Bad Mom,  Bug,  Moody Blues

a blog post from the trenches

I drank a bunch of coffee, sure that with enough caffeine in my system I could finish all my work and knock out an entertaining blog post. But here I am staring at the virtual white paper of my text editing program and all those blog posts that I wrote in my head over the last few days are gone. They’ve vanished into cobwebby brain space. I can see white gloved Mickey Mouse cartoon hands swishing back and forth inside the cavity where my brain should be and there is nothing there for the Mickey Mouse hands to grab. Just space. Swish, swipe, swish.

You know that saying about giving a drunk coffee to wake up? It doesn’t work at all. All you get is a very awake drunk person. So I guess this is me. I’m a very alert zombie. I will probably sit here in my uncomfortable chair picking at my arm hair for two hours, accomplishing nothing. Why? Why do I do this to myself?

This is why: All day long I think, if only she would take a nap I could get something done. My list of things to do spins in my head like a hamster wheel. It makes that flipping sound like a baseball card stuck in your bike wheel. Silently, with a fake happy smile on my face, I beg my darling little monster of a baby to take a nap so I can get something done.

When she finally does take a nap, I stand there completely paralyzed by the sheer quantity of things I should be doing. Make baby food! Balance check book! Scrub encrusted food off cupboard walls and floor! Clean coffee maker! Plan dinner! Put away laundry! Work on freelance work! Eat lunch! Clean scummy refrigerator shelves! Vacuum! Put photos in photo album! Answer emails! Take a shower! Dress yourself so you don’t look like such a haggard old slob all the time!

On and on my silly list goes. And I get absolutely nothing done because by the time I finally prioritize the endless list and pick something to do, she wakes up. Every time. She’s been taking half hour naps these days and I think she is plotting on giving up the art of napping all together. My mom says I did.

How am I going to cope? I hate to admit this here but I really thought I would take to motherhood better than I am. I wonder if I decided to have kids too late. Maybe I’m like an old dog who can’t learn new tricks. I think I got too set in my ways. I had my career and I got used to getting things done the way I wanted them done. I wonder if motherhood would have been easier for me if I suddenly found myself in it in my early twenties instead of my thirties. I’m sure that’s a silly question because when I was in my early twenties, I had to worry about having enough money to EAT. I remember living off biscotti and coffee because that’s what they had in the break room of the office I worked in. I don’t think Baby Bug would fare too well off biscotti and coffee. It must just be a case of the grass is always greener.

I hate to complain so much. I’m very conscious of the fact that I complain a lot. I’m very disappointed in myself. I always thought I would be such a natural mother. I’ve loved and loved entertaining kids my entire life. So why is it so hard for me on a day to day basis?

When I’m “on” I do great. We play and make up all kinds of really fun games. I love to hear Baby Bug’s laughter and delight when I show her something new or we make up a new game to play. The problem is I’m just not “on” all the time. I’m “on” a lot, don’t worry… Baby Bug is getting plenty of quality mom time. But Sometimes I catch myself staring into space. And then I have to get up and rescue her because she snuck away and climbed up on my chair again and fell down and bonked her head on the chair leg. Her poor little head!

Sometimes I just run out of gas mentally. And because I can’t just turn off being a mom, I think I turn off doing the things I want to do. That list I was talking about… it just gets longer because I can’t cross anything off it anymore. When I’m done being “mommy,” it’s like my brain runs into a mud wall. Can’t. Go. Any. Further.

I know everybody always says, “Do something for yourself!” “Recharge!” “Take a break!” I do. I got my toes painted today. While Baby Bug sat in my lap and made friends with everybody in the entire nail salon, I got my legs massaged and I started to feel human again. It was nice. But I didn’t get anything done on my stupid list.

But please don’t give me advice. I think I’m just putting this down here because it just needs a place to go. I know I should do x, y, and z. I know I should think about hiring a babysitter or getting Toby to take care of her for an hour here and there. I already know all about that and I’m working on it. It just isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It really is true what they say, being a mom is the hardest job you’ll ever love.

On that happy note, look at my little girl standing up in her crib! Isn’t she just the picture of defiant independence! I love my little monster. This is the look she gives me when she wakes up from her nap. I thought that maybe I could just pat her on the back and she’d go back to sleep but I was wrong. I’m always wrong. I’d also like to note that since Toby took this picture, we have raised the crib rail. It’s always up now, even if I do have to bend myself into two pieces just to lay her down. We’re thinking we better be safe than sorry. She has that look like she might just launch herself up and over the side one of these days.


  • Gramma

    Enjoy your family, both Baby Bug and Toby. Dishes will always gather in the sink. Dust bunnies will always hide under the beds. They will wait for you there at some more appropriate time. Just making a list is an accomplishment. I remember Knitterykate startine her lists with: “make a list.” That way at least she could cross off one item…a great morale booster.

  • hazelblackberry

    You don’t complain all the time, and you do sound like a very natural mother.

    I hope people who actually are parents dive in here soon and tell you what a great job you’re doing.

    Right now you’re working full-time on being a great mum and in 20-odd years when BB does your performance appraisal, you’re going to get a gold star. Maybe even two gold stars.

    But if you do worry about everything you have to do, then write some lists: divide everything whirring in you brain into categories like housework, professional, baby, Toby, creayive fun stuff etc. Then prioritise those lists. And make a list of things you have to do every day or every second day, to help you stay on top of the basics and so that you can see that each day you’re getting SOMETHING done.

  • Nila

    You sound like every other mother in the world. I would like to be more on as well, I wish there was a pill for that. I work nights and try to balance catching up on sleep, laundry, kids homework and projects, dirty house, bills, husband, dogs, LIFE. It’s exhausting. Now look who’s complaining. Although I don’t think you complain too much.

  • BeachMama

    And now you need to know that you are exactly the same as every Mom out there. Young or old.

    I too have wondered if I waited too long to have kids, only it wasn’t my choice, so I have to live with it. But, I too found/find that I had great plans for naptime, then naptime would come and I wanted nothing more than to lie down and nap myself. I had to accept it and do with it what I could.

    As time went on I found doing things much easier with a child around. You will even find you can type away on your laptop without Baby Bug wanting all your attention. Then you will ask, why don’t you want to see me? It comes full circle all the time.

    Congrats on the toes, I need mine done too!

  • lin

    I feel really bad admitting that without nap time I just don’t think I could make it some days. My son is 23 months old and he still takes a two hour nap some times two of them. But he also started sleeping less when he started crawing and standing up but after he started walking (10 1/2 months) he started taking 2 two hour naps. your a great mom from what I see but the truth is we’re all not “on” all the time and people that say they are just lying. Really how can we be with all the things we have on our mind? When you become a mom you get a whole other life the probalem is we still have the things before baby to get done. Ok i’m done…

  • Ninotchka

    You ARE a natural! Being a natural mother doesn’t mean you’re a superhuman one. It means your instincts where your child are concerned are finely tuned. That you excel at taking good care of your child and meeting her most basic needs. That you adore her and shower her with love even when her baby antics defy all explanation and trump said instincts.

    You, my friend, are a natural. You’re just a tired natural. Most of us are! So vent away. I’m here to say “Amen, sister!”

    (BTW, I do all those things you’re supposed to do to “take a break” — and I still get dog tired and cranky as hell. It’s just the nature of the beast.)

  • Mary

    You know, I had my kids round the age of 35 and had some of these same thoughts–I’m too set in my ways, maybe I would have had more energy when I was younger, etc. It really is hard. It is natural to get tired and frustrated with a difficult task. I liked what Ninotchka had to say–“you’re a natural, just a tired natural”. Yes!

    A thing to consider, that I finally discovered about myself. I was putting too much of my feeling good about myself and my self worth into my “to-do” lists and consequently–I felt I was not a good person/mom when things did not get done. I finally realized this is just not reasonable or healthy when you have a young child. I tried to look at my life from the outside–would I be this hard or critical of this situation if I was looking in at the life of a good friend. And of course, I would not. You’re a warm-hearted woman, give yourself some compassion, too.

    Anyway, hugs to you. I so enjoy you and your baby–you’re just beautiful. (and no, not too much complaining!! keep writing, it’s wonderful!)

  • Felix

    Uhh. Put the railing down before you take her out. When you put her in, raise the rail. No need to try and reach over it. It’s meant to go up and down…No way I could ever possibly put Baby Felix down with the rail up without dropping her – just too darn short.
    You’re a great mom – I could never do what you do and be with Baby Felix 24/7. Without a job and a husband who helps all the time, I’d go crazy. Love her but I just can’t be ‘on’ that much.

  • Gretchen

    This is how it was for me for a long time too. By the time my list was made, the kids were up. Or by the time they were asleep, all I wanted to do was take a nap or sit in front of the TV. Most days it’s still like that – I just want a break.

    I know you said you didn’t want advice, but I just can’t help myself… I have a master list – in a word document – of the things to do during the week. I print it off, and hang it on the fridge. Today is Wednesday, that means clean out the fridge and a couple other things. I cross them off as I go.

    It is hard trying to juggle everything. It is hard letting go of some of the responsibility, even to dad! It is hard, going from “mom” to “woman” in the blink of an eye. This isn’t like a job, where on your first day you’re given a manual and someone to shadow you until you “get it” – this is someone hands you a baby and says “good luck.” I think you’re doing a great job!

    For what it’s worth, I’m typing this with a two year old on my lap. She’s coloring while I type around her. My four year old is at a friend’s house (we switch back and forth – they were here yesterdy morning). My six (almost seven) year old is in school. My point? I finally feel like I’m getting this figured out…

  • Liane

    Thank you for writing that. You may feel like you’re complaining but it is exactly how the rest of us feel and is so validating to have someone else say it for us. It IS hard and that just needs to be acknowledged sometimes.

  • Country Mouse

    As others have said, it does get easier. It takes time for that to happen, but it does get easier. (And reading posts like this does wonders for my tendency to retroactively beat myself up for not “figuring it out” sooner.)

  • Clownfish

    I know she’s holding the rail but just looking at Baby Bug standing there amazes me. How quickly it’s been from newborn infant to here! I’m just waiting for her to spit out her binky and ask Mom for the car keys. “This crib can’t hold me; I’m gonna go cruise PCH”!

  • Jora

    I started reading your site a couple of weeks ago and am addicted… I just want to say that this post is EXACTLY how I feel so much of the time (I have a 13 month ols). I won’t give you advice (I don’t have any to give), but I just want you to know that this is how so many moms feel…. Hang in there!!

  • ms. sizzle

    why is it so hard on a day to day basis? because it IS on a day to day basis! you’re whole life has changed. you aren’t a complainer. this is your place to vent so you can let some of that stuff go. you’re doing a great job- you just don’t have any time for y-o-u.

  • MamaBear

    Hang in there, SAJ! You’re doing great! Hope blogging about it helps you. My TO DO list was getting so monsterous I gave it up. Then I got nothing done and started it up again, just to I get the satisfaction of crossing something off it. THe worse is when my mom comes over and says “how come you haven’t done this and folded laundry and that….”, and all I have to say I was with the baby all weekend and had no time for anything else. At least you understand!
    PS Baby Bug is BEAUTIFUL in her crib! There is no better site in the whole wide world then our babies waking up, especially in the morning, when they are all warm and cuddly.

  • Emily

    No advice here, just a note to say I get it. We all struggle, we all have thoes days (or ahem weeks) you are not alone. I hear it gets better, but I am not holding my breath. Just know that reading your words helps me feel less alone. And for that I thank you.

  • jP

    How about a step stool in front of the crib? She’ll need one to stand on to brush her teeth later so it won’t be a temperary expense. It’s been a while- doesn’t it take two hands to lower the rail? I remember it being frustrating to lower, so I always left it up too. And I’m at least 4 inches shorter than you are.
    You are doing a great job. Make a master list. When the kids are at school I have no idea how to occupy myself. Yesterday I quilted and watched a “Eureka” marithon on FX. I’m off to update my master list. If nothing else you get us moving. You inspire a lot of people. Love, j

  • Rayshell

    SAJ, don’t worry we can’t always be “on” sometimes being awake is the best you can do. You are a fantastic mom…you have such a happy bug. She looks so adorable in her crib!!

  • Heidi

    SAJ, you are an inspiration to a lot of other mothers. You not only are a loving and caring mom (just look how Baby Bug is thriving), but I love that you share the real side of motherhood too.

    I definitely understand the feeling of wanting to be “on”, but I finally came to the conclusion that it’s physically and mentally impossible for me to be “on” 100% of the time. It was a tremendous struggle for me to accept it, but I’m glad I did. Only you can give yourself permission to zone out, but it sounds like a lot of us hoping that you do.

  • paula

    if i ever get to be a mom, it’s going to be later in life, too. i’m getting set in my ways…used to having a perfect home & no clutter. thanks for sharing the struggles…it’s good to know that i’ve got it good right now, to have some perspective. i get all my to-do lists finished! but i don’t have a darling little daughter to hold.

  • HF

    It’s so cool to read this because I’ve been thinking the exact same things lately. My baby is 11 months and it seems like its all getting harder and harder. Sure, there’s more smiles and interaction but there is sooo much more defiance, mobility and energy. I am exhausted!! I praise you for cristalizing your thoughts so clearly. I am not there yet. My thoughts are kinda flightly, kinda jittery. Your blog keeps me sane because you don’t pretend to be perfect. Amen.

  • emilie

    i have been reading your blog since the spring, and this is my first comment. your willingness to share your emotional stuff is so refreshing, and so EXACTLY what i love to read during my daughter’s (19 months) naptime. you had your bug after i had my chick pea, and so i just love watching you experience the joys and excitement of stages or milestones that i just relished in.

    no advice. i would just like to share something with you. i have noticed that each time i would come to a place where i felt drained and exasperated, my daughter would get to a point where she was just a smidgen more independent, which would give me a teensie tiny bit of time to do something productive. like, the other week i felt like she would never ever ever eat anything on her own. and, this week she is eating little sandwiches all by herself, and i get to wash the dishes and type an email while she does so. but, last week, i truly felt like i would be hand feeding her shredded turkey until she was 20.

    anyway, thanks for writing. your bug is completely adorable, and i can tell that you are a wonderful, creative, fun, and nurturing mama.

    keep it real!

  • emilie

    oh, and i don’t think the picture of your bug’s head peeking through the hole in the box/castle could be any cuter.

  • Jennifer

    Sounds perfectly normal to me! My first daughter was extremely high needs and had some issues that required therapies and such starting at around 5 months of age. I thought, “What the heck have I gotten myself into?” on a daily basis. I cried a lot too. That didn’t accomplish much but, oh well. Now that she’s 4.5 I forget most of those rough times. Some things get better. I won’t lie, some things that are tough are replaced with tougher stuff, but it does seem to get easier.

  • aunt kathy

    I too felt overwhelmed as a young mom thinking I could never get anything done. Well, it did get done or I have forgotten about it.

    You are a really good mom. My first was just like H; I could never leave her sight, but now she is very independent. The rest of the crew were not so clingy because they had each other. Maybe #2 will help you out?!

    Just recently one of my kids told me, “you’re the best mom.” That makes it all worth it.

  • laura

    I remember that day so well…you walk in there, and there they are, standing up in the crib, giving you the look of defiance that will follow them into their teen years. I remember my stomach just flumping over and thinking “Oh nooooo.”

  • Janna

    Well, SAJ, I always have enjoyed reading your website, but this latest entry cinched it for me…You have eloquently put into words what every mom feels. I have four children and every day I wake up and think to myself, “Here we go again!” Each day is a challenge for which I am overwhelmed, tired, and exasperated. Regardless, like you, I wouldn’t be able to imagine a life without my four beautiful girls. They make me pull my hair out, give me the worst sleepless nights but they have also refined me. Keep being honest, keep reaching out to friends around you, you will always have a huge cheering section on this end. From one mom to another, sit down, throw away your lists, ask for help (I know that is the hardest part, believe me!!!!).

  • carrien

    It’s finally getting easier, my youngest is two, they entertain each other now and even though they fight it is easier. I remember the days of entertaining just one child all to well. Here’s a secret I learned finally, it kept me sane. ITS OKAY FOR YOUR BABY TO BE BORED AND FRUSTRATED SOMETIMES. Boredom is actually the place where creativity develops. Frustration is where innovation begins. If you are busy and put her down somewhere safe with a whole bunch of toys, and she gets bored, and would rather have you. It is okay at her age to say Momy has to finish this, you have to wait 2 minutes until I’m done. If she has a real need of course you respond, if she really wants you, of course you respond. But it’s okay to walk by, give them a hug, put them down again, and keep on going. THe older she gets the easier this will be but they can learn now to entertain themsleves for a minute or two. Wow, that was long winded.

    Anyway, other sanity saver that I’m just coming too. A list of things you just can’t live without doing. Assign yourself days of the week to do them on. I clean toilets on thursdays for example, I sort mail and paper work the same day. UNtil those are done, I don’t do anything else. (Besides feed my kids, load the dishwasher, make dinner, wipe bums.) But I don’t start, say, mopping the kitchen floor on thursdays, unless I have extra time after finishing my two or three things, Beside, that’s for every other week on tuesdays. I also meal plan so I know what to shop for, and I remember to take things out of the freezer in the morning. This works for me, maybe a version of it will work for you.

    Someone really smart once told me that you can divide your entire life into 4 categories.
    Do Call Go Get. I have a BUSYBODYBOOK divided into those categories for every day. I update all of these things on the weekend, when my hubby is palying with the kids.

    Anyway, even if none of these suggestions help, I want you to know that you are doing a great job, you are a completely normal stellar mom, and don’t beat yourself up ever, for getting done what you get done, KAy?

  • melissaS

    I laugh! I laugh at your claim that you complain too much! You! Ha! Ha!

    You have excellent coping skills and excellent self-talk skills. You’ll be fine and it’s *normal* to feel overwhelmed by a baby.

    The only way one baby feels less overwhelming is when you have two….or three…or four….only you don’t know it until you already have two, three or four. And you know what? Each of those experiences of being overwhelmed are TRUE and real.

    You are a great mother. You are a great mother. You are a great mother.

  • Bethany

    you said it perfectly, rather like you could read my mind. first kid at 31, got him all independent and settled and i was back to being able to actually cross things off a list again (yes it DOES happen!) and then … another one. feeling the same exact things again this time around, but knowing that ‘this too shall pass’. thanks for putting it so well into words for the rest of us in the trenches with you! a hug to you.

  • Fela

    I love your entries. You sound like a real mom and a good mom too. Wow, I still want to join that team! She sounds happy. And your angst sounds remotely familiar (from what my friends say).

  • another Bethany

    I’m commenting on this one a few days after the fact, but I still feel the need to tell you that you are a wonderful mother. Baby Bug knows you love her. That’s the main thing, the rest is details. I know it’s hard, and tiring, and there are always going to be days when you feel overwhelmed no matter how often you get a pedicure, but it really will get easier and easier. (It’ll get harder, too, but you’ll have more years of mom-experience under your belt.) Also, you don’t complain too much! But you should vent whenever you feel the need, and we your loyal readers will support you with words and advice. :-)