September 28, 2010

Bedtime Stories

I curl up and tuck my bare feet under me, squeeze tight my eyes and try to think about bedtime as a little girl. If I had a routine, it included the tiny trial-size perfumes on my brass vanity, I'd smell them, and their lids clink. And sometimes I'd peek into my closet at my Guess? jean jacket. Shut the door and smile and feel lucky.

Bedtime is exhausting here, and I finally get them all to sleep and then my mind races about what they think about before they drift off, and I wonder, did my words and actions blanket them softly, or scratchy?


I clean up half-heartedly, but I don't even really give that much. I haven't the energy to be more than a blob. I give myself quiet time, but then I feel guilty, and wasted. I'm tired but too selfish to sleep.

I stay home all day with my kids, and then all night. And I know better, to cut myself some slack but seriously, I'm not any good at this. If this is what I am and what I'm going to do with my life, if this is what I'm going to lay it all down for, I want to at least be a little good at it.

What is my strong suit?
I can't keep the house clean enough, stay ahead of the laundry pile, I try to make good meals but sometimes they are pitiful, including the ramen noodles they had last night.

When do I get to punch out?

And what do their hearts feel, when they see their life-less mother, that's let herself go, on the inside and the outside,

does that bring shadows to their bedtime

like it does to mine?


54 comments:

  1. Oh Steph, I so know where you are coming from. This mothering, this parenting is trying and rewarding and taxing and amazing all at once, isn't it. Your strong suit is that you are you. You love them and they know that.

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  2. I love that you're so transparent & honest- in good & bad times...I think that you and your children are just precious. Don't be hard on yourself- we all over extend ourselves...it's those who know it & want to be better who already ARE better. :) That's you!

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  3. I have SO been there. And written many times about it. Be encouraged, Mama. You love your babies, they know. They know.

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  4. Aw, Steph. They know you love them. You better at loving them than anyone else ever could be. And that's no small thing. Don't sell yourself short.

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  5. you work harder and try longer than anyone i know. that shines through to me, and it will to them. you are loved.

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  6. I know how you feel, but I try to make sure that my hug and kisses during bedtime will be the memory that will fill their sleep and not what happen during the day!

    Is there anything that I can pray for you today?

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  7. It's sooooo hard. I think that exact same thing. "Is this what I'm meant to do with my life? if it is, then I suck at it, and I should be getting better." But you know what, I bet ifyou asked Evie (or Ivy) if they thought we sucked at it, they would scream "helll nooo." I think our kids know they are loved. They feel it every time we hug them, brush their hair, make them breakfast, and kiss their boo boos. I bet you if our kids could communicate how they feel about us, it would be all hearts and rainbows.

    <3 hang in there

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  8. So, did you climb inside my head for this post?

    ... The constant struggle. Praying for you, praying for me.

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  9. By nightfall I'm a total grouch! Feeling the full weight on my shoulders of caring for a house, husband and three children. I co-sleep with my youngest while feeling guilty that I'm not cuddling all of them. Are they laying in bed sad and scared? Do they need me more than I'm able to give them? Are they going to remember all the good times or just when I yell at them? I wish I had it all together. I wish my house and meals resembled that of Martha Stewart, but they don't. I hope my boys appreciate my hard work, and the fact that I don't have all the answers.

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  10. I could have written this post. I feel like my words blanket Maggie in a scratchy way most nights. Then I go in for another hug, kiss and "I love you more". I never knew this job could be so hard or that I could feel SO bad about my mothering, cooking and housekeeping on a daily basis. My house is cleaner than most, but I have too many places where I just stick things to get them out of the way. I feel like I should be better at all of this since I don't have a "real" job. Uggghhh.

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  11. Wow. I could have written this myself....it has to get easier doesn't it? Xoxo

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  12. After a night of no sleep, and a teething baby, I read this post, and wanted to cry...and then give you a hug. Too selfish to sleep is definitely my downfall these days...and it's wearing me thin.

    But your strong suit? You've got many, one of them being you love with your whole heart, mind, and soul your family...and that is something to be more than proud of.

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  13. Thank you. I often have the same thoughts at the end of my day, after I have tucked me sweet girls in for the night.

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  14. I've been feeling like this lately too. Sometimes I think I'm a horrible Mom for just wanting to be away, by myself for a whole day (or two) and not feel guilty for it.

    It's hard being the one home ALL THE TIME and Lucy has been seeing the result of my frustrations a lot lately. I always make sure to give her lots of higs and kisses and I Love You's but I also wonder if it's enough sometimes.

    I guess only time will tell...but I'll keep picking myself up after the bad days and try to make the next one better. That's all we can do.

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  15. I feel this way too, a lot! Thanks for being so honest. It's easy to tell other mothers to take time for themselves...but when it comes to myself, I have a hard time taking time for myself without feeling guilty. Lately, I've been giving myself a "punching out" time an hour before I go to bed, where I tell myself that I am NOT going to do housework. It has helped immensely. Also, believe me, your kids are never going to remember the dust bunnies under the couch, but they WILL remember a mother that loved them to pieces!

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  16. Oh dear sweet Stephanie, there are many a days that I have felt like this. My husband used to come home and see me this way and wonder why I didn't do this or that. But he sees our girls and he realizes how good they are. (especially when compared to some of their peers) He sees how they are so well adjusted and he hears good things about them from others and one day he said to me. "You are such an excellent mother and our girls show for that and while I would want everything to be perfect in this season of our lives the most important thing is them and I am thankful that you are doing a good job"

    Now that didn't come until the girls were 10 and 7. I used to try to do it all and I realized that I can't. It's no use beating yourself up over it, because when I realized that I couldn't do it all and things were going to be left undone. Well that is when I started to feel better about myself and I don't get so overwhelmed. Altho there are many days when I feel overwhelmed i realize that one day they will be gone and doing their own thing and how I would probably cherish the craziness and the dishes piling up and the days I sometimes go in between showers.

    ((Hugs)) my friend. xo

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  17. Oh hon. To know that even you feel this way...of course you do. You are human. But know that so many of us admire you -- and the way that you mother -- so much. You do need to carve out time to nurture yourself. Not just to catch a break, but to actually nurture yourself and feed your soul. You are an incredible mother. It shines through more than you realize - we see it in the background of your stories and your photos, things you don't even realize you're showing us. Your children are loved, and they feel it. If we can feel it from here, you can bet that they can.

    And the house and the meals and the laundry? We are all in the same boat, my friend. I was just confessing to some other mothers this morning that I am certain my house has more layers of filth and grime than anyone else's, that I make quesadillas and call it 'dinner'. That the laundry baskets have taken on the status of livingroom furniture because they've been sitting there for so long.

    And these other mothers? They said -- me too. Same story, different details.

    These days of raising little people are busy and full and draining and the work keeps coming. Just when you catch a breath another wave hits, and you have to keep swimming, right? But every now and then you need to climb up on one of those long inflatable rafts for one. One with a cupholder. And just float, because you need the rest and the pampering in order to keep swimming.

    Love to you, my sweet friend. Your honesty just helped many, many mothers feel a little less alone, a little less like failures. I hope the comments that pour in do the same for you.

    xoxo elizabeth

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  18. What they know is that they are safe, happy, warm, and loved.
    We all fall short of our own (too high) expectations.
    It made me cry with relief to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way many, many nights.

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  19. Sweet sweet Steph....this group of thoughts shows just how wonderful a mother you are.

    Questioning yourself is a great indicator of how much you care. If you weren't questioning your actions, how you are raising them, what your life is like and worrying about how your children are - well, then, you wouldn't be a great mother. Because if you think you are doing everything right, you are wrong.

    So take those thoughts that are scary and depressing, take a moment to accept the feeling...and then move on. Do something that doesn't take a long time that you can feel accomplished about. Not the laundry that will always pile up, or the toys that never seem put away for very long. Make your bed. Clean the sink. Wash the windows. Something that has an end point, at least for a few days.

    Then take a moment for yourself. Read a book. Sit outside with a cup of tea. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Do something that makes YOU happy. Don't make something for someone else. Not something that has a benefit for someone else. Something that is selfish. You can't take care of others if you aren't taking care of yourself.

    Praying for the strength and peace that all mothers deserve.

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  21. sorry about erasing the above comment - too many typos!
    sometimes it just feels better to say it aloud doesn't it?
    i have a post sitting in my to be posted pile apologizing for yelling to my cora. at bedtime. gah. i still "hate" myself for doing it!
    it sits there 'cause i'm not quite ready for everyone to see that i do that. though, don't we all?

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  22. Your kids remember your heart...not the outside stuff. I yell at my babies more often than I want to and I ache because of it. My mother in law tells a story of a conversation she had with her now grown daughter. Her daughter told her friends her mom never yelled :-) She was overjoyed to hear her daughter had forgotten the grouchy days and the yelling, but remembered the love in her heart.

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  23. I think every one of us has been there. I'm there all the time. Doesn't help when the husband complains about the state of the house or some sort of thing. Hope you remember soon that you are their mom and love them...and that's what's most important. And here's to us all learning to take care of ourselves as much as the kids.

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  24. Hugs! You're probably doing better than you think you are. Bedtime is always hard for me too, with the last ebbing energy... Set yourself some really small positive goals tomorrow maybe. A story. An extra hug for each kid. Every bit helps you feel better about the job you're doing, and feels good to your kiddos too. Remember, God made kids to be raised by humans.
    Hugs
    Mary

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  25. Oh honey, I only have one baby but I know how you feel. I collapsed in tears the other day because the house was a mess and the laundry was piled up and all I did was throw random stuff in the crock pot and call it chili. I was told I was amazing and that I was doing such a great job with the new baby.

    You are amazing. And you are doing such a great job. I can see it. Everyone who comes to your blog and sees your pictures can see it.

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  26. Does it bring shadows?

    I think about this too. Because I think it does. Many nights it brings the kind of shadows that blossom cruelly into nightmares and they're up screaming and I know some of the negative/sad/depressed/grieving/whatever energy somehow sloughed off my skin and onto them.

    Or maybe I'm just dramatic.

    But each little moment is a moment. Each one matters. And that isn't meant to be a bad thing, but a reminder to our souls that if we really tallied the moments, the "win" column would still be heavier than the "fail" column.

    But it's crazy for me to pretend my unhappiness won't be handed down to them as much as my happiness will...

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  27. "I'm tired but too selfish to sleep."

    This is me. And what an ironic statement too, because sleep really is part of self-care. Nighttime is MY time, even though I'm usually too beat to do anything I actually enjoy.

    I remember feeling very lonely at night. I have always been a night owl, and I remember laying in my bed in the dark, just feeling alone, or reading with a rogue flashlight under the covers. It helped when we got a dog that would sleep with me. I think part of why I'm not worried about P sleeping with us 'forever' is because I don't want her to feel that way either. Nighttime can be a lonely place, and until she wants that time to herself, I am willing to share it.

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  28. I think there are so many mothers that could write these exact words, but yet are too scared to because of the judgement that awaits them. We've (as moms) have piled so many expectations upon ourselves, it's impossible to meet them.... the perfect chef, impecible housekeeper, loving yet firm mother who gives 110% without anything in return and still has that extra 100% to give to her husband as he walks through the door. That's not to mention all the other roles and hats that we as moms have, it's not next to impossible to do... it IS impossible. And on top of it, we feel as if we're failing if we admit how hard it is and we can't do it. How messed up is all that?????

    Steph, you're kids know how much you love them... and sometimes yes, you're the grumpy mommy that puts them to bed, but I've found that sometimes I'm better off to admit it to my girls. Hey... guess what? Mommy's a bit tired and grumpy tonight, what should we do about that? Or I'll just appoligize now for it.... I'm amazed by the amount of understanding my 5 and 7 year old have when I'm honest with them.

    And no, I don't remember my mom's grumpy days.... thinking back, I love the fact my mom stayed home with us, she made that sacrifice. She did it out of love and I know now, as a mom, oh yes... she has grumpy days and days with no energy, but I don't remember it. I remember the crafts, the homemade cookies and the love. So much love.....

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  29. I definitely identify with your feelings. You seem to be an amazing, engaged mothers--and for that you will be remembered.

    Also, I must say in response to your question, "What is my strong suit?" Writing. Resonating with your readers. Being a voice for moms. It helps my heart to read your blog, and see my feelings echoed on this page. You are amazing!

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  30. Wow. Like the chorus of voices before me, I find this post so resonant and so bittersweet. Having read just a bit from you in the past, I suspect that your words and actions blanket your children in security and love. (Besides, I like to comfort myself with the thought that those of us who spend time asking these big questions are probably those least likely to to be living problematic answers to them.)

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  31. I don't get it -- selfish? I may hardly know you, but I know you're anything but selfish. You have many strong suits. Writing being one of them. Loving your kids being another. So hard to strike the right balance between sacrificing yourself for your children, and not losing yourself in your children. Please know that it's more than okay - it's actually important - to take care of yourself, too. Try not to think of it as selfish. Think of it as making you a better mom and wife for the long haul. (Hope some of that was helpful at all.)

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  32. I am 100% positive I'm not the first to say this: "How did you get inside my head and read what was there?"

    Seriously.

    ((Hugs)) from this momma to a fellow momma.

    You are a blessing, even though I don't know you.

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  33. Me too. Sometimes I go back in to their rooms after I've had a few minutes to re-group and I apologize and hug and kiss them goodnight again. I hope to goodness that's what they remember when they think back to bedtimes when they were little and not Zombie Mom with the the hollow eyes and deep, weary sighs. Maybe you could ask them - "What is bedtime like around here?" and have a discussion about it. I'm willing to bet that they mostly love and cherish it, and that they completely love and cherish you.

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  34. I was just about to type the exact comment that Tiff above me said - how do you get in my head and make my thoughts sound much more eloquent then they actually are?

    I too am choosing to be home, but at times I wonder if my kids would be better off with other caregivers - ones that only do it from 9-5 and are therefore refreshed and have perspective and don't carry over the night or the previous day.

    I know it's such a cliche, but I think of this often: "motherhood is really hard if you're doing it right."

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  35. I am so right there with you... You really have no idea. But, I remind you, like I have to remind myself - don't buy in to the lies, instead search for truth. xoxo

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  36. I just want to give you a huge hug and take you out for coffee and encourage you the way another mom recently just did for me when I was feeling so much of these feelings. This season of motherhood is so intense. It's so intense.
    xxoo.

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  37. I just wanted to tell you that I completely understand. And that when I think about "good parenting", a mom of which I aspire to be like, a mother I admire, I think of you, Steph. But I do know that we ALL feel exactly as you do sometimes. Just know it's normal to feel that way; and you are an incredible mother to those incredible children.

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  38. Praying for you right now Steph. For God's comfort and joy.

    Don't believe the lies.

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  39. me too. all of this times a hundred. I've felt it, thought it, done it.

    tonight, after emma was in bed and ken had lucy, I felt like I had accomplished so much b/c I cleaned the kitchen, put laundry in, fed the dogs and took the trash out. but then I had to step over the toys and the blankets and the baby wipes and the nursing bra (on the floor!) to get to the stairs ... and I just came right up the stairs without picking up.

    and I know Emma will go downstairs in the morning and step over all of it to get to the breakfast table. and she'll probably hear me grumble about the mess.

    secretly? I am so glad you mentioned ramen b/c my kid has been living off of annie's mac and cheese and turkey dogs for lunch since July.

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  40. Oh, how I have those nights, days, weeks. And then it gets better. It always gets better, cause kids are awesome. Family is awesome. And you are awesome. Praying peace.

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  41. Oh yes, I certainly can feel where you're coming from.

    (Recently, however, I've found incredible sanity from following the FlyLady (flylady.net) and oh my goodness... the difference... it's incredible.)

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  42. Ah, Steph. You are anything but life-less.

    You are a wonderful mum (and you should be very proud). Your kids know they are well-loved (I am sure of that).

    stephanie@metropolitanmama.net

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  43. You are SOOO poetic and put into words so often what I feel but can't say. your strong suit from I 'know' of you??? You are there with your kids. you give to them every ounce of who you are. you are extremily nurturing even when you don't feel it.
    I read your blog because it reminds me of the joys of going to the park with my kids and the joys of sitting outside while they ride their bikes carefree. you remind me to get off this computer, put down the broom and get outside!!!
    seriously.

    Alyson

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  44. "when do i get to punch out"

    this thought is more often in my head than it should be (or so i think)

    thanks for your brave words...you validate the feelings i keep bottled up

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  45. You are awesome Steph. An awesome mom & an awesome person. I have read your words for over 2 years, so I KNOW that. You know that, too - most days. We all have those days where we don't feel good enough to be a mom. I work 40 hours a week outside the home, so I obviously am away from my family for that time - but I still need ME time on the weekend...even if it's for an hour. And I yell and feel guilty. Make time for you-you'll feel renewed...but you know that already :) Just a gentle reminder.

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  46. Good mom guilt.

    All the good moms have it.

    You're in the club...

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  47. You said everything I am too tired to put into words. And you are a great mom!

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  48. Steph:

    we have ALL been there. There are nights I have laid in bed and cried over the millions of different ways I've failed my children in a single day. And yet...it's not all failure. I can't keep up with the laundry pile but I was there watching when they said "Look, mom!". I yelled too much but I made sure to give them an extra long hug and a heartfelt "I'm sorry." We none of us are as good at this as we think *everyone else must be.

    We never get to punch out...but the demands motherhood makes on us do change and fluctuate. My oldest is almost 13 and I've seen the other side. I'm not saying it's easier but it's a different kind of hard. And on those long long days, even a different kind of hard seems somehow easier.

    Also...your strong suit is, obviously, your big heart. Your kids benefit from that, every single day.

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  49. Steph: I know I am not a great commenter (sorry), but my computer time is so limited, but i do you read your post everyday and so appreciate them.

    I read this yesterday and felt like I really wanted to comment, here i am finally with a minute ... I have tried to think of what I wanted to say, you know those perfect words, that I am just not good with.

    I could tell you that you are a wonderful mom, because I think you are! I could tell you that I get it, because as the mom to 6 my life is crazy! But as I read through some of the comments, I see that has all been said. So I guess I will just say THANKS, THANKS for being a mom (a great one too), THANKS for articulating what some moms feel, THANKS for sharing, and mostly THANKS for being you, it makes the world a better place.

    Peace, love and kindness, Amy

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  50. such a sweet post. thank you for sharing. i am currently not winning mother of the year...baby is eating a late lunch b/c i forgot to bring a spoon to the park and therefore had to try to feed her with a fork. she didn't like it. and my sick four-year-old has been yelled at more than once today. none of it is his fault. i'm just feeling off and am praying that he isn't scarred for life.

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  51. I LOVE YOU!!! I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!!
    YOU ARE AN INSPERATION TO ME AS A MOTHER AND WIFE AND WOMAN! THANK YOU FOR BEING HONEST IN THIS BLOG I LOVE READING AND I CAN RELATE TO EVERYTHING YOU WRITE!

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  52. I know the feeling. I always wonder if my mother felt this way too with THREE kids (I have one and feel the same way you do!). And I feel like she didn't. Or if she did, she had some magic trick of making life seem beautiful.
    :) I wish she would share it! :)
    Just remember "this too shall pass" :)

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