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Flying Solo

04/28/2014

Belle

My baby is still so tiny I had to shove my coat in the swing so she would not risk falling out. She had a great time in it though!

My baby is still so tiny I had to shove my coat in the swing so she would not risk falling out. She had a great time in it though!

I’ve been feeling a little glum lately. New York can feel really, which surprises me considering it is a city so full of people that you are, quite literally, never alone. As dysfunctional as they are, I miss my family. It saddens me that my baby only recognizes her Nana thanks to Skype. It pains me that my father-in-law, who funded her creation, has yet to meet her. And on Friday afternoon after a long week of no naps, tantrums and clinginess, it makes me hide in the bathroom and cry because I don’t have any help.

My New York friends are all from the area and have a plethora of family beating down their door to help. My friends get baby-free dates. They have sex. They can call a parent to help with their kid so they can (insert mundane task like cooking, grocery shopping or doing laundry). I do not.

The Professor and I still have not had a date. We have not, ahem, done the dance. (Ugh, I hate that phrase). Taking care of daily tasks is complex and time-consuming because it is just me juggling Sabine, three cats and a laundry list of chores all while going to school. I never realized how hard it is to raise a kid all alone, until I did it. I also never realized how weird it is until I had one and found myself surrounded by people with parents near by.

I know not everyone has family, and to those ladies and gentlemen, I raise my evening beer (or two) to you. This is fucking hard. I grew up in a household that was hours and days away from extended family. It was just us and my mom somehow did it all. She kept a house worthy of a Country Living magazine. She cooked. She cleaned. She took us here and there. It was normal for us to just be us for a holiday because we lived so far from everyone. It never struck me as odd – it just was what it was. Now that I have a child of my own, I realize just how hard and strange it is. People have a baby and move closer to home. They don’t have a baby and then more further from home… to the most expensive city in the country.

This morning at play group a friend said to me, “I don’t know how you do it. I barely do it and I have my parents right here. You do it all alone… and you do it well!” And that made me wonder. Do I do it well? This haunted me for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon when we all went to Riverside Park. I watched as my kid, who is older than most of the others, did not walk. She actually did not even try to crawl. She just clung to me like the happy, extremely attached kiddo she is. I know all kids hit milestones at different times, and that Sabine is not “behind” on her major motor developments yet, but she is lagging behind her friends. Her friends whose Mommies and Daddies all have help and support.

And now I sit here wondering, am I really doing a good job? Or do I need help? Do I need a grandparent to be a regular fixture in Sabine’s life and not just a face that pops up on the computer screen for a Skype session every few days? Or is Sabine just fine and I’m actually doing a fine job despite flying solo?

 

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23 Comments

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  1. April 28, 2014

    You’re doing more than fine…you’re doing a fantastic job! Just look at Sabine! She’s so happy and loved and cared for and that’s because of YOU! I am sorry you don’t have family close to help and able to see Sabine on a daily basis.
    My daughter is 8.5 months, she goes to daycare, we have plenty of family to help…and guess what? She isn’t crawling, she isn’t trying to crawl, she isn’t napping, she can’t roll from her tummy to her back—so YES, you are doing a wonderful job alone. Sweet Sabine will crawl when she’s ready…Mommas arms are just too comfy to want to leave just yet.

  2. Amber #
    April 28, 2014

    This is going to sound forward from one who doesn’t comment much but bonk your husband. It was scary and a but painful at first but I can only imagine a big fear barrier would go up after such a long time. And this is coming from a fellow dry as a bone, pcos, post ivf mama of an eight month old (though he does sleep well).

    Sex is awesome and connecting. One revelation I had with IF is that sex is liberated from procreation and just gets to be for kicks!

    Another thing, your baby is awesome. I love reading how much you love her and you are doing fantastic. It reads on her face.

    Feel free to moderate.

  3. April 28, 2014

    Um, raising both hands over here. We are lucky enough to have my uncle and aunt come over every Saturday for 4 hrs to help me with weekly cleaning and to allow Grey to do the grocery run, but otherwise it’s just us and the Beats.

    It’s certainly hard not to be jealous of others who have family close and get the help. But I also realize that with that help usually comes drama. Thankfully, I don’t have fights with family members over my parenting style, my decisions about sleep or feeding or how I should be doing something. Usually with help comes these issues.

    I absolutely agree with MommaE: you are doing an amazing job with Sabine. Don’t doubt that for a second. For the rest of it, I would tap your mommy network and see if there’s a way you could enlist some help from them. Maybe start with a play date where the other mother watches Sabine for a couple of hours so you and the Professor could catch a movie or grab lunch? You could offer to return the favor or do something in exchange. Whatever works for you guys.

    Just know, you are far from alone. I figure I’ll have it all figured out on my deathbed.

  4. April 28, 2014

    Well, since I’m a big believer in the it-takes-a-village sentiment, I think we could all stand to have a little help in raising our young, but I still think you’re doing an amazing job! I know my opinion probably matters very little, but honestly, I think you have a much better handle on things than most mommies, even those who are surrounded by oodles of extended family. You should be proud!

    Also, I do understand some of the loneliness you’re suffering through. When I moved to our current city (a state away from any close family), I was expecting my first child and we knew no one and had to do it all on our own. I had no help either. We still don’t live nearby any family, but almost four years later, I have made two friends who are in the same boat as me and they have been my lifesavers. We watch each other’s kids for doctor appointments etc., take turns giving each other date nights, spend holidays together when we can’t be with our extended family, and get together to bitch about how lonely we feel. It’s pretty awesome! And I say this not to make you feel bad about not having those kind of friends, but in the hopes that you will one day (soon) find them. I know it’s not easy to go looking, and you may just have to wait for them to find *you*, but I know they’ve got to be out there!

    Hang in there, Belle!

  5. April 28, 2014

    You are doing an amazing job! Don’t worry about the milestones she will definitely catch up. My sister and sister in laws babies were sitting there like lumps at 8 months then started walking at 10 months they just caught right on up. I totally understand where you are coming from with the no family. My in laws live three hours away and have not made any great attempts to come visit. Like you we are currently in a small house so I get it isn’t ideal but it is your grand daughter! My family live over an hour away but they can’t just drop in. We have had two “dates” and two weddings in almost two years. That is it. And there are days when I am like why am I complaining I wanted this but I desperately want five minute to myself or someone to come over and say hey I will cook you dinner! My mum actually texted me today and said she was going to pick Molly up from care tomorrow. It nearly made me cry. It was nice knowing she didn’t have to spend all day there till we picked her up. I don’t think no family delays Sabine, she honestly will get there in her own time! perhaps one of your mothers group friends can help out one night and let you guys grab a meal solo? (that’s how we got meal number 2 out!). Hugs babe. You are doing a wonderful job.

  6. April 29, 2014

    Screw the milestones! I can tell you as a parent of two – no 2 kids are alike. When Matthew crawled before 8 months, I thought all my kids would. Wrong. If Bryson had been born first, I would have thought all my kids would be very verbal and on target. Wrong again. Sabine is only 9.75 months old, no need to even wonder about walking since she’s in the target zone now for crawling (8-10 months, I think). My doc says as long as they have a way to get around, the docs don’t care what that “way” is.

    Our families are 1 and 2 hours away, but they don’t ever help. AT ALL. My inlaws are too busy helping their other grandkids and my parents don’t do anything for anyone besides themselves. So we’re like you – flying solo. I actually quite like it but wish they’d show some more interest in our kids.

    Hang in there. It will get easier!

  7. Romy #
    April 29, 2014

    Honestly, you are doing great! Attachment is so so so important. I do practice Attachment Parenting so I’m biased but honestly that is the number one thing parents should be focussed on in the first year in my opinion. All the other milestones will follow. And kids hit them all at different times. My 11 month old has the physical strength and stability to walk – he has walked a few steps here and there when he REALLY wants something out of his reach – but he chooses to cling to me and not walk until he is 100% convinced he can do it and do it well.
    I personally just think that emotional milestones are far more important at this age. She is strong, she pulls herself to stand now and crawls, so it is safe to say that she WILL walk. She won’t still be crawling at 18 😉
    Also, I feel like only the parents with early crawlers/walkers ever really mention those milestones to others… or at least in my experience. I ended up feeling like you do now, wondering why my son wasn’t hitting these milestones and I thought he was actually very late based on what people around me said. When I looked it up and asked my GP it turned out the age attached to crawling or walking is much older than I thought it was.

    The fact that Sabine is so happy and clings to you means she is properly attached to you. That will pay off for years to come.

  8. April 29, 2014

    The investment in having our nanny do one evening shift/week has been PRICELESS! We look forward to those date nights ridiculous amounts, and they go a LONG way toward feeling normal and reconnected. Might be worth looking into a weekly sitter for the sake of sanity! This mothering gig is SO hard, because the balance of nurturing yourself and your relationship with your partner often comes after nurturing the babe, as they need so much all.the.time. We’ve struggled with keeping up our intimate connection (not just sex)… and our recent trip to Vegas for 3 nights was absolutely integral in reconnecting. I didn’t feel ready to leave Iyla until that point- and she was 16 months old! But man oh man was it incredible to suddenly be in that space where it was again just my husband and me, as it used to be. So…. try to get some weekly date nights arranged! It truly is an investment into yourselves for this period of time when you are away from family. Sending hugs!

    • April 29, 2014

      Oh- and Iyla didn’t crawl until 10.5 months, or walk until 13.5 months! She was just a cautious little bird who has always shown to do things in her own sweet time (like make us wait THREE YEARS for her to finally be conceived)!

  9. Romy #
    April 29, 2014

    As for the lack of family thing: I get it even though I have my husband’s family here. It’s not the same. I don’t feel comfortable asking them for help or being less than 100% put together. I miss having my own parents and sister close but they are in the Netherlands.
    Could any of your friends help out? Maybe you could swap out childcare so that you could have an evening off for date night? We just had our friend’s little boy over for a sleepover last weekend for that reason.

  10. Amy #
    April 29, 2014

    You are doing the absolute best you can, and that is more than enough – and Sabine is not behind on a thing! Ike only crawled for approximately five minutes before he walked (a little after his first birthday – and even that is not at all late!), so I think you have nothing to worry about there (though I understand that it’s impossible to not compare/contrast and thus worry or at least wonder). My parents are only a few exits down the freeway, and we are lucky as hell that my mom watches Ike during the weekdays. However, that means we’re pretty hesitant to ask for additional evening/weekend sitting, and while I do have at least one friend who is able and willing, it ends up being more that we take turns having our nights with our friends separately…which does more harm than good for our marriage, probably, but at least it gives both of us a break with decent regularity. I also have a helluva hard time wanting anything to do with sex when I’m stressed and anxious and glum (which is way more often than not, sadly) – it may be good medicine, but it’s super hard to get in the mood for it when your brain won’t turn off and let you enjoy the moment. I wish I had suggestions for you, but please do try to give yourself lots of credit and allow yourself to ask for help wherever you think it could possibly come from – asking for a favor is not always comfortable, but could be the start of a closer connection in which nobody counts how many favors go either way…hoping you find that kind of friend nearby very soon!

  11. louise #
    April 29, 2014

    Sabine is totally perfect. None of my kids walked till well over a year old and they turned out fine. I also did not have any help from family for various reasons. We relied on paid babysitters if we were invited out. I used to feel so jealous when my work friends would talk about the lovely meals they enjoyed at their parents on the weekends. We invited other families over for dinner quite often. The kids would play while we enjoyed a visit. We would take turns hosting. If I were you, I would also work on taking your husband to the “dance” if you can…

  12. jak #
    April 29, 2014

    i work with a BRILLIANT woman who speaks several languages, has a phd in a biomedical field, and a successful career and a good-looking husband who is a medical doctor. she did not walk until she was almost 2 years old. listen to the bean’s noises and the way she works her hands and engages with people and laughs and smiles at you – she a brilliant little woman in the making. milestones are on a bell curve. so is everything. dont worry until it’s time to worry. and that’s not now.

    for help – i dont have any AND i work full time. so does husband. you can do this. you are doing it. and beyond that, i’ll keep my mouth shut because i dont want to offend any readers:)

  13. April 29, 2014

    Wow, you already have some amazing comments! I think these ladies have got you covered. So I’ll just add something about Sabine’s clinginess: Remember when she was your in utero Chicken, and you couldn’t make yourself talk to her? You were so worried you wouldn’t be able to bond with this baby. And look at you two now! Such a special connection. And that’s what it is — she feels secure in your arms. My understanding is that periods of extreme clinginess are normal throughout toddlerhood and sometimes beyond. So developmentally, no worries. As for your sanity: hang in there, pretty mama! I’m knee-deep in loneliness and lack of help/family, too. We will get through this somehow.

  14. robin #
    April 29, 2014

    People like to tell me they think I am doing a great job and inside I just tell myself that’s because they don’t see the breakdowns that I have on a fairly regular basis (yesterday, after punching / karate chopping the kitchen counter in frustration and giving myself a bruise on the hand i huddled in the corner of the play room and cried for a while, because the kids were upstairs not napping and I am exhausted/lonely/sad/confused about my life). So I think people project onto others this sense of happiness and put-together-ness that they lack. If people think you are doing a good job, believe them, they do feel you are doing a good job, probably in the same way that you feel they are doing a good job. My kids were pretty significantly delayed in their motor skills and maybe it did have something to do with me being alone with them, not playing enough, because after spending time with family the kids always made motor skills leaps. So I make a bigger effort but at the same time, kids catch up for the most part, and because I am a more verbal person (not so physically interactive) the kids are way more advanced verbally than their peers. They can sing the ABCs and count to 20. So what if they learned to walk at 17mo…

    I think we are all doing the best that we can. Sabine feels loved and safe with you. She will venture out when she feels safe. You are doing a good job, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. Also, you have no idea how your mom felt at the time, especially when you were Sabine’s age. Maybe by the time she is older you will have a routine and it won’t seem so chaotic and hard to keep up.

  15. April 29, 2014

    Just found your blog through futuresoccermom’s award nomination. I feel for you! My husband and I just moved with our twin eleven-month-olds from New York to Pittsburgh a couple months ago. Part of our calculation was to be nearer to family. It is so not easy. That said, even with family nearby I still feel trapped and alone a lot of the time. It’s a hard job, this mothering! And I haven’t read too much of your blog yet so I can’t comment about development, but I doubt spending less time with family is hampering her, especially with all those play dates! And she looks cute as heck. Awesome photo.

  16. April 29, 2014

    We also roll solo, with an occasional family visit. It’s really really hard to be solo 98% of the time and like you, I haven’t had a date with the husband since the girls were born. I think one way to know how well you’re doing is to just look at Sabine. Is she happy? She certainly seems happy! Are you doing everything you can to give her the best given what you have? If so, then you’re doing enough. Milestones are guildelines to help identify problems but are not set in stone. It’s important to keep in mind the general range of when behavior occurs, walking is usually from 9-16 months or so, so don’t worry until you’re at the tail end of that. My completely random internet diagnosis of Sabine is she’s shy, which there is nothing wrong with that. Eventually, through exposure she will become more comfortable with strangers. Natalie had a very hard time with strangers (including Paige’s therapists) for a while, now she is generally at ease and will tolerate new people, so perhaps Sabine will as well. As for the hubby, now that you both seem to be getting more sleep – do something else between those sheets, even if you have to start my making an “appointment” for it. 😉

  17. April 29, 2014

    FWIW – we have some help here, both babies are nearly 1 and neither are walking yet. Sabine will get there, and you are doing great. Do you think any of your new york mommy friends would take Sabine for a few hours? Maybe you could exchange babysitting?

  18. April 29, 2014

    We’re also in a brand new city with a newborn, and I’ve already had multiple meltdowns related to the lack of help. Both our families are plane rides away, and we know virtually no one here. But I see what a great job you’re doing with Sabine, and it gives me hope. I hope in 9 months’ time my baby girl and I are as bonded as the two of you!

  19. April 29, 2014

    Whoa, she’s not even 10 months old, right? My daughter BARELY started to crawl at 8 months and didn’t walk until around a year (which is the pretty typical time to walk, but it’s totally normal to NOT be walking at a year as well). I know you know this, but I just feel like you need the reassurance right now that it is SO NORMAL to have a clingy, non-walking 10 month old – whether or not you have family around to help. For your sake I wish you had more family help, but it is NOT a requirement to having a healthy, well adjusted child whatsoever!

    Also, have sex. I know, pot – meet kettle (GAH, I don’t WANNA) — but seriously, once you force yourself to start, you’ll remember how much you miss that connection, and it’s important. Maybe it will be during a Sunday afternoon nap, maybe in those 30 minutes after Sabine finally falls asleep at night, but make it happen – you won’t regret it, and you might even LIKE it!

    Finally, ask your friends to help. Think of the craziest thing one of your new mommy friends would ask you to help with childcare-wise, think about the fact that you’d do it in a heartbeat, and then realize your friends will EASILY want to help by watching S for a couple of hours so that you guys can have a quick dinner date sans child. Just do it!

    Hang in there hon… what you’re feeling and experiencing is so normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Just know that S is loved, she knows she is loved, and that she deserves to have parents who show her the importance of taking time to connect and love without kids. 🙂

  20. Esperanza #
    April 30, 2014

    Just wanted to add, in case it makes you feel any better, that my daughter didn’t crawl until 11 months and didn’t walk until 14 months. They do each move at their own pace. Having said that, I totally wrote, in a post I’m putting up tomorrow, that I’m having a hard time not comparing my six month old son to the babies of bloggers and friends who are the same age, and doing more. So that comparison thing happens to the best of us, even those of us who have done this before and KNOW that each kid moves at their own speed.

    So I feel you on that.

    As for flying solo, that is something I can’t relate to, but I can imagine it would be really hard. I struggle constantly with feelings of isolation. I still work, but my job (middle school teacher) is super isolating, and then raising my kids is super isolating. My husband goes out and does all this stuff after work hours with adults, and I’m always stuck at home, a lot of times alone. I don’t have many good friends, and the ones I do have live far enough away that I don’t see them much. Our friendships mostly play out over text message, which I’m so thankful for, because without those text messages I’d quite literally be almost completely alone. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough and the extrovert in me is just DYING for some meaningful contact with another human being that I can connect with. So I get that feeling of isolation and feeling like you are alone. That is so, so hard.

    You’re doing an awesome job. You really, really are.

  21. April 30, 2014

    1. She is gorgeous.

    2. You are kicking ass and taking names.

  22. nonsequiturchica #
    May 1, 2014

    Here is my take on motherhood so far: is your baby safe and happy? Are you taking care of her needs? If so, then you are doing a great job! We all have different circumstances. Sabine is lucky that she still has grandparents that are alive even if she only gets to talk to them over an internet connection. Maybe you could look into a babysitter for even two hours a week so that you could get a break to do whatever you want? Hopefully the Professor is doing his share when he is at home as well….

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