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“Mommy, Are You Mad At Me?” : Prioritizing Parenting in the Midst of Chaos

The last couple of months have been full of drastic change for us. We are still adjusting to a lot of changes in detail as I have transitioned from full time worker to full time student (working on the weekends). I tend to focus on how stressful the changes have been on me and overlook the two tiny beings that depend on me as their compass point day to to day. When I sit back and reflect on the ripple effect that has become their new routine, I scold myself for not always being as patient as I should be.

We have had in home child care since I returned to work in 2010. My daughter had just begun experiencing two day a week pre-school in July, only to be yanked from her very predictable routine and being dropped into full time pre-school (at a new location) for the first time in her life. And for my Tiny Prince? The change is even more so for him. He has never been cared for outside of the home and now he is spending long hours at preschool, stripped of his regular in home sitter he has grown so accustomed to.

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I am a Flight Paramedic and my work hours are long and ever changing. Since I started full time nursing school (and flying on the weekends), I have barely been able to keep ahead of the new routine. I like structure. I prefer predictable and controlled- preferably controlled by me. Yet, it was well past time for me to make this career/educational move. There were lots of factors influencing my choice to start nursing school now, but yet I still wonder if I should just wait. Would there perhaps be a better time to devote so much of my attention to transitioning into a more dependable and profitable career? As I have lived through the steps of giving up the security of my regular paycheck and my health insurance, I have felt rocked by change- and I am 31 years old. So if I go to bed with occasional knots in my stomach, trying to figure out how to get it all done, how much more of the pressure are my kids feeling?

My mother was one of those rare finds- she was an “all in” kind of mom. She devoted every single fraction of her being to being a mother. She stayed at home, she cooked every single meal, she canned fresh veggies, and above all – she home schooled all of us for some portion of time. So when I try to rationalize my financial need to work full time, or my acute desire to complete this transition to nursing, I am always measuring myself up to Super Mom. How could I possibly compete with the incarnate Martha Stewart? I carry a moderate amount of guilt with me in my day to day choices because deep within myself I wonder if my kids would be better in the end to go without as many financial privileges and just have their mom- full stop.

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Making dinner together!

As we have walked through these new transitions together I have done my best to be as patient as I can. But truth be told, the more preoccupied I am with assignments, exams, and work- the needier the kids have become. I am embarrassed to admit that somedays I am shorter on patience than is acceptable. My Number One Priorities can sometimes feel like nothing but a hinderance on my ever-important to-do list. One too many times I have muttered the command, “hurry please, Mama needs to do (X,Y, or Z)”.

Seriously? I feel so ashamed.

One of the manifestations of the change in routine is pee. My poor sweet Princess, who has been darn near fully potty trained since 18 months, has started to slip. She still does pretty well, but truth be told, she has had more small accidents than I know what to do with. And the fault lies with me. I may not know all of the psychology behind bed wetting and chonie-accidents, but I do know this: when life is normal and predictable, she has no problem making it to the bathroom in time. When life is hectic and ruhed- she demands more attention and swears she can’t go by herself. I have let this aggravate me to no end; “Seriously? You can’t just go by yourself? You always take yourself to the bathroom!”, “You better not fuss about having to pee until you wet your pants!”…. I shutter to even think of my impatience. I am always too preoccupied with the task at hand, or pushing her to grow up.

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How could I possibly expect her to keep all of her tiny moving part in order right now? There are some days that I am talking myself off of the brink of tears. Life has changed for our tiny family of four. It is for a good purpose- and in spite of my Mommy-guilt, I know that it is far past time for me to go back to school. Making this degree a priority will open up career options that are better hours, better pay, and quite frankly- a hell of a lot less risky. But if this change requires so much strategy from me, what greater impact is it having on my kids?

I am learning, every but surely to be in tune with their experiences. Much like in a close friendship, I need to be cognizant of the individual feelings and experiences of my family. I have got to train myself to stop being so self-indulged that I cannot see past my next exam. I need to start saying more encouraging things, more words of affirmation and less commands to “Hurry, hurry, Baby- Mama has (something thats really not so important in the grand scheme of life) to do!” If I am rocked by the chaos of changes in our life, how much more are my sweet babies sensing the change of course?

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It wasn’t but a few days ago that I was chiding her all the way to the bathroom, reminding her that she’s three now and three year olds do not pee in there undies. As I scurried her into the bathroom, only half focused on the 4th chonie-change of the day, I was paying no mind to her own reality. I didn’t stop for one moment to consider the fact that she has been ripped from her dependable routine and thrown into an overwhelming amount of time away from her Mama and Daddy. I didn’t stop to take into consideration her frustration or confusion with the shift in our family life, or how physiologically- she is still young yet, therefore I needed to adjust my expectations. I was focused only on me- just what I do best. I was worried about getting dinner on the table, or getting out the door. I wasn’t serving to provide encouragement and balance as she was feeling to upside down in her daily routine.

As I set her on the potty, she looked up at me and asked; “Mommy, are you mad at me?” My heart fell. I had failed. How could I be so self absorbed? I stumbled my way through an explanation about frustration and fatigue, but I knew that the damage was done. My choice of words makes no difference to her, it’s the tone and the body langue that gets the point across to her. “No Baby, I am not mad. I know that you have a lot to think about right now, and that sometimes accident happen. Lets work together and try harder to get to the potty in time”. Although she seemed satisfied with the remark, I could not shake it. Life is now, my family is now; she is now, and she wont be three forever. The whole point of this huge transition is for the sake of my family. I cannot allow my priority as a mother to be lost in the process.

More patience, more love, more encouragement. These are the things she needs from me; after all- it’s just pee.

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