Sounds like life to me. . .

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

(This has been sitting in my draft box for over two weeks now and things have slowly gotten better in that time - so better, in fact, that I contemplated whether to post this, but these are important thoughts related to an important decision and I always want to maintain a sense of honesty here. We go through cycles of easy weeks and hard weeks around here, and thankfully it feels as if we're finally coming out of the hard weeks. . .)

In saying all of this, I feel repetitive. I know I've probably said these things or something similar here before, but this is the place I like to come with virtual cup of coffee in hand and get it all off my chest. Lately I have just felt stretched to my limits. I've felt pulled in so many different directions, in so many different aspects of my life. My personal life and creative outlets have basically been non-existent. The goals I've set for myself and have been striving towards for years, it seems, all feel out of reach and unattainable. I feel trapped in a lot of ways. Most days my relationship with Alex just feels like a check list, with most of them never getting crossed off the list - clean house: maybe, cook dinner: because I have to, converse with each other: somewhat, but mostly about what isn't getting done and our exhaustion levels. On a side note, as I'm thinking through all of this, I group cooking and cleaning under 'wife,' and I don't know whether that's healthy or a sign of mixed up priorities and lack of depth in our relationship. It bothers me, so I assume the second of the two. However, I've never been very comfortable feeling like I have to do something for someone. It cheapens the relationship. It feels like it makes it less about living in mutual respect and love and compatibility with each other and more about what we are or are not doing for each other. As a parent, I feel like all of the important skills and goals that I've clung to and promised myself I would do a certain way have basically gone out the window and now I'm just clawing through reality, trying to make it through each day. I yell, I spank, and react irrationally - to my one year old - because I don't know what else to do. This is not where I want to be. How am I supposed to navigate the rest of these years if this is how I've started? I know most people yell and spank and react irrationally with their kids, but I'm not raising other people's kids. I'm raising mine and she deserves better than fear and negativity and an atmosphere of stress.

I'm trying my best to set a rhythm to our days in hopes of falling into a comfortable spot with each other and so much is making this impossible. Alex has basically had no steady work schedule and is usually gone 12+ hours out of the day, sleeping 8+ hours of the day, and spending an hour or two getting his things ready to go back to work each day, which leaves enough time for him to eat one meal with us and that's it. . . and in order for all of this to not be our permanent reality, he is starting school in or before April, which sounds absolutely impossible, but it can't be put off any longer. [We just got news today that tuition assistance has been cut for the Air Force, so this will be coming out of our pocket, I guess.] Add to this the fact that I would really love to go back to school part time in August and my head is now spinning. Not to mention the 'don't wait to long to have a second child' talk that has been happening and makes me want to hurl myself off of a three story building, which probably has something to do with the fact that Evie is still waking up 3, 4. . . SIX times a night, which probably has something to do with the fact that I can't get her to take more than three bites of something at any meal.

Before Ev was a reality, I had never even considered raising an only child. (Alex and I actually wanted four or six kids.) I'm still not sure that she'll be our one and only, but it's an option we've been seriously considering. At this chaotic point that we're at and have been at for quite some time, I just don't know where the brain space for another child would come from. It isn't about money or paying her way through college like most people assume either. We are content to raise our kids with a minimal amount of 'things.' If she wants to go to college, we will help her as much as possible, but that really isn't my top parenting priority. It's more about the home and atmosphere that we want to raise our kid(s) in. I see some women with 3 or 4, even 2 kids close together, and it seems like their lives are constant chaos. It isn't even completely about the logistics of managing more than one child. I know it would be an emotional strain as well. I'm just going to be honest and say that mothering didn't come as easily to me as it seems like it has for other women I know, and I feel a lot of guilt from that. Maybe it was our rough beginning or maybe she's just a more challenging baby. . . or maybe I'm just not as good at this as some women are. Maybe I just wasn't cut out for the stay at home, homeschooling a big family kind of lifestyle. At the beginning of this journey, I thought that motherhood was going to satisfy the yearning I had for a sense of accomplishment. . . and it didn't. Don't get me wrong, it is my favorite job I've ever been given. I love staying at home with Evie and sometimes I even love cooking for my family and running our home, but I'm tired of those being the only things I have time to accomplish each day.

Sometimes I still wish that I could just be Andrea - not somebody's wife, not somebody's Mom, not somebody's entertainment, not somebody's chef, and it could go on. Just me. This is unrealistic and a bit selfish, I know, but all of these labels and responsibilities make me feel lost. I remember dreaming of backpacking across Europe as a teenager. Hotels and cars didn't interest me. I wanted to be out there in the world and the culture with no one but me, walking away from it all or to it all, I'm not sure which. I always got this deep feeling of freedom in my chest thinking about it. This is why I struggle with these multiple labels. It's like my backpack is too full and I'm being slowed down or kept in one place too long. It doesn't mean I don't love my family or that I don't want or need people in my life. It just means I need more time to breathe and meditate and do what I love. It's probably not even rational. It's just one of those things that is.

All I've ever wanted to do is get paid to tell stories and create - with words, photographs, pencils, paint, fabrics. Along with this desire, I've also wanted to be a wife and mother. . .in addition to an artist, not instead of. The things that I want to do, I can do from home, but I've been finding it nearly impossible lately and the only thing that keeps me encouraged is knowing that someday Evie will be a little girl with more patience and a wider range of activities available to her to keep her occupied while I work. As soon as that happens it will, by most people's timelines, be time to give her a sibling and I will be right back where I am now - stretched thin and starving for something outside of dishes, laundry, meals, and sleep. Along with these personal goals, I have parenting goals and I feel like the more children I add to our home, the less time and self I'll have to give to each of them. Alex and I have always talked about the ways that we would raise our child(ren) differently from what we see modeled in most households and it just seems like the more busy and hectic our lives become, the further we drift from that. I don't want to have another child to give Evie a sibling. I want to have another child because I want to invest in another human and forge another relationship with them, and that takes effort and emotional energy and time that I'm not sure I have. I have so much I want to do for my family and myself, and I want to do it all well. I don't want to stretch myself or my husband too thin and only be able to manage mediocrity in all areas of our lives.

As I proof read this, I realize I sound very in favor of Evie being an only child and sure of this decision. I'm not. Out of all of the choices that Alex and I will have to make in the next five years, I dwell on this one the most. It seems like there is no right answer and my conclusion is constantly changing. Some days the idea of never experiencing another pregnancy or meeting another brand new human seems absurd to me. I feel especially conflicted when I'm packing up clothes or toys that have been outgrown with memories associated with each one. My sister sent us a baby book for Christmas and we already had one for Evie, so I looked through it and decided to save it 'just in case.' As I flipped through pages of possible future history, I started having one of those heart aching 'I love babies' woman moments and almost decided on a second baby right then and there. The thought of having another story to write on those pages excited me. Lately I've been in favor of adopting a second child, but the financial aspect of adoption seems impossible. To put it into perspective, the average cost of an adoption from Ethiopia (the country we had in mind) in 2012 was $28,000. Our total income for 2012 was a little over $20,000. It would take an entire year's salary and then some. I'm still entirely open to adoption, regardless of how impossible it seems, but I'm not sure if it will ever become a reality for us. As with everything, there are pros and cons to each side of this and I've already listed most of the pros of the only child side, but the cons are there and monumental. We don't and will never live near family, so Evie won't have the chance to forge relationships with cousins in place of siblings. We are contemplating homeschooling, so she may not have a school atmosphere to help with socialization. Her socialization would be all up to us and what extracurricular activities we could get her involved in, which may be enough or it may not - we wouldn't really know until it was too late, until we were six years into only child mode and we couldn't give Evie a sibling she could relate to even if we wanted to.

I realize I shouldn't be stressing over this decision as much as I am. We will either have a second child or we won't, and we will all adapt accordingly. Who knows? We may have another child and really get into a rhythm and have two more. That sounds crazy right now, but I'm open to it. I guess I'm getting a little frantic over this because in the back of my mind, I had always planned on all of my kids being two years apart. That deadline is coming up soon and I'm not ready, physically or emotionally. I guess it's kind of like the way I am about college. College was always an assumed thing for me. I went and had every intention of finishing and didn't, and that did and still really bothers me. Life happened and the alternative, Alex and Evie, was a wonderful thing, but I still hold onto the hope of one day finishing. I don't regret getting married or starting a family - I'm mostly disappointed in myself. I always assumed that I would give my child a sibling and now that the time is here and decisions need to be made, I can't help but over think it for fear of having regrets. I often sit and think about the alternate universe in which I finished my art degree, moved to New York City, and became a successful artist, simultaneously trying to convince myself that it wouldn't have been as great as I had always imagined. This is not a childhood dream or a career - this is my family. They deserve a wife and mother who isn't bitter and full of regret. I don't want to find myself dreaming of the days when it was only Evie and I and feeling stretched thin.

So we wait and we ponder, and we hopefully arrive at a place where we're content with our decision to add to our family or move forward as a party of three. Only time will tell, I guess.

I would be really interested in other people's thoughts on this, so feel free to leave a comment about your family dynamic and struggles.


  1. I put my hands in the air and said "Amen" when I read this. Motherhood hasn't come easily to me. I've found this whole ride to be incredibly challenging. Before I actually had a baby, I wanted 2 kids right on top of each other. Now...I've debated only having one, and if we do have another, we'll wait a while.

    Good luck figuring out what you want from life and for yourself and for your family. You deserve to have the life you want. :)

    PS: I'm so mad about the loss of tuition assistance for military men and women. That has been a promise to people in the Armed Forces for decades, and I feel like we're breaking our promise to them by taking it away.

  2. Oh man I think I could talk to you about this all day! I think about these things a lot. I also think more people than you may think have the same concerns...your definitely not alone lady!

    -Casey Bartter

  3. Oh *hugs* It is hard. It is. You reminded me of this article I once read...

  4. I'm not sure my comment just worked. But wanted to give you some hugs and say everyone understands. And you reminded me of an article I read not long ago...

  5. Andrea, this is Renee(Kenzie's Mom)I read your blog today. Here is the writings from a christian blog
    You are not the only mom who feels overwhelmed. Life pushes so much on our plate. It's exhausting and sometimes can feel very lonely. All those things don't define us as mothers.Do not measure your worth based on them.
    It's not dependent upon having everything perfect - my counters are still buried, my dishes waiting to be done, and the house a mess. It was a change of my heart and of my perspective. I wanted everything done immediately. Not possible. So, I prayed, and changed my perspective. In the difficult times we face, many of us have problems that push us to the point of desperation. It is my prayer that instead of desperation defeating you, it motivates you to seek help. Whether God Himself provides your deliverance, or He uses someone else, trust He already has a plan to help.
    I refused to admit that having children changed my life. I wanted to keep doing all the things I used to do before children. My entire life at that time was filled with trying to regain my old life … and the old me. But it wasn’t happening. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t match my circumstances with my personal expectations. And I was one big disappointment after another – to myself.
    There was this quiet sense of desperation that life was passing me by. All I saw were my limitations. And I was miserable, I never told anyone. I kept it inside and just tried harder.
    There was so much I missed back then. Thankfully, God intervened and I learned some lessons that saved me from years of regrets.
    1) Renegotiate your expectations of yourself. Don’t expect that you can do the same things you used to do. Thats not fair to you or your family. You might be able to maintain the same lifestyle for awhile, but the costs will not be worth it in the long-run.
    2) Your worth and value aren’t found in what you can do. Your value isn’t found in your accomplishments because things never stay accomplished. Your worth is found in who you are in Christ. You don’t have to do anything. Just be.
    3) There is no unproductive time in God’s economy. What seems like wasted years, aren’t. God is always doing something, teaching you something, preparing you for something. If you miss what God has put in front of you right now, you won’t be ready for the next thing when the time is right.
    4) Pay attention to your heart more than your appearance. And I don’t mean physical appearance. You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool God. And He cares about what’s going on inside. Guard your heart against complaining, critical thoughts, envy, judgment and anything that isn’t of God. Take your wrong thoughts captive and submit them to the Lord for His help in changing them.
    5) Tell someone how hard this is for you. Start a moms group in your neighborhood, or invite someone over for coffee. Don’t do this alone. And if the first person or group isn’t a good fit, then try another one. You need support from moms who understand how tough this motherhood thing really is and who won’t judge you or make you feel less spiritual because you admit you sometimes think about running away (even though you’d never do it in a million years).
    If you are feeling overwhelmed and desperate today, I know just how you feel. And so does our Heavenly Father. He knows when you wonder if you will ever wear anything besides your pajamas again. He sees every tear you cry. He knows how horrible you feel after you’ve exploded over something minor. He sees, He knows and He cares. And He longs to have you turn to Him before you do anything else.
    Dear Lord, only You know the desperation I feel right now. Only You see the troubles that weigh me down. I confess that I don't have the strength or wisdom to find an answer. However, I trust that You are already planning my deliverance. I trust in Your perfect timing. Please show me what to do next, and direct me to the source of help. In Jesus' Name, Amen

  6. i agree with katie above. this is how i feel all the time.

  7. You are not alone. Even as a 'seasoned' mom with a 15-year-old and 12-year-old and now 1-year-old, there are so many days where I want to throw in the towel. Sounds like to me you shouldn't even consider having a second baby right now. I have a huge age difference between my older kids and baby and it really isn't that big of a deal. In fact, I wouldn't have it any other way! Good luck, girlie. I have faith everything will be ok for you.

  8. I know this is not the feedback you meant, but I think it's terrible that they cut tuition assistance for the military.

    I think there are definitely pros and cons to having more than one child. I'm sure Evie will be happy, whichever way it goes. Sometimes it's stressful as an adult being an only child, but I really did have a happy childhood.



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