Thursday, July 30, 2015

The person I was supposed to be.

I think everyone has at least one person they believe they were "supposed to be." Somewhere along the way in your life, you started going down a path (sometimes inadvertently), and then you got a sense that people around you were expecting you to just keep going down that path. And then you realized you actually didn't want to go that direction and you hopped over to a different path, but you still feel a little guilty that you never finished the first one. Like you're some kind of quitter.

Like I said, I think this is true for everyone, but I think maybe moms struggle with it the most.

There are lots of things moms can do in addition to motherhood, but once you have a kid, it's kind of like your motherhood becomes an addendum to everything else you do. "I'm an entrepreneur" says to people, "I own a thriving small business where I think creatively to solve the problems I see in the world." On the other hand, "I'm an entrepreneur who's also a mom" signals "I sell homemade pencil pouches on Etsy while my kids are napping."

(I'm totally not trying to knock moms who sell stuff on Etsy. Etsy is a magical place where dreams live and I adore it. But like most Internet stuff, it doesn't really get the respect it deserves out in the world.)

Once you're a mom, people will always and forever see you first and foremost as a mom. Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing, but it does mean I have no choice but to let go of some of my supposed-to-be's.

The one supposed-to-be I'm struggling with the most right now is the one I left behind when I graduated from college.

I was an English major, and I met lots of wonderful people who had read all the classics and always had intelligent things to say and had already published several thoughtful pieces in literary journals. They were involved in clubs. They had internships in the exact niche they were passionate about. (And they might even say, "about which they were passionate.") They knew exactly where they were going and how they were going to change the entire literary world.

I always felt I was going to be one of them. I wanted to be one of them. I thought I was destined.

But on my last few days of college, instead of going off to New York to work on an artsy magazine, I was in the hospital having a baby.

When I think about it intellectually, I wouldn't change a single thing about my experience. I love being a mom. In truth, it's what I always wanted--many years before I ever considered working for some artsy magazine. I was overjoyed to be having a baby instead of running off to write articles for someone else.

And I'm still overjoyed. While I think it's wonderful that many of my fellow students found professional success, I have to admit I kind of roll my eyes when I remember how they casually shared all the things they were involved in and everything they'd done. Good for you. I'm glad you're stuffing your life full of worthless things while I sit here with the most beautiful child ever to grace the planet, HA HA ON YOU.

Just kidding. I would never rub my successful family life in their faces. Of course.

So why does it feel like they're rubbing their successful professional lives in my face?

Even though I love the life I have, there's still a tiny part of me that feels like a quitter. Now, instead of reading Charles Dickens, I'm reading board books. Instead of writing intellectual essays about literature, I'm writing a goofy blog about motherhood. I love it, but there's a little voice that asks, What's wrong with me? Why couldn't I be that instead of this?

The truth is that the only supposed-to-be I ever truly wanted was to be a wife and mother. And I have it.

So why can't I stop looking back?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I don't like our new car seat.

Oh, guys, car seats are the worst. 

I mean, of course I'm grateful that we have the technology to keep our children safe in our cars (aka speeding metal pods of doom). But if there's any technology that needs to be developed further to make it more convenient and less horrible, it's car seat technology. So, technology research guys/ladies, please stop researching ways to make it possible for people to check Twitter safely while driving and start looking into the car seat situation.

Everything was fine while we could still use the infant car seat. That thing was a dream. We didn't even have to take the baby out of it; she learned to sleep well in it, so we could just take her places and never have to wake her up. We could even put her down for naps in the thing and get her to sleep with just a little bit of rocking. 

But I guess I should have known that the kid would grow way faster than I was ready for. Her little feet started sticking way out of the seat, which was pretty cute but I was always worried I'd break her toes against the side of the door. And the car seat got awfully heavy. It wasn't so easy to haul it into church or the grocery store anymore. 

So finally my husband and I agreed that it was time to buy a convertible car seat. 

Let me tell you something. Convertible car seats are absolute monsters. They are enormous. I mean, I guess the idea is that you don't have to get a new car seat every time the baby grows two inches, so that's good...but adults don't need seats that large. It hardly fits in our car. (To be fair, our car is just a little four-door sedan from the '90s. But still.) 

When we put the baby in the car seat, she got swallowed up in it. She looked up at us with an expression that said, "Um, guys? You do realize I'm a baby human, right--not a baby Bigfoot?" 

I just hope we don't have to drive anyone in the backseat of our car for the next two years, because I think the maximum amount of person we could fit next to the car seat would be a very thin 3rd-grade girl. (She might also be able to hold a pencil, but no guarantees.) 

But even worse than the space issue is the sun problem. Our infant car seat had both a sun shade and a car seat canopy, two wonderful inventions that both promoted sleep and offered adequate sun protection. There's no such thing with the convertible car seat. You must--for the sake of safety--turn the car seat facing straight out the back window, exposing your child to the blinding sun in the late afternoon, and there's not much you can do to protect her little eyes. (Those sun shades you attach to the window are an absolute joke.)

No wonder half the people in America wear glasses! We're burning our children's little eyes out before they can even read! 

Thankfully, my husband is an engineer, and he fashioned a makeshift sun shade for the baby using a blanket. (He also magically attached it so that the baby couldn't pull it down onto herself.) But heaven forbid I should ever have to drive her somewhere by herself. I guess I should start looking into baby sunglasses (but if I think she's not going to pull them off her face five seconds into the drive, I probably have another think coming). 

If you've solved this mystery, please let me know. I'm just an innocent, naive new mom who is, once again, freaking out over a very trivial problem. You know how it goes. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 things I'm good at.

1. Procrastinating.

2. Bingeing old favorite shows on Netflix.

3. Making desserts that are neither cheap nor healthy.

4. Sleeping. (When my child allows.)

5. Being so at peace with living in a messy house that I don't even feel the need to clean it.

6. Eating cookies.

7. Exceeding the grocery budget in a big way. (Go big or go home, I say.)

8. Being tempted by the train wreck that is "The Bachelorette" but NOT WATCHING. (Usually.)

9. Reading more mysteries instead of the wonderful historical novel my mom loaned me over a year ago. (Sorry, Mom.)

10. Loving my baby. That makes up for everything else, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My advice for mothers-to-be.

This is for all the pregnant new moms out there, the women who are about to enter motherhood for the first time. Whenever I see a woman pregnant with her first child, this is what I always want to say to her:

It might be insanely hard at first. And when I say hard, I don't mean it's hard in the same way that other things are hard. I mean that you may not actually like being a mother.

That's right. You actually might not like it. Yeah, I'm talking to you, to those of you who are overjoyed to be pregnant and so excited to be moms they think they might burst. Women who feel that having a baby will be their crowning achievement and their greatest glory.

In the first hour or two after giving birth to the baby, you will probably feel this way. For me, the time just after I had my baby was magical. I felt like a serene motherhood goddess. It was even better than I'd expected it to be.

But after the exhaustion kicked in and I was sent home with my bundle of joy, things started to get a little hazy and confusing.

I felt a great weight of responsibility to my daughter--a weight that was almost crushing. I think most women expect this, but they also expect a lot of joy to come with it, so it kind of evens out.

I didn't feel a lot of joy.

I didn't hate being a mother. There were certain things I loved about it. But even the things I loved felt like they were going to crush me sometimes--like I loved them too much. Even loving my baby was agonizing in a way I really can't explain.

I could never quite put into words how I felt. It wasn't just that I was tired and frustrated with trying to take care of a newborn. I expected this, so it wasn't surprising. I was prepared to be physically exhausted.

It wasn't the doing motherhood that was the hardest part. It was the feeling it. It was knowing that my life would never be the same, and that from now on I would always have to put this other person first, above myself, whether I liked it or not. And I wasn't sure that I did like it.

In the first month or so after my baby was born, I would often wish I could go back to the days when it was just my husband and me. Those were the days, I would think wistfully. Of course, I knew that back in those days, I was always wishing I had a baby, but I believed that wishing for a baby wasn't as bad as actually having one.

Having a baby, I thought, was not worth it.

Now, my point here is not to depress you. I don't want any pregnant moms to read this and start doubting whether they really want to have babies. (Or more likely, thinking that I'm a terrible mother and they, of course, will never feel the way I did.) I'm not trying to "educate you on the reality of motherhood" and crush your dreams. By all means, keep dreaming of holding your sweet baby and imagine all the love you'll have for that little person.

Because I promise you, it will happen that way.

It just might not be right at first.

I mean, maybe it will be. I think there are some women in this world who really adore the first few weeks after their baby is born. You'd think it happened this way for everyone, from the way people talk. Some people act like this is the very best time of their children's lives and they wish they could go back to it.

How nice for them. I very, very much hope this happens to you.

One very sweet lady asked me, when my baby was a couple months old, "Don't you just love to look at her? When my first baby was born, my husband and I didn't really watch TV or anything. We would just stare at our little baby."

I said something vague and polite, but I was actually shocked that she would say this. This is what I was expected to do? Just look at my baby for hours on end? Let me tell you, I watched a lot of TV during this time. If I wasn't watching TV and I was just staring at my baby, I was probably crying and depressed over how amazing she was and how much I adored her.

I really needed TV. Whenever I wasn't watching TV, I felt like I was dropping off a cliff into insanity.

I felt horrendously guilty about it, although I tried not to. I thought I was going to curdle my baby's brain with all the TV she was hearing.

(New moms everywhere: Just turn on the TV and don't worry about it. Seriously. You have enough to worry about without feeling guilty about watching TV.)

But now let me give you the best message, the message I wish more people would have given me before my baby was born: Someday very soon, your life will be filled with all the joy you hear about. You'll feel like your heart is going to explode with love for your child. You'll be so glad you became a mom and you'll marvel over every move your child makes. The fantasies really are going to come true.

But it might take a little while. Don't worry. Be patient. You're normal, and you're going to love being a mother. I promise.

P.S. If these feelings are very persistent, and/or if you are concerned about your safety or your child's safety, please don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about postpartum depression. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why crying it out suddenly got hard.

Ever since my child was born, I've secretly prided myself on being a bit of a strait-laced mom. According to the Mary Poppins-type British lady in my mind, I "tolerate no nonsense whatsoever." If my daughter is overtired (which happens frequently since she's so sensitive to any kind of stimulation), then she gets to cry it out. There will be no rocking the baby to sleep for hours in this house, no sirree.

(I have nothing against attachment parenting when other people do it--it seems to work marvelously for lots of moms. But I know myself well enough to know that that kind of parenting style would drive me insane.)

When I was pregnant, some women insisted that even if I thought I was going to let my baby cry it out, everything would be different once I had the baby. I would want to run into her room at the slightest whimper. I would be powerless against my baby's cries.

There was a part of me that thought they might be right. How would I know, anyway? I'd never had a child of my own. Maybe I would want to hold her every time she whined a little.

But so far, it hasn't been much of a problem. I mean, lest you think I'm a neglectful parent, of course I don't let my baby cry for more than a few minutes (but a few minutes will almost always be enough).

However, in the last week or so, my "no-nonsense" parenting style has been seriously challenged.

I guess it was only so long before my baby started figuring me out. She finally learned to do something that would make me absolutely melt.

She started saying "mama."

At first I didn't even think about it; I assumed it was just babbling. But at a family reunion, two of my sisters said they thought she was really trying to call for me. And then I started hearing it. When I would put her down for a nap, in between whines I heard a plaintive little "ma-ma-ma!"

And I couldn't. I just could not. 

It used to be that when I heard her cry after I put her down for a nap (and by the way, she often doesn't cry at all when I put her down), I would just think serenely, "She's not crying for me; she's crying for sleep." But hearing the little voice crying "mama" changed the game. "She's not crying for sleep! She wants me! She's wishing her mommy would hold her!" I started thinking.

Suddenly, I realized that she has thoughts going on inside her little brain. She's not just always thinking about puffy clouds of glory and stuff. She is picturing my face. And she's feeling lonely. Her mother just left her all alone in this scary place (okay, technically it's her crib that she has spent more than half her life in, but still), to fend for herself! Will Mommy ever come back? How can she be sure?!

If I didn't have seven months of experience that has taught me that letting her cry herself to sleep is the best way for everyone, I would most definitely be running into that room before my husband could stop me.

I guess it's a good thing for me that she wasn't born with the ability to say "mama."

By the way, I'm trying to teach her how to say "dada." Let her pull at his heartstrings...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fun summer reads, aka forgetting I was ever an English major. {Quick Lit}

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what I've been reading lately in bite-sized pieces so you don't have to read my long rants about books you don't care about.

1. Lemon Tart (and sequels) by Josi S. Kilpack: I'm getting super into this culinary mystery series. It's silly and fun and the writing is just good enough that I don't really notice it. (After being an English major, bad writing is too distracting.) It's not for everyone, but I've never tried cozy mysteries before and I'm really enjoying them.

2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: I don't know how a book can manage to be easy, light, fun, intense, dramatic, and important all at the same time, but Moriarty did it. Moriarty tackles big issues in this book, but somehow it still feels like a breezy summer read. It's a long book but I couldn't put it down and I got through it in a few days.

3. French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen le Billon: First of all, when did it become the trend for memoirs to have ridiculously long subtitles? Anyway, this book changed a lot of my views on how to feed children. I want to try implementing most of Le Billon's rules with my own kids. (It was also an interesting read just as an expat memoir.)

4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: I had heard great things about this book, but I was disappointed. It's one of those books where I kept thinking all through it, "The way I feel about this book is really going to depend on the way it ends." Sadly, I did not appreciate the ending.

5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling: I may be the last person (and by person, of course I mean woman who is interested in celebrity comedian memoirs) to read Mindy Kaling's first memoir, but I'm not sorry. I'm listening to it on audio and it is hilarious. All I need to complete my life is her new book coming out this year which I'm hoping will have lots of behind-the-scenes details about The Mindy Project, because that's obviously all I care about.

Have you read anything good lately?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why I don't care whether my baby learns to crawl.

Once upon a time, I believed that rolling was the First Great Step into my baby learning how to do stuff. (And proof that she is a baby genius, and that kind of thing.)

Little did I know just how true that would be. 

These days, rolling is all the rage around here. Rolling is the best way to get from Point A to Point B, according to my child. It's really quite amazing how fast she got into the rolling game. Only about a week ago, she had just barely learned how to roll from her back to her tummy, and now she can roll any way she wants effortlessly. She can roll from one end of the room to another in a matter of seconds (getting distracted by toys and boxes along the way, of course).

It's too early to tell, but she's so good at rolling that I think she may actually skip crawling, like some babies do. Why crawl when she's already so mobile? She's probably faster at rolling than other babies are at crawling, after all. 

I mentioned this to someone the other day and she said, "Oh, don't worry. She'll figure it out." 

My first thought was, "Huh? But she doesn't need to figure it out." 

And that's when I realized: 

I've come a long way from the days when I thought that the age at which my baby rolled over said something about her intelligence and would determine whether she would one day be flipping burgers or starting her own multi-million dollar company. 

Of course, even at the time I knew I was being ridiculous and that all babies would learn things at their own pace, but I couldn't help but think about it. And I'm still that way with a lot of things--I'm still a little too much of a helicopter parent, and I'll freely admit it. 

But I'm making progress. I now honestly don't care whether my baby ever learns to crawl. If she does, I'll cheer her on. If she doesn't, I'll be proud of her originality. 

I'm finally more interested in the things my baby wants to do, instead of trying to convince her to want the same things I want.

...Most of the time. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why I started making breakfast every day.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!"

Ugh. I get pretty tired of hearing that. What does it even mean, anyway? "Important" according to whom? Somebody's grandmother? Scientific studies that have been warped through the grapevine and reduced simply to the word "important?" I'm sure there are people out there who could wax poetic about this bit of folk wisdom, but it's always seemed a bit senseless to me.

I've never been super into breakfast. In the past, I've often been one of those terrible breakfast-skippers. It's as if no one ever told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

That said, settling down and becoming a mother has had an effect on me. I've started to feel that it may actually benefit us all if I made us breakfast once in a while, instead of buying and consuming endless amounts of cold cereal. (Not that the breakfasts I make are always healthier. A good waffle every once in a while never hurt anyone.) And reading French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen le Billon convinced me that eating more meals together, even if my child is still too young to eat bacon, will ultimately benefit our family in the long run.

So, last week I decided it was time to start acting more like a real mom and cook breakfast every day.

(It's funny--I'm still so new at this mom thing that I keep feeling like I need to start acting more like a mom. As though I'm just pretending to be a mother. Even though I'll continue to be a mother no matter what I do.)

(And I don't know why I think "real moms" cook breakfast for their families every day. It's not like my own mother did. I know plenty of wonderful moms who have better things to do than slave in the kitchen at 5:30 in the morning. Things like, I don't know, sleeping.)

(Ooh, here's a thought--maybe I'm a 1950s housewife, reincarnated!)

So far, my Breakfast Initiative is going swimmingly. The best part is probably getting to make recipes that I've always looked at longingly but never really got around to making, like this and these.

But also, it's kind of nice to actually sit at the table with my husband and just talk in the mornings. No TV, no phones, no distractions.

(We're drowning in leftovers, of course, since there are only two of us and every breakfast recipe in the annals of the Internet is designed to feed an entire football team. Good thing we like leftovers.)

It kind of makes me excited to have a horde of children to feed. Someday, I may have four or even five kids swarming around the table gobbling French toast like there's no tomorrow, and I'll look down on them in satisfaction and rejoice in the breakfast-making habits that I cemented when my first child was still a baby.

Of course, when that day actually comes, I'll probably look back wistfully on the days when I could sit down to a quiet breakfast with my husband while our only baby was still asleep.

I've never been very good at living in the moment. But I think that somehow, it helps to make breakfast every day.

Monday, July 6, 2015


My husband and I have now moved four times in the two and a half years we've been married. Every time we're about to move, I get really excited. It's fun to think about upgrading into a brand-new place that doesn't have all the annoying problems of our current place.

Somehow in my mind I just sort of skip over the actual moving part. Now I'm in this old, crummy apartment, and soon I'll be in a shiny, glittery new house with tons more space and much better flooring! (The last time we moved, "much better flooring" meant hardwood floors. Now that we have a baby, better flooring means carpet. My baby has celebrated by scooting around all over our new carpet.)

But this time, I decided to make our move as seamless as possible. I created a Master Plan. Unpacking this time would not be a drag--in fact, it would be unbelievably easy! Never again would I spend two hours unpacking a single box, running all over the house with various mismatched items that each belonged in a totally different place than the last. This time, packing would be logical and unpacking would be mindlessly simple. The Master Plan was foolproof.

Except, of course, that it wasn't.

Apparently, I'm not the genius that I thought I was.

I'm not exaggerating about my obsessive planning, as you can see from these labeled pictures of every single storage space in our house.

There were a few flaws in the Master Plan (surprise). For one thing, I severely overestimated the actual amount of space in each storage area. I assumed that merely wanting to put a million things in a closet would mean that they would all fit there. Like maybe the closet would sense my desires and would expand just a little bit to accommodate my stuff.

Like maybe instead of moving to a small town 20 minutes away, I was moving to Narnia.

(Hey, you never know.)

Another problem was that I now have no idea exactly what is in each box. I was so proud of myself for labeling each box simply with the code I came up with for the storage area where all the stuff belonged--but when I was packing, sometimes I would decide to label a box after I had filled it up, just in case I changed my mind about where the stuff belonged (which, by the way, I never did), and then I would forget to label it at all. So yeah, I got out of spending fifteen minutes writing all over a single box detailing its contents, but it also took me five days after we moved before I found my hair dryer. And my living room is filled with unmarked boxes.

However, I do take a little pride in the fact that the Master Plan worked like a charm in one room of the house: the kitchen. I was so detailed about where everything belonged that my brother-in-law actually did some unpacking for me without any supervision, and I was perfectly happy with where he had put everything.

So yeah, my Master Plan had a few kinks, but I've already figured out how to fix them for our next move. The next move really will be smooth and painless. Right?


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Things I loved in June.

1. TheSkimm. I feel it's my civic duty to read the news, but it feels impossible to keep up with. Plus, it's depressing. TheSkimm is a daily email that makes it easy and simple (and even fun) to keep up with the news. So now when people are talking about current events, I can be all, "Ah yes, I have a very strong opinion on the way the crisis in the Middle East is being handled because I totally understand it."

2. This mystery novel. Let me tell ya something. I have never in my life picked up and read a cozy mystery until this very month. And my life has been totally changed in the best way. It's totally goofy and the writing didn't blow me away, but it was the exact thing I needed to distract me from packing and unpacking this month.

3. Probably everyone and their dog knows about, but just in case a few of you have been hiding under an Internet rock, I need to tell you about it. This site is the only thing that has ever really helped me keep my budgeting act together for more than a couple of weeks. My husband and I have been using it as our exclusive budgeting tool for the last couple of months and it's roughly 246 times better than pen and paper. Embrace our digital age, guys.

4. Gilmore Guys. A podcast in which two dudes discuss Gilmore Girls in depth. And it is hilarious. I wouldn't call myself a hard-core Gilmore Girls fan (I've watched the whole series, but only once, because of life), but I do find this really funny and kind of interesting. (Oh, and if you are a hard-core fan, don't worry; this show won't make you defensive. These guys genuinely adore Gilmore Girls.) Word of warning: there is strong language.

Did you find anything you loved in June? Share your fabulous finds with the rest of us in the comments below.