Wednesday, January 23, 2008

finding a shoe that fits

Have you ever seen a pair of shoes and thought "Those look awesome!" Only to try them on and realize that they are the most uncomfortable pair of shoes you've ever worn?

Or, although they look good on your friend's feet or your mother's feet or your sister's feet, they look ugly on your feet - and only after you've bought them do you realize that what looks good on them, doesn't necessarily look or feel good on you - because you have different styles and your foot isn't shaped the same?

Parenthood is much the same way.

You've got to try things on, walk around in them for a bit, figure out what fits your taste, what feels comfortable to wear and what's in your budget.

You might have read stories about attachment parenting and thought "That's the natural way to raise up a child!" until you have a child that is fifteen-months-old and still unable to sleep through the night. Or, you might think that letting your baby self-soothe by crying-it-out is the best way to teach a child to sleep, until you hear your baby cry from their crib and cannot imagine a worse form of torture imaginable for you or them.

So, you develop your own style. You figure out what works for you - what works for your child - and what doesn't. Even though a lot of people, who have raised children before you might tell you exactly what you need to do because they have "experience" doesn't make them an expert on your situation. Sure, it's good to listen to their advice and maybe you'll hear something that might help ease your load. But ultimately? You must do what feels right for you.

Maybe feeding your children vegan snacks from a burlap satchel is right up your alley. Or maybe, it's feeding them Fruit Loops from a Ziploc bag.

Maybe breastfeeding your baby on demand is the easiest solution. Or, maybe it's serving them evaporated milk and Karo Syrup with a chaser of formula in a sippy cup.

Maybe it's co-sleeping until your child gets married and moves out of the house. Or, maybe it's putting them in their own crib the first night they are home from the hospital.

Maybe it's going back to work full-time and putting your child in daycare. Or, maybe it's putting your career on hold (indefinitely) and staying home.

Maybe it's putting your children in public or private school. Or, maybe it's teaching them from your kitchen table.

Any choice that you make - or don't make - when you are a parent is going to be scrutinized by those closest to you. And when you write your thoughts and feelings and post them on the internet? Oh well then, you are really asking for it.

After thinking about things for the past three weeks and closely evaluating my mood every day, I really don't think that I have postpartum depression. My OB/GYN, that I spoke with last week doesn't think that I have it, either.

Once I talked with him for the better part of an hour, he very kindly said "Anyone with four children under four is entitled to feel overwhelmed at times." And then he added "I'll be thinking about you." It surprised me that he laughed as hard as he did and nodded his head in agreement when I replied, "Yeah, you'll be thinking, 'Hooyah! I'm glad I'm not her!!'"

I don't want to down play the hormonal surges that follow child birth, because I know that they happen and they are very real. If not for those hormonal surges, I doubt I would have woken up every night for a month after Henry was born in a cold sweat with a sopping wet nightshirt and fallen in to a crying fit every time I saw a commercial for Johnson's Baby Wash.

But I suspect that the feelings of anxiety that I'd felt mounting for the past few weeks are a result of feeling tired from the holidays, transitioning my baby to solid foods, reducing my nursing, sleep deprivation, parenting three-year-old triplets, debating the future of my career, contemplating where we are going to live - if we are going to move - when and how, what the implications will be for my husband's career if I return to work, concern for my father's failing health, deciding what we are going to do with our dog, and how the cotton pickin' heck we are going to get rid of the rodents in the garage.

More than any of that ... there is something extremely sobering about the fact that these are our children. No one is going to come in and raise them for us, or take away the tremendous responsibility of being a parent 24/7, when we're plumb worn out. Even during that time when I worked and would be gone from the children for several days at a time - when I came home - I was still bombarded by the responsibilities required to raise a family.

Don't get me wrong. It's a wonderfully awesome experience to raise children. But it can be exhausting at times, too. The dog? I can just throw a scoop of kibble in her bowl and make sure she has clean water. Unfortunately, whenever I've tried that with the kids, Charlie gets really upset.

Parenting is tough. Even if you have a nanny or au pair.

Or a part-time sitter.

Or family that lives nearby.

Or your children are in school.

At the end of the day, these are our kids and ultimately, it's up to us to bring them up right.

For the past 39 months, Charlie and I have managed to raise our children, just the two of us, by relying on each other - together, as a team.

In our situation, outside help wasn't the right fit. It's not that we haven't wanted help or didn't consider bringing in help, but whenever we tried, it didn't feel comfortable.

My friend Jessica tells me that if I want to hire help, I have to be seriously committed because finding good help is difficult and keeping good help is difficult, too. Maybe if I'd forced my foot in to that shoe and worn it around for a while, it would have broken in, and soon I wouldn't be able to imagine my life with out that support. But I've gone so long without it, the thought of dropping our children off somewhere or having someone come in seems about as uncomfortable as wearing flip flops in a blizzard.

Or ski boots on a beach.

When the babies were 10-months old, I interviewed several people to watch the children when I returned to work. As each person entered our home, and I noticed their body piercings and tattoos - or crucifixes and "I Love Jesus!" pendants - or plain Jane appearance, I felt terribly uncomfortable with the thought of paying anyone to be with our children. Sure we could bring someone in to look after them. It wasn't a financial issue. If we were both to work, we would make enough money to send all three of the children to daycare AND have a full-time live in nanny.

But we didn't want to.

That shoe didn't fit me. It was uncomfortable on my foot. It was ugly. It hurt like hell and just looking at it gave me a blister.

Since then, we've had a lot of people judge our decision, but this has been our choice and quite honestly, we're very happy about it.


When I had my full-scale meltdown two weeks ago, I felt desperate. I felt like I needed things to change - immediately. I discussed with my boss returning to work by the end of the month. I researched preschool and I almost passed out when I heard that the soonest our children could start would be July, six whole months from now.

What was I suppose to do between now and then?!

But since that time, I've recovered. We have things happening almost every day of the week and having activities to look forward to, truly is my saving grace.

Over the past few months, as I've tried to adjust to having a new baby in the mix, a lot of people have told me
"Put the kids in preschool!" as if I could just blink and they would be enrolled the very next day. Or they'll say "Hire help!" as if finding a competent and trustworthy person was as easy as opening my front door and inviting in the masses of qualified, kind, affordable, open-scheduled people that are camped out on my doorstep.

Maybe if I was committed to the process, I would already have had our children enrolled in school and I'd have a long list of people we could call in a pinch.

But I'm not there.

Truth be told, the effort that it will take to get four children up and dressed and fed and out of the house, so I can drop three of those children off by 9:00 two days a week for three hours, seems terribly great. And even though the financial aspect isn't an overwhelming issue - I am not entirely convinced that they are going to be any better off for the experience. Maybe if they were all potty trained, and could dress themselves, I'd be more open to it.

Or, maybe if I knew that they wouldn't bring home every (if not every-other) virus and spread it through the entire family. Or,
if I didn't have hangups about exposing my precious children to the general population. Perhaps I'd embrace preschool if they were at an age where their language was more developed and they could tell me if something was wrong.

So where do things stand now?

I am going to put our children's name on the roster for preschool, which starts in July. If it were starting next week, I know for a fact I wouldn't send them because I'm not ready. Maybe I will be ready come July. Or, maybe I won't.

I absolutely don't buy in to the hype that if I decide to skip preschool I am "robbing" my three-year-olds of some vast learning or social experience. At this age, they are learning everything that they need to know (and then some) from me. They are exposed to other children during their weekly triplet play dates and they are learning how to follow instructions from another adult during soccer and gymnastics and the church nursery.

What it comes back to is me and after all this time, I'm still trying to find the shoe that fits me best.

I wrote about my nervous breakdown experience because I know that the feelings I had were normal in the grand scheme of things and maybe it might help someone out ... there ... read how a fellow parent in the trenches handled a really difficult time. And now that I've divulged my inner most thoughts and bared my parental flaws, I'm trying to think what would be another highly personal subject to tap.

Maybe the best cure for hemorrhoids.


  1. I am not as articulate as you or some others.
    Thanks again for your honesty - I agree .I am sometimes overwhelmed with twins and teenager but I know I wouldn't have it any other way.At the end of the day - we live with what we have done and are given the same chance again tomorrow to do it again or differently if we want. It is okay to get if off your chest and say our kids bug us and do things that drive us wild but we love them anyway.
    I think having things to look forward to is good , something to focus on and playdates too - both for mum's sanity and kids.

  2. I really enjoy reading your blog, but I don't usually leave comments, but I couldn't resist not leaving one this time. I LOVE this post, your honesty......just awesome! I think you expressed what a lot of moms feel just perfectly.....and that is so helpful to other moms! Thanks!

    - Kelli

  3. So true! Great analogy. Sometimes we find very comfortable shoes but just don´t think they are our style...
    We have to be careful not to judge one another for our decisions. What is offered as help can often turn into criticism.
    I just took my 5mo-old in for his check-up and shots yesterday and had to endure raised eyebrows and frowns on the subject of supplementing my baby with rice cereal twice daily. He doesnt drink from a bottle or cup (trust me, I have tried) but needs more than I can give him. With formula out of the question, if my baby gets solids earlier than the recommended guidelines, why judge me? I do still breastfeed a lot every day, the guy is just bigger than I can handle. All of us, me and the nurses, were eating fish and eggs and potatoes at my sons age and did just fine. 8 years ago pacifiers were considered a tool from the devil but today they are highly recommended to ward off SIDS. I'm a PT, and my colleagues say babies today are presenting with flat heads due to only sleeping on their back.
    Mom knows best, we are not trying to harm our offspring. End of story...
    Your fan in Iceland.

  4. Hi again,
    It seems Icelanders always post twice...
    Don't you find it strange that in our world of freedom to choose, we seem to interpret that right as "the right to all choose the same"?
    Just a thought.

  5. Nicely said. And 100% right!

  6. If you find a cure for hemmmoroids be sure to let everyone know. I was recently suprised to find out that I am NOT alone! What a horrible rememberance of a nice pregnancy lol.

  7. Bravo Jen! A very eloquent post.

    BTW - I sent a note to my SIL about your love of Peppermint JoeJoes (she is the national produce buyer at TJs) and she said she sent the JoeJoe's buyer! I am hoping he/she sends you a case!

  8. You are soooooo right on. This post is pure gold.

    And I meant to tell you thanks for sharing your meltdown. That's one of the best things about blogging to me - knowing that there are others grappling with the same overwhelming responsibility and desire to do right by their kids and never knowing for sure if it's all going to work out because the day-to-day can be flat insane. :)

    You're a gem.

  9. I say IF you didn't have a breakdown here and there, something would be seriously wrong. You are absolutely right here, you have described the secret to life. Someday you will look back and laugh like the doc.

  10. hey dude.. as long as you keep the kids in Red Sox hats.. you're doing GREAT!!!

    -jen (aka fourjmh)

  11. Jen - Only you will know the shoe that fits you and your family best. Keep searching for it. Your story, your honesty, your writing is wonderful. I've never commented before but check in regularly. And pray for your beautiful family. I'm from a very large family that tries to tell me which shoes to wear often.. and it's hard not to wear the pinchy ones to please them.. But I know whats right for me, and You know whats right for you!

  12. I read your post on your nervous breakdown and cried and laughed and nodded and kept yelling out loud "That's exactly how I feel about ____!" (even though there was no one here to hear me say so. I do not have triplets, I do not have a new baby (anymore) I do have an almost 18 year old, an almost 16 year old, an almost 12 year old and a 9 year old.

    Everyone goes through days like that regardless of how many or what ages their children are. Most days it all gets held together, but every once in a while....the lid blows. Just like it did for you. There is no "one" answer. No quick fix, no cure all, no magic pill to fix everything. The dishes have to be done, the laundry washed, the children fed and the house cleaned. The dog requires occasional attention and and and...yeah. Nothing gives. But every so often, once in a while, the lid blows. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.
    You MUST at all costs get rid of the rodents in the garage though. Do not fool yourself thinking that they will not infiltrate the house. They will, probably have already and must be eliminated. Poison the heck out of them and throw out whatever they have infested. Make certain that ALL dogfood is securely sealed and not available to them at all. (it contains vitamin K and will counteract the effects of the poison)

    You aren't a three headed freak or anything. Even your favorite pair of shoes don't feel right every once in a while, just go barefoot those days :)


  13. I'm hoping not to sound too stalker-ish when I say how much I admire you.
    I thank you for writing about your breakdown because I've been there. It was reassuring to know that I wasn't the only one who's felt, on more than on occasion, like I belonged in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
    I also love your parenting = shoes analogy. It is like finding the right pair of shoes. Even when you find that favorite pair that fits perfectly and looks great, there are times when you still have to change them. Old Nike flip flops work great for home but not so much at a fancy dinner party.
    Parenting (especially multiples)is a constant state of adjustment that is bound to make anyone (who isn't already nuts) a bit crazy at times.
    I feel like my twins were specifically born to teach me to go with the flow because I control NOTHING. I think I've finally come to terms with that (most days).
    Thank you again for putting yourself out there. You truly are amazing.

  14. I love the shoe anaology! You are right that what works for one mom might not work for another.
    Thanks for this post!

  15. Well, I'm frankly happy you have committed to putting their name on the roster. That's a HUGE step! I started my process of "separation" in January and they didn't actually start school until September! And before that it was little baby steps of 45 minute classes and watching them through the window. I think you should keep cramming you feet into the baby shoes. Before you kow it, they fit just like you said!That's what worked for ME! HA!

    P.S. I'm glad your doctor doesn't feel you have PPD. I've been very concerned for you. I'm glad you called him. That was another good move.

    I'll let you know in the future what shoes I like though. Don't worry! :0

  16. Well, Jen I think this was a wonderful, wise post by a very wise person. Thanks for writing this - oh and thanks for writing the other ones too. I'm sure they must have been hard to write, but there are a lot of us lurking out here who are really inspired and helped by your honesty.

  17. thank you again for a very honest post. We have made similar choices for similar reasons.

  18. Wow you are an amazing writer. I agree with everything you said. In my opinion, I think you did an awesome thing and gave yourself an option. By enrolling them in preschool for July, it gives you time to see if they (and you) are ready, if not they don't have to go. Preschool is all the buzz right now and it is a great option but staying home with mom is such a wonderful, wonderful way to go. My little ones do go to a babysitter for part of the day and it works for us. Of course, I'd rather be with them but that doesn't work right now and I have found a wonderful lady in our neighborhood to watch them. I love the parrallels between shoes and raising kids, never thought about it that way before but how true. Goodness knows there have been many times in my life I thought about buying a certain shoe, but quickly figured out that it would give me blisters!!!!

  19. Good to you for sticking to your guns. It's easy enough for us to give you assvice - we do it in what we feel is your best interests but we forget we're not you!! It is because we *heart* you though, and we know you're perfectly able to ignore us if (when!) necessary ;) Although I am a big fan of preschool (well, Montessori ones anyway), I totally get where you're coming from on inside help. My husband and Mum kept on at me about it after my daughter was born (same age as your little one) and it just *doesn't* fit for me. The thought of it just gives me the heebiejeebies!

    Seriously though, I am glad you've come to a decision, as it's half the battle in making you feel miles better.

    As for those hemorrhoids - I'm totally hearing you. *Squirm*. Ice packs and oatmeal worked for me - particularly the oatmeal (preferably in porridge form, ie coarse-cut rather than fine meal), which was recommended by a Women's Health Physiotherapist after a rather (physically) traumatising birth (stitches, stitches and then more stitches. Ouch).

  20. Good for you! Everyone has to find their own shoe, and I'm glad you said it. Sure, people can tell you what worked for them, but what it boils down to is that you have to find what works for you! Thank you for putting it out there!

  21. Oh and I forgot to add - for the hemorrhoids, a couple of drops each of Roman Chamomile and Lavender essential oils in a bath does wonders. Also very relaxing and good for chilling out after a hard day. Worked for me :)

  22. Darn!
    I was going to post something like this today. I was just thinking these same thoughts yesterday - how we parents are all trying to reach the same goal ( raising loving, decent, productive members of society) and we just choose different paths to get to that goal.
    Sometimes we mothers can be so hard on each other and come across as judgmental - making us feel we need to justify our choices. I don't think dads do that to each other.
    I'm glad you are at ease with your choices. You made some very good points in this post.
    And preschool in July? July will come quickly enough. Don't we all know how fast time flies with this parenting thing...?

  23. I think your decision sounds perfect. At least now if you are ready to send the kids to preschool in July you will have that option.

    We have long waiting lists here where I live too. I'm trying to get my 2 year old in a program for the fall and that is no guarantee! Lovely.

    Anyway, bravo to you for doing what is right for your family. Most parents can't say that... they do things out of selfishness or for money, etc. Those things aren't the ones that matter at the end of the day.

  24. absolutely. funny story...the crocs sensation that has swept the nation (atleast the midwest this past year and a half) I LOVE...on others that is. I have been "blessed" with a second toe that is incredibly long and that croc company had to put one of those fashionable little holes RIGHT where my second toe is...thus, baring its "ugly" head outside of my croc. I can't wear them...I like them, they are comfortable, but they just don't work for me! I love your writing!
    Maybe in July they'll come out with a pair that doesn't have holes right there just for me...or maybe they won't and I am sure I 'll survive in the flip flops I've worn now for all my life...

  25. oh yea, and having something to look forward to is almost better than the actual "thing" you are looking forward to. that is a must. I have a calendar for that very reason. Have a great week!

  26. You are not robbing your three year olds by not putting them in preschool. Preschool is not necessary! My boys have been home with me since birth and I feel the same way with letting anyone come in to help (well I don't need it or get suggested for it like you do with 4 kids under 3). as you know they will have 12 plus years of school and so enjoy them at home as much as you can. I hate the fact the when we don't use preschool we feel that we have to explain or justify it. I get that over here all the time. My 4 1/2 yr old is social, goes to parties, playdates, works on the computer for learning stuff. read to each day, taught alphabet and words all the time as we live and go places, and we just have a blast. He has friends, go for walks, etc, etc. Now tell me that is not better than preschool? You have to pay someone for something you can do at home and more. So there..... feel better? :) I know you do.

  27. well written jen

    i completely respect your parenting choices and glad that you signed up for preschool, just so you have the option if you want it then.

    but i'll go on a limb as your blog internet friend to say don't give up on the idea of some sort of help. i know it is not easy and you don't have the time to find it. i have full time help and it is a love hate relationship. another idea for you - don't kill me for unwanted advice - i just started having the preteens next door come over and play with the kids for a couple of hours. i can lounge outside while they entertain them and wear them out. my kids ADORE the big kids and have so much fun. they have taught them things that never occured to me. just a thought.

    you are doing an amazing job and are an insipration.


  28. Here's what I think, not that you asked... Hooray for you and your honesty. This is your blog and you can write what ever you want. I am floored that you feel the need to explain and almost apologize for your thoughts.
    I have a very different parenting style than you do. I would never criticize you for doing something that I did not agree with. As a loyal reader I just soak it all in and enjoy it. I have been in your shoes... Try not to let the comments impact you. Keep doing the best that you can and enjoy your beautiful family.

  29. Great analogy.
    Wonderful post.
    I'm always impressed on how candid you can be. Honest and real.