 4 or 5 attempts.

Then there was the crying. I’m lucky – my baby is a pretty damn good baby, and he’s never been a super crier. But when those times did come when my baby wouldn’t stop crying NO MATTER WHAT I DID, and I was exhausted from only getting 5 or so interrupted hours of sleep every night for the past 4 months, that crying felt like the most effective psychological torture ever invented. On more than one occasion I had to put him down and walk away so I could cry myself in the other room, afraid I’d shake him or possibly throw him out the window from overwhelming frustration and exhaustion and helplessness. Then I’d feel horrible for even thinking those thoughts (even though I knew I would never actually do anything of the sort) and inadequate for not being able to take care of my baby and I’d question why I could not do what all other mothers could. I felt so alone.

And the struggles with motherhood continue. In one week, I am starting law school. My son is now almost 7 months old, and while I am so fortunate to have my husband being the one to take care of him while I’m at school, I still battle off thoughts of being a bad mother for leaving him while he’s so young. I worry that he will feel insecure and abandoned. I feel guilty that I don’t have the time or energy to pump while I’m at school during the day requiring him to be on formula during those hours. I know I’d be unfulfilled staying at home full time but I question whether I can be a good mom AND be a good lawyer at the same time. I wonder if someday he will resent my career.

I have spent so much time over the past 6 months feeling guilty for not being a good mom. But the truth is, I AM a good mom. I’m a great mom. I’m a real mom. I’m a whole human being and all the different parts of me came together to join in my motherhood. It’s not all love and happiness. It’s not all joy. Sometimes it’s frustration and anger and resentment and fear, and that’s ok. That’s part of it. That’s part of the growing and changing and learning and mourning that all comes with being a mom. In motherhood we gain so much but we also lose our old selves and our old lives, and we do ourselves a disservice if we refuse to acknowledge the not so nice things that are part of our motherhood experiences.

Motherhood has many moods. Many different shades of joy and sorrow, of love and longing, of learning and of letting go. It is the most difficult role I have ever taken on. It is also the most edifying. While I am thankful every day that I have the honour of being someone’s mom, I’m here to tell you other moms – past, present and future – that motherhood permeates us in our entirety, and there is nothing wrong with parts of us struggling to accept the new reality of this enormous responsibility. We are not one dimensional beings, so to expect that our experience of motherhood would be one dimensional is unfair and unrealistic.

You are a good mom when you are nursing your child blissfully in the wee hours of the morning. You are a good mom when you joyfully play on the floor, laughing at your child’s simple pleasures. But you are also a good mom when you hate the thought of having to feed your child YET AGAIN and fantasize about the day when your boobs will once again belong to you. You are a good mom when you just can’t bring yourself to play the same song for the 50th time in a row and you long for uninterrupted adult conversation. You are a good mom when you question if you did the right thing by having kids right now. You are a good mom when you wonder if you are a good mom.

Motherhood is not just about loving your kids unconditionally and feeling blissed out and blessed by their presence in your life. It is also about struggling to maintain your own identity under this new umbrella of motherhood, and figuring out how to balance your needs and theirs. One of the best gifts we can give your children is to be whole people, and achieving that wholeness requires that we embrace both the joyful and the more difficult parts of life. Our children love us for being their moms, even when we aren’t sure exactly how to be one.

Hello, motherhood. I look forward to all you have to offer.