The Great Slowdown: making peace with the pace of life as a parent

The great slowdown: making peace with the pace of life as a parent

I’ve been doing a lot of walking around a very hilly trail with The Toddler in his stroller. This is the route I used to run in high school cross country practice. Though I was never a very fast runner, retracing my steps behind a stroller  (especially on the uphills), has been a pretty apt metaphor for my life as a mom compared to my pre-baby days: Kids are wonderful, but there’s no denying they slow you down.

I love being a mom, and I love my kid. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten back in line to jump on this roller coaster a second time. Even though I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, I have been finding myself wishing for more time.

Yes, it would be cool to be able to go out to brunch with friends more or to catch up on a little self care. (The great thing about my horrifying overgrown hair style is how my long, long bangs cover up my unruly, unpruned eyebrows.) It’s not even the indulgences I’m really missing right now, though. What I really want is more time to get shit done.

I want to be a better blogger–write more often, more relevant and helpful information for pregnant and new moms, and give this site the serious facelift it sorely needs. I want to spend more time socializing the goats (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. They’re still a bit skittish, and I know they’d keep warming up if I could spend more time raking their pen and scratching their heads.) I want to learn how to code, cultivate more freelancing opportunities, log my business expenses. I want to finish clearing shit out of my garage that is destined for Goodwill and/or the trash sometime before winter hits so one or both of us could park our cars in it. I want to revamp my Etsy shop and add more items. I want to be a better friend and reach out to people I’m thinking of more often.

I have a list 100 miles long of all the things I wish I could be doing, and sure, I had a list before I was a mom, too, but there is an undeniable slowdown built into parenting very young children that I can’t find my way around, and it’s hard not to feel a little defeated.

Theoretically, I could surrender some sleep to tackle more of my list, but it’s really not feasible with pregnancy fatigue and would only make the days harder to get through.

It would just be nice to go to bed every once in awhile with the satisfaction of having accomplished anything beyond emptying the dishwasher that day.

I know the solution is to prioritize what’s really important to me and learn to accept the fact that my goals must either be bite-sized or very long-term for the foreseeable future.

One way or another, I have to make peace with the pace of life as a parent of young children. While the basement bathroom remains unrenovated and my desire to take a creative writing class languishes, I am taking immeasurable joy from holding my son’s hand as we walk around our pond looking for frogs. I don’t want to let go of my list forever, or let my own identity diminish to nothing but motherhood. But stressing out about what I’m not doing is only going to cloud my view of the really wonderful and fleeting moments I am getting to experience. The good news is the same as the bad news: These deliciously, agonizingly intense years of early parenthood won’t last forever.

The knowledge that it’s probably going to get harder–that I will look back on the days of having just one child with fondness as I slowly drown in dirty laundry–is pressing on me today.

Fellow parents, how do you cope with the limitations on your time and energy as they relate to your goals as human beings?

Also, approximately how much harder is life with two children than one? (Please lie.)

The Great Slowdown: making peace with the pace of life as a parent

Pregnancy Week 12: Time Flies

Today wraps up the last day of my first trimester (I think… it’s not always clear when one ends and the next begins, but I’m counting it.) The theme this week has been the breakneck pace at which life moves.

I’ve already mentioned how much quicker it feels like this pregnancy is going. In some ways I’m much, much busier, but in other ways I have fewer distractions because I’m alone with my thoughts so much more than I used to be when I was surrounded by colleagues and projects all day. Or maybe it feels like it’s going quicker because I already have someone on the outside reminding me daily just how fleeting babyhood is.

I woke whimpering from a dream one night this week. I know it’s usually boring to hear about other people’s dreams, but I think this one pretty perfectly sums up how I’m feeling right now:

In the dream, I was standing and holding The Toddler in my arms, telling him how big he was getting.

I whispered in his ear, “Someday, you’re going to be so tall you’ll be able to hug me like this with your feet on the ground.” He giggled with the delight, that heart-shatteringly sweet giggle that toddlers have.

With this, I released him to put him down, only to find that in that moment he had grown tall enough to hug me with his feet on the ground. In an instant he had become a full grown man, and I looked down at my hands, wrinkled and older, and up into his face. I had somehow missed all the moments in between.

He was beautiful and smiling but I began to cry in confusion and sadness and woke up gasping for breath.

Blame it on pregnancy hormones, but this dream has stuck with me all week, feeling like a lump in my throat. It’s been a trying week in many ways (I’ll spare you the detailed complaints about sleep for the thousandth time, but it’s making me wonder 18-month sleep regression? and Google “Dealing with breastfeeding aversion in pregnancy” and throw silent tantrums), but that dream has been reminding me to take a breath and try to, if not remember forever, at least be fully present for the sweet moments we have.

The Toddler is picking up new words every day and wearing them around like a new pair of shoes: Mama, Dada, Lou (our dog), big, bye, hello, nest, car, truck, bubbles, bottle, cheese. (Along with a slew of animal- and vehicle-related onomatopoeia.)

He is climbing into our rocking chair and looking at books by himself, helping put kitchen towels and clean spoons away. Choosing (and lifting!) big bags of cat food and putting them in our basket at the pet store. Watching frogs in the pond and offering clover to the chickens. Listening for distant planes and seeking them out in the sky. Turning everything into a train and lining it up on invisible tracks. Watching the pair of house finches outside our kitchen door feed their babies and pointing, “A nest!” He is curious and exuberant and nurturing and wild and so, so big.

I know I will love our second baby with my whole heart just like I love him, and I cannot wait for them to meet each other, but I also feel like I need to hold onto every second I have in the next six months while it’s just us. I don’t want to lose focus and find when I step back that I’ve somehow missed out on this short, precious time.

Today is also my seventh wedding anniversary. I won’t get too mushy here (I think I’ve probably used up my weekly allotment above), but I must say I feel pretty damned lucky to have found the person who wraps me in his arms when I wake up from a nightmare, jumps into every new adventure with both feet, is absolutely worthy of his son’s hero worship, and lets me talk him into scrapping our semi-fancy anniversary dinner plans to get burritos in our old neighborhood because it’s all I can think about eating.

Pregnancy Week 12: Time Flies

Pregnancy Week 11: Crackers in the bed

Other titles I considered for this week’s post:

  • Nothing is possible
  • It’s not really morning sickness if you don’t sympathy vomit with your toddler
  • Ode to Daniel Tiger
  • Pennymouth returns

While I was looking forward to my first trimester symptoms beginning to fade, Week 11 has been a doozy. I think it’s a combination of the true arrival of summer heat, a particularly busy week of freelancing, an extended visit to The Toddler’s gut from a stomach virus (one that I thankfully did not catch), and the fact that I am growing a baby from scratch. That never helps.

Last weekend, we drove to a friend’s backyard wedding celebration with The Toddler in tow, all of us wearing our garden party best. As soon as we got off the highway I heard a retching from the backseat and turned around to find The Toddler had gotten (what I thought was) very, very carsick all over himself and his carseat. We parked and cleaned him up as best we could (fortunately there was a trashbag full of clothes destined for Goodwill in the trunk that we used to mop up) and put his backup clothes on. We thought we were in the clear until he repeated that act on the ride home. And then again at 2 a.m. And then again two mornings later.

I won’t get into further detail other than to say the lingering effects of this bug have made diaper changes a blast (gross gross pun not intended), and that I know my morning sickness can’t be that much to complain about if I was able to dismantle and hose chunks of string cheese and strawberries out of his carseat without joining in on the fun.

I decided to keep The Toddler away from other kids this week in case he was still contagious, so we spent our mornings taking strolls around Hinckley Lake (I’m trying to keep up some semblance of a walking routine with this pregnancy). I don’t think this has been particularly beneficial for my energy level, but it feels good to exercise and I’ve even dropped one or two of the alarmingly quick LBs I put on in the earliest weeks of pregnancy.

We even took a dip in the swimming area one hot morning after our work. Also, we found a tiny toad hopping across our path.

This hit-by-a-truck afternoon fatigue has me leaning on a new crutch in the form of Daniel Tiger. Six months ago, I nearly smacked my father-in-law’s phone out of his hand when he dared try to show The Baby a streaming football game. When we moved to the new house a year ago I insisted our 46″ TV live in the basement so we wouldn’t give into temptation to watch TV in front of our kid. I was, as I often am, probably pretty insufferable about this hard line, but now that he’s venturing into 18-month territory (and I’m flirting with narcolepsy), our post-nap routine involves an episode of DT almost every day. No regrets.

I thought I had left behind the terrible metallic taste in my mouth that plagued the first few weeks of pregnancy, but it returned with a vengeance this week, along with pounding headaches and serious food aversions. I even skipped a few meals because I just couldn’t bear the thought of eating.

The misery peaked on Thursday, and as soon as The Husband got home from work I retreated to bed with my eye mask and a bag of Goldfish crackers. The Husband has stepped up to an impressive and humbling degree over the past month or so, taking over as the primary caregiver from dinnertime on and cleaning up after I fall asleep like a GD magic elf. I know at the end of this all I have to push out another 7.5 lb baby out of me and then breastfeed him or her every two hours for a month, but The Husband is really putting in the early work that is making me think I probably won’t curse his name in labor.

The Toddler has also been really impressed with The Husband this week, and wants very little to do with me if Dad is home. I thought my feelings might be a little hurt but it’s actually really freaking great. Best of all, it seems I’m off the hook for bedtime, which has been my sole purview for months and months and months. The Toddler is now nursing just once a day, and while I’ll probably mourn nursing a little bit when it’s over, it’s feeling really liberating right now that he is nearly weaned.

One last thing I’ve noticed about my second pregnancy so far is that it seems to be going an awful lot faster than the first. I remember reading the “your baby is the size of X” each week the first time around and thinking, “Raspberry? kumquat? Come on kid, grow!” Now we’re almost in lime territory and it’s really hard for me to fathom that we’ve gone from poppyseed to lime in what feels like no time at all.

Then I look at my toddler who is running and climbing and picking up new words almost daily and I almost lose my breath at how vanishingly fast it all goes.

Pregnancy Week 11: Crackers in the bed

Week 10: Older, Wiser Baby Registry

We’re halfway through Week 10 of pregnancy with Baby No. 2. I have no exciting updates to tell you about my symptoms. I’m still exhausted, still nauseous. Maybe more than the weeks before, so it’s my hope I’m at peak yuck and will be feeling better soon. The food aversions I had during my pregnancy with The Toddler hadn’t cropped up much this time around, but lately they have returned. I managed to put a frozen pizza in the oven for the family before retreating to my bed as soon as The Husband came home, and then ended up eating feta cheese on Flipside crackers. In bed. For dinner. Because pizza, and basically anything except Flipside crackers and feta, sounded absolutely repulsive.

Enough about my appetite, though. I went to a baby shower for my college roommate over the weekend, and it got me thinking about what I’d register for if I did it all over again. So instead of directly inundating my roommate (and several other friends) with unsolicited advice about what they should get, I thought I’d make a shortlist of things I’d get if I were a first-timer, and they can choose to read or ignore as they wish.

*My blog is too smalltime to make any money. I’m not getting anything out of recommending these.

**For real, fam & friends: This is a list of suggestions/cool things that have come out just in the last two years to help out other expectant parents. Some of this is stuff I already have, and some is just a better version of something I already have. Don’t take this as an unsubtle request!

Without further ado:

Lotus Everywhere Travel CribLotus Everywhere Travel Crib ($189)

Forget your tricky, cumbersome travel cribs of yore. This is super easy to set up, with a cushy mattress, a backpack-style carry case, and a zippered side panel so you don’t have to figure out how to lower a sleeping or nearly sleeping baby all the way to the floor through the top. I used this a few times at a friend’s house for naps and have wanted one ever since. My only wish is that it had a silent zipper. I think we’re going to get one (our hand-me-down Pack ‘N Play tore) along with the bassinet attachments for the new kid.

Mason Bottle set ($20)

We registered for glass bottles the first time around, and ended up with plastic. Which is fine, but while Dr. Bronner’s may be touted for being anti-colic or whatever, having FIVE pieces of a bottle to wash and reassemble every time is less. than. ideal. I saw an ad for this on Instagram, which converts your basic 4 oz. or 8 oz. mason jar into a bottle, and WANT! We use mason jars for food storage, drinking glasses, etc. so this is a natural next step in our collection. I like the silicone sleeves to help prevent breakage, too.

Milkies Milk-Saver ($27.95)

Breastfeeding was the mystery of mysteries before The Baby arrived. It was the apex of the unknown that surrounds new parenthood. I didn’t know how to do it, or how it would feel, or what I’d need, so I didn’t get much before The Baby arrived. (And what I did get was gifted to me by friends who knew better.) One thing that would have really come in handy, especially those first weeks when my supply was out of control and we were still working out the latch, was a way to catch any extra. These handy little nursing covers collect that leaked milk so it doesn’t go to waste.

Lalabu Soothe Shirt ($75)

Babywearing was clutch for me from the very beginning. Intimidated at first by the complicated baby wraps, I got a Baby K’Tan for both me and The Husband (two of them, because they’re sized to the wearer.) They were pretty easy to use, but I ended up finding my stretchy wrap to be more comfortable as The Baby got bigger, and the K’Tan ended up being a short-lived, though very helpful, piece of baby gear. If I did it again, I’d get us a set of these, instead. I’m definitely not spending the money when what we have now will suit us fine, but if you’re building your registry and don’t already have a newborn babywearing solution, I think this is pretty sweet!

Zutano Booties ($20-ish)

I might have already included these on a long-ago registry recommendation, but they’re so good. It’s really hard to keep things on baby feet. This is the exception. They snap snugly around the ankle, are super warm and super cute. I bought a size big so they’d last a little longer (and because The Baby has giant feet.)

That’s all I can think of right now, and I gotta shower before The Toddler wakes up from his nap. One more quick recommendation for soon-to-be moms: The Birth Hour podcast. I’ve started listening to it to reacquaint myself with the thought of childbirth, and more than I could have imagined it has taught me some really helpful things about preparing for labor and childbirth. I’m focusing on the low-intervention/unmedicated stories, because that’s what I’m aiming for, but this features everything from scheduled C-Sections and epidurals to some more unusual circumstances. (Obvious caveat: Only listen to what you’re prepared to hear. There are stories about loss and emergencies and such.)

I’m a little turned off by the fact that a lot of the storytellers are also “sponsors” of the episodes (people with Etsy shops for baby headbands, birth centers themselves, etc.) and the host isn’t the most compelling interviewer, but the moms themselves are usually really good storytellers, and so far this is the best I’ve come across in terms of pregnancy/childbirth-related podcasting content. It definitely has value for anyone with a due date in the future, and I’m glad I found it despite these minor complaints.

May your (baby) shower be as relaxing and invigorating as the shower I’m about to take.



Edited to add: Backpack-style diaper bag, because it’s really fun when your shoulder bag swings around and bashes your kid while you’re getting him out of his carseat.

Week 10: Older, Wiser Baby Registry

The Indignities of Pregnancy Brain


I sort of hate to lament or even acknowledge the existence of “pregnancy brain,” because I don’t want to feed the problematic stereotypes that pregnant women can’t hack it at work, or are a liability in some way. When I worked during my first pregnancy, I pretty consistently knocked it out of the park in my estimation–or at the very least, was just as productive and satisfactory as any other time. And as a stay-at-home mom with a small side gig, my performance is now measured a little differently, but my kid is still fed, dressed and reasonably happy (though admittedly getting more than zero screen time now that I can’t lift my arms and legs after 3 p.m.)

But there’s no denying that it’s harder to apply myself while I’m fighting to stay awake and trying to keep morning sickness at bay. When I succeed at remembering to buckle my toddler into his car seat, it is sometimes at the expense of remembering to refill his diaper bag. Early pregnancy, at least for me, is a graceless slog. For your entertainment, here’s a brief list of some of the self-inflicted indignities I’ve endured over the last few weeks, thanks to pregnancy brain.

  1. Abandoning things I’ve recently paid for: This has happened at least three times in as many weeks. I’ve dropped $50 at Target and had the clerk shout after me as the sliding doors open, gesturing to the bags I didn’t even glance at as I left the line; I paid for dry cleaning at the local grocery store, put it in my cart, parked the cart (which is not allowed outside this particular store) and gone home with my husband’s shirts abandoned–he was pretty amused when he got the phone call; and at that same grocery store, I went through self-checkout, loaded my groceries into the cart, once again parked it near the entrance, cajoled The Toddler into the car, and did a quick lap around the parking lot before I reached for the ginger ale I thought I had bought and realized I needed to reverse course and retrieve my bags from customer service.
  2. Coming completely unprepared: At the tail end of another grocery excursion, The Toddler filled his diaper and wouldn’t get in his car seat with that load (I don’t blame him.) We were already at the car, so I popped the hatch and stripped him down, only to realize I had one remaining wipe and nothing but a swim diaper to put him in. I cleaned him up as well as I could, pleaded with him not to pee on the way home, and felt like a complete dumb-dumb.
  3. Emulating my toddler: Pregnancy brain isn’t just about forgetfulness. This state of mind also includes some really fun emotional meltdowns. Just one example: I really wanted some nasty Chinese takeout (the only kind of Chinese takeout available in a semi-rural Ohio town) the other weekend. The Husband valiantly volunteered to go pick some up. I gave him my standard garbage food order (wonton soup, sweet & sour chicken) and anxiously awaited his return. I ate my soup and a few bites of doughy, greasy chicken with Red No. 40 sauce before I started feeling really queasy and guilty for eating it. I felt rage and tears welling up, directed at that poor asshole who married me, for daring to indulge my disgusting craving. He should have known it wouldn’t end well, I thought to myself, trying really, really hard not to vocalize my feelings. It has given me a bit more sympathy for my wildly irrational 17-month-old who rages at me when he drops and breaks something. We have no control over how we feel or whom we feel it toward, Little Guy. Don’t I know it.
  4. Putting on a free show: The grocery store seems to be the main setting for most of my pregnancy brain antics. Just last week, because laundry has sunken to the bottom of my priorities lately (below toddler wrangling, eating, napping and sleeping), I threw on a button-down shirt I rarely wear and set off for a quick shopping trip. It was about 10 a.m., and I cruised the aisles for about 10 minutes, sipping my half-caf latte and smiling warmly at the many elderly shoppers who had been dropped off by bus from a local retirement community while The Toddler steered our behemoth car-cart (God, I hate those). It took that whole 10 minutes and at least one very uncomfortable-looking old man for me to notice the draft across my ribs. I looked down to see that the two middle buttons of my shirt were wide agape, exposing me from the bridge of my bra to my belly button. You’re welcome, Medina!!!

It doesn’t warrant its own story, but I also found a fork in the freezer the other day. Damn, pregnancy. I’m only nine weeks in. Here’s hoping I recover my wits soon.

The Indignities of Pregnancy Brain