Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The scraps of motherhood

Hold on friends, this is a long journey deep into my heart.  Maybe it will touch you, maybe it will not.  But I feel some peace writing it down, and I even documented a few of my precious moments, so I can get to crossing that off the list.  

Every mother wishes there were more of herself to go around, and every working mother, has, at one time or another wondered how come she only get the worst part of the day with their children, the scraps.  The scraps of motherhood.  

Before I get into this, I should start be saying we have a fabulous nanny.  She adores our kids and our kids can't get enough of her.  And I love her too.  She is sweet and smart and fun.  She acts like a kid but is responsible and careful.  She works really hard, and is conscientious to make sure we think she is doing a good job.  She is a good communicator, and it is so easy if I ever ask her to do something differently, she isn't defensive or argumentative.  She is exactly the way you would want your nanny to be.  What I'm about to say about the way I feel about my scraps says nothing about her, and to some extent I've felt this way since that first day in January of 2005 when I returned to work after maternity leave after having Lily.  I've been through daycare centers, preschools, nannies, au isn't about the care.  When the care is wonderful, the kids like it, and I do want that, and more importantly I have it.    Just so we are clear.  

Bryson told me he liked our nanny better than he likes me yesterday.

And while it stings, this should not come as a huge shock to me.  I get him up from his bed in the morning, give him his milk with little cuddle time, while I race Lily around feeding & grooming her, to get her out the door for the bus by early:29am.  Then I come back in to do the same for Addie.  I race upstairs when the nanny arrives to throw myself together, to get out the door to take Addie to preschool 30 minutes after the bus just came for her sister.  Sometimes, between directing him not to grab, touch, or break things, I get Bryson a second cup of milk, some breakfast if he is ready, then give him a few hugs and kisses on the way out of the door.  If he lets me. Sometimes, I have to push him back in the door because he wants to come.  Sometimes he cries, and sometimes he says "I need you not doe bah-bye", but more often, he walks away, unaffected.  Rarely do I read him the book that he has been carrying around all morning pulling on my leg while I braid hair, asking me "Weed dis book, weed dis book, tom on mama!"  - Our nanny will do it, honey.  That's the fun stuff, and I haven't time for the fun stuff.  

These days, I [hopefully] get home in time to say hello, change him into a night time diaper and then put him to bed.  Sometimes there is a little time before that to break up a fight between he and Addie, bark at him to stop throwing food from his highchair once he is done eating, or feel frustrated when he puts his toothbrush exploratorily down the gross drain or side sink hole, resulting in wet sleeves and him wrestling me to the death to put on a dry pajama shirt.  Lawrence wonders why it takes me a half an hour or more to go through the bedtime routine with him, when it takes him less than 5 minutes to put him quietly to bed.  It's because after I get him into his sleep sack, with his monk-monk under his chin, we rock & I sing to him as he savors every drop of milk in his cup.  Then, like a wonderful heavy exhale, he turns into me, belly to belly and gets his head comfy on my shoulder, and we sing and we rock.  And I collapse in that moment.  Sometimes I start to sing, and stops me, he chooses a new song.  Sometimes he says "Let me sing it", and I do, and I hold his hand and rub his soft baby fat fingers, and I listen, hanging on the way he sings every word.  I'm in awe of his ability to sing the song, and I could listen to it for much longer than the half an hour it takes me to put him down.  The moment we finish one song, he says, "what we sing now?" almost as if he thinks that if a moment of silence passes, our time together for the day will be over.  I always sing last as I am laying him down, "I love you Bry-y-son, oh yes I do (he chimes in "I do!"), I love you Bry-y-son, and will be true (he again says "I do"), when your not near me, I'm blue (he sings that line with me), I love you Bryson, I love you.  Then we sing I love you mama, same song.  Then I sing Bryson again as I leave the room.  Lately he has been stalling and fighting that song.  In my guilt-ridden mind, I know it's because he knows it's the end.  That's it for today buddy, same deal tomorrow, okay?  

Then I head into the girls room.  It's between 7:30-8pm, and so far the time I've spent with them today, is what I've described above.  On a good day, they get up and get themselves dressed in the laid-out-clothes from the night before, they eat, I make coffee or go get babbling Bryson.  Then I gently bark orders about eating a bit faster, and getting shoes on, teeth brushed, hair fixed, coat on, backpack packed.  I try to have a meaningful conversation with Lily while waiting for the bus, especially when I don't have to bring the younger two out with me, because our nanny has arrived.  It has been cold and raining so we huddle together under the umbrella and talk about the day ahead.  The devastation and failure I feel when I realize I've forgotten her library book on library day, or to put her in gym shoes on gym day (yesterday=gym in snow boots), a hat on a cold day, or left her packed lunch on the counter, is highly over-exaggerated and dramatic.  In my mind, I know this, but in my heart it feels like putting a hat on my kid's head on a subzero day is the least I could do, and it is directly correlated to my poor planning or bad mothering skills.  My mind knows that is not true.  My heart does not.  

Also, on a good day, I take Addie to school, and we get that time to talk.  It's 15 minutes I treasure with her.  So when I haven't gone over the logistics with Lawrence to make sure there are enough car seats for me to take her and Nanny to pick her up, Nanny has to take her and pick her up, and I lose that time.  And it again feels like a failure.  But at least I don't have to rush to be out the door, and I can spend a few extra minutes in the shower, but more often than not, I feel too guilty to enjoy it.  

After I have put Bryson down in the evening, Lawrence is usually already done with the girls.  During that time, they have brushed their teeth and gone potty, and are waiting with the small lamp on for me to come.  Sometimes they are both on Lily's top bunk with her reading lamp on and Lily reads to her little sister while they wait.  I "rock-a-bye" and "rock-a-hmm hmm" them individually, and I pray with them individually.  I try to make sure that during my "Thank you God for this day" prayer, I am not going through the generic schpeel of being thankful, I want them to truly feel cherished, I want them to feel my thankfulness about being their mother.  I intentionally think of one thing that is specific to them that I am thankful for.  I do not want them to think that this is a going through the motions type of deal.  This is a time to hold on tight to our bear bears because we are glad God gave us a bear bear to love so much and give us comfort, and to be thankful that Lily has an empathetic heart, and that she figured out how to talk through a problem with a friend today.  Lily always wants me to make sure to pray that she has no bad thoughts or dreams when she sleeps, and I do.  I also usually pray that she can feel my love and God's love wrapped around her while she sleeps.  That the One who created her and the one who gave birth to her think she is perfect, just as she is.  No matter how many times outs or scoldings about hurrying up there were today.  Because it is true.  

The 2 days a week that I work from home, those are the days that save me.  On those days I usually start at 9-9:30 and am done at 5.  On occasion I eat lunch with the kiddos and hear about their day so far.  I put Addie down for her naps, when she still takes them.  I get to be involved in dinner making, or at the very least eating it with the family.  I get to sit with Bryson and read a book or 7 in the morning, even if I end up putting a hat on my unwashed hair and taking Addie to school in my unwashed jeans with my jammie shirt hiding under my zipped up coat.   I can take an hour or two a month and help out in Lily's classroom, or go to doctor appointments.  Despite my very stressful job, after 10 years, I do have flexibility to take care of my family's needs when there is an illness or a big event.  More than most I'd say.  But the daily grind.  It can wear me out.  And more, it can wear me down.  Last week I missed one day of working from home due to an interview in the office, and the week before I continued to work upstairs during movie night because of a essential last minute deadline I was required to meet.  That one night and that one day threw off my whole balance last week.  Add in the fact that after missing bedtime entirely 2 nights that week, I drove from downtown to Hillsboro to make it on time for Addie's Karate because I hadn't seen one lesson yet, but I got there as Lawrence was strolling all three of them out of the building, and my heart swelled with pain and failure.  In that moment, I made a decision.  I could have drove home angry at myself and my bad eyes for getting lost on the way there, not correctly reading street signs in the dark.  Instead I decided to be glad that I'd come, let Lawr have a peaceful drive home while we traded cars, and I cheerfully chatted for 40 minutes with my kids about their day.  Until I had to yell at Bryson not to tear up the book he was holding.  :)  

When we just had Lily, I thought I had the scraps.  But it was just her, and there were two of us.  And every moment of scrap time was spent making her feel loved, in an environment she thrived in, so there was less no, and more yes.  Even when mild tempered Addie came along.  There were two, and it was often divide and conquer scrap time, but Addie didn't get into things and destroy things the way Bryson does, so I felt like I could manage that scrap time and it was mostly pleasant with a dash of drill sergeant.  

These days, with the addition of my Bryson-monster - who has truly entered the terrible twos, if I'm not careful I can quickly turn mostly drill sergeant, with a dash of pleasant.  If I'm lucky.  And that's not good because my mind says you are doing your best, you are doing good enough, even.  But you know that's not what my heart says.  It says I'm not enough.  Not good enough.  And those are the times that I can reach out and tangibly feel God's voice in my ear.  You. Are. Enough.  Just. As. You. Are.  Right. Now.  

And I'm reminded that I don't have to clean up my act and be "better" before God will love me, he just does.  As I am.  With my imperfections.  And sin.  And failures, both self-perceived, and culturally-perceived.  He loves me now, and He certainly knows me now.  After all, He created me to be this mess.  A beautiful big mess with a purpose and a voice.  Right now.  This is it.  It's scraps.  But if I wasn't living on scraps now, would I ever be able to fully appreciate more someday?  I don't know.  I do know that there is a lesson to be learned through every story.  And it takes patience to get there.  Perspective helps too.  Will there be a day that I would give anything for this normal?  For this daily grind? Maybe.

So I spend my weekends fitting in QT with my family, going to birthday parties, and occasionally letting that my friends know that I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  We are making fun memories, while also trying to make sure we have food in the house and clean underwear to put on for the week ahead.  I have calendars and to do lists as far as the eye can see.  There are big plans for an organized future and year ahead, no forgotten library books or lunches or hats in 2012, no sir.  Not to mention 8 hrs of sleep.  The house usually gets bare minimum treatment, plus a little love from our cleaning lady every few weeks.  Those toilets aren't going to clean themselves and God knows I'll never find time.  

So what's a girl to do?  If you know me, you know I can't end any blog being all, woe is me.  You also know that I'm not looking for pity.  Being a mom is hard, 1 kid, 2 kids, 3 kids, 4 kids, 5 kids, whether you work or stay at home with your children, it's hard.  So this isn't a discussion of what I should do.  Everyone looks at everyone and says, 'oh I could never do that'.  But we all could do that, if that's what we had to do.  We all do do that, that which someone else says they could not.

So, I just keep going, and keep appreciating, and keep loving.  Keep eating those scraps like they are the best meal I've ever had. Because they are the only meal that I have.  And on a day, like my birthday, when I took the day off work, to just be with them, to just play with them, no obligations, no appointment, no work...well, then, I enjoy it and savor it, and know that this is how it should be.  This is the good stuff.  And this good stuff is mine.  And for now that's enough.    

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough"

Well, I am grateful, that's for sure.  
And sometimes I do get a chance to sit down and read the book.  


  1. Wow. I can never gather the right words here to say what I want to. You know I totally get it, but you are the ying to my yang. The positive spin you always have, the optimistic thought you always share has changed me little by little over these few years we've known each other. I hope you know that. That I learn from you. That in this post alone I have new ideas of how to make my scraps taste better...xoxo

  2. That is so beautifully put....I too hate getting the scraps of my child's day, all the hectic herding and grouchy end-of-day stuff. But I loved how you put it: keep eating those scraps like it's the best meal I've ever had. Man, motherhood does something funny to your heart. Makes hard things harder. Makes sweet things sweeter. Thanks for being real and capturing what it feels like to be a hard-working mama who wants to give more to her family and grieves that it's not always possible. I love you, Jenny.

  3. Great post. I think you do have it figured out. Also, you look great in the last picture.

  4. J - you've definitely put words to what many moms feel, so thanks for taking the time to do this.

    I have been thinking a little about the working mom thing, and how much is said about how difficult it is, and how we are so strapped for time and starved for these scraps of the day. (and BTW, this is a totally spontaneous off the top of my head thing coming together here...)

    Something that doesn't get much or any attention is what we are offering our kids in addition to the scraps of time.

    For example... My kids had and have exceptionally happy, stimulating time at daycare. In fact, they THRIVE there. You touch on this and how you are grateful to have good care for your kids. It's more than that. They are learning so much there, social skills, and how to trust and love other caregivers. Not to mention how to eat with a spoon and drink from a cup. Of course I could give them these things too, but I don't think there is anything wrong with embracing an extended community of paid and non-paid people to help us raise our kids.

    Another one... what I am doing and learning in my workplace/career/dayjob is part of me, and part of what I give them. Not only does it pay bills and allow us to save for the future (their futures), the experiences I have at work (and in my other personal interests and grown up pursuits) give me new experiences and insights and lessons that in seen and unseen ways translate into how I raise my children. What values and habits I model for them. I don't mean that I want or expect them to follow in my footsteps in terms of a career path, but more about what I learn in my life (and a large part of that is my job) is shaping my worldview and that is what I want to share with my kids. Basically so they can learn from my mistakes and enjoy their choices more than I do!

    All that said, I completely identify with your thoughts here, and I am with you on the optimist tip. There are a gazillion pieces of advice out there on how to run your life better, more efficiently, more strategically. But really, what it comes down to is having an awareness of what's working and not working. Do more of what works. Do your best to pay attention to those little sweeties. And leave it at that.

    You do more with your scraps than many do with their main course. And your kids will know that in their hearts, and they will carry that with them forever.

    1. K- Thank you for that wonderful compliment. That last sentence could fill me up for a very long time. My kids are happy, THEY are fine, great, even. I should be clear that I'm the one struggling. I don't doubt in the slightest that it has been great for them to love and trust their care givers, several of whom we consider part of our family, so you definitely make a very good and important point. I'm with my kids enough to know what the good part of their day is, what the best of THEM is, and I so often I don't get that part. And sometimes the daily grind, knowing that, mixed with a few unimportant failures, not seeing them enough, missing bedtimes, being uninspired at work, it can all crash down and make you say, simply put, this sucks. :) And then you surround yourself and share yourself with all these amazing women who get it and who love you, and you are encouraged and reminded why blogging your heart can be so rewarding. Thank you friend.

    2. "My kids are happy, THEY are fine, great, even. I should be clear that I'm the one struggling."

      I think you've hit the nail on the head right there. Great post Jenny, thanks.

  5. "You do more with your scraps than many do with their main course. And your kids will know that in their hearts, and they will carry that with them forever."

    Amen, sister!! Love your mommy heart <3

  6. I have to admit, I could not finish reading this post. This hit as close to home as you can get. I don't even know what to say, because if I did, I could console us both. I don't know what the answer is to this crazy life we are leading by being working mother's. I feel, all the time, that I don't give mine enough either and wish I had a magic wand to grant me more hours in the day to be able to spend with them that didn't include, harping on them to get in their jammies, to finish dinner, to finish their homework, to...etc. :(

    Know that you aren't alone in this and I am here for you, with you.

    Hugs, Jenn

  7. Jenny my friend what a seriously thought provoking piece,(of course I say this as I'm flipping pork chops on the stove, doing laundry, wrestling kids off computer to get a little mom computer time-which I get maybe 1 or 2 times a week, picking up wet gloves and hats from sledding also my kids found a lost dog while they were out called its owner waited for them to come it peed on the floor, cleaned that up, owner came did not even offer a thank you to my son as he brought the dog out to the driveway just a shut the door as he put the dog in the car. I'm thinking that I am just about to tear my hair out as I find out no school tomorrow snow day for the third day in a row. My three kids have been going stir crazy not leaving the house no sports, nowhere to burn off their energy. Except to fight with each other or me. Matt is asking me to look at his web site he has made someone made a comment saying good job I keep saying in a minute, while I race around gently barking (as you put it) who left this here, did you spill this, clean up after yourself, who peed on the toilet seat, you get the point because I could go on and on. It seems like all I do is drive kids, pick up kids, clean, feed, ect. What are we all in such a hurry for?! We need to stop and smell the roses. We take so much time feeding and caring and preparing them we all need to remember to slow down and enjoy.

    I haven't seen you in a long time, but know that super mom is a thankless job you are awesome and so blessed. Love Natalie Strizich