THIS IS NOT HOW I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE:
Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Day the Vomit Hit the Fan
Chapter 1: The Twilight Zone: Or Why Am I the One Getting Up in the Middle of the Night?
Chapter 2: The Mother of All To-Do Lists: Or Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me How Hard This Is?
Chapter 3: Oxygen Masks: Or Why Am I at the Bottom of My Own List?
Chapter 4: Identity Whiplash: Or Who Am I Now?
Chapter 5: Baby Vacations: Or What Did I Do All Day?
Chapter 6: I’m a Square Peg: Or Why Doesn’t My Job Fit Anymore?
Chapter 7: He’s a Square Peg: Or Why Doesn’t His Job Fit Anymore?
Chapter 8: Square Pegs Together: Or How Do We Make Our Jobs Fit Together?
Chapter 9: Pits and Privates: Or Why Am I Obsessed with Saving Time?
Chapter 10: That Sinking Feeling: Or Why Do I Feel Financially Vulnerable?
Chapter 11: The Next Wedding: Or What Happened to Our Marriage?
Afterword: Remodeling Motherhood for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our Future
When our daughter, Kate, was born late one October evening, my husband, David, and I spent five days in a sleep-deprived fog together with our baby girl. David and I slept whenever Kate did. We woke up whenever she did. We ate when we remembered to eat. Sometimes we felt as if we’d slipped into a comfortable cocoon, cut off from the world and able to focus completely on each other and our baby. Whatever we felt, we felt it together and leaned on each other, sharing our new and overwhelming responsibility together.And then David had to go back to work.
That morning, I sat in the rocking chair watching Kate in her crib. Early morning sunshine came in through the window, and our first day alone together stretched peacefully in front of us. Suddenly, Kate projectile vomited across the room, splattering it all over the wall. Stunned and panicked, I called David. He couldn’t help me; he was in a meeting. I was on my own. So I called my mother, my friends, and my pediatrician who all assured me that projectile vomiting was not unusual for newborns. But, that vomit on the wall marked a turning point; it was the point at which our modern egalitarian marriage morphed into one you might see in a 1950s television show.
Each time baby Kate cried out at night, I dragged myself out of bed so that David could be fresh for work the next day. I then stumbled bleary-eyed and resentful through my own day. My formerly neatnik husband developed a blind spot when it came to dirty dishes and piles of dirty clothes. When I wasn’t feeding Kate or changing her diapers, I spent every spare minute in the kitchen or laundry room. Instead of sharing everything, David and I mostly fought about everything, and my marriage was not the only aspect of my life that had gone completely haywire. Nothing about my life as a mother–not my marriage, not my identity, not my career–was how I expected it to be. I was mad, sad, and lonely. Plus, I felt guilty for even having those feelings. After all, what did I have to be upset about? We had a beautiful baby girl whom I loved to the moon and back. I had a roof over my head, food on the table, and a loving husband. Why did I feel so lost? How could I find my way again? I simply had to answer those questions. As far as I was concerned, the stakes had never been higher. I was losing my marriage, my career, and my money. I was losing myself.
I went after the answers to my questions with the doggedness of a sleep-deprived mother hunting for that magic special blankie. I read books. As the president of the national organization Mothers & More, I talked to mothers across the country. I talked to David late into the night. Now I can share what I learned. This book is a tale of my quest, written in hindsight, the way I might tell it to a friend over coffee.
David and I were able to figure things out after several years. We found our way to a marriage that, while not the same as before Kate, is a lot closer to what I envisioned. I found my way to a life for myself that, while not the same as before Kate, is much closer to what I expected and hoped it would be. I now know that the key to my quest was to take a different point of view. Specifically, I needed to step back and take “the balcony view.”I ‘ve always used the balcony view professionally. As a consultant on organizational change, my job is to get immersed in an organization but still step back far enough mentally to see what’s really going on, to see connections that no one else has seen, and then to give objective advice about what could be done differently. Well, when I became a mother, I was so much a part of the drama unfolding on stage that I found it difficult to get up to the balcony. Difficult, but not impossible, and the more I took the balcony view, the more I was able to see both why my life had taken an unexpected turn and how I could get it back on track.
So, got your coffee? Good. Because here’s the hardest thing I learned. I’m not as enlightened as I thought. And neither is David. And neither is the world around us. Come up on the balcony with me, and I’ll share some of the snippets of my own drama that taught me those hard lessons.
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Remodeling Motherhood offers fresh perspective on mothers, fathers, money, marriage and work paired with tools to remodel and improve the lives of parents and families.