Dear Working Mom: I See You, I Admire You

Dear Working Mom of an infant. I see you. I admire you. I understand you.

I see you wearing lipstick and mascara. Maybe you’re trying to disguise your tired eyes or maybe you want to look pretty and presentable. It’s working. (No-one notices if there’s dried spitup in your hair or there are smears of something unidentifiable on your clothes.)

I see you juggling childcare. I also see you responding to emails, whether it’s from home, the pediatrician’s office, or elsewhere. Whatever it takes, I see you meeting deadlines and following through. I appreciate it.

I see you putting in a full day’s work, despite being up since the wee hours or maybe even most of the night. You hold your head high and get on with the job resolutely.

I see you trying to do it all. It looks like it’s working but I know – and so do you – that there’s a breaking point and you need to do something about it before it jumps out of the shadows and takes you down. Please, look after yourself. Ask for help if you need it.

I see you looking stylish. You might feel otherwise but I know the fact that you are showered and dressed – and looking good, mind you – every single day is an uphill challenge. But getting out of PJs and yoga pants, brushing your hair and putting on some eyeliner makes you feel like are a functioning, contributing colleague and I get that.

I see you keeping mum and not complaining about sleepless nights or fevers or teething to your colleagues. Go on, complain a little. It won’t damage our respect for you. In fact, we’ll respect you even more.

I want to tell you it will get easier. Maybe not for several more months, even years. But you will eventually get your sleep back. Today’s challenges will be replaced by different challenges, some smaller, some bigger.

I’m sorry to tell you there will always be laundry, and groceries to buy, and meals to cook – in spite of your having worked a full day. I hope your partner is an all-in contributor to share the load.

I’m here to tell you there will be a lot of wasted food along the way. And socks. So many odd, abandoned socks.

I’m reminding you that it’s perfectly OK if your house is not pristine. Clean homes are overrated. Weekends are for family time; your reward for surviving the work week. Weekends are not for scrubbing toilets. Unless you are cleaning up a blowout in which case please do scrub.

I’m want to reassure that you’ll be able to focus again. And have creative ideas. And plan and write and brainstorm and delegate and all that. But I’m also here to tell you that it’s unlikely you’ll ever get your sharp memory back. It’s called placenta brain. Because fetuses eat your grey matter. It’s the truth.

Mostly I want to tell you that I’ve been there. I understand what you are dealing with and how you feel. The relentlessness of it all. I admire you for getting up every day, dealing with it all its shocking, numbing weight, putting on a smile and doing your best. I respect and appreciate that. And I’m here to help whenever I can. Just ask.


Sweet Dreams

I didn’t realize, before I became a Mother, that I had the power to send you to sleep. That my words, proximity, sounds and rhythm held soporific powers.

As an infant, I would lull you to sleepyland with shushes, rocking, swaying.

As a toddler, I’d soothe you as you’d fight sleep tooth and nail, armed with fairy tales, lullabies and cuddles.

As a pre-schooler, I’d remove all specter of monsters and then rub your back in circles, over and over, until sleep snuck in.

As a kindergartner, we’d read, snuggle, have whispered conversations till you’d simply dismiss me, ready to welcome the excitement of your dreams.

As a second grader, you pretty much take care of business yourself, after a quick peck on the cheek, reading independently, falling asleep with your books askew on your pillow.

I have to admit that I miss the days of shushing, swaying, lullabies and stroking of backs and foreheads. Knowing that my touch, my presence was the drug you needed to transcend you from consciousness to a land of hopefully sweet dreams. It’s been an unexpected and heady privilege.

Good Night,Sweet Dreams

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Insomnia Sucks

I love sleep. Almost as much as I love eating. I’ve never had much stamina or stay-up-late superpowers. When my brain says it’s time, I don’t simply drift off slowly to sleep, I crash into it. I plunge off the cliff of consciousness deep into the land of nod and usually stay there for at least seven hours of zzzzz. And now that my kids are older, their night time interruptions are few and far between, fortunately.

But the irony is now I am my own night time disruption and it is so, so annoying.

It started a few months back and happens roughly every five nights. I crash into sleep as per normal but awake about two hours later – and cannot fall back asleep. I usually lie there staring at the ceiling for about three hours until, somehow, sleep welcomes me back for what little remains of the night. It sucks big time.

Often what prompts my waking is my active digestive system or a cramp in my foot or calf (or the twitchy threat of it.) My heart starts to race as I stress about whether I’m getting sick. My mind plays cat and mouse with the cramp that’s threatening. It says “Don’t move a muscle.” But muscles ignore it and twitch.

Then my brain kicks in. And the opportunity to roll over back into slumber evaporates. Sometimes even there’s a tune running on repeat in my head and I can’t find the off button. Of course, like an idiot, I then turn to my iPhone, to Facebook and Twitter for distraction.

I’ve read many advice columns about insomnia and how to deal with it. I only drink one cup of caffeine a day, first thing. I try to eat dinner before 8pm. I know more exercise would probably help but I’m a yo-yo exerciser. I should probably snack on a banana and milk before bed time to boost potassium and calcium intake and ward off the cramps.

I don’t want to take any medications. On the rare occasion I’ve tried a Tylenol PM or similar, it has the opposite effect on me and makes my heart race. I’ll probably find a herbal remedy of sorts.

But seriously, this sucks. All I want to do is sleep and sleep well. I welcome any advice.

Wide-Eyed & Petrified

I’m in a deep soupy sleep but something is tugging me into consciousness. I hear my name being called: not yelled, not moaned but with a tone that signals urgency and concern. I leap out of bed before my eyes are even open, senses alert, even though the grey matter is still revving up.

I enter your room and your eyes immediately find me, wide open but droopy, petrified but relieved, covers askew.

“Mama!” you breathe.

I sit down and you throw your arms around my neck, your skin sweaty and damp and smelling like a boy. You cling on to me and I let you, hoping this intense contact will chase away whatever monsters, scary thoughts or fears had the audacity of invading your dreams. I feel your pulse slowing down, your fear unwinding, your muscles and mind letting go of the adrenalin, the panic, the confusion. I am sorely tempted to climb under the covers with you and hold you tight against me forever.

Instead, I carefully help you lie back down, flip your pillow over so its cool side calms your flushed cheeks. I rub your back in hypnotic circles. Your eyelids flutter, your breath deepens and once again, you are in dreamland, hopefully this time a place filled with fun and smiles and adventures.

Having performed Mama Magic, I tip toe out of the room, eager to get back to my own bed and my own dreamland.

Just as I get to the door ….. “Mama!”

And so it goes.


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