Keeping it Real and a Recipe for Playdough

In keeping with my general theme of authentic at all costs, I really had better clarify that yesterday’s post did not come out of a place of Sweetness.

Isn’t it always easier to find words for what you want to be, when you are in fact straying farthest from the path?

To be truthful, I have been having quite a time lately. Not exactly open-to-the-public blog material. Something along the lines of a mid-mama-life crisis. It’s been fairly dire. And yesterday after my pretty post about Sweetness, I spent the rest of the day decidedly turning away from it.

What I need to know is this. How do we strike the balance between putting our kiddos first, setting aside our selfish desires for Me-ness, but not becoming the bitchy martyr mama? Or worse, the empty black hole mama who has nothing left of her own to offer up anymore?

This is where I am stuck. I truly do not understand how to navigate this. I er on the bitchy martyr side, and I don’t like it one bit. As Joan Baez said, “A martyr’s a nuisance to live with at home.” Not to mention it feels icky to be.

I mean, really, as far as mama-hood goes, I am so lucky. I get a little time every day, and at least a few hours alone on the weekends. My Man is supportive and loving, and adores our kiddlets.

But I want more. More. It’s just never enough.

All the things that I did before, all the things that were important to me, are now relegated to just hobbies. A word that horrifies me. Now the central core of our life consists of just two things. Kids and money. I do the kids, My Man does the money. The things that I had wanted my life purposed towards, the things I had intended to blog about, are peripheral at best.

But then I am smacked down by my own hideous three headed hydra of guilt. Not even guilt exactly, but ….. remorse. I don’t want to be the kind of mama who is always trying to get away from my babies, who resents them for standing between me and The Things I Wanted To Do.


I am trying. But bear in mind, voicing does not mean doing. I will have to leave “turning towards” for more hopeful times. Today I will be glad just to remember that I do have some sweetness. Somewhere in my tangled ball, there is a strand or two of mama who loves being mama, who is grateful and humbled by the opportunity to do such heady work. Who is joyful even.

And where does the playdough fit in, you might ask?

There are tools in mama’s apron. Things that, though seemingly mundane, can make a difference. Homemade playdough is one. It’s one little control you can turn over to your daughter, therefore empowering her to become her own soul in the world and lessening her need to exert her budding control elsewhere. Go ahead. Mix all the colors into rainbow sherbet, followed closely by brown. No big deal, there’s plenty more.

Note: There are some not-so-great homemade playdough recipes floating around our world. This one is not among them. It’s really good.

Playdough No One Has To Be Afraid Of

  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 cups salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 Tablespoons oil
  • food coloring

Bring water to a full rolling boil. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in a very big bowl, or stand mixer if you have one. When the water is boiling, stir it in slowly along with the oil (kids need to seriously back off for this part as the boiling water can be sloshy at first). This is hard to do with a wooden spoon, but you can do it– give it the strong arm! It’s easy in a stand mixer. When you can’t stir anymore turn out onto the counter and knead like bread dough until all the flour is incorporated (yes it will be hot, but not so hot to injure anyone at this point).

Divide into three or four pieces and knead in the colors, either by hand or with your mixer. I let the Toddler squeeze in the colors, which meant that looking away for a second resulted in an ever so indulgent red.

Buy the big sized bottles of food coloring, and big bags of cheap flour and salt. You’ll be making lots of playdough from now on.

Don’t forget to drop your grown up self just enough to enjoy a little squishy-color-goo too. Might I recommend a garlic press? Makes me laugh every time, no matter how far away my Sweetness seems.


17 thoughts on “Keeping it Real and a Recipe for Playdough

  1. I wish I had some words of wisdom for surviving the hard days but I just don’t. Instead I’m e-sending some love and support your way :) I too struggle with the feelings you describe in raising my 1.5 yr old son. Mothering’s not for the faint of heart! Your blog brings joy to my day – and inspires me in every entry. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. I was so afraid of not being the perfect Mom and of passing my own issues on to my children. I talked to my Doctor and he said the fact that you come to me worried, tells me you are fine.
    We all are a product of our past, both the good and the bad. It is what makes us unique. I think it is all about how aware we are and our intentions. So the fact that it is impotant to you to try to keep the balance, tells me you will be just fine. It might not be easy, but you will be fine!!
    It’s the Moms who think they are doing it all right and never question themselves that I worry about.

  3. Really… I posted yesterday because this is EXACTLY what I go through… nearly every day. Afraid I’m not a good enough mom… that the moments where I’m not the mom I WANT to be, that I’m doing some damage that I can’t undo… that they’ll remember me later as the mom who wasn’t there for them when they needed me… but really… I try to remember that beating myself up for my slip in form isn’t going to help anyone… it’s just a sign that I do need some “me” time… where I don’t have to be mama. And it’s OK to need that time… we have to fill ourselves back up every-so-often because we have to be full to give joyfully to our families. When the kids are going through tough phases, those times need to be more often… and you’re just modeling for your children that a person has to take care of themselves. So, I think you’re doing great… and you’re real because those moments where you find yourself needing to take care of YOU sneak up on you without warning… you’re immersed in now. And yes, homemade playdough is great therapy – I love how soft it is, and if you put essential oil in it it can be aromatherapy too!

  4. After going through the abyss and out the other side, my best advice is hang in there. They grow and it all gets better. Slowly, but it does get better. All of a sudden my kids have friends and their own interests and best of all – play by themselves. I’ve slowly grown back into me. And I’m all the better for having been drowned in Momminess for awhile. Of course they still need me and I’m still immersed in their every dayness, but that painful, not time for my own thoughts part has passed by.

    Good luck

  5. Another one here who struggles with the balance. I really try and remember that they are only little for such a short time and that things are changing all the time. As my second weaned himself this week- that really hammered it home. Doesn’t help when you are in the thick of it though and just feel like you are being consumed by kids, and want to scream. When you get to that stage I think what ever needs to be done than do it to keep that balance as best as you can.

  6. man i hear you. my version is a little different bc there’s some career angst tied in as well, but yeah, the hunger for me-ness really echoes for me. i crave social moments without my toddler, and time all to myself when i’m not working (ALL by myself)…and those moments are going to be precious once my partner leaves for climbing (which is another thing, it’s been sooooooooo long since i’ve been alone in the woods…i’m pretty envious)

    wish i was closer to offer you some company and kid-trades. wishing you had options for the toddler/toddler entertainment that didn’t just involve you.

    i didn’t respond to the last post yet bc i have that book checked out, but haven’t read it, and i haven’t quite formulated my thoughts. i guess it’s that i feel uncomfortable with the whole mamas have to be sweet most of the time (well, and guess i also question the whole “unconditionality” of parental love…i deeply love my kid, but i don’t know that it’s unconditional). def. oriented towards sweetness, i liked that, but mamas have needs too. and little people, in learning about the world, have to learn where others begin. learning empathy and responsibility and, hell yeah, which behaviors are conducive to social interactions, including with mama. that is, it’s fantastic to empathize w/ my toddler’s psychology, make sure his needs (sleep, food, etc.) are taken care of, but if he loses his shit and hits me or throws a tantrum, i don’t think i should have to stick right by him in that moment. close, sure, but i also feel like i need to communicate that getting screamed at isn’t pleasant and not something i want to be around.

    i feel conspicuously harsh amidst the other comments but that’s the way it is for me.

  7. You Are Just Gorgeous. You really Are. Along with the rest of us angsty mama’s, who’re trying to strike a balance between that elusive selfless woman we hold up high as the perfect mama, and that two-headed snake we see ourselves as because we might have bitten the head off the occassional toddler(!). It’s ok, ya know, to lose our mind every now and again. I swear when I was younger I thought I would be an awesome mama, cos I’d hang out with little kids and never lose my temper, swear or even just ignore the sound of them crying. But wow, what a difference a lifetime of chores can make, stacked up against that patience of mine, and the fact that yeah, the things I loved doing (reading books, seeing films, even sitting still and knitting) are now relegated to the night hours when I get a moment of not running from bed to bed helping baby find pacifiers, or making sure 3yr old has his covers on during these freezing cold nights.

    But I manage, to make it through the day, to the next glimpse of my former self while reading a snippet after tidying up, or grabbing two seconds of conversation between supervising kids play with their friends (who, thank heavens, have decent and lovely angsty mama’s too!), or even to find a moment of pure joy because my son learned to say ‘medicine’ instead of ‘mesidine’ this morning.

    I guess what I’m saying is that in a where women have made nurturing a friggin competitive sport of ‘my hearts bigger than your heart’, it’s nice to meet another mama who tells me how it is, that without the morning cuppa she’d be homicidal, and that if her toddler mixes the eggs with the flour before the recipe says one more time, well, she might just lose her mind. Thank you so much CJ, for losing your mind every so often right alongside mine.

    I tell ya what – if I find yours first, I’ll return it so we can look for mine together!

  8. I didn’t comment on your post yesterday because it really resonated with me as something I need to do a lot more – grow up and be the parent. So thanks for reminding us, even if you don’t feel very sweet at the moment.

    I’ve gone through really angsty angsty times and I’ve come out realising that I have to be a little selfish or I’m a terrible mother. If I get time to myself, time to do the things I want (need) to do, then I am a much nicer person to be around and a much better mother (really unperfect still, but much better than terrible). It still makes me horribly guilty to know that I put my almost 3 year old in daycare to have some days to myself, but I am realistic that if I don’t, I actually won’t survive motherhood, and my child might not either.

    I also decided that there need to be rules about sleep. Like bedtime is bedtime (not get up six times and muck around). Like no more middle of the night feeds. Like no more bed sharing from 4am. Because it wasn’t fair on anyone. Everyone in the house was getting disturbed sleep and no one was very nice the next day. It took a few days of enforcing but now everyone is much happier (not just me!).

    I’m babbbling. But what I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can’t be a good mama if you have nothing to give. And however you refuel to get something to give is up to you – but do it. You’ll probably feel guilty, but do it anyways.

    And Playdough rocks!

  9. I too have been having a rough go lately…
    thank you for fessing up and being honest. Along with the others I flip from being almost “what i think i should be as a good mamma” to the afore mentioned two headed snake. I am constantly feeling guilty and bitchy! I have only one and shes only 9 months so im know i am only at the beginning….. but Its really nice to know im not alone in feeling this way. I find myself so desperate for me time that I start ignoring baby.. and taking it. Then when I get a little…… I want more. Im hooked on …myself.
    So I guess I just wanted to say(as the others have) you aren’t alone in feeling like this.
    and thanks for the recipe Im going to save it till the munchkin is a little older and less likely to consume large portions of it….

  10. Ah Calamity,

    I wish with all my heart I could convey to you how your openness and honesty both sooth me and reassure me. They sooth me in my (oh so many) moments of feeling like a God-awful mother, so far from the mama I wish so hard to be. You are so patently a wonderful mother; thoughtful, reflective, giving, generous and most importantly ( i feel), a mother who thinks deeply about being a mother! You give so much to this part of your life. And then you share your journey. As I sit her, tens of thousands of kilometers away, a stranger to you, typing away at the keyboard, I’m struck by how powerful your giving of yourself is, and how little you may understand what your wonderous influence is! Through your tales of daily life, you give me hope. Hope, as precious as it is, that I am in good company in my daily trevails through the joys, disasaters, tantrums and dishes that is the revolving lot of us wondrous mothers. Hope that I too will occasionally With all my heart, thankyou. With great respect, hooroo for now – Katja

    PS Here’s a story to make you cringe or laugh. Lost my temper last night. Badly. Poor three little ones looking at me in horror (yuk). The Fella away for toooo many nights on a study trip (ohohhhh). Said to sad little ones “I’m sorry. I have to have 5 minutes to gather myself together” so went outside (pitch black, about 3 degrees) to count to ten… they all followed me… Can you see it? There I am crying ’cause I’m an awful mum, crying because I can’t get away, crying because they’re crying… Then my little 6 fellow pipes up (in between his tears), “Mummy why don’t you try taking a biigggg, deeeep, breeeath”. Ah thankgoodness for laughter.

    1. you do get me blushing!
      i write here for myself. it isn’t noble or righteous. it’s just what i am needing to do lately to keep my head screwed on straight.
      but the fact that you all enjoy and even feel soothed and inspired (!) by my words is like a big fat bonus gift for me.
      your story is so real. i can just be there practically. i lost my shit after my man was gone for just ONE night! that’s in fact where this whole thread started! i don’t think he’s been gone for more than that since we tipped the balance to two (little angels). i go C-RAZY when i have to be mama 24/7. even back when we only had one, i remember one trip he took, for just a week, when there was a moment that i had to take my girl out of the house with me to a public place, because i was starting to scare myself.
      single moms?!?! i just can’t even conceive of it.

  11. Me again. About the playdough. We never cook. Never. Just add boiling water (a mummy job), stir a bit (more mummy stuff) and then hand over the spoon. In a very short while turn it out onto a table a knead away till it feels just right. Ta Daaaaa.

    Have fun. x Katja

    1. wow, really? good to know!!! sounds much easier, i’m gonna insert that into the post…

  12. Though I don’t have kids yet, I’m a semester away from my degree in Early Childhood Development, so I’m not an expert like you mamas, but I’ve got a little experience and a lot of theory under my belt.

    One fun thing to do with playdough, and especially at your daughter’s age, is to add things to it to enhance sensorimotor development and fine motor skills. (All that squishing really does a lot for a kiddo’s brain and movement).

    I like to add coffee grounds, leaves, flowers, etc. to the playdough I make for the kids I work with. Nothing that they can choke on, but different things to give it different textures. Sometimes I make it really dry and crumbly, and sometimes extra gooey so it’s slimey.

    My other favorite is to add essential oils or extracts. Lavender, Rose, Lemon, Orange, Vanilla, Peppermint, etc. Just a few drops and it smells so heavenly. It’s pretty therapeutic for adults too, I almost always dig right in with the kids and work my stress away :)

    The coffee grounds give it quite a nice scent too, if you’re more into that.

    Another tip for the control thing, is to offer simple choices if you’re not already doing this, and frequently (read: every decision, pretty much). “Would you like to walk on this side of the street, or the other side?” “Would you like breakfast now or in five minutes?” “Would you like to take a break (time out) on this chair, or on that pillow?” Keep reminding her that she’s the one that gets to decide. It’s what she’s looking for in the first place.

    She’s struggling for autonomy, and has a need to be in control of herself, while you want her to make safe choices. By giving her options, she is still ultimately the decision maker. It’s not foolproof and doesn’t work all the time, but it should help some of the time. :)

  13. I am some years older than you… children are around your age….but I hear you!!! I used to love to watch “The Dukes of Hazzard” with my crew, back in the day. My favorite part, I finally figured out, was watching Daisy jump in her little jeep, or whatever, and speed down the road, with her hair flying in the wind, so free!!!! At that time, I was the mother of 3, all 2 years apart, and going anywhere, by myself, was a distant memory. Funny, the things that get to you……
    And another fond memory, is the entire winter when Ethan wet the bed every night, Meghan got un-potty trained after the birth of Melina, and I felt that my life had become all about pee and shit. Everything I did all day long, eventually involved pee and shit! Laundry, cooking, washing dishes, nursing, etc.
    Oh well, hang in there…..nobody’s a perfect Mama……we just all do the best we can and fine-tune the process as we go along. Just keep telling yourself how quickly they grow into a new stage, with new challenges for you! Best wishes to all of you!

  14. i *just* wrote about the gritch of tired mama-ness today! thank you for vocalizing what we all feel so often. you are a brave brave lady. and a wonderful mama.
    off to catch up on the rest of yer posts!

  15. I just wanted to let you know that, two years later, this post still rings true. THANK YOU. I was writing about this very subject on my blog today and when I did a search of “mid-mama crisis” – I found your blog post and a little bit of solace that I’m not the only one that feels this way. :)

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