Monday, August 09, 2010

Before we left for a week in Geneva last July, I wrote the below post (on July 19th) but did not post it. Was it perhaps too difficult to own up to? Had I not yet decided what to do with it?
Now that we are back and have survived the week in Geneva (more on that perhaps in another post) here are my thoughts on some of the difficulties of being a family of 4, on Emma's poo and my fear of becoming only a disciplining Mum that has no time & energy for fun.

Sometimes being a family of four is great. Most of the time at the moment it's just plain exhausting. I feel stretched. At the end of the day I feel drained and I find there are way too many tears for my taste. Often we joke we are turning into Sue Ellens and that Prosecco has become a crutch to lean on that lightens the load at the end of the day.
I try not to feel bad about the fact that my weekly hour of freedom for myself (my Pilates class) is the highlight of my week. Steph fights the guilt of enjoying time at the office more than time at home, something he has always thought was awful when other people admitted to it.

I often think of moments when I was quick to judge other families or mothers living in messy environments or cutting corners that to me seemed non-negotiable. I now realize how important it is to choose 30 minutes of fun with your family or a nourishing chat on the phone or walk in the park over a tidy living room. And yes, often you have to prioritize. I'm learning to live with the mess and tolerate a bit more chaos although it still makes me suffer. It's tough for me to learn to say "tant pis!" and let go. And luckily we have a good cleaner twice a week.

Our life has changed us a lot. The lack of sleep, the stress and the lack of attention for some has brought out the less positive sides in each of us.

Emma has become more difficult. She can be utterly adorable one moment and so utterly complicated, uncooperative and totally stubborn the next. I cannot count the times we have repeat "No!" although she fully knows that she is not allowed whatever it may be, run after her as she dashes off or ask her to lower her voice when she shouts as William is just drifting to sleep. So much naughtiness and provocation to catch our attention despite our best efforts to compliment her successes, dispense loads of hugs and I love yous and spend time with her and listening to her chatter away or sing.

Among my worst, my "controlling" side comes out as I fear family holidays will disrupt our still fragile routine that our precious sleep depends on. I often gasp for air as I seek a moment of quietness so as to be able to think. Music and singing helps. Even cooking and doing the dishes, I have discovered, can offer a good break. Also, I find that by the end of the day, my patience is scarce, my temper short and I cannot face having to repeat the same requests over and over again. I wish I had the perspective to find the right attitude and words and not and whatever it is that would help me not get angry. I realize anger and impatience do not help in getting things done with Emma, but I find it so hard to keep cool in the face of her testing. With hindsight, once she is in bed, I can see that she is only fighting for attention now that mine has to be divided between her and William, but on the spur of the moment, it's hard for me not to react with this perspective. **

Steph's overly-expeditive side and impatience is triggered as he tries to eliminate any non-essential information when his brain overloads between work and family. Not great when you want to talk...

The thing I regret the most is that it's really hard to find the time and energy to have fun especially with Emma once we're done with the dressing, feeding, disciplining and getting wherever we are going and all the other logistics.

Will is the sweetest when he is awake - but at night or when he is about to drop off - whoa! I know he is just de-stressing from the activities of the day, but his cries are so loud and his feeding can be so voracious it's sometimes hard to calm down myself.

At the moment Emma is constipating herself, clinging on to babyhood in the form of poo. One moment she is shooing us away telling us that she can do whatever it is on her own and the next she screams she is a baby and "ich kann nich alleine!". Watching her make herself suffer so much, I have literally wanted to shake the poo out of her. She cries "caca Mama!" as she holds it in and we have not yet found a way to help her other than giving her a glycerin suppository (laxative) to ease the pain after three days of no-poo. (I am so scared she will become dependent on these!) We repeatedly give her a nappy to poo in when she asks for one and tell her it's ok to use a nappy if she needs to (the rest of the time she is in underpants and pees in the toilet - even at night time and no accidents). And still, she fights the need to go and cries and cries and all I can tell her is that she "will feel better after making caca", that "it only hurts when you keep it in", that "everyone's caca goes into the loo", etc. For a day or two, things improve and she will poo in her nappy and then we are back to the same.
For sure this is self-inflicted. She drinks plenty and eats enough fruit and fiber and has not ever been constipated until she started voluntarily withholding this summer. Our pediatrician has told me his son constipated himself for 8 days when his sibling was born and that he would hide under the table claiming there was a crocodile in his bum.

Our couple? no time.
Conversations? no time and no energy.
Social life? non-existant.
Sometimes we go on walks to tire Emma out and so we can talk a bit. Doesn't that sound awful? But it's true.
Often the best moment of the day is when both kids are asleep and we can just collapse on the sofa in front of the telly or the Internet and actually manage to drink a cup of tea (until the end) or make a phone call.
Do we feel guilty? Of course we do sometimes. Other times I find the perspective to tell myself it's temporary. Soon enough, William will be big enough to play with Emma and both of them will require less logistics. Then I'll have more energy to play with both of them and not only the time to do all the things they need doing and that are good for them but that they don't appreciate, don't see and don't enjoy. It's actually really hard having enough time and energy to also be the fun parent and enjoy your children.

It's really hard to love them so much and yet to also to feel the need of a rest from them so often.

Anyway, it's hard but it's far from being all bad so here's a little video of a fun time this week-end. May there be many more.

** Since then, I spoke to my Dad who suggested I pretend I am employed to take care of Emma and William so as to gain the necessary perspective and emotional distance when I feel I am about to get too impatient or loose my temper. I think it's a good idea, sort of like asking yourself what you would advise a friend to do in your situation, it enables you to "do what I say and not what I do" which is so often the wiser route.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sandra, good to hear from you again ! I (and with me many more I am sure) miss your blogs. Thanks for sharing your feelings. As usual your experiences, so well written and summarized, reflect some of mine. Will send you an email about it. Love, Meryem

Janset Acar said...

thx for sharing these experiences...and for your honesty.
I certainly can relate to many of them..and I have only one child :o

Anonymous said...

Dear Sandra,
Your honesty is very touching. My heart goes out to you.
I am always in awe and amazed by women that handle more than one small child. I am even impressed by the women that only have one child.
May there be many more times of joy and laughter to come in your house.
May you find the time to come back into yourself.
Lots of Love from Eva

Sandra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra said...

Dear Eva,
thank-you for your wishes ( I hope they come true!). I really think being a Mum (and perhaps a parent) is the toughest job in the world and also that it can be the most rewarding!. We so want to do it well because we are conscious of the importance of it (of our impact on our children), but we can only do our best, one day at a time... I liked what Amelia Maness-Gilliland said about Mothering Authentically: "good mothers come in many styles". It's important not to be too tough on ourselves and our children (as well as our inner child).

Dear Meryem,
I hope your experiences as a Mum-of-two are enriching and not too tough. I look forward to reading your email. Until then, I wish you serenity and some coolness in the Cairo heat ;-)

P.S. I deleted my previous comment due to typos...