As a Parent, There is Only Forward

One thing I struggle with greatly as a semi-new parent is that there is no going back to the way life used to be.

Even if I protect three or four hours of time to go to the gym, shop online or call my mom, there is always the feeling of having to return to the constant task of parenting. There’s no decompressing when walking in the door of the house at the end of the day – remember coming home, sitting down to sort mail or have a snack? Now, I’m greeted instantly by my daughter and it’s go time: “sticker”, “sit”, “diaper”, “drink”. Commands and demands that I cannot ignore, though I do try to teach her patience and that mommy is sometimes busy with other things.

While my daughter makes demands, I can try to make demands but have to concede if it’s clear I won’t win. I demand a kiss from her, but she ignores me like she’s on another planet, unable to hear. I tell her we will change into her pjs and she runs wide eyed, smiling through the house, naked with glee. Sometimes I laugh. Other times I want to cry at being so disregarded and treated like I don’t matter. I know that she is a child, but sometimes reason escapes me.

Serenity Now: Great Falls, Maryland side

I often have the mindset of, “when she just starts napping regularly I’ll do this” or, “when she starts talking I’ll be able to do that.” But there is always another life changing point in Bug’s life that in turn, changes our lives as her parents.

Bug is now 22 months old. I think I’ve finally come to terms with the reality that things are not going to be as they used to be. I’ve stopped reminiscing so much about high school, college and young adulthood days of parties, traveling and adventure. Sure, being a parent is an adventure – but I am the the travel agent and my client is daughter. My  purpose is to set forth a path on which she can explore — to prepare this child for the world and then set her free to do great things in the world.

I realize I’ve written about this idea in the past, but I have since continued to struggled with living it. Because to accept that life has truly changed means that I am closing the door on the part of my life where it was just me, or just me and my husband. This is a new part of my life and I need to embrace it and make decisions based on not just my desires and needs, but my daughter’s. It’s a shift to being more selfless and it is not easy. And even at the 22 month mark, I struggle with living this way. But I want to, because I think that if I can make that shift most fully, I will be content in being present in the time and place that I am in.

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10 thoughts on “As a Parent, There is Only Forward

  1. I’m kind of a big picture person so when things are hard I look to the long term. This is a quote I really like because it’s so easy to feel like you’re doing one and not the other. “Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being.” – Kitti Franz
    That kind of just puts things into perspective for me – it’s not meant to make anyone feel guilty but to realize that what your doing right now is important for this little person.

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  2. I can totally relate. I always get through by reminding myself of two things. First, I have spent a good deal of my life desiring to be a parent, fearing that I would never know the joy of parenthood, aching to love like only a mother can love. And now I have what I always wanted. It’s not always a bowl of cherries, but it is amazing. Second, it goes SO FAST! It is kind of cliche to say it, but it really is true. In a blink of an eye, my girls will be teenagers and really not want anything to do with me. I know I will look back on this time and wish I could be here again and know the unconditional love that only a toddler can give.

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  3. That is a good quote. Thanks for sharing. Melanie, I know how you feel. I’m so exhausted all the time parenting 24/7. I’m afraid I’m going to miss out on my kids, because I’m constantly just trying to get to the few minutes of the day I have to myself – in the shower, after getting the kids to bed, etc. I want to appreciate my children in the present, but I am soooo tired and I miss the “me” time.

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  4. I want to share this email from my friend who sent it to me via email. Makes me proud!

    “I just read several of your latest blog posts. Awesome. You SAID it, girl. Especially the most recent one. You have totally read my mind. I have such a hard time realizing that this IS my life now. My old life will never come back. And since it was a GOOD old life I still miss it. What have I done????

    Anyway, your writing is beautiful and clear, genuine and honest.

    Thanks for doing it! I look forward to future posts.”

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  5. Another friend of mine, Sohini, offered this sage, detailed advice. Read more of her wisdom at:
    http://sohini.com/life/the-new-home-office-that-which-i-leave-frequently/

    “Oh Melanie …. how I know this feeling. So so well! My kids are 7 and 3, and I can tell you, it never really goes away. But here is what helps me – the trick isn’t to use your child-free time to the fullest. You would think that’s what you’re supposed to do with your spare time – pack in all the stuff you can’t otherwise! But oddly, it’s not. It’s to plan so that when it’s up, you don’t feel like it went by. I think my older one was 3 before I figured that one out.

    What you have when there are no children, is that sense of unlimited time, of having whatever mellowness or exercise-high stay that way. And that gets utterly obliterated the second you walk back home. Which is why I did and still do the following:

    1) Go out at night. Come home to a quiet, picked up, house where the kids are adorable because they’re ASLEEP. You get to actually enjoy the downtime and slowly ease back into the rest of your life. (If you’re not a night owl, see #3.)

    2) If you go work out first thing in the morning do it for your health, but find another way to feel good. Because as you’ve already figured out, it takes about a second upon return to have that good feeling evaporate. It’s like you never went away, even worse, there’s things to do that didn’t get done because you took an hour out for yourself etc….

    3) If you have 3 hours, think of using 2.5 of it. Spend that last half hour re-entering mom zone and you won’t feel the loss of it so acutely.

    But seriously. I plan my girls-nights-out. I set up everything in advance. And my husband knows that I really really need to come home to the house he does every day – picked up, clean, no dishes in the sink, kids abed. He knows that *that’s* what I really crave. I came back once and NOTHING had been picked up. I was furious. What the hell was the point of getting away if I came back to double work? And he’s a great guy, who really does help a lot – but on his schedule. I’ve long since learned that if I”m not well, or not up to something, and he is going to help, he’ll do it on his schedule. Dishes? Sure ….. an hour after I’d get them done. Laundry? Even longer than it takes me (I hate laundry with the power of a thousand suns). But I can live with that – and it’s important to, because otherwise your’e not really delegating, right? But not if I’m out for the night. That only happened once. I typically kiss him goodbye and he responds with “Go! just promise you’ll come back.”

    Figure out what you really crave. And give yourself time to decompress. Even if its going from fun back to kidville….this is what keeps me sane.

    Thanks so much for your blog. I really do enjoy it! :) “

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  6. That’s a great picture of the Potomac. We took my son (13) and daughter (10) on a hike along the Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side in late December. They have really grown fast and we have been through a lot, and seeing them hike along and enjoy the outdoors with us and friends was fun to see.

    I try and enjoy every (tough) minute because I know that, one day very soon, these will be the good old days!

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