motherhood: I love it but it hates my non-single life

 This is a super honest, self-revealing post about the not-so-flattering side of who I am as a mom and girlfriend. But I’d really love feedback from all the super honest bloggers I read, who read me, and whose candid posts about the good, bad, and ugly of themselves I so admire.

Like I’ve said a thousand times, I love being a mom. And I love my daughter. I admit to even googling once or twice: “am I too attached to my child?” Like, for instance, the fact that I rarely desire a break from her to go out on a date, see a movie, get drinks? (Except in the morning, then I will take the break, for sleeping.) The thought of her being sad or missing me breaks my heart. The fact that I’m worried about her and missing her almost cancels out my good time. And really… I usually just don’t feel like leaving her! I already spend 3.5 days of the week, half of the week, without her at work and school. I need to work, I sometimes enjoy being at work, and I need to go to school, so after that, I just want all the time with my kid I can get. Even if she’s being a whiny, erratic pain-in-the-butt (as toddlers often are).

As you know, I’ve been in a relationship for a while. My daughter and I have migrated to her house (which is close to mine) for a good portion of the time (maybe less of the time once it’s summer and I live on the best lake in the world). We have settled into domesticity, which has many perks and is pretty much the American dream. But guys… if you think being a single mother and dating is hard, try transitioning to being the primary parent (with lots more help) and being in a committed relationship. Life did not get easier (except the help with childcare/house work/being sick part), oh no. At the risk of possibly annoying my girlfriend here, I will divulge to the masses: it’s really, really hard to go from single parenthood to being in a committed relationship. Maybe it’s just really hard to be a parent in a relationship. Maybe it’s harder because I was a single parent for so long… or maybe it’s just hard either way.

It’s a balancing act that I have far from begun to master. Take co-sleeping. I love it. Possibly more than my daughter does (or possibly it’s equal). My need to have her near me has transferred into her needing to be near me to sleep. If she wakes and I’m not there, she screams. She cannot fall asleep without me there (unless I’m not home from work, then my mom or girlfriend will do as a substitute). That’s not really the problem. The problem is that I also have discovered that I cannot sleep without being next to her. This was not a problem as a single parent. We slept in the same bed, and all was good. It’s a problem in a relationship when your partner, rightly, would like to share a bed at least sometimes during the night. Even for at least part of the night. That’s probably quite normal and a reasonable thing to want and expect from your girlfriend. But I’m having a super hard time with it… I don’t fall asleep easily, or well, and eventually end up crawling back into bed with her even when she didn’t wake up needing me so that I can relax. And my last post about needing sleep? I’m not getting good quality sleep unless she’s next to me. I get that this could be pathological. Maybe even a deal breaker for prospective life partners. (For the record, my girlfriend is being super understanding, and patient, and non-critical, and I am totally projecting this frustration onto her without her being able to chip in here.)

Also, the never-want-to-leave-her-except-for-work-or-school thing. During dating, I did this and enjoyed it. She was an infant and pretty ok with being left with grandma or whoever. Now she’s not ok with it, and I also can’t relax. I very much enjoyed our anniversary date to the prison museum (yes, we’re weird) but ultimately was in sort of a rush to just get my toddler. I kept thinking about having to work the next few days and missing out on precious hours that I had with her. Same thing with the movies. Or god forbid going to a concert or show or whatever. I really don’t want to, without her.

Is this a phase that will end, or at least decrease in extreme-ness or intensity, as she also grows out of the clingy I-need-mommy stage? Was this problem exacerbated by the fact that I was a single mom, with M and with my foster son, for so long that it’s now non-intuitive for me to also prioritize my relationship along with being a mom? I have read many articles about mom’s focus shifting to baby in marriages, the other partner (usually dads) feeling left out in the cold, advice-givers and psychologists telling mom she needs to set time aside for her relationship so everyone stays happy, keeping kids in bed with you or you in bed with them kills marriages and intimacy, motherhood kills libido (I believe in this 100%), partners extremely frustrated by the fact that mother/wife no longer wants them, etc and so on, so I know that this is possibly the most common problem that couples with toddlers ever have. Some relationships ride out this storm and are fine, some ride it out and are worse for wear, some never recover. This is all further complicated by the fact that our relationship is also new and therefore we did not have years of just “us-ness” to get us through the difficult, intimacy-killing, early years of parenting.

The fact of the matter is that I’m addicted to being with my toddler, because I love the crap out of her and miss her like crazy when I’m at work and school, even though she also drives me insane when we’re together. She is my primary relationship, and what I pour my energy into every second that I’m not in school or work. And I’m not really able or willing to change that even a little. It’s the way my single-mom brain and heart is wired. At the end of the day, I want to crawl into bed with her, hear her breathe like a little angel (as she is only when she sleeps), so I can relax and sleep deeply. Most days, after parenting, or being a nurse, or taking care of grandparents, or cleaning the house my not-so-neat mother stays in, I am totally depleted with nothing more to give. I don’t want to be touched, held, or snuggled. My battery indicator is flashing red, and the only thing that recharges it is a long night of sleep next to my little one. I find that I literally don’t have an ounce of giving left in me for my relationship.

And even with a saint of a girlfriend (because seriously guys, no one could be more selfless in all of this), it’s wearing on me that she deserves better. And that maybe I’m a little too extreme in this sort of normal phase of motherhood.

I’m sure you’ll all give me your honest, but kind, feedback here!

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Categories: life in general, parenting

5 Comments »

  1. I’m in the pre-parenting stage, so keep that in mind when I say this. It sounds like you and your daughter just need practice. Practice for you daughter in you having adult time, and practice for you in taking adult time. How about a discussion with your GF about what she thinks is a reasonable number of “date nights” in a month, and then strive to compromise on it (maybe one a week, one every two weeks?).
    Also, in terms of the sleeping together – for my wife and I, the most important parts of the night are the falling asleep and waking up parts. Sometimes I go into our guest room if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. But when the alarm goes off I make sure to go back into our bed so we can have the early morning time together (while we hit the snooze button 4 times).

  2. I don’t think it is wrong or extreme for you to be so connected to M during this stage. 60-100 years ago it was completely uncommon to be away from your baby or small child for hours and days. Even preschool at age 4 wasn’t normal, kids started school at 6. We are hardwired to be close to them and feel connected. She is also in that toddler stage of learning her own confidence and figuring out how far she can go from you, then checking back in. I don’t think there is anything wrong with moms who relish going back to work, but I think it is much more common to crave being around your babies (2 is still baby).
    It sounds like you want to make the time to be an attentive girlfriend so you could work on the sleep part and set a weekly date goal that works for the mom you and the girlfriend you. For sleeping, it was hard for me to get used to him not being right next to or on me. I still get a whoosh of feelings when I look over and see him in his bed. He sleeps most of most nights in his pack n play 5ft from my bed. Eventally after we move, he will be in the room next to me. Part of me is excited that it will help our sleep and part of me is terrified that my baby will sleeping in the next room, gasp!

  3. Being married we have these same struggles where my primary focus is not myself or my relationship it is the kids and it is making sure everything works as well as possible in terms of keeping the house put together. My work doesn’t get to be pushed around because being employed is pretty important to everything and so what can get squeezed does.
    I understand the rush to get back to the babes when you are away from them especially when it is by choice. My wife, doesn’t feel this same pull but tolerates it pretty well.
    I try to take advantages of the moments we have together when both kids are magically asleep. I try to take the time to send messages when we aren’t together (and sometimes even when we are but also with the kids). I think it’s super important to remind each other that having a child quite so dependent on you is a bit of a phase.

  4. I would definitely make it a point to include date nights into your routine. It is perfectly normally to not want your child to be unhappy when you aren’t around. But it’s also normal and very healthy for your young child to learn to be without you in a safe environment. And this is learned by you modeling trust in others to care for her. Putting aspects of your individual/adult needs ahead of the child’s on occasion shows that she isn’t the center of the universe and that other people are important too. Isnt that a healthy development? If you aren’t functioning in an aspect of life because you are worried all the time, there may be a need for some counseling to figure out why and resolve some feelings that may be there. I know your child has been your world, but now that you are a family unit it is time to let other people into that world. I think it’s fantastic that you have a supportive GF! Good luck to you 😊.

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