And she left a little letter said she’s gonna’ make a stop in Nevada

            I was never the hard-rocker type.  Even in my wild and carefree youth, you were more likely to find me cranking up “Oh, What a Night” than whatever it is that The Scorpions recorded. I’ve been to two Simon & Garfunkel concerts, seen three Billy Joel tours, had nosebleed seats for Clapton, gotten drenched at Wolftrap right after Peter, Paul & Mary sang “The Great Storm is Over,” and been forced to sit through Phil Collins’s version of choreography (which mostly consisted of running about in a circle).  The first concert I ever saw was Cyndi Lauper.

            I used to know all the words to “Miss American Pie.”  I’m that girl.

            But, the music I listened to I loved passionately, mellow though it was.  I was the first one on the dance floor for Gloria Gaynor every single time.  The day after I got accepted to the Ph.D. program at UNC, I listened to a certain James Taylor song about 72 times on my long commute to the job I was quitting.  When J and I got engaged, I knew just which song I wanted for our first dance.  I had gone my whole life moving between families and states.  There was no doubt in my mind that “You’re My Home” was our song.

            When Zachary was born, I listened to Norah Jones while nursing until the baby hit three months old and got distracted by that kind of wild and crazy music.  When we lived in London, I’d put on the soundtrack to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert so the boys and I could dance in the kitchen.  Sure, now I also listened to the Bacon Brothers singing “Philadelphia Chickens,” but that’s some rockin’ kids’ music.

            Over the last couple of years, I have somehow stopped listening to music.  I play it for the kids in the car, but when I drive alone I listen to the news because otherwise I’ll be out of touch with current affairs.  In the house, I rarely turn on a CD.  I am too busy with the Getting Done of Things.  There are lunches to make and bottoms to wipe and Zach is learning to read and Ben finally recognizes two letters.  And, oh shit, the baby didn’t get the memo about how six-month-olds are supposed to stay where you put them, so she’s fucking crawling towards that one-inch Lincoln Log and shoving it in her mouth.

            I used to be charming and interesting and funny.  Now I am efficient.  And, I mean efficient.  No one I know is as capable as I am.  I breastfeed with one hand and type with the other.  I get three kids out the door by 8:45 every morning with all teeth brushed, everyone dressed, and no breakfast dishes left in the sink.  And I pump five ounces before they even get up for the day.  By the time we make it to the preschool, I want a fucking marching band to be there waiting to point out how amazing that feat is.  We have recently had to cut back our childcare help significantly (glad the folks at AIG are getting bonuses, by the way), but that’s OK, because I can pick up the slack.  I can bathe all three kids.  I can answer Zach’s questions.  I can bake pumpkin muffins during Lilah’s morning nap on Tuesday because the boys are at school and that is the day someone else brings Ben home.  I CAN DO IT.

            People ask me whether my husband gets time to pursue his interests because he works so hard and is such a dedicated Daddy.  People also worry whether we have enough “us” time.  And I want to scream at them.  Because I don’t need “us” time when I have no “me” to contribute.  Fuck “us” time; I’m drowning in one us or another around here.  I have buried ME under a sea of US. 

            You can take your “us” time and shove it up your ass.  I want to know what happened to the girl who used to sing “Cecilia” in the car, albeit off-key.  As far as I can ascertain, she is allowing everyone else the luxury of falling apart now and then because she is holding it all together.

            We have an au pair coming soon, and that ought to help.  Except, of course, the first priority has to be finally getting time alone with each kid.  And volunteering a little at the preschool.  And dealing with summer vacation.  And reintroducing Benjamin to the concept of discipline.  And perhaps actually reading a book to Lilah now and then, rather than putting her down on the floor to choke on her brother’s toys.  And I have to get my resume in shape, because if we have learned one thing in this economy, it is that five people being reliant on one person’s hirability is not a wise idea.

            Tonight, the boys watched the second half of their show while I did the dishes.  I put Lilah on the floor with some toys, but she fussed.  She cries so rarely that we end up taking advantage of her easy-going nature and ignoring her too much.  Tonight, she had enough and wanted some attention.  There were lentils all over the floor from Benjamin’s protein-fest.  I had to water the tomato plants we just put in.  I thought some music might keep her occupied.

            I just recently rearranged the house to make room for the au pair, so the stereo is in a new spot.  It wasn’t even plugged in yet.  I fished out the cord and plugged it in, then dug through the CDs until I found Piano Man.  And there was “Travelling Prayer,” as beguiling as ever.  I picked her up and began to whirl around the kitchen.  And she giggled at me.  The boys came in, and Benjamin – exhausted from a missed nap – started spinning around.  Lilah laughed some more.

            And then I had to put her down to do the dishes.  I sank back into the woman who can do it all, although I did pick her back up for a moment when we got to “You’re My Home.”

            When J gets home tonight, all the housework will be done.  But, as usual, his wife will be missing.  Let me know if you come across her.

30 responses to “And she left a little letter said she’s gonna’ make a stop in Nevada

  1. Oh babe.

    When I wrote this post I called it “Third Person Mom Wonders What In the Heck Happened to Her First Person” or title to that effect.

    And the empathetic moms crawled out of the woodwork.

    You are near the cusp, I promise. This is the pinnacle, right before the first of your kids rolls over the peak and down the hill into his own life.

    Slowly but surely you will get space back, I swear to you.

    When Liz Mom 101 posted a Q about the term “mommyblogger” a PG soon-to-be Mom wrote, ‘What’s with all the defensiveness?”

    I wrote:
    Despite my very best intentions and personally large personality, once I became a mom, that role began to slowly but surely overshadow and take over my life. When my oldest hit about three, her friends started calling me “Patience’s Mom” and that’s the moment that I really understood that during that time I was 100% absorbed in raising my precious and long-anticipated daughter, I had somehow lost a lot of myself. I even wrote a blog post about that, and delved deeper in a post about “I lost my first person” in which I confessed even I had begun referring to myself as third-person mom.

    What seems to be “fear” about being identified as “just” a mom is actually a lot of women who are past baby number one or past baby stages who are reclaiming their individual identity. It requires some assertiveness, occasional aggressiveness, and frequently triggers defensiveness. It’s really a moment in time between being Mom and woman who is also a mom. Once kids get past the young and super needy stage, you get this space, and you realize you missed it, that Just Being You as much as you love being Mom, and you get a little protective of that space and your identity.

    I doubt all women feel it, or feel it the same way, but more than a few do.

    And—speaking only for myself—after becoming a mom you are never still who you were before.

    Largely because it is so very much more than just wiping butts.”

    If this was backchannel I’d delve deeper into marriage/relationships but bottom line is you nailed it, my friend. There is no us without a you.

    You will get space for you again. I promise.

    Hold tight. Keep playing those records.

  2. I never had any help. No close relatives, no reliable helpers. For years, we didn’t even hav ea babysitter. The was just nobody. So I know what it is to feel completely overwhelmed and usurped as a person.

    But it does get better. Hang in there.

    I talk about missing the baby/toddler days, but the truth is, I am enormously happy that my children are largely self-sustaining and independant.

    I really needed to get me back. I am, slowly. And you will too. I promise.

  3. As above.

    Also – snatch those small moments and be aware of them. I had to take me time in sips – five minutes here if I was lucky – but if I took the time to realize I had that five minutes it made such a difference.

    Also – did you ever hear the Nylons? Sounds like they might be just your thing.

  4. Oof.

    I remember this time too well.

    And it IS temporary, though that’s small consolation now.

    xox

  5. hell i’d give anything just to have a sitter for 2 hours a week just so I could get a fucking hair cut, or make an over due eye doc appt……etc.

    That said, I wouldnt change a thing, I know all too fast, my kids will be in full time school and I will be left to reinvent myself again.

  6. That is so sad. Maybe you need a Sabbath. No driving, no housework, no shopping–but lots and lots of music and twirling if you feel like it.

    You do get more time when they get bigger, but in the meantime, I hope you get your music back. Even ten minutes with headphones can make a difference.

    I love music. I also didn’t listen to any for some years. But the part of you that loves music deserves to be present in your life and not abandoned, no matter how much efficiency is rewarded.

  7. I realize how spoiled I sound, having help and complaining that it’s not enough. But, I have three kids under 5 and my husband is rarely around during the week, so it can be pretty rough going…

  8. ah. I like what Julie said. I worry about this a lot, especially after baby #2 arrives at the end of the summer. I’m already dying for ME time, what about when I have a newborn and a toddler in the terrible twos? I always keep reminding myself that this is just a chapter, a relatively small chapter in the whole book of Life, and my alone time to wander the world and drink icy cold beer in the middle of a sunny day as I tap my heels to loud music will return. Maybe not for another few or several years…but it will. And then I’ll miss this time of wiping butts and being physically *needed* all the time. But, eh, so it goes right?

  9. I hope you dont think i was implying that you have it made…….I was just commisserating, the whole hair cut thing has me depressed. I just dont know to do with a very mobile–MUST WALK— 10 month old while I get my hair done!

  10. I was going totally crazy this winter with constant demands on my attention, even though I adore my kids and kept reminding myself how lucky I am, but suddenly it’s spring and. . . they want to play outside with the other kids! I offered a story but they opted for outside instead. I already miss them. So it does get better in a way. . . but you will miss them at this age when it does.

  11. This is why newborns and other humans of the baby variety do not tempt me. Because I remember that stage, the one you’re in, and I am happy to have moved on to another.

    I’m sure you realize, intellectually at least, that you don’t have to be all things to all people all the time, that you can let some of it go, be less than perfect, less than capable, and that everyone will still thrive. Go easy on yourself, Emily. I worry a bit when I read this that you have forgotten that being “good enough” really is.

  12. Right now I am living for the 3 days a week that my 4-year-old goes to daycare. It’s all that’s saving my sanity. Even still, I wonder when I will find myself again. I know I’m still in there somewhere, for now I’m just hanging on and counting on more independence down the road.

  13. “I have buried ME under a sea of US. ”

    Oh my, how this rings true!

    And the Bacon Brothers Philadelphia Chickens is AWESOME.

  14. I had a dream last night where I jumped in my car and just drove away from my husband and son as fast as I could. I love my little family, but I need some time for myself SO badly right now.

    It’s so funny that we were feeling the same kind of thing.

    I’m thinking about you, babe.

  15. I remember this all too well. I ended up with viral pneumonia and chronic fatigue, probably just to remind myself where I was. And where was I? Oh yes, in pain. There is nothing to recommend being split into so many pieces that you can’t remember what it is to have two of them fit together at once, let alone find a center again. I never found an answer to this one myself, but I have everything crossed that you do. In the meantime, if empathy, sympathy and admiration are of any value at all, I have tons of all of them for you.

  16. I call myself a single mother during the week (and most weekends too!) and trust me when I say that I feel your pain.

  17. oh. these are the sort of things they should hand out awards for (and the awards would not be little gold men… no they would be things like a free year of weekly babysitting regular housekeeping and a monthly massage)

  18. I remember not too long ago when my son went to school for the first time. I was alone for what seemed like the first time since my daughter was born 4 years earlier. I soaked up the alone time and began to sing. it wasn’t until I heard my own voice singing to my own music that I realized I hadn’t sung anything other than lullabies and itsy bitsy spider in close to four years. It almost brought me to tears.

    Sing on. Sing on.

  19. Thank you for writing this “out loud”. I feel the same way, but don’t feel I can write about it without making my husband upset and wanting to help (he reads my blog faithfully – he’s my biggest fan). It was therapeutic to read.

    Lame comment, but I’m having a hard time formulating coherent thoughts after reading this.

  20. I can remember how hard it was to be home all the time with just one, so I feel for you. I made a promise to myself that I would take me time as soon as I found out I was pregnant, and I’ve pretty much stuck to it.

    Granted, my me time meant gardening or exercising, so I was still always here at the house but revived at least.

    Oh, and never, ever stop playing your music. It makes everything so much better really 😉

  21. Here it is– the very real, the very dark & downside of parenting. I know some at-home fathers (my own husband was one for a time) and I do wonder if they have this same feeling of being lost personally, that their entire existence becomes about serving others or is it something we women take on exclusively. I am not sure. It does seem that at-home fathers get more cheerleaders than at-home moms, but maybe I am wrong on that.

    Personally, I struggle with that whole “You have to care for yourself first so you can can care for your family” and “If momma’s not happy, no one is happy” stuff that people put out there. I have no idea how that even LOOKS, how that is even possible with my kids where they are in life. Mama can’t exercise when she wants, take print-making classes when she wants, go out to eat at restaurants when she wants, even sit on the toilet in a bathroom BY HERSELF when she wants. How do others do it?

    I have an incredibly involved and active co-parent but we have no outside help from family or babysitters and we are still just in survival mode…. We had three kids three and under (now 6/6/3) so I feel you there.

  22. Oh, oh, OH HOW I HEAR YOU on this one! I loved how you put it: having no “me” to contribute to “us.” I feel that way most days, too. And I am highly efficient and capable as well, and I too want the marching band to hail my arrival at drop-off in acknowledgment of every single thing I’ve done that morning to get there, leaving no dishes behind in the sink. Oh, I hear it, friend, I hear it.

  23. As I recall, you also liked The Smiths, which is where our divergent musical tastes found common ground.

    I absolutely loved this post. You mothers amaze me.

  24. I realize it’s a bold suggestion so please don’t be upset as I know it’s unlikely – but perhaps a weekend away with grownups might help you find yourself? If a small miracle happened and you had some babysitting, perhaps, say, a trip to Vegas over July 4th weekend with Poker Chick and some other grownups might be overdue? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

  25. Oh, God. Vegas would make it worse!

  26. Okay, so I found your blog because I was checking to see if the pinging services found my recent blog post in which I wrote that “so goes the nation” thing about the events in Iowa today, and I found your post that said the same thing instead.

    THEN (this is where it gets good), I looked at the next post, and it was called “And She Left A Little Letter Said She’s Gonna Make a Stop in Nevada” (but then I guess you know that). And I thought…ARE YOU KIDDING ME? No one knows that song. No one even knew of Billy Joel then. I did. I love that song.

    So then I read THAT post, and I simply have to say, despite the fact that we don’t know one another AT ALL, and we’re probably way different ages and from way different places, and are completely different in almost everyway, as far as music goes, I think we may be twins separated at birth. And I thought if we are, you would probably want to know that.

    So…hi!

    (and thanks, your blog is a terrific new find for me!)

  27. This is MY life. So many times you write about MY life…

    I find myself up in the middle of the night, many times (like now)…just stealing a little time away for myself.

    These moments are precious….;)

  28. Great post. I can feel the ache from here. And I agree about the music. Also a lovely soundtrack for them to remember their early years.

  29. WendyElissa

    I am always trying to balance the old me and the new me. The new me is a mother and that is forever but I don’t want to completely lose the old me. I think that mothers who completely give themselves to their children lose themselves, but I can’t figure out how not to give myself over completely to my child. I know this is just a short time in my life, this constant requirement of being at someone else’s beck and call but I don’t know when it ends. I am glad to see that other moms feel the same way.
    I do slack on housework though, and it sounds like you don’t. I feel like I can’t do everything and that if I did do everything I would become a complete sleepless wreck. I wish I could do everything but I can’t. I often feel overwhelmed and I only have one child, not three!

  30. Oh duuuude, I remember those days. My youngest is 7 now, and I am SO GLAD that I, like you, mothered with all my heart when they were little. It was hard, and there was no me. But now, they are just awesome, and so am I. Hang in there!