Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 138: The Incongruous Emotions of Motherhood.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: Nursery Rugs.

I went back and forth on rugs for micro’s nursery and for our master bedroom. I had initially wanted this for micro’s room but then I put together a very rough rendering of what the room would look like with all the furniture, artwork, etc in it, and I felt it’d be too busy and would compete too much with the rest of the room. It also had a bit of a boho flair that did not jive well with the rest of the items I was considering. I went back and forth on what to do for a long, long time but Mr. Magpie kept telling me he thought this Erin Gates rug in the denim color would be the best and most practical fit. And you know what? I think he’s right. It’s simple, grounding, and I kind of like the Navajo vibe — it suddenly made me realize that the room could have kind of a “Western” feel to it: the Lionel Train print we’ve been eyeing for his room made sudden sense, as did this cool red and blue Pendleton pillow we’ve been using in our living area that doesn’t really belong there. And we have a reproduction of an Andy Warhol General Custer print that would be incredible in the room! Suddenly everything was clicking.

(Maybe he needs this train? Also thinking this ticking stripe changing pad cover will tie things together nicely.)

You’re Sooooo Popular:

The most popular items on the blog this past week:

+These discounted Oscar earrings. The perfect holiday jewel.

+This teddy coat!

+My favorite way to serve little nibbles at cocktail hour.

+Our new sconces.

+A lot of love for my past-season Isabel Marant boots.

+Such a fun blouse.

+My latest Amazon score.

#Turbothot: The Incongruous Emotions of Motherhood.

Earlier this week, I padded into micro’s nursery for his dream feed, tired and ready for bed myself, and also longing to finish the glass of wine I’d abandoned couch-side. We haven’t yet ordered micro’s glider because his crib just arrived a day ago and we want to set that up and situate it in the room to make sure a glider can squeeze in and not be an impediment before committing. (But we are almost definitely going to order this one in the navy with white piping — thank you so much to the Magpie who suggested this! We wanted something very petite, inexpensive, and easy to keep clean — i.e., non-white — for the room. This fits the bill and gets great reviews.) At any rate, I usually set up a mound of pillows and quilts on the floor for his bedtime feed, and then unceremoniously plop down on the floor with him at this hour, as I find it’s too stimulating for me to carry him into another room when the lights and TV are on.

So I sat there in the dark, my eyes adjusting to the contours and shapes of his nursery, my body aching and my mind racing ahead to the items I needed to handle as soon as this feed was over. (I needed to finish slicing mini’s fruit for her lunch! And switch the laundry before going to bed! And also make a note to order more Murphy’s Oil!) And then I dialed back in on micro, his fingers grasping my own. And then I remembered something I wanted to tell Landon. And then I reached for my phone to start making a list. And then I glanced at how many ounces were left on the bottle. And then I felt my throat constrict as I admired micro’s long eyelashes, the flutter of his eyes, his dazed sleepiness occasionally punctuated by a sudden flail of his arms.

And I thought: oh, this moment is a metaphor for motherhood. It has all the markings of that mixed bag of emotions that have defined matrescence for me.

There is the heart swell, the weepy and overwhelming and intense attachment.

There is the practical, perfunctory, overly detailed: the this needs to get done first, and the attentiveness to the clock, and the this many ounces, and the sequencing and particularity and consideration afforded every single aspect of this baby’s life. (“Not that bottle! He hates that one!” and “This cream for diaper rashes, this ointment for his dry legs!” and “The sound machine needs to be up another notch — mini must have been playing with it…”)

There is the low-key and ongoing buzz of desire for relief, for a break — the occasional way I count backwards from 60 when rocking him to sleep. The eye on the flow of milk in his bottle — “OK, only two ounces left…”

And there is the attendant guilt for such thoughts, too. A reader once wrote: “Never wish away the age of your child.” And though desiring a return to my glass of wine is not the same thing as wishing his age away, I have been chastened, in my fleeting desire to just get him back to sleep, by the thought that he is only young for so long and one day I will watch a tall and lanky teen slam the door to our apartment without so much as a goodbye and think: “Oh my God. I wish he were still in the crook of my arm, wanting and needing my embrace.”

All of these things together form the well-worn emotional terrain of my day-to-day life as a mother, strung together like beads on a necklace that I reflexively, absent-mindedly reach up to touch. They form a pattern of emotion that I know by heart and by rote and by blind feel: the strain of the guilt against the billow of affection, the tick-tock-tick-tock of just getting through the minutiae of the day, and the surging desire to still be myself, to still carve out moments to fritter away over text message with my girlfriends or lost in a book or even just lingering in front of the fridge, deciding on an afternoon snack.

I wrote maybe a year ago that I did not want my motherliness to sit as a counterbalance to myself. That I saw myself as me first, and that my roles as mother and wife and writer were a part of me, but not all of me. I still feel that way to a certain degree, but in the dark of that room that night, as I juggled the various familiar emotions of motherhood, I thought to myself that I would do well to recenter on that aspiration. That I was me in that room, not “mom me.” That I could forgive myself for aching to place him in his bassinet and tiptoe out of the room because I am human, and sometimes I am tired and selfish and just want to drink a glass of wine, uninterrupted. And that it’s impractical and absurd to expect myself to stare idly, admiringly, at my baby at every hour of the night. And that my determined solicitude for my son can sit alongside those desires and realities, even if they seem on the surface irreconcilable.

I think that as I grow into motherhood, I am growing increasingly comfortable with accepting that these incongruities can and will always coexist. And that it doesn’t make me a bad mom to occasionally grimace at a cry in the middle of the night. It’s just me being me. Realizing I need to get up, recognizing that I don’t want to do it, and doing it nonetheless.

Does anyone else feel me on this?

Post-Scripts: Sale Sneakers + Pink Snowboots.

+My favorite sneakers are on sale in such a chic colorway!

+Love these pink snowboots.

+A cute gift for a little gal (add a monogram!)

+Love a skirted table. Actually contemplating doing something similar to my desk, which has seen better days but I’m not sure we’re ready to invest in a new one given all the other furniture acquisitions we are eyeing that are much higher priority. I wonder if I could have someone make a fitted skirt? Hm.

+Inexpensive ways to personalize your home.

+The cutest mittens for a little one. I own these in the grown-up size and absolutely adore them — they are lined with the softest fleece. So warm!

+This is absolutely adorable. I am so missing the bubble/romper phase of mini’s life! Not only are they impractical now that she’s out of diapers, but I feel like the look is a bit infantalizing on her since she’s so tall!

+This dress for an Audrey Hepburn moment.

+Are you a baker? What are you baking this autumn?

+This colorblock sweater is incredible! Love that it would completely make an outfit — I’d wear all black elsewhere.

+Another fun statement earring for the holiday circuit.

+I love my box spring cover.

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7 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 138: The Incongruous Emotions of Motherhood.

  1. Thank you for posting this. I am currently sitting in the bath reading this, after a very tough day wrangling my two year old around. Feeling both incredibly happy that’s he’s finally asleep, and somewhat guilty that I’m feeling that way! Motherhood is such a bundle of mixed emotions!

  2. You nailed it with this post. There are days when I am literally counting the minutes until bedtime yet 15 minutes after the kids are down, I am looking at pictures and videos of them on my phone and missing them terribly. Motherhood is such a wonderful and complicated journey filled with so many emotions. Thank you as always for your thoughtful and eloquent point of view! Xo

  3. You encapsulate many of my musings over motherhood here. Sometimes, motherhood is an action more than an intention – something I do, rather than something I feel.

    I’m not really sure if it matters whether some of the rituals I perform so often – prepping E for day care in the morning, the laborious bedtime routine of an eczema/allergy laden toddler, coaxing her to take a bite of something – anything! – that isn’t a graham cracker – are done because I want to do them or because I have to do them. We place so much emphasis on intent in motherhood, and sure, it’s important, but effect is really what matters. And I know – KNOW – that Elizabeth feels the effect of these routine minutiae as actions of love – whether or not I am trying not to rush because I want to return to the quiet matters not to her. She is loved through action, through intent, through body language, through other modes – but all she feels is the love, not the manner or feeling in which/by which it comes to her.

    We are good mothers and good women because we lean into these frictions, not in spite of them.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this — I completely relate to this and you put it all so eloquently. (Incidentally, I don’t mind a heavy handed application of em dashes. That’s my style, too.) I love the way you wrote this in particular: “She is loved through action, through intent, through body language, through other modes – but all she feels is the love, not the manner or feeling in which/by which it comes to her.” Thank you for this reminder.


      PS Hang in there with the food strikes — we are in the same boat. Mini was a great eater for a long time and the last three or four months has become so darn picky! I am trusting that this is a phase and this, too, shall pass. I am also realizing that her pickiness seemed to coincide with all of the changes happening in her world (new school! toileting! new apartment! new brother!) and so I wonder if it is related. Anyway, I’m sitting right there with ya!

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