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.)
I know I keep saying this, and it’s probably getting a little old, but these past few weeks have been crazy! I feel like I hit the ground running at the end of October, and I haven’t stopped since. And now that it’s finally, FINALLY the holiday season, I can stop and take a breath, and marvel over how great things have been in our little family. Things are definitely busy at work, but I’m SO happy being back. I feel appreciated and useful. I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. And for the three days that I’m gone every week, Lula is (who would have known?) just fine. She loves spending time with her grandmas and experiencing new things with them, and when I get home, she still gives me that look. Mommies out there, you know the one? The “I love you and you are my whole universe and I will need you forever” look. Even though I’m not with her every day, I haven’t lost that, and in my book, that means everything’s going well.
But of course, I can’t do it all. So while I’ve managed to keep up with the laundry and cooking dinner and snuggling my baby since I’ve gone back to work, I’ve been quite the slacker around here. But that changes now! Or at least I’m going to try and change that in the future. I want to start posting regularly and documenting our life with this funny little girl again, but in the meantime, there are some major life moments to catch up on, too.
Number one: Disneyland. DISNEYLAND!
We live just a short drive away from the happiest place on earth, so it was a given that Lula would be visiting the park before she’s even able to sit up independently. When I was growing up, my mom would take us to Disneyland after school, even if it was just for an hour to ride the train. I have so many good memories of walking around the park, holding my mother’s hand, staring wide-eyed at every perfect detail, and smelling the perfect mix of churros, popcorn and magic. I couldn’t wait to take my own daughter to Disneyland some day, so even though she’s not quite old enough to enjoy it yet, we took her at the end of October for her very first visit.
Lula was fascinated with everything and smiled at every new person she saw. And you know, I realize she does the same thing at Target, but this was way more magical and meaningful for me. We met Mickey, took turns going on rides with my siblings, and feasted on churros (of course) and overpriced mediocre food. I was worried about it being a stressful outing with the crowds and long walks, but it was made completely easy by the Baby Care Centers in both parks. I had no idea these places existed, but I guess it’s just one of those things that you’re oblivious to until you need them. Their rocking chairs and changing areas helped keep the magic of Disneyland from dissolving into “Why did we do this?” And I’m really thankful for that.
Like I said, Lula probably won’t remember this trip (she did sleep through most of it), but she’ll remember the trips to come. (We’re going next week to see the Christmas decorations!) I can’t wait to see Fantasmic through her eyes, to be there when she meets her favorite princess and to put her Mickey ears on her head and have them actually fit. It’s such a special place for me, and I’m so excited to make a whole new set of memories there together.
I know there’s a lot to catch up on in our little piece of the internet (Disneyland! My birthday! Are you excited yet??), and I fully intend to get to that. But right now I’m thankful for the cuddly baby asleep on my chest, cookies for breakfast, and a forgiving waistline on my dress that’s going to make it possible for me to eat as much as I want today.
Happy Thanksgiving from this little cutie and me!