Categories
Writing

Dinosaur Mama

Dinosaur Mama

The marks etched into the desert landscape as viewed from my seat on the plane look as though a mama dinosaur had one too many sibling dino fights; stomping and dragging her foot back toward her body.

“He’s the only reptile brother you’re ever going to have.”

In the wake of her stomp and drag, the shape and roll, the imprint of the Earth forever changed. Like when I am rooting through my closet, on my knees and sweating, looking for my other gray shoe in a sea of shoes that aren’t gray, and I hear one more time…

“Mom?”

I mistake the voice, one brother for the other. I’ve just sent the older one back to bed after he asked me eleven questions about California, airplane safety, earthquakes, tectonic plates, tsunamis, and Disneyland versus Disney World.

I am bone tired; I physically ache after three nights of insomnia brought on by who knows what. I parented alone all day as my husband sat with his grandmother at the hospital while his grandfather had yet another heart cath after what I count as his third heart attack since I joined the family. We launched big news at work that will hopefully help moms for decades to come. I smashed my iPhone to smithereens on the garage floor while running a quick errand. I made tacos for dinner—and didn’t have enough taco shells for myself. I ate a bowl of beans while the boys left half of their taco shells on their plates, slobbered on and uneaten. The dog ate half a Gymbuck I earned buying the boys overpriced Easter clothes the day before because I realized, too late, that I wouldn’t get home until the evening on the day before Easter. When I yelled at the dog, she peed on the floor.

I was tired. So I snapped.

“What? I thought I sent you to bed.” I didn’t even turn around at first.

But I immediately regretted my tone. I get stressed before I travel, but I hate taking that tone at any time for any reason with my sons. It feels gross.

I felt even worse when I turned and saw not our older son who had, yes, gone back to bed, but our younger son, clad in dark green fleece pajamas adorned with sock monkeys. His face crumpled in the way only his face crumples, in the way that breaks everything within you.

“I finished reading and I just wanted to say goodnight.”

Shit.

This is a truth of my motherhood. My anxiety will creep up and up for whatever reason—work, busy life, fire life, homework, family, travel—and it spills out and over onto these ones I’ve been charged with care. I pulled him into my arms and apologized, asking if he wanted me to tuck him into bed. Again. He nodded. And sniffled.

I shuffled him down the hallway, scooched his butt into his bed, and pulled the covers up to his chin. His face remained crumpled.

“I’m. Going. To. Miss. You. So. Much. You. Never. Leave.” Sobbing. Snot. Tears. Arms around my neck. I held him close, a bit flabbergasted.

“It’s okay, Boo. Amanda will be here for one day and daddy the next two days and then a special day with Nina. We can text and FaceTime a lot.” I brushed his quickly growing hair out of his face, wiping tears that snaked down his soft cheeks.

I haven’t gone anywhere for work in over a year. I’ve been at home, firmly planted in close proximity to them at all times. I made choices that kept me in our shared space for specific reasons, just as I made choices to start a new job that will occasionally take me from my babies for specific reasons.

The boys know I “help mamas,” but they don’t quite understand what I do beyond that general description. They’ve heard me mention mental health, but they don’t get what my work does for others’ mental health. They know I’m on the computer and the phone a lot during the day and that I have more time in the evenings than I used to. They know I seem happier, less prone to bouts of anger or irritation, like the one LittleBrother just witnessed. But they don’t yet have an understanding of the endless work of those within the non-profit sector. They don’t get mental health stigma and the fight we have as a team to get people to take us, to take our suffering moms, seriously. While they know I take medication to make my brain work properly, they don’t understand that without I quite likely wouldn’t be here, with them; alive.

It’s interesting to be here in San Jose for the NTEN Non-Profit Technology Conference. Nearly two years ago I stood on the Grand Ballroom Stage at the San Jose Convention Center and read my Voices of the Year piece to a room full of BlogHer attendees. I stood on that stage and I talked about understanding suicide, about having been on that same proverbial bridge, of being so glad I was far from it. People called me brave for sharing my truth. I didn’t yet know that my mental health was crumbling around me, that within three months, I’d be in the hospital for getting too close to that bridge that really is any freaking bridge. That rock bottom was so very close. I couldn’t see it.

Jenna Hatfield, Voices of the Year 2014

And I didn’t know I’d be walking through the same convention hall, nearly two years later, learning as much as I can so I can help support moms dealing with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders in the best ways possible. I couldn’t see this was coming either. Maybe it would have made rock bottom easier. I’ll never know.

What I do know is that doing important work for moms makes the time spent away from my sons feel tolerable. Maybe instead, the big hole I saw from the sky wasn’t that of a mama dinosaur, tired and fed up with another day of parenting. Maybe the lines in the Earth symbolize the way our little dinosaurs step into our hearts, our lives, our souls and forever change who we are, how we see the world, and the ways in which we want to make it better for their generation.

Either way, I miss those little, loud-footed boys of mine right now. This is working motherhood; this is warrior motherhood.

Categories
Parenting

Half a Month

Swimming Is Exhausting

I’ve spent half a month home with the boys. We’ve done a lot of things. It’s felt really great in a lot of ways.

But.

It’s also felt challenging on a number of levels.

Truth: I’ve never simply stayed home with my sons. When I left the newsroom in 2006, I already had a contract lined up to work from home. In those nine years, I’ve worked steadily through pregnancy and bed rest, through breastfeeding and potty training, through vacations and baseball games, through preschool and the transition into elementary school.

Over the years, I found my groove. I taught myself how to shut the laptop at the end of my work day. I learned how to flex my time, how to work after the boys went to bed when things needed finished by morning. I also learned how to push myself just a bit too hard and end up with too much on my plate.

It makes sense then why I’ve felt challenges since leaving my job. I have a lot of questions about it, too.

What do I do with this free time? Why are we still late for baseball practices? Why aren’t we free on the non-rainy days so we can use our pool pass? Why are we still so busy? Why do I still feel overwhelmed by the boys? But where does clutter come from? Why are all the library books late? Do I really have to play Monopoly with them? Why am I so horrible at board games? When did they get to be better than me at video games? Why do their socks fit my feet? OMG, how much can they really eat? Why did we have to buy a house that allowed them each to have their own rooms if they only and always want to sleep in each others’ room? Can I serve spaghetti three nights in a row? Will they notice? Would they like that better? Why don’t they knock? Why are they so loud?* Why do they follow me? Why is it even worse when it’s silent and I can’t find them? And on and on.

One question leaves me questioning myself the most: Why do I still feel overwhelmed by the boys?

For nine years, I’ve assumed my frustration, lack of patience, and general feeling of overwhelm when it came to mothering these two boys came from my hectic schedule as a working mother. I knew that stay-at-home moms also felt these things, but I truly thought my own issues stemmed from how much I attempted to handle at once regarding the non-existent work-life balance.

It turns out that parenting is just this way.

Before the end of my last day of work which coincided with the boys’ first day of summer break, I found myself thinking, “And I’m taking a month off with you crazy kids because why?” I’ve been frustrated at various times since then, though I can see trends in where the frustration begins. The boys’ arguing, the rush to get somewhere combined with the summer slowness we are all craving, overtired whining, my anxiety, and a few other things all make me feel like I’m not doing this well. Like I’m not doing my month home with the boys “right.”

I’m a funny creature.

There is no “right” to this month off—though I would like to report I am mostly caught up with laundry on a daily basis. No, we haven’t made it to the pool as much as I originally hoped, but we’ve gone and enjoyed our time together, made friends, and had fun. I haven’t made fancy desserts or breakfasts, but I seem to manage feeding us on the regular. I haven’t made it to see all of my friends—and I hate that—but the boys have had a number of great adventures with their friends. I read an entire book, but we haven’t made it back to the library yet and everything is overdue. Again. Always. Plans I hoped for may have fallen through, but we’ve replaced those with other great plans. One kid is sick, the other will likely get sick, and I can imagine the two adults in this house ending up with fevers on our beach vacation.

But still.

Despite any imagined self-caused shortcomings so far this month, it’s been a great time. I’ve never had this much time with my boys to simply be. We sit on the porch at bedtime, eating Popsicles and watching the fireflies come out. We do what we want, when we want, because we can. While I try not to speak for my sons, I genuinely feel they’re enjoying this extra time with me.

While I know it won’t last forever, I know I will treasure this month through eternity—challenges and all.

*=Genetics.**
**=Mine.