pretending to be an adult

Mark and I had some friends over this evening.  This is something we haven't done in a long time.  We've had people over, but usually it involves other friends with kids, so there is a lot of chaos as we yell over the noise of the kids, and try to remember where the conversation left off before one of us was interrupted by rescuing a child off the side of the trampoline, or cutting someone's chicken, or telling the boys that they must allow the girls to play with them, etc etc.  So yeah.  The whole intentional "just adults" socializing/hosting thing . . . it's been a while.

We used to really like entertaining.  Today I felt like I was trying to re-awaken some dormant part of myself.  But simultaneously, I felt like an impostor - like I was trying to pretend to be a normal, functioning person again . . . . a person who lights candles in the evening, who puts music on the stereo, who sits and chats for two hours without falling asleep, who talks about interesting subjects beyond choosing a preschool or potty-training techniques.  And the sense of pretending, or the sense of trying to be someone I used to be . . .  the thing is, it wasn't for the benefit of the guests (although the feelings of wanting to impress where there, certainly).  But more so, there was this overwhelming feeling of wanting to be a "normal", functioning, socially-connected adult again.  And then a sad sense that I wasn't, and that something as simple as having another couple over for coffee was outside of my capabilities right now.

The friends that came over are single.  The guy is one of my husband's friends from high school. He's dating a cute girl in her twenties that I've only met a few times.  Something about that combination - a guy in the corporate world, who doesn't spend a lot of time with kids, and a girl still in college, coming over to my house . . . something made me start looking disapprovingly at my dirty floors, my fingernails, my formula-stained sofa, my three-inch roots, and my living room full of plastic toys.  Suddenly I was looking at myself from the gaze of my former self, and wondering when I had gotten so tired, so messy, so scattered.  So old. 

I did manage to get the house decently clean, and the kids in pajamas before they came.  I didn't, however, manage to wash or brush my own hair today (or to pick up the prescription at Target that  has been waiting for three days, or return the overdue library books or return one single email.  But I digress).

And as they arrived, it was as I expected.  They seemed refreshed and energetic, bearing a cute jug of high-end beer.  She was adorable.  She did brush her hair this morning.  Her toenails were painted, her clothes were not caked in baby food.  Her purse was not overflowing with diapers and sippy cups.   She was funny and charming.  So was he.

When they arrived, my kids were doing their usual routine of running through the house full-speed, trying to avoid bedtime.  Not five minutes in, I could see them grimace at the noise level.  It was loud.  I was self-conscious.  And then, the question.  The question that was sort of a joke, but also an observation.  An observation tinged with a little pity, and maybe just a hint of concern.

"Is it always this loud?"

Yes.  It is.

The kids went down.  The guests both went to the bathroom.  I winced at the thought of how that room smells (a result of two boys with very bad aim and a neglected diaper genie).   I made excuses.  Haha - the bathroom stinks.  Haha - don't mind the laundry in the hallway.  Haha - that drywall hasn't been patched yet.  Haha - sorry the hand towels are so dirty.  Haha - Kristen SHUT UP.

We chatted.  It was nice.  They were lovely.  We laughed at the chasm between us as we discussed carpooling to a mutual friends wedding, and debated whether we should drive in their Porsche or our minivan.  Haha - I have a minivan.

But still . . . I felt like I was pretending.  Pretending to be more than a tired, frazzled, overwhelmed mom.  Pretending to be a grown-up.  But a younger grown-up?

I don't know.

It was a simple evening with friends, but it brought up a lot of stuff for me. I need to be more content.  I need to be more grateful for my kids, and less whiny about the inevitable obstacles in this lifestage. I need to stop assuming that the fatigue I feel this week is the way I will feel forever.  I need to get more sleep.   At the same time, I need to take some breaks from the preschool set.  I need to figure out how to be a social being and not just a mom.

I need to find more balance.  And I need a pedicure.  Stat.

43 comments:

  1. Pedicures are of utmost important. They are one of the first rules in the Taking Care of Mama handbook. Schedule that thing today!

    As we are the only childless couple among all of our friends, I relate a bit to this couple, but what I wouldn't give for 2 boys with bad aim and an overflowing diaper genie. But my head is already freaking me out that our friends are going to have moved on by the time we get to baby stage. And good gracious we are going to be old parents. Very thought provoking post.

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  2. Kristen, Please don't take this the wrong way. But I read this, and I think that it is bass-ackwards. YOU have it EXACTLY right. I look over in your sidebar and I see 4 totally awesome, beautiful kids.. kids that are being raised by a socially conscious mom that TOTALLY kicks @$$. And I think, those 20 year olds have no idea what life is about yet. Their lives are totally empty at this point. They have no idea which end is up yet. (I'm GUESSING. I don't know them personally. SOME people in their 20s have led very fulfilling lives already, but I would wager most young couples in Orange County, CA, not-so-much. And *I* had not, when I was in my 20s.)

    Girl, you have 4 little, totally high energy kids, and I cannot imagine how exhausted you must be (just looking at Kembe and India's photos alone wears me out) but you KNOW what life is about. It is about loving those kids and being present with them.. who CARES about clean bathrooms and drywall and moderate noise levels? Or pretty toenails? (unless pretty toenails makes you FEEL better, then go for it).

    I love you girl. Do not feel judged by young people who do not understand. Remember you can always look to us "Old Timers" who have even MORE kids, for understanding.

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  3. I totally understand and love this post! My sisters (3 of them) are all in their twenties, fashionable, put together, perfect hair, in great shape . . . I'm getting depressed just writing this! But I'm also reminded to be thankful for where God has me right now - even when its hard to feel that way sometimes!

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  4. Sonya5:44 AM

    I'm sorry you felt judged and embarrassed about the condition of your house. I admire you for going forward and having people over anyway. I had that opportunity recently and chickened out. I don't think it's necessarily bad for that couple to see the reality of having kids. Sure, some of it is messy and stinky but I would bet that they also felt the love and couldn't help but be drawn to those four gorgeous kids of yours.

    And a break is good, get one if you can. I always feel better having gotten away for a bit but I also miss my kids much sooner than I think I will. The very best thing is a REGULAR break so you have the luxury of planning something. Even if it's just planning to stroll through Macys :)

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  5. Anonymous5:47 AM

    i have only one kid and i feel the same way sometimes;0) but you know what, i like it! i feel like i belong to a secret circle of moms, with a dirty house full of toys and no time...i think its wonderful and i will not stay like this forever...people without children dont understand because they dont belong tot this secret circle. poor them...if they cant take the noise - go meet someone else ;0)
    love aline

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  6. Whenever I hang out with single friends, or married friends with no kids, all I can think is, "get a life, you people! You're losers until you have kids". Which isn't exactly true, but it's close enough.

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  7. Anonymous6:31 AM

    I'm with Corey. I used to LOVE to have people over before kids. Totally got into cooking a really special dinner, making the house and myself look just so, etc., etc. But that was another season and now YOU are the "real grown-up".

    We all know motherhood is all about putting someone's else's needs and wants ahead of our own. At the top of that list in our house is the noise level. My kids don't seem to be able to enjoy life unless it is LOUD. We've tried and failed to change that. I will also bet my money that my kid is louder than yours. I asked my husband the other day if he'd mind if I started wearing earplugs in the evenings just to deafen the noise a bit. I was serious. I don't know what it is about the post-nap hours that brings out the volume, but, mercy.

    Looking cute and being clean and charming is a cinch when the only person you have to worry about is yourself. Let's see how that goes when they are in your stage. You're just giving them a small reminder that life gets messy and loud when it's time to get really serious about it. And charming isn't easy when you are tired and have the constant drone of mothering thoughts encompasing your psyche.

    Getting mani/pedis is awesome, and certainly, find a way to get as much sleep as you can, but for my money, the fun is girl's night with other moms, not other singletons, or even the married but kidless set. It's tough to remember what you are doing is more important than other more pleasurable things when the company is not in the same boat.

    Chin up! Someday you will actually miss this season. ;)

    ahdra

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  8. Anonymous6:35 AM

    You know what else? In parenthood you find out if all those lofty thoughts of yours actually meant something to you. You can talk and talk and talk with the best of them, but until you actually start walking that out in the dirty business of life (read: the little years), you never know if you really, really meant what you said.

    ahdra

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  9. I am very single and very childless (and by that I mean, by choice, and proudly), and I LOVE going to my friends' chaos.

    I spend days and weeks with friends with super loud, super messy (=normal) children who fight and throw and miss the toilet and stuff toys down the toilet and spit on me and then tell me they love me and give me headaches with the screaming and completely irrational tantrums - and I LOVE IT. We all laugh about how quiet and clean it is when I go home, and I also fully appreciate the insanity that is parenthood. I don't judge my friends, and sometimes I scour their kitchens because they don't have time.

    Our realities are different but I see it as like appreciating different cultures - different, not better or worse.

    Soon enough you'll have sullen teenagers who won't talk at all! :)

    I do agree this is critical: "I need to take some breaks from the preschool set. I need to figure out how to be a social being and not just a mom." The people I do end up drifting apart from are those who forget that, and they lose themselves. Sometimes a mom being "selfish" is critical to the health and well-being of the entire family!

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  10. Great post. I sometimes have this feeling where I am sort of stunned to look at myself in the mirror and see how frumpy I look and then I realize I haven't done anything social in two weeks. I feel like a cliche of the new-ish (my kid is almost 2) mom.

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  11. First, anyone with small kids can relate. Anyone who says they can't is lying or has a nanny. Second, I'll bet your friends weren't judging you at all, but just laughing at the reality, wondering if they will/would be like this in a few years. (Didn't we all think that thought--kind of in a wonder/horror combo?) But they probably will, and THEN they'll understand.

    When I get into a pity funk like this, the best cure is to look back at videos of my kids as babies. I instantly start freaking out for a different reason: they're growing up too fast! Oh no! Why am not enjoying this more? Screw the eye-brow wax, I need to print out photos for the photo book or sit down and read a book with them at least once today. It's a temporary cure, but it helps.

    Also, the first comment on this post is a good reminder. If I was unable to have kids, I'd be looking at your urine-tinged chaos with envy. Lord, give me the patience to deal with my blessings.

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  12. You are both in different, but equally good points in your life.

    And pedicures really make up for a lot of insecurities.

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  13. Anonymous7:58 AM

    I've been stalking your blog for awhile and never intended to post. But I wanted to enter the fray and add a few things. As a mother, I find myself feeling guilty because my kids aren't my end-all, be-all. I have a flexible job (I teach college literature) and a ministry where my kids are deeply involved in the lives of other children, most of whom look differently from them. But I often feel guilty if I'm not the happy mother sitting contentedly amidst the kid-induced chaos. Sometimes I love the chaos, other times I just need five minutes to pluck my eyebrows.

    I was teaching "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin to my college students a few weeks ago. If anyone hasn't read it, I highly recommend it, unless you feel like floating out into a sea of oblivion is a viable option for your life right now--then I think you should pass. It is one thing to read this early feminist manifesto as a young, eager undergrad (all of my girl students, by the way, are much, much cuter than me, and never find oatmeal crusted on their ten-year-old black pants while trying to look both professional and cute). Teaching the story to my class, I had a very different perspective as a mother. This line really stood out to me: "But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul." The main character, Edna, is thinking about her two young children. I don't, of course, support her abandoning her life and children in the end, but I do understand that feeling. I think that's what you're saying. There are mothers whose soul is not likely to be possessed by a house full of small children. Mine is. And I love, love my kids, the ones we have now, the ones we will add in the future. But they will never possess my soul. So whatever I need to do to make sure my soul and mind have a little breathing space, I'll do. For me, it's a flexible job, a ministry I love, and a husband who is an equal parent. And occasionally time to pluck my eyebrows (which are looking pretty rough right now). So I don't think it's about being "selfish" or not. That's a really guilt-inducing word. It sounds like you're saying a little adult space will make you a much more engaged mom. I totally agree with that.

    As long as this is the longest post ever, I'll tell you I enjoy reading your blog (I'm an adoption blogstalker since we'll be adopting in the next few years). You've clearly done a great job of retaining your wit and wisdom in the midst of chaos. Blessings to you.

    JG

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  14. When my husband and I were engaged and then newlyweds, we used to spend a lot of time with a slightly older couple who had a handful of kids. We loved them so much, but there were many times when I felt overwhelmed by everything in their lives that you just described. Even so, it was good for us. They were mentoring us. And now that we're in that stage (and they're in the next one with older kids), I know who I can call for support. I will admit though that the things I used to think about moms and families of small kids haunt me now because I know that's how younger women look at me/us. I wish I hadn't been so arrogant back then.

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  15. BTW, I am going to get a pedicure in a few minutes. I hope you get to get yours too!

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  16. Anonymous8:07 AM

    I think it is now time for you to have a wine party like the good old days

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  17. This is a funny post to me because I totally relate. When I'm around them, and the vast chasm in age and experience between us is evident to me, I completely overdo it on the "I'm so cool, look how funny I am, I'm still young and awesome, too, HAHAHAHA" to the younger set. I think there are probably some older high schoolersand college agers at our church who think I have a few marbles loose. And usually, when I walk away I wonder why in the hooha do I care if I'm older? I LOVE my life - no matter how filled with craziness it is. When I was their age, my dream was to someday be a mother and now that I'm here, I'm embarrassed that I'm old? Oh grass...you are so much greener on the other side of that fence. The flowers may not be in neat, straight rows over here, but the wildflowers are pretty awesome, if you ask me! :

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  18. So many people can relate to your post - exactly. I remember being that couple, surrounded by chaos at a friend's home. And though I totally wasn't ready for it, I knew that it was the life of a family. Chaos is fun and makes for good times. And, now that my family has its own chaos, I totally feel those days where I wish for a little less mania - and do my best to be grateful for everything too. It's a challenge of course, but at least we know we all feel the same way, and aren't alone. :)

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  19. I feel like I have to clarify that I didn't feel like they were judging me at all. Although, Amanda - I was the same way! I was often freaked out by the noise and the mess before we had kids, and we would hang out with friends who did. At the same time, part of the self-loathing I had last night was because we WERE a childless couple for a very long time, and not by choice. There were many years that I longed for exactly what I have right now. And of course, now I look back and glamorize the freedom and self-care of days gone by.

    But man, I love these kids!! :)

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  20. I totally get it.

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  21. jennie w. I don't have kids and I'm not a loser.

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  22. This seems to have struck a chord with many people in different ways. I loved it. And, I identify with what you said. Although, I have not had guests without children to our home in many years.

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  23. Anonymous10:39 AM

    K~ I'm the lady who came up to you a few Friday nights ago at Crystal Court and introduced myself as "Anonymous"...your kids were going on the Merry-Go-Round...it's OK I don't expect you to remember me...I recognized you by your precious children getting on the Merry-Go-Round...Mark was strapping them in!

    What a special moment for me when I saw you and your family...at that very moment I realized how BLESSED I was to come across your Blog and have read it everyday since...

    You have a Mom Job not too many people could or would do, you truly are a Blessed Women and you need to know that!

    Love your babies...be proud of who and what you are as a Women of God...what do 20 year olds know anyway? ...to be honest with you they want what you have...don't fool yourself!!!You are amazing and full of life...tired, yes but you are what it is all about...be kind to yourself Kristen...and know you are loved and cared about by total strangers who love and prayer for you, Mark and those wonderful kids!!!

    Sandi

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  24. Anonymous12:01 PM

    I have to say, some of these comments are closed minded at best, and downright hurtful at worst. Since when did being childless in your twenties (or thirties) become synonymous with having "no idea what life is about yet. Their lives are totally empty at this point. They have no idea which end is up yet"??? This is the same sentiment that breeds an "us vs. them" mentality. Have these judgmental commenters ever stopped to think that choosing not to reproduce could have more to do with a sense of responsibility rather than selfishness? Kristen, I commend you for striving to break down the barrier that isolates *some* parents with young children from the rest of the world.

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  25. I hear ya. About every 2 weeks I have a "moment" where I think who in the heck am I anymore. When will I get to eat a meal without being interrupted 40 times, or sleep in til I wake naturally, or be able to talk to my husband when he comes through the door without having to "wait my turn" for 30 minutes while the kids talk his ears off? I just try to tell myself that ,"Someday I will miss this."

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  26. I will try next time I come over to talk about more interesting things than potty training and pre-school picking because that is TOTALLY WHAT I TALKED ABOUT with you. Ew - I'm one of those people now. Time to subscribe to the WSJ again. And I thought the last word of your blog was another 4-letter word when I first read it. Which would totally fit as well.

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  27. Yes, I want to be really careful of suggesting that people without kids don't "get it" or don't have a life. I was childless for a long time, some years by choice, some years not. It is just a different lifestage. No better, no worse. I think we always compare, and this post was about MY tendency to do so. For me, this was one of those grass is greener moments. I longed for children for years. I have them now. I'm SO grateful. But I am still a person who struggles with envy, comparison, and discontent. If I'm really being honest, my friends without kids seem more interesting and intimidating - but not judgmental or clueless.

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  28. Haha - Jodie! That's just the stage we're in right now. We gotta own it!

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  29. Too bad we can't go get the peds done together. We could chat or sleep and both be happy.

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  30. Are you in my head? Living my life? Your last few posts are so spot on, you may as well be. :) Go get that pedicure! And add on a massage to boot.

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  31. Anonymous10:24 PM

    Wow, this post totally hit it on the nail with me. I *knew* there was a reason I stayed and continue reading your blog after discovering it by accident a couple of weeks ago. You are preaching to the choir. But I do think we have the better deal, despite the fact that I have this persistent feeling of wanting to "donate all this crap that's lying around. Let's just give away the toy box, there's enough upstairs already, let's get rid of at least half the books. I need some negative space in the house so my eyes can rest!" The huz chuckles because he knows I am half serious and half deranged about clutter. But each time we declutter (never to my expectations like pre-kiddo) it seems to find its way back. It is what it is and if folks don't have kids they just won't get it.
    christina

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  32. I bet the twenty-something went home thinking "someday I want to be just like this." I'm sure it was a loud display of genuine love in a real family. I can guarantee that both guests went home thinking. (have you heard this?) You want to skid into heaven with frazzled hair, worn hands, totally worn out from giving your all. What would it say if you showed up with manicured nails, styled hair, pristine clothes?

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  33. I so hear you and echo, LOUD and CLEAR, and I only have two children. Most days are pure survival mode. On the off chance I do feel like, "hey, I'm getting the hang of this..." Then, I am learning, "[s]he who thinks she stands, take heed, lest [s]he fall." And, fall I do, usually at least 2 steps back from where I was. But God's mercies are new every morning, and I claim that often! And He is gracious in the gifts of sweet smiles, and "mommy, I love you"s, etc. God is good! Happy Easter!

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  34. Kelli8:35 PM

    Kristen I say we leave the kiddos with Chad and Mark and head to get our toes done together! I have not had a proper pedicure since two days before Lainey was born. And that was so my feet would look cute in the pictures that were shot by a professional photographer cause Chad that it would be so cool to have the photos. I submitted...and I have to say I am glad to have the photos, even though at the time I have to say it was not my favorite idea to have a camera around for my most el fresco situation.

    All that to say is I only have one child and I have started to wonder what I talked about before baby?

    Here is to being content with self painted toes!

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  35. i miss the relative glamour of my pre-mama days, but the insecurity of my youth? not a bit! we never know what others struggle with behind their near-pertect appearances, and i think there is something freeing (although humbling and certainly overwhelming) of living in the chaos of mothering and clearly NOT having it all together. it may be naked and painful, but there is much value in just being authentically imperfect.

    you have four super needy, tiny people to raise. no one expects quiet or perfection, and i'm sure your friends were grateful for the hospitality. people entertain so little these days b/c we're waiting for that time when everything is perfect and ready, but so many are just longing for human connection and don't care about clutter.

    pencil in some weekly grown-up time asap. we all need to feel like women and people and not just mamas.

    good post:)

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  36. Irene7:46 AM

    jennie w. said...

    "Whenever I hang out with single friends, or married friends with no kids, all I can think is, "get a life, you people! You're losers until you have kids". Which isn't exactly true, but it's close enough."

    Wow, that is not very nice... I sure feel like I have a life even though I don't have kids!

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  37. I have been reading your blog for some time now and I LOVE how open and honest you are! I wish I were more like you in that respect!

    (((HUGS)))
    Hope you have scheduled some "you" time!

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  38. I totally relate, Kristen. Thanks for putting it into words. Enjoy Dan's wedding...we are bummed to be missing it!

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  39. Anonymous2:55 PM

    I agree with an earlier Anonymous commenter:
    "I have to say, some of these comments are closed minded at best, and downright hurtful at worst."

    I find a lot of these remarks to be not only hurtful but extremely self-righteous. What I read in the original blog post was authentic and refreshing. But so many of these comments have turned it into a competition for "who has the best life?" Why is it that so often we feel the need to justify our own choices by putting down someone else's?
    My husband and I are the only childless couple in our circle of friends. We love our friends, adore their children, and try hard to relate to and support them in spite of our different life stages. While that isn't always easy (for us OR for them), I would hope my friends with kids don't label me a "loser," view my pedicured toes as a sign of selfishness/immaturity/insecurity, or assume I have no way of understanding what life is about just because I have yet to join what one commenter called the "secret circle" of motherhood.

    Yes, sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side. But it's also possible to appreciate your own lawn without lighting your neighbor's on fire.

    Kristen, thank you for your honesty - and for calling this what it is: a struggle with "envy, comparison, and discontent."

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  40. Anonymous3:16 PM

    I totally read this post as an acknowledgment that it is time to redefine "you"...not an "us vs them" type scenario, but more of a "who am I now?" thing. Girl, you are light years ahead of me. I didn't even look up and see the world for about 18 months after number four kid came into our lives..it was INSANE for a while. But one day I did look up and realize it was time to be who I am...and I'm still discovering the richness of that.

    Chewie

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  41. since you're all confessional and stuff ... i confess that i am often envious of people with a less insane number of children. we all want what we don't have. human nature is so sucky sometimes.

    :) and yes, i love my too many children a lot even so.

    plus, everyone in Texas is so done up. i cannot compete. but when i see you in may ... expect me to look young, appealing, and NOT haggard (thanks Waco Tribune). :)

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  42. A couple months in of becoming a family of five from a family of three ...
    -- we haven't even had anyone over other than our social worker.
    -- when we do get together with friends, it's usually with other adoptive families with more kids than we have!
    -- and we're all exhausted.
    Congrats for stepping out!

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  43. Did you write this from my house?

    We have three kids four and under and it is LOUD. We love young couples (not that we're not young ourselves), and have newly married couples over a lot. We really benefited from being on the receiving end of that mentorship, and now we are the ones with the crazy life!

    This week a couple was commenting on how great our kids are and I said "well they are great, and it's so great when they're behaving well." The girl said...wait for it..."this is them behaving well?" I had to work so hard not to burst out laughing!

    Our chaos is a great chaos and people love to be in it. They also love to go home at the end of the night. Keep inviting people in, and also keep working to get out on your own. Sometimes I go through phases where I feel like I can't find the me under the mom and I have to work extra to connect with myself again. I think you HAVE to do that, otherwise you can't keep giving generously to your kids.

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talk to me.

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