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The therapeutic sofa, part 3

Bucket #2. Seek social support. I cried when she said this. I was like, I tried, and it’s soooo hard for me to try, and my attempts failed. And she was like, yeah, you have to try again. Not a very sympathetic response, but what more is there to say? (Actually, she said a little bit more. She suggested I treat it like a JOB, in the sense of getting serious and systematic about it. She also suggested I generate a list of reasons why someone’s failure to respond to, say, a request to hang out is not about me. You know, like, people are busy and tired. And having kids with conflicting schedules is a huge obstacle. Et cetera.

Of course, it probably IS about me, because I am loathsome.)

I have done jack shit about this suggestion. It’s just not worth the effort, and besides, I have YOU PEOPLE. You are my social support. I haven’t mentioned you to her because…I don’t know whether she’d say, OH! Sweet. You’re covered. Or OH. Listen, you’re deluding yourself into thinking you have people in your life, but you don’t, and then I would feel pathetic.

Bucket #3. Replenish the personal well. This one is obvious, and hasn’t every mother been told a thousand times to make herself a priority, and to make time for herself, to not forget how important she is. Yeah. And none of us pay attention. Because there’s enormous cultural pressure NOT to pay attention, and also, who has the fucking time, right? And life with babies should be a little tough, right? There should be sacrifices, right? I mean, if I have time for like 40 manicures and a movie, where are my priorities? I chose to have children (boy did I ever!) so didn’t I sign up for a few difficult years?

But again, it’s a question of balance. I can do nothing for myself, make no extra time for myself, but…there will be consequences. I will be tired, I will lose my temper with the babies, and my spouse? Well, he will get only the cold, gritty dregs of my extremely limited cup o’ energy.

So what have I done about this suggestion? I will tell you when we cover our next topic: Marriage = hard. (But I think SRB’s series presents a lovely approach to self care, if you’re in the market…)

In addition to these buckets, which I’m sure are a big disappointment, because DUH, YOU KNEW THAT,  but you know what? Being told obvious things can still be helpful, because if you know it, why aren’t you DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT, she also said some encouraging things:

1. Things get exponentially easier every year. Like, I won’t be able to believe how much easier life is in a year, and that will just continue year after year. SWEET. Lookin’ forward to it.

2. Some people parent exactly the way they were parented, which is only a good idea if their parents did a splendid job. Some people are so passionate about not repeating their parents’ mistakes that they do the opposite of what their parents did every time, thereby creating a negative (in the sense of a photo negative) version of the same pattern. The people who are on the right track are those who are attempting the middle road, and are at least thinking about their choices, and not always reacting based on past patterns. That’s me! That’s many of US! Many of us are trying, thinking about it. Many of us are awesome.

So, wrapping up babies = hard.

Babies really are hard. It seems silly, because they’re just babies. But they’re HARD. And they should be hard–providing quality childrearin’ should be at least a little bit taxing. But there are things a parent can do to make babies less hard, which will vary depending on the situation. In my case, changing expectations about how my time is spent, and anticipating situations that are going to result in total loss of temper. But seeking social support–people to whom you can complain and of whom you can ask questions–and actually making time for yourself are quite likely to be every mother’s list.

Next time: The MANY hours of effort I have to expend in order to be willing to have sex with my spouse!

34 Comments Post a comment
  1. If it makes you feel any better, it took until Tatoe was about ONE before I actually managed to Do Things For Myself (in my case, the yuppiest of all things: a Pilates class). And now that I’ve moved it’s all gone to hell.

    I have actually been treating Making Friends like a job, so I found the therapist’s comment funny. Hell, I’ve done everything short of handing out cards – and that only because I thought it would freak people out. I’ve chatted up four random people (parental-type people) at playgrounds/ the library in the last four days. I’m seriously thinking of trying to start or find a craft/drinking club (some people’s craft is wine-drinking! there’s usually very little actual crafts…) .

    July 11, 2013
    • Nicky #

      Which reminds me, I need to make cards. Name, address, email, phone number, hobbies. Perhaps a little quiz. Name 7 types of berries, go! I suppose some unimaginative people might be freaked out.

      July 12, 2013
  2. Ana #

    #2 is my problem, too. I think it’d be so much better if I had someone to commiserate with…but, I’m either at work or with the kids so I’m unsure where I’d meet anyone (I can’t TALK to anyone in my kids’ presence, they will simply not allow it). I’ve tried the “working moms group” in our city and…yeah. The first day another mom completely trashed (when she KNEW my kids were there) the daycare we use. And most of the moms don’t work full time in that group, and the “leader” had actually quit her job to be a SAHM. I guess the moms that really work don’t have time to go to a group.
    I do hang out with people but none of them actually have kids, many aren’t even married. I enjoy talking about other stuff, but I do need a support group specifically for the “babies=hard, marriage=hard” stuff. I don’t want to scare away those not yet initiated!
    SO SO looking forward to the next part. I am in the process of trying to find a therapist-type person about the whole marriage issue. Its a hassle, but less than the court appearances/jail time I’d face for actually killing him (with eye rolls, aggravated sighs, and sarcasm), right??

    July 11, 2013
  3. Nicole #

    So, I think your therapist is a lying on one front. It DOES NOT get easier every year, maybe after the youngest is 3 or 4. My little one is two, and older one is six, and the second year was worse, and this third year is proving the hardest so far. I don’t think it gets easier until everyone sleeps EVERY DAMN night, everyone can feed themselves, communicate AND wipe their own butt. So don’t get your hopes up to high. I totally agree with your last few posts BTW. Well said and thanks.

    July 11, 2013
  4. Jen #

    I love reading this, not that you are having such difficulties but how great it is that you are seeking help. You are truly an amazing lady and I hope that things get exponentially easier for you over time. I also would like you to delete the “loathsome” comment. That’s my friend you are talking about and she is wonderful. 🙂

    July 11, 2013
  5. I’m on your therapist’s side with the social support thing. Even if you don’t make a *friend*, there’s something reassuring about being with other mothers and their children and seeing how they deal with All Those Issues. Is there a storytime (at library, bookstore, zoo, botanical gardens, etc) or something you could go to on a weekly basis? Just so you don’t have to stress about actually arranging a playdate and you see the same faces week after week so you get a bit of a feel for the mothers and how they parent and whether you would like to ask them questions–but it does not matter in the slightest how they feel about you (though I fully expect that they will sense your awesomeness), because there is nothing to reject. A zero-investment approach, if you will.

    This is pretty much how I used my library storytime. And handily another, more outgoing, mother did the approaching thing for me and we’ve been doing weekly playdates and swapping tips for three years now.

    July 11, 2013
  6. Babies are hard. So so hard. So is that finding time for yourself stuff. I know I don’t and we all suffer from it. Please come over and have a drink or two. I like the approach of making a job out of creating a social life. I need to do that too. I just don’t have the damn energy. And boy is it work.

    Thanks for writing about this stuff. It helps me.

    Now I have to get my 2 year old off of the pile of boxes six feet high. Apparently he thinks he can fly like an airplane.

    July 12, 2013
  7. I agree with Nicole. Infancy through age 2 was a FUCKING FIELD DAY compared to 2.5-4, at least with my kid. But 5+ has been pretty damn good. That said, having two so close in age will probably yield some advantages as Bunlet gets big enough to play with Bun Bun. I hope so.

    I would totally be your friend outside the computer but I don’t think we live in the same state…

    July 12, 2013
    • I also wanted to sell my child to the circus from age 2.75 precisely until…. well, I’ll let you know when it ends.

      July 12, 2013
    • Please continue to lie to me instead of posting things like this!!

      July 12, 2013
  8. SRB #

    Here is the part where I tell you that I am failing SPECTACULARLY at self-care. Like, shoot me in the fucking face levels of FAIL. This past week has been my breaking point, and I cracked, and all kinds of toxic shit fell out and stained everything. Since I also failed to a) meet and goals and b) write about said failure last week, I’ll have to write a two-part catch all FAIL post. But the shit stink is everywhere.

    So, um, since this in not ALL about ME, what I am trying to say is that Bucket #3 should be Bucket #1, but it ain’t. And for me, Bucket #2 is this place, because without it, I would have fucking NOBODY. I wouldn’t have you, to write things that make me feel less alone and write me lovely and amazing comments that make me feel like I matter. This tells me that this IS legit social support, even if it generally means you are alone while you’re getting it. You DO have people in your life who GET IT and care and would cut a bitch for you. So there’s that. I would so cut a bitch.

    I also pretty much don’t want anything to do with my husband lately (unless it is of course to have crying rage fits at him) so I’m looking forward to the next edition.

    July 12, 2013
  9. So glad that you’re finding this therapist helpful! For me, once I get exhausted and cranky and depleted it’s extra hard to find the time/energy to do any of the things that I know would make me feel better. Which of course makes me more exhausted/cranky/depleted. And round and round we go. So I’m impressed that you’re managing to do anything (including getting to the therapist in the first place). And I agree that things do get better as time goes on. Sure there are ups and downs within that (and boyhowdy am I in a down right now) but the overall trend has certainly been upwards for me.
    Looking forward to part 4.

    July 12, 2013
  10. Nicky #

    I think we totally count as support, though it’s nice to have at least ONE in-person friend to complain to. It helps if you’re both drinking wine (or tea, as the case may be.) It really does get easier. My two boys are 5 and 3, sleep through the night (mostly), feed themselves, and at least the older one wipes himself. (I’m working on the little guy.) Also, last year there was kindergarten! This year there is first grade, and two mornings of preschool! I find there are different expectations from “school” vs. “daycare” and sometimes it makes home life easier too.

    Also, nearby friends with kids would kid-swap on the weekend. When your babies are a tad bit bigger, keeping 4 kids playing nicely can be easier than keeping two siblings from fighting constantly. Really. And then you get Day of No Children.

    July 12, 2013
  11. I think it totally IS about you. Not because you are loathesome, but because you live on the other side of the damn world from me, and that is totally your fault. Otherwise we would be besties! (That autocorrected to beasties and made my day).

    July 12, 2013
  12. Winter Blue #

    Thanks for writing about this stuff, it’s very helpful to read. If you are half as amazing IRL as you are in your blog ( and I’m sure you are), I have no doubt you are the missing piece of a kickass social circle. I hope you find them soon!

    July 12, 2013
  13. I knew someone would weigh in to call bullshit on the whole “it gets easier” business! I imagine some parts are easier and some are harder so it about balances out, and the whole experience varies tremendously depending on your child, and blah blah blah. I know that I find my toddler harder than my infant right now. But I have also talked to plenty of people who agree with this basic premise. Maybe it’s more like infants are hard and toddlers are even harder and preschoolers are easier or some shit?

    July 12, 2013
    • Preschoolers are easier because they are SOMEWHERE ELSE, i.e. in preschool, as far as I can tell.

      July 12, 2013
      • Haha. Yes. That’s true. But I think bigger kids are also somewhat more logical, which helps…

        July 13, 2013
      • Ana #

        Do pre-schoolers mean 3 year olds? Because 3 year old is THE. ABSOLUTE. WORST. (or just let me believe 4 will be better. I have to have that ray of hope)

        July 15, 2013
  14. Clearly, Bunny, we’re all here because you’re loathsome. And while I think we count, I also think it can be nice to have friends that actually live nearby and that you can hang out with for a coffee or a glass of wine (or two, or three…)

    Hope the plan “replenish the personal well” works — some say it’s just like on a plane, “Put on your own oxygen mask first, then help children traveling with you”. But I imagine that’s much easier said than done.

    July 12, 2013
    • And, everything crossed, soon you will know like nobody’s business, because TWINS! Haven’t had a chance to stop by to say how excited I am but will soon…

      July 12, 2013
  15. theurbanjunglegym #

    I haven’t crossed the 2-kid Rubicon yet (though I’m hoping/expecting to in November), but prioritizing stuff for me and finding my support groups have been utterly crucial. I joined a local mom’s running group over a year ago, when Smudgie was 5 months old, having never been a runner and knowing no one in the group. I met an incredible group of women, some with little kids, some with slightly older kids, some with one and some with three or four, some working and some staying home, some single moms, some married moms, some straight and some gay. They are such a great source of support and fun and we all connect in that we’re trying to just carve out some time for ourselves in spite of baby-husband-family-work-craziness. Oh, and I became a little addicted to running as a side-result. Even now, 20 weeks pregnant, I’m still running with them once a week because I miss the camaraderie.

    So that’s my suggestion. Find a running group (or book club or knitting/crafting/quilting group or cooking circle) and book it into your week and make sure your husband gets that this is a priority now and go do it every week even when you don’t want to.

    July 12, 2013
  16. twoblueshoes #

    Dear Bunny,
    Thanks so much for attending therapy for me. Both my wallet and my schedule are extremely grateful. Looking forward to the next installment (because between you and me, I haven’t actually missed my husband while he’s been interstate this week).
    Yours sincerely,
    Internet stranger who would totally do shit with you if you lived in the same hemisphere.
    PS, Why won’t Firefox let me open your blog? Comment-posting on phone is pox-o-rama.

    July 13, 2013
  17. Twangy #

    Well done, bunny. Very interesting. Of course we count, tell her! (If she doesn’t buy it.) Of course. But the bodily people might be useful too..? I could do with another one too. Bodily friend, that is. My problem is that I don’t quite know how to be superficial friends. I might need small talk classes, or something.

    I like the idea of tackling the issue as if it were a job. I am thusly inspired to conduct an experiment on myself wherein I meditate every day for 6 weeks to see if it helps.

    Sorry, I seem to have gone on about myself in an unseemly way.

    The point being, I am hopeful for you, bunny. You are very bright and resourceful, kind and hilarious, after all.

    July 14, 2013
  18. Loathsome. I’m sure that’s it, you silly thing.
    How about living in the Midwest with left leaning values? How about years of infertility which made you allergic to other women. How about 2 babies 2 and younger. Alright, so now there’s another item on your to-do list. Great.
    Seriously, I like your therapist’s suggestion about treating it like a job. Yes! we count. Of that I am convinced. But, an actual person on an actual Friday evening drinking an actual bottle of merlot together and spinning yarns (literally and/or metaphorically) is also very good for the soul. I want your soul to feel good, my friend.
    Looking forward to the next instalment.

    July 14, 2013
    • Oh, I was really hoping that said “spinning yaMs”. But thank you for your sweet words.

      July 14, 2013
      • well, I’m not against spinning yams, although admittedly, I have not tried it. I could also envision spinning onions, acorn squash and of course, pomegranate.

        July 15, 2013
  19. We count, we’re here for you!

    July 15, 2013
  20. Elizabeth #

    I am reading these installment posts avidly. I feel like you’re channelling me. I feel like maybe I’m not such a terrible person/wife/mother if so many of us resonate so closely with you. I feel like if I’d been paying better attention I’d know what state you lived in and if it were within a 90 minute radius of the greater DC area in which case I’d try to organize a therapeutic lunch gathering for us. And by therapeutic I might mean heavily bitchy and wine infused. 🙂

    I have almost 2 yr old b/g toddler twins. They are perfect and wonderful and unbelievably nightmarish all at the same time. One person in our lives had the courage to tell us “it gets worse before it gets better”. My husband repeats that ad nauseum. It doesn’t help his cause with me. It does ring true though.

    I worry that a few years from now I’ll deeply regret all the complaining I did while dealing w/ the current realities. And I fear I’ll forget how brutally hard this actually is and just feel like I wasted the wonderful first few years. And I wonder what state my marriage will be in and whether it will recover from this stress, whether it might actually emerge stronger, or whether we’ll limp along in mutual resignation of what we built together.

    We’re living the dream right?!

    Oy.

    Thank you for your honesty and humor.

    July 15, 2013
  21. I have a husband? Where did I put him? Somewhere else, far from where I am sleeping.
    I’m with you on the crying about the need to meet actual people, in person, thing. And yes, all of these lovely people who read your blog are real, and they count.

    July 15, 2013
  22. I get an “F” for social support. I’ve also tried. Someone just sent me that chain e-mail about relationships between women, about how they’re so important, how they make us healthier…something that must be especially true at this stage in life. I believe it. But even knowing all of that: I get an “F”.

    Very good points, all. It sounds like she is really helping you examine things: situations, patterns, triggers. Get to the bottom of them and head them off at the pass.

    As someone who practically combusts over any spousal infraction, no matter how small, I await your next post with interest:)

    July 17, 2013
  23. Hey you, well done for seeking answers and guidance. Sounds like you have yourself a pretty smart cookie counsellor there with some good advice. Hopefully that will help you find your happy path again.

    And like a PP said, we count! Confess all!

    🙂

    July 17, 2013
  24. After initially reading this post (and failing spectacularly to comment because writing comments on my phone SUCKS DONKEY BUTT) I felt really inspired to try to connect with some local moms and I even asked my neighbor and her daughter on a park play date! I have you to thank for that, seriously. Unfortunately, she wasn’t that awesome so I don’t think we can be friends, but maybe now I can at least go borrow sugar from her or something, and I know that I can and should keep trying. It’s important. And in the meantime, I’m glad for the less-than-local friends I have, and all the support and commiseration and humor I find “here.” It counts. We count. YOU count. Thanks. 🙂

    July 24, 2013

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