mama is: cold. strange. safe. failing.

I’m tired tonight.

Sick of butting heads with my nearly 2 year old daughter.  Exhausted from fighting the impulse to run into the other room and shut the door on the yelling and button pushing and tantruming and deliberate provocation testing of boundaries.

Tired of being freezing cold in this stone building without (non-astronomically expensive) heating.  It’s like being in a museum in Chicago in January…with the power out.  It’s like being in a cave in Chicago in January.  It’s like being inside my refrigerator in January.  In Chicago.
My nose is cold.  My legs are cold.  I am wearing a long wool housecoat and I am huddled under a space heater and I am still cold.

Feeling frustrated by being strange.  Stranger in a foreign country.  Stranger to this community.  Strange (in this culture) parenting practices.  Strange that I am still nursing my 2 year old daughter.  Strange I don’t want my kids to eat a ton of sugar.  Strange to consider home school…I need my tribe.  Where is my tribe?  Oh, right.  I moved across the ocean from them.  Now, I know I can’t fit in everywhere, but to fit in nowhere is exhausting.  Smile through the awkwardness.  Smile through the frustration of being awkward.

Smile instead of call a friend (in another time zone and who should be sleeping but probably isn’t because she also has children) who will understand what I mean when I say I love to be a SAHM a crucial smidgen more than I hate it.

Laugh because I know that I don’t mean that.  Really.  I don’t.  Do I?


Breathe a sigh of relief when my 23 month old daughter, at the end of our long day of clashes, refuses to get into the car and asks me to WALK HER HOME from a friend’s house.  It’s cold. It’s dark.  The back street is only partially paved and even less well lit.  There are big, muddy, cold puddles.  I will have to hold her the whole way.  I will have to walk alone, my husband and son will take the car.  YES, I tell her.  Let’s walk.  And so we walk, my steps and my breath and her small voice are the only sounds.  She says, out of nowhere, “I’m safe in your arms.”


I love her endlessly.  I hug her as we walk and tell her I love her and that I’m sorry we had a rough day.  She says she was “sad” when we had a clash of wills earlier in the day.  And there it is:  we are talking about a problem.  I tell her again that I love her so much.  I feel a sense of importance hanging over our words and I hope she is soaking in the love as much as the frustration we experienced.  The walk home was her olive branch, and mine to her.

And still tonight as she is fighting sleep, she manages to find a way to push my buttons…again.

Feeling guilty:  for losing my cool every now and then.  For craving 5 glorious minutes of uninterrupted email time.  For craving a closed bathroom door and the ability to cry when I want to without 2 small people looking at me to make sure I am 100% ok at all times.  Because I’m not.  I’m lonely, I’m foreign, I’m a stranger, I’m tired, I’m selfish, I’m anxious and I’m in need of my yoga practice and my alone time and a good book with my feet up on pillows (hot tea beside my elbow not optional).


Before you think I’m either fishing for compliments or self-flagellating, let me assure you that I know the perfect mom doesn’t exist.  We all do our best, and we all mess it up. “Perfect Mom” is the way good moms beat themselves up.  But I am not 2 years old.  How is it possible I have buttons that my 2 year old can push?

Fail again.  Fail better.


17 thoughts on “mama is: cold. strange. safe. failing.

  1. Fail successfully, because fail we will. There is nothing we can do about it. Even in the end our bodies will fail us. All our high and mighty ideals we must let go of and just embrace and love what is. Just love.

    • Thanks Auntie M. I really love your input. You are always always always right on in your thoughts about mothering. I really thank you for this timely comment because it helped me today as we went through yet another challenging day.

  2. I love it that you said yes to walking home in the cold and dark on a pothole-y road with Laila in your arms and the beautiful moment and reward you got from that: One-on-one time with her where you could talk about your day and the comment “I’m safe in your arms”. So incredibly sweet. Makes me think of how I really dislike laying down with Lucas to help him fall asleep at night. Lying on the very edge of his uncomfortable (to me) twin bed. Reminding him of the ‘sleep rules’ yet again (close your eyes, close your mouth, and no squirming). Waiting and waiting for him to fall asleep when I just want to go downstairs and relax with my husband at the end of a long day. And then he says, “I love you so so much mommy”. So worth it. 🙂

    • Awwww! Lucas is so sweet but I know exactly what you mean, obviously. the thing you wish wasn’t getting in the way of your totally deserved moment of peace is actually you earning your moment of peace.

  3. I sound like a broken record–but you are AMAZING. I really would be committed. I do not have your patience. You are a MOTHER and a GIFT. If I was that cold–which I TOTALLY get–I would be a cranky mess–and that’s not even taking into consideration having small kids! Being bone chilling cold is the worst! I hope you will enjoy our 112 degrees again soon. You are loved.

    • Thanks L. You are really so sweet and such a great support. I love hearing your “voice” even if you are a broken record (of compliments! a broken record of compliments…it could be worse for sure!) thanks my friend.

  4. Been reading for a while now and my heart just goes out to all you are going thru. Don’t know how you do it! But keep trying as this too shall pass. Kids will get older and learn to push different buttons.

    • Thanks for the support. “This too shall pass” is a great way to look at things and, as you point out, it is not strictly good or bad that things change. New stages are their own challenges, and old stages become babyhoods that I miss. I just hope I get enough space between the challenging moments to breathe and take in the passing babyhood. Of course, I guess that’s my challenge. To breathe even in the midst of this all. Hmmmm. Thanks for making me think…

  5. This may be little consolation, but the most challenging time I’ve had mothering Lily (up until right now because I’m so pregnant and irritable) was between 18-30 months. She was so often disagreeable for no apparent reason and she would have hour long melt downs that I just had to let run their course. One thing that helped was when I started giving her magazines and newspapers to rip up when the meltdowns came on. Sometimes I gave her pillows to hit. When she screamed I encouraged her telling her “more, more” or “louder” letting her know that I heard her. When she started winding down I would ask her if there was anything else she needed to tell me. Those were the only things that helped me get through this stage because it kept me from engaging in the intensity of her emotions. I remember being surprised by my friends with little boys who didn’t have the same issues. Most of them were ready to add another sibling to the family and I judged myself because it was all I could do to raise my one child without going completely insane. I love your honesty and your great big heart.

    • Very sweet that you helped Lily through it with such compassion. Of course I’m not surprised. What you say about being ready to have another child based on the ease of the first child really hit home. I’m sure that was a bit of a faith walk for you, in that you saw others getting their second baby on while you were still getting back on your feet. I think it speaks volumes to the kind of mom you are: self possessed and eyes open. It’s a really good thing you waited, as you will see. Had I had a child as challenging as my daughter for my firstborn I would have watied too

      • ps: I was just wondering how long you had to go! so excited for you. and if i can be of any help in the adjustment to a fam of 4, please email me.

  6. My due date is January 14th, but I don’t think this baby is in any hurry. We’re getting the last few things done around the house to get ready for the baby. Today we got a brand new shipment of diapers and I got to cross that off my list.

    Oh, I almost forgot. I drank a lot of wine when Lily was Laila’s age, like two glasses a night. I not-so-jokingly called it “meditation in a bottle” and I didn’t give damn what any of my yoga friends thought about it.

    • Meditation in a bottle!!! LOVE it! I did something similar through a rough time. My husband would make a toast after the kids were finally asleep and we had a bit of silent time together. It was a nice ritual that helped us let go.

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