Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The problem with being human

Several months ago, *we* came to the conclusion that we needed some help with house cleaning. We hired a woman - actually two - that would come by every couple of weeks. After several more months ... *I* came to the conclusion that I could do just as good, if not better of a job, than the people that we were paying to clean. That was the end of that.

The reality is - I can do a better job cleaning and I love the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing housework. The problem is - I have very little time. Maybe I could go to bed later ... wake up earlier ... work less at my paying job ... sacrifice a weekend ... or use naptime more productively than updating my blog ... but I don't love housecleaning that much. Which is why it's been over a month since our shower has been scrubbed.

Now that I'm pregnant, Charlie doesn't want me near chemicals. I kind of understand his concern - but I honestly have no problem using products like "Soft Scrub" considering it isn't harmful and I'm not lathering myself in scrubbing bubbles. However, given my current condition, if I have the option of cleaning a commode or taking a nap ... I'd trade my toilet brush for a pillow any day of the week.

Which is why ... last night, Charlie called a housecleaner that was advertised in our neighborhood. He made plans that a two-woman team would be at our house this morning, at 9 AM. Today, I was up and dressed by 7 AM. I had the kids up and dressed by 7:30. While the kids sat in our bed watching cartoons and sipping orange juice, I set about putting things away to get ready for the cleaning crew.

One thing I've learned with a maid service is that their mission is to clean. They do not put all of your junk stuff away - which is something YOU need to do - unless you want all of your junk stuff put in random piles throughout the house. This is a real pet peeve of mine.

Maybe I'm crazy that way.

After spending an hour and a half putting all of our junk stuff away, I realized that it would take me just a tiny bit longer to actually dust, vacuum and mop the floors. For pete's sake - the hardest part of the job was already done. The fact that I was now going to pay someone a good chunk of cash to come in and do the fun stuff had me annoyed.

But more annoying was that I was totally off-schedule. And as any triplet mother can attest ... the key to happiness is schedule. They might also attest that it can easily happen that if your morning starts out off schedule, the rest of your day can be shot. Lunch is thrown off, nap times are thrown off, dinner and bedtime are thrown off.

That's what I feared would happen today.

And wouldn't you know - that's exactly what happened, today.

It was 9:00 AM. I didn't want the kids watching cartoons all day and I still needed to feed them breakfast. I was frustrated with myself that I didn't finish our "Pre-Clean" the night before ... or get up earlier and finish it so that our starving children wouldn't be stuck in front of the television because of their mother's inability to better manage her time.

I brought everyone out to the kitchen and loaded them in their booster chairs. Because I didn't want to have a repeat of breakfast Sunday and again, yesterday - where our children solely consumed 4 large containers of yogurt - I decided that eggs were on the menu. Pulling out the necessary ingredients and equipment, I started to cook. The kids started to fuss. They started to fight. They started to scream. I started to get flustered. Really flustered.

Right about then, I noticed my fluffy scrambled eggs had turned black and were smoking. There was also smoke billowing from the toaster oven because my english muffins had caught on fire. William, who was sitting in his booster chair whining, while flinging sippy cups and random utensils across the table at his sisters ... captured my attention.

The phone rang. The housecleaning women were totally lost, driving circles around our neighborhood. Just as I hung up with the housecleaners, and started cooking the second batch of eggs, the phone rang again. At that very moment, Charlie called and with pure innocence asked "How's your morning going?" I laid in to my husband that if he really wanted to help me, he would pick up his own junk stuff (not quite the word I used) before he left for work ... or better yet ... watch the kids and give me a morning to clean the house instead of imposing two strangers on us. As I'm typing this now, it doesn't seem like a big deal. But when I was living it this morning, I thought for sure I would crack in two ... especially when I burned the SECOND batch of eggs, realized we were now OUT of eggs and for the third morning in a row - our kids would eat yogurt (and pretzels) for breakfast.

When I'm not wearing my "mother hat", I work part-time as a senior environmental engineer for a major oil company. My job includes managing multiple remediation projects with annual budgets that are in the millions of dollars. I am directly responsible for overseeing consultants, contractors, subcontractors and interfacing with various local, state and sometimes - federal - regulatory agencies. My job is challenging and downright stressful at times. But being a good role model and positive influence on three two-year olds is the most challenging thing I've ever done. It is mentally more challenging than taking advanced structural geology, calculus, physics, chemistry, philosophy, Latin-American studies and piano in one semester. It is physically more challenging than hiking all the way in to - and out of - the Grand Canyon in a single day.

Trust me, I've done both.

William continued to whine - louder - and to the point that his fussing was the only noise I heard - echoing around the inside of my head, rattling my brain. Given the circumstances, my toddler son's behavior was completely appropriate considering he was 2-hours off schedule. This was entirely my fault.

My behavior, on the other hand, was not appropriate. Also, entirely my fault. Caused by my own fault.

This is the first time I've ever thought of our children as an inconvenience - but this is the second time that I've had an out-of-body experience as a mother. I can actually look down from some spiritual vantage point and see myself losing my cool ... and although I know I should always remain in control of the situation ... I am at a complete loss. My frustration, my temper ... my humanness gets the best of me. It's a horrible feeling when it's happening and even more horrible, when you see how your negative behavior effects your children.

Our kids are amazing. They are beautiful and bright. At two-years old, for the most part, they are full of love, happiness and compassion. It brings joy to my heart when I see them comfort one another ... bring loveys to a sibling who is upset ... and insist on giving kisses to each other before bed time.

Children Learn What They Live.

When I watched the kids today, emulating my frustration from earlier in the morning by yelling "STOP!" at each other, "NO!" at the dog, and jumping clear out of their skins every time I called their names ... I wished the earth would engulf me, whole. The only good thing is that they didn't start swearing. At least not yet. If they yell "Muckin' eggs!" tomorrow ... I'll know they picked up that gem, from me.

This isn't the kind of person I want to be and this certainly isn't the kind of mother I want to be. For all the years of going through fertility treatments ... these are the children that we wanted, more than life itself.

My children are not an inconvenience and they never will be. They are my very reason for being.


It's tough being two and having limited communication skills. But it's even tougher being 35 and knowing that your actions are strongly influencing the character of your children. This job of parenting never ends. It's not a sprint and it's not a marathon because the finish line doesn't exist. This is a race of life, for life ... and you absolutely must pace yourself and take inventory of your own needs. I'm not sure why nobody ever told me - but I'll say it now: This parenting stuff is damn tough work - no matter how long you've wanted children and no matter what you've gone through to get them.

As soon as Charlie walked in the door this afternoon at 5 PM (and our kids were still napping because everything was pushed back two hours) - I walked out. When my day was not getting any better by noon - and my fury was now being taken out on the dog who was gobbling poop out of a pile I had swept up in the garage (which is still a disaster from the water heater fiasco) - I knew that I needed some me time. Big time.

I headed straight to the hair salon, a place I have not visited in at least 8-months. If I wasn't pregnant - mark my words - I would gone straight to a bar. When I told the stylist that I wanted to look "10-Years Younger" she lopped 7-inches off my hair, colored me blonde and gave me bangs. I haven't had bangs since I was a sophomore in highschool, so I now look like a really chubby/kinda sorta pregnant (?) 15 25-year old. Then, I dashed over to the store and bought myself some maternity underwear and lip gloss. I feel like a new woman.

I was tempted not to post this story. But I think it's important to realize that we all have off days. Sometimes, they are REALLY off. My goal in writing my experience down is to remember it ... learn from it ... and hopefully (please God) ... never repeat it.

When I came home tonight, Charlie didn't recognize me. Now I just pray that tomorrow is a better day and our children don't recognize the monster that was their mother, today. I know I can do better than this. I have to do better than this.

Our children's happiness depends upon on it ... and I'd do anything for them.

30 comments:

  1. The human-ness and the guilt get the best of all of us! So glad you posted this. That big job of "mom" sure looms - over all of us, and it's wonderful to know we all feel it from time to time (or most of the time?)! You are doing GREAT. And actually, one of the best things you can show your kids is that you ARE human - they will love you more for that than they ever will for being perfect. Hope today is a better day - thank goodness there's always a new one!

    Post a picture of the "new you"?

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  2. Awww... I only have 1 two year old and I can tell you I probably lose it every other day. My oldest is going to 18 next month. I am POSITIVE I lost it on him a time or two and you know what? He has turned into a wonderful young man. He knows that his mom is just a person too. I am not perfect. I do what I can when I can and I try to do better when I can. That is the best we can do sometimes. Don't be so hard on yourself. I think my key to trying not to lose it is to remember they are only 2 for such a short time. Sometimes that helps, but sometimes it doesn't. I pick myself up and try again the next day! Oh and I want to see your new look!

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  3. Being “off-schedule” is the worst but I think with multiples it is even worse as there are 2/3 or more people who are upset at the same time. It is VERY difficult/stressful to appease 3 two-year olds who want their breakfast/routine NOW! I have been there to, forgive yourself as you ARE only human (easier said then done, I know).

    I’m with you on the cleaning people also; I feel I can do a much better job but when to find the time? Also after I “prep” the house for them it really is close to being done as that part takes the longest. I ditched the cleaning people and am now on my own. Believe it or not once I got the hang of it flylady.org helped me immensely, as I love organized things like that. Would love to see your new look!
    Darlene

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  4. kudos to you for being brave enough to post that story. trust me, you are not the only one who breaks down like that, but you are one of the few people who would admit it (and take full responsibility for it) to the general public. you go, mom!

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  5. We can all do better.

    Oh, to look back and remember the times I lost my temper with my little ones. My face still grows hot at some of the memories. But the kids don't remember. They are growing into fine young people and have thrived despite my mistakes. Yours will too. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself.

    A secret that has helped me to relax as a parent: As my children have grown, my standards for a clean house have shrunk considerably.
    There will always be a mess - just a different kind with each phase.
    Each time I walk through my formal dining room and see football pads and size 14 cleats lying by the door, I tell myself "This is just my phase of life; someday I will miss it"
    Thank you for your honesty. You're doing great.

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  6. Thank you for posting this. We all have those days and unfortunately, there will be more days to come. Sounds like you are doing a great job!

    Glad you are feeling better. We would love to see the new you!

    Whitney

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  7. I don't have triplets but I can so relate to this post. Just the fact that wrote this tells me what a good mom you are.

    Oh and I agree about the cleaning people. Once the clutter is picked up the rest of it is pretty easy. If they would only come in with clutter pick up crew that would be worth the money imo. Of course I'd probably never find anything after they were gone.

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  8. Oh, Jen, we've all been there. And being off-schedule is the worst...I can't imagine how awfully hard it would be with triplets...I admire you!

    Come on, let us see a picture of your new hair-style!

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  9. You're only human Jenna! Every mother (parent) goes through this.....so know that you are not alone! Because I too have wanted to string Kyle up by his toenails and run down the street screaming for calgon to take me away. Here's hoping today is much better! Now go enjoy some chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

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  10. By the way, I *love* that last picture of William...he's a living doll!

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  11. Sarah in Washington2/7/07, 12:17 PM

    I just want to say that I love your blog. I'm the mother of 1-year-old twin boys. Each entry is a work of art... truly! Thanks so much for brightening my day.

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  12. {{{{HUGS}}}}}}
    We all have those days, and we hate them!

    I'm glad you got a minute to yourself.
    Do we get to see the new hair?

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  13. Oh boy, what a day! As the saying goes, "When it rains, it pours."

    The love you have for your children is so evident... everyone gets frustrated (and you certainly had good reason to) and goes a little bonkers. I can't imagine that I would have been able to stay as composed as you were if I were in the same situations!

    But as a child of wonderful parents who sometimes lost their tempers and swore at things like the "mucking eggs" burning, those things are not what stick out in your children's heads when they get older... it is the love and happiness you gave them. And you have plenty of that to go around in your house - I can tell!

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  14. I totally understand what you mean. You are a great mom! I always have to laugh at my friends who are "cleaning" before their maid comes over. I could never have a maid for that reason!

    NOW POST A PICTURE OF YOURSELF!! I want to see :-)

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  15. MichelleinOR2/7/07, 6:38 PM

    I am sorry you had a bad day. Please know that we all do -- you are remarkable that you've only had a few! You obviously love your children and that's what they'll remember. I really benefited from your honesty. Hopefully you did too. Sometimes we look around and every other mom seems so "in control." It's nice to know that we're all doing our very, very best. And sometimes we yell and sware, but mostly, we're doing our best.

    Michelle

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  16. what kind of lip gloss did you buy? strawberry? cherry? vanilla?

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  17. Thank you for writing this. It made me feel better today. I know just the "out of body experience" you are talking about, like you cansee/hear yourself doing it, know it's a bad idea, and still do it. I feel just the same way some days, and I only have twins, and no other baby on the way. You are an amazing mom, "human-ness" and all.

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  18. Jen, Your Blog is what all Blogs should be honest about everyday life. Being a mother of three small children is not easy that's for sure. I only had one child and when I read your Blog, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to have two more - and truly believe God knows what he is doing when he gives us our children.

    In reading your Blog, one thing stood out above all the others and that was your comment about Charlie's view on chemicals. He is right - if you are pregnant, you should not be near toxic products. One of the latest researches shows that umbilical cords have toxic chemicals in them, which could have only come from exposure through the mother that is cleaning her home with unsafe products.

    If you would like to learn more, purchase a book called Safe Shoppers Bible. I have a web site Consumers Against Chemicals that you can check out to see a small list of products also. ConsumersAgainstChemicals.com

    One thing I want to leave you with if you have a dishwasher, find a product other than Cascade. I know an emergency room nurse who shared with me that this product killed a small child. For this reason, she switched to safer products.

    I wish you all the best with your little ones and keep on Blogging you are great!

    Sherry

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  19. THANK YOU.

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  20. You have great looking kids and this blog entry was very touching and close to home for me. I am a stay home mom of twins and there are days in my house when my husband comes home, i am peeling out the door. You are an inspiration for the rest of us and reading it reassured me that we all have our moments.

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  21. In my mind I always refer you to you as AmazingJen from Amazing trips!
    I would love to see your new sassy hair!

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  22. I think it's perfectly normal that you have days like this. I find myself thinking the very same thoughts that you were talking about. The benefit you have over some people is that you realize you were having a bad day. Tomorrow will be better and so will the next.

    I'm glad to hear that you're human. Where's the picture of the "after" hair?

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  23. Be careful feeding your little ones popcorn -- it is a big choking risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of four should not eat popcorn.

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  24. This was my first time reading your blog and your story brought me to tears. I'm not a mom of multiples but I am a mom of three little boys all under the age of 5 and trying to deal with the "age appropriatness" of each of their needs is difficult and time consuming. I love them each so very much and reading your story helped me realize that all of us need a break! It's so important to catch up on who we are and what we stand for and to stay in tune with ourselves so that we can better face the obstacles of a rough day like the one you had. I'm completely guilty of just such a day and time and it makes me laugh now...but it's not so funny at the moment. Your children are beautiful. God Bless! Tina/Indiana

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  25. Jen, you are such a good mom for knowing when you have reached your boiling point. Too many moms don't and it causes so many problems. Your children are LUCKY to have you as their mom!

    I am so glad you posted this! I have been on the war-path with my 2 1/2 year old. The screaming, the whining, the definance. You reminded me to take a step back. Thank you for that!

    I am sending you cyber hugs!

    Oh, and this post needs a picture of you and your new do!

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  26. Dear Jenn:

    You must have time for yourself! You cannot help others unless you are in good shape emotionally and have had enough sleep. As moms, we have all been there, even those of us with only one child at a time!

    It's hard to change our old habits, however, life is telling you to have housecleaners and to give yourelf a break.

    So. . . now we want to see the before and after photos!

    Love, Susan

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  27. My mom swears that the whole point of having a cleaning lady is to make you (her) pick up all the stuff that accumulates. Otherwise she says she would just keep putting it off. Also, having the whole house clean at once - rather than say, cleaning the kitchen today, the LR tomorrow, the bathrooms another day.

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  28. Aunt Grace2/9/07, 2:39 PM

    Oh boy Jenny, I wish I knew that it was ok to have a day like that. You make it sound so normal. Loved the pictures of the babies and the one of you with the ice cream.....I remember

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  29. Jen- Forget the blow up! Shit happens! Mine said big and loud at the dinner table in front of Grammy when they spilled their water, "DAMN IT!" Geez, I WONDER WHERE THEY GOT THAT FROM?

    So more importantly than the scarring psychological damage made on your children by your horrible outburst is you new hair!!! We would like to see a picture of your smashing new hair!!!!

    Seriously though, we've all been there. Daily. HUGS!

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  30. my triplets aren't quite two but they are getting close and believe me, i understand. mine all seem to follow each other's moods so if one is mad and whiny, the other two start in. i can't imagine doing this while pregnant- you are super-duper woman.

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