Sustainably Single Parenting

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

A Visit from My Mother June 17, 2013

My mother and my daughters :)

My mother and my daughters 🙂

Over the weekend we were able to spend some time with my mother. It was a really nice visit. She hadn’t been able to visit me since my birthday last year, so it was her first time meeting the baby and only her second time visiting since my husband’s arrest. Over the years, especially during the eight years that I was with my husband, my mother and I have had our difficulties, but I love her and appreciate what she has done for me. I know that her life hasn’t been easy.

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My girls were so excited to see her. They absolutely love my mother 🙂 It was nice to see them so excited for family to be around. I wish I lived closer to people who truly loved my children and could assist me in raising them. I wholeheartedly believe it takes a village to raise a kid, and the better the people in that village the more likely my children will become well-rounded, healthy, productive, hardworking members of society. For now I’m focusing on being consistent in my parenting, understanding the goals of negative behavior and how to properly respond, and securing suitable childcare for when I start back working outside of the house. Baby steps.

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My mom stayed from Friday night to Monday morning. We didn’t really do too much, but that was fine by me. I had the most fun on Saturday when we went to the beach. Amara and Terra collected shells and buried one another in the sand while Mom and I figured out how to build the beach hut and set up the beach umbrella I’d purchased earlier that day. It was fun working together, even though the girls only spent several minutes in the shade after we’d assembled everything.

All of us girls at the beach (Terra, Me holding Nohra, my mother, and Amara)

All of us girls at the beach (Terra, Me holding Nohra, my mother, and Amara)

On Sunday, my mother took my big girls to the movie theater. It was their first time ever going to a movie theater and they saw Epic. They loved it! All in all we had a great time. I learned a lot more about how I can enhance my parenting, my mother spoiled me with gifts and time apart from my babies, and everything pretty much went as it should’ve. I’m happy that she was able to visit me!

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Casting Calls and All May 27, 2013

This past Saturday I took my daughters to their first open call at a modeling/acting agency. What an experience! My older two have shown an interest in the industry for some time now; after everything we watch they ask me to look up the actors who played their favorite parts, they look through my dust-collecting parenting magazines for pictures of kids modeling, they marvel at the posters and billboards of children their ages and “want to do that too!”

I considered it when they were babies, but I always felt like I’d be exploiting them and it wasn’t fair. I’m not sure now if someone else planted that guilty seed or if it was my own doing, but with my current baby I don’t feel that way at all. My big girls want to know what the industry is about and my infant just so happens to really enjoy smiling, so I figured…I’m not working a 9-5, we’re finally close to a big city that has major industry connections, why not give it a try?

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All of our professional pictures were taken by Shannon Culpepper ❤

So we went. I didn’t get to bed until 1am on Saturday morning because I’d spent the night preparing their applications, arranging their photos in folders, packing our meals, and being anxious about it. I had to wake up at 5am to shower, pack the van, and wake/groom the girls before getting on the road to the first open call.

My GPS lead me astray, but we eventually made it to the parking garage. We suited up for the rain, and walked for thirty minutes to the first agency. So far so so…it was wet, and cold, and Boston’s sidewalks are not very accommodating to parties of…more than one. But we’d made it, and we weren’t late. We went inside and took some open seats next to another family of curly headed children. The mother and father of the curly headed siblings were drop dead gorgeous; I couldn’t even keep eye contact with the father out of fear that I’d blush too much. Wow. It’s not that I lusted for him, it just seemed impossible to me that anyone could look that gorgeous without being Photoshopped!

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Anyway. The accented agency man explained the business to us and what would happen if our children were accepted. Since I had both a baby and children for the older division he had us stay behind and wait for the second session to end before interviewing my girls. They had to sit quietly for over an hour before it was their turn to be interviewed and I was incredibly impressed with their behavior and their answers when it was finally their turn to speak.

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I’m not sure what will happen, but it was a learning experience either way. We left that agency and headed to another. It was another good 45 minute walk away in the cold, in the rain, but we were already prepared for it so I wanted to stick it out. We got there on time, parked the stroller, walked up three flights of stairs, and waited…and waited…and waited…and waited some more. No one every showed up. What?! We have no idea what happened, but we were not the only family waiting for the agency to open its doors. Several other mothers, one of them a mother of six who had traveled from Rhode Island for the open call, were just as confused as I was. Calls made to the agency earlier in the week verified that the agency would still be having the open call, but the doors never opened, and it made me a little unsure of whether or not I’d want to work with them regardless now.

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So after an hour of waiting around quiet at the second agency I wrote a note, slipped our folder of applications and pictures under the door, and we headed toward the Boston Children’s Museum. It was still raining out, and still cold, and we were getting hungry. I’d planned to go back to the van, grab our tennis shoes and lunch and the baby carrier, then head to the Children’s Museum after the open calls. I found, however, the navigating Boston’s subway system with a stroller is not the easiest thing to do, by far. After making circles around the subway stations, searching for elevator access and smelling the stench of the elevators we found, I scratched visiting the van from our list and head directly to the Museum.

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When we finally arrived at the Museum the line was longer than I’ve ever seen it. It was raining harder than it had all day, and there were at least twenty families in line ahead of us. I just laughed because I couldn’t have imagined things getting much worse. We’d watched a few clips from “Singing in the Rain” a few days prior so the girls attempted umbrella tricks while we waited in line, but I was nearing the end of my energy.

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We finally got into the Museum, but being inside wasn’t much better. We weren’t cold and wet, but I swear that every child in Boston was there as well. The place was so packed full of people you could barely get from one room/activity to the next. We stayed for three hours, but spent most of our time maneuvering around the mass of bodies, and visiting the bathrooms. Ugh! It was so overwhelming.

When we finally made it back to our van, after another ridiculous attempt trying to navigate the handicap subway exits, I packed us up, distributed snacks, and drove for three minutes before Nohra was crying so hard that I had to pull over for fear that she’d choke on her tears. It had been a hard day for all of us. We eventually made it home, did Bedtime Business, and fell asleep.

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I must admit, it wasn’t all headache-inducing craziness. One perk of hoofing it around the city to the two agencies was that we wound up right in the middle of Boston’s Anime Convention. The girls loved seeing all of the colorful costumes and even took a picture with some girls dressed as Madoka Magica characters! We also hadn’t known prior to arriving in the city, that the last official mile of the Boston Marathon was being run at Copley, and we got to watch and cheer awhile as people crossed the finish line. And a friend of mine from Emerson met up with us at the Children’s Museum and brought us brownies from the bakery where she works. It was nice getting to see my friend, see Boston Strong again, and hear my daughters say, “I can’t wait to grow up so I can dress up like those people!” 🙂

 

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.

 

Still I Wonder…About Him March 29, 2013

I tried to convince myself not to worry about him months ago. I tried reminding myself of the bad times. I tried focusing on the felony charges, the reason for my restraining order, the pain and embarrassment of the entire situation. I tried telling myself that I was only feeding into his narcissistic desires if I spent my time and energy on him. I tried to reason with myself that with my heavy load I didn’t have strength left to carry the burden of continuing to worry about him. To wonder about him. To wish it were different.

But still I do. I was conditioned to put his needs ahead of my own, and even though I have not seen or spoken to him in ten months it’s terribly difficult for me to let my worries go. I still wonder what he’s thinking about me, about everything, and lately especially about our newborn baby. Does he blame me? Of course he blames me. What is he telling everybody? How has he framed things? I’m sure they all think I’m a monstrous psychotic manipulative bitch. It pains me. I miss his family, but they will never love me again.

I wonder if he still loves me. He never loved me. I know that he never really loved me and I still wonder if he still does simultaneously. QuestionMarksMaybe I am crazy. I wonder if he’s with somebody. What is he telling her? Are they the same things he told me about the mother of his first baby who he never sees? Is he convincing her that really I’m the abuser? That I caused all the hardship? That’s I’m insane? Of course he’s telling her that; he’ll never take responsibility for anything.

So why do I worry about whether or not he’s eating alright? Why do I care if he’s losing weight? Why do I brood over his ability to sleep at night? I spent the majority of my pregnancy an insomniac. I have no money to pay our bills in New England, but still I’ve made EVERY mortgage payment on our Illinois home since he left though he’s probably living in it. I have our three children, our three daughters ages five weeks to five years and I’m getting nothing from him.

So why the hell am I worried about him? Quite obviously he’s being well taken care of. He has more than likely convinced his family members of his innocence. He has probably started training a new woman. He is making calculated decisions regarding his legal proceedings. He doesn’t give a shit about me. Maybe that’s what bothers me? That I’ll always care for him even though he wronged me and it’s so easy for him to let go of me, of all of us.

It’s our second daughter’s fourth birthday tomorrow. Is he thinking of her? He never cared much for our second daughter. Maybe he’s happy to not be here. I have no idea. The not knowing anything is so hard. I think he knows that the not knowing is hard for me. He is probably loving every minute of my misery. I want to stop myself from wondering, from worrying, but some part of me might always be focusing on him. In spite of everything a huge part of me wants him to be alright, wants him to love me, wants him to care about our family. That part of me may be unwilling to allow myself to let go of the fantasy. The fantasy is better than constantly thinking he’s plotting to kill me…though him wishing me dead is probably closer to reality.

Still…I wonder.

 

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.