Updated on 06.10.10

Dealing with the Avalanche

Trent Hamm

As I mentioned in the mailbag this morning, my father had emergency surgery due to a massive infection brought about by a dirty fish hook that got embedded in his arm. He’s going to be in the hospital for another day or two.

We have a house full of people coming to visit us this weekend – we have to plan meals, make sure that we have everything we need for sleeping arrangements, and do plenty of housecleaning first.

I have a big pile of work projects that I’m desperately trying to find the time and energy to tackle.

I’m trying to clean up multiple disasters (I mentioned one over the weekend) and I have to give a presentation this evening describing how one of them is going.

We’ve had a nearly constant run of thunderstorms here for the past week, waking us all up at night. Not only that, we also have a one month old who isn’t anywhere close to sleeping through the night.

This morning, I found myself kneeling in the bathroom cleaning up a disastrous toilet accident from my two year old daughter who is still struggling with potty training.

All of the above things were floating through my mind and for a moment, I just sat back with my head against the wall, feeling a bit overwhelmed.

What do you do when you find yourself here? I’ve found that a few tricks manage to keep me sane and keep me moving forward on all of the stuff I need to do.

First, I focus as hard as I can on the immediate task at hand. My job was to clean up the bathroom, period, so I focused on that task. Once that was done, I focused on lunch. Once that was done, I focused on a work project. One task at a time, with focus on just that task, makes it go much easier.

Second, I channel my frustrations into that task. Instead of being enraged or crying or anything like that, I focus very hard on using that emotional energy to get the task done. I often use that emotion as a factor in choosing what task to do next. So, for example, if I’m feeling a lot of emotion at my current situation, it’s usually a good time for me to do a physical task. I tend to burn a lot of that feeling off by doing dishes or moving furniture or mowing the yard.

Third, I aim to get a good night of sleep. The best method for doing this – which I do about once a week – is to sleep in the guest bedroom in the basement. It’s in the quietest part of the house and enables whoever sleeps there to get a great night of sleep and be ready to deal with the activities of the day.

(Unfortunately, this is a more difficult option for my wife. While she’s on maternity leave (through at least August), she has chosen to breastfeed, and part of that means that during the night, she has to wake up for nighttime feedings – I can’t help with that. Thankfully, we do have a bassinet right next to our bed from which the baby can easily be retrieved.)

Finally, I keep in mind that it’s okay to not be perfect. Sometimes, you simply can’t do everything, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you want to do everything just right. You’re far better off relieving the pressure and just simply accepting that you won’t be able to complete some things than trying to do everything right and fail at the truly important stuff.

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  1. chacha1 says:

    I’m not a parent, but surely a 2-year-old would benefit from a little supervision in the bathroom? As in, “I’m going potty” and a parent comes along? And then there isn’t a flood?

    I know you’ve got an awful lot going on, but with two parents at home it does seem that’s a problem that doesn’t need to recur.

    Good luck and I hope things get less stressful very soon, like tomorrow. :-)

  2. Michelle says:

    Since you have a newborn, I assume your guests are people you know well. In that situation, I think you can cut yourself some slack on the housekeeping and even food shopping. If these are people who love you, they wont mind a bit of dust or being asked to run to the store to pick up some milk. You can’t do everything…

    “This morning, I found myself kneeling in the bathroom cleaning up a disastrous toilet accident from my two year old daughter who is still struggling with potty training.

    All of the above things were floating through my mind and for a moment….”

    The visual image conjured by this transition made me laugh!

  3. Hang in there Trent, you’ve got your head on straight. I too go through those types of motions when I’m overwhelmed (though I probably end up dawdling myself and not sleeping til it’s late), and we’ve never even had more than one person stay with us at any time!

  4. Molly says:

    Just wanted to agree with Michelle….Having raised two sons and gone thru potty training, I know it is easier said then done “to have a little supervision in the bathroom”. Healthy wishes for your father and “laugh time” with your visitors this weekend.

  5. Don says:

    When our kids were babies and being breastfed, I would get up and change their diaper while my wife ran to the restroom. Helped her a lot with the middle of the night feedings. Not great for being well rested at work the next day, but it doesn’t go on forever. It just seems like it does! ;-)

  6. Maureen says:

    Why don’t you hire a ‘mother’s helper’ to keep the older kiddies amused while your wife focuses on the baby (and/or sleeps) and you clean or shop (and/or sleep)? My teenaged daughter worked as a helper for parents with a newborn and toddler. They loved having her come over while the baby napped and they ‘blitzed’ the place. This strategy worked really well when preparing for the baby’s baptism.

  7. Realizing there is an end to it all helps me get along. The struggles we face today will soon pass (and be replaced by others, haha!). It is so easy to become overwhelmed in the moment but if we can appreciate that our persistence is more important than the single challenge or moment we are facing.

    Breate Trent! :)

  8. I like how you said “channel your frustrations” and have a suggestion. When we “fight” something that thing grows stronger. When we fight our problems, our stress, our frustrations, or our relationships then those things grow stronger. As we learn to allow and release our frustrations and stress then they just seem to disappear and life presents all of its beauty and happiness that is already present but blocked by the direction we are looking, ie looking at our problems. Love this concept of channeling, and I love teaching and showing people how to release and let go of their problems. Thank you for this site and if you ever want to chat…. JC – Always Developing

  9. BonzoGal says:

    I hope that writing about this helped. Remember, there are “fans” out here in internet-land rooting for you!

    When the final straw hits the camel’s back, you just have to take a moment, think of the whole string of disasterous events as a giant comedy, and laugh.

    Remember the scene in a recent episode of LOST in which John Locke tries to push himself and his wheelchair out of a van, falls face first on the lawn, the sprinklers come on and douse him, and he pauses and starts to laugh? Like that.

  10. Ashley says:

    Just a thought–could your wife use a pump to express milk so that you could help with the feedings?

  11. Trisha says:


    Maybe in the future you should refrain from giving “helpful” advice to others about which things you have no idea what you are talking about. It’s easy for you to give Trent that helpful tip about watching a two year old who’s potty training, but it’s easier said than done AND sometimes these things happen even when you’re standing there…thanks for your thoughtful and somewhat obvious tip, however. I’m sure it was much appreciated on top of his already overwhelming day.

  12. jennifer says:

    If it makes you feel any better, these are apparently the best days of our lives as parents…days you will look back on and laugh someday. Everything seems worse when you’re sleep deprived. I have a one-year old, so I remember the sleep depervation vaguely. Last summer was a sleep-deprived blur.

  13. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “I’m not a parent, but surely a 2-year-old would benefit from a little supervision in the bathroom? As in, “I’m going potty” and a parent comes along?”

    Even if you’re sitting right there, the process of teaching a two year old how to *ahem* wipe can be disastrous. Trust me.

    “I can do it, dada!”
    “OK, try it, honey!”
    “… … Uh oh!”

    Add on top of that this thought that went through her head a minute later while washing her hands: “Hey, it’d be fun to take this washcloth, soak it with water, lay it beside the sink, and press down on it as hard as possible!” While I’m cleaning up the previous mess, of course.

  14. Sara says:

    i have a suggestion on helping your wife get some sleep. If she sleeps in the basement one or two nights a week and you keep the baby. WHen the baby wakes to nurse, you change the baby if needed, carry the baby to your wife, let her nurse laying down while you wait and you are in charge of removing the baby and putting him (her?) back to sleep in the room with you. Believe me, that would make a huge difference to a nursing mom to know that the baby would not be allowed to cry or wait to nurse, but all of the except the nursing would be taken care of. She might actually fall back asleep while the baby is still nursing, knowing she can trust you to meet the other needs such as burping and changing.

  15. Kate says:

    Walking a mile in someone’s shoes comes to mind reading comment #1. Two year olds can make messes faster than lightning.

  16. Kara White says:

    Trent, your comment made the article. As a parent of a toddler myself, I know all about the “supervised” accidents. I’m taking a little break from one of those right now. (The dog bowl is NOT a bathtub) So, that’s my advice. Take five minutes and do something for yourself. Timely post, by the way. Okay, off to clean up the latest disaster! :)

  17. Leah says:

    You’re trying to clean up multiple disasters? Are you having any luck with that? If so, maybe you should get in touch with BP. I hear they’re having a hard time cleaning up some kind of disaster in the gulf…

  18. valleycat1 says:

    Ah, the joys of early parenthood! I used to call those my Twilight Zone days. Best you can do is just what you said, Trent.

    As for the breastfeeding, if both of you are seriously sleep-deprived, maybe your wife could pump a bottle or two of breast milk so she could sleep in the cellar occasionally (who knew that is a good thing?). Or, it wouldn’t hurt the baby to take the occasional formula bottle at night (or other times). I won’t go into the rest of the logistics on that here in public, but I think she could figure it out.

  19. chacha1 says:

    well, all I can say is … I appreciate all you parents go through but … glad I’ve got cats.

  20. Larabara says:

    Ditto for me and my dog, chacha. Hang in there, Trent. Believe it or not, you’ll look back on this as the good old days. Just wait until she starts dating!

  21. Larabara says:

    And driving!

  22. Susan says:

    As much as I applaud the “bassinet by the bed” scenario, it doesn’t compare with the “baby right in the bed with you” one. It’s amazing how calming it is to baby and mom to sleep together!!! Keep the diapering essentials in the bassinet and the baby in bed, and everyone will sleep better!

  23. kristine says:

    Hey there! Nothing wrong with guest room night for you being momma’s family bed night and letting the little weejun sleep with her in bed. This way you can both awake refreshed! I used to plug my daughter on, and I was out like a light. And trust me, you don’t roll over them! I still take the couch on “sleep or bust” nights. Ironically, after having kids, I never recovered my own ability to sleep through the night!

    I hope your dad is OK. I cringed at this- I had a skin graft, and had my hand “debriefed” for nine days straight. (Burn, not infection, but they can be treated very much the same) I hope your dad is going through no such thing, but if he is, encourage sedation. It really helps. Good luck to him.

    And don’t be shy about enlisting the help of your visitors. People want to help. A well timed walk or movie with your daughter can give you and your wife a much needed break.

    I agree with the focus-it works. After this short break- it’s laundry. I teach, and just finished my last day of classes, and am wiped out. But I have an XHTML/CSS/PHP class tomorrow, then book writing with my co-auth on Sat, then a work dinner Sat night, then hosting a large party for my husband’s co-workers on Sun, and back to work on Mon for re-org and budgeting. That and chaufeuring our teens everywhere. Totally empathizing with the overwhelmed!

  24. Stephan F- says:

    It’s rough. Basically you are living an extended disaster, it isn’t one of those things that happens and is over it just keeps going and going. It means some things need to go on hold until things calm down.

    You’re also living with a sleep debt, you can’t make that up in one night. Know that you aren’t making decisions at your best.

    Acknowledge that and living within those limits until things get better and you’ll be fine.

  25. Maureen says:


    The last thing you said should have been first.

    “keep in mind that it’s okay to not be perfect. Sometimes, you simply can’t do everything, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you want to do everything just right. You’re far better off relieving the pressure and just simply accepting that you won’t be able to complete some things than trying to do everything right and fail at the truly important stuff.”

    It took me years to overcome this. And you know what? If my house is dusty when people come over, so be it. If the dishes have piled in the sink, so be it. As long as it’s not gross, your guests won’t mind. Do a cleaning of the house, but by no means does it have to pass the white glove test. And if a visitor asks to help, hire them. Remember it’s costing you to host them, so if they want to help so you can sit for 5 min, let them.

    Hope you dad gets well soon!

  26. K says:

    I agree that your wife can pump a bottle of milk once in awhile for you to give a night feeding. Another option would be for you to bring the baby to her to nurse. My husband did that for me and I barely had to wake up. And I would encourage her to continue to nurse after returning to work. It takes commitment but isn’t that hard (and saves a TON of money).

  27. Kat says:

    ^ Ditto to K…changing the baby and bringing the baby to her can make a huge difference. My hubby and I do it where he takes the baby until 12 ish or so and I take her after until we wake up. Him bringing the baby to me keeps me from having to wake up very much and then he puts the baby back to bed. I am sorry to hear about the family but seriously you should not feel bad for letting them help out. Sometimes I just wanna help to keep busy and feel like I am doing something nice for someone. I keep a cleaning kit put together because when my mom and dad come, my mom wants to do stuff to help out. The same goes when I am visiting her house. Wishing yall the best.

  28. Beth says:

    Trent, I needed this today. I have three children, 6, 3, and 3 months. I guess I don’t need to explain more than that. :)

    Those are excellent coping techniques! Thanks.

    And…I have eaten my words a million times since actually becoming a parent. “My kids will NEVER act like that!” “If my child did that I would (fill in the blank).” It’s a whole different ball game when you’re in the thick of things!

    Good luck with the potty training; we’re still working on it with one of ours!

  29. lurker carl says:

    Don’t create mountains out of molehills.

    Water and pee splashed around a bathroom isn’t a disaster, a messy home isn’t a disaster, tuna helper and baked beans for dinner on paper plates isn’t a disaster, lack of sleep isn’t a disaster, a house full of friends and family for the weekend isn’t a disaster. Even put all together at once, this is not a disaster – it is inconvient.

    Your home blown away by a tornado is a disaster.

  30. Julie says:

    This too shall pass, Trent. I hope it doesn’t take until your daughter is four to get her trained, though. Mine took two years, until just after his fourth birthday. Not fun.

    I really liked the mother’s helper idea all the way back up there in the first few posts. Surely there is a young lady at your church who has done the Red Cross Babysitting course and could “spell” you a few hours a day over the summer.

  31. When things are going bad, they sometimes seem to just keep getting worse and worse

  32. Ash says:

    First, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. Infections can be scary.

    Second, thanks for sharing this. These are all things my husband does to survive life’s pile-ups.

  33. Rebecca says:

    I can relate. Right now I have 3 kids, only 1 of whom is sort of potty trained, but all of them have a nasty rotovirus which is giving them constant, runny, blowout diapers. its been 2 weeks of constant laundry, changes, rashes and no end in sight. Oh yeah, and we just ripped out our only bath and laundry area in a remodel.

  34. Susan says:

    I would encourage you to rest as much as you can and to supplement your healthy diet with a good, chewable muli-vitamin and a vitamin B complex (100). These things will give you a little more pep.

  35. Michele says:

    To Chacha…since you aren’t a parent, I’ll let your thoughtless comment pass. I’ll just mention that you can’t be with your child for every second of every day, and they have to learn things on their own sometimes- even if you are standing 1 foot away. You can’t do everything for your child all the time- oh wait, apparently some parents do, and that’s why the 29 year olds with no degree and no job still live at home in many families and let their parents pay for everything and do their laundry.
    To Trent- praying for you, buddy.
    You already know this, but for you non-parents out there, when you are a parent (hmmm… maybe I should add ‘responsible’ as a caveat) you don’t sleep through the night until the youngest is around, 5 or 6…give or take a year. Well, unless you are the King and Queen of England and have a several shifts of people to take care of your kids.

  36. gerry says:

    @#20. Trent is working, his wife is not. He does not have the opportunity to nap and sleep the same time the baby is. My wife does not work, and she gets up while I sleep. She naps and rests when the baby does. I think some women forget that someone has to earn the money, and most companies would not appreciate their employees taking a siesta in the middle of the workday.

  37. deRuiter says:

    Gentlemen: “breast pump”, milk extracted during the day and you can bottle feed at night with “nature’s own” brand. Lose the drama title, you’ve got minor domestic problems, as mentioned above, house destroyed, oil in Gulf, fleeing from an invading army, family member dead, those are real disasters. This is normal family life and things happen. This is why when guests come, there are take out food places, restaurants, cleaning services. When I’m a guest I always pitch in and help, working along side my hosts. If a basket of wet laundry appears, I hang it, if it’s dry, I take it down and fold. You don’t expect your guests to stand around the whole time like at a party in ther fancy clothes, sipping white wine and eating canapes, do you? Ask for a bit of assistance, they’ve all been where you are, and they understand.

  38. When this kind of stuff happens to me, I focus on how good I have it.

    In the grand scheme of things, simply having a roof over my head and the ability to put food on my table is more than a lot of people can say in this world

  39. marta says:

    @Michele (#27): Huh? I don’t see what was so thoughtless in that comment. In fact I think exactly the same: I am glad I don’t have kids, and I respect those who can handle the work of raising a child. It’s not for me. Cats are easier. Sure, sometimes there are litter box “disasters” (ha), but it’s no big deal.

    Re: the post, I can see how those things can feel overwhelming, but they are *not* disasters. That’s life. Potty training, infant not sleeping through the night, parents in need of sleep? Duh, all of that is part of having and raising kids. I am glad that you have been referencing the not-so-fun side of the deal; other posts make it sound it is just rainbows and little unicorns.

    Dunno who the guests are, but ask for some help! When I am a guest, I have a hard time standing there, doing nothing. I don’t mind helping with some chores. It’s the least I can do.

  40. @chacha-until you’ve had multiple children, you probably can’t understand how extremely hard it is to make sure that every single bathroom visit is supervised! And you probably can’t quite understand how it is that while you’re supervising one kid, the other one could be off making a disastrous mess somewhere else.

    Honestly, I think that most people who have not been parents cannot really offer helpful advice because until you’ve been there, you just don’t understand.

    Trent, bathroom disasters of the toilet training variety are one of my least favorite parts of parenting. I nearly threw a party after my last kiddo was potty trained a few years ago.

  41. marta says:

    Never mind, you were responding to the first comment (which I hadn’t seen before).

    Heh, parents don’t like it when non-parents talk about parenting… exactly like pet owners don’t care for non-pet owners to give advice on dealing with pets.

  42. marta says:

    Never mind, you were responding to the first comment (which I hadn’t seen before).

    Heh, parents don’t like it when non-parents talk about parenting… exactly like pet owners don’t care for non-pet owners to give advice on dealing with pets.

  43. michael bash says:

    I don’t know what to say. It’s like Martin and Frasier – make everything complicated. Just learn to be an adult and get on with it. I need advice when my kid messes up the toilet? “Shit happens” as Gump said. It’s not rocket science after all.

  44. Tabi says:

    What a bizarrely timely article. I was freaking out over precisely such a thing as this only yesterday.
    Thank you very much.

  45. GayleRN says:

    Yeah, two year olds can be endlessly creative with the messes. Ask me how I know that 5 pound buckets of peanut butter should be locked up. Sometimes you just gotta laugh and go get the camera.

  46. KarenH says:

    I do hope your Dad recovers quickly. That said, it seems like yesterday that my life was routinely as you described. I smiled at your description of a “disastrous” toilet accident. If all that was required was a cleanup, how disastrous could it really have been? I completely identify with your feelings, but looking back over the past twenty years, I have to say you probably haven’t even begun to see child induced disasters :-)

  47. AndreaS says:

    Hey Trent, I have a time saving idea for you on the days when your life gets chaotic. You are very good about posting something new every day, even when your life is chaos. How about every once in a while letting your readers carry the ball. Why don’t you ask a question and let readers respond. I would love to hear about other people’s lives and how they save money. So it might be a suggestion for people to post their best yard sale treasures of the summer so far and what they paid, or cheap storage ideas, or how they creatively solved a specific problem by spending little money.

  48. Ryan says:

    When negative thoughts creep into my head, I fight them off. I try to avoid negative thoughts at all times and it helps to keep me positive more often than not.

  49. Sandy says:

    Yes, this sounds like everyday life in any regular family to me…certainly not a disaster! And, well, get used to it, too. Once this one is potty trained (give or take about a year), your 3rd child will just be starting the fun process all over again! I remember the days…they’ll pass soon enough.

  50. Dishes & Laundry says:

    Hang in there. In my experience, these years were by far the hardest. Don’t let people frighten you by saying “oh, this is easy… wait till they’re teens…”

    It _ain’t_ easy, and teenagers aren’t all the nightmare people make them out to be, either.

    But ditto to those who say Wife deserves a night, too (with Dad doing all the baby care except the feeding.) Sleep deprivation is what makes the whole scenario of raising small children so very much harder.

  51. Kevin says:

    I’m so glad I don’t have kids.

    Yesterday, I got a good night’s sleep, went to work well-rested, had a great 1-hour workout at the gym, went home and had a nice, quiet, homemade dinner with my wife.

    Just like every day.

  52. Steffie says:

    Disclaimer: In my opinion and it has worked for me. Sometimes a good cry is just what is needed to let go of the frustration and emotion that is built up. And yes, you can let your children see that you are upset, they will learn a lesson when they see how you go on and continue instead of laying down and dying. I have 3 children and all of them have seen me cry and then wipe my face off and get back to business and none of them have turned into axe murderers, at least not yet!

  53. Gretchen says:

    I’d also have put the finally item first.

    Then I drop things that aren’t vital. Have you considered only posting one post here a day or taking a note from JD (and an above commentor) and having guest posters?

    Chacha1 was not Insensitive. Insensitive would have been something like “why would anyone want to this? Cats are so much less work.”

  54. Elisabeth says:

    Hang in there, Trent (and Trent’s wife, three kids, dad, etc…). This too shall pass. I wish I could do something more substantial to help in return for all the help you have given me on your blog.

  55. Sandy L says:

    So much of life’s stress is self imposed. Once you realize that 99% of how you’re feeeling is trying to live up to your own unrealistically high standards, life gets easier.

    I had a great mentor who was an executive and had 4 kids. At the time, I only had 1. When I asked her how she does it all, she gave me the example of the birthday cake. She said that her kids could care less that their cakes are home made. When something had to give, she realized she was imposing all these irrelevant “good mom’s do X” type rules.

    That has helped my outlook a lot.

  56. Jonathan Vaudreuil says:

    Lots of great advice above – glad I read all the comments!

    The one thing that helps me get through tough times when one thing after another piles up? Talking about it. Just like your post, Trent. It allows me to sort through my thoughts and get some release, since it’s not bottled up anymore and crashing around in my brain. The person I talk to tends to be sympathetic enough to let me calm back down. Works wonders.

  57. Jennifer says:

    You have a lot on your plate right now. Hang in there! I recently got my three year old potty trained, he was “pee” trained, but initially, couldn’t figure out the poo. He went in once to go pee, but really had to go poo, and that ended up all over the floor, on his shoes, etc. Yeah. Kids are good for yucky accidents.

    Hope your dad does well, and take any help that is offered. Have some specific tasks to suggest, no one does end up helping if you can’t give them something specific to do.

  58. Rebecca says:

    @#28 gerry, Trent’s wife is DEFINITELY working. Being a mother of 2 preschoolers and an infant is more work than you could ever imagine.

  59. Kat says:

    My same thoughts. I work from home, homeschool, take care of the house, cook, clean, take kids places, and have to take care of myself as well. Yes she does work and she works HARD. If I were her and knew that my *dear* husband was saying I didn’t work, I would be very hurt. Now unless that gentleman had nothing to do with his wife getting pregnant then maybe he should start working on the slack since the baby was HIS doing as well because without her “working” this gentleman would have to spend money on daycare, a house cleaner, cook, driver, etc. Add that up and his *dear* wife is saving him a ton of money by “NOT working” outside of the home.
    I don’t think pumping is the solution at night because when you don’t pump or the baby isn’t eating, your breasts are not signaled to continue producing the same amount of milk which means that an unestablished milk supply can start to decline overnight. Milk supply isn’t usually established until the 3rd or 4th month when hormones (prolactin, oxytocin, and such) are not the driving force for production.

  60. MelodyO says:

    My house flooded a few years ago and we had to stay up for days, sleeping in three hour shifts so one of us was always pumping water so it wouldn’t overwhelm the basement.

    That was NOTHING compared to taking care of a newborn. By far the hardest work I’ve ever done, the most emotionally and physically exhausting job – and it doesn’t end for months and months.

    Trent, my girls are now teens, and every moment of stress has been worth it for the many, many moments of love and laughter we’ve shared. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I could.

    As others have mentioned, put your guests to work. Let them help you – it’ll be good for everybody involved. :0D

  61. Jane says:

    I’m surprised you would mention a one month old and sleep through the night in one sentence. Their little tummies are WAY too small to sleep more than 3 or 4 hours tops. I currently have an 11 day old son with acid reflux, so I certainly can relate to the sleep deprivation. But I think we really need to have realistic expectations for newborns. Sleeping through the night is not only unrealistic, I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the breastfed baby. Breastmilk digests very quickly, so your baby would be starving if he or she slept through the night. Anyway, just mt two cents, but I recognize that babies and parents are different. This advice is coming from someone with a two year old who STILL doesn’t technically sleep through the night.

    I understand the wish to sleep somewhere far away and quiet. We certainly did his with my first born, but I will say as a mom with a newborn that it is nice to have my husband in the room with me during this stressful time, even if he is sleeping. Being up so much at night nursing, burping, changing and rocking a newborn can be awfully isolating.

  62. Carol says:

    @Kevin #40 – You are really boring.

  63. It never rains but it pours. I’m very sorry to hear about your dad — something like that can be very serious. Hope he gets well soon.

  64. Kevin says:

    Carol: If wiping toddler poop off my bathroom floor is what qualifies as “exciting,” then I hope I’m boring forever.

  65. Michael Starks says:

    Pray. Don’t forget to pray. Lack faith? Pray for faith. Lack focus, patience, courage, strength, hope, love? Pray for it.

    Don’t doubt it if you haven’t tried it.


  66. almost there says:

    This seems it is straying from the financial talk for the rest of us theme. At first I thought it would be about frugal toilet training from the four square ranch.:)

  67. socalgal says:

    Trent, I sure hope your dad recovers quickly. From my experience, you are overwhelmed by a number of things that you can & cannot control.The easiest way to help yourself is to learn to say NO to people who ask you for something that is not going to help your very young family right now. That would mean saying NO to being on the Church Finance Board, and advising friends and family that right now is not a good time for a stay over visit or saying no to road travel to watch a cousin graduate from high school. Put the important things first, then at a later date you can invite folks over for the weekend & donate your time. Right now is sounds like you are stretched way too thin, IMHO.

  68. MightyMighty says:

    @Kevin #40, Carol called you boring, but I think a better word would be self-absorbed. Your life is about hedonistic values. What feels good? What makes me happy? What can I do to help me and reduce my stress?

    Parenting knocks the hedonism right out of most people, and that is a good thing. Life is so much better when lived in true service to others. It’s possible to do that without kids, but you have to consciously choose it all the time. Unless you’re an awful parent, it is very natural to sacrifice for your children with great love and acceptance.

    Our first baby was a surprise, but one that we needed. Having to think about his needs first transformed our marriage and our lives for the better.

    In all fairness, that may be hard to believe when you hear about the constant stories about being sleep-deprived and having poop everywhere. We only have the one child so far, but that hasn’t been our experience. We sleep trained him from the beginning, nursed, cloth-diapered, no-tv, no processed food, etc. and it really, really wasn’t any harder than doing things by default.

    And to Trent: We will pray for your dad and your family. For some reason, this post was really effective…maybe because you’re modeling how you use your discipline and skills in a crisis, vs. in the daily routine you have that is much less chaotic than most of us slackers? I like when you share something that is a genuine struggle, and then share how you are working through it. (Like the post about how you nearly bought headphones you didn’t really need, and then had to remind yourself to not buy random stuff.)

  69. MightyMighty says:

    Also, to the people who keep pointing out that Trent is not dealing with true disasters, please go away. First of all, his dad is really sick and that is a big deal. Second of all, with a newborn in the house, any breaks in routine can be hard, let alone so many.

    Could he have said “Inconvenient/worrisome/hard circumstances in my life that feel like a disaster but are not technically a force of nature”?

    It’s really dismissive to look at his life and say “not as big of a deal as the oil spill.”

    Guess what? Doesn’t need to be. His life still matters even if an asteroid wipes out half the world’s population. He will still have to take care of his family and career.

  70. Jane says:

    @ MightyMighty

    I agree completely. You can always find bigger problems or disasters that trump someone else’s circumstances. But that shouldn’t diminish the importance of individual struggles. And anyone who doesn’t think that a new baby turns your world upside down is clueless. The first few weeks with a new person who you are responsible to care for is a profoundly beautiful but terribly difficult time. And to those who seek to minimize Trent’s struggles and belittle them – yes, please go away and don’t return until you learn to have a modicum of empathy for the struggles of other people.

  71. Micki says:

    I have been a reader for a long while and I am so sorry to hear about this personal avalanche of sorts. It does seem that bad things like to travel in large, unwelcomed gangs that haven’t learned to wipe their feet before entering.

    I know you are very strict with yourself to do things right and thoroughly. I truly admire your tenacity and resolve—it’s why I read your blog. I look to you for your insight on how best to tackle life and live up to your personal potential while also adhering to your values. You are my Simple Dollar Hero and I thank you very sincerely for all of your hard work. With that I can tell you that if there is ever a moment to embrace “good enough”—you are in it!

    So since you asked, I am going to tell you how my husband and I get through our unexpected Sunamis which hit us rarely, but with ferocity when they do. We try our very best to exploit humor. Levity can deflate the most dire balloons of misery. I must admit it tends to be dark and sarcastic, but it makes us laugh and gives almost instant relief.

    In the case of potty training, I asked my husband if it would be wrong to put the kids in a large cage in the yard JUST for a couple of weeks.

    When my small business was audited, I told to him, “Who knew you were marrying a Capone, when you said “I do!” fifteen years ago?” On a particularly bad day, my husband asked how I was. I replied, “Due to the lack of firearms and hard alcohol on the premises, I am happy to announce that we have all survived.”

    Although they are not our finest moments, and the things I blurt out are not especially becoming or politically correct, they are said in jest, and meant to convey the wisdom that “this too shall pass” in that impossible moment.

    I hope you and your wife can find the bit of the twisted wit which laces difficult circumstances and capitalize on it. It’s the best medicine. And it allows us to forgo perfection, and embrace survival.

    I wish you all the best in getting to the other side of this trying time. And our prayers are with your Dad.

  72. SLCCOM says:

    Trent, don’t expect to have everything perfect, or even pretty darned close to it. Anyone who comes to visit me who comments on the dust will find a dust cloth in his/her hand in a New York minute! Then they’ll have to vacuum, wash the windows, etc.

    Really, people are coming to see YOU, not judge your housekeeping. And if they are there to judge your housekeeping, then throw them out! They don’t deserve to enjoy your company.

    I’ll join everyone else in wishing your father a speedy and complete healing!

  73. kristine says:

    Al this poo talk reminded me of a story with my brother. When he was 2, my mom had him in the backyard in a playpen. She went to get something, and when she returned, my brother was grinning, having made a very creative abstract work of art all over his body, face and head with his…well, you get the idea. He worked fast! Mom simply turned on the hose, set the nozzle on diffuse spray, and hosed him and the playpen off in one fell swoop! Messes are always easier outdoors.
    (OK, leaving a 2-year-old is not fabulous parenting, It was the 70s, what can I say? We survived that, and sleeping in the back of the station wagon on the highway too.)

  74. margaret says:

    Pumping is great if you can do it, but I couldn’t. I was awesome at nursing, but I would maybe get an ounce after an hour of pumping. So it doesn’t work for everyone.

    This article and these comments made me laugh. Yesterday, my mom watched my two year old while I took my five your old to an appointment. I also have a seven year old and another on the way. Anyway, when I came to pick him up, my mom said, “Maybe I should have offered this before, but if you ever need a break or some time to sleep, you could bring all the kids over and I could watch them.” Which was nice, but SEVEN YEARS MOM!!! Oh well, she isn’t a little kid person, so the fact that she has babysat at all during the diaper years is fairly remarkable.

  75. valleycat1 says:

    @ #61 – As the one who first brought up the idea of giving Sarah a break at night – I also breastfed my baby but was never any success at pumping. I do know that mom would probably still rouse up (good old mother nature) & could pump milk at the pm feeding times while Trent gives the bottle. What wore me out was that it isn’t a matter of just feeding the baby for 15 minutes – it’s getting up, fetching the baby, nursing, burping, changing, getting them back to sleep in the middle of the night & then getting back to sleep yourself.

  76. Kevin says:


    “Carol called you boring, but I think a better word would be self-absorbed.”

    Who else should I be “absorbed” with?

    “Your life is about hedonistic values.”

    If there is a God, then He gave me life such that I should enjoy it, not waste it away in some vain pursuit of pious devotion to an imaginary friend. I do not believe there is an afterlife that demands we waste this ACTUAL life pursuing suffering and misery such that after we die, we get to REALLY experience pleasure. I believe this life is all there is, so we should make the most of it – and wasting 20 years raising some ingrateful, self-absorbed brat does not factor into that, in my opinion.

    “What feels good? What makes me happy? What can I do to help me and reduce my stress?”

    Watching TV. Drinking a beer. Rubbing my wife’s feet. Sleeping in. There are many, many answers to that question. But cleaning someone else’s poop off my bathroom floor is nowhere on that list.

    “Parenting knocks the hedonism right out of most people”

    A fantastic reason to not have kids.

    “Life is so much better when lived in true service to others.”

    Absolutely, 100% disagree.

    Life is at its best when it is lived giving one’s self pleasure. That’s what God (if he exists) wants.

    “It’s possible to do that without kids, but you have to consciously choose it all the time.”

    I believe the opposite. I believe live is much, much harder to enjoy when encumbered by self-centered, ego-centric children. Life is most enjoyable when you live out your days spending gradually larger and larger percentages of your days doing what YOU want, and not what your “boss” or your “children” want.

    “Unless you’re an awful parent, it is very natural to sacrifice for your children with great love and acceptance.”

    I absolutely agree that if you’ve made the mistake of becoming a parent, that you must devote yourself to that endeavor fully and 100%. But not only do I do NOT think that is the only path to happiness, I think the best path to happiness is to avoid having children altogether. I think people with kids are simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. I believe they may have deliberately gotten pregnant thinking it would have its rewards, but at the end of the day, 18 years later, most people will regret that decision, even if they won’t admit it.

    “Our first baby was a surprise, but one that we needed. Having to think about his needs first transformed our marriage and our lives for the better.”

    You kind of HAVE to say that, don’t you. Do admit otherwise would be to admit that you’ve condemned youselves to 18 years of misery.

    My wife and I are 34. We’ve avoided having kids (yay, Depoprovera!). We have no debt, we live in a 2600 sq. ft. house, and we’re going to Hawaii for 2 weeks this October. Life is pretty friggin’ good without kids.

    Enjoy cleaning toddler crap off your bathroom floor. We’ll be in a helicopter, circling the volcanoes of Hawaii and drinking beers on the beach where “LOST” was filmed. If it makes you feel better, you can go ahead and tell yourself that we’re not *really* as happy as you.

  77. Gretchen says:

    Belated comment: Make the family stay in a motel.

  78. Linda says:


    I don’t have kids so my life isn’t ruined (yet) according to your standards. But there are a lot of parents around me and somehow they managed to have children and *still* have a great life. Go figure.

    Now if taking care of children is not your (and your wife’s) thing, that’s fine. You’re free to do whatever you want with your life, but don’t mock those who take a different path than yours.

    Still I hope that between two hedonistic activities you don’t forget to thank your parents for giving birth to the “ungrateful, self-absorbed brat” you’ve become. Come to think of it, thank the helicopter pilot’s parents too. And Lost cast’s and crew’s parents because without them there would have been no TV show and you and your wife would have had no reason to go and drink beers on some Hawaiian beach.

  79. margaret says:

    re #63 – Kevin
    I don’t even remember what your first comment was.

    You say that it’s all about enjoying this life. Fair enough. Do you feel any obligation to help others? Do you feel that your enjoyment can come at the expense of others? My guess about your answers would be no to both, but I’m curious.

    Also, about having kids. Yes, there is a lot of work involved. However, there are also a lot of benefits. The funniest things I have ever heard in my life have come out of the mouths of my kids. The happiest moments of my life have involved my kids. You clearly get it about the work and sacrifice involved, but you sound as if you don’t know or don’t believe the upsides. It’s not all about the poop. There are a lot of fabulous careers and lifestyles that took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to achieve. I don’t suppose you would say that they aren’t worth it because they aren’t all roses and sunshine. I’m not saying that everyone should have kids whether they like it or not, or that your life will be inferior to mine because you have never had kids, but you are way off the mark when you assume that every parent is going to regret having kids and that it is JUST 18 years of misery.

  80. Georgia says:

    I was raised in a yours, mine and ours family of 7 kids. I knew I would probably be a good mother, but I knew the work involved and so did not really want to have any. Luckily, my husband did and we talked it out and decided to try for 2. Best decision I ever made. No regrets at all.

    And, Kevin, the joy and pain never stops. I do not remember all the pain of the child rearing, but I had lots of happy memories from 2 loving, wonderful kids. And, as they are now adults, I have 2 wonderful friends who know me at my best and at my worst – and they still love me immensely. There is no better payoff than that. Also, I still feel pain when they have troubles or can’t manage well. However, all the fun, laughter, joy is a reward for what little pain I suffered with them, then and now. I am even shocked sometimes at what wonderful people I birthed. It sure didn’t all come from me and my husband. Some of it came from within them and how they took the training we gave them.

    You can have a good life doing only for yourself, but you will also miss out on so many joys. And, thanks to all the pee, poop stories, I was able to spend several years caring for older adults and not feel grossed out by all I had to do for them. I was glad to have the experience to be able to earn money while caring for others. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

    And, believe me, life with only joys and no sorrows or hard work, would get very boring. To enjoy, you have to know the difference between sorrow and joy to be able to know lasting happiness. And, I am old enough to know this from experience. 73 is such a wonderful age and I am enjoying it immensely.

  81. christine a says:

    Wonderful testimony Georgia thank you.

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