Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

A Few Good Things June 10, 2013

I’m trying more and more to look at the positive things that are happening instead of allowing myself to get overwhelmed and depressed by the bad. I cannot guarantee that this time next week I’ll be smiling (as I am now, on three hours of sleep, with an impossibly long to-do list for tomorrow morning), but I hope to at least still be building my “Good Things” list.

Babysitter

1) I found a couple of babysitters!!!

After months of not having anyone but my neighbor and one girlfriend to rely on to watch my kids, I finally interviewed and hired a babysitter! Don’t ask me where I’m going to find the money to keep paying her…but I figure it’s a good investment. I’m paying nearly $10K to take my last two graduate courses, and should I fail them it will be money down the drain, so it seems feasible to pay a babysitter so that I can have quality study time. I’ll make it work somehow…

Also, I followed the advice of a friend and found teenaged girls willing to babysit through a homeschooling group. Bright, energetic, responsible, level-headed teenaged girls. Yay! I knew some of those types of girls had to be out there somewhere 🙂 I feel such a weight lifted from my shoulders even though I’ve yet to leave the house and let anyone watch my girls yet. It just feels better knowing these people are willing to watch my girls should I have the need. And there may certainly be a need soon, because when Terra goes to castings, I am not supposed to bring the other two children along with me. What’s that? Castings? YES!

 

tara_play2

2) Terra was chosen by a modeling agency!!!!

My four-year old is a model! Isn’t that adorable?! The Casting Call day wasn’t a huge, rainy waste of time. The agents at one of the places we went absolutely loved her, and are now representing her! I’m so proud of her and happy for her! I knew she could do it. All of my daughters are beautiful, but Terra’s personality and temperament are well aligned for showbiz. This is just the beginning and she hasn’t been booked for anything yet, but she had a professional photo shoot to build her portfolio and she did so amazingly well. It was incredibly cute to watch her, and she had a lot of fun. My oldest, Amara, was a little jealous at first, but she really only wants to do it because Terra is doing it. I’m still willing to shop around for agencies that want to represent Amara and my baby, Nohra, but I may take it slow as just having one child in the business can be consuming and I’m not known for having the most time on my hands.

 

tara_shop1

 

3) I’ve managed to meet my deadlines for my classes these past two weeks. Way-Too-Much-Homework-954x1024

Okay. Okay. Maybe I managed to meet some of the deadlines by rearranging the syllabus, but hell. I still finished what my professor expected me to have finished. I’m doing alright with it all. It’s a lot of work, and I’m staying up late and I’m waking up in the middle of the night sometimes to get it done, but…I’m getting it done. I know this isn’t the best way to go about completing my Master’s…but under the circumstances, what’s another two months of not sleeping? I’ll have the rest of my life to catch up on sleep. Right now I need to finish this degree!!! I’m so happy that I chose the professors I chose for each of my classes as well. Both are perfectly suited for the projects I’m pursuing.

 

4) I get to start going back to therapy!

Now that I’ve found a few babysitters I’ll get to start going back to see my therapist regularly! What a sweet relief 🙂 “Nuf said.

 

5) I’m getting better at being nonchalant

Back when I was pregnant with my first child I thought it would be so easy to practice attachment parenting and that if I just loved my child and showed her that she was safe and encouraged her to express her emotions things would be alright. I never expected thrashing arms and legs, spitfire comments, and utter defiance. I am still a very gentle disciplinarian; actually, their therapist suggests that I be a little more stern…I’m trying to set more limits, to explain consequences, and to be consistent, but with all that’s going on it’s hard to have the energy for every tantrum. Still, lately I’ve done alright. I’m still a softy, but I’m not allowing things to get to me so much anymore. Yes, my daughters still act out, and I still rack my brain thinking of ways to deescalate the situation, but it’s not making me angry or flustered as much anymore. I’m keeping my cool, and not wearing my heart on my sleeve around them is actually working in my favor. It’s hard to not show emotion when things are going downhill, but I have to be the bigger person, and lately I have been.

Nonchalant

I’m proud of myself. Last week was a hard one, but I took it in stride and I came out alright.

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Yes, and… April 8, 2013

Things have been going well lately between the girls and I. I’ve continued to make ample time to play with them throughout the day and everyone has been in good spirits. We’ve been making speaking nicely to one another a top priority, and we’re remembering to give apologies when necessary. Though I’ve been busy with my Master’s project proposal (on top of my normal coursework, and my attempts to keep up on the chores) I’ve managed to get the girls outdoors to play for a least 45 minutes each day for the past four days. I’m proud of myself!

The nice weather has been good for all of us and although I’m not cleaning each room of the condo every day and I’m a little behind my homework, I am happier. Today was a difficult day though, we had about five places to get to on our schedule and typically making it to one is a feat. I knew that I’d have to be patient and possibly settle for not getting everything done. But even before we left the house my big girls were bickering as they played. I kept hearing, “Noooooooo!” Then would come an explanation of what the person wanted. Sometimes even before the person was finished explaining I’d hear another, “Nooooo!” and a different explanation would be given by the other sister.

http://improv.com/index.cfmI usually try to only step in if one of the girls is overpowering  the other. I try to make sure they’re using their manners and then stay out of the way, but I was incredibly overwhelmed with their arguing. I introduced them to a method I learned in college, back when I had the pleasure of performing in an Improv troupe. The game is called “Yes, and…” and the basic premise is to agree with and add on to whatever it is that your teammates say or suggest. You cannot say “no” and you are forced to build off of one another’s ideas instead of shooting them down.

We played the game together for a little while because neither of them seemed eager to play without my participation, but after a few strings of silly suggestions they giggled incessantly while awaiting their next turn to add something to our game. The game came in quite handy when we were in the dressing room at Old Navy, and at bedtime my oldest said, “Yes, and is awesome!” with so much enthusiasm I felt like the coolest mom in the world 🙂

So although we trudged through our schedule today, and Nohra nursed constantly (of course, the day I go for groceries is the one day she doesn’t sleep for more than five minutes at a time until after 11pm, and of course I chose to leave the baby carrier at home), I taught my girls a new game that is easy to play without a smartphone or any other device. They only need their willingness to accept another person’s suggestions and their own imaginations. It was wonderful to see them having fun playing such a simple game, and it was such a relief to not hear anyone screaming, “Noooooooo!” Nope. Just the sweet sounds of, “Yes, and…’

Oh! And we made it to every place on our schedule 🙂

 

Lowering My Expectations April 1, 2013

PerfectionismI’m a bit of a perfectionist.

All my life I’ve attempted to make the most of this trait by disallowing myself to settle for less than the best from my efforts. I set high goals for myself and I achieve them. If I don’t achieve them I am NOT my best friend. I do not like having to admit even the slightest failures, but I’m honest to a fault so I cannot trick myself into believing that I’ve done well when I haven’t done as wonderfully as I wanted to. This can be a great self-motivating technique, but it also has the potential to chip away at my self-esteem.

Lately I’ve been trying very hard to lower my expectations. It’s not that I don’t want to achieve great things. Don’t get me wrong, I will own a mega yacht someday 🙂 It’s just that I don’t like making myself feel bad all the time. It’s not intentional, but it’s usually the result of not measuring up to my own semi-delusional standards that get me depressed and make it even more difficult to tackle the obstacles ahead.

I cannot take full credit for my choice to go easy on myself. Credit goes to the combined counsel of people commenting on this blog, my children’s play therapist, my midwife, women in my support group, my therapist, Supernannyand Supernanny (yes, Jo, the British Supernanny…I’ll elaborate later) who have led me to this realization.

Lowering my expectations doesn’t mean that I don’t still expect the best from myself, it’s just that I don’t expect so much from myself constantly. Does that make sense? Take yesterday; after two days of madness from Terra’s fourth birthday and Easter, the house was a disaster. I was feeling overwhelmed by all the cleaning that I needed to do and really wanted to have a clean house, but instead of my typical work-like-a-slave-and-get-it-done-no-matter-what mentality, I decided to be realistic and kind to myself.

I committed myself to cleaning one room, washing and drying one load of laundry, and spending ample time playing with my children. Surprisingly enough, even on barely any sleep, I worked on the goals I set for myself, had a great time enjoying my children (who were much better behaved yesterday – some significant changes in my parenting can take the credit for that), and although I was busy it was much more relaxing. ExpectationsI didn’t clean the entire house, but when I went to bed I felt accomplished.

It was so much better than going to sleep feeling like a failure for not completing an impossible amount of chores (and I’d have probably spent a good portion of the day annoyed with anyone who interrupted my mission).

Most of the people I mentioned before helped me to realize that I am only human, that the load I’m carrying is quite heavy, and that I have to try to take things one step at a time to both not get overwhelmed and to stay positive about not being able to do as much as I’d like to be able to do everyday. I cannot thank everyone enough for helping me to be okay with not driving myself crazy; working working working to finish every task on my list by the end of each day. One of my biggest goals though, one that is always on my list, is being the best mother I can be, and in so many ways being a perfectionist was hindering my mothering.

Supernanny came to call and helped me along with my parenting. I’d never actually seen the show until last week, but as I folded seemingly endless loads of laundry until 2am I watched several episodes and learned various techniques that I could apply to my parenting. They were all fairly simple techniques, and a lot of them I’d already used before, but being reminded of them helped me.

They called themselves the "Super Long-tailed Space Cats" :)

“Super Long-tailed Space Cats” 🙂

Also, seeing other people’s children do things that I see mine doing was encouraging; I was no longer alone.

The most significant thing I took away from my Supernanny marathon was to lower my expectations of my children’s behavior. It’s not that I’ll start to allow disrespect or bad manners or potty mouths or back talk, but I’ll keep in mind that children are children. They really do want the approval of their parents, they need consistent boundaries, and it’s hard for them to lack the power that they see coming with adulthood. It can be difficult for them to come to terms with their emotions, and they constantly need praise. I want my children to know that I love them. I want them to know that they’re perfect as they are. I want them to feel good about trying new things and that even when they’re not great at something I will always be there cheering them on.

For the longest time there has been a lack of consistency in my parenting. Partially because of the breakdown of our family, partially because it was difficult for me to transition with my children from their infancy to their current stages and stay true to attachment parenting. It was difficult in part because I began expecting too much perfection from my children.

In their Easter dresses and new wigs, courtesy of my mother!

In their Easter dresses and new wigs; courtesy of my mother!

I’ve learned so much since becoming a mother. Every day reveals new layers of life, intimacy, emotion, empathy, responsibility, and compassion. What lowering my expectations has really helped me with all around is to become more considerate toward myself and everyone else. Nobody is perfect, we’re all just trying, and it’s a lot easier to try when everyone is smiling, praising one another, and having fun.

 

Back to Basically Alright March 25, 2013

Nohra is over 11lbs at four weeks old! That's a gain of 4lbs+ since birth :)

Nohra is over 11lbs at four weeks old! That’s a gain of 4lbs+ since birth 🙂

Today is my first day of feeling good again.

I was able to use various natural remedies (warm, moist heat and massaging, increasing my Vitamin C and taking Echinacea, increasing my fluid intake and resting) to beat mastitis without antibiotics. Yay! It also helped that Nohra is going through a growth spurt and was begging to nurse almost constantly these past few days.

I was in so much pain at times, but several things helped me to push through. One was knowing that I couldn’t afford to get any worse as there wasn’t anyone to care for my daughters. Another was that if I had to take antibiotics and transfer them to Nohra by nursing her I’d feel incredibly guilty. Another was that no one was here to comfort me regardless of how much I complained so it was better to stay tough (very similar to birthing). I’m happy to have won this battle. Thank you all so much for your kindness and advice!

Terra and Amara modeling their new sunglasses and outfits courtesy of my sister :)

Terra and Amara modeling their new sunglasses and outfits courtesy of my sister 🙂

Today was spent cleaning, trying to get back on track from several days of letting the girls go off their schedule and wreck the condo. It was bad. It still isn’t perfect, but today alone I got everyone bathed, the gerbil cage cleaned, the cloth diapers and the dishes washed, the bathroom cleaned, a load of laundry folded and put away, and a draft of my Master’s Project Prospectus completed.

The plan was to stop and celebrate every small victory along the way. Every cleaned body, room, dish, diaper and whatnot. But I was too busy scurrying to clean as quickly as I could each time I was able to put Nohra down to stop and enjoy each accomplishment. I can certainly say that being a single mother of three young children has made me much more efficient. I have no time to do anything slowly anymore.

There’s still a lot of cleaning to be done. My summer semester proposals need to be finished this week, there are bills to pay and appointments to make it to and Terra’s fourth birthday on Saturday. I cannot wrap my head around it all. When I dreamed of my adult life I never saw it being like this. I thought that I’d have babies, yes, but everything else was inconceivable. I do enjoy having children, I’m just eager to reach the period of our lives when I can share so much more with them.

There’s still so much I want out of life, but days like today I am certain that we’re going to be alright.

 

Beautiful Mama Blog Award March 18, 2013

A huge THANK YOU to Julia of Wailings of a Work at Home Mom who nominated me for the Beautiful Mama Blog Award! Julia continuously reminds me that one of the greatest joys of motherhood is reliving your childhood with your children. I always thought I’d be a wonderful mother because I could empathize so well with children. I was a great babysitter, the coolest camp counselor, and the biggest clown all-around. I thought I’d never lose my playful spirit, my outgoing persona, my zest for adventure. I may not have lost those pieces of me, but they’ve certainly been suppressed by the negativity of the past eight years. I want to enjoy life the way I used to; back when I was making life and life wasn’t making me, back when I saw beauty in the simplicity of things, as children do.

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Rule of the Award:

  • Click the above image and use it in your acceptance post.
  • List three things you love about motherhood.
  • Nominate as many moms as you like and let them know of the award

 

Motherhood is amazing for a zillion reasons, but if I have to narrow it down to three…

  1. Pregnancy and Birth-  no matter how discomforting, trying, grueling, intense, or any million types of difficult these stages can be, they are also amazing, sacred, awe-inspiring gifts from nature. Nothing humbles me more. I cherish the sacrifice, and in those hours, days, months, I am the strongest woman I’ve ever been, fueling my passion to become the strongest mother the world has ever seen.
  2. Watching them grow– It’s bittersweet to watch your babies growing so quickly into the unique people they’ll be. Part of you wishes they could be babies forever, part of you wants them out of the house for all but holidays. They are so beautiful, you hope to capture every quirky grin and cute costume and milestone. They are so beautiful, and you cannot help but to think of the future, when people will desire them, and you hope you’ve taught them well enough to choose wisely.
  3. Learning from them– Being a mother has taught me an enormous amount. From how I behave when I’m disappointed to how to unconditionally love someone. But I’ve not only learned emotional lessons; teaching them forces me to learn things, pleasing them forces me to try things, keeping them safe has given me the drive to create harmony in our household, and they constantly inspire me to be the best mama I can be.

 

Other mama bloggers who deserve this award (even if they’re not blogging about being mothers):

 

Thanks again, Julia!!!

 

Nobody Said This Was Going To Be Easy March 15, 2013

I am incredibly overwhelmed.

I put off my coursework to care for my kids.

I do my housework since I’m not doing coursework.

I put off my housework to do my coursework.

While doing my coursework my kids wreck the house.

The baby will not let me put her down.

I am constantly nursing, changing diapers, leaking milk, burping, soothing, being spit up on, peed on, pooped on.

I am constantly serving meals, washing dishes, pre-washing cloth diapers, grooming my children, educating my children, feeling guilty that I cannot find the time for educating myself, running errands, running myself into the ground.

I want to cry like my baby. Her cry is so committed, wholeheartedly unabashed.

I want someone to hold me, to rock me, to love me, to shhhhhhhh in my ear while I cry.

I want so badly for things to be alright.

 

 

I Just Forgot March 8, 2013

My little rebel - 2wks old

My little rebel – 2wks old

I forgot about the growth spurt that occurs between the first and third weeks after birth. The typically complacent baby now constantly fussy, red as a grape tomato, and clawing at my breast with small, jagged, never-before-clipped fingernails, suckling night and day to make my breasts produce enough milk to meet her daily intake needs.

I forgot how, insignificant as it seems, those tiny nails produce tiny scratches that lead to very sensitive nipples.

I forgot just how much poop can come out of a bottom the fits in my hand. While pregnant I figured, why set up the changing table? I can just change her diapers on my bed! I’ve been reminded of why changing tables are wonderful. I’d never needed to wash my linen on a daily basis before now.

I forgot that  I should have made time in my daily schedule to pump my breast milk. Even with an expensive electronic pump I’m spending up to one hour each day filling BPA Free 5oz bags. My freezer cannot hold much more.

I forgot the intensity of the nursing thirst. I feel like I can never get enough water. And the hunger, even at night I want to keep eating. I didn’t eat this much my entire pregnancy. And the cravings! Veggies are back on the menu, but for some reason corn, chocolate, and ice cream didn’t leave.

N2I forgot about the fatigue. I don’t know how I survived the majority of my pregnancy on three hours of sleep each night. Even though I go to bed shortly after putting my older girls to sleep, and even though I’m only waking to nurse and pee and change the baby’s diapies, even though we co-sleep, I still wake up low on energy. Like I haven’t slept a wink. What is wrong with me? By 1pm I’m always yawning.

I forgot how quickly the laundry accumulates when you’re cloth diapering. I’m happy to have made 35 gallons of laundry detergent before Baby’s arrival, but I’m still bewildered by the fact that I’m actually doing one load of diapers each day to keep the right sized fitteds, contours, pockets, and covers in rotation.

I forgot about the leaky breasts soaking an entire shirt in minutes. I forgot how time consuming burping a baby can be. I forgot how spit-up only comes out when you’re not protecting your clothing. I forgot how an onset of the hiccups can ruin everything.

But I also forgot how sweet those smiles can be, when they’ve fallen asleep after nursing, and they’re dreaming, but you’re hoping that they’re smiling because they’re dreaming of you.

N4

And I forgot how perfectly unscented their skin is, and how soft their hair, and how chubby their chins, and how round their bellies, and how sparkly their eyes, and how humbling their affection. I forgot how complete it feels to care for a baby. I forgot that my heart would expand and melt simultaneously.

And I never knew how incredibly cute two big sisters would be; eager to help with their baby sister, constantly wanting to hold her, kiss her, never wanting to miss anything.

I suppose there’s a reason I’ve forgotten many aspects of parenting an infant, but there are certain memories that I’ll work to keep with me from now on.