Glass Half Empty. Glass Half Full.

February 25, 2014

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I wake up every morning with desire. Desire to eat a healthy breakfast, to be a great parent, to work on my manuscript, to call back a friend, to write a great post, to go on a walk, to finally, finally fold the laundry. Unfortunately I will do none of these things, or at least none of them well. I will eat a half hearted breakfast, dry cereal while I nurse, while I feed a toddler, while I pump breast milk, while I shove dishes in the dishwasher. I will change two diapers, refill the Brita pitcher, run upstairs to put on deodorant, run back down because I hear someone crying. I will sit down to write when the baby takes her morning nap only to be interrupted 57 times by a toddler. On the 32nd time, I will snap JUST GIVE ME A MINUTE because there’s no reason to whine over four pairs of socks not fitting onto one foot. When he finally settles down to play, I will have exactly 15 minutes to answer an inbox full of emails, start an intelligent and well worded post, work on a chapter of a book, or painstakingly tackle the technical and cosmetic issues of  “just another annoying mommy blog” before the baby wakes up. Maybe I work, maybe I look at Pinterest where everyone is pinning Stop The Glorification Of Busy in a trendy font which irrationally rubs me the wrong way because I’m not trying to glorify anything, I’m just busy. I pin it anyway.

Is it lunchtime? The toddler rubs peanut butter and jelly fingers through his hair and spills a full cup of water onto the floor. The baby is tired but if I put her down now, their afternoon naps will not line up and I will never, ever get anything done. I will be a big, fat idiot who never did any one thing really well. I think about Lena Dunham and curse her accomplishments. Years younger than me and has already written a movie, TV show, and book. I feel jealousy creep into my veins. I think about that other stupid Pinterest pin about how comparison is the thief of joy and try to channel my inner grace but can’t because I’ll be 30 next year and still haven’t written a memoir/finished a screenplay/lost the first baby’s weight/decorated my house/organized the attic/figured out how to afford a nanny.

Lunch is over. Somehow I put a toddler down for a nap at the exact moment the baby wakes up. I change her, feed her, jiggle her on my lap while I type with one hand and eat an entire bag of chips with the other. She smiles at me, but I miss it because I’m trying to figure out HTML code. When she sleeps again the other one wakes and it is dinner time but I never unfroze the chicken. I never changed out of my pajamas. I never did anything.

Austin walks through the door. I see his tiredness and he sees mine. I brush my teeth for the first time today and cry into the sink. I let the desire and constant failure fuel my tears. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t be a great parent and write a great book and keep up a great blog and maintain great friendships and keep the floors clean. My notepad with dream projects mocks me from my desk, its content laughable. I do not laugh. I only stare at it with sharp, irreverent desire.

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I wake up every morning to her face. She squeaks next to me, hungry for breakfast, hungry to be near me. I smell the top of her head, it is like a Spring day. Soon he will be up, a toddler with bed head and morning breath. He whispers, “Hi Mommy.” I carry them both downstairs, eat dry Cheerios from a plastic bowl, keep everyone happy and alive. I try to write because I am a writer. It is not my first choice. I do it anyways. I am busy, but I choose this life. I am lucky to choose.

It is lunchtime. I didn’t get much done and that’s okay. My To Do list from last week lies untouched on my desk. I glance at my children and remember I chose them instead. I don’t regret it, but I also know I can’t choose them every minute of every day or else I will start unraveling. While the toddler eats next to me, I write three paragraphs with my headphones on. It is satisfying. After lunch, he wants to paint. I know that 15 minutes of prep will only be 5 minutes of play but I set it up anyway. I think about all the other moms filling up little bowls of water and finding scrap paper and cleaning off old paint brushes. It is hard, important work. I think about the moms going to work, by choice or by force, earning money for their families. It is hard, important work. We all feel guilty, we all feel worry, we all feel desire. We all want to do more, be more, find a way to be better and I remind myself we’re showing up so at least we’re halfway there.

It is naptime and I fold half the wash, answer three emails, think about meat in the freezer. The baby is cooing like a bird. I feel jealousy start to creep in when I see an Instagram about a writing conference in New York, but I push it away. I breathe out my desire and let it join the collection of desires from every woman since the beginning of time. I remember it is good to desire, to reach, to try, to expect greatness. Great things take time. Comparison is the thief of joy. Never, ever, ever give up.

I close my eyes.

The toddler is up and it’s poopy diapers, spilled crackers, and toys all over the floor. I put the chicken in the oven, change out of my pajamas, step over a Lego, wipe the counters clean. I kiss my husband hello. We celebrate small victories, laugh over the fails. My notepad with dream projects sits on my desk, its content daring. I don’t do everything. Sometimes I don’t do anything. I keep dreaming with sharp, reverent desire.

***

71 thoughts on “Glass Half Empty. Glass Half Full.

  1. Lindsay

    Cried through this whole post. (Do post-partum hormones ever calm down?? I cried at a car commercial the other day!) Thanks, Kate. This is beautiful.

    Reply
  2. Beth

    Love. Also – not “just another annoying Mommy blog” – yours is my fav. Some days I save a post for later so I have something to look forward to. Some days I just ignore my kid b/c I need to read it immediately. :)

    Reply
  3. Mary

    I’m glad no one was here to see how hard I ugly cried over this post. I almost always feel too tired (mentally and physically) to do anything other than give my children emotional issues and something that resembles food. It’s good work, it worthy work that we’re doing, but it is so hard.

    I hope you know how much I admire you and the work that you do. You have a beautiful family. Keep on keeping on.

    Reply
  4. Kathy

    Reading this was like reading the blog post I wanted to write but never got to..because well, all of the reasons above. You’re doing great, mama. It gets better. It gets harder. It’s all worth it.

    Reply
  5. Rachel

    “I also know I can’t choose them every minute of every day or else I will start unraveling.” So important, but so hard to remember, when breastfeeding is not what you thought it would be, or your baby won’t nap, or your spouse comes through the door (showered, dressed in normal people clothes, talked to a big person today) and declares that they’ll make dinner. I want to make dinner and feel like me – not a milk machine who is malfunctioning. Gah.

    Reply
  6. Alysabeth

    I just came across your blog last week and have been reading all of your old posts to catch up. You are such a great writer.

    You have no idea how badly I needed to read this today. I’m sobbing. Definitely a Godwink moment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Reply
  7. meganstilley

    I glance at my children and remember I chose them instead. I don’t regret it, but I also know I can’t choose them every minute of every day or else I will start unraveling.

    Yep. I have been struggling with this lately. It is even more challenging when there are two instead of one.

    Reply
  8. Bridget

    This post was so refreshing to read, since I am struggling with so many of the same issues and volatility in my perspective on them. Appreciate the honesty and the window into another life spent trying to write with a toddler and newborn or, better, a life spent trying to take care of a toddler and newborn with an unfinished manuscript. Thanks for your contribution!

    Reply
  9. Susannah

    Kate, this was beautifully structured. How old is Eva? Two months? You’re not allowed to be thinking so clearly. I laughed in recognition and embarrassment at your Lena Dunham comment. I’m happy for her and a little angry, but mostly happy for her. Keep writing!

    Reply
  10. ericathegreatt

    I love everything about this! It’s so hard to feel like you still exist sometimes when 110% of your time is spent taking care of everyone else, but you DO. Somewhere under all of those Cheerios and the old paint brushes, you do– and you are AMAZING :)

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    There are so many times when I think, “Kate and Austin are such good parents.” And so many times when I see how talented of a writer you are. Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me.

    Reply
  12. CLW

    I can always count on you to keep it real.
    You’re doing a bang up job, Kate. :)
    (I bet it took you FOREEEEEEEEEEEVuuuuuR to write this!)

    Reply
  13. Michelle

    “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Sometimes Anne Shirley is my mantra for the moment/day/week/month

    Reply
  14. Kim

    I loved this post..and could relate so much.. but from the flipside of the coin..

    Though trying, waiting and trusting, I’m not a mamma yet, as I thought Id be…I’m 36..my husband 47..he’s been waiting longer than me.

    God has taken me on such journey through the pain , disappointment, anger, reasoning, questioning…drawn me deep into his heart where I’m learning to trust, really trust his love for me all over again…and enjoy, really enjoy this season I’m in.

    I read Joyce Meyer recently saying, we often spend more time waiting between the things we’ve asked for, than the time we have to enjoy them so we may as well learn to enjoy the times of waiting in between.

    So…I don’t know the joy of feeling a baby’s kick, or smelling sweet skin and hair or feeling a little hand in mine, seeing my husband being a daddy..or have a house filled with noise and laughter..

    but – I have started to really thank God for this time – where my house is neat and beautiful, and can entertain at the drop of a hat, where i have time for my friends, I have time to study my passion or read all day if I want, where I can go away for weekends with my hubby whenever we want and so much more…

    my glass too is half empty, half full…but I’m trying my best to fill it up to the brim while I’m in this season…trusting that my time for all those other experiences will come..

    to have, no regrets..

    bless you in this season you’re in (and thank you for your honesty) x

    Reply
    1. A

      Kim. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. What a gentle and wise meditation on grief and gifts and pain and joy and living our life today. I will be thinking over your words for some time.

      Reply
  15. brooke

    thank you for you and your words — much needed with both a toddler and infant on my lap as well. I’m adopting your mantra “I choose this life” and, really, it makes all the difference.

    Reply
  16. A

    I am someone who needs to consciously spend effort to notice the better parts of the day/situation instead of focusing on the negative. Focusing on the negative becomes a habit, until one thinks things really are that way, forgetting that it’s actually a choice.

    I’ve been making great strides in being grateful, and choosing to notice the positive, but since I read your post, the Half Full/Half Empty has been employed each day as a very helpful lens.

    HF/HE acknowledges that there is a bad way to look at it, that it might in fact be 50% crappy but it is also 50% good—-both at the same time. When I was just trying to focus on the good, there was the mean little voice nagging “But you’re just choosing the good–all that other stuff is still there.” With HF/HE I can answer “Of course it’s still there–it’s HE, but it’s ALSO (not instead) HF–so bite me.”

    Now when I start to get crabby about something, I remember “Half Full” and I write myself a mini-paragraph in my head about how the situation is Half Full. It’s been a wonderful week.

    p.s. You nailed the concept in a blog post, but some people have been known to stretch ideas like that into padded full length books and make lots of money (I’m talking to you Suzy Welch, 10-10-10). So—–work it.

    Reply
  17. erinkeith

    I just wanted to tell you that since you posted this, I have come back to it and read it about 5 or so times. If I check the blog and see there are no new ones, I come back and re-read this. So many truths, so well written.

    The first 6 months after I had my daughter I felt like I was drowning, I think mostly b/c everyone on ig had 3 kids and they were all wearing stylish shoes. Not really, but let’s blame them. Having a baby and a toddler is super hard work. Keeping everyone fed-ish and clean-ish is a full time job. I know that you know this, but eventually everyone will sleep all night, and the world will feel full of possibilities again, and less like memories of possibilities. But this time, the right now, is good too. Glad you can see a little of both, even if the scales are often tipped very much in one direction or the other.

    Reply
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  19. Jen

    I too have cried into the sink while brushing my teeth for the first time that day at 7PM. Thank you for this post!

    Reply
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  23. Normi

    Sentiments of a writer mom. I know it all too well. And I share your desire. I cry as I type but I cry happy tears for the decision to stay at hime witth my little ones. Let’s choose our battles wisely and celebrate triumphs that we all survived another day alive and smiling. Here’s a hug from me to you. :) Happy breastfeeding month! Thank you for this. Now I go back to my writing…

    Reply
  24. Danielle

    Been there!!! Self employment and small children is hard work. New born stage makes it almost seem doable because they sleep and you steal work time. Then they sleep less and need more and you reach the stage where you think you should be able to do everything, yet accomplish nothing. Which then fuels negative thoughts, doubt and disappointmen. But you don’t give up, you keep pushing. Suddenly you sleep less and less, but things are getting done bit by bit, so it’s worth it. You spread thinner and thinner. If you’re not careful you could disappear.

    It may get harder before it gets easier, but it can be done. My key was setting limits and making myself a priority. First showering before lunch. Next getting dressed and making my outsides look how I wanted my insides to feel. Eventually when nursing was done I found time for fitness as that was my drug.

    When you make time for you it will fuel you to be better at all the other things you need to do. But even this stage has to come in it’s own time.

    It will get easier. It is doable and it is worth it.

    I am now a freelance graphic artist, mother of 2 (6&3) and am training for an ironman. 2 years ago I was where you are, but worse.

    Change will come. You will achieve it all because YOU CAN!!! Don’t ever underestimate how awesome you are.

    Reply
  25. lightloveandspirit

    I love this post! I am a blogger, intuitive teacher, and psychic medium. I only have one toddler but I know how you feel! I take clients during naps and after he goes to bed. During the day I try to write and keep a full schedule of clients all while still being a mommy and wife! I’m proud of you and all the women who are doin’ this whole “mom” thing! <3

    Reply

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