Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Expectations - Sucking The Joy Out Of Motherhood Since 2001

Pin It I don't know why I do this to myself.

It never fails. Once I realize the kids will be gone - at school, with friends, on an outing, wherever - I spend hours plotting ways to get the baby to sleep at the exact same time,  a fruitless quest for the holy grail of motherhood - a half hour of quiet time.

And of course I KNOW this little plan of mine isn't going to go well, I already know it - how could it ever simply be QUIET for a few minutes - what with the short people coming to the door to see if my kids can play (and the doorbell MUST be rung multiple times, purely for the joy of hearing the faint ding-dong from inside the house, doorbell sign or no doorbell sign), and the bill collectors calling at PRECISELY the wrong moment, and my constant absent minded smashing into clattery things.

But I develop amnesia and pursue the pipe dream of a moment of solitude, even though I know it's completely illogical to try.

When the appointed hour is at hand I tensely tiptoe around trying to make sure everything is Just So.

Baby fast asleep?  CHECK

Kids gone or occupied? CHECK

The book that has gone unopened for three weeks beckons from its spot on the end table where it's been collecting dust.

I settle into the couch, crack open the cover, and -

BANG.  Something happens. 

Someone calls from school because they aren't feeling well.  The baby wakes back up. A friend drops by out of the blue.  Volcano. SOMETHING.  Something will happen.

And when it does, instead of taking it in stride and going with the flow, I feel - resentment. Not towards the kids or the baby or the friend - but towards the universe. (And maybe a little bit toward the volcano.)  Like, REALLY universe? You KNEW I needed fifteen minutes - YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE.

It takes me a minute to slap back the irritation and get over myself, to get my sense of humor back, to relax and remember not to see my kids as an interruption.

I do so much better as a mother when I relax, when I expect that my day will be full of kids and unpredictability. Full of being needed for one thing or the other. Full of days where you are so distracted you wear your shirt inside out.  Full of dirt. Full of noise.

Quiet is sort of the antithesis of mothering young kids, isn't it?

And someday, my house will be quiet - too quiet.

Someday the sound of kids playing together upstairs will no longer drift down at inconvenient times, waking the baby and soliciting an exasperated eye roll because I was just about to finish something for a client...

Someday my five year old won't come creeping down the stairs after I've sent him up to clean his room.  He won't climb on my lap and ask if we can do something special together, just the two of us - since, after all, the baby is asleep...

Someday there will no longer be a warm, round lump of baby wailing from his crib and then giving me drowsy, rapturous smiles of welcome when he sees me coming...

Someday there will be solitude.

Someday soon - it will be quiet.



  1. And then there is the big question. Will you miss the interruptions? I wonder this sometimes, I really hope I can get enough of the interruptions now that I won't miss them later. ;D

  2. Man, way to make me feel horrible. I plan everything down to taking the phone off the hook just to get my quiet time away from my kids. And I get way more than 1/2 hour, too. And if it's interrupted I get really mad. And I stay upset for a LONG time. So yeah, at least you're way better about that than I am. Why was I allowed to be a mother again?

  3. You say it well, oh, so well!

  4. Such is the cycle of motherhood, it seems. Longing for solitude and silence, realizing it will come and make you sad, trying to live in the moment, longing for solitude and silence again.

  5. But sometimes I dread the quiet..when everyone is gone. it's like the Twilight Zone episode when all the guy wants to do is read his books and finally the world ends and everyone is gone, except him and then he drops his glasses and he can't see.

  6. unsolicited advice: disconnect the doorbell. This occurred some 15 years ago when the neighbors would ring the bell incessantly. My parents end up liking it so much they now have all but one teen out of the house and still haven't reconnected it.

  7. And one day, the kids will be grown and out of the house, the baby will have her own babies, and the doorbell will NEVER ring because nobody comes to play. You'll get all the sleep you want. And you'll hate it. I'd give a lot to have some of those old days back. Solitude and quiet lose their appeal pretty quickly when that's all you have. Be careful what you wish for!

  8. I feel that also. That for once I can just take a nap, the minute I close my eyes something else needs attention first.

    Expectations always let us down, unpredictability is so much more consistent :)

  9. Wouldn't it be nice if parenthood were less like trying to drink out of a fire hose? Like, we'd be able to appreciate it more if we weren't in up to our eyeballs 24/7?

    This is what helps me: My Grandma Layton has alzheimers, so she tells me the same stories every time I see her. She looks at me, and then my kids, and tells me that the very best time of her life was when she was living with her 6 babies, on the old dirt farm in Willcox with no indoor plumbing. At the time, she says, she was just trying to get through. If she had known it would be the best time of her life, she would have tried to enjoy it a little. She says she'd go back there in a second.

    When she's finished with her story, I shudder and go flush the toilet repeatedly until I feel calm again.

  10. Thanks for a little perspective.

    I repeat often in my head,
    "It won't be like this for long."

    Then I remind myself that I'll wish for these days again and I smile and get up with the baby for the fiftieth time in the night.

  11. I'm trying to get better at managing my expectations, especially my long to-do list. I think to myself a certain day will be perfect for checking of a ton of list items and SOMETHING always comes up and my to-do list is undone yet again. I'm not sure I'll be sad when they're all grown and moved away. I like my quiet time and a clean house. Even so, I'm trying to enjoy those "spontaneous" moments!

  12. Totally feel the same way. On the days my eldest has preschool, I purposely keep my youngest up until he gets home so I only have to deal with one child at a time, even though the youngest tugs at my shirt sleeve saying "Mommy, I'm tired!" And then I, too, feel resentment when things do go to plan. Ah, motherhood.

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  14. Thanks for this post. I needed it today. And Beeswax's comment. I don't understand the toilet flushing part, but at least it made me laugh.

    Why is it that the Universe is after us all the time? My kids refuse naps before they get to nursery age, so my days of having half an hour to myself are long, long, gone.

  15. When my twins first entered my world, my mantra was "this time next year, they may not even want to sit in my lap". Mumbled many times when I got up at 3am to nurse them both. (Yes, I did that. And I'm glad I did it.)
    Now, they are 18, about to finish high school. In another year, they will hopefully both be serving missions. Two whole years of alone time. After that, college. This is it. So many years, I longed for just a little time to myself. Now, just thinking about it reduces me to tears.
    I lived in that moment as much as possible, I think, and still, I want some of it back to enjoy just a little more.

  16. I remember one time when my kids were little, and I only (yes I said only) had four of them. They were good kids, overall, but it seemed like at least one of them was cranky or upset or grumpy or mean at any given moment. I remember thinking, not actually praying, just thinking, "What would it be like if they all had a good day at the same time?" The very next day, it happened. All four of my children were happy and sweet and wonderful ALL day long. It was amazing. It never happened again, but it was definitely one of those "tender mercies" from a loving Father to a frazzled young mom.

  17. Sue, there isn't a mother in the world that hasn't felt the same way you do. If you meet one that says otherwise, well, she's lying.

  18. Oh, the irony. I feel the same way. And I totally do the plotting to align nap/play/occupied time too. AND feel the resentment.

  19. I know you speak truth when you say, "Someday, the house will be quiet." But dang. My nerves aren't always content to hang on by a thread until someday.

    It's a tough balance, you know? All Moms feel this way at some point, even if we know the deeper truth.

    But what can you do against a universe that's against a quiet hour?

  20. Even then you may not be able to nap because dude, volcanoes are LOUD when they blow.

  21. You need a friend to offer to babysit. Whine about it a lot at church. :-D

    Maybe you could offer to trade with someone, take care of their kids one night and they can watch yours one night. It would give you some peace, and not cost anything (besides feeding them)

  22. If anyone says you're going to miss this one day..hurt them. Hard.

    I love my children and the craziness was fun while it lasted,:D but now my youngest is 9 and I love this time. Why can't we love the less crazy times, too? Is it so wrong to enjoy being home alone in a quiet house. (I crank up the tunes and sing at the top of my lungs as needed.)

  23. Anonymous2:21 PM

    Wanting a little peace and quiet once in a while is pretty normal, I would say. Instead of your kids spending the night here, maybe you should leave them home with daddy and park yourself at my house overnight.

  24. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Shelli, you made me cry. What a lovely little story and a perfect example of a true tender mercy.

    I think this is one of the many fine lines of life, because YES, we are much happier when we can settle into the chaos of life with young kids and not expect to be able to control things, BUT we really do need (don't we? I think we do) some sort of predictable break, rest, down time. So the fine line is how to manage disappointment when it doesn't work out, but not give up or trying different strategies to find ways to refresh our spirits.

    My carpool partner needed me to drive her usual Friday afternoon shift two weeks in a row recently, and the thought of having to get in the car with the babies on that time of day (which very often means waking my baby from her nap) when I had thought I wouldn't have to two weeks in a row nearly broke my spirit. Which is kind of absurd. And then when Spring break came and realized I didn't have to drive carpool at ALL for a week, I almost cried with joy. But really for the foreseeable future I'll have lots of carpool turns most of the time and I wish I could just settle into it and enjoy it better, instead of being so darn happy when it's not my turn.

  25. Anonymous2:37 PM

    There is a sentence in my comment there that doesn't make sense ("not give up or trying different strategies") but my baby wants out of her nap, so I'll trust you to figure out what it means.

  26. This is how I get a moment of quiet: I'm rude.

    Sometimes, I put a sign on my door that says "We're napping."
    Sometimes, I cover the doorbell with a plastic box and tape so it can't be pressed.
    Sometimes, I put my phone on vibrate and leave it in another room.

    I don't answer the phone.
    I don't answer the door.
    I ignore my neighbors' screams as they flee molten lava.

    Some say I'm rude. But I can't hear them during my moment of quiet.

  27. What is this "Quiet" thing and how can I get some?

    Actually, I get it about 4 times a week and sometimes, I keep my 4 year old home just for a little background noise. I think that means I've lost my marbles just a little, but I miss her.

  28. I would make a longer comment, but I'm still sleepy from my two hour nap. Being single and childless has its advantages.

  29. Debbie8:41 PM

    My son is on a mission and my daughter just left for BYU. It is quiet, but I don't mind it at all.

  30. . . . And when that day comes, we will NEVER FEEL GUILTY ABOUT THAT NAP, will we?

  31. Duuuuuuude. You just described my life every m/w/f morning when the big kids go to preschool and I have my "quiet time to be productive". Which always, always ends in me getting nothing done and then feeling resentful (at who??) for the rest of the day. I HEAR YOU, SISTER.

  32. I know what you mean. I TRY hard to savor these times when the kids are little and they still want to be around me and they are cute and lovable, but mostly I just think "Would they stop talking for two minutes and leave me alone?!?"


  33. I think the same thing, someday, I'll have the time for naps.

    "Tisn't the season for it yet.

  34. That someday comes SO FAST that it literally gave me whiplash. Half of my kids have no desire to be with me. Not because they are brats (although they sometimes ARE) but because they are in that natural phase of separating themselves from their parents.

    I sort of miss the time when the only thing it took to make my kids happy was some love and attention from me.

  35. It's good to remember. The quiet time will come.

    In the meantime, a good pair of earplugs has seen me through many a day when I thought I just could not take the noise for one more second. They sound so much cuter muffled.

  36. We have teenagers, so I just tell them when they get home from school, "Tom, watch Sam, Sara play with Laura, I'm going to take a nap with Rosalie (the baby). Everyone is much happier when Mom is not an over tired witch. :)

  37. My friend Paula Hampton wrote this:

    "This, too, shall pass,"
    my mother used to say
    when troubles mounted
    and tears flowed.

    How did she know
    that this, too, shall pass:
    two-year-old tantrums,
    dirty diapers and dishes,
    toys scattered across the floor,
    and handprints, noseprints on the windows?

    This, too, shall pass:
    midnight feedings, fevers, and bad dreams;
    the patter of small feet in the hall,
    fears seeking rest.

    This, too, shall pass:
    wiping up noses and bottoms
    and juice spills, sticky tables;
    the search for socks and shoes
    on and off again,
    and laundry always laundry.

    But this, too, shall pass:
    grubby hands grasping fresh-picked weed bouquets,
    choking neck-hugs and sloppy kisses,
    piggy-back rides and after supper romps
    on the floor with Daddy.

    This, too, shall pass:
    rocking, patting, drying tears;
    reading through stacks of library books
    on rainy afternoons;
    chubby cheeks streaked with breakfast jam;
    rumpled nap-time hair.

    This, too, shall pass:
    sewing Easter dresses,
    tying ribbons into bows,
    stroking cheeks kissed by sun,
    outdoor boy smell wafting past my nose.

    My mother knew.
    This, too, shall pass.
    And so it has.