The Mental Load

If there is anything that motherhood teaches you, it’s that the second you become a mother, you also receive the mental load. Moms know what I’m talking about. It is the endless list that runs inside your mind like the credits of a movie. The things to add to the grocery list, what you’re going to make for dinner in the upcoming week, how many loads of laundry there are left to do. Mothers are constantly managing this load, usually without any complaints, and it is exhausting. Now throw a global pandemic into the mix. It is a recipe for a mental health crisis if you ask me.

Even with supportive husbands and fathers, it seems in every relationship, the mental load falls squarely on the mother’s shoulders. Thoughts like, who needs to go to the doctor and when? Do we need more ketchup? Did I already buy ketchup and forget where I put it? Does anyone even need ketchup in the first place? And now it’s lots of; are we in a yellow zone or orange zone yet? Is the red zone happening now? Is the baby’s sneeze the ‘rona finally finding itself on our doorstep? Does my head hurt because I’m infected with covid or is it because I sleep 2 hours at a time? WILL THINGS EVER BE NORMAL AGAIN?

Managing the mental load is hard and asking for help is important. I’m guilty of never asking for help because I am a stubborn ass mule. I notice things that need to be done and just start doing them. Since I’m home all the time thanks to the health crisis we all find ourselves in, most of that time is spent thinking of things that have to be done. Worrying if people are going to start hoarding baby wipes again. Ordering everything for Christmas weeks in advance because it’s only a matter of time until it will be prohibited from entering a store. Hiding all of those packages so the magic of Christmas isn’t ruined for Charlotte. Trying to make the least normal time in our lives seem normal. Managing remote learning and taking care of a baby and working myself. The one or two days that Charlotte went to school were a life saver for my mind. Now that’s gone again, and in its place are her constant heartbreaking questions of when she will get to go again. She’s worried that Santa won’t be able to come because of the coronavirus. She’s planning a birthday party in her head that probably will not even be allowed to happen. So now I worry about her mental state on top of everything. Sometimes I think I’d like to scream as loud as I can for as long as I can just to feel something other than stress and dread. I know my friends and family feel the same. All of my mom group chats follow the same pattern. One of us has a meltdown per day, we talk each other through the meltdown and then repeat the cycle. We send memes to distract ourselves from what our lives have become. Thank God we have each other.

But, because we are moms, we carry on. We decorate for the holidays, we make plans to bake cookies and drink hot cocoa while listening to Christmas music. I told Charlotte Santa Claus can never get sick because he is made of magic, and he will park his sleigh on our pool cover as his landing space to deliver presents to our block. She decorated a tiny hot pink tree in her room that makes her smile every day. She writes her Christmas list over and over and over again, and I hope when all of this is over and she is older she remembers only the good parts of this mess. That’s the mental load too – worrying about shit that hasn’t even happened yet. I try to give myself some grace, to allow myself to ask for help and realize not everything has to be done the way I would do it. I’m a work in progress. But to all the moms carrying their own mental load, I see you. I’m always here to listen, to send a meme, to cry or scream with you. I also highly recommend a glass of red wine in the evenings, or even a blood mary at breakfast. Parenting is hard enough, but parenting in a pandemic is a whole other ballgame, so we do what we have to do to make it through the days. If there was ever a time to get rid of any judgment of others, it is now. Moms are in this together and everyone has their own version of hard. The good thing is, there is a meme for every situation.

2020, year of the mental load meltdown and the meme.

Five Months

When I go through the years of posts on this blog (how has it been years?) I noticed that I wrote a monthly recap of Charlotte’s first year. Poor Mackenzie. She’s lucky she gets the monthly photo at this point. And it’s not because I don’t want to recap her life, it’s just because there is never any time. BUT! She has fixed that problem for me. You see, today she woke up at 5:30 (which is better than yesterday’s 3:30!) and her sister is still asleep and online school doesn’t start for another 2 hours so I am able to recap her five months with us.

Her new name is Judas since she’s turning on sleep. It figures I would have both kids that hate it, but I was really hoping we’d get through the four month sleep regression unscathed. WOMP WOMP. I’m returning the SNOO soon with a note that says “THANKS BUT NO THANKS!” I set her crib up yesterday so this should be fun. I see a lot of Starbucks in my future. She’s miles ahead of her sister, but I am really not a fan of waking up at 5:30 AM and also waking up twice in the middle of the night to feed her. Sometimes I wonder if formula would make her sleep better and I’m tempted to try it. But breast is best for me because it burns calories and helps me fill out a bra.

Mackenzie rolled over from her back to her belly on Halloween. Nobody saw it. Eric was in the shower and Charlotte and I went downstairs in the basement to get something and when we came back up she was on her stomach looking at us. She has not rolled since. She refuses. She is lazy.

She still hates tummy time, which I force her to do every day because she won’t roll and she is getting a flat head. Her favorite thing in the world is to lay on her back and kick her feet violently. I don’t understand how her heels aren’t bruised from how hard she kicks. At least she gets a workout in.

Her favorite person in the world is her sister. Charlotte TORTURES her with love. Char has a thing for ear lobes and she squeezes Mackenzie’s so hard while screaming “YOU’RE SO FRIGGIN’ CUTE!” and Mackenzie just cracks the hell up. Whenever she sees Charlotte her face just lights up and she smiles and laughs for her like no one else. It’s adorable and I can’t wait until they fight.

Her favorite show is Scientology and the Aftermath. We’re on Season 3. I let her watch it with me to show her that even though Charlotte tells me I am the worst mother in the world for not giving her a lollipop for breakfast, at least I’m not making them sign a billion year contract to join hard labor camps for children in the Sea Org.

She is happy 95% of the time. She is the light of 2020. My pandemic baby. When I look back on this year and all the terrible things that have happened and are still happening, I will always be grateful that I have her. She really completes our family in the best way. I just wish she’d sleep, you know?

The Betrayal

Mackenzie is four months old, so it is time for the good old four month sleep regression. It is not a fun time. My baby is betraying me.

Mackenzie has been a better sleeper than Charlotte ever was, though that isn’t saying much. People who are being tortured with sleep deprivation probably sleep more than Charlotte did as a baby. But this could be because Eric and I rented the SNOO this time around because I wasn’t playing any games. It’s the bassinet that you strap your kid into and it puts them to sleep for you and it is magical and worth every penny. From the get go Mackenzie has been sleeping in it and she goes down SO easy. I can actually do the “awake but drowsy” nonsense that gets posted on every baby blog and she goes to bed. It’s wonderful! And then she would sleep 6 or 7 hours! WHAT A TIME IT WAS!

And now the regression has reared its ugly head and the 6-7 hours are 4-5 hours. Or sometimes 2-3 hours. And we are waking up more frequently and it is not fun and the SNOO isn’t doing WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO!! I can still put her down at 7:30 with no problems but then she’s waking up by 10:30/11 and screaming at me like an angry dinosaur. She eats and goes back, except for last night she was up for 45 minutes talking to herself like she was practicing lines for a soap opera and lifting her legs in the air and slamming them down like she was a diva on WWE. I read this is a way that babies can self soothe themselves and I can’t understand why she won’t choose the pacifier and instead chooses violent rockettes training instead. Then there are the days she is just awake at 5 AM because WHY NOT.

This regression is when they have a permanent change in their sleep and they sleep more like adults or something. I don’t know. I’m too tired to figure it out. But they say it can last anywhere from 4-6 weeks and I want this to end and my sleeper to come back. I don’t want to send the SNOO back until she is out of this phase because I’m not weaning her for a crib until she cuts it out. No way am I walking down my bedroom steps 3 times a night. They say not to start any habits now that will become a sleep crutch later on. I’m not sure if my cursing her to go the F back to bed is a crutch. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

What’s in a Name?

I don’t believe I’ve told this story yet, and since I’m sick to death of my own voice talking about remote learning (it sucks), the few days in school (she loves it), and the general quarantine fatigue, it feels like the right time.

If any of you know me and Eric, you know that we never agreed on baby names. He’d throw out a couple and I’d say they sucked, I’d throw out a couple and he’d tell me I make terrible choices. We settled on Charlotte early on in that pregnancy, which was literally the only name we both liked. When I got pregnant the second time, there was not a single name, male or female, that we both liked. I liked old fashioned names and he liked trendy. We would argue over everything. He said we should just name the baby Charlotte 2.

Before I found out I was pregnant, like a week or two before, I remember talking to Charlotte about throwing out this gross toy bottle when she told me I had to save it for the baby in my belly. Then, when I found out I was pregnant and told her, she said she knew it was a girl. If any of you have seen the video of our gender reveal, you’ll see her screaming “SORRY DAD” because she was so happy to have a little sister on the way. Once we knew it was a girl, we really ramped up the name game and we were at a stalemate. But then my best friend Lisa sent Charlotte a big sister book and a big sister doll to celebrate, and when Charlotte was playing with the doll she looked up at me and said “this baby is Mackenzie, like my baby sister is Mackenzie.” She said it so matter of fact, like she had always known and the decision was made. Mackenzie was never on our radar. We never said it out loud, we never thought it, we literally never considered it. But when Charlotte said it, that was it. She named her sister.

Eric chose her middle name, but we spelled it Mae because Mackenzie’s godmother is LisaRae (the same Lisa who bought the doll that inspired the name to begin with), so it was a nod to her. May is also the month Eric and I met, so Mackenzie’s name is special all around. I also like the way Charlotte Shea and Mackenzie Mae flows, because I’m a sucker for rhyming and alliteration.

And that’s that. The story of Mackenzie Mae, our little chubba love.

Remote Learning

Hi there! It’s been a while. Probably because we have “gone back to school” which is the funniest thing I’ve typed in a while. Back to school on a computer. We were supposed to go back on September 10, then September 21, and now Charlotte won’t see the inside of a classroom until next Thursday, and I’m still not holding out hope. In the month of October she’ll go to the classroom a whopping 6 times! All the other days will be done on a DOE issued laptop at my dining room table as I try to keep her paying attention while simultaneously taking caring of my 3 month old daughter, who never seems to nap during a single class thus far. She has an in person teacher and a remote teacher, two different google classrooms, an email address, an app to check and Zoom. But because she is FIVE YEARS OLD this is my responsibility. Did I mention my maternity leave is coming to an end and I’ll be working from home full time again? Is there a word that is more stressed than stress? Because that’s what I am! I am so stressed that I’ve had three clogged milk ducts in less than a month and am currently on a round of antibiotics for an infection. YAY REMOTE LEARNING!

OK, enough complaining. Let’s just get down to the nitty gritty of what remote learning is all about with kindergarten kids. On day 1, one kid unmuted himself to ask when it was going to be over. The kids all seem to know how to unmute themselves and do so at any given moment, so in addition to the teacher trying to keep their attention we also get to hear parents screaming, phone calls, babies crying (that’s me!) and children complaining. Charlotte unmuted herself to say she cannot wait until the coronavirus is back so everyone stays home again. I then furiously mute her and scream like a lunatic and then unmute her again when it’s time to present like nothing ever happened. Today she told her teacher “mommy is sad because Spanky is dead.” There is no order to these lessons and children are just screaming out answers to questions, mine included. This morning a little girl was crying because Charlotte wasn’t raising her hand and just yelling shit out. But Mackenzie was nursing so I couldn’t be near the computer because for some reason this DOE laptop has a very wide angle camera and I learned this the hard way last week while nursing. Bet nobody was expecting that educational experience.

There is SO much bribing going on in this household as I’m sure there is in others. I scream whisper that if she just participates she can have a brownie or an ice cream cone or 750 gold stickers to put on her wall. For the most part she is doing the best she can and when she participates I am way off to the side like some energizer bunny hype woman telling her what a good job she is doing. School is hard enough for a shy kid like Charlotte, so internet school is another ball game. If she doesn’t like something she makes sure her face is showing her displeasure. When the good morning song comes on she covers her ears and makes a face like she’s going to throw up. IT’S GREAT. WE’RE ALL DOING FINE.

I don’t blame the teachers for these lessons. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to plan something to teach on a computer to 5 year old kids that can’t sit still to save their life. It’s a miracle none of them just start screaming “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PRESS THE MUTE BUTTON YOU DEMONS” because that’s what I want to scream every morning. They are trying their best like we are trying our best but if this is how it’s going to be for this school year I don’t think anyone is going to learn anything, except Charlotte’s class will probably learn how to properly latch a baby while trying to mute their complaining children.

Send wine.

Life Lately

I feel like there is so much happening with Mackenzie and yet I just can’t find the time to write about it. I had updates every month for Charlotte and was able to post daily if I wanted. I’ll sit down to type and then remember 500 other things I need to do for the few moments I’m not needed by one of the kids. These moments are few and far between, especially with Charlotte. Sometimes I thinks she thinks I am her own personal slave.

So lately 2020 has continued to be really 2020ish. I’m certain we’ll be able to use this analogy for years to come. Anything bad happens to you? How 2020! Anyway, we had to put my Spanky boy to sleep last week. If you’re not a dog person I don’t think you can understand how traumatic it is. I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it was the absolute worst day of my life even though I know we made the right choice. Anyone who met Spanky knew he was special, and I mean that in more ways than one. My little guy man was with me from my first heartbreak to my first baby. He was everything. I think – no, I know – I will miss him every day of my life. When I told Charlotte that Spanky was going to the rainbow bridge she said, “oh, like in Mario Run?” Leave it to kids to make you laugh in the worst of times. My kids have actually been the biggest distraction. They’re so damn needy, how could they not be?

So, let’s chat about my little Kenzie girl. Man, what a delight this child is. She’s sleeping 6-7 hours a night and then goes back for another 3 after she eats. She is so happy when she wakes up. Always smiling and cooing and just generally glad to see someone. She is so nice and chubby! At her 2 month checkup she weighed in at 12 pounds 6 ounces. I don’t know about you but there isn’t anything I love more than a chubby baby. She does have quite a temper though. If you’re doing something she doesn’t enjoy, like holding her while sitting down, she’ll scream in your face until you do what she wants. She looks like a mandrake from Harry Potter when she gets mad. She is somehow getting a tooth. I thought I was crazy and didn’t say anything, but then my mom came over and saw it too. I’m hoping it takes a while to break through the gum because I’m not ready for a 3 month old with a tooth! Mackenzie is really the only good thing to come out of this year so far. I thoroughly enjoy her and thank God she is such a good baby.

And then there is the other one. Oh Charlotte. She is really such a firecracker. She has an attitude that frightens me for when she is a teenager. She gets punished multiple times a day. But she is so. damn. funny. The other day she threw crumbs on the floor and I remarked to Eric that I was going to kill her, and without missing a beat she shouts, “YOU CAN’T KILL ME, I’M A CHILD!” She is getting her 6 year molars (which is something I was NOT aware of, and also, why do my children get teeth so early?) and she had an absolute melt down saying she didn’t like how it felt on her tongue. She then lay on the floor hysterical crying, “BUT I DON’T WANT MARBLES! I DON’T WANT MARBLES IN MY MOUTH!”

We also like to play the letter game every day – that’s where you pick a letter and then continue naming words that start with that letter – it’s great for her vocabulary and she loves it. It also is the perfect showcase for the other words she knows. We were doing the letter P as we went on a walk yesterday, and about an hour later when we were in the yard playing she looked up and said, “hey mom! We forgot something that starts with P! Pain in the ass starts with P! You know, like you always call me PAIN IN THE ASS!” WOOPS.

Anyway, as terrible as this year has been, and as awful I am feeling over my little Spanky boy, these kids bring me joy. Not all day, every day, but there are always times during every day where I feel so damn lucky that this is my life and these are my kids. Stay tuned for how quickly my tune changes when “school” starts in two weeks…

Farewell Friend

I don’t know if any of you remember Tom. Tom is Charlotte’s pink and white puppy stuffed animal. Well, he was pink and white. He’s more faded pink and grey now, because Charlotte loved him fiercely and made sure he went everywhere with her. Tom had to sleep with her (and me) every night. Tom got lost in Disney World and was found by a Good Samaritan. Tom had to stay in her backpack at school so he wouldn’t be alone at home. One time she forgot him at school and cried and cried so the next day we had “operation rescue Tom” and all was right with the world. Tom was Charlotte’s BFF.

And now Tom is just a stuffed animal in her room. It started slowly and I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening because even I had an attachment to Tom at this point. But Tom doesn’t sleep with her anymore. Tom doesn’t go anywhere with us. We don’t constantly ask “where’s Tom?” The other day Charlotte came downstairs and told me she found Tom under her bed. She put him on her Barbie dream house and said he’d stay there from now on. She hasn’t cast him aside forever, but the relationship is donezo.

And all I keep thinking about is friggin’ Toy Story. Because I think Tom is alive and probably weeps every day because he isn’t Charlotte’s favorite anymore. When he was under her bed he was probably afraid and upset and the other toys were trying to tell him it’s OK like the toys told Woody and there was probably a mean toy that made fun of Tom for being cast aside so all I want to do is hug him and thank him for being Char’s buddy for 3 years but she’s moved on now.

And that’s how I know the pandemic has fried my brain. Because I’m upset over a stuffed dog that I kinda sorta believe is alive. Medicate me, please.

Back to School?

Today is August 7 which is the day the NYC school surveys were due back and supposedly the day Governor Cuomo will say if the schools will be opening at all. We all know that no matter what decision is reached, school as we know it is NOT happening in September. There will be no 5 days a week in person instruction where we can finally get rid of (I mean, send for educational instruction) these children. I don’t even know what the plan is at this point. Is it something like one or two days a week with rotating days and the rest remote? How will we know what days our kids go in? Will it be like The Price is Right where we all get to spin a massive wheel and scream if we get the days we want? YOU GET A TUESDAY! YOU GET A FRIDAY! No questions have been answered and every day there are just more questions. It is an actual shit show.

You want to know who isn’t bothered by any of this? If you guessed Charlotte, you are correct. Charlotte does not give one single you know what. I mean, how could she? She was only in her first year of every day school when the rona came to play. And because I was heavily pregnant for the majority of quarantine and now two months into new babyhood, let’s just say Charlotte’s life has been better at home than it was at school. The American Academy of Pediatrics would probably have a brain aneurysm and drop dead on my door step if they took a look at our screen time analytics. But my level of caring has dropped lower than I can even express. So the thought of setting her up for remote learning and one day a week in the classroom is daunting to say the least. For one, I’m going to have to get her to wear underwear again. I’m also going to have to leave her there which is going to be even more traumatic than it would have been because she has barely left my side for the better part of 6 months. And then I’ll just be at home worrying if she is keeping her mask on, touching things, crying, bored, confused, etc., etc., etc. So why not just opt for all remote learning, you ask? Because whatever was left of my patience has set sail and the thought of me having to teach her five days a week when there is the option to send her in is too good to pass up. The good thing is if she goes in I know she won’t bring any germs home on her clothes because she strips naked and puts her nightgown on the second she gets back in the house, which is good. And since the school plan looks similar to prison life I don’t see her interacting with other kids all that much. God this is depressing.

I really feel bad for everyone. For the parents having to make these insane decisions while worrying about how they’re going to be able to work like this. For teachers and administrative staff that have to figure out WTF is going on. I downloaded Hooked on Phonics for Charlotte, so maybe that will be her teacher. I’m tapping out, waving the white flag, raising the wine glass. I am done.

Convos with Char

Charlotte has been on a roll with the commentary lately. Here are just a few of her latest quips:

When I joked around and said she could stay with Mackenzie while Eric and I went swimming: “absolutely not! I have no milk in my nummies! How the heck am I supposed to deal with the crying with no milk in my nummies!”

While playing tic tac toe: “is there anyway to make this more interesting?”

When I told her my stomach was bothering me: “well maybe you need to stop with what you’re eating. You’re not supposed to eat cheese.” (I haven’t eaten cheese in a month but OK.)

When Mackenzie was fussy: “this baby is a terrible baby today and she really needs to get it together.” (This is said once a day.)

When she lost her stylus and I said I wouldn’t buy her a new one because she doesn’t take care of her things: “that’s fine. I’ll just ask nonna. She never says no.”

When she was watching an episode of Vampirina and one of the songs made her emotional: “the sadness is in me! I can’t take this song and the sadness is in me!”

“If I had a genie I’d wish for a pretty hot pink dress, a beautiful violet tiara and for pretty red shoes.” I asked her why she wouldn’t ask for coronavirus to be over and she said “well it isn’t like the wishes are coming true for real so I’m not wasting it on that.”

I’m currently typing this trapped under Mackenzie who refuses to be put down this morning without screaming like a banshee. I told her she has a half an hour to get herself together because as a second time mom I have less patience and also don’t care if she screams her head off while I make myself breakfast. Some may say that is selfish but if I don’t eat, she doesn’t eat, so there.

Anyway, how are things with everyone? What a silly question that is, everything is the same except also wayyyy worse in some ways? We can go out to eat outside and shop in some stores but the rona is running rampant in like 30 states or something so now we have the never ending fear that someone will start a new major outbreak here by coming in and ruining everything. Also there is no way school is opening in September so now I can figure out how to become a kindergarten teacher whilst simultaneously taking care of a baby. YAY 2020!

Mackenzie is still an absolute delight. She has her moments but for the most part she is just my butter ball of love. She is smiling now and that has started a competition with Charlotte on who can make her smile the most. Charlotte is still pretty taken with her but we have the same fight every day which is us telling her she can’t squeeze her face or her head or her stomach or her ears or any part of her body and she NEVER LISTENS. She told me she can’t help herself because Mackenzie is too cute, and while I understand that I really need her to cut it out. My biggest challenge is really not losing my patience every day with Charlotte and let’s be honest, I’ve lost my patience every day since quarantine started back in March so why stop now? It’s difficult because during the week it’s just the three of us and Charlotte still expects me to be able to play with her and feed her whenever she asks me to so when she has to wait because I’m tending to Mackenzie she acts out like a jerk. I just keep telling myself this too shall pass, and then I think about September and I get a migraine from stress.

I try to ignore all of the impending doom that seems to be heading our way and just focus on the good things, like the fact that I have an excellent freezer stash of pumped milk, so when the state shuts down again in September I can drink a handle of vodka and give the baby a bottle without a problem. Everything is fine.