Addition, not subtraction

Me with Oliver

I’m sneaking this post.

My son has been asleep for the better part of an hour already, which means we’re on borrowed time. Spencer is outside changing a series of parts on his car — don’t ask me which — and I “helped” by holding a few bolts in place while he jimmied something together. We made lunch (frozen burgers), scrubbed a few random surfaces, and I made “progress” with the laundry by moving it from the dryer to the bed, where it is heaped and waiting.

But I am happy.

Now that Oliver is 14 months old, babbling like crazy and moving everywhere, showing his first signs of independence . . . I feel these little pieces of myself returning. For so long, I was too tired for anything that wasn’t an absolute necessity (and even some things that were).

But I’m reading again. I actually finished a real, physical book, and am making progress on another (and loving it).

I’m walking like crazy. My Fitbit has totally kicked my rump in the best way, and I — er, I mean Oliver — surprised Spencer with his own for Father’s Day so we can enter into a little “friendly competition” with our steps each day. I don’t always hit 10,000, but I remember many of your tips from my post last month and push myself to do just a bit more than I think I can every day.

When I think of my life with a newborn, I was a shell of a human being — and I am at peace with saying those were not the happiest days of my life. The months we’ve had with Oliver now, who is sweet and funny and mischievous, are easily better and more rewarding and more fulfilling than our hard, hard start.

I never wondered if I was cut out for motherhood, but I have wondered if it would always be that difficult. Putting prematurity aside, I didn’t know I could be so physically exhausted and still functioning. And working. And cleaning stuff.

But it’s been more than a year, and I rarely forget we’re a trio now — not a duo. We take walks with Oliver in the stroller on the nights the humidity doesn’t settle like a wool blanket, and I love watching his eyes take in the swaying trees. He swings his feet now and leans forward, gripping the baby-sized cupholders, and whatever irritable mood he was in before that moment is carried off by the breeze.

Life is not perfect. Nothing ever is. But I don’t have to try and remember if I’ve actually brushed my teeth or used the restroom that morning, which is a huge step up from where we have been.

I am finding balance.

Thinking of everything that has happened since we married in late 2013, I do try to give myself a break. I mean, two years ago this week, we were moving into our new house. One year ago, I had just returned to work after Oliver was born in April.

If becoming a mom was an adjustment, becoming working parents certainly added a new dimension to our lives. But Spence and I have made it work — even when I wasn’t sure how we would. It’s taken a combination of a wonderful babysitter, supportive local family, flexible bosses and work schedules . . . but we haven’t missed an appointment, meeting or deadline. And Ollie has been in great hands.

This year? I breathe more. I chat more. I find time for the little things that make me happy — baking, reading three pages of a book . . . heck, even shopping — when, in fits of exhaustion, I didn’t know if I ever would or could again. Sometimes it takes creativity, and it’s not as seamless as it may have been before we had a baby. But even someone terrible at math can see he is an addition, not a subtraction. Never a subtraction.

And when in doubt, I walk it out. I’ve never looked forward to being outside or slipping on sneakers, but those quiet moments of movement are as close to meditating as I get. Just like with weight loss, it’s less about a number and more about a feeling.

And I feel better. Calmer. And I am so, so grateful for that.


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24 thoughts on “Addition, not subtraction

  1. Dear Meg, your post is sooo touching. And I have seen myself in your words: your worries, your difficulties, your struggles. I see Me, trying to cope and find the big frame of my life. I have got 3 kids now (I can’t believe it either…) and every time I was pregnant and then newly mother it hasn’t been so easy and smooth. But I feel grateful to my husband who could support me. I can’t say that was the best time of my life, but it was necessary to create my actual family.
    The only thing I would add to you is this: we are a DUO + a TRIO. My husband and I try to find time to be together, going out, having a dinner at the local pizzeria, going to the theatre, or just walking on the beach. Just the two of us. We keep saving money for… the babysitting! But it is really worth it. Kids grow up, then they fly away and you will be again a “young” couple 🙂

    • Thank you, Dom. ❤ Your advice to remain both a duo and trio is spot-on, and I've been mulling over this comment quite a bit since yesterday. It is so important to still spend time as a twosome to, as a podcast I recently listened to said, "remember why you wanted to have a baby with this person in the first place." Ha!

  2. Thanks for this! It does get easier. My twins are six, now, and the toughest part was that first year. Writing about it like this, though, is so wonderful — because it is open and honest and lets people know that the tough time that they, themselves, had — is not unique. Thank you!

    • Thanks so much, Pauls. My favorite times with friends are when we can all just be honest about how we may be struggling — not to “fix” anything, but just to relish in that camaraderie and admit, “Hey, this is tough.” I think we can all admit parenthood is hard without having to qualify it with “But I love my kids!” because . . . of course we do. But it’s still hard. Are we grateful? Yes. Are we exhausted? YES. And that’s OK.

  3. Definitely know how you feel. The newborn phase was so hard for me and full of tears. Now that Caleb is turning into a toddler, I have a little more time and energy to get back to who I was.

    • Right there with you, Steph. The newborn phase was not my favorite at all. One of the most comforting moments of young parenthood came when a friend (with three kids under 5!) told me that she really didn’t start “liking” her kids until they were toddlers. She spoke aloud what I’d been feeling so acutely: that I was put in charge of a screaming stranger, and I wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing with him. There is so much to be gained from being honest with each other and ourselves . . . I’m trying to embrace that moving forward.

  4. Carl and I walk every morning and I treasure that time. For one hour every day, it’s just the two of us without distractions or interruptions. Keep it up!

    • Love this, Kathy! I really look forward to our evening walks, too, and also really value my time walking before work. Dropping Oliver off at day care and getting to the office early to have 20 minutes of “me” time to clear my head . . . it has made a huge difference for me.

  5. When my son was born over 30 years ago, my mother told me that motherhood gets easier as children grow older. Well, i got busier and busier as my son aged. Now, I am a grandmother of three, now that’s easy.

    • It’s comforting to know it does get easier! And being a grandmother must be wonderful. ❤ I know my parents and in-laws are really enjoying this new phase, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I liked reading this. 🙂 It reminded me of when I was a young mom with little ones.
    I especially liked your description of your walks with your son.

    very sweet. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susana — I love those walks. When nothing else can calm Oliver down, just getting outside and moving helps so much. I’m so glad we discovered that with the help of my grandmother, who babysat for decades! When I announced my pregnancy, one of the first bits of advice she offered was to get an umbrella stroller. “I ran the wheels off several of those,” she’ll say — and she was right! Huge help.

      • “ran the wheels off several of those”
        Lol. grandmothers give the best advice, that’s for sure
        🙂

  7. It’s hard. It’s so hard! Those early weeks of cluster feeding when I wasn’t sleeping for more than an hour merged straight into evenings when I’d gone back to work and the sun went down by 6:30. I felt like the day was over before I had a chance to catch up on anything! Then we finally found some balance and routine when Sydney got RSV and we were in the hospital for a week. It felt like hitting a restart button with nursing and sleep patterns, etc. Being a parent is so freaking hard, but it’s so joyful too. You’re right, definitely an addition. I love hearing about your journey.

    • I’m with you completely, Melissa, and raise my coffee mug in solidarity. We also had a great routine going when Oliver would get very sick or was recovering from surgery, which would put us back at square one. Even last weekend, Ollie pulled an all-nighter — for no reason, seemingly! He wasn’t sick, had no teething we could see, etc. But he would only sleep in my arms. After months of sleeping well, that was ROUGH. But we press on. I know you’re doing a wonderful job with sweet Sydney, and motherhood looks beautiful on you!

  8. thank you for this post! My daughter is 9 months old and just when I start to feel like it gets easier, she starts teething or waking up at 4:30am or going through extreme separation anxiety and screaming every time I leave her just to pee. Reading this post gave me hope that I will find my comfort stage as a mom. It’s also nice to know I’m not the only one in love my child but not in love with the baby phase.

  9. It is so refreshing to see such a genuine post ❤ and i have so much respect for mothers like yourself, keep on keeping on!

    S xo

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  11. Hi Meg, I can definitely relate! My little one is 20 months and I’m finally reaching those milestones as well (reading whole books, walking, regaining some energy). Love your post!

  12. Loved reading this. I am a mom of two grown sons and I still remember those days of exhaustion when even a shower was typically out of the question while my husband was at work. You sound like you are doing great.

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