February 22, 2013

Will I Ever Feel Young Again?

Being a stay-at-home mom was the loneliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself. Days and days, hours and hours within them, and days within weeks, at the end of which she might not ever have gotten completely dressed or read any word larger than Chex, any word not ending in -os, formed a sentence or brushed her teeth or left a single footprint outside the house. Just motherhood, with its routine costs of providing a largesse, that outstripped her physical dimensions. from Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior

Will I ever feel young or carefree again?

Yesterday I had five hours without either of my girls. There for a minute I felt lighter and freer, even though I spent the majority of that time working at a coffee shop. I felt like me.

But after I got both of the girls back and all of their things loaded up and their little bodies strapped into carseats, as I was turning onto the interstate, our car swallowed by the rain and the dark sky and the silence, I felt suddenly angry about all the heavy responsibility I’ve invited into my life.

In my pursuit of children, I inadvertently eliminated “me” time and free time from my life. I cut out spontaneity and travel. And I feel bad about how happy I am when I have a small slice of time to myself. But it's true: These are often my favorite times.

I don’t have anything very inspiring or romantic to say about motherhood today, but I'm just going to write through it. This week I’ve been grumpy and short-tempered, resentful. I’ve been mourning my freedom. The vacations Nekos and I used to take, and the dates we used to have. Even the hangovers I used to sleep off. These days I don’t dare have more than a couple of drinks for fear of dropkicking my already exhausted self into delirium.

I’ve been told—so many times—that going from one child to two is hard, hard, hard—harder even than going from none to one or from two to three. I think this is true. I don’t know why really. Because my new baby is not one of those colicky assholes who understandably makes you dread your life. She is lovely. Cool as a cucumber. Smiley and sweet and a pretty good sleeper all things considered. I love her beyond measure. And there is nothing that I look forward to more than seeing who she will become.

But I am so overwhelmed by the responsibility of having two children to care for for-ev-er. Like some teenager flopped across her bed, I find myself wanting to moan, "My life is so ohhhhh-ver!"

And then there are moments like these:

Two nights ago, putting Tessa to bed, I snuggled with her in her twin bed, tucking my chin into her afro and folding my arms around her warm body.

“I don’t want you to grow up, Tessa,” I said. “I want you to be my little girl forever, just like this.”

“But I have to grow up, mama,” she said without hesitation. “I need to reach the soap in the bathrooms. And learn how to color my name like you color your name. I need to be big like you are big. But I will still be your little girl even when I’m big.”

And then my eyes got wet, and I hugged her tighter to me.

She lurched up suddenly, the way that toddlers do, and then came lurching back down, accidentally banging her skull against the bridge of my nose at full force. I cried then, really cried. Cried because it hurt, really hurt. Crumpled up my face and looked her in the eyes and wailed, "Owwww!" I felt like a kid myself when I went to Nekos to complain about my throbbing nose. I am still a kid—that’s the thing. What am I doing with these two kids of my own?

Two days later and my nose still hurts. And still I'm savoring that moment when Tessa told me she needed to grow up to reach the soap and "color" her name. Motherhood is the most bittersweet thing I know.

The irony is that kids are more carefree than any of us adults. If I can somehow be buoyed by my kids’ energy, Tessa’s especially, instead of letting the weight of responsibility drag me down, I know I’d be better off. I just don't know how to do that yet.

Last night Nekos asked me what might make me happier. I knew right away that the answer was more time to myself and more time to work on my hobbies. And I want to take a vacation again. I haven’t left the state of Tennessee—God love it—in almost a year.

So this is the plan: I’m going to start taking the baby to drop-in daycare at least one day a week when Tessa is at her mother’s day out program. Even though it's across town, and even though I might think I don't "need" the break. That's what I did for two hours this morning, and it was bliss. (Even though I felt bad that Livvy had a blowout all over the daycare worker, I felt OK that at least she didn't have a blowout on me, for a change.) And I’m going to use the childcare at the YMCA several times a week while I take pilates and thumb through fashion magazines and go brain-dead on the elliptical. And we’re going to start planning a road trip with the girls for July. We're thinking of taking a week and a half or so and hitting Asheville, Raleigh, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. The road trip we took when Tessa was a baby still ranks as one of my all-time favorite vacations.

I want to know: If you’re a mom, how do you deal with feeling smothered by so much responsibility? What do you do to feel youthful, to keep spontaneity and adventure in your life?

I'm only 30, but I feel about 95. A good eye cream can't begin to touch the kind of old I feel.


  1. I really love this post. I wonder if motherhood is different for some... the ones who always wanted a really big family. For me, I wanted two, but now I'm content with one. It's harder and lonelier than people tell you it will be. And I don't think anyone will ever understand it, until they one day choose to do it too. But I hear you, and I get you. You're doing a good job :)

  2. I am almost 34 and my girls are 6 and 2. I had to start letting people help me. I never felt like I felt old partly because I have a hard time accepting that I am not 22 anymore. I felt like because I was a SAHM and my hubby works so hard for us to be able to spend these years together that I had to do everything for the girls all the time. I had to learn to call my friends to babysit and use the child watch at the YMCA(which is the best gift ever). When my family comes to visit I do not hesitate to say "So The Hubs and I are going out tonight and you are going to watch the girls, Bye" Still there are just those times when I am exhausted and wonder when my vacation is like after nursing all three of my family through some 14 days of flu as it passed from person to person. The whole time I was thinking "I can't get sick, if I get sick everyone will die." Since everyone is better I am going swing dancing that always cheers me up.

  3. I think it will get easier. I have a 9 mo. old and 3.5 yr old. And two feels much easier than it did when my second one first arrived. Also, I remind myself daily that they will be this little and need me this much for only so long. So when I start to feel overwhelmed, I sort of meditate on this fact and it helps me live in the moment and appreciate their smallness, their cuddles, their tiny loveliness. A day will come when they will want much less to do with me, and then, I will be much freer. Sometimes I can't wait for this day--a time when I know I will also miss where we are right now.

  4. This is a great post. Your writing is raw and refreshingly honest. Thank you!

  5. Keep that trip simple, simple, simple. Plan lots of rest and lots of fun. Go to the mountains of Asheville or Blowing Rock or Boone to find coolness in July. Raleigh is in the Piedmont--flat and hot in July. At least Wilmington has some beaches, but it'll be hot then, too. These two places, Charleston, and Savannah, are stinking hot in July. Better to visit them in April or earlier or October or later. If Livvy is sleeping through the night, I may keep her for you . . . if you could stand to be apart from her for a week!

  6. Thank you for this post. You've eloquently written exactly how I feel a lot of the time, and I only have the one child at the moment. Amen for the road trip; travel always calms me down. Might I suggest staying along the Grand Strand for a day or two? The beaches are beautiful/swimmable and Myrtle Beach in particular is family-friendly.

  7. We just found out that we'll be having twins in August and the loss of my freedom, carefree attitude, and disposablel income hover over me like a black cloud many days. I know my life will change in so many good ways, but man am I going to miss this life.

  8. Your eyes look sad in the photo.

  9. This. Oh man, this exactly! "I am still a kid—that’s the thing. What am I doing with these two kids of my own?" I think you perfectly captured what every mom MUST feel. Surely they must? Anyways, I loved it. Oh, and my son is one of those colicky assholes, hahaha ;)

  10. From a 54 year old mom who was staying home with 2 boys by age 30... sending you lots of love. My boys helped me grow up (by embracing my responsibilities to them) and kept me young (with their youthful enthusiasm for life) at the same time. xoxo

  11. I don't think your eyes look sad. I think your eyes look peaceful. Content. Satified. A good roadtrip seems like a perfect plan~ something amazingly fun to look foward to with your family. Be well.

  12. Nah, your eyes don't look sad...maybe a smidge sleep deprived but, not sad.

    Here's the thing - I'm going to give you the pep talk my mom gave me. Buck up. You're a mama now. That IS who you are. You don't HAVE to wear a Mama mask and then take it off to have fun or feel like yourself. You just have to learn how to merge this person into who you "use to be". Think of it as an evolution. Not as a surrender. As soon as I gave up trying to get the ultimate break from my kids, I started enjoying them more. It's just a season of life. This time when they are little and under your feet and spitting up on you is like a tiny speck in this life. You're doing a great job, Mama.

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  14. Goodness I can relate to this a lot. I just went back to work which I dreaded because I am insanely jealous of my daughter's time and I don't want to miss out on any little thing she does.

    BUT I will admit that there were days at home with her when I would count down the minutes till her next nap so I could have a few moments to myself. I felt lost for a while in that life of a SAHM. I think eventually things would have worked themself out, as these things eventually do, but I worried I had drowned in my new identity as a mother.

    I am young at 34 years of age, but the carefree piece of my youth is now parceled out in calculated doses. There is no leniency or allowance for the version of me at 24. There are still good times to be had, fun to seek, travels and sex on the kitchen floor, but it will most likely lack the sparkle of spontaneity. That is what grieves me most. And we should grieve it. It's normal and natural when life changes to long for things as they once were.

    But then after I've had my emotional tantrum about all of that, I remember how blessed I am. And you are blessed too sweet Ellen. :)

  15. Wahhh, I had a whole response typed out and then I backspaced in the browser, not the text box!

    Anyway, I was just writing to send some love your way. I am not a mother, so I can't presume to know just how you feel, but I am a nanny, and just spending my days with the children can feel so isolating. From your blog and instagram, I know that you are a fantastic mother, and the feelings you have right now don't change that. I appreciate your honesty and perspective so much.

    For me, doing things FOR myself and BY myself is the best way to come out of a funk. Seasonal depression hits me hard, and tricks me into thinking I am a miserable person with no interests other than laying in bed. I am SO looking forward to spring, because things feel so much less awful when I can be outside. I am hoping that the change of season will bring some freshness into your life. The road trip sounds like a freaking blast! That is my favorite way to travel, as well. Charleston and Savannah are my favorite cities east of the Mississippi. So much amazing food and scenery!

    Hang in there, girlfriend. It will get better.

    --Stephanie (carusosc on IG) (I hate having to comment as Anon, I think it might be time to start my own blog!)

  16. PS: Even though you may not feel it right now, you still LOOK young and hot!


  17. Thank you for being so open and honest. I am a first-time 32 year old mom with a beautiful 4 month old baby and have been struggling in many of the same ways. I am not back to work yet, and have this constant pull between wanting to soak up every minute with my baby, yet desperately needing time for myself and missing my career. I now have a nanny I can take her to three mornings a week and I feel such relief to have some time to myself and to gradually ease back into work. The relief makes me feel guilty, but I'm just a better mama when I have this time.

    Your posts always make me feel not so alone or awful for wanting to feel some independence again. Thank you!

  18. oh man you hit so at home with this. i have been feeling like this and i have only Lily. but still, she only goes to school twice a week for 4 hours each day and i just never feel like i get time to myself. the other day i woke up thinking about the fact that i have never seen paris, italy or greece and i was seriously a depressed mess for the whole day. i also feel like everything i do is kid related and as wonderful as it is, it is also terribly depressing. i try to break up the routine a bit. that and sometimes i just run away and leave Will and Lily alone.... xoxo

  19. Appreciate your honesty! Being a mom definitely has the good and the bad times... the best of times, and the worst of times. It's so true.

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