Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sleepless….once again

Being a working mother is hard. It’s draining and exhausting, but not in the physical way that comes with chasing an active toddler around. It’s mentally and emotionally draining. Take the mental exhaustion that comes with working all day and combine it with the emotional frustration of dealing with your child’s separation anxiety when you come home. Add a heaping portion of guilt and there you have it. The story of my life.

We are sleepless in my house once again. After several really good months in which my son was asleep before 7:30 pm and would not wake until the next morning, he has decided that he no longer wants to sleep alone in his crib. I’m attributing it to separation anxiety, but really who knows why he has suddenly changed his tune…

The first few weeks back at work were really not bad. My son would happily wave goodbye to me in the morning as I would leave the house and then proceed to spend the day having fun with his grandmother. Then, exhausted, he would sleep easily at night.

After about three weeks, the novelty of his new schedule wore off. Every so often, I would leave the house to the sight of him holding his arms out to me pleadingly. Once in awhile, he would start crying. A few more weeks and this became almost a daily occurrence. Now for the past week, I can’t put him in his crib at night without tears and tantrums. And the night waking has become a nightly occurrence.

When I was off work on maternity leave, I would stoically let him cry it out, thinking to myself that we could catch up on our sleep during a nap the next day. At least that I didn’t need to use too many brain cells in the morning, so if I was a bit sleep-deprived, it was okay. Now that I need to use my brain at work, I will do anything to get some sleep. This has resulted in him sleeping in our bed almost every night now. Trying to let him cry it out these days has not been successful. After 40 minutes of crying, we usually hit out limit and respond by going to him.

So let’s review the situation to date: mental exhaustion + separation anxiety = no sleep and lots of guilt. Which ultimately results in stress. Lots of stress.

Maybe I’m reading into things a bit too much, but I feel like this change has made my son angry at me. He has really started to cling to my husband more than before. Not that I mind that part, because it makes me happy to see him showing more love toward his father. But it almost feels like my husband is the more stable force in his life. He knows that daddy goes to work in the morning and comes home at night. That’s the way it’s always been and he can rely on that to stay the same. But mommy has changed and is no longer there for him the way she once was.

So in my guilt and desperate need for sleep, I let him sleep in our bed at night, something I’m not crazy about doing. I have nothing against co-sleeping… it’s just not something I want to do because I don’t sleep as well. But when he wakes up in the morning and gives me a big toothy grin, it makes me happy. And these days I cling to those moments because they’re much easier to handle than walking away from outstretched arms and tears.

It’s a vicious cycle and I can’t decide if I need to be firm and proactive about breaking the pattern, or if I should embrace my old mantra of “This too shall pass” and ride out the storm.

Any advice for a mama going through a rough patch? What has worked for you in the past?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Has motherhood become my hobby?

Before becoming a mother, I have to admit I didn’t have any crazy hobbies or special interests. I liked to read, travel, cook, shop, and socialize with friends and family… nothing especially noteworthy but I was okay with that. Since becoming a mother, my interests haven’t changed much, although I definitely have changed up what I read, cook, shop for, where I travel and who I socialize with. Because let’s face it, everything has become about my son. The word “family” has taken on a new meaning in my life. It no longer only refers to my parents, siblings, in-laws, etc… Now I apply that label to my own house. I never really thought of my husband and I as family, but now that we’re parents, here we are.
A few weeks after my return to work, I had a business lunch with a consultant whose passion in life are her dogs. In fact, she and her husband train their dogs in the sport of agility (Google it – fascinating!). It was the first time I met this consultant face-to-face so there was a lot of personal chit-chat and so when she asked me what my hobbies and interests were, I was suddenly a little speechless. What, after all, have I done in the past year besides raise my son? And I’m not discrediting that because it’s a full-time job and one that has brought me much joy and pleasure (among other things). It just got me thinking… has motherhood become my hobby?
I returned to the office after lunch and looked around at my colleagues… it should be said that I work in an organization of highly motivated and intelligent people so of course, why would their interests and hobbies be anything less than exceptional? Everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by marathon runners, snowboarders, jazz-choir singers, amateur gourmet chefs, semi-professional cupcake bakers… There are people who spend their vacations volunteering in Tanzania and others who rescue dogs from puppy mills. My boss is an amazing photographer whose photos are visual masterpieces. One of my colleagues is a Martha Stewart-esque master of all things domestic goddess related. Not to mention she has excellent taste in shoes.
Suddenly I felt very ordinary and I started questioning what defines me outside of my work and home life. In fact, I even learned that one colleague asked another colleague to describe me and was told that I am very proud of my Greek heritage. Which is very true, but is that who I am? I know that’s not all there is to me. I’m a blogger… I have a book club… I have a secret wish to one day write a novel. But not everyone knows these things about me.
After mulling over this and having a few conversations with other parents, here’s what I discovered. Being a new parent is an all-consuming job but it’s also an amazing phase of life where you are learning new things every day and navigating uncharted territory on a regular basis. For a few years, it’s normal that life is all about being a parent. Sure, it’s important to have hobbies. It’s definitely essential to feel like there’s something in your life that’s just for you. But maybe now is not the time to focus my energies on that. I’m not saying I won’t make any “me” time in my schedule or do anything for my own personal enjoyment. But if my family is my current hobby, I think that’s pretty healthy too. And if being a mother right now is what defines me, then that’s a label I’m very happy to wear.
When I have more than one child and they’re older and no longer physically dependent on me, I will find some crazy hobby that’s just for me. I, too, will be a superstar who runs marathons while baking cupcakes. But for now, I want to spend all my free time with the loves of my life. My husband and son.
Moms, do you have any special interests? Is motherhood your hobby too? What are your thoughts on how you define yourself outside work and home?