It is very clear from my absence on here that I’ve been struggling quite a bit to get this whole working mom schtick down. If you are a teacher or you know a teacher, then you know that it’s not a typical 9-5 job. There is always something to do, and if you let yourself, you can always be doing that something. The problem is that I can never shut it off. (Of course, this wasn’t a problem when I was an independent being, rather than a mother. It just made me a good employee.) But now, even if I’m not working, I’m thinking about what I’ll have to do when I start working. I struggle so much with being present and focused on the right now, and as a result, I’m always stressed and anxious. After a few weeks back at work, I noticed that I wasn’t really enjoying my days home alone with Lula like I should. I felt like I was working five days a week instead of three, and that’s not really fair to Lula or even myself, because it was making me a nervous wreck.
In these past five months since I’ve taken on this role, I’ve been struggling to define the type of mom that I want to be. I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t be a stay at home mom. I enjoy working too much and my job is an integral part of my identity. I used to feel bad, guilty, about that, but I came to terms with the fact that it’s not selfish to be happy. I’m a better mom to Tallulah if I’m happy. And on top of all that, I was raised by a pretty great working mom, and I want to be a role model to Lula in that sense, just like my mom was to me.
Now that I’m working, though, I’m struggling to find the balance between all of the roles I carry in my life. Before I had Lula, I could stay up late working on an IEP or materials for a lesson plan. I answered emails all evening and my thoughts were constantly with my students. It could be that way because my time at home was my time. I could do with it as I pleased. However, now things have shifted, and time working is time taken away from Lula. I found myself getting frustrated that nap time was taking longer than usual to get started or pulling my computer up to tummy time, and that’s not the kind of mother I want to be either. I love working, but my daughter is my top priority. And I need to show that in all of my actions.
So, while my first couple of weeks back at work were focused on catching up and adjusting to the change, the next few were focused on trying to find a balance, so I can make this a viable and successful change. I still do work at home, but I don’t do it when I’m home alone with Lula. I wait until after Joe gets home and we eat dinner together, and then I get a few hours in while he handles bedtime. It means staying up a little later, but it’s worth it for some quality time with my girl. Instead of checking emails or reviewing my to-do list, I’m returning her slobbery grins and cheering her on with each new things she learns.
I’m also working on establishing my boundaries. I’m setting limits on how late I’ll stay at work now and reserving most of the weekend for family time. In order to make this work, I need to be productive and efficient with my work time, so when I’m not working, I’m able to shut my worries out and just enjoy my family. I need to trust myself to get things done in the future and live in the present until the future comes.
Now, I know that a lot of this probably seems like a no-brainer to many moms out there. Enjoy your children, keep things in perspective. Moms are supposed to be born with those abilities. They are skills that I’ve really had to practice and develop, though, and my work is not done. I’m constantly reminding myself to be present, and at times, I worry about it just like I do work. But things are getting better, and I’m definitely happier now than I was a month ago. I’m learning that motherhood is a constantly evolving role. I’m never going to be perfect like I’ve always strived to be with everything else, but if I’m reflective and hard-working, I am usually just enough for my baby girl.
Because I’m not with Lula every second of every day now, I’ve been able to watch her develop stronger bonds with people other than me. At first, that hurt me a little inside, but my mom helped me realize that new relationships don’t take away from my own bond with Lula. They just give her an even bigger circle of support. And how can that be a bad thing?
I’ve loved watching the relationship between Lula and my mom grow the most. My mom worked so hard throughout our childhoods to help provide for us and be the best mom possible. It’s nice to see her take on the role of grandma and get to enjoy things in a more relaxed manner this time around. My mom told me that she loved Lula in her mind at first, but after these past few weeks, she loves her in her gut. And let me tell you, this little girl loves her Nana, too.
You may have noticed that this is a little late (two weeks, to be exact). Well, that’s because apparently five months was such a huge milestone for Tallulah that she decided she was done sleeping through the night. As such, we are really tired. Hence the late post. You may notice that these sentences are bleeding testosterone and that’s because I am not Elise. I am her husband, Joe. Hi. Elise—as previously mentioned—is exhausted and needed a break. I definitely did not kill her and take over her blog as a means to hide my guilt and live out some sort of weird fantasy where I raise Lula by myself and use her adorability to hit on pretty ladies. Nope, totally still alive.
This month Tallulah likes splashing in the tub, the Yo Gabba Gabba Pandora station, Kanye West lullabies, and her own reflection. She most assuredly does not like having her hair brushed, Thanksgiving, and sleeping. She hates sleeping. And possibly us.
Well, that last part is definitely a lie. Tallulah has never been happier. At the drop of a hat she’ll flash you the goofiest, wettest smile you’ve ever seen, and serenade you with whimsical croons and demonic (but endearing) groans. Her vocal range has expanded to include full-fledged consonants, which mostly seem to consist of “da-da-da-da-da-da-da” on repeat. It is, you can imagine, the best feeling ever. I know she doesn’t really attach meaning to “Da” or “Da-Da” or really anything except for her name, but it melts my heart everytime she does it.
We started feeding Lula solids steadily this month, and boy has that been fun! As much as I enjoyed seeing her chin and chubby cheeks slathered in soupy rice cereal, it was really great to see her progress to cereal that’s more cereal than breast milk. She can actually keep it in her mouth! She sorta chews it! She looks at me between bites to make sure I’m watching! The mess takes half as long to clean up!
Despite the sleep regression—and the many, many lost hours of dreamland—five months has been my favorite so far (though, to be honest, I probably have said that to Elise every single month). But this has been special. Every day, she looks and acts more and more like a little girl. I can see it in the way she knows it’s us and reaches for our faces, her hands exploring the bristle of my cheeks and pinching at my lips. The way she turns her head to look at the spine of a book that catches her eye, how she holds up her chin and purses her lips as she ponders the colors and the text. The way she flaps her arms and squeals in her bouncy chair, and I can just see her sitting in a cardboard box in a couple years and imagine taking off into the cosmos.
Most of all, I see how she looks so much like her mother. Nose. Cheeks. Dumbo ears. That big ol’ grin I mentioned earlier? One hundred percent Elise. I am thrilled. Oh sure, I’m glad when I see a little of myself in her. But that smile? It’s what made me fall in love with Elise, what made me pretend to have never seen her when she asked me point blank about the class we shared in college (I’d been staring at her for the better part of the semester). It seems so obvious it’s stupid, but despite how genuinely forgetful and clumsy and stupid I can be at times, Lula having Elise’s smile means I get a little girl who is at least half the woman I fell in love with. I like those odds.
(My super sweet husband blogs at Idiot Dad and writes for Old College Comics. If you haven’t figured it out already, he’s the best.)
With the craziness that this past month has been, I was all ready to just let my birthday pass by quietly. Well, I was planning to use it as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted, but let’s be honest here: that’s most weekends anyway. I just didn’t want to deal with planning a big event or a party. I was too exhausted, too stressed, and a big birthday wasn’t high on my priority list. Luckily, though, my studly super-husband had other plans in mind, and my birthday weekend ended up being one of the best times ever.
It started off with a bang on the Friday before my birthday. After getting home from a long day at work, I drank some coffee and put on a pretty dress in an attempt to stay awake for a small dinner with my family and a couple of friends. Instead, I was greeted at the restaurant by this:
Turns out, Joe had been scheming for weeks, and instead of a quick dinner, I had a big feast of barbecue and cupcakes with all of my favorite people. I felt so special and loved, and it was just the pick-me-up I needed.
Bright and early (okay…after one), the next day, we drove up the 101 to San Luis Obispo to stay at the Madonna Inn, one of my favorite places in the world. Our room was the tackiest, most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Our whole house would look like this if Joe didn’t force me to restrain myself.
After we marveled at our room for a little bit, we got dressed up and had a fancy dinner the first night. Of course, baby girl charmed the pants off everyone in the restaurant, and we had multiple people come to our table just to get a closer look at her cuteness. (And can you blame them? This new smile of hers is my favorite thing ever.) We had to take my cake to go, though, because Lula had an “It’s past my bedtime, what are you two crazies doing??” meltdown. Babies don’t care if it’s your birthday, guys.
It rained for most of our second day, so we ate a big breakfast in Pismo Beach, indulged in some birthday shopping at the biggest Forever 21 I’ve ever encountered, and ate takeout while watching Lifetime Christmas movies (my favorite part of the season!) and reading magazines.
We left super early the next morning (really this time!) because I had a lot of work to catch up on, but we made sure to stop at the Monarch Grove in Pismo Beach on the way home. Unfortunately, the butterflies didn’t circle around me while I sang like a Disney princess, but it was still pretty cool, regardless.
It was a perfectly lazy weekend filled with my favorite food and people, and it was just what I needed to get me through this last hurdle of out-of-control stress at work before the holidays. Now that Lula is here, Joe and I put most of our focus on keeping her happy and healthy, and we often forget to take care of each other, too. Joe really knocked it out of the park with this one, though, and I really am so lucky to be married to a man who takes care of me and makes me feel special like he does. With him and our beautiful baby girl by my side, 24 is looking to be the best year yet!