Sometimes people ask me why I was so relaxed about the terrible twos. I have to say, it’s because the first year was so rough for me that it made everything after it a thousand times better. If I could conquer that first phase, I could get through anything. Part of it has to do with the fact that a toddler is much different than a baby, but most of it has to do with my mental approach. As silly as it sounds, I’ve come to terms with my role as a mom and making peace with myself has allowed me to better enjoy everything that comes with it.
Now when I’m having a hard day, I remember what was. What my state of mind used to look like. And it wasn’t pretty:
That first year, most nights I couldn’t fall asleep even though I was thoroughly exhausted because I was riddled with anger and resentment. There were days when I was really, really pissed off and wondered how I got there. Resentment for all the hours of sleep I missed, the work I didn’t get done, the opportunities I passed up, the friends I didn’t get to see … again. Angry that I spent my days stressing about how to get everything that needs to be done accomplished; angry that some days the peak of my social life was going to the grocery store. Angry that I couldn’t run or workout. Angry that I was unsatisfied intellectually and professionally. Angry that I felt so very alone in all of it.
But mostly angry that I was angry.
As a mom, you willingly give up anything for your child, but I had never intended to be a stay-at-home mom. I intended to work while I was at home too. And I was working, but barely. (Every mom is probably snickering behind her computer screen right now; of course it was nearly impossible to work and take care of kids without help.) I was constantly stressed out about deadlines and getting things done and moving things forward, but it wasn’t working so I stepped back a little. That helped with some of the stress, but then it left me unfulfilled.
And then the guilt crept in for being unfulfilled when I got to spend every hour of the day home with my child. Only the lines were much blurrier than that; I loved spending that time with him. I couldn’t stand being away from him. When he was awake and I was with him, I didn’t want to be doing anything else. It was just the big picture thing: the feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing or contributing in a productive manner and that the things I had to do weren’t the things I wanted to be doing.
The whole thing started a cascade of emotions. There were days when I felt lost and unworthy. Other people could handle this, so why couldn’t I? Why wasn’t it enough, but at the same time too much? I was unbalanced and unsure and often resented the burden of responsibility that had been placed on my shoulders.
This wasn’t all the time, but no one (read: me) seemed willing to admit things weren’t always sunshine and rainbows. The days that were filled with clingy crankiness could get rough. Although my little one thankfully started sleeping at night, he wasn’t a napper. I heard about moms being able to get things done during 1 to 2 hour naps twice a day, and I turned green with envy. I could have done a lot with a couple hours.
I was a broken record constantly begging for more time. More time! But I also knew enough that no matter how hard those moments and emotions and struggles were, I needed to learn to appreciate every moment with my baby. Deep down I knew I wouldn’t want it any other way, but it was an ongoing struggle to figure out how to make things work.
Now, it’s over a year later and I’m so glad to be on the other side of all that; to barely remember what those days were like. That’s how I could love the terrible twos. Hopefully I’ll be able to say the same about three at the end of this year.
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