Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Mama Rules

So here I am, the mother of two boys. How do you do it? That was the question I asked a lot of mothers who have more than one kid while I was pregnant with Noah. I never really got any concise answers. I read a book on having a second baby and it was all pretty much common sense. No tricks, no real tips. I want tricks, dammit! So I have been winging it. But I keep getting told by people while I’m winging it that I “seem so calm.” Even my chiropractor tells me I am so very calm and have an aura of serenity whilst she is adjusting the hips that are still jacked up from having to accommodate my 9+ pounder and the 50+ pounds it put on my person. I personally believe it’s because I was just so darn happy when the little bugger was finally born and I didn’t have to be pregnant anymore.

But upon reflection, it dawned on me that I do have certain rules in my job of being mom to my two boys. And that perhaps I should share these rules with others in my position, or about to be, who are not finding the helpful tips they seek. They are meant to be helpful and nothing more. And they likely will not apply to people with special needs kids, colicky babies, single moms, etc. There is a special place in heaven for you, and however you get by day-to-day is a damn miracle. But you can read these and have a chuckle nonetheless, and see if any apply to your situation.

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. I know, I know. There is so much I have to do and that’s the only time I can do it, blah blah blah. You know what? Bullshit. You can let the dishes sit. You don’t HAVE to check your e-mail and guess what? The laundry will wait. Turn off your phone, lay the hell down and get some sleep, or at least close your eyes and be still. I have a small window of time during the day that both boys are asleep, and that’s the time I forced myself to lie down. Your emotions and mental functioning will be light years better if you do yourself this one huge favor.

2. See your girlfriends. No, not text your girlfriends, not e-mail or even phone your girlfriends (though this is helpful in a pinch) -- get your ass out of the house and SEE your girlfriends. You can have the kid(s) with you or not (though the break from them is nice and this gives them a chance to bond with Daddy), but you need to see and hug and be in the physical presence of those core women in your life who are supportive and love you. Yes, after you have kids, this takes a Herculean effort to coordinate. Everyone is busy and you are really busy, and especially if she has kids too, she is busy! But figure it out. It’s important.

3. Do not stress over how your body looks right now. Are you Heidi Klum? Do you have a Victoria’s Secret runway show coming up or a cover shoot for Cosmo? No? I didn’t think so. Then give your body a break. Your body did some amazing-ass things to bring your beloved children into the world, so why don’t you cut it a slackburger with cheese? Or even a turkey burger with cheese? It will get back to normal in its own time, especially if you are breastfeeding. But the really important thing I have learned after all these years of self-body-loathing is to marvel at the awesome power my body has demonstrated through having kids. We moms are absolutely mind-blowing in our strength when you really think about it. So think about that, and not about how much longer it’s taking you to lose the weight than some ass-clown on the cover of Us magazine who has a personal army of hired help and probably doesn’t even change diapers and “got her body back” in like six weeks. She is perpetuating an image that is just not realistic for 99.9% of the mothers out there, and you need to realize that.

4. Do some cardio. No, not because you need to be concerned about how your body looks right now (see #3 above). But because you are emotionally still in a very fragile state, and you need to get high on all the endorphins you possibly can. Put one kid in the stroller and the other in the Baby Bjorn, and go for a walk, get some fresh air, every day if you can. If you’re breastfeeding the World’s Hungriest Baby like I am, and are a little nervous about straying too far from the house, do your cardio at home. “But I don’t have an elliptical,” you may whine (like I did). “And I can’t afford a gym membership,” you may also whine (also like I did). And just then, my eyeballs settled on the brick step down that leads to my back patio. I’ve taken enough step classes in my day to remember the basics, so with the baby strapped to my torso and McLean running around the backyard doing his “workout,” I am able to work up some decent cardio. It is just as great of a workout now as it was in the early 90’s! The baby sleeps the whole time (even with the Black Eyed Peas blasting away) and I don’t have to be in public with my dirty hair in a bun and mangy sweats. To cool down, I pick up dog poo in the yard. Hey bitches, it’s squats with weights when you have a 14-pound baby attached to you! I’m just sayin’! Work with whatever you have.

5. Honor Thy Date Night (or Day), And Keep It Holy. This is where Grandma and Grandpa come in especially handy for me. When they offer to babysit, I jump on it and calendar them on the spot. They get to have quality time with the grandkids, and Derek and I get to be a normal couple for a couple of hours and talk about something besides nursing, diapers, bathtimes, food choices, etc. – all the business of running a family that takes up all our normal conversation time. I can wash the spit-up out of my hair and put on make-up and wear cute shoes and feel something resembling sexy again. And I can appreciate my husband in a whole new way. Yes, he is a great dad, and that is sexy, but he’s also a great date, and we have fun together. Date Night can also be Date Day if that’s when your babysitter is available. As long as you leave the house together and do something you both enjoy, who cares when it happens?

6. Sit Down To Eat. Three times a day. Yes, you read that right. We get so caught up, running around taking care of the needs of others, we too often forget about ourselves. Even if it’s only a few minutes to sit and shove a few bites in my mouth, this is a little care-taking gesture I give myself, and also a good example to set for my kids. I want them to see that you should respect your body and the food you are putting into your body by paying attention to it. I also want them to know that I am a person who needs to be cared for, too. There is a fine line between taking care of kids and becoming their servant. I find it is easier to keep that boundary clear when you demonstrate for them how you treat yourself. The intake of food is only one small part of this concept.

7. Sometimes You Just Have To Cry. There will be times, in spite of the best-laid plans and adherence to the rules that all hell just breaks loose. This is just how it is with young children – you can never predict the next milestone or meltdown, and sometimes they happen simultaneously. All. Day. Long. Sometimes you have to step into another room for a few minutes and just cry. Sometimes you have to call someone and cry to them. Sometimes you have to call someone to come over and watch your kids so you can leave the house and cry. You’ll know which option is the right one, but choose one and save your sanity. Don’t hold it in. Being a mom is a very hard job -- the hardest job I’ve ever had (and I’ve had several), and also the lowest paying and least appreciated. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, so it’s up to me to take care of myself when the going gets tough.

So I guess that is the main rule here when you boil it all down – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, MAMA! You have to be good to yourself before you can be your best for others. You are kicking ass every single day and don’t you forget it.

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