Dear Mom Friend (From a Mom of Two Kids Under Age Three)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Bethany Morrill, a college mate who is becomming an even closer friend thanks to facebook (Yes, I believe there are positives to facebook, despite what I may have communicated last week).  Bethany and her husband, Tim, are raising their two darling daughters in the Louisville area.  If you want to read more thoughtful posts like this, you should encourage Bethany to start a blog.

Dear Mom Friend:

I miss you, too. Having one kid seemed so manageable. We got back on an even keel, everyone was sleeping again, and life was golden. Then we had baby number two, and I have found it difficult to maintain any relationships with friends (single, married, or married with kids). It’s detrimental to everyone. Even as a parent, I find it boring to talk constantly about child schedules, the best preschools, what diaper brand to use – isn’t that the point of getting together with friends? To escape this part of my life?

Here’s the problem: I feel like that is ALL there is to my life right now. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, my kids are not only my children; they are my full-time job and my current mission field. I feel like I have lost my own dreams, ambitions and hobbies into the black hole of parenthood. I don’t have much else to talk about, and that makes me feel like my life is small…so I revert back to talking about kid things.

Don’t get me wrong, I love children. All of my life, I wanted to have my own, and I wanted to stay home with them (My husband and I talked about that at length before we got married). I started babysitting when I was 12 and worked at a Day Care through high school and part of college. I worked as a VBS teacher, studied elementary education, and eventually became a children’s librarian. I was surrounded by kids all the time, and I didn’t think the transition to parenthood would be so very different!

It is very different.

I love my kids, but no – I’m not always happy. We live in a culture that encourages women to “have it all” and pretends that you can. I think that’s a lie; I think that no matter which choice you make (career, children/homemaker, or both), you always feel that something is out of balance. And to admit that you’re not always happy makes it sound like you don’t love your kids, or that you’re not grateful to have the opportunity to stay at home with them, which isn’t true. I know a lot of women who would like children or women that have children but work full time look at my pictures on Facebook and think, “She is so lucky.” I look at pictures of others bopping away for a weekend with friends or getting pedicures or taking ballroom dance lessons or a Zumba class or going on a date or sleeping in past 8 a.m. and I think, “She is so lucky.”

Here are the stats about my life: I’ve been a mom for 3 1/2 years, and in that time, I have lost regular Bible reading, a regular exercise routine, and most time for myself. It’s difficult to find/create alone time with my husband to keep building our relationship.  It shocks and frightens me that I do not read books for myself any more (about 3-4 per year) even though I am a dedicated book lover and trained librarian. In 3 1/2 years, I have spent one night away from our oldest, and we have yet to leave our youngest overnight. I have dealt with mild depression and weigh more than I have at any point in my life.

I admit that some of those things have been my own choices; they are a combination of living far away from family, the expense of babysitters, having two kids instead of one, my decision to plan activities/crafts/preschool for my three year old (which takes a lot of time), my husband’s long hours at work, and the fact that my youngest, who is fifteen months old, still doesn’t sleep through the night. But at the end of the day, when I’ve been correcting behavior, singing Wee Sing songs, playing peek-a-boo, smoothing tantrums, changing diapers, and scraping dried pasta off the kitchen floor, not only do I not have anything interesting to say to a friend, sometimes (total honesty here) I don’t even want to talk. I’m so spent that if a friend does call after the girls are in bed, I am guilty of not answering the phone – because I just don’t have the energy to put on socially acceptable behavior for ten more minutes. This is why Facebook has become the best way for me to keep in touch with people, although you and I both know that it is no substitute for face to face relationships. And so over time, my friendships have become shallower and more distant.

I recognize that I need to change! I can’t blame my kids for my present state when I have made the choices to stay at home and plan preschool lessons and curl up on the couch to watch Psych or The Big Bang Theory in the evening instead of taking the initiative to keep my relationships strong. I have been caught in the trap of thinking that taking time for myself (whether it’s for exercise, hobbies, or relationships) is somehow depriving my children and being selfish. And we’re taught that being a good mom is to be totally sacrificial, giving everything you have to care for your kids – there’s no room for selfishness. But friend: I’m giving myself permission to be selfish. I’m giving myself permission take time for myself and to build (or perhaps rebuild) relationships.

On the rare chance that I go out with a girlfriend, or play games with just grown-ups, or read a book for myself, I feel free; I actually feel physically lighter. I remember a part of myself that has been missing for a long time. I remember that I wanted to run a 5k before I was 30, that I longed to serve on the Newbery committee (which several of my SLIS classmates have already done), that I want to learn how to make stained glass, and that I would love to go to the library and choose a book for myself instead of desperately trying to hunt down titles for preschool before my 18 month old destroys the shelves.

Older women often tell young moms that being the parent of a young child is a golden time and so short – that we should treasure every minute and not miss a thing. I agree – being a parent of a young child IS a temporary part of my life. And it’s precisely because of that that I don’t want to lose my whole self to this single aspect of my life. If I place all my time and thought and energy into parenting, what am I going to do when my children leave home? Will I still have a good relationship with my husband? Will I still have girlfriends to play Bunco and go shopping with?

My dear, sweet friend: I desire the relationship as strongly as you do, and I value you even more than you know for fighting to keep it current and authentic. You are the touchstone that helps me remember who I am as a person and not as a parent. Because sometimes, it’s hard to remember.

So be patient with me as I learn how to balance these parts of myself. Stay with me on the phone as I take a break to put my toddler in time out. If I am ten (or fifteen) minutes late for coffee because I had to clean up a diaper disaster, don’t think that you’re not important to me. Hold me accountable to reading a new book or getting exercise. See what God is doing in my life, or if I’m taking time to pray. Keep asking the hard questions and challenging me to reach outside of my current world – I promise I’ll respond and thank you for it. And our friendship will be all the stronger for having weathered this season of life.

Sincerely,

A Mom of Two Kids Under Age Three

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Bethany and others can review and comment.  Thanks!

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19 thoughts on “Dear Mom Friend (From a Mom of Two Kids Under Age Three)

  1. Thank you for this, Bethany. In January, I cut my work schedule to just one day a week, and now I stay at home with Ruby (15 mo). I’ve been trying so hard to maintain relationships with my friends, but I feel so depleted and I, too, feel that my life is very small right now. I struggle with that feeling. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been thrown into this new job with no training and I have NO CLUE what I’m doing. At my old job, I felt so competent!

    1. I agree – no orientation, no training, and no coworkers to talk to! If any employer treated us the way our “mom job” does, the lawsuits would start immediately. 😉

      Something that has helped me is to find some new friends (mostly other stay at home moms) who are available to do things during daytime hours (with kids in tow) – they are ripe for the picking at local parks, library story times, or even in the Target baby section.They don’t know you as well as your old friends, but having additional relationships helps you get through the day, lets you vent a little, and gives you an excuse to get out of the house! Praying for you during this time of transition.

  2. As a semi-stay at home dad I identify with much of what’s been written in all three posts. This one resonated most though, and I only have one! Alison, thank you so much for starting the conversation and I will tune in to read every voice added in.

    1. Christian, thanks for first of all reminding me (and others) that stay at home dads should be included in this conversation. Thank you also for wagering in. Im glad you’ll be continuing to engage in this discussion and I’m glad it’s resonating with you!

  3. Bethany, this post is Fabulous!! I have been so impressed by ideas you’ve shared about parenting and I’m equally impressed by YOU – your honesty and perspective and your writing ability. Even though I just have one kid (and sometimes I’m really glad about that :), I can relate to so much of what you’re saying.
    I think it’s true that we often feel like we should be happy (or act like we’re happy) all the time, otherwise it means we don’t love or appreciate our kids. While I’m definitely trying to have more of an attitude of thankfulness, it’s completely unrealistic to think we should always feel happy, no matter what our place in life is.
    I think it’s also a big lie that “taking time for yourself” is selfish. It certainly CAN be selfish – it can also be helpful. Relationships are so important, and taking time to spend with my husband, to read the Bible, to talk to friends, or to just do something I enjoy, isn’t selfish at all. But I feel the same way sometimes – like it’s selfish or like I’m too tired to make the effort.
    Thanks for taking the time to write this post! I really appreciated reading it.

    1. Thanks, Ruth! I’m going to try to keep those comments from going straight to my head. 😉 I appreciated your post yesterday, too, and the fact that we need to step away to clear our heads and do other things. Here’s to taking time for ourselves!

  4. Wow! Bethany…you are an amazing writer. Not only do I agree with EVERYTHING that you wrote here (also a mom of 2 under 3), but also you wrote well. You expressed well. You put words well. Write more!! And, keep being an amazing mom. We are overseas…serving as “m’s”…but, I’m convinced more than ever that my kids are my mission field.
    Stay strong!!!
    Deb (Wicks) Fetherlin

    1. Thanks, Deb! Someday, I would like to have my own blog and write more. I really enjoy it, and I’m so glad that this post connected with you. I’ll be praying for you as you work in your own little mission field! 🙂

  5. Bethany,
    Thank you for sharing and being SO honest. I’ve read your post twice today and both times it brought tears to my eyes. I feel like you took my thoughts and feelings and put them into words.

    Kristin

    Ps I’m proud to say I’m the sister of Allison Buzard who started this discussion:)

    1. Kristin, I’m so glad that this post connected with you in a strong way. My mom calls this period of parenting “being in the trenches,” and sometimes I think half the battle is knowing that you’re not down in the trench by yourself! I’m so thankful that Allison started this discussion and gave us permission (and a vehicle) to be open with each other. She is awesome!

  6. Tears filled my eyes when I read this. I sometimes felt like such a terrible mother for not feeling joy every minute of the day. I have two under two… yikes! Some days are very fun but others are hard. I have felt like I lost who I was. Thank you so much for your honesty and encouragement. It was much needed! I have so much to say about this but I am not sure how. Thank you again.

    1. Courtney, I know I feel like that often – you are not alone, and those feelings do NOT make you a terrible mother! I challenge anyone to clean up dirty diapers and dirty floors and dirty children, all while being whined/cried at, and think, “This is really fun. I hope tomorrow is exactly the same.” 😉 The journey is a hard one, and it’s important for us as sisters in Christ to support and encourage each other as we travel. I don’t know if you’ve seen this article (it circled around a few months ago), but this is my personal favorite on finding moments of joy amidst the daily difficulties of small children.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/dont-carpe-diem_b_1206346.html
      Praying for you as you care for your littles.

  7. I heart you, Bethany. Why weren’t we tight in college?!

    When I read Allison’s original post, I thought about how much of it rang true for my years of singleness. The feeling that my friends had been swallowed up by their boyfriend/husband relationships, and all their opinions and thoughts were now colored by “You know what he thinks about that…”

    Your post made me think about it from their point of view. Obviously being in a relationship is not the same kind of consuming as having a child, but it is similar in that we often (in the early stages, anyway) lose parts of ourselves that we later on come back to. We don’t want our friends to abandon us during any stage of life. We want to know that they still love that part of us that makes us US, no matter what is our current whirlwind.

    As I head into motherhood this year, I will just leave you with my mother’s thoughts about your life stage. She has told me more than once that during that time, she would take out her driver’s license sometimes, just to reassure herself that she WAS an adult. 🙂

    1. I don’t know! But honestly, I’m finding more and more people that I wish I had spent more time with at Asbury – in addition to all the amazing people I WAS close with! We’ll just have to make up for lost time. 🙂

      I’ve been on the opposite end of the stick for a while, and that has made me feel like an outsider sometimes, too – I got married before most of my close friends and had babies at about the time they were getting married, so we’ve been on different plains for several years. I don’t know if you remember Dr. Joly from Asbury, but I vividly recall him telling us one day that “single people and married people can’t be friends.” I blew it off as ridiculous, but after I got married, it seemed like my single friends were less likely to call me up or come over for game nights. As exciting as it was to enter into the new marriage relationship, it was painful to lose some of that closeness with my girlfriends – they had known me much longer than Tim and “got me” in ways he couldn’t (and never will!). I agree completely – we never want our friends to abandon us, regardless of the difference in our phases of life.

      I LOVE the story about the driver’s license!! I never appreciated how much my mom did for me/us as kids until I became a parent. Now, Mother’s Day once a year is just not enough! I know that you will enter into motherhood with grace, confidence, and a sense of humor (perhaps the most important of the three). I look forward to hearing more about your adventures as they come. 😀

  8. Great post, Bethany! Proud to be a fellow trench-dweller with you! May I encourage each of your readers, you, and myself with this truth, in song: “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Hallelujah!”

    Our Daddy knows what we need, and He knows our FIRST need is to be in a thriving relationship with Him! When we do this (oh, Lord, help me do this!), our identities, our passions, our ministry to family friends and others, our time, our talents, our hopes and dreams… EVERYTHING will be ordered and colored and made beautiful by it. When we grasp onto “my time” “my hobbies” and “my sanity”, we will inevitably fall flat on our faces and skin our knees, sobbing like a toddler in His loving arms. May you be comforted and quieted by His love and never be satisfied by anything less than wholehearted devotion to the Expert Potter, Knitter, and Refiner who created you and continues to craft you into His perfect image.

    Much Love,

    1. Aw, thanks for checking in (and weighing in) on the discussion, Laura. 🙂 Beautiful words from a beautiful girl.

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