Sunday, July 01, 2012

Bit and Pieces

Pumpkin's graduation ceremony was cute and wonderful, and I cried. Particularly during the slide show of their pictures of the kids, which in several cases (including Pumpkin's) went back to the baby years. Pumpkin started at that day care when she was 5 months old.

One of her first teachers, Ms. M, is still at the school, and has actually been her teacher once again (in the 2 year old room), and is now the teacher in the room right before the pre-K room, which shares a double room with the pre-K room. Ms. M is a little misty at the last of her "baby bees" graduating, and asked if she could take Pumpkin and the other little girl who was also in the same baby room out to lunch on Thursday. We said yes. They had a blast.

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Yesterday, Hubby and I braved Ikea on a Saturday. We bought the furniture we need to remake Pumpkin's room to have a "real" desk, which will hold the computer we're giving her. We also bought half of the new toy storage bench that will allow us to move Petunia's little toddler desk in to Pumpkin's room. The other half was out of stock. Something is always out of stock when we go to Ikea. Hubby will have to go back and get it some weeknight.

However, we got a corner unit Micke desk, two short Stuva dressers, and a desk chair into the back of our Mazda 5. We had taken the car seats out, expecting to need the space of the middle row, too. We did not. This is a testament both to the Mazda 5 (which I call our Tardis) and the furniture designers at Ikea.

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Do you remember how I said Petunia was almost sick last week? Well, it turns out that she had an ear infection. Her ear drum burst Friday night, judging from what I know now and the fact that she sat up and screamed at me for ~5 minutes when she was almost asleep. Last night, I noticed some gunk in her ear, and called and got her an appointment for the after hours pediatrician this morning. At about 2 a.m., when Petunia was again awake and screaming, I was really glad I had that appointment. She woke up happy as can be this morning, but the doctor confirmed an ear infection and a burst ear drum, and gave us antibiotics.

I feel quite bad for missing the earlier signs, but in our defense, Petunia often does not drain congestion (which is probably why she gets these ear infections occasionally), so we had no outward sign of how much gunk was in her head, poor thing. We intend to try giving her Mucinex to help clear the congestion one of these times, to see if that will head off the ear infection, but we are apparently incapable of recognizing when she'd need it. This is only the second time her ear drum has burst, and may her 4th or 5th ear infection ever, so they aren't talking tubes yet. But still, I think we need to try to catch the next one earlier.

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The doctor we saw this morning was the same doctor I saw on my first visit to after hours pediactrics, back when Pumpkin was a tiny baby- maybe 2 or 3 weeks old. Hubby had to go to New Zealand to be in one of his best friend's weddings, and my parents were over helping me. This was before I figured out that milk in my diet gave Pumpkin what I later started calling "screaming gas," and Pumpkin was having a really rough day. At some point, I cracked and called the nurse line, and they sent me in to the doctor. My Mom came with me. Pumpkin was screaming almost non stop and I was a wreck. My Mom was clearly the adult in charge at that point, but the doctor addressed both of us with her advice.

I remember the doctor checking Pumpkin out and diagnosing gas, giving us some tips on how to make her more comfortable, and then turning her attention to me and checking that I was a wreck only because I had a baby who would not stop screaming, and not because something was seriously wrong at home or because I had post-partum depression. She also swaddled Pumpkin in a way that made her stop screaming (and which I could never replicate). My Mom and I left very impressed with that doctor.

My parents took turns holding Pumpkin that night, and I actually slept 6 or 7 hours straight. I woke up desperately needing to nurse Pumpkin, but feeling roughly 175% better.  I was finally able to think clearly enough to realize that I needed to try eliminating dairy from my diet. I did that, and within two days, the screaming gas stopped. I stayed off dairy until Pumpkin was 8 or 9 months old. This was hard for me- I love dairy!- but definitely worth it. I also loved nursing Pumpkin, and that would not have been possible if I'd kept the dairy in my diet.

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I tell that previous story to acknowledge that there are some really good doctors out there, but also as an answer to the criticism I occasionally get of making my life as a working mother sound too easy. I have found my stride as a mother and as a working mother now, but that was not automatic. I originally revived this blog as a place to work through some of the problems I had adjusting to motherhood. It was not an easy road for me. I have picked up a lot of readers over the years, and most of you have probably never gone back in my archives and read what things were like in the early days. I once struggled with guilt- I wish I could say what, exactly, helped me get over that, but all I can say is that I did.

I've linked to a few posts from the earlier days that show some of the struggles I had then. You could also click through the archives yourself, if you're curious. I think it took me the better part of that first year to really figure out how to integrate "mom" with "me"- I consider it an ongoing process, but I don't struggle with it nearly so much these days. I look back on the first year of Pumpkin's life as one of the hardest years of my life. She slept extraordinarily poorly (you can probably follow a link trail back through this post and read all about that) and I constantly felt like I was "doing it wrong."  But, as Erin pointed out in the comments on my recent post about the current craziness of my life, hard does not mean bad. I am a better, stronger person for it. And Pumpkin is one awesome little five year old.  I've got no regrets, except maybe for not figuring out how to let the guilt go earlier- but then again, maybe that was just a necessary part of the process.

And now, I need to get back to the chores. Tell me about your road to where you're at in your life in the comments!

38 comments:

  1. Spent all day sleeping. Nesting just kicked in. I cleaned off a spot on a doorway that's been there for years, noticed and removed finger prints on glass doors that have probably been there forever, and asked DH to clean off the top of the garbage can (apparently it is dusty, who knew?). My mom is giving me a week. I hope the baby stays in that long so she'll be term (though maybe she'll be ready at 37 weeks). Also I have some grant proposal stuff (though they were supposed to get it to me *last* week) and some other things for work that would be really nice to get done this week so I can take a few weeks off post-partum. Stupid deadlines.

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    1. Thinking of you & yours!

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    2. Thanks. :) They didn't get the grant proposal to me today, despite promising it. But DH and DC deep cleaned the house while I was at work today, so other than feeling antsy about work work, the nesting instinct has calmed.

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    3. Here's hoping baby #2 hangs out inside long enough to get to term- and to let you get that grant proposal done!

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    4. Grrrr. It is now "tomorrow morning" and still no proposal, and no new update for when it's going to show up. Hopefully during my doctor's appointment this morning. I guess I'll have to figure out what is next on my to-do list in terms of priority that I can suddenly drop when the stupid grant comes at the last minute (since I've pretty much exhausted my things to do that fit that description over the past few days of "it will come today"). I hate it when other people's bad planning messes with my scheduling.

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    5. This just in: It came. It is really bad. *sigh*

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    6. Oh that sucks. I'm sorry. ):

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  2. This is only the second time her ear drum has burst, and may her 4th or 5th ear infection ever, so they aren't talking tubes yet.

    As a mom of three kids who all had recurrent ear infections, I can tell you tubes are wonderful. With my second, once he got tubes we never had issues again, ever. With my oldest, tubes helped, but he still occasionally gets an ear infection (he's 12!) only now it's once in 2 years or so. With the littlest guy even after tubes we've been fighting some pretty stubborn bugs that don't respond to Augmentin. But ear drops (Ciprodex) are the bomb.

    That's my one big guilt-inducer about being a working mom. The horrendous ear infections started when they started daycare; apparently, none of my kids when they were little could just get over a cold, it had to go haywire. I am sure it's genetic, the Eustachian tubes very narrow or too horizontal or both, but they have been fine until placed among other kids...

    On the upside, I keep telling myself, all these illnesses from daycare do strengthen the immune system. My oldest and middle kids very rarely miss school.

    OK< enough rambling. What I am really trying to say is that different kids really present differently with ear infections. Some get a high fever right away (e.g. my eldest son). Some have the common fussy-tugging-at-ear telltale (youngest). Some are fine and only show distress when lying flat (i.e. naps, bedtime). Some don't show any signs whatsoever until just before the eardrum bursts. Don't beat yourself up -- you do what you can as soon as you notice something's wrong... That's the most anyone can expect you to do.

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    1. Thanks! This sudden ear issue with Petunia is puzzling- it seems so weird to get through the baby years (and the gazillion infections that came with those) with almost no ear infections- and no burst ear drums- and to start having troubles now, when she is over 2 years old. But it is what it is. We'll just have to figure things out.

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    2. Sometimes it happens... There's a little boy at my kids' daycare who was ear-infection free till after the 1st birthday. And then it pretty much went non-stop and he got tubes...
      In my opinion, some of these recurrent ear infections are just one that never goes away. For instance, when we cultured some gunk from the baby's ear it was a Strep Pneumoniae strain that does not really respond to amoxicillin, so the Amoxicillin or Augmentin, which are the first line of defense and which they would probably give you in that case would not work, but you wouldn't know and it would just keep coming back... Try to have them culture the gunk if Petunia's ear bursts again, so you can get more specific about the antibiotic it would respond to. Hope Petunia's ear troubles are short lived!

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  3. My older had tons of ear infections that caused fevers. My younger had one---no signs except worse sleep (but not THAT different from usual), until he came home from daycare one evening with STUFF crusted all over his face. I thought someone had spilled another child's oat cereal on him (he wasn't on solids yet), but then I realized it was coming out of his ear. Not my finest parenting moment.
    To your question, I think I'm finally coming into my own, now that we've got our routines down with 2 kids. Before I had my second, i kept thinking we were barely surviving, and figured everything would probably fall apart once the second came along. In retrospect, it was because I was pregnant---with the exhaustion & emotional upheaval that comes along with that. Second came along, and lo and behold!---nothing fell apart, we adapted and thrived. I feel like I've got the basics down (for now, I'm sure as the kids get older, each new phase will bring new challenges). Now I'm venturing beyond survival mode & really try to strive for more in my career and personal life. I might give a different answer depending on what is going on at the moment, but overall I consider myself quite happy as a working mother.

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    1. It is great that you're getting out of the survival mode phase. That feels great, doesn't it? When you look around and realize- hey! I'm no longer swimming as hard as I can just to keep my head above water! Maybe I could actually go somewhere!

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  4. Sonia8:44 AM

    Totally off topic, but I thought you'd get a kick out of knowing that my boys (just about 5 & 8) got a small Lego Friends set from their grandmother today, and they love it. I think my 8 year old even said something about finally getting more pink and turquoise legos. Of course, Olivia the Friend is about to join Frank Rock to go monster hunting right after she builds her robot, but they love the Friends line and haven't segregated it as "not for boys."

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    1. Thanks for this. It sounds like you are raising some great boys.

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  5. I too found the adjustment to motherhood hard - more difficult than I anticipated, mostly because I didn't realize that being an introvert and being a mother weren't mutually compatible! I feel like the introverted mothers I know have special struggles (not more struggles, just different ones, because regrouping via solitude is often impossible/very difficult). I missed my solitude and my freedom more than I expected, and even though I was my baby's primary caregiver for the first eight months and exclusively breastfed, I didn't feel the kind of intense bond I'd expected to feel (in spite of the fact that I'd felt immediate ecstatic love). I found Cloud and her blog via Ask Moxie, where I've been hanging out for years, and which may have saved my sanity! I found the transition to two kids even easier than one, though sleep deprivation with #2 almost killed us all (he woke up 5-7 x per night from 2.5 months to 7.5 months), but as I've mentioned on previous threads the last year has been really hard for me (parenting-wise)

    We have an amazing pediatrician. He walks on water, as far as I'm concerned. He makes house calls, ya'll.

    I love babies, I mean *love* them, the newer the better. I love spending the first six weeks holding my babies and nursing them, holding them and nursing them all day long. Yet the truth is that as the kids get older, the more fun we are having. This is the case in the joy of watching them relate to each other and also in our interactions with them. Traveling is way more fun too! We just flew to the west coast and they were fantastic, esp. the 4 y.o.

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    1. Amen to the introversion thing. Wow, did having a kid make me realize to what extent I need "down time" away from other human beings. Simply knowing that a human being (a/k/a my son, though my husband is similarly guilty) might require my attention (e.g. by waking up from a nap in the case of DS) saps my energy level. Which sounds terrible but really isn't (I love spending time with him, provided I get enough down/away time, and sometimes -- but not always -- even without that), provided that one is allowed to admit it and allowed to / able to organize around it.

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    2. Seconding the Introversion and need for quiet, reflective downtime. I'm a total INFJ and I thrive after some occasional time alone in my home without children and husband present.

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    3. I'm a HUGE extrovert, and even so, I still want some time alone- with QUIET- now and then. I can only imagine how much stronger that craving would be if I were an introvert.

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    4. YES!! I'm another extrovert here and so is my husband, so with the nonstop talking of the toddler sometimes we just need a freakin' break :)

      That has been hard for me. I think a lot of things also suck much worse when one isn't getting enough sleep.

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    5. the milliner8:05 PM

      We are two introverts in this house (and probably a third in the making) and I think this is one of our biggest challenges - carving out that down time while managing to meet our family's needs, and our responsibilities at home and work. On good days, I think it's all manageable. On bad days it feels all consuming. Needless to say, it's still a work in progress.

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  6. PS I think that almost everyone's life seems easier to everyone on the outside. People who complain you make it look easy need to check themselves. It's very difficult to see the daily strains and trails and juggling without living inside someone's life. This isn't some glossy lifestyle blog trying to sell you a perfect life!

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  7. I haven't read the guilt post (but I will); I completely agree on the rough transition part.

    Something that strikes me about your experience (and my own) is the incredible -- almost irreplaceable -- value of extended-family support: "My parents took turns holding Pumpkin that night, and I actually slept 6 or 7 hours straight. I woke ... finally able to think clearly enough to realize that I needed to try eliminating dairy from my diet." What if those conditions hadn't been met; how would your life be different today? That's a serious question -- and I know the "need" for grandparental assistance was initiated by your DH's departure, but even with a DH present, how many women would have (had to) negotiate what you did without (as much) help as you got?

    I think the value of that kind of assistance, either intense/critical (your case as described above) or gradual/ongoing (more my own) is often downplayed or entirely neglected in accounts of "having a bunch of it [if not it all]," probably to the significant detriment of our (collective) understanding of what it really takes (on average) to achieve that ("that" being having a bunch of it ... I'm being a bit flip here but trying to avoid the "having it all" language while still describing a happy life balance). Of course its availability is itself a function in part of at least one competent and available extended family member (or similar), but may also significantly explain, e.g., an unwillingness to relocate (away from extended family) to advance a career.

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    1. Thanks, all, for replies. I certainly don't think it's (always) essential, and I realize (actual) extended family support is unavailable to some parents no matter what due either to dysfunction (of same) or geography (and perhaps simply personal preference -- I mean, I'm not saying "you "should want it). And, sure, I get that it can be replaced (in a sense -- not that a great nanny necessarily "equals" a grandparent or vice versa, but that they may be in many ways interchangeable, and each may come with their own pros/cons), at a price. But I have to say that for me, either that price would have been really, really vast, or the substitution would have been far inferior to what I in fact get, and while that may not be (clearly isn't) universal, I think it's pretty common.

      I think we should more willingly embrace the idea that people who refuse to relocate to advance their careers are making (in some/many) cases "good" choices (this is partly, but far from exclusively, related to parenting small children). How this fits with folks stuck in economically truly blighted areas I don't know but to the extent that employers want to attract the best-and-brightest, limiting that to "folks willing to relocate" (especially repeatedly) seems problematic.

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    2. the milliner8:18 PM

      I wish my mom was in the same city as we were. (We have no grandparents close by). I know our life would be different, and I can see the many advantages we'd have. On the days/periods when I really feel like I need a break, I miss this the most.

      But, we are where we are and we want to stay here (at least for now), so it's the choice we made. We cobble together support from close friends, some great grand-parent like neighbours and our daycare is amazing (one of the teachers just offered to be an extra back up for pick up in case we're late - we don't live or work near the daycare and if we get stuck on the highway, it's impossible to make it before closing). My mom is 2 hrs away and can help out for a few days with a bit of notice. Most of the time we just plain make-do (for things like getting some time alone together).

      But it's great to read these comments. We've been planning for a long time to get a house cleaner and we've really got to get that going.

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  8. @Alexicographer - I agree with you about extended-family support as irreplaceable. I think it *is* replaceable, but it would take a LOT of money. For the 1%, I think you can replace family with hired help (do you guys know how much a night time post partum doula will set you back? Sheesh!), but for everyone else extended family can be key. That's definitely been the major factor in making my life work. My parents, especially my mother, are with me all the time. The first four weeks of my #2's life, my mom was there, my dad on weekends, and my brother came for almost two weeks to hold the baby and make dinner for us. (My husband was away for work and then when he got home he became extremely ill with a dangerous fever and had to stay strictly away from the baby.)

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    1. We know a couple that hired a night nurse to help them through the first three months or so. I have no idea how much that cost, but they are well off but not ridiculously wealthy.

      I think most of the other stuff is replaceable at more reasonable rates. As @Nicoleandmaggie mention below, college kids are one resource. There is a service here called College Nannies and Tutors that I was going to look into if we'd ended up with a less optimal school arrangement. There are also emergency nanny services (basically, they'll come in as back up child care when your kids are sick). I looked into those and decided it was just as cost effective to fly my mom over- but they were still within reach for us. Of course, we're fairly well off.

      But I agree with the basic point- having family who can help out is a huge benefit. We are very lucky in that regard. I like to think that we would have figured things out without the help, but obviously, there is no way to know what different decisions we would have made.

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  9. *raises hand* no extended family here. We use a lot of college student help, as did my mother before me. We're not the 1%, but college students are $8-$10/hr as mother's helpers.

    Though my mom is here now as baby 2 decided she wanted a summer birthday (my mom is also a professor), which was considerate of her. My mom won't be walking the baby at night for us though, and we won't ask her to.

    I don't remember the sleepless time the first few weeks with DC1 very well. But I'm pretty sure DH did a lot of walking. Somehow we managed to survive.

    I also vaguely remember doing a total elimination from my diet in order to get some sleep. It turned out to be green peppers.

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    1. Amen - paid help is the (not very) secret secret to my happiness.

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  10. My parents and in-laws are an ocean away, and then some, so no help from family. We like it that way, honestly, because I'd never hear the end of it with my mother if she ever did actually help us in a significant way. Hub's mother did come to stay with us when eldest was 5 months old so we could save on daycare (we were in grad school and totally broke). She had a stroke the year after and has never come to visit since... :-(

    Hub and I have done pretty much everything on our own except that stint with the oldest kid. We don't really even hire babysitters because I somehow find it intrusive and scary to have a stranger in my home, alone with my kids... My eldest is 12, so I am expecting him to start babysitting soon. But we're used to going everywhere with kids now, and since Hub and I work 5 min from each other, we can go out to lunch alone... And we have a lot of couples time after the kids' bedtimes, so it's all good.

    But all the newborn night walking has been just me. The adrenalin makes it doable.

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  11. @Nicoleandmaggie, @GMP- thanks for adding your thoughts on making it all work w/o nearby family.

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    1. We have a lot of discussions on this topic @ work as there are MANY people from other countries at my company.

      Those with 2 full time working parents rely a lot on: nanny, daycare, Amazon Fresh grocery delivery, house cleaners, gardeners, etc.

      It's definitely doable though it takes a certain amount of project management to set all those systems up.

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  12. Some days I wake up and have no freakin' clue how I got here :) In a good way. I'm finally happy. I spent most of my teens and 20s wishing for the day I'd have my own house, a decent job and a partner, and thinking I'd never get all that. I was pretty unhappy.

    And then in my 30s it all fell into place. The transition to motherhood for me was actually pretty easy and awesome, no doubt because I LOVE babies, I have a hubby who pulls his weight (and more), and we got lucky with a kid who sleeps reasonably (fingers crossed for #2). I love being a mama more than I ever imagined.

    My only current quibble is some work uncertainty around job responsibilities and whether I'll be able to keep my part-time schedule after mat leave ends but right now I am trying not to worry about things out of my direct control as there is so much I need to do to prep for Baby 2.

    And so much I WANT to do for myself now that I finally have a bit of time and don't have a newborn yet.

    Is this where I'm supposed to add my disclaimers about how this is just my experience and YMMV? And how I get that things are hard for a lot of people? :)

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    1. Thirties are the best, aren't they? :-)

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    2. @GMP- I'm hoping for even better 40s!

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    3. Oh yes, me too!
      I watched that PBS special that someone on your blog recommended, "This Emotional Life" (available on Netflix): they say that people are actually happier the older they get (less anxiety about the future, more professionally and socially established, more money, knowing self better, often in a committed relationship, all that good stuff). Apparently, happiness really kicks in around 50, and if you are in good health you continue to be very content presumably until you die! Isn't that awesome?

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  13. I've struggled a lot with guilt in general -- not as a mother, since I'm not one yet, but as... well, a big one is that I'm almost 30 and not very happy with my career thus far. My best, most "real" job since college is the one I currently have, as a secretary/office manager at a very small organization. Between this and college I've worked retail and for family.

    I really want to be a novelist, and I don't feel like I'm making the kind of progress on that front that I "ought" to. I wouldn't mind never being able to quit my day job (though day job plus writing plus parenting... ikes), but I'm still not moving forward very often. I have one completed rough draft. Sort of. It needs some major additions before I can even get down to work editing. And I've had this draft for what... ack, over three years now, I think. Sigh.

    But. Overall I'd say I'm doing better with the guilt, these days. I'm kind of looking forward to turning 30. The major realization for me... well, when I look back to who I was and where I was at 20, it becomes a lot easier to see the growth. And the fits and starts, all the flailing, it was all important to make me who I am today. I like that.

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  14. the milliner8:54 PM

    Hmmm...20's was university, lots of having fun, working really hard, not making a lot of $$ and struggling with finding 'the one' (or rather finding out that 'the one' was not 'the one), focus on career.

    Early 30's was owning my life (such a relief to know who you are), making a big move (city wise & career wise), finding 'the one', and lots of focus on career.

    Late 30's was buying our first house, getting pregnant and the first few years of life with DS. The adjustment to motherhood for me was in a way easy and in many ways hard (for many of the reasons mentioned above).

    I was just re-reading the book 'Mothering Styles' last night and read the part on introversion. (Or perhaps it was the part on INFJ or INFS mother styles...sleep deprived...can't remember & too tired to check!!)

    The general comment was that typically introverted mothers will tend to put the family first before taking time for herself and will more likely spread herself too thin (hello!) and that typically introverted fathers will tend to take the time they need to recharge first, thus appearing to be more distant. I know they are gross generalizations (and there's a whole bunch of details I'm leaving out), but when I read this portion in the book I was amazed at how much it described our situation at home.

    Early 40's (so far) is continuing the adventure and it's totally fun and amazing to watch DS' personality emerge. I feel pretty secure in my identity both within and outside of motherhood now (and how I want to combine the two). Not that it's easy, but at least it feels more like a case of logistics now instead of identity, at least for the most part.

    Being in a non-optimum sleep phase right now, I think sleep cannot be underestimated as a factor in how well someone is managing / making sense of it all. Things are just so much darker/intense/more complicated with less (or I should probably say not enough consecutive hours of) sleep. I know this, and yet still, it takes me a few weeks of being in a phase to recognize it. As much as I feel like I make progress in the different areas of my life, lack of sleep just knocks it back a notch or five.

    But, on the whole, things are good.

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