10 September 2010


First of all, a big thank you to the internet. The nanny situation is on the cusp of being resolved, and for that I am grateful in no small part to the computer.

Nanny situation aside, there's so much going on right now that I don't even know where to begin.

The twins and I went to Kansas! How's that for a place to start! We were out there for five days, in Kansas City (well, we stayed in Leawood) to see my mom's side of the family. My cousins and their kids had not met Maddie and Riley, and while I'm sorry that it took four years for that to happen, I think it ended up taking place at the ideal age for M&R. We had a great trip. It was wonderful for me to reconnect with my aunts, uncles, and cousins and after not having traveled by plane for almost a year, it was a revelation to discover how much better Four travels than Three. Two thumbs up to the heartland!

Upon return, life descended into chaos. I found out that Maddie and Riley had been awarded spots in the public school Spanish immersion PreK program that is literally across the street from our house, which is by all measures awesome except for one very important measure: logistics. The twins' current private program is a morning program; the public school option is afternoon. I had been looking for an afternoon nanny; all of a sudden, I needed a morning nanny. Oh, and yeah, "afternoon" means noon 'til 3 p.m. So I also needed someone in the afternoon, just a small part of it, until I get home at 5:30 p.m. Oh, and yeah, the public school is, of course, free, but guess how much the private school is keeping for pulling the kids at the last minute? Yes, a month's worth of tuition we paid as a deposit plus the already-paid September tuition. Which is a lot of money. And I understand why. But. Still. It's a lot of money! ANNOYING!

Cry me a river, blah, blah, I KNOW.

I've had a week to revise my nanny search to a morning job, lean on the kindness of friends to take care of the twins between when PreK lets out and when I get of work, and, most exciting of all, apply to become a host family for an au pair! Yes, color me Even More Bourgeoise Than Previously Thought Possible, we're going to have live-in help! Turns out that the live-in help is less expensive than private preschool + afternoon nanny, so voilĂ ! I feel so, uh, I don't really know. Spoiled? That's not it, exactly. I just know that in eight weeks or so, we'll welcome a live-in nanny to our home for a year and that she'll work 45 hours/week for us and OMG I'm not even sure what to do with that much child care but I think I'll figure it out. ULTIMATELY GREAT BUT CURRENTLY FRUSTRATING!

Meanwhile, my home computer has decided to die. Or at least suffer from a serious illness. I'm not sure yet. But something dire is happening, and I'm posting this from a work laptop. POORLY TIMED, COMPUTER (as if you had any control over the situation, inanimate as you are)!

And speaking of work, all hell has broken loose! Massive amounts of projects! Personnel issues! Apathy due to all the crap going on in my personal life! GLORIOUS!

For those of you thinking, "Childcare woes + a dead home computer are not enough to qualify as a personal crisis," let me assure you that I have the same Buck Up Already kind of attitude. But wait: there's more. Only I can't say much because I feel uncomfortable blogging about Family Crap. But there you have it: there's Family Crap, capital letters much deserved. Remember that conversation I had with a friend not too long ago about how it's not all about me? Yeah. I got to have that conversation again. With someone in my family. Only this time, it didn't feel cathartic or purposeful. It felt yucky and unresolved and messy and accusatory and one-sided. I'm still not sure where things stand. The family member involved seems to believe that I'm self-centered, without morals, and unworthy of trust. I'd be cavalier about this, but it's been a blow, and I'm hurt and angry with the anger winning most of the time. AWESOME!

I have been going to bed at 9 p.m. most nights, utterly spent by the overwhelming nature of it all. I'm getting tons of sleep, but I still find myself tired and short tempered. I'm not eating well. I'm not exercising as much as I want to or should. I remind myself constantly that the end result of the live-in nanny and the pass in to the public school language immersion program are worth all the short-term child-care headaches, that I'm not immune to technical difficulties because I have a busy life, that as a manager I will have to deal with personnel issues sometimes, that family relationships are difficult for almost everyone. I'm not precious. I'm just in a stressful time, like many people.

A theme from the conversation I had with my wounded family member was where the tipping point was between self-care and selfishness. I have never been as inattentive a friend as I have been since John died. I have to take care of Maddie, Riley, and myself, and there are times when I'm doing a poor job of just doing that. Even when I'm doing a good job at that, I'm usually not doing a great job of being a good friend/daughter/sister/etc. I'm finding that three years out, everyone seems frustrated by this. I'm annoyed that I can't find the time or motivation to do better. My friends and family are annoyed, too. When is taking care of myself—which includes M&R—selfish and when is it self-preservation? I don't know how to answer this, I truly don't. And now I find myself in a period of transition where I certainly won't be working on a better balance between take and give.

Au pair placement will take around eight weeks. Then we'll have a period of adjustment there. The transitions never end, although this is a particularly intense period. Back to school seems to be that way for many families. My eyes are on the prize. Halloween looks like a time when things might be getting back on track, a new track. Life: why must you be so relentless?


Megan said...

Just reading that exhausts me. Hang in there. You'll get through it.

Family issues suck. No matter what, they always suck. I'm sorry you have to go through them. Why can't family be easier?

Hopefully you can make it to Yummy Group (if not this month, next?)

Janine (txmomx6) said...

I SO totally relate to this post, Snick. I, too, have not seemed to find my "before" balance of family and friends and me. And yes, there's guilt, though I try to not buy into that too much. I only know that I am now different ..... not the same person as "before". Maybe some day I'll be able to focus more outside of myself and my children. I've already had a few "friends" leave because they couldn't deal with the "after" me. My thoughts? Too damn bad.
I'll be a better friend, daughter, sister, etc. some day. I know that. Until then ..... I'm making sure we all survive.
Good luck to you in this effort, too.

Jen said...

An au pair, WOW! If I didn't love my current nanny so much, I would be all over that idea. 45 hours a week! Nights and weekends included!

The transitions do sound intense. I'm sorry the self-care/self-indulgence question has come up again, this time within your family. I wonder if people would have the same expectations on you if John were still alive? Do people cut couples slack in a way that they don't for singles?

Christie said...

I'm thinking as I read this, this girl needs a glass of wine.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I both work from home part-time, we only have an easy 2 year old to care for, no financial worries, no health issues.

And still, I find it hard to cut out time for something other than work or home. Some of my friends (most of them don't have children) don't complain anymore: they simply stopped calling because it is hard to meet up with me/us. Plus, when we finally see each other there's always naptime, no alcohol because I still nurse my toddler, the long drive home so no all nighters. Apparently I'm booooring and difficult :(

I'm no help, I know. I guess I just wanted to let you know you're not alone.

sappho said...

I don't understand how someone in your family, or your friends, could be so judgmental - you've been through so much, you have gorgeous kids who are twins which makes EVERYTHING twice as much work, you work full-time to provide for your family - I mean, honestly, Snick, in my head you're a Superstar. Life throws curveballs - awful ones, sometimes - and you deal with them, and have dealt with them, as best as you can. Why would someone label that as selfish?

I know family dynamics are complicated - I'm just so sorry that someone feels that THEY are so important they should rank above you and your family in your life. Sometimes perspective does get skewed, but I think you're doing an amazing job. And anyone who seems to judge otherwise, well...hrumph.

Enjoy your time with M&R - yay for the public school, Spanish no less!!! And congrats on the au pair. Good luck - and keep truckin'. Hallowe'en is really just around the corner :)

NanarocksWeen said...

Family = not chosen and often hard to understand. My sister cut me completely out of her life - AND encouraged all my other relatives up in MN/WI to do the same. And I have NO IDEA why. So I'm left to forgive and keep on loving them, though they seem to consider me "dead." No amount of apologies (and, as I said, I don't even know what I'm apologizing for!) seems to help. I've got my husband, my grown daughters, and my grandsons. That's the extent of my family now. I hope this never happens to you. At least your family TELLS you what they think. Mine keeps mum. Best wishes on sorting it out. And YAY for the au pair!!

Val said...

Yikes, that's a lot on your plate! I'm sorry. Things will settle down, though. I'm glad some things are somewhat resolved/figured out. That's a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

YAY for you on the au pair! We've had one for a year and it has been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I was so worried about having someone living w/us (I am super private) and it's been totally fine. The flexibility and sheer # of hours that they give makes life so much better. Good for you! Jessica

Mariella said...

Relatives can be such a drag sometimes. I have a judgmental SIL. She is single and self sufficient, and is always critical of us because we are just not up to her standards of having our shit together.

Of course, my husband and I work full time, we deal with ferrying the 2 younger ones around (oldest is now at college). I have an elderly mother with health issues. And we get work emergencies we have to deal with too.

So our house is a disaster area and our finances not so great. But we are keeping it together as best we can.

I was a single parent to my first, and that was very hard too. I very much understood your jealousy at seeing other kids with intact families.

Even intact families have their issues, and to some, especially relatives, the best your're doing is not good enough in their eyes.

You are doing the best you can with your circumstances; I would tell the person that and tell them they have to deal, that yu can't change the reality of your situation to match their expectations of what you should be.

Watercolor said...

I'm single with no kids and life is relentless. I don't think it ever gets easier. Just different. Hugs!

Tiffany said...

Leawood, KS - This is a small world - I grew up in Olathe, KS.

Holly said...

I want to thank you, Snick, because I am the (step) daughter of a woman who was a young widow unexpectedly, with a toddler and two teenagers (I was one of the latter). Granted, when my dad died, I was nearly 19 and in my 2nd year at university.

My (step) mom retreated into her corner after my dad died and she was just getting through the days raising my baby brother. For 15 years, she has neglected all other relationships to the point of intentionally driving people away that she thought were "too much work", including me. (I am talking about the fact that NOBODY in my father's family has been allowed to spend time with my now teenage brother - until very recently, when I took matters in my own hands.) She makes the excuse that it has been hard being a single parent when you never planned to be one. I understand that, particularly since I am a mother now as well.

While I understand the need to take care of yourself, I applaud you for recognizing that you need to find a balance that doesn't alienate the other people that you love - and who love you! So, I encourage you to keep putting your feet one in front of the other. I've read your space for quite a long time without comment. You need to give yourself a lot more credit for how well you are doing. Many people don't have the gutsiness that you do and I gotta say, I think you kick butt in general.

In the meantime, I'll pray for your peace and for a smooth transitions.

Anonymous said...

My daughter (who is now 24 years old) decided after her first semester of college that she wanted to do something "different" before settling down for four years of studies. She applied for and was hired as an au pair for a very prominent family in Rome for a year ... three boys, ages six, four and two. What an amazing experience for her, but just to warn you the homesick factor was full-blown for the first two months. It was a difficult transition for her, but the rewards were so worth it. I hope your own au pair experience is wonderful!

Leslie in CA

Gina said...

I struggled with (and am still struggling with to some extent) a nasty bout of pregnancy and post-partum depression this past year and one of the many things that suffered was my relationships - with everyone, family, friends.

But, one thing that it made me realize is that one of the reasons I was depressed was that I just couldn't keep giving and giving...at this point in my life I need to be more selfish or more accurately, to concentrate limited emotional energy very selectively - i.e., on my kids, my husband, and a very few other family members/friends. And for me, this isn't something that is going to go away in six months or a year - this is how things are going to need to be for awhile - years - maybe forever. I find myself saying a lot of "No." "No, I can't make it to that party." "No, we'll be staying home for Christmas." "No, my kids are not going to be able to do swimming/playgroup/music class." At first it rather sucked, I've had multiple people confront me about being self-centered, but now after a year or so of focusing my energy and commitments I find myself much more at peace. I am who I am and I am not going back.

I hope that you can find peace and balance in your relationships. And yea for the au pair! Transitions do suck but this could be all sorts of awesome.

Warrior said...

I just want to say that I have a husband, one child, and a job and I still am not the friend I used to be. Most of my friends get it, and the few that didn't have drifted off - maybe we'll hook up again and maybe not. I am trying to find balance but if people are not able to join me in the struggle, so to speak, then it's just NOT the right time to be friends.

It's not about being a bad person I don't think; it's really about timing.

I think there is a huge difference between a family member saying "I'm finding this hard to take; can we work on it?" and saying "you are selfish."
#1, I would want to address. #2 is more their issue.

Anonymous said...

You are no different than anyone else. We all have our struggles. Transitions. Woes. It's how you carry yourself through those times and life generally that matters most. It may be painful, but perhaps your friends and family have said things you needed to hear.

Now you seem angry and defensive, but once you've had time to reflect, this may be a turning point for you.

good luck.

MLB said...

I can't speak to being a widow, or to a mom of twins, but I have 3 kids - ages 6,4, and 2 and I can say that just in terms of basic parenting that from 4 on, life does get better/easier in a lot of ways. Moxie just posted on this but her magic age is 5. My almost 3 year old is so much more work than the other two combined it's comical. So speaking as someone with older kids, maybe now that M&R are older, it is possible to start to adjust focus in a way that wasn't before. I'm not assuming this criticism is justified, just a thought that your life is going to change a lot as a parent of school-age kids, not toddlers and there is a lot less work in a lot of ways with that. The au pair (if she's good) will help immeasurably also.

OTRgirl said...

Phew! You're carrying a LOT. I like the au pair solution. That seems like a great thing for both of you.

One random thought, I wonder what the transition to motherhood would have been like for your friends and family even if John were alive? It seems like there's a natural process where your whole world shifts. I tend to expect my friends to disappear into new marriage or new motherhood before they figure out who they are in their new world.

I guess I'm wondering if you'd have had similar conversations anyway? Add the layer of grief and how your energy reserve goes from 100% down to 10-20% if you're having a good day. Take that reserve and fill it with kids. I think you've done a remarkable job balancing what you've had on your plate.

Morgan said...

Personally, I don't think it's ever selfish. It is your job to take care of yourself and your children and everyone and everything after that is icing on the cake.

I've suffered from having ppd after having my baby 8 months ago (my 4th child) and recently had a friend delete me off of their facebook and block me on twitter (pathetic and immature, I know, but I didn't mention that). I asked her what was up and she said it was because I didn't go to her daughter's bday party.

I was, basically, like it's all I can do to get through the day and take care of my family. I can't do everything and I know I've been a bad friend, but emotionally I can't do what you want from me. And, I left it at that. I was definitely hurt and angry (because, trust me, this girl hasn't always been there for ME), but I realize if someone is going to so quickly (or not so quickly) write you off, then maybe you don't need them in your life.

I can't imagine losing my husband, but if I did, I know it would take me a lot longer than 3 years to get everything together. I am amazed by you and, by people even saying these things, maybe the selfishness is on their part.

Keen said...

Ugh, Snick. That conversation sounds like it's exhausting to have once, let alone twice. For what it's worth, I often feel like a lousy, selfish friend who can't get it together. With the special-needs kids, all the home visits, extra appointments and the like, most days I'm just happy if I remember all of them, which I sometimes don't.

An au pair! I think you'll find plenty to do with the extra time, how awesome!

And Spanish immersion--yay!

Love you and hope the back-to-school craziness dies down. It's definitely a tough time of year.

amyinbc said...

Am sure you will figure out the friend/family thing in time once the kids are settled in school with their caregiver (and 45 hours a week of time for your work and YOU!)

Not an uncommon response to one who has lost one very important to them.

Hopefully your friends/family will not have to understand personally how life changing/altering losing one close to one is anytime soon.

Does it change ones life and priorities? Hell yes. Especially while raising young children.

Hoping you find a balance that makes everyone happy and if not? Screw those that find it so hard to understand or be compassionate about.

Keep your head up and in the words of Dory "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!" :)

CV said...

I like what Jen said (3rd comment). Maybe there's something to that. I'm not sure I agree that people cut couples slack - perhaps they do. But along those same lines, you have to do twice as much friend/family-upkeep as you would if John were still alive. If he were here, he could be doing the outreach/in-reach to parts of your family and social network and people would feel satisfied that you (read: your family) has been in touch. So, grief aside, and apart from the fact that you lost your partner in parenting.. you also lost your partner who shared the load in managing outward relationships.. and you've got twice as much family now as you had before marriage!

I hope you're able to work out all the issues with your dissatisfied family member(s) - I think you will.

Meanwhile... au pair!!! So so so so jealous.

Love from Boston.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only reader who is appalled that anyone would spend their valuable time with Maddie & Riley by bashing their mom? Ugh. No wonder you are unmotivated.

You (diplomatically) haven't said that the wounded family member is of John's side of your family. Nor have you offered any specifics of your perceived selfish, immoral and untrustworthy behavior. But this just seems too crazy to give credence.

Anonymous said...

Your conflict and conversation with your friend sounded normal and healthy. This sounds crazy and abusive. Don't let it coming on the heels of the first make you doubt yourself.

I think Family Member and you need some compassion. It sounds like it is going to have to come from you, to start. Family Member doesn't sounds very compassionate regarding how much it takes to navigate your life's transitions.

Your cross-country move alone is not too distant, and moves are tough even if positive.

SarahB said...

First thought without reading other comments: Are there people in your life (i.e., family member, friend) who somehow expected you to go back to the same level of communication, etc, you gave before you go married, had children, and your husband died?

If so, that seems like such an unrealistic expectation. My communication level with friends changed after just getting married, let alone having any children or having a major illness and death. Somehow they might need to get it in your head that your life has changed FOREVER, and that they get less of you because of it. Yeah, that sucks, but it sucks for you more. Holding that against you is just uncalled for.

Mommy, Esq. said...

Having young kids means letting so much go - the organization, the maintenance - of ourselves, our homes, our relationships. But it is a trade-off to be present for our kids and to occassionally grasp time for ourselves. I've been fortunate that my family understands enough to come to us for visits and not to demand birth announcements, birthday parties, thank you cards and a million other things that are just not in my wheelhouse. In return I just try to be the best mom I can and try to push aside the guilt.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that Anon 8:32 is also a "family member." Are guilt and self righteousness the currency in that family?

I'm so sorry you have to deal with either. Guilt and self righteousness are abusive, plain and simple, and of course you are angry!

I think that all of these changes are occurring (au pair; the truth about this familial relationship) to make room for something great in your life!

Anonymous said...

Ugh--hard times...hope you get a great au pair and things get easier soon!

Kristin said...

How awful that your family member said that to you.

I have a son a few months younger than your twins, and a one year old daughter. I've been reading your blog for years, and I have to tell you that I admire you so much.

I have gone through so many of the same issues that you have had with parenting; exhaustion, feeling incompetent, etc, and I know how hard being a parent of young children can be. Honestly, sometimes it is overwhelming, and it's almost impossible to not get caught up in the day to day battle of just making sure that everyone is healthy and taken care of.

I have not worked very hard on some friendships and relationships and as someone commented before me--priorities and responsibilities change when you have kids. People who have children seem to understand this; I've found that my single friends in general do not.

Anyway, I just want to point out that I feel and have probably acted very similarly as you--but I have the advantage of a very helpful husband. Not to mention I have not had to deal with the grief of losing my spouse while raising my children. And my kids are not twins...do I need to go on?

You are amazing. Truly--those of us who are in the trenches with young children can only be in awe at your ability to do it yourself--and successfully. I stop feeling sorry for myself when I think about everything you had/have to deal with. You have had life throw some pretty horrible and difficult situations at you over the last five years, and you have done an amazing job of holding it all together, and be a great parent to your lovely children.

I don't even know you (and I rarely comment), but I just feel so angry that someone said this to you.

Nina said...

Of course, I don't know the details of your family issues and when you say that your "friends and family are annoyed" I wonder if you mean that truly your general circle is generally annoyed with you or that you are feeling under the gun because of your recent confrontation/conversation with one friend and now this one family member...all this to say, be gentle with yourself.

Your friends and family have tried to support you these past few years and it seems natural that some would feel burnt out or frustrated after a time. But that is on them. You have to take the time you need to take care of yourself and your kids. M and R are still very young and you are still in that very intense stage of their lives where they require so much and you are doing it on your own (in large part) and that is...utterly amazing and I think largely unseen and not understood by most.

Some people will be unhappy with you. In an ideal world, we could all give everyone exactly what they need. We could have very neat grieving periods and find equilibrium within an amount of time acceptable to everyone and tie it all up with a very nice bow. But we are unfortunately very much not in an ideal world and life is messy and you are, so obviously, doing the very best you can. And part of that is resting, taking care of yourself, not constantly being "on" to care for and think of others' needs, which is what you are doing as a single parent nearly all the time.

You are amazing Snick. And your thoughtfulness about all of this speaks volumes about your character.

Anonymous said...

If the family member in question is on John's side of the family - maybe this is part of their own, unrecognized grieving? Anger directed at you might be displaced anger over J's death? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

It didn't happen to me and I don't know your in-laws, but I'm with Kristin. It makes me really angry that someone would say that to you. I suppose the family member's displaced anger and accusations are a function of grief, and it is just really sad; but I would have trouble mustering compassion for this relative.

Anonymous said...

Anon 08:32: I hope you have more compassion for yourself than you seem to have for Snickolett. I also hope that you are never a grieving single parent to two young children.

Snick you are amazing!

Yankee, Transferred said...

A young woman who loses the love of her life so soon after marriage and twins will take more than a minute to right herself.

Healing is a long, long process, for the most expected of losses. I speak as one who has only lost elderly parents, and the sorrow of that still rears its head, 15 and 5 years later.

Perhaps this person cannot wait. It is her/his loss.

Keep on keepin' on, Snick. You're incredible.

Anonymous said...

This Family Crap has elicted interesting responses. I think a lot of us who are doing are best are fed up with anyone who treats us/our friends/Snick in this way.

Liz said...

We are a 2 parent house hold with2.5 year old twins and I too have "neglected" family and friends. There is not enough time in the day for everyone. My kids come FIRST, and somewhere in the day my husband and I feed and shwoer ourselves (and get to our jobs).

NO ONE has the right to judge or critique you. NO ONE! You are raising your children by yourself, and obviously doing an amazing job. Take care of yourself before you give away anymore.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it...but...if 2 people recently have said this to you...maybe it is time you actually take a look at yourself and your behavior. Perhaps they are both wrong and both comments were not called for. I don't know the particulars behind the family comment. I'm just saying, can everyone else always be wrong? Hard to hear but sometimes we do need to take a look at ourselves. If you didn't feel there were truth in both comments, you wouldn't be this upset.

Congrats on being blessed to be able to get a Nanny!!! That will help out a lot and give you time to re-group a bit.

Snickollet said...

@Most Recent Anon:

Blogging about the behavior is one of the many ways I'm thinking about it. I think it's clear from both posts that I was not saying, "People said these things to me and they are SO WRONG and I am SO RIGHT and I wish they would SHUT UP." What I tried to say is "I heard this, it hurts, but I also need to think about what I can learn about this, what is true, what I can give and what I can't, what's really about me and what's actually about the person who said these things."

It's one big process, and it's never black and white.

And yes: it's great to have found a nanny, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Snick, Yes, it was totally clear from your posts that you are taking these comments to heart, for better or worse (I am a new anon). It may be that there was validity in your friend's comment that it isn't always about you, even if it arose partly out of her own stress, and yet no validity in your family member's comment that you are selfish ammoral and unworthy of trust. I have seen widowed women go through renegotiating long term female friendships in the years after a spouse's death, particularly the part about how much of the friendship continues to be about the loss. I think this is normal and nothing to beat yourself up over. It says loads that you heard each other out. At the same time the family comment just seems way out of line. Where is the "tipping point" between selfish and self care for the person who made the comment and apparently saw fit to drag you through the mud with an exhausting conversation? And to the other anon -- actually, having a comment sting doesn't necessarily mean it was true.