A year ago, I wrote this post: “A Mother’s Day Confession: I Feel Like a Bad Mom”
…which has, over the past year, become one of my most-visited blog posts ever. You’d be amazed at how many people google the phrase “I feel like a bad mom” on a daily basis.
Or maybe you wouldn’t. Now that I’ve been a mom for over a year, I kind of get it. Because still, a year later, not a day goes by that I don’t feel like a bad mom for something.
When we visited the botanical gardens, I accidentally brought Lila a 6-month size swimsuit:
…that she basically had to pour herself into. There were more than a few nipple-gate moments. It was a mama fail. And it was also kind of funny. Sorry kiddo!
The other night, Ryan and I went out for a date night. Our nanny stays with Lila multiple times a week, and Lila LOVES her. Still, for whatever reason, on that night, Lila decided to throw herself into my arms and cry as we were trying to get out the door. I had to pry her off of me and basically throw her at our nanny so that we could leave. It left me feeling like—you guessed it—a pretty bad mother.
I guess one big lesson of motherhood that I’m trying to learn is that I’ll never not feel like a bad mother. I’m always going to be failing at something. It seems like a sad thing to say, but you know—it isn’t. Once you can come around to the idea that the goal isn’t perfection, the enormous mission of motherhood seems a whole lot easier, a whole lot lighter, and a whole lot more…well, fun.
People used to talk about how “fun” their kids were, and I’d think—“Yeah, sure. You just *think* they’re fun because they’re your kids!” And so maybe I only think Lila is fun because she’s my kid, but man—that girl is a hoot!
More and more, I try to ask myself—do you want to be a perfect mother (whatever that means…)? Or do you want to enjoy motherhood?
(coffee tastes better from a special Mother’s Day mug! )
I’ll take messy and fun and failing over boring old perfection any day.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
Almost three full years ago (?!?), I got an e-mail from another blogger named Emily. She lived in Central PA too, and had stumbled upon my blog, and wondered—would I like to meet up for lunch?
We met up for lunch and talked about all sorts of things—food, beer, travel, blogging. When I got home, I told Ryan, “I made a friend!!!” Emily was probably the first friend I made in Pennsylvania who wasn’t in some way tied to our jobs at Penn State Altoona. We made wonderful friends through our jobs too, of course, but I’ve found that when you work at a university, there’s something really nice about having friends outside of academia. For one thing, it means that when you meet up for dinner or drinks, you’re not just going to bitch about your students for 2 hours straight.
Anyway, long story short, we became great friends with Emily and her husband Nick, and discovered all sorts of connections. We formed a small supper club group with them and a few of our other friends, and I can honestly say that that supper club is one of things I miss MOST about living in Altoona.
But, imagine our surprise when, upon telling Nick and Emily that we were Huntsville-bound, they told us that Nick’s brother AND his parents lived in Huntsville! How random is that?! I knew this meant that one day, we’d be able to meet back up with our PA friends.
What I didn’t know was that the next time we’d see them, we’d BOTH have new family members with us!
Emily had Sam a few months after we moved down to Alabama, so this was our first time meeting him. But through the magic of Facebook and blogging, I felt like I knew him already. He was just as smart, sweet, and adorable as I thought he would be. He and Lila had tons of fun exploring all that the Huntsville Botanical Gardens have to offer—splash pools, giant chairs, water misters, butterflies—it’s a toddler’s paradise!
While Lila and Sam played, Emily and I played catch-up with…well, everything! A lot can change in two years!
It was so fun to see our Pennsylvania friends in Alabama! Hope your weekend is off to a good start!
We don’t really have a strong history of keeping things alive in this house.
Well that’s not necessarily true. We’ve kept this kid alive for at least a year:
That’s something, right? And our dogs—we’ve managed to keep them alive too:
…and we’ve even been able to teach them valuable lessons about sharing. Common sense, not so much.
Even Tenny, despite her constant petting-induced aggression, continues to thrive in our household:
But plants? Plants we struggle with. Which is why I’m a little leery about our pallet garden. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE it, and I’m so excited to have it as a summer project. But I’m pretty sure that I could kill a plastic houseplant, given half the chance. So I’m not totally optimistic about ALL of the stuff we planted making it through the summer alive. We planted all sorts of herbs—basil, mint, lemon balm, oregano, rosemary—all sorts of things. I decided to use some of the herbs in our dinner last night so that we could at least enjoy them before sending them off to that great herb garden in the sky:
Pasta (bucatini) with chicken, tomatoes, and herbs, all cooked in a lemon white wine sauce.
Perfect for late spring—meals like this get me SO excited for the summer produce soon to come.
Are you a good gardener? Any tips for keeping things alive?
In case you were wondering if we’d dropped of the face of the Earth:
Nope! We’re still here! We’ve just been enjoying our 45 degree summer days, you know?
Actually, after a few days of straight rain and totally abnormally cool temps for this time of year, it seems like we’re back to almost-summer weather. Whew!
We’ve had a lot going on over the past couple of weeks—my parents came to visit:
…and then Ryan’s parents came to visit:
…and tomorrow we get to meet up with Emily and Sam for an Alabama playdate! So excited!
We’ve been to a few parties:
…for which cake of the Tres Leches variety was made. It was the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. It was delicious. I did not wear my hair like that to the party.
We’ve also been working on one of our big summer projects:
…a pallet garden! And by “we” I mean mainly Ryan and his dad. They built the pallet garden…but this morning, Lila and I helped put the dirt in and plant the herbs and lettuce:
Like all professional gardeners, we had to stop and give each other a kiss every now and then.
Looks pretty good, right? I’m hoping Ryan will write his own blog post about the process—I knew a full-on garden was a little too much for us to take on this summer, but this pallet garden seems like it will be just our speed!
Other than that, we’ve been wrapping up odds and ends for the end of the semester, grading, grading, and grading. We turned in grades on Monday, and are officially DONE for this year—which feels awesome. SO ready to relax and spend the summer together—cooking, writing, playing, traveling…ahhhh.
Hope you’re having a great start to May!
Just to get your Thursday off to a smooth start…
On Tuesday night, the Amazon fairies delivered a much-anticipated package to our doorstep:
A Kelty backpack!
Baxter is always happy to do a little quality control testing. You know—I actually think he kind of liked it!
We’ve been talking about wanting to get a heavy-duty baby hiking backpack for quite some time now.
The weather is getting nicer and nicer, and the trails and mountains around us are just begging to be hiked on—so I finally ordered us a pack!
The Kelty backpack came highly recommended from a few other mamas that I’d talked to— it also had great reviews on Amazon. We ordered the Kelty Journey 2.0, which is their middle-of-the-road pack. It has a detachable daypack, a place to store water bottles, a sunshade for Lila—all sorts of bells and whistles! On Wednesday morning, we headed out to a trail about five minutes from our new house.
None of the bells and whistles would have mattered if she hadn’t liked it. So I got a little nervous when we put her in the backpack and she began to scream bloody murder. Luckily, after we got moving, she settled right down—soon she was sporting a big smile. I think being on my back must have freaked her out a little—usually, she’s strapped into the Ergo, which I always wear facing towards me.
As for the backpack? Two thumbs up from me! It was a bit heavier than I expected, but I got used to the weight pretty quickly. Lila seemed comfortable in it, and my shoulders and back didn’t really start to hurt at all until the very end of the hike. Hey, she ain’t heavy—she’s my baby!
This summer, we’re taking a trip to Michigan, and I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of hiking while we’re there. This pack is going to be perfect for hiking as a family! It wasn’t cheap, but it should last us…well, hopefully through this kid and any others that come along! We like to get outside as much as possible, so I really think this investment will pay off.
Hope you have a great Thursday!
Morning! Hope your weekend was a good one! We definitely had fun—drinks with our department members on Friday night, a fundraiser at a local brewery on Saturday night, and lots of sunshine and enjoying the new backyard on Sunday:
Lila LOVES the new backyard. There are lots of trees, bushes, and little nooks and crannies to explore. She also loves the swing-set, not surprisingly. And she’s not the only one. Imagine our surprise last night when Ella, after studying the set for a few minutes:
…climbed right up the ladder to see me!
I was shocked!
Cattledogs = wonder dogs. Seriously.
Poor Baxter wanted to climb up too…but I don’t think that’s happening any time soon:
Playing in the yard so much has me seriously ready for summer. It’s not quite here yet—our temps are still a little chilly, especially when the sun goes down. But you can tell it’s coming!
Since we were in summer mode, we went with another summer staple for dinner:
Grilling! Grilled chicken, marinated for 2 hours in: juice from 2 limes, 1 tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 tsp. fish sauce. Yum! Nicely sweet and sour. Plus grilled asparagus and brown rice—simple and delicious!
Tonight is my last night of teaching my poetry class, and that’s not until 5:30—lots of time to play before then. Make it a great one!
Sorry for the lack of posting in these parts lately—things have been crazy. Between the end of the semester (!!), our move (we’re still steadily unpacking, but things are moving along), and some stuff with Lila (she had a cold for about a week and a half, and then she had an adverse reaction to her one year shots, but all is well now), I’ve just been trying to get through each week, day by day.
“Day by day…day by day…”
Anyone? No? Okay. Moving on.
Anyway, today is my last official class for my two composition classes, and then my two creative writing classes wrap up next week. Now that my first full year as a working mom is almost over, I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve learned over the past nine months.
Working makes me a better mom
Because I spend more time away from Lila than the typical stay-at-home mom, I think (I hope!) I really, really appreciate the time that we DO spend together. Last summer, before I went back to work, I kind of laughed off the idea that I would miss Lila after being away for only a few hours, but the truth is—I do. When I’m at work, I miss her—especially now that she’s become more of a toddler and less of a baby. She’s becoming so active and fun, so interactive and engaging, and because of this, I really do miss her when I go up to teach my classes. And that kind of sucks. But missing her so much also means that I never take for granted the time that I do spend with Lila. Working keeps me engaged with the outside world—and because I have that, I think I’m much more willing to totally give myself over to the “Mama” world when I’m not at work.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again—I truly believe that not every mother is meant to stay at home with their kids, and if you’re one of the mamas who chooses to work, that doesn’t make you a lesser mother. It doesn’t mean that you’re less maternal than the mamas who DO stay at home. It doesn’t mean that you love your child any less, or that you’re selfish. A happy, fulfilled mom is more likely to raise happy, fulfilled children—if you’re bitter about having to stay home with your kids all day, that’s not good for ANYONE.
Being a mother makes me a better teacher…
In the same way that going to work prompts me to appreciate my time at home as a mom, spending that time at home as a mom often prompts me to appreciate my work life much, much more than I did, pre-baby. I felt more grateful for my classes this year than ever before—grateful for that adult interaction, for the escape that teaching gave me on the rough days at home, and grateful to be doing something that gave me intellectual stimulation (and an excuse to put on something other than yoga pants). I think some mothers struggle with preserving their identity after having children. It seems that for some mothers, having kids means that you are ONLY a mom—and to me, that’s a little sad. Teaching has allowed me to retain a part of my identity that is (for the most part) totally separate from my identity as a mother. Because of that, I think I appreciate my job way more than I ever did, pre-baby.
…and a worse one
That being said, I find that I have a lot less patience these days, when it comes to teaching. When students come to class unprepared, or are disengaged in class discussion, or blatantly text all through a class, or ask me a question for the twentieth time that I’ve already answered nineteen times before, I find myself thinking—I’m sacrificing my time with my child for this?!?
Little teaching annoyances that would usually just roll right off my back seem to get under my skin more now, and again, I don’t think I’m as patient with my students as I once was.
Working as a teacher is showing me how I want to raise our child
This year, more than ever before, I found myself studying my students. I found myself watching the “good” ones—the ones who did the reading, the ones who came to class ready to engage, ready to learn, ready to discuss—and the “bad” ones—the ones who came to class and slept, or texted, or simply tuned me out, day after day—and then seemed surprised, or confused, or even angry, when they made anything less than an A in the class. I studied those kids. And I wondered—what can we do to help turn Lila into one of the good ones?
And when I say “good” here—I’m not just talking about academics. I’m not talking about raising Lila to use correct grammar (although that is also important ), or to be really great at solving word problems. I guess what I’m saying is that more and more, I get students whose core attitude seems to be one of entitlement—and that is something that I want to work very hard to move Lila away from.
I think this is something we see more and more of, and we see it starting younger and younger—the idea that everyone is a special snowflake, that every child is a star, and that we all deserve accolades and ribbons and A+’s for just trying—whether or not we succeed.
No. I’m sorry, but no.
Not all of us are amazing athletes. Not all of us are great at math. Not all of us are great at English. Not every kid is the next Picasso. And we need to stop telling EVERY kid that they are great at EVERY thing. Because then they get to college, and they expect to make A’s in every class just for trying—and I’m sorry, but sometimes trying isn’t good enough.
Can you tell that this is something I get worked up over?
So there you have it—some of my (slightly scattered) thoughts after teaching for a year with a baby at home. I’m extremely lucky to have the job that I do—for the next three months, I’ll get to spend all my time with my sweet girl, knowing that come fall, my job, my office, my students—they’ll be waiting for me. Somehow, for right now at least, I seem to have found a balance that works.
And for that, I’m very grateful!