Robyn vents

Some days I wish I were just a mom, a regular stay-at-home-mom. Not that there really is such a thing. But the whole work-at-home-mom gets tedious. Like trying to balance everything is wearing me out and I feel pulled in so many directions. I thought that when Busybee started Kindergarten, things would get a bit easier, but the pick up situation at her school is overly complicated and takes forever. And then there’s helping her with “family projects” and homework – not that I mind spending time with her, I don’t, it’s actually pretty fun.

But I have my book deadlines, which the current one is really giving me fits, I’m running late, which I hate and would never have happened in pre-kid Robyn, but now it seems to be a fixture of my life – just goes to show that I still haven’t compensated enough time when picking said deadlines. In any case, then I decided to fulfill a life-long dream and take swimming lessons. The lessons themselves only take 30 minutes, but they’re at the university, which is not super close to my house and parking is obnoxious.

My house is never all picked up and tidy and clean at one time. It’s like I can manage one room a week and the rest of the house goes to hell. Needless to say I’m living in that Calgon commercial from so long ago, feeling overwhelmed and unsuccessful at everything.

Just seems like if I didn’t have my “job” (which, of course, I love) then I could just be a wife, mom and homemaker. It’s a wistful thought, not anything that will ever happen, nor anything I truly want to happen. But it’s nice to daydream sometimes about a simpler life. Any of y’all ever do that? Do you struggle to balance it all? What are your tricks to making everything run smoother? 

Total Mom Freak Out: Psychological Stress & Mothering

Do you ever have them? Total mom freak outs? Sometimes the stress of worrying about my kids’ health, happiness, and security gets me to the point that I lose it. For me, losing it means I get illogical fears. I feel sort of trembly inside. I think, “I’ll never be able to protect them,” and suddenly, everything feels overwhelming.

When this sort of cloud passes over me–through me–sometimes I think I should drink wine to deal with it. But I’m not a big drinker. I decided long ago that I don’t handle alcohol well. I become the woman you wish hadn’t come to your party because I’m dancing on your antique dining room table in my heels. It’s too bad–so many people have said to me, “Have a glass of wine!” But no. That fix doesn’t do it for me.

Other times, I think, “Get your butt outside and walk.” That does help.

And on the rare occasion, I’ll think about going on an anti-anxiety drug. It’s mainly when I’m at my doctor’s for a regular check-up and he comes in, white coat tails flapping, and says, “How are you? I mean really?” And he’ll sit in front of me, hold my hand, and look deep into my eyes with such compassion, I start to cry. I know sooooo many moms on anti-anxiety drugs! Or anti-depressants. I did try Prozac once. I lasted about a month and had to quit. I just never got out of sleepy mode, even though I was on a baby dose because the doctor knew I was scared to take it. I have a really sensitive nervous system and do terribly with most drugs. So anyway, I quit Prozac the day the pre-K teacher pounded on my car window–I had fallen asleep in the car rider line, and she thought I’d fainted.

Over the years, I’ve grown to recognize when I’m in a weak psychological state. When the kids were little and we were first discovering that Nighthawk, our child with Asperger’s syndrome, had “issues,” I had panic attacks for a whole year. I tried the Prozac–you know what happened there. So instead of using meds, I wound up keeping a journal and telling myself to laugh every day, walk every day, meditate and pray every day, and keep writing about my feelings in that journal. I also decided to eliminate caffeine. The panic attacks did go away, and I went over ten years without another one.

My last one was two years ago when I went to Dunkin’ Donuts car line when I was stressed with more than kid worries. The concerns about my brood were still there–I could always list two or three child-related issues that hovered in my conscious brain–but I also had a short deadline. Money was tight. My parents were getting older and I was worried about my mom’s atrial fibrillations. I ordered decaffeinated coffee and two donuts, then an hour later, had a panic attack. The coffee, handed to me by an overworked or perhaps indifferent window attendant, was likely not decaf. That, combined with the ridiculous sugar rush (eating two donuts was an unusual event for me), destabilized me physically. Then I got a phone call from a really scary person who’s known for bullying people. Combine all that with my initial stress about the kids and my deadline, and suddenly, on the phone with this difficult person, I was lightheaded, my heart sped up, and I felt weak. Hell, I couldn’t even breathe….

So that was a wake-up call for me. I realized that I needed to be more diligent about taking care of myself. I let go of guilt (yes, it was that easy. I  just stopped kicking myself all the time!). I walked a lot more. I went to a counselor to get help with dealing with difficult people–those couple of sessions included learning how to let go of bad reviews online from people I don’t even know. The best part about the counseling was that she helped me remember I had the solution to my worries in me all along. I just had to think back to that year of journaling, walking, meditating/praying, and laughing.

When I stay aware of what’s happening in my life–not hiding my head in the sand about anything, including child, marital, physical, emotional, and work issues–I stay healthy. It takes courage to live in the now. But staying right here with the truth of my life is what keeps me strong and happy. So moms, if you find yourself getting emotionally frail–if your panic about your kids or anything else you’re worried about starts to affect you to the point that you aren’t living the way you want to live–consider paying attention to what your body and mind are telling you. Do this on your own or with your family doctor or a counselor. And remember, you’re not alone! So many of us moms deal with anxiety, depression, and stress. You deserve to feel better. So take action, or tell someone you trust so they can help you move toward where you want to be. We’re rooting for you here at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard! Hugs, Kieran 🙂

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

Hurricanes in Our Lives

Post-Hugo…I’ll never forget seeing this sailboat on one of the most well-traveled roads in downtown Charleston.

How many of us have recurring nightmares when we’re stressed? Mine’s always about a tidal wave. Right before it hits me, I see the mighty wall of foam-tipped water curl over my small form and then swallow me whole.  I feel the dark weight of the wave, the surge as it carries me with it, and how close I’m coming to suffocating. I wake up trembling. That traumatic nighttime brush with death gets me every time. It’s a reminder that I need to fix something—or more accurately, face something head-on that I’m avoiding…some kind of hurricane.

Which is why every September 21st, I wake up remembering Hugo. Twenty-three years ago today, Category 5-level Hurricane Hugo came through town, shocking Charleston with its ferocity—heck, shocking Charlotte.  It plowed right through the Carolinas, maintaining its fierceness much further inland than anyone would have predicted.

As a precaution my brand-new husband and the entire local Navy had just been sent out to sea, specifically to save the Navy ships stationed in Charleston. A ship can ride out a hurricane at sea, but leave it at home at a dock, and it’ll be destroyed.  Yet even with the Navy on high alert, none of us left behind thought that the hurricane would amount to much. I spent all day cutting giant pieces of plywood with a hand-held circular saw with my sister. We’d pass them to my brother-in-law, who nailed them to the windows of their house on the Market in Charleston, a low-lying area prone to flooding next to the sea. When he was done with their house, he went to prepare his mother’s house on the Battery, which directly faced Charleston harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

We’d planned on weathering the storm in that mighty house on the Battery—old Southerners believe in protecting their property, especially those family heirlooms, and my brother-in-law was no exception. I felt we were in pretty good shape. That house had been there for generations. Plywood on those first-floor windows—all my sister’s husband could manage to put up before the hurricane hit–would hold back the winds. We’d be scared but okay.

And then my Yankee father called. He and mom lived in Charleston, too, but they were stuck out-of-town in Annapolis, Maryland, on their sailboat. He said to me, “Kieran, if the eye hits the harbor, that tidal wave dream of yours will really happen.  A wave as high as 30-feet will sweep over the Battery wall, take down that house, and suck you out to sea. I don’t care what anyone else says, you get your sister out of there and go inland.”

Gulp. Go inland.

I’d never really imagined the tidal wave could really happen! But in that moment, speaking with my dad, I realized my bad dream could actually come true. How did I feel? Well, I was obviously scared. But I also felt that I wasn’t going to just stand there and let a doomsday scenario occur.  I had no compunctions about telling my brother-in-law and his very proper mother that we’d be crazy to stay on the Battery and that I was basically going to kidnap my sister (against everyone’s will if I had to) and go inland.  I called some old family friends we hadn’t spent any real time with in fifteen years and without blinking an eye, they said come on over and stay.  We have pets, I told them. No problem, these hospitable folks said. We’ll have a hurricane party.

My school, The College of Charleston, founded in 1770 and the oldest municipal college in the US, after Hugo hit it.

Well, the good news is that my brother-in-law and his mother went with us, and we thought we’d be largely out of harm’s way.  But Hugo surprised us all. As the tornadoes raged overhead and we heard trees toppling around us, I was terrified. But I did take small comfort in knowing that no wall of water could travel that far inland.

Meanwhile, I later learned that only a few miles away from where I stayed, some Navy wives left behind when their husbands took those ships out to sea had to huddle under their dining room tables with their children—because their roofs had been ripped off their homes. And as for that storm surge, when the eye of Hugo hit the small shrimping village of McClellanville a few miles north of Charleston, a wall of water rushed through the town. Many of the poor people there had taken refuge in the local elementary school, but to avoid drowning, they had to scramble through the roof and climb trees.  Some didn’t make it.

So this is a day for reflection for me. I know from today’s paper and the computer models presented that the entire town of Charleston would have been under water if Hugo’s eye had hit ten miles south and come up the harbor and over the Battery wall. The truth is, it took us years to recover from the brush we had with Hugo. But those computer models remind us that it could have been far worse. We might have suffered the way New Orleans did after being nearly destroyed by Katrina. It’s humbling to recognize how precarious are the lives we all lead–not just as individuals but our community life. Our history, our keepsakes–they won’t last. Eventually, they will succumb to the inexorable forces that are time and nature.

The Battery on a pretty day long after Hugo’s visit.

So on this day, I always wonder if there are any hurricanes I’m not facing in my own life. Because whether or not I ignore them, they will come–sooner or later.  I’d much rather be ready—really ready.

Not fake ready. Fake ready is when you nail up boards on windows and think you can keep out Nature at its peak wrath. Real ready means you see what’s happening, and you put pride aside. You put possessiveness aside. You tell your wants and desires to take a hike. You’re going to protect what you need, no matter how stupid or powerless you look doing it.

I don’t have the tidal wave dream when I recognize—face the fact head-on—that I can only do so much and let the rest go. Nope, when I’m really ready, I see how little I am, I embrace the small power I have, and I let the rest of the universe do its thing.

When I face hard truths, the waters are often calm around me. But when they’re not, I surrender to the wave, just like I do in my recurring nightmare. And there’s something about that nightmare I didn’t mention at the top of this post:

I always, always, come up for air again.

Do you have tidal waves to face in your own life? Hurricanes? Tornadoes? And do you have a recurring nightmare that reminds you to get to work facing them?

Kieran Kramer, Merry Mama

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. I try to teach my kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job.

My oldest guy, Dragon, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a junior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college sophomore; and my youngest, Nighthawk, is in ninth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

Help! My Kids are Killing Me!

Hello. My name is no longer Midnight Mama. It is STRESSED THE HECK OUT Mama. =)

Once upon a time…before I had kids…I used to think that I was a very laid back, go-with-the-flow kind of person. Now, however… (see above picture).

I still try to be the laid back mom of my dreams, but the truth is that I’ve become a frazzled wreck lately. My nearly 18-mo, WonderGirl, still insists on being picked up whenever I’m standing. Which means if I try to do something around the house, I have to deal with her screaming her head off if it’s something she can’t help me with (such as doing dishes or cooking). Okay, to be honest, it seems like she’s screaming her head off, anyway. My sweet little angel has decided that she NEEDS certain things (which somehow usually ends up being something she’s not supposed to have, which we keep up high out of reach, or something her sister has)…and when she doesn’t get those things, then she falls to pieces. By “falls to pieces”, I mean she hits and pulls hair and swipes objects off tables or throws objects to the ground…all of which result in time-outs, of course, but I think I could really deal with all that except for the incessant screaming. Oh, and when I’m not standing, then she and SuperGirl are crawling all over me and screaming at each other about who gets to sit in my lap. *headwall*

My nearly 3-yo, in comparison, is a dream right now. Except, of course, when she doesn’t get what she wants, either. Which is usually exacerbated by her sister taking one of her toys or SuperGirl not wanting to share in general with her sister, or having her sister attack her when she’s angry, or SuperGirl not wanting to get her diaper changed or not wanting to eat dinner or not making her needs understood (articulation issues) or not wanting to…well, I think you get the gist. So she screams/cries/whines, too.

Thus, at the end of the day (and many times hours before that), I feel like I’m going to explode. I’ve invented a “game” we can all play called “scream time”, where I count to 3 and on 3 we all scream as long as we want at the top of our lungs. You know, this way I’m not screaming AT them so much as WITH THEM. 😉 But seriously, it’s the only stress relief I’ve found to work a little when I feel like I’m about to snap.

Please tell me you feel like you’re going to snap sometimes, too. Please tell me I’m not the only parent who counts down to bedtime.

But even with all that, even when I don’t think the day can get any worse, at least I DO know that it will eventually end when they go to sleep.

Only, I’ve found that I stay stressed hours after they’re in bed. It makes me snippy (something Mr. Rome does not appreciate) and I can’t even focus on writing or writing-related business. I’ve tried taking a shower, reading, taking a bath, taking a nap…nothing helps. I still feel tense and jittery and crazed, really. I’ve thought about exercising at night after the girls have gone to bed, and that’s my next choice, but that means I can’t listen to music while I exercise (which is the one enjoyment I get out of exercising, anyway), because I have to listen to make sure they don’t wake up and cry.

So, dear blog readers and fellow moms, please…PLEASE, I beg you…tell me how you stay sane during the day with your kids and how you de-stress successfully at night. HELP! My kids are killing me!

And coincidentally, at the moment I am NOT experiencing teh bebe fever. *shudders*


I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (2, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until early morning…usually 3-4 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too!, but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart.