Sustainably Single Parenting

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

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.

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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.

beautiful-mama-blog-award1

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.

 

Negative Attention January 18, 2013

I was raised with corporal punishment, but I don’t believe in using it.SpankingECard

I never wanted my children to respect me because I am bigger than them and I can make them feel pain. I didn’t ever want them to see me as a bully. Growing up, I swore to myself that when I became a mother I would have unconditional empathy for my children. I would never forget how it felt to be a child and get “the look” from my mother or how unjust it felt every time a belt struck my backside.

Having been a mother for going on six years now, I must admit that I see why some parents decide to use spanking as a method of getting their children to behave appropriately. In the end I don’t think that inflicting pain on someone smaller and weaker than me will have the positive outcome I’m seeking, but in the moment it would certainly bring about proper behavior through a physical release.

I’d be afraid to spank my children.  I wouldn’t want to hurt them and I already hate it when they cry. If I have the urge to use corporal punishment I am already pushed past my limit of self-control and I can only imagine what could unfold were I holding a weapon. I wouldn’t chance it. I will not spank.

CalvinHobbsTantrumAmara, my oldest daughter, really thrives on negative attention. It’s extremely difficult at times to not give in, but the more I keep my cool, the more she realizes that making good choices gets her the response she’s truly looking for. Dealing with her negative behavior is the hardest to handle at bedtime; she and her sister share a room so Amara will be purposely disruptive. She’ll jump on her bed, say “Mama!” repeatedly in a loud, comical tone, get down from her bed and bounce a ball, call over to Terra to ask her questions like, “Are you asleep yet, Terra?! Terra!?”

When this happens I feel I have no other option but to move Terra to my bed so that she doesn’t have to be accosted. Though it’s unfair to make Terra leave the comfort of her own bed, the girls see my bed as a sanctuary, and the point I’m trying to get across to Amara is that if she’d behave herself she  wouldn’t have to sleep in her room alone. I hate these power struggles.

If I ask Amara to sit on her bed and use her calming methods (blowing out pretend candles -I light real ones for the major tantrums, using “buzz breath”, scribbling on a pad of paper, screaming into a pillow, etc) she’ll typically refuse and then follow me around the house making odd noises. She follows me so closely that if I stop abruptly she rams my body. I know that she wants me to scold her, so I say nothing.

I know that she wants me to hug her, but I cannot bring myself to giving her a hug while she’s being utterly disrespectful. I’m working on hugging her when I’m upset by her behavior, but it’s very hard for me to give a genuine hug when I’m repulsed by her actions. Also, at this point I’d have already offered her a hug, and possibly have given one, to deescalate the situation when I saw it starting, but she sometimes takes that as a cue to move ahead with more bad choices.

I want her to know that I love her unconditionally. That even when I want to slap her across the face to make her stop yapping and to just think about her actions for a moment, I still love her. I want so badly for her to realize the consequences of her actions because I love her. I would not try so hard to teach her things if I didn’t care.

NoSpankingZoneBut I will not give in to her pleas for negative attention. I refuse to lose my cool when she’s purposely playing me. I will practice what I preach and lead by example. We do not hit people. We do not bully people. When we are angry we do not scream or break things. When we feel bad we have ways to positively deal with things. If we need to take a minute to calm down before confronting someone about something we should find that peace. We should strive to show empathy.

I didn’t know much about handling my emotions before I had children. I was so used to being intimidated and not being validated that I didn’t know how to express myself, especially when faced with something that angered me. It is difficult to teach my children how to deal with their emotions at the same time as I am learning, but it is so rewarding to know that I am providing them with a strong foundation for self-control.This basis will help them to understand more about themselves and have positive relationships with others in the future.

Being loving, staying calm, and providing children with ample methods for handling BIG feelings is time-consuming. Much more so than spanking them. However, I believe that the benefits of teaching children to take responsibility for their actions instead of stripping them of their power will lead to well-adjusted, confident, mentally-stable young adults.

 

Birthing Baby #3 November 7, 2012

I’ve decided to deliver at a birthing center.

After this delivery I’ll have birthed in a standard hospital (though we weren’t there very long before I delivered her), I’ll have had a homebirth (absolutely wonderful to experience), and I’ll have given birth at a place that’s a bit in-between one’s home and a medical facility.

The decision wasn’t easy, per say. After two successful, drug-free and intervention-free vaginal deliveries I really don’t see the need to leave my house while birthing, but…I’ll be alone. This time, not only in spirit, but I won’t have his body to knead like bread through the waves of contractions. I also don’t know if my mother or sister will be with me. So, even though I know that I have the strength to delivery my baby safely and peacefully, I’d rather not be alone.

I wanted to hire a homebirth midwife. I interviewed some and met one that I really liked, but that was months ago, when I thought I’d be better off financially by this time. However, I am not receiving child support, and with all of my other expenses I cannot afford to hire a midwife who isn’t covered by my insurance.

It does sadden me. I know that I’m fully capable of delivering my baby without anybody’s assistance. But with two little ones in the house who need tended to, and with us being so many miles away from a healthcare facility, it just seems safer to be with midwives during the delivery. Plus, I really don’t want to be alone.

2009 – Terra’s Homebirth

Birthing is difficult. It challenges your core strength as a person, as a woman, as a mother-to-be. It grounds you, and sweeps you off your feet simultaneously. It empowers you while bringing you to your knees. I love birthing. I feel the strength that I typically suppress consuming me. I am unstoppable and fully capable of riding out the rushes; in, out, up, down, squeeze, opening my body.

But I don’t want to be alone. Birth is a celebration. Someone come earth-side, someone taking their first breaths, someone welcomed to life. I want to be in good spirits when I push her through my bones, I want to give her a wonderful welcome. If I am not surrounded by loved ones, or loving midwives, it will be much more difficult to not succumb to the sadness, to the emptiness, to the fears. I do not want her to come into this world and be greeted by my grief.

I need the birthing center to distract me from brooding over him during labor and delivery. I do not want to focus on my worries, I cannot spend my labor wondering what my future holds. From my experience the best way to get through a delivery is to be totally present. It’s difficult though, when the sensations make you want to push against them or run away, and what is really going to help you is to embrace them, allow them to invade your idea of comfort, reorganize your concepts of control.

It still saddens me, that I cannot have another homebirth strictly for monetary reasons, that I will give birth to our third baby and he will not be there with me, that I will bring her into this world so uncertain of what will be. But I am happy that she’s coming. I am excited to prepare for her. The girls already consider her in everything that they do and enjoy imagining the ways that Baby will contribute once she’s here with us. I will do my best to bring her into this world safely and surrounded with love.

This may not be the situation of my dreams, but I’m still going to give birth naturally, and I’m going to make her earth-side entrance as positive and peaceful as can be.