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

Emerging from the mom fog

Cleaning out our barn
Just a small taste of the great big mess we’re working through in the barn.

The TLMB household has knocked it out of the park over the last week. We spent the long holiday weekend welcoming our incredibly generous friends to our “farm” to help us clear space in our barn to make way for a couple of pet goats we hope to acquire in the next few weeks, who in turn will (I hope) help us with our burgeoning poison ivy and brambles problem.

The Husband and I also finished painting and putting hardwood floors down in our hallway and The Baby’s room, making great headway in the battle against the shag carpet.

We also painted and installed mounted shelves in our pantry, which is now a dazzlingly ordinary, organized space that makes me swoon with satisfaction. I’m a simple girl. Being able to see all our dry goods and baking pans makes me feel like I’m in control of my life.

We re-upped our lapsed membership to Northeast Ohio’s most expansive CSA, since our dreams of having an abundantly producing garden have withered and floundered like the neglected tomato plants and never-sprouted carrots that we put in too late and water too infrequently. Next year, we’ll be armpits deep in homegrown produce. In the meantime, Fresh Fork has been a much-needed source for locally grown veggies and other goodies, and I’ve gotten back into cooking in a decent way.

I’ve picked up a couple new clients for freelancing and am undertaking some intellectually stimulating and creatively fulfilling projects.

While I’ve been consumed with motherhood for the past six months, the past couple of weeks have made me feel more like a whole person than I have since The Baby arrived. Sure, I still wear a rotating uniform of stretched-out V-necks, shush The Baby to sleep four times a day and eat like I’m training for sumo, but I also used a miter saw and drank a bunch of cheap beer with my  friends and did research so I could write coherently about a subject other than breastfeeding.

While the fog of motherhood obscures the less important things in my life, it’s been nice to feel it lifting a little. It may be temporary or it may be because The Baby is getting a little bigger and I’m getting the hang of things a little more. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to feel a little of my old self shining again.

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Emerging from the mom fog

A New Mom’s Summer Reading List

summer reading

I was one of those kids who wiled away a lot of my summers at the library or with my nose in a book in any number of beautiful summer settings – treehouses, porches, tents. (To be perfectly honest, I also squandered much of my summer days in front of the TV. I grew up in the ’90s, after all.)

Anyway, one positive change I’ve been able to adopt somehow during the process of moving to a jungle-like old farm with a baby is reading more. I credit most of this to the fact that The Baby is still sleeping in our bed at night (shut. up.) and I can get about two 40 minute stretches of staying awake time before he really can’t go back to sleep without me. With daylight pressing through the curtains at 9 p.m., I’ve got some time to kill before I can fall asleep, and reading feels more soul-nourishing than endlessly scrolling through my phone. Plus, writing more (blogging) makes me want to read more, and reading motivates me to write more.

While I love reading, I’ve never been very good at keeping track of what I’ve read, the authors I I like, or what I want to read next. So to propel me to a more successful next library trip, I thought I’d do a rundown of what I’ve read over the past few months.

Before I get to the list, a small item of blogkeeping: I made a Facebook page for TLMB! I figure there’s no quicker way to lose Facebook friends (especially the dude variety) than incessant posting about things like childbirth and baby poop. So instead, people who like reading about childbirth and baby poop (ya weirdos) can follow me here. If you’re a regular reader and on Facebook, won’t you do me a solid and like my page? Leave me a comment below if you are a fellow mommy blogger with a Facebook page and I’ll happily return the favor. Thanks, friend.

Okay, onto the book list.

TLMB Moms Summer Reading List

What I’ve loved, and what to skip

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

This was my first foray back into reading after the birth of The Baby. Nothing like reading about post-apocalyptic, gut-wrenching loneliness to cure the baby blues, am I right? Really, though, I loved this book, and if one can find hope after the apocalypse, can’t one find hope that breastfeeding will eventually stop feeling like nursing a baby crocodile? The writing was beautiful, and while I did wake up The Husband because I was sobbing during one particularly sad scene, I woke him up because I was reading really late into the night because I could not put it down.

5 stars.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Have you heard of this book? Of course you have. No, I haven’t seen the movie yet. Yes, I know I am way behind on Oprah’s book list. Honestly I finally decided to read this book because I binge-listened to Cheryl’s podcast (along with Steve Almond, whom I’ve also never read) Dear Sugar, and while it is way more earnest, almost uncomfortably so, than any other podcast I listen to, they do have a seductive way with words and I decided I finally needed to read for myself about Cheryl’s heroin binge. This is another tearjerker, and while sometimes I find myself resisting the urge to eyeroll when Cheryl describes how she got a tattoo with her ex-husband to commemorate their marriage/divorce or how she chooses her new last name (come on), the earnestness I caught on her podcast is the same earnestness and committed jumping-in-head-first approach to life that makes her story so compelling. If you’re like me and haven’t read this yet, it’s worth crawling out from under your rock to check it out.

4 stars.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Okay. I’m starting to sense a pattern I didn’t notice before. I have been bellying up to books that are seemingly way too sad. Books I actively avoided because of their obvious ties to loss. After my pregnancy loss and throughout my pregnancy I couldn’t think about sad things because I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle them, and I didn’t want to even acknowledge that sad things happen. I guess I’m stronger now. Anyway, this has been my favorite book of the summer so far, in spite of the fact that the shortest description I can offer you is, “Kid’s dad died in 9/11. His grandma was a survivor of the WWII Dresden fire bombing. Adventure!” I really loved this book, though. And I only cried a little.

5 stars.

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

I love Rachel Dratch. Most recently I’ve loved her small part in Broad City. And yes, like the rest of America, I wondered with some chagrin at what happened to her after SNL. The beginning parts of this book felt very similar to Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! (which I am just now remembering I also read… I love Amy, but this book didn’t hold a candle to Bossypants and is best reserved for an easy beach read… uh, 3 stars). Anyway, lots of “this is how my early comedy career went down” stuff, but when she gets into trying to date in her late 30s, the book gets better. I’m really glad I didn’t do any research on her or this book before I picked it up, because it was a really fun surprise (sorry, spoiler, but it’s in the GoodReads synopsis) that she became unexpectedly pregnant and had a baby! Yay, surprise mom book! Anyway, Rachel and Amy both fall short of Tina in their ability to move me or feel particularly insightful, but they are funny and charming and I will always root for them.

3.5 stars

It Sucked and then I Cried by Heather Armstrong

I picked this book up at the library because it sounded familiar, then I remembered I have been a sporadic reader of Heather’s blog, dooce.com, for awhile. I decided to read it with the embarrassingly aspirational perspective of a new and not particularly successful blogger who (though I will deny it to my ever-encouraging mother) will not die happy unless I publish a book. I like Heather’s blog. I think she’s really funny. Her book felt…like a bunch of blog posts. Like it could have used a lot more tightening up and thoughtful editing. Um, I didn’t even bother finishing it. I’m not trying to be a jerk, and yes, she’s the published blogger, but it made me feel reassured that I could write a book someday if she pulled it off. God, I’m a jerk. But meh.

2.5 stars

On that sour-grapesy sounding note, I will close for now. But I plan to do this every few weeks so you can keep up with my literary escapades. On my nightstand now: Baby Led Weaning (of course), The No-Cry Sleep Solution (also of course), Cannery Row (took a stack of my high school summer reading books from my childhood bedroom) and A Doubter’s Almanac, another random library pick-up that sounded pretty good.

What are you reading this summer? Anything I should pick up during my next library trip? (Parenting books, really sad novels (I guess), memoirs and classics I likely never picked up are all welcome suggestions.)

One last quick reminder to find me on Facebook and click the little pink picture below if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

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A New Mom’s Summer Reading List