Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Avoiding the Padded Room

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without.

Growing up, I didn't have aspirations to be a wife and mother.  When we played "house" as kids, I didn't arm wrestle my friends to be the mom.  I never envisioned a princess wedding, which coincidentally, left me clueless when it came to planning one at 24.  I didn't have a vision of my future, really.  I was always a "live in the moment" type person.  Myers-Briggs calls it being ENFP.  I call it evading responsibility.  But settling into the role of "career homemaker" wasn't on the short list of possibilities.

Despite this, Jacob and I somehow conformed.  It started slow.  We met in college, dated awhile, and got married. We earned degrees, started careers, lived together and had lots of fun.  We even bought a two-bedroom house, not planning on any children during our time owning it. But like a light switch, I suddenly had an intense need to keep the human race going, Turner-style. Nine-ish months later, we were paying some serious hospital bills and figuring out how to take care of a newborn.  Two years after that?  We're hoping to have a wing of the hospital named after us, and knee-deep in dirty diapers.

The transition into parenthood wasn't as easy as all of the others.  Getting married was fun - we opened lots of presents, drank a lot, and no longer had to worry about awkward sleeping arrangements when visiting family.  Buying a house was a little trickier, but nothing some upgrades and hiring a lawn maintenance company couldn't handle.  Bringing home a newborn?  Not even in the same realm.  You spend nine (ten) long months getting disproportionately fat, feeling nauseous, emotionally unstable, not sleeping well, etc.  And your job hasn't even started yet.  The minute your newborn is placed into your arms, you have all of the previous grievances to worry about.  AND another human life.  Congratulations. 

I am a car business widow.  Just like my mother before me.  Being a car business widow means that your dear, darling, hard-working husband works at a car dealership, so as long as there might be an opportunity to sell a car, the doors are open and your husband is away.  When they come home at night, they are tired and worn-out from dealing with the average angry customer, in the same way that the stay at home mom has been dealing with the average angry infant or toddler.  This makes for a lousy set of parents at 8 pm when the kids haven't had dinner yet, the house is a mess, and you're wondering how you are going to make it through the next five minutes, much less till tomorrow.  Enter: extended family members.  Moms, Dads, in-laws, and even a really brave friend or two.  Without this, I would be in a padded room.

I love being a mom.  I even think I'm kinda good at it.  But sometimes even good moms need breaks.  Hours of Spongebob Squarepants, DJ Lance Rock, and figuring out new ways to entertain with Plah-Doh only stimulates the brain so much.  For me AND for Ben.  On good days, playing with toys with a TV break here and there keeps Ben happy and occupied.  On bad days, Hurricane Ben with a Beckett kicker comes through the house, ignores the toys, and wreaks havoc on my sanity.  I want to be more patient.  I wish for it a lot, and I feel like I'm improving some, out of pure necessity.  But on days where I'm fantasizing about getting in the car and driving to a new, faraway land and starting over, I call for help instead.  And thank the sanity gods - help always arrives just in time.

Our lives have changed lots since our carefree college days.  Forget about kids, or even dogs, we couldn't keep plants alive.  But life has led us down the formally unexpected, challenging, yet most rewarding and fulfilling job we've had yet: parenthood.  And most days, I think we do a pretty awesome job.  Let's face it, two boys, 22 months apart is not for the faint of heart.  But without help, I would be institutionalized.  Sometimes this makes me feel defeated.  Other times I feel like an evil genius for thinking up the idea of delegating childcare responsibilities.  Either way, I get a much-needed break, giving me the ability to be a better parent.  A co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, down-in-the-trenches with Spongebob Squarepants, parent.  That overused saying about taking a village to raise a child?  Truer words have never been spoken.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things's relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can't imagine parenting without her husband's sense of humor - he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can't imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs "me time" in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer's Daughter doesn't appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn't imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • It's More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can't imagine parenting without her breasts; here's why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family's needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama's next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn't even know you needed (and probably don't…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn't survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it's afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren't things at all.
  • I'm No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without...Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can't imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it's not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn't easy at first, Knocked Up - Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can't live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What "stuff" does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at born.in.japan, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I'm a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship...and made life easier to boot.
  • It's Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can't imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin' Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us...
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter's perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles - come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that the mother/child bond.


  1. I have been discussing the village concept with some friends from my local parenting group - we are all quite prepared to move to a commune to help each other out ;)

  2. I totally agree. I also would be lost as a parent without my support group.

  3. I hear you!!! I also have 2 little ones close together (just 15 months apart) and I too have days where I am 'fantasizing about getting in the car and driving to a new, faraway land and starting over'!

    The only family I live near to are my elderly Grandparents but thankfully they are fantastic with my two and will drop everything if I need them to look after them for a while. I think (hope)as my kids get older the network of support will widen and we will be closer to the reality of the 'village'!

  4. Thanks for your refreshing honesty in encouraging parents to seek and accept help! My kids were 5 years apart (and a boy and a girl), so I didn't have the same challenges you have. How great that you're acknowledging the difficulties and finding the help that allows you to be the best possible parent you can be.
    Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  5. Thank you for sharing! Your post is hilarious and honest! I loved your comparisons of transitioning to being married, and being a mother. My two are 28 months apart, and I feel that was just the right space to keep me sane. It's great that you know just what you need to meet everyone's needs.

    (Terri... 15 months! Wow!)

  6. Very true; I found the early days especially hard because I had no help at all and I felt like I would go crazy; but my dear sweet daughter has taught me to lighten up a little and to love unconditionally. It does indeed sound like you are doing a wonderful job

  7. I love your post! I felt the same way about getting married: easy as pie, so comfortable and lovely. And then having a baby? Holy night, what a chore! :) I liked the cuteness and attention of being pregnant, too, and that all went out the window when everyone wanted to look only at the cute little newborn — but leave me to change the dirty diapers and deal with the crying jags. Ah, well! You're inspiring me to try to find a trusted support system before this next little one is born, and pronto.