A Mother's Day

A few months ago, during one of my mom's visits, she handed me four handwritten tablet-size pieces of paper.

On December 14th, 1977, when my mom was 27 years old, she took the time to write out, minute by minute, a day in her life as a young mother. I was 20.5 months old. My younger sister was 7.5 weeks old.
The day sounds very familiar. She was up during the night with my sister several times (my mom often wrote, "Karrie screaming in crib. Karrie throwing up. Karrie being very fussy"-my mom has always said that my sister spent a great deal of her early years crying), I was up for the day at 6:30am, and from that point on, other than a brief 15-minute rest time from 3:15-3:30pm, when my sister and I were still sleeping, my mom was constantly tending to the needs of an infant and a toddler.
At 9:30am, my mom writes "still burping Karrie (fussy and spitting up). Kristi reading books, playing dolls, watching Sesame Street-living room floor littered with 10 dolls, Cookie Monster, books, and toys all over the floor-Mommy can't stand looking at the mess!"
From 10-10:20am, she washes my sister's clothes, washes her hair (she never has time to dry it), and cleans the bathroom.
At 12:10pm, she writes, "Mommy nursing Karrie and feeding Kristi mini sandwiches, cutting cheese, and reading a story, all at the same time."
At 12:25pm: "Change Karrie's diaper while Kristi gets into everything possible in Mommy's room-many tears and spankings. Mommy feels frustrated because Kristi just wants a little attention too."

At 12:45: "Mommy getting tired of two whining kids both needing attention and love. Mommy getting frazzled!"

At 2:50pm: "Make a cup of coffee-don't know whether to collapse or go downstairs and get clothes out of dryer."

At 9:35pm: "Mommy polishing Kristi's shoes." (WTF?)

At 9:45pm: "Mommy collapses in bed to wait for Karrie to wake up."

It is a multi-page description of the life of most mothers of very young children.

I love having this snapshot of my mother's life in which she confessed that yeah, parenting small kids is frustrating, soul-sucking, and mentally and physically exhausting sometimes, because to talk to her now, her early years of motherhood were filled with nothing but puppies, rainbows, and galloping unicorns.
Interestingly, this is something I hear on a regular basis from acquaintances and a few friends. A girl I went to high school with repeatedly posts joyous updates (and only joyous updates) about her family on Facebook. Granted, this girl is one of those perpetually upbeat, sweet, kind, and glass half-full kind of people (obviously, we have nothing in common), so I can cut her a bit of slack, but Dear God, doesn't ANYTHING ever go wrong in her life? If so, I want to read about it, if for no other reason than to make me feel, for just a moment, that my life sucks less than hers.

I've long believed that mothers who paint a perpetually rosy picture of motherhood, who never complain, who stress that waking up 12 times in the middle of the night with a screeching, colicky newborn isn't robbing them of their will to live, who are able to somehow escape from their child's terrible twos unscathed, who say they don't miss their former, pre-child life even a little bit, are both terrible liars and doing new mothers a grave injustice.

I entered into motherhood with a very unrealistic idea of what it would be like. Granted, I had spent the two years prior to Isabella's birth bargaining with God that if he would just give me a baby, I would gladly devote my entire existence to the raising of this child.

Just give me a baby!

Once I got that baby (and two others), motherhood turned out to be a lot different than the pasture of grazing ponies I once imagined it to be. I wanted for myself more than motherhood could give me. I wanted to work. I wanted to run. I wanted to see my friends and read books and stay current on issues of importance to me.

I love my kids, but raising them while attempting to keep some semblance of myself intact is by far the hardest thing I've ever done. And I've worked my damnedest to be honest about how difficult it is for me. I am a downer at times. I know this, and I also know that this blog sometimes reads like a desperate cry for pharmaceutical intervention.

But I can't think of living my life pretending like it's something other than it is. And I love reading your blogs when you tell it like it really is too.

A lot of times, life with young children is awesome and funny and adorable, and posts that celebrate this are great to read.

But sometimes, like the 27-year-old version of my mother wrote one December in 1977, "Mommy needs a pair of roller skates and 8 hours sleep to keep up with these 2 little "angels?"...and even thought they are adorable, they have a lot of miserable moments."

Reading about your misery makes me feel less like I'm alone on Bad Mommy Island somewhere in the South Pacific.

My favorite posts of yours are those where you tell it like it really is.

26 Responses to “A Mother's Day”

  1. # Blogger Andrew

    Very interesting. You should do the same.  

  2. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    Gosh reading this I really want to leave an insightful comment, but approximately 3hrs sleep as a result of 35degree heat (centigrade) ALL NIGHT LONG along with a sweaty 2.5yr old who insisted on sharing the bed with me last night, has, well, pretty much robbed me of my will to keep my eyes open!  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Maybe 'those' moms who are always upbeat and joyous are not lying. Maybe they so enjoy motherhood and find it such a positive experience (b/c they are able to manage being successfull mothers while making time for things like keeping up on current news and fitness and the like) that they basically don't even notice the negtaive things like the occasional tantrum, blow-out diapers, and sleepless nights. Maybe they just breeze through those moments with a steady head and choose to focus on all the positive things in their life. They aren't lying and it's so sad to hear that other moms really want us to complain and commisserate with them to make them feel better about their troubles with motherhood. Sorry for your misery, but don't assume that women are lying when they say they love motherhood.  

  4. # Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog

    Different people have different reasons for writing. Someone told me I was crazy for recording the "Bad stuff". That by documenting it, I was giving it power or something. I said that I wanted to never forget the REALITY of my life. I don't want to have a rose-colored view of my past (currently, PRESENT). It does my life an injustice to pretend that everything's hunky dory if it's not.

    That said, I try not to DWELL on the crappy crap. It's by finding those silver linings and remembering just how bad things COULD be that makes my day to day life so much better.

    That said, I am in a FABULOUS MOOD right now and am sending you LOADS of vibes for a FABULOUS day, too! Muwah!  

  5. # Blogger Melissa

    Then you probably LOVE me, right? I often feel like I'm one big ball of negative energy given my son's ongoing issues, and I have no qualms in telling the entire world (or my 111 FB friends) all about it. LOL! It's how I cope.

    However, I know it's not healthy (for me) to dwell too much on the negative. That old saying is true: "When mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy." Or something like that.  

  6. # Blogger Debbie

    I don't post a lot about my children, but I know I do tend to post more positive stuff, than negative. I find that's what gets me through.

    As one of my wiser employees stated the other day "if you can't laugh about it, you may as well lay down and die". Kind of extreme, but I've tried to take that attitude this past week and it's certainly helped.  

  7. # Blogger Jesser

    LOL. Anon is back, Kristi! Does she lurk in the shadows just to jump all over you?

    Overall, for me, I believe very truly in the power of positive thinking, so I try really hard not to dwell on the bad stuff and focus mostly on the good ... and there's plenty of it. For me, focusing on the bad becomes a self-perpetuating cycle and I can't go there. It's not about being dishonest or painting a better picture than the reality for anyone's benefit other than my own. And truly, when I focus on the good, things seem to go better for real. Not that I don't have THOSE DAYS where I snap at everyone and it feels like the sky is falling ... I definitely do!!

    I have also accepted certain realities that I'm cool with: I am never going to be the mom who can play with my kids all day long and never crave some adult conversation or some alone time. Sometimes the constant noise and questions really grate on my nerves. Sometimes I feel bad about that. But I will be the mom who can enjoy making things with them, reading to them and listening to what they say and truly appreciating what amazing little people they are. Motherhood is a lot like most other things, I think ... lots of good, but a fair smattering of difficult mixed in, right?  

  8. # Blogger Rebecca

    Yes, yes and yes! Great post!  

  9. # Blogger Kristi

    Anonymous-I don't know your situation, how many kids you have, their ages, or whether you have childcare or not, but I can tell you that as a WAHM of a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins, I seriously struggle with balance, and what you call a "positive experience." I understand some mothers love everything about motherhood (although I still doubt they love it 100% of the time). I cannot relate, of course, but I know they exist. You are apparently one of them. I would enjoy reading a post of yours that details your secrets to blissful motherhood and balance. Of course, then you wouldn't be "Anonymous" anymore.  

  10. # Anonymous Anonymous

    There are no posts regarding my life b/c I don't have time (nor do I care to) to keep a blog & I would never publicly post details about my life or photos of my children for sure. I make time for personal phone calls, visits with, and letters to those that are involved eough in my life to care about such details. I periodically check blogs & other online sites for 'entertainment' if you will - it's one of the only truly mindless things for which I make time. Since you wondered...I began life as a SAHM 2 years ago after a very fulfilling career in education administration/non-profit work. I'm married for 10 years, we're very financially stable, three kids under 7 yrs., and no childcare unless we need a sitter for various reasons. As my husband works many hours we prefer to spend a fun night or weekend w/ the kids over leaving them to go do something on our own. As the kids have a bedtime of around 8pm, the hubs and I have the nights together for a few hours for dinners together, movies, etc. Plenty of quiet time. Certainly we go on dates every now and then. I take the kids everywhere-we all go to doctor appts together, we all go to the stores together, we go to the gym together and they go to the child-play room whie I work-out, etc. The kids are very well-behaved b/c that's what I expect. I respect them and they respect me in return. I do work at home as we homeschool-a lot of work there. I take it very seriously and we don't sit around in our PJs all day or take days off for the heck of it. We are on the road every day going to various activities. I often take them on overnight trips by myself to visit museums and the like. My husband is not home every night due to his job and so we have learned to be a team and I often feel as though there is nothing I can't do on my own as a woman/mother. I installed our new dishwasher yesterday while the kids napped in the afternoon! We are always busy - never time to be bored for negative behavior to erupt. My kids get along very well and help each other with a lot like getting coats and shoes, reading, gathering toys and such. I do not spend time during the day trying to occupy them while I do other things like housekeeping (other than cooking) or trying to make a paycheck for a job at home, or bill-keeping. I do all of this either in the morning before they wake up (I usually get up around 5:30am with my husband) or after they go to bed (specifically on the nights my husband isn't home). I usually do not get to bed before midnight. I've never needed much sleep. It's just what I do. Certainly there are days with tantrums, a bit of defiance, and other child-related incidents. I just don't dwell on those negative situations and we all glide right past all of it w/o ever really even noticing it. I just stay positive, and believe me when I say that I am not one of those people who has never known adversity, or problems in life. I just have no tolerance whatsoever for excuses or helplessness, so that's just how I live my life.  

  11. # Anonymous It's Not Like a Cat

    I think I have met Anonymous before but haven't seen her in awhile. ;)

    I LOVE this post. I fully agree with you that everyone tends to sugarcoat motherhood, so if you're not all blissed-out and such you feel especially crappy, like not only are you crappy at it but you're crappy for feeling crappy about it.

    I blogged about my experience with PPD and was told by anonymous guest commenters that PPD is a fictional complaint of women who have unrealistic expectations ("What did you expect? Newborns wake up a lot at night, and they cry and need diaper changes")--even though my problem didn't have anything to do with diaper changes or crying. It had to do with dangerously bad depression and a constant crippling sense of being fully overwhelmed and drowning in what my days had become.

    I feel better now. :) But motherhood is still hard some days! Often! I wish I could find a similar record from my mom, who would have us believe that my brothers and I never cried, always slept through the night, and didn't have terrible twos or threes.  

  12. # Blogger The BabbyMama

    Heh, I feel like I'm always telling it like it is. Maybe too much, and then never sharing the really touching moments. People probably think I'm a real downer with a crazy toddler, but she's actually very sweet and I'm not as unhappy as I sound!  

  13. # Blogger Kristi

    Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comments. I am waiting for the day when I can stop dwelling so much on the swirling chaos. I know I spend a lot of time focusing on the negative, but I'm very overwhelmed by my current situation, and I often feel that my kids are swallowing me alive. It's not a good feeling. Sometimes I need that branch to grab on to and when I read about others struggling too, it makes me feel less crappy about wanting to Fed-Ex them overseas.

    Anonymous (a name would be so nice): I'm glad my blog provides you with "mindless entertainment" in your perch high up on Sanctimommy Tower. I'm glad you enjoy stay-at-home motherhood. Our lives are very different, however, namely, I am trying to balance a career in addition to being the primary caregiver to 3 kids under 4.5, two of whom are high-needs twin two-year-olds. These are not excuses (this is my reality) and I am far from helpless. I am, however, struggling with balance, which I think is the case for more mothers than care to admit it publically.  

  14. # Anonymous Christina @ Spoonfed

    Serious question for Anonymous: If you don't believe in excuses, what's your excuse for remaining anonymous? Because, really, if you are so comfortable in your skin and so content with your life, why hide? What's your point for being here? And how does harassing Kristi and bragging about your superiority jibe with your self-proclaimed mission to "just stay positive"?

    Also, I'm guessing all three kids were napping when you wrote that epic comment, right? Because we all know you wouldn't dare take the time to go online if they were awake.  

  15. # Anonymous Kell

    Kristi- this is a honest and thoughtful posting. I enjoy reading here, although I admit I would like to see more of you and your thoughts and enjoyment of your life. BUT! I love when people are honest about motherhood. I think it is so important that as mothers we support each other rather than tearing down when some of us are overwhelmed.

    I too struggled as a new mom I had terrible postpartum depression and moms like that Anon made me feel like dogshit (can I say that here?) It is nice for you to be better than everyone else and to admonish us for not feeling the same way but sometimes it hurts us too.
    I have always suspected that people whose lives are 'perfect' and full of hearts and flowers are lying, OR are not smart enough to have desires for anything for themselves.
    I love being a mom but having twins is a very different experience as compared with consecutive children it changes EVERYTHING.

    Anon- It must be nice to be a successful mom and have time for fitness, and yourself AND get to sleep in until 5:30. I am up at 5 unless my baby is up at 4 and then I can't go back to sleep...I prep my Bigs for school, nurse and cuddle my baby, get them on the bus, give the baby to my mom, get in the car drive to work, work, get the kids take them to their various activities, then doctor and dentist appts, make dinner, bathe all 3, have the bigs play, nurse and put the baby to bed, and then work on my online class and write tests, grade papers and write lectures.... Good for f-ing me, I haven't been to the gym in years (literally). You homeschool, that isn't working that is 3 students, that is a vacation, I have 125 students, plus committees and the school work for my Bigs. UGH I am so enraged by your holier than thou attitude.

    I am lucky to have a husband who sees me a partner, he shoulders equal responsibility for our household and we split duties. He works a stressful full-time job with long hours and extensive travel and never uses that as an excuse not to spend time with his children, we have dinner as a family every single night, if my husband isn't home the four of us eat together. Oh and did I mention I cloth diaper. Send me a medal.

    Being a mom is freaking hard and it isn't perfect and I don't love every day but I love it everyday. Sometimes I yell, sometimes I cry, but everyday I kiss and hug and snuggle my babies. The good outweighs the bad and I would do it all again. But I refuse to cast aspersions on a mom who isn't full of rainbows every minute. Sometimes we have to hold up a mirror to the ugly as well.  

  16. # Anonymous Anonymous

    So, I'm not sure why my name matters - we don't know each other so I would still be anonymous to you. I am not being a 'Sanctimommy.' And yes, our lives are certainly different. If you choose to attempt a career at home and be a mother to 3 young children, okay. But it's unproductive to complain about how hard it is. If it isn't working in its current state, change something. Get childcare/daycare, work out of the home, etc - b/c it doesn't sound like any of it is going well. Thankfully I don't need to contribute financially to our family as my husband has a very lucrative career and so I am able to work at home as my children's educator - the best balance of career and family for me. This is something we discussed in great detail and depth prior to having children. Nobody is harassing anyone and I am not bragging about being superior - just answering a question as to how I find balance and joy in motherhood. And yes, my kids were napping - it took me all of 5 minutes to write as I waited for the afternoon coffee to finish brewing. And now they are sleeping for the night, so off to work I go preparing for the next great day ahead. I wish all of you peace and joy in motherhood - it is possible.  

  17. # Blogger Shannon

    I don't see Linda, of "All & Sundry" fame, on your blogroll, but she also tells it like it is. This is why I continue to read both your blog and hers, because they are *real!*


  18. # Blogger SassyScorp

    I think Anonymous needs to share whatever drugs she is on.

    Just because someone gets frustrated and vents about the trials of motherhood does not mean she doesnt also find it fulfilling and adores it. It just means she is human and life isnt always so peachy keen.

    Anyway- new reader here! I blogged about this very thing a couple months back :)  

  19. # Blogger fireworks

    You GUYS, lay off the Anon mom. Seriously! I'm actually like most of you moms... having a hard time raising my 4 kids under 8 years. I've suffered through PPD too. I will admit motherhood sucks like 60% of the time. It's tough! But I truly believe there are moms out there just like this Anon mom and I don't let her get me down. She's different that me and that's just fine. NO need to beat yourself up over it. We ALL do the best we can and are all good moms so BE NICE!

    I don't home school and I don't cloth diaper! So there! Jeepers ladies.

    Oh and I'm only "Anonymous" too because A)I'm too lazy to sign in, don't think I have an account or whatever and B)I'm computer stupid. Don't know which Identity to choose. But I'll tell you who I am: Raelene- mother of 4.  

  20. # Blogger fireworks

    Oh, I guess I'm "fireworks". Don't know when I picked that name! lol. I usually don't post on blogs.  

  21. # Blogger Veronica

    I love reading about you're mom's day in the life! I wish my mother had kept something like that. I know she doesn't remember how it was really like because we've asked her, especially with my nephew being born. It brought up a lot more questions then!

    To be honest, my decision to stay childless is 100% because I see what other mothers go through for their children.

    No, it's not that your life experiences with the kids have scared me, but rather it confirms for me that I am simply not willing to make those sacrifices, nor take on that responsibility!

    I think you're super strong (as well as other mothers, including my sister) for taking on something that is so incredibly hard and difficult.

    Anonymous' comments don't bother me because I don't see her life as any better than yours. She may have a different perspective and the ability to gloss over the negativity, but at the end of the day, both of you are taking on something that does require a lot of responsibility and where your focus is less on yourself a lot more on the kids. She is taking the kids to the doctors, just like you are, she is going to the gym, just like you are.

    I think you recognize the struggle it is to keep a balance within yourself, something in you wants to be balanced, rather than to just succumb to making your entire life about the kids and only the kids and nothing but the kids.

    Your kids will benefit from that. My mother tried to keep that balance too and now, I'm incredibly proud to say that my mother is an artist and had success with that. I'm glad she was more than just a mom to me and my sister. Your kids are going to be proud of you too, for being a writer, for wanting to keep yourself balanced.  

  22. # Anonymous Kendra

    Hi Kristi! I'm a long-time lurker (seen stats from Fiji, Australia and Vanuatu? All me depending on which network I'm using...) living in Vanuatu in the South Pacific. I came to your blog initially through a friend that was having troubles conceiving and stayed for two reasons:

    a)you're a talented and witty writer

    b) when I first started reading you, you were a new mom and the only mom I found that didn't spend all her time complaining!

    I was feeling a lot of pressure to have a child at the time and really wasn't ready. Your positive posts on Isabella and the joy she brought you really helped me to come to understand that being a mom wouldn't just be hard work!

    I know that some of that joy was overwhelmed by responsibility when the twins arrived, but I still enjoy reading your posts because they continue to provide a unique and refreshing perspective on motherhood.

    And now that I'm a mother... I really do understand about trying to strike a balance. I was overwhelmed during my first few months (and I only have one!)and felt horribly guilty that I wasn't loving every minute. I enjoy being a mom very much now, but PHEW! it can be hard work.

    Thank you for your honesty and candor. It is very much appreciated!  

  23. # Blogger Sasha

    This comment has been removed by the author.  

  24. # Blogger Jamie

    I love this post, Kristi. I am so glad that your mom decided to share this with you.

    Being a mom is the most difficult job I've ever had, and while my blog may read like it's all sunshine and roses sometimes, it definitely isn't.

    I think so many are afraid to show the negative moments of motherhood for a variety of reasons -- but mostly because of fear of being judged. No one's life (I don't care who you are) is perpetually sunny, but it takes courage to let others into those cloudy moments.


  25. # Blogger Holly at Tropic of Mom

    Hey, I wouldn't mind being on an island in the South Pacific.

    Cool idea your mom had.  

  26. # Blogger Suzanne

    I found your blog after reading an article you wrote on about play-based preschools versus academic preschools. SO glad I did!

    Oh, Kristi, I think we'd get along great. I'm a SAHM of a nursing 15 month old little boy and a 2 1/2 year old little boy. I'm not good at it. It's the rare day I don't dissolve into tears and tantrums myself. My identical twin sister is the only person I've been able to talk to about it because she refused to be a SAHM because she knew she just wasn't cut out for it. Maybe it's something in my genetic makeup. Maybe I just don't know what I'm doing. Maybe I'm so self-conscious over everything that I'm doing wrong (while having a MIL who likes to tell me everything I should be doing on a daily basis and that I'm failing my children and her son when I'm unable to accomplish it all) that I can't enjoy it. We've put the 2 1/2 year old in a full-time daycare, but only because my husband works from home full-time now and couldn't stand the racket. It's good for my son though. He needed that attention. He needed that social time. And I just couldn't keep up with them both while also keeping them quiet so as not to disturb Daddy.

    I can emphasize with your mother's "day in the life". Changing diapers, feeding kids, doing laundry, doing the dishes, cleaning, giving baths, not being able to go to the bathroom by myself, and having to literally stand all day because I can't sit down and relax unless everyone's sleeping...it's incredibly overwhelming. I'm just not that person. I salute the women who are, but I also resent people when they make me feel guilty for not being like them. I'm not a doctor. I'm not a politician. I'm not an IT professional. Being asked to be any of those things when I don't have the skills or tools would be ridiculous. I've never understood why I'm expected to go from a successful highly specialized medical billing career to suddenly being a cook, a maid, and a preschool educator, all with a big happy smile on my face. If I was able to work full-time outside of the home (which I'm unable to do right now due to the job market), I would appreciate my children more. I would enjoy them more. We would all be happier. I don't think that makes me a bad person; I think that makes me a realistic person who truly wants the best for her children. Because although having them right beside me 12 hours a day makes life chaotic and stressed, I do love my kids and really want to be the best parent I can be.  

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