By Melissa Mensavage
For the last few months I’ve felt stretched very thin. No solid focus on any one thing. No completion of a task fully.
I hate unfinished projects or tasks. I mean literally, I’ll wash half of the dishes. Or get one of three loads of laundry done.
Is this motherhood in general? Or is this single motherhood?
Either way, its driving me crazy.
A perfect example is the due date for my writing. It comes every month and its on my mind, but a three year old and an 18 month old suck the life out of me playing referee. Mind you, we are getting better at playing together, but that is only roughly 15% of the time.
I love this task. This lets me take what is on my mind and in my life and put it into words. LOVE IT!! Brandy has been very kind, and I swear I will do my best every month to be on time. I know as a mother she gets it, but as an editor … she has a responsibility to get content published to keep her readership.
They say raising a child takes a village … or whatever the saying is. I’ve been trying to do it all on my own lately because I feel like I rely too much on my village. I don’t want to burn that bridge for when I REALLY need them. So here I am doing all of the doctors appointments with two kids, referee, illnesses, parties, household chores, etc, all on my own. And I guess that is why I am stretched so thin.
Will this burn me out? I am pretty sure of it. When? Don’t know. I do know that I am seeing the signs – I’ve been yelling at the kids quite a bit lately. I hate that I yell. Or I get frustrated with the fact that they don’t know everything. (I mean how stupid is that? They are kids, babies still and they shouldn’t know everything!)
As you can see this post is short this month because I am multi-tasking my passion for writing with my passion-less job. Need to cut it short so I can make sure I still collect a paycheck and have insurance.
Maybe someday in the near future I’ll be able to focus again, or maybe this is the new way of life. I am so unfocused right now I cant even come up with a closure to this jumbled post.
Happy Holidays everyone.
(Where’s the egg nog?)
At the end of this month I will have what I hope to be my final appointment with my doctor for my post-partum depression diagnosis I had received after I gave birth to my youngest son, Theo. Eighteen months of periodic check-ups with my primary care physician, bi-weekly therapy appointments and countless mornings where I forced myself out of bed.
I had no clue I would ever suffer from such severe depression. I had mentioned previously that I had situational depression episodes throughout my life but nothing a night out with friends drinking my sorrows away didn’t cure. Or a few weeks time of eating and watching sappy romantic comedies. Though neither of those solutions would have worked in this case.
My world was black. My thoughts were fuzzy. I couldn’t comprehend too much. I was in care-taker mode of an infant and a two year old. I didn’t sleep. I cried. A lot. And then I cried some more. I hated myself. I hated my kids (oh do I have guilt for that). I hated the world. I hated that I wasn’t married.
My mother and I fought constantly. She was trying to help me, and I was being a perfect bitch. She comes from an era where you either just deal or you brush it under the rug. She didn’t get it why I was so crazy. So when I showed up at her house, sobbing, to drop off Max so I could go to the doctors, I think she might have gotten it then. I know she was concerned.
And during this whole time – this first 4 weeks of Theo’s life, all I said to myself was, ‘What have I done?’. What had I done to my family dynamic? What had I done to bring this kid into the world – who is not perfect in my eyes (yes, of course he was he just wasn’t what I knew – Max.).
About a year prior to this I sat in my fertility doctor’s office saying to him with confidence I wanted to try for another baby. He smiled and said, ‘fantastic!’. I smiled knowing in my heart this is what was right for me and my life. I got pregnant after the first try. I was shocked, I had expected it to take a bit longer. I was then excited and felt SO blessed beyond means. Little did I know about the change that would occur when I brought Theo home from the hospital. When people ask how it went, or how it was going, I was honest. It was hard. It was a huge change for all of us.
Yet, we made it. We made it through the tough parts. I started taking an anti-depressant after my initial appointment. I started feeling better about three days after that. Therapy helped. Getting some sleep made it even better. I started to research this diagnosis on the internet. (A big fat no-no.) Women die from this. For some reason they couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I pray for them. I pray for their children. I am thankful everyday that those types of thoughts NEVER crossed my mind.
Its been a rough October for us. We were plagued with illness after illness. The boys are finally healthy. Though I had a pretty bad case of bronchitis, and now an ear infection, I feel great. I feel happy. I am SO thankful for my two beautiful boys. Life is good.
I never could comprehend why people would take their own lives. I never understood why they didn’t think they were worthy of living. After the black period I experienced, I now get it. It breaks my heart to know that people don’t feel worthy. I wish a hug would help. And maybe it does in some situations. So to anyone who might be feeling this type of pain or know of any one, you are worthy. You belong here.
By Melissa Mensavage
Since I was eight, I’ve split my time between my mother and my father. My parents divorced and we had the standard visitation schedule – every other weekend and one night a week. And to this day, I still get a pit in my stomach when my dad leaves from our visit.
Over the weekend Dad was in for a visit with me and the boys. I loved having him here with us, spending together and more importantly he and the boys building a relationship. So when he left on Sunday to head over to my brother’s, I teared up. I didn’t want him to go. I wanted to tell my brother, go home and Dad is staying here. But of course, out of fairness to Dad, I let him spend time with my brother and his family.
Today is his actual departure day. I texted him to see how he was doing and say I miss him. Its been on my mind all day that he is leaving. The pit in my stomach has been here. I am teary. I hate this.
I think its been around 35 years my parents have been divorced, maybe 34. I don’t know…who cares at this point, its just been a long time. I had no clue this feeling would stay with me into adult life. It could also explain why I am not a jovial person when he is here because I know he is going to leave and it’ll be a while before I see him again.
Now, I know as an adult, and a traveler, after so many days of not sleeping in your bed, living out of suitcase and interrupting routines (not intentionally), its time to go home. And you want to go home. I totally get it. Someday I will share the public meltdown I had as an adult in the middle of Singapore because I was exhausted from traveling. Quite embarrassing but reality.
This pit in my stomach solidifies my decision of being a single mother by choice. I don’t want my boys to have to choose. I don’t want my boys to have this sinking feeling of sadness when they cant be in both places at once. I see families in my neighborhood do the Sunday night drop-off and I am quickly reminded of mine.
I would get so stressed out about the drop-off, I started this rocking thing in the backseat of the car. I would sit and rock back and forth, almost in a manner of personality disorder. While doing this I would escape. I would think of everything but what was going to happen – the hugs goodbye, the sadness in my dad’s eyes, the I love yous. Killed me.
So yes its been killing me lately with the ‘Where’s my Dad?’ questions from Max. But honestly, I’d rather say ‘We don’t have one, its just you, me and Theo’, than have them go through that drop-off, sharing, torn experience. Its not fun, whatsoever.
Neither situation is perfect – divorced with children, or conceiving children with an unknown donor to raise by yourself. But I had a choice, and luckily I am able to break the sadness cycle.
… Summer comes to a close.
I usually write about the struggles or experiences I have as a single parent, but this time I want to show you that we are a happy family. I tend to forget this when in the thick of parenting, when I am the bad cop and I am walking around the house like a screamin’ meamie because the house is a disaster or if one more fruit fly comes out of the kitchen sink drain I am putting a bomb in it. (kidding of course)
So in between all of that, and even as I sit here and write this on Labor Day morning I can hear my two boys upstairs talking to each other in bed, we have a lot of laughs, smiles and fun. Here, have a look.
We went to the local pool with a giant sandpit, where I learned I need to work on my sandcastle building skills. We explored a local park with our cousins. Then we went on our first hike together (man I missed this activity!). We enjoyed fresh fruit smoothies almost every day and learned that Theo can photo bomb with the best of them! Theo’s choice dessert was teddy grahams and left over blue frosting. And finally we had a sole flower in the yard so Max made an End of Summer Wish. It was a good summer indeed.
And you can see we do a lot of things together. When I am away from work I hardly ever spend any time by myself unless its 4:30/5:00 in the morning where I get up just to veg and plan my attack on the day. And maybe this contributes to the screamin’ meamie but the guilt of being away from them kills me. Just yesterday Max got dressed all by himself. I stood in the kitchen and rewarded him and had a little of relief but it hit me, he is growing up. No more little sweet boy. Now he is a boy who likes to wrestle and play with trains, can go to the bathroom all by himself and get himself dressed.
I will be honest, its great that the boys are gaining their independence, frees up time for us to do fun things. This internal struggle I have I am pretty sure does not go away, hence why I rarely do anything now. I figure when they are older and I have much more time to myself I’ll be able to date, have dinner with friends, read a book, etc. And I will know when we do our seperate activities we will all be happy.
By: Melissa Mensavage
Is this career burn-out, just plain ol’fashioned boredom or a midlife crisis?
I sit here at my desk in an office cubicle that has beige walls. I hear the pounding of keyboards all around me. People are huddled by the coffee machine, moreso now that the company has decided to offer free coffee, albeit crap coffee. The world is gray in my eyes. People are overweight here in corporate America because they sit all day long. People are grumpy for having to do the same thing day in and day out. People are always rushing in from being late due to traffic or oversleeping, and rushing to leave to get to their next activity whether its with kids, parents or the couch.
I started in corporate America right after college because I needed a job and health insurance. And things just evolved since then. Being so ‘I need to find Mr. Right’ focused, I never took an interest in my career. Then my thirties hit and still no Mr. Right, though one failed marriage was behind me, I threw myself into my job. However, I still viewed it as a job, and not something I was passionate about. I traveled the world, something I was passionate about. Then I became a mother, still with no Mr. Right around.
So I sit here today, most likely bored out of my mind with the mundane of corporate America. I am done sitting at a desk. I am done with staring at a computer for eight hours a day. Yet, I am locked to this desk and computer because of my chidlren. How can anyone make a career change with children? And on a sole income?
I bet people do it all the time. I bet people throw caution to the wind and jump. My analytical and practical self cannot do that. I chose to be a single parent on my own without a partner. That means no breaks from the boys, as in every other weekend or one night a week. That means I am the sole provider for the boys. That means I need to make sure I have health insurance for them, and myself, and other benefits to keep everyone safe and secure.
That also means, corporate job for now. It is here that I can get those necessities.
Yet, every day as I drive to work I feel an empty feeling in my stomach and my heart. This isn’t what I was meant to do. Recently I had a conversation with my sister about jobs and what I was meant to do kind of slipped out. I wasn’t expecting it, it wasn’t something I was hiding, but it just surfaced.
Early childhood education, preschool or working with the elderly in senior centers or nursing homes.
Working with people.
I Googled salaries for those types of careers and estimated starting salaries would put me in a poverty situation. I wouldn’t make enough to cover my necessities, especially with two children. And I am torn, why cant I have the job I love? Why cant I be doing what I really want to do? Is it true that things find a way of working out when doing something you love?
I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am not sure if I’ll ever find out – probably by choice because I am too chicken to jump. Knowing at the end of the day when I leave my desk and I get to walk to the other side of the company campus to pick up the boys, this is worth it. My commute home with them in the backseat and we talk about the day or what we are going to do when we get home, worth it.
As a parent, you have to make hard choices all day long. For me, one of them right now is to be in a job that I am not passionate about. A sacrifice I am willing to make for my two boys.
By: Melissa Mensavage
Will this ever end? Or is this cyclical like the seasons? Because when this started up again, I became rather annoyed with it.
I’ve written about sleep training with my oldest, Max, a couple of times previously. He was just a baby and a toddler and we had a bad habit of sleeping in my bed. I did break it. Then we had this awesome long stretch of him sleeping all by himself in the crib.
Then my youngest, Theo, came along and I took Max out of the crib and put him in a twin bed. Thankfully I was smart and transitioned him before the baby arrived, though it was a rough month or so. Once Theo arrived, we had some adjustment issues altogether, so I was patient (or as much as I could be with post-partum depression).
Fast forward a year and now that Max is potty trained he’s gotten the idea of getting up in the middle of night and going to the bathroom – KUDOS!! to him for recognizing that while sleeping. However he has to come into my room and tell me. Then there are the nights when he doesn’t make it to the bathroom and the bed is wet. When I check it I am so tired I just tell him to get in my bed and go back to sleep.
I should be changing sheets at 2, 3 in the morning??? I probably should be. But I don’t. Any maybe I might start. See, I can’t even make a decision on this.
Have you noticed that Theo has not even made an appearance in this conversation about sleeping? In his crib by himself, without waking throughout the night? Yeah, he’s my sleeper, has been since he was 7 weeks old. (Is it bad I called him my favorite in my PPD?)
What kills me is the crying. It killed me back then, still kills me now. And I know why they do it, they just want to be with me, but I need my rest. I cant be a happy single parent who handles everything possible – job, chores, parenting – if I don’t get my rest. I do send Max back to bed most nights and he will cry or stall (saying, ‘I have one question.’) and then I get annoyed with him. Then I get annoyed with myself for getting annoyed with him.
All the waking up makes Max a very tired boy, so he takes a pretty decent nap during the day. This then causes a later bedtime. Another vicious cycle. Just thinking about all the changes I need to make makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over me.
I can do it. I can get back my evenings to myself. I can have a peaceful bedtime routine (did I ever mention that bedtime is almost a nightmare and I dread it?). This is tough for any parent – single or married. I think its just a bit harder for a single parent because there is no one to trade nights with or basically help. Did I know about this when I became a single parent? No. Would it have swayed my decision? No. These two little people are the absolute joys of my life – sleeplessness and all.
Time for another cup of coffee.
We recently returned from a trip to Denver to visit with my sister and her family. It was a great trip. I completely logged off all my techie tools (ok, almost, there was a periodic post to Facebook of the cousins playing). It was a great feeling. The trip was just what I needed, a change of scenery especially after what felt like a very long winter.
However as I boarded the plane on Monday I couldn’t escape the feeling of being under the mommy microscope. Or the feeling that I rely on other people too much to help with the kids. I think about it and I was always handing off my youngest to either my mother, my step-father or my sister so I could take care of my oldest.
I noticed last night after story-time at the library, the boys and I went to a park with another family, and again I found myself passing off my youngest to take care of the oldest. (I’m pretty lucky these people are great, and trustworthy.) And again, last night as I laid in bed all I could think about is why I cant just do it all.
I worry about what my sister, mother, step-father and these new family friends think of my lack of multi-tasking. I worry they say, ‘she passes off Theo way too much’. I worry they think I expect them to help.
I feel like I fail at that part of parenting. Not able to multi-task.
When I signed up to become a single mother by choice, I did my research. Boy did I do my research. But the one thing that isn’t written anywhere is how to handle multiple tasks at once. Nowhere does it say this multi-tasking is a required trait of motherhood.
Since the three of us haven’t spent too much time together this past week and we are heading into a couple of busy weeks for us, I am completely stressed about my lack of multi-tasking and getting through these next weeks. How am I going to handle a birthday party? How am I going to handle a garage sale? Cleaning the house? Play dates? Unfinished projects around the house? And quality time together?
I woke up early this morning due to this stress, and thought I had an idea that could work – Ergo Baby Carrier – but failed immediately once I saw the price. In addition, my youngest is completely mobile and wouldn’t want any part of it. I’m back to the blank slate for ideas. And maybe there aren’t any brilliant ideas and I just need to take it one day at a time, be kind to myself and not worry what others think.
I think I’ve talked about this before. Its always on my mind.
I don’t even know where to start with it. Even sitting down to write this I have many long pauses between sentences and thoughts.
I should probably start with I never was a big dater, even in high school. I remember clearly my first high school crush was on this boy Mike. Mike was tall, thin, curly mullet hair with a big smile and big brown eyes. But he never wanted to get to know me. Probably because we ran with different crowds, moreso I was still trying to find my place in that world seeing I had just moved to the area.
The boys I did date I always felt like I had to date them because they were interested in me, not because I was interested in them. I also felt ashamed to be dating them because they didn’t meet the match of the ‘popular’ people – the crowd at the time I desperately wanted to be a part of.
My insecurities kept me back from many things, let alone a good solid boyfriend. Even to this day, they are still around holding me back from meeting the nice guy. My frustration with them is exhausting. The questions are never-ending and play over and over in my mind, I cant believe I am actually going to say these out loud – how do I know I am doing ‘it’ right? Or is this what I am supposed to be doing – holding hands in public, saying this or that?
These foolish insecurities that I’ve been carrying with me since my teens, that probably attributed to the demise of my marriage when I was in my twenties, are getting to a point where they either grow up or move out. I can feel them surfacing now, when I am starting to entertain the idea of dating.
How can I expect to even meet someone when these stupid things are hanging around? Why at this age should I even care what other people think?
I go back and forth with these all the time. I also worry about dating takes time and that is time away from my kids. My kids are young right now and they are changing every single day, and I waited far too long to become a mother – especially in an unconventional way – that I am not sure I want to miss these days. So unless I know right away the guy is a possibility there is no point in my dating.
But then I get real lonely at family functions or especially as of late a work banquet where everyone was there with their spouse or significant other (literally I was the only person without a ‘plus one’). Talk about awkward and it is then I know for sure I want to be with someone.
So how do I do this? On the recommendation from a friend, I joined a dating site. I’ve viewed profiles, found a few interesting, took time to write a few and I’ve heard nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received interest from what seems like the clan of Duck Dynasty, I’ve learned that what they say about black men is true (clear pictures and all were included), and know that men are definitely interested in women younger than them, like 20 years younger. It is with this I close my computer with disgust and defeat and crawl into bed and want to cry my eyes out. Though as quickly as I find myself in this funk I am just that quicker brought back to reality with the cries from the boys bedroom. As I pick up my teething infant I figure dating can wait just a little bit longer.
**picture is of Stefan, my last boyfriend. This was three months prior to my pregnancy with my eldest son.
By Melissa Mensavage
I am sure if I had the time to open up any parenting book I would see the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ phase in the two-almost-three-year-old section. That is all Max does these days, sees something someone else is doing and then does it himself.
I know at home when I am sitting with Theo on the floor encouraging him to roll-over or to get up on his hands and knees as if ready to crawl, Max does the same to get my attention. However, when he comes from home from school, screaming ‘No Way Mama!’ in response to me asking him to pick up his toys or to put his cup in the sink, I want to gauge my eyes out.
When did this response ever get into his head? Who thinks this response is acceptable? Why is my sweet boy acting like a spoiled brat?
I know the kid who acts like this, who has this response in their repertoire and I also know the parents too.
So if I do the math, Max and said kid play together quite a bit at school + the monkey see-monkey-do phase + a parent who has a different discipline and respect policy than I do = ugly child of mine.
There is a part of me that just wants to scream at said kid. There is another part of me that wants to scream at said kid’s parent and then there is a part of me that is exhausted from having to correct the behavior and seriously just wants to give up and be like said parent.
How can a parent be so different on the acceptable behavior spectrum? They should be teaching respect to their children, right? Or maybe they are of a generation that respect is optional? I am not sure because as I get older I cannot relate to those who are significantly younger than I (as in 5+ years) and what they think is acceptable.
I am also hearing a lot of, ‘you are my best friend’, or ‘you are not my best friend’. Again, same kid says this. And this time I know for sure it’s the kid’s parent because of my experience with them personally. They are the ones who have 900 Facebook friends, not one close friend consistently, and are always saying to all the other kids’ parents, ‘kid and your kid are besties’. Really? I am told at each teacher-parent conference at this age it’s still parallel play.
So what am I to do?
I wish I could keep Max from being exposed to kids like that nor do I want him to have his feelings hurt because of someone else’s insecurities passed down to their child. But I won’t say anything because I am not sure I am ready to hear what they have to say about my parenting and my sweet boy. (Don’t get me wrong, I know my sweet boy has ‘Satan Days’, as I like to call them. You know the days where Satan has taken over the kid’s body and the only thing you can do is make sure there is liquor in the house for after they go to bed???!!)
I also don’t want to cause any discomfort between me and said parent. Our once close relationship is already strained (long petty immature story that I just don’t have time for) and I am at terms with it being the way it is, cordial, so if I start accusing them of crazy parenting I am sure that’ll just make the times we do see each other at school uncomfortable and that is the last thing I want for either of my boys.
I know I am not the perfect parent, but I do know I am right when I discipline for being rude, inconsiderate, and mean. I know I am right when I teach my child to be fair and a friend to everyone, not to have a select group of friends only. I want my children to have the best childhood possible and if that means dealing with monkey see-monkey do, I just pray this phase passes quickly and painlessly as possible for everyone involved.
I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately: what does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a single mother, and by choice?
And I really haven’t come up with a decent satisfactory answer yet.
I mean I could state the obvious of motherhood – feeding, bathing, educating the young ones I’ve brought into the world – yet this doesn’t make me feel like a mother -more of a caretaker. I suppose I could consider the times sitting on the floor with my two-year-old son teaching him how to do puzzles and then watching him do it all by himself as motherhood. Or the time I spend with my eight-month-old son trying to get him to roll-over. (He is my stubborn one…just like his mama. Oh the irony. Oh the payback. Oh how my mother is doing a happy dance.)
I am pretty sure this feeling of ‘operational parenting’ is what happens when a family goes from one child to two, or anytime the number of children increases. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to have another child. I surely have no regrets, but had no clue that I would feel so much like a caretaker and not a mother. Is it because I have to keep the household running as well? Is it because I totally forgot what its like to have an infant in the house? Is it because I am still fighting for the ‘me’ time that I had a glimpse of prior to the baby arriving and my son’s independence growing?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s also add to that that I am doing this by myself. I have no husband, or ex-husband (well I do, but thankfully we never had any kids), or boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend (and have a couple of these thankfully no kids here either). I have family that helps out tremendously but they don’t live with me so I can’t just run to the store to grab milk and come back in 15 minutes. That task alone is 45 minutes by the time I get everyone bundled up, loaded into the car, get to the store, get the milk, get back in the car, and unload when we get home. (Is it bad that I’ve thought of texting my 21-year-old niece to do a beer run for me?)
Recently I met up with another SMC, who also happens to be a family from the same donor. Lots of thoughts and emotions about this new friend, but the one thing I really took away from our visit was how much she embraces being an SMC. I took notes when she talked about her daughter and being a mother. It truly was the most important things in her life. Everything else came second. You could see the joy on their faces.
As I drove home from our meeting I reflected on our short time together and the notes of saying, ‘no thank you’, when I hear ‘nope’ for an answer, serving the same food to the kids as I eat -no more making kid-focused meals. And most of all, have fun with them. One of my biggest struggles is when I am on ‘borrowed’ time (you know when the kid is LONG overdue for a nap) and I find that I am getting angry with them. Or it’s okay that my living room floor is buried under every single toy we own and I’ll probably see it for 15 minutes this weekend when I pick up during naptime. The dishes and laundry can wait until they go to bed.
But I need to sit on the floor – at their level – and just be in their world each and every day, having fun and smiling together. Maybe that is what motherhood means, really.