Thursday, July 30, 2009

Embracing the Chaos

I remember driving home from the hospital with my first born, who was two days old. I was crying, tears rolling down my cheeks as I marvelled at all the beauty in the world. Everything looked different now. I felt connected to every mother in history. I sympathized with that mother grizzly who attacked someone who was threatening her cub. I wondered why I had been so afraid of having kids. It wasn't that bad. Sure, labor hurt, but now! Look at that tiny miracle who was all ours!

Then....the shit hit the fan. Not in any real dramatic sense, but my world was turned upside down and inside out. I soon realized that I was in charge of another person. Always. I was the only one who could feed her. I was the first responder...even when she woke up every hour on the hour all night long. Then, the baby became mobile. My well-ordered, organized and calm little world was in shambles. Every kitchen cabinet was emptied. Every surface was covered with clutter or laundry or baby toys. Every time I turned around there was a new, bigger mess to clean up. I was exhausted, getting up all night and being awakened at the crack of dawn. I was isolated in the woods in Alaska. I was too much of a germ-freak to do many play dates. It was dark at 3 p.m. My husband was out of the state a lot trying to get a new job. I lived in dread of the hours between 4 and 6 p.m.

I loved my baby with an intensity I couldn't describe....a fierce, all-encompassing love. But, I missed my life of getting up and going to work and feeling productive and put together and with it. I missed talking to other adults in person--about things other than diapers and vaccines. I missed my paycheck. I missed taking a shower by myself. I missed listening to NPR as I drove in my silent car along the silent snow lined roads. I missed being able to find time for manicures and pedicures and frequent haircuts. I missed my mom. I missed being able to run three errands in 12 minutes without buckling a wailing infant in and out of a car seat. I missed being able to go do things without calculating nap times and meal times down to a tee. I missed cooking dinner while watching the news with a glass of wine. I missed quiet Sunday mornings. I missed sleeping. God, I missed sleeping.

We moved to Maryland and entered the dreaded first year of airline pilot pay....which basically means you OWE people money to have that job. I was stuck in the house during a very hot and humid summer with an active and whiny 18 month old without enough cash to do Mommy and Me classes, or to go shopping at the dollar store. My husband was gone a lot with his job. I didn't really know anyone. I cried a lot. I think I called my one friend every day and practically BEGGED to go over to her house so my child would have some playmates. Soon, I made some new friends in the neighborhood with kids my child's age and things started to look up. I started to get into a groove.

I began to realize that yes. This is my life now. I am a full-time mom. I chose this life. I gradually came to accept the realities of this job. The constant, constant demands. The fact that it is never, EVER quiet. The continual listening. Always listening for cries. Listening in the shower. Listening in my sleep. The pain-in-the-assness of running errands. The fear about getting it wrong when it comes to illnesses. The fear of just getting it wrong, period. The inability to finish any task to completion ever. The chronic early mornings no matter what time she went to bed, no matter how tired mommy is. I began to get it. This is my job. This is what I do right now, for this season in my life. All jobs are hard in their own ways. Grow up. Deal with it.

Then, I became pregnant with my second. And I spent 9 months trying not to panic about how hard it was going to be. How I could go through all that again.

But, I guess as is the first child's job, I was already broken in. The chaos was already part of my daily existence...so what was a little more chaos? The second one just blended into the existing mayhem. As I sit here now, the house is in a complete shambles. And, while it annoys me, it doesn't rip into my self-esteem. The kids are happy and having fun in the mess. I can clean it up tonight, if I want. Or not. I am beginning to really revel in the perks of this job. The fact that I can take a nap to cope with that overnight scream fest last night (providing everyone cooperates at nap time, that is.) The flexibility to do what I want to do (within reason) most days. Not having to get up and go to work every. single. morning. Not having to blow dry my hair. The baby giggles and toddler questions. The thrill of new discoveries through a child's eyes.

I always ask people about their experience with having kids and it seems that most of them felt the second child did them in (some say the third.) For me, it was the first. Adding another one to the mix actually improved it for me. It made me realize how quickly time goes by. How fast they outgrow each and every stage...how fleeting and (big cliche coming) precious these years actually are.

And, while I still bitch each and every morning about why we are up so freaking early (will I never learn that they are not going to let me sleep until 7:30?) I have realized that there will be a time in my life for my house to be clean. There will be time again for me to make dinners in peace. I have realized that one day I will look back on these days and realize how quickly they went by and how they made my life so much less mundane and so much more meaningful. I am working on consciously treasuring these days as much as I can. I am learning to look past the chaos to the real heart of the matter.

9 comments:

Smitty 1, 2 , 3 and 4 said...

Thank you Katie, for sharing your words and for putting your words together. I think we all feel like that, in one way or another. I wish we were closer so we could talk more often: about our mothering feelings, adult opinions and new lives as mothers. Embacing everyday as women, mothers, and friends.

ashley said...

amazing and so true.......

sgtsharp said...

sleep late? WTF? Cleanhouse,whatsthat! wait till they become teenagers! & hopefully you dont have deal with elderly parents,at the sametime! Ackpfft!!
but you hit the nail on head,Katie,


word verication:foodweed

Swistle said...

Yes. Yessssssssssssssss.

Anonymous said...

You just summed that all up so well.
Erin

Angela said...

I love how you put feelings into words! Diddo.

MommyK said...

I can identify with a lot of this. I was the first of my gang to have a baby and become a stay home mom, and while I DID want to talk about diapers and breastfeeding and milestones, all my unmarried or childless friends wanted to talk about politics or beer or whatever. It was very lonely. And then when they did have babies, I was already out of that stage and back to wanting to talk about politics and beer. Still very lonely.

Elizabeth said...

Loved this.

Stephanie said...

Well put. It's like you've told my story! Thanks for saying it so nicely :)