When my son was 4 months old, I decided to do a 30 day Bikram yoga challenge.  I was trying to get back in shape after giving birth.  It was something I’d always wanted to do, but never thought I had the time for (or the commitment).  I remember talking to my husband about it and asking him if he thought it was feasible to go to a 90 minute yoga class everyday for 30 days straight?  I was going to have to go back to work (after maternity leave) in the middle of it, but that didn’t deter me.  I made a calendar and figured out for every day of the 30 days, which class I would go to.  My husband would be on baby duty and if he couldn’t ,I enlisted friends and family to help so I could get to that class.  I completed that challenge and it’s still one the things I’m proudest of completing.  That was 7 years ago.

Somewhere between having a newborn to present day, I’ve lost that determination to do something entirely for myself.  The yoga challenge was great because I got into shape, but mostly it was great because it was just for me.  It wasn’t about being a mom or a wife, it was just about being Marie.  And maybe after having a kid, I realized I needed a bit more of that.

Today I went to Comic Con for the day with my sister.  I’m a huge fan of Mark Ruffalo and he was going to be there so I bought a ticket and planned to spend the day.  It wasn’t for work, or for my family, it was just for me.  And the sad truth is, I felt a little guilty.  Do I deserve a day pass for fun? Is this a waste of money? Can I really ask this of my husband to pick up the kids and let me stay out until 5:30pm?

Writing this out now makes me think to myself, GOD I SOUND SO BORING, LIKE A TWO DIMENSIONAL MOM.

Mark Ruffalo at Comic Con (stolen off twitter because I didn’t have the guts to violate the no photo rule)

But hear me out, with 2 kids and a mortgage and work stuff (albeit only part time) I often feel like I’m just a walking/breathing TO DO LIST.  It’s Monday, get groceries.  It’s Tuesday, cook said groceries into dinners.  It’s Wednesday, do laundry.  It’s Thursday, put away the laundry.  It’s Friday, make play dates for the kids.  It’s Saturday, do more laundry.  It’s Sunday, plan family fun time. Rinse and repeat, every week.  The To Do’s run my life, because when I don’t do them I feel like shit and like a horrible mom/wife/person.  So the stakes are high (for me).

So who’s hanging out with my kids while I’m DOING ALL THIS SHIT? Well, I am. But not the way I want to be.  I’m distracted and annoyed about the kids getting in the way of my TO DO list with their being kids and all.  For the longest time I didn’t want to have play dates because I thought, “But they’ll just wreck the kids room.”  Move over, Donna Reed, here I come.  I really thought I wasn’t sweating the small stuff! But when you live in only 800 square feet a little bit of mess feels like a bomb going off in your living room.

In order to avoid the feeling like a shitty mom/wife/person thing, I basically just stopped doing things for myself.  Stopped the gym (no time for that!), stopped the date nights (gotta save money!), stopped planning girls night with my single friends (can’t leave the kids!).  And you know what’s left? BORING TWO DIMENSIONAL MOM, THAT’S WHO.

Listen, I’m only talking about ME and what’s right for ME.  I’m not passing judgement on how other moms get it done.  Everyone has to find their own special blend of mom-i-ness and me-ness in order to be a satisfied person.  It’s the same with working moms and SAHM, to each her own!

I realized this year that I’d been putting ME on the back shelf a lot.  Not entirely, but way more than usual.  No wonder I was stressed, sleeping with a clenched jaw and craving sugar.  SO I took a day to go fawn over Mark Ruffalo and blow off school pick up.  No one got hurt!  My husband stepped in so my kids were taken care of, and I hope that I showed them that mommy gets to still be Marie every now and then.  I do truly believe that modeling for our kids that our needs matter as individuals is good for them to see.

I never watched Breaking Bad, but from what I understand at the end of the series he reveals why he became a drug lord.  Initially it was for his family to have money after he died from cancer (right?) but in the end he says, “I did it for ME!”  This always stuck with me despite NEVER SEEING THE SHOW, because shit, yeah man, do it! I mean, maybe not the crime part, but yes do something for you!

Ultimately it makes me think about this larger question that I am constantly asking myself “What does it mean to be a mom?”  And 7 years in, 2 kids later, I am still figuring it out day by day.

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A miraculous thing happened once school started this year.  It was something I’d been praying for for years.  My husband and I talked about it over and over, we hired specialists, we fought about it, then we resigned ourselves to the fact that even though over couples had it, we were never going to.

But finally, my kids started going to bed at night by 9pm.

That’s right, this is what I’d been praying for.

Friends of mine would say, “Oh my kids are asleep by 7:30” and I would literally smile and think to myself something like FUCK-ME-THATS-NEVER-GOING-TO-HAPPEN-FOR-ME-AND-MY-LIFE-IS-BASICALLY-OVER-UNTIL-MY-KIDS-LEAVE-FOR-COLLEGE.  Something like that.

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All summer it was basically “stay late enough at the beach club for my kids to fall asleep in the car” so that I could avoid the whole bedtime routine.  For the most part it worked. (We stayed out pretty late all summer, it was a blast…also, September sucks.) Anyway, I’d given up because after working a sleep counselor (which helped initially) our kids were sucking the life out of us every night at bedtime.  Dylan, my 7 year old son, was always hard to get to sleep ever since we took him out of the crib.  He slept on a cot on the floor of our bedroom for about a year and half, so the fact that we got him into his own bed when we worked with the sleep counselor was pretty magical.

Unfortunately, my kids share a room and a bunk bed situation is what we’ve got going on.  Daphne, 3 years old, is on the bottom while Dylan is on the top.  I even let the kids pick out the bunk bed at Ikea, which is why it doesn’t match the rest of their bedroom furniture.  I tried taking away their screens 90 minutes for bed – which is what sleep specialists recommend.  I tried reading to them, I tried snuggling them, not snuggling them, the chair method, putting them to bed at the same time, at different times, in the same room, in different rooms, I mean, basically I tried everything.  My husband and I gave it everything we had.  And still, no freaking luck.  Bedtime was in some cases taking 2 hours and stretching into 10:30.

How many dishes do you think I want to load into the dishwasher at 10:30? How many loads of laundry do I want to fold? ZERO.

I had nothing left to give.  Forget about actually sitting down to read/watch tv/write/talk to my husband. I was spent, and the only thing I really wanted was comfort Netflix and a jar of Nutella, with a spoon.

When summer was winding down I knew this chaos wasn’t going to work so I decided to come up with my own method.

We gotta have them in their beds by 9. So working backwards:

First, whoever needs a shower gets one.  Sometimes its both kids, sometimes its just one and hopefully it’s zero, because for some odd reason I hate bathing my kids.

Second, they get one show to watch together in my bed.  Their options are Frasier, Friends, Cheers, or Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (click the links for their favorite episodes).  These shows are interesting to them without riling them up (like a kids show would).  I know it’s not perfect parenting, but I was desperate, OK?!  We all have our dirty little (parenting) secrets!

Then its off to their bunks.  Either my husband or I will sit in the room with them until the fall asleep (usually scrolling our phones or maybe reading on my Kindle).  We try not to snuggle Daphne on the lower bunk because it makes Dylan feel major FOMO.  My ego can’t handle getting up on the top bunk and truly feeling my age/weight, so that’s not an option.

Then we pray. Hard.

Somehow, it worked.  My kids were just tired enough at 9 to want to go to bed, even though I was told (and I wanted) the kids to have a super early bedtime.  Most nights I’m outta there by 9:10.  It’s a miracle.

Now maybe it’s because Daphne stopped napping that’s she’s finally fallen in line.  If so, great! There’s gotta be some upside to having her awake all day!

Then I get to decide what to do for another 90 minutes before I try for my own bedtime.  Housework, writing this blog, tv, whatever – its all available to me!

I’ve been struggling with this bedtime nonsense for about 18 months and I think it’s basically broken me.  But now that it’s over, I’m slowly putting myself back together again.  One unloaded dishwasher, folded load of laundry at a time.

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