Life Update – December 2020
Hi all! I’ve missed this space and am happy to be back sharing pieces of my life and what I’m learning with you! I hope you made it through 2020 okay and that we can return to the parts of life that have been off limits. I can not wait to get vaccinated! Today I wanted to share how the last 6 months have been going.
But first, I’ve launched a podcast version of the blog. It will be me narrating the blog posts for you. It’s for those of you who, like me (!), prefer to listen over read. The podcast isn’t up on every podcast platform, yet. For now you can find it on Anchor or Spotify.
No side hustle + things take time.
I want all work to have a place. Part of me stepping away from blogging last year was I started working on having a routine I stick to and not putting things in a place they don’t belong. For instance, not cramming work in on days I’m home with my kids because it left me feeling frenzied and overwhelmed. I want to be calm. When putting all the things I need to do in a week in a place (client work, continuing education for work, days I’m home with kids, housework, family needs, my self care needs, blogging, time with Andrew), I realized I had no time to blog. If I wanted to keep blogging I’d have to find a dedicated time to do that work.
I’ve been running my life trying to believe that things that take time don’t actually take time. For instance, just cram in doing the laundry or dishes whenever you can…but I don’t like that anymore! I end up feeling like I can never get a grasp on anything. Laundry takes time. Dishes takes time. Everything needs a place and I want the tasks I need to do to be less of an afterthought. I rebel against structure, but I’ve been realizing the necessity and value of it lately. I follow a structure to live, I don’t live to follow a structure haha. I follow Jordan Page on Youtube and I got her productivity planner. It’s laid out for you to customize your day into a block schedule and I like having a dedicated space for laying out my day that isn’t in my bible study notes/journaling notebook.
I’ve been working on working during the day, but at the end of the day acknowledging that I did all the work God prepared for me today and I’m going to rest. At one point side hustles were a lot of fun…this is no longer that point of life. I need to be going to bed by 9pm (some night 8:30pm because I’m exhausted) and getting as much sleep as possible for the nighttime and early morning wake-ups that come along with the package of parenthood. This was so hard for me to accept after having Jo, that I could no longer work how I wanted to work and had to find a new work flow (actually, still finding a new work flow), but overall I’ve adjusted and settled into my role of mom more and more in the last 3 years.
I recently heard someone say, “I’m running my family like I’m the smart kid in the group project” and I laughed so hard because it is so true for me. I don’t know how to fix that, because I do feel like a lot of the family pressure is on my shoulders and if I don’t continue being “the smart kid in the group project”, you know, the one who gets it done and makes the A happen, xyz won’t get done. But I guess there are different ways in which Andrew is the “smart kid” in our family and ways I am…meaning, we each have different strengths we bring to our family.
Marriage counseling has been really helpful for us, specifically when it comes to how we handle conflict and communicate expectations more regularly now, albeit we’ve only gone to 4 sessions because it’s very vulnerable and ended up being extremely difficult for me, so we ended up taking some time off and for me to continue individual therapy.
Since if you read this blog you likely either know/care about me in real life or struggle with mental health on some level, I do want to be transparent for that latter group that I ended up starting an SSRI again recently after a bit of a poor mental health downward snowball. I find mental health issues in myself rather inconvenient, like “ahhh I don’t have time for this.” I found a PCP who specializes in mental health – she’s an LPC and a MD. And with her, along with my therapist who I see regularly, we have a plan in place that I’m happy enough with. I share because women I view as powerhouse women who have shared their struggles with me when it comes to their mental health struggles and particular thoughts they have has been the most powerful thing in normalizing and decreasing the frustration/annoyance/this-is-inconvenient feelings that can come up in me around my mental health struggles.
I did have the realization over the past 6 months, as I was having some head sensations that required a visit to the ER and then a neurologist and upped my health anxiety, of: I ask and expect a lot of Andrew as a dad partly because I know how it feels when you’re told as a 14 yr old your mom is going to die or be in a vegetative state and helpful, loving, really great people try to comfort you, but they aren’t your mom. I guess I have this belief that I can protect my girls from that if they have a strong, healthy, deep attachment to Andrew, in case I do die young. Ultimately almost losing a parent when you’re a kid is a horrific. No one can replace a mom. But because I went through the threat of losing a parent so young what I need and want from my spouse to feel united as a family is different than what someone else might need from their spouse.
The growing pains of learning to parent with your spouse haven’t been fun, but I feel like we are really hitting our stride now and have moments of such joy because of our family life. Some of this might also be just getting out of the baby phase. Yet, the pull for me to add another kid to our family is still there. I’m not sure if we will. I remember reading on Cup of Jo one time about her decision to stop after 2 kids and that longing she always felt for a 3rd and her husband’s reasoning for not having another was, “you don’t know your capacity until you’re past it.” And I wonder about that for me. My most consistent prayer is around this. Mainly asking God to make the decision for us. Andrew has read Financial Samari for years and he recently had an article that I thought was one of the best I’ve seen on adding more kids to your family and I enjoyed reading other people’s experiences/opinions in the comment section.
Even though I’ve found becoming parents and parenting with Andrew such a hard transition, there has been no greater joy in my life than having sex with the intention of creating a baby, growing that baby, anticipating the baby’s birth, seeing the sibling bond, then holding on for dear life until they aren’t a needy baby waking you up at all hours haha, and then you get these really hilarious, curious, fascinating kids who make you feel like you can’t breathe sometimes because you love them so much, and then it’ll be a lopsided relationship where you love them more than they love you and then they grow up and leave. What insanity!! A friend I love said recently that, “it’s easy for motherhood to look like a burden.” I think my response when she said that was, “ughhh. I don’t want a voice of reason right now! I don’t want optimism!! I’m tired and so past my capacity.” Between the hair loss, lingering aches/pains/changes from pregnancy, initial pain of nursing, lugging pumping parts around, brain fog from physical exhaustion, etc. it is a lot to go through, but it’s a helpful reminder that there is a lot of joy in being a woman and getting to partner with God to bring forth life.
Enjoying my kids.
One of the things my counselor asked me the most over the past year is: are you enjoying your kids? I have a hard time owning that I don’t like being home during the week with my kids. I’d rather work. We switched to full-time childcare a bit ago and I struggle with if it’s the right decision, but it’s been the first time in 3 years that Andrew and I feel like we’re not running at our maximum capacity. And I do feel like I enjoy my kids a lot now. On non-client days when I’m doing blog work/admin work/working on new projects, etc. I have the option to get the girls early and it’s been such nice flexibility. I struggle to fully own that I prefer working full-time, since it is an option for me to not work full-time and stay home more with the girls. My mom worked full-time when I was growing up, so I know you can be a present, loving, good parent even if working full-time, but I still struggle with the fact that I do have an option to stay home with them more and I’m choosing not to. I mean, if I didn’t work we’d have to move to a less expensive area of town…but that is a choice we could make, but I’d rather not because I love our neighborhood and we had horrible neighbors before we moved here and I don’t want to leave the neighbors we have now.
The girls in school full-time could all change in a month if I decide I can handle more time at home with them again or if that is what the girls needed. In therapy I am working to gain a capacity for certain things in my life that are important to me, but right now me getting to work full-time has increased my enjoyment of my kids who I adore and decreased my resentment towards Andrew more than anything else I’ve tried….and I’ve tried a lot of things at this point. Andrew’s job does not allow him to help with the kids like I imagined my spouse would and I’ve had to accept that. What I want and what I was asking him for was not an option for our family. This still frustrates me and I can get into a mentality of screw you I’ll do everything myself then and go down this path of independence instead of unity for our family and the result is just me exhausted and feeling resentful and Andrew feeling that resentment and us not knowing what to do with it. His job provides a lot of wonderful things for us – health insurance, more than half our income, 401K matching. So since his job is inflexible, I’ve had to make a change to figure out how to consistently get more downtime for me. With the girls in school 5 days a week, I now consistently have 4-10 hours a week (depending on my workload), without kids, to do whatever non-work thing I need to, such as, run errands, go to doctor/therapy appointments, take kids to doctor if needed, get a massage, do joyful movement, do housework tasks, get dinner made, etc. We initially made this change to them in full-time school because I thought I was getting offered a book deal and would need more time to work on it. Then the publisher I was going to work with ended up feeling like the market forecast for the book wasn’t as good as they initially thought and I got a surprising, “Actually, we’re not interested,” after several meetings with them and creating a book proposal (it was a bummer). But ultimately a blessing in disguise because now I consistently have down time and don’t feel like I’m running around like a maniac. I have very little interest in doing anything with a screaming child in the car. I can not handle the noise. And I’m grateful that financially it was an option for us to get more childcare hours.
Again, like I said above, I don’t think I’m going to be the one to solve mom guilt, but I don’t want any unnecessary suffering in my life. I know that life will have suffering, but I don’t need to add any unnecessary suffering or misery. Increased joy to be with my kids and decreased resentment towards Andrew are very good and important things and I’m okay making this choice in order to get those things and not have my current capacity so vastly exceeded that I end up semi-unresponsive going through my day…and this is something I still have to convince myself of some days.
We don’t have to have a traditional structure, but still need a structure.
We don’t have a traditional structure in our house, and while that is what I want, I’ve realized we do still need a structure in place. 2020 has been the year of dividing up childcare tasks between Andrew and I. For each week day we have it divided up and clearly written out on our wall calendar who does kids drop off, who gets up with the kids in the morning and who sleeps in, and who does bath time. It’s helped us work together much more and because of that help I feel like I’ve been able to do the household cleaning/organizing and cooking with less resentment because I feel supported. Random help is not helpful to me. I need consistent and predictable help with the kids from Andrew and that is what we’ve put into place.
I have come to realize that there are certain things I am more equipped to do than Andrew and vice versa. Sometimes (a lot of times) that frustrates me and I push back against some of the roles I’ve ended up taking and I end up feeling like I’m getting taken advantage of and like I’m in the trenches of parenthood alone. If I feel like I’m in the trenches of parenting alone I bring it up to see if it’s true or not and we see if anything needs to change and sometimes that turns into an argument and sometimes it’s a super simple change and I think those conversations will continue for as long as the kids are under our roof and I have no beautiful, easy solution here.
Order out of chaos
I think part of being a mom is creating order from chaos…constantly. I struggle to follow routine, structures, and schedules, but I’ve really been trying to put things into their place in 2020 and create a space and time for the things that are important for me to get done. For the past 6 months I’ve been consistently doing the household work and the structure has made me feel like I’m not always running around with my head cut off. Here’s what I’ve found has been working for us. There is still plenty of mess in our house that I don’t care about right now (like the girls rooms or the sunroom are constantly messes), but I’m really happy with the below changes and plan on making the effort to have them consistently stick around:
- Laundry – Wednesdays and Sundays (wash, fold and put away all on these days so it doesn’t drag on and on and feel endless. Ask Andrew for help if I need it.) I tried to do the “one load of laundry everyday” thing, because a lot of people have recommended that, but that makes me feel like the laundry is endlessssss.
- Sunday basket on washing machine – Another thing that has helped me was a recommendation from the podcast Organize365, which is to have a basket in your home where odds and ins you find throughout the week or pick up off the floor go. Then on Sunday you go through it to donate/throw away/put up.
- Donation basket on dryer – I have a laundry basket lined with a trash bag that lives on our dryer now and when it’s full of clothes I bag them up and donate it. Now don’t ask me what to do with toddler clothes that are too small for Ella, because that leads me down a super emotional path extremely quickly of, “oh, I want another kid. I think. Do we have the capacity for it? Will it be good for our marriage? Do I keep these clothes/carseat/baby swing or give them away? Ahhhhh I don’t know!!” It’s hard for me to tolerate the uncertainty.
Any thoughts? I love learning from you moms who’ve gone before me in all things marriage and childrearing!