Archive for November, 2010

Judged by Others Makes You Judge Yourself

I will admit it.  Before I had a child I judged. 

I judged when kids screamed in a restaurant or on a plane.  I judged when I saw an older child with a pacifier.  I judged parents when I saw children out late at night way past bedtime.  I would ask myself… What are those parents thinking?  Why don’t they have control over their children?  I had no problem offering my free advice about something that (I know now) I knew nothing about.  How hard can it be to make him give up his pacifier? Or get them to bed at a reasonable time? How difficult can it possibly be to get her out of diapers?  Or make them eat their vegetables?  I mean, what kind of parent can’t do that?

As children we are taught not to judge people with mental impairments or physical disabilities.  We are expected to be kind to others. After all, one never knows what happens behind closed doors. 

So why is it that once I had a child everyone provided an opinion, whether solicited or not?  I felt incredibly overwhelmed once we brought “A” home from the hospital.  I don’t think that we were even home before the advice started. 

“A” was adopted from the states.  No, I did not breastfeed (judged).  We returned home with our new baby girl by plane (judged).  We did not have a baby shower for her before she was born (judged). We did not have the crib bought, her nursery ready, or any of the necessities that you need for a baby when they come home from the hospital (judged, judged, judged). 

Happy A

People are so willing to judge without knowing the full story. 

Ours story goes like this. We tried to adopt a child for years. We had at least four adoptions fall apart after the baby was born.  I witnessed two c-sections for children who ended up in someone else’s arms. My husband and I even named one of the babies – Charles Joseph.  And yes, he still has that name. I still talk to his mother. 

So when we got a call and rush to another state to adopt our baby we were ill prepared.  We wanted to be ill prepared for our daughter’s birth. Our hearts could not take preparing one more time.  We knew that no one can ever know what might happen.

The judging continued as “A” grew. Everyone thinks that they did or do things the right way.  It may mask itself as concern, empathy, or some other form of “motherly” advice.  It’s impossible to miss the looks people give you when they are judging your parenting decisions.  “A” was 3 and still not potty trained (judged). She was 2 ½ and still drinking a bottle at night (judged). At 4 she still had her pacifier (judged). 

I started to feel the pressure and potty trained her by forcing her to go sit on the potty every 20 min.  Was this right?  Was SHE ready … I will never be able to answer this question.  Would waiting another few months have been the worst thing in the world?  Another unanswerable question. What I do know is that by the time she was ready for four year old kindergarten she was potty trained.  The school did not care when she was potty trained, just that she was potty trained. 

As for the bottle, I can tell you that giving her a bottle at 2 ½ was more me then her.  I loved the magical bottle.  I loved the way that it made her restful and peaceful and ready for bed.  I loved holding her until she fell asleep. It was the same with the pacifier.  It calmed her, put her at ease and made her happy.  Once we got rid of these things I found it much more difficult to get her to bed and to sleep.  Did we do something wrong?  Could we have done things better or sooner? 

A ready for K-4

“A” just had her first teacher conference for K-4.  The teacher told me that she is well-adjusted, smart, social, independent and happy.  These are the qualities I want my daughter to have.  Is the teacher now judging my child?  I guess for now, I do not think of it as much judging, as affirmation that we are doing an ok job at parenting.  As I look at all of the decisions we’ve made so far, I am satisfied, even happy. Happy that I did not push her to get rid of a lot of things that she loved.  Happy that I kept doing many of the things that I loved.  All of these little decisions have helped to make her who she is.  And for this I am a very grateful. 

– MO

The Question

It started when we got married.  Before, really, since we’d been together so long.  That age old question: “When are you going to have kids?”

It’s a delicate question, especially when a couple doesn’t have any kids.  Maybe they’re trying and haven’t been successful, maybe there have been losses, maybe they don’t want kids at all.  The curious, in general, are easily placated.  

The frequency and persistence of The Question have picked up considerably since our first.  Now that we have one, and people are sure that not only do we want kids but that we’re able to have them, it seems as if everyone wants to know when – and if – we’ll have another.  

Good question.  

Not Unlike The Situation, The Question.

I guess I always thought that if I had one, I’d want another, but the secret and honest truth is that I don’t know if I do.  I’m happy.  I’m comfortable.  My house is too small, our budget is too tight.  We have no family in town to help us out, to give us a night off or be there quickly in a pinch.

Training my daughter to sleep took months and months and MONTHS, and now?  Everyone in my house is sleeping through the night.  We are out of the infancy stage, which frankly – please don’t judge me – I found boring.  My 20-month daughter’s vocabulary is exploding, and being able to have a conversation with her is a relief.  Our days at home together have become a joy – actually fun, instead of hours of long, hard work that drains me.  I hated the crawling stage, I couldn’t wait for my daughter to hold her own bottle.  

I feel like I hit the jackpot.  My daughter is (in my humble opinion) sweet, beautiful, smart, and well-behaved.  She is happy to hang out and color while we have drinks with our friends.  She’s flexible and hilarious.  

I know it sounds selfish to say this, but after three pregnancies and struggling to find our footing in the first year, I feel like I finally have my life back.  It feels magical.  We have friends from all walks of our life – with kids and without – and it’s working!  My sweet girl isn’t cramping our style, she’s enhancing and expanding the great life we had before she came along.  It feels like the best of all worlds.  And for the first time in a really long time, I feel surrounded by a really great and diverse group of friends.  Life is fun again.  My daughter is thriving, and so am I.  

I am really, truly happy.

But I can’t help but feel that I’m being selfish.  Maybe when life settles down after a second baby – or at least once we’re out of that first year – I could have this magic back.  I’m frankly not getting any younger – and in a few more years (good god, probably less than that) it might be really hard to have another.  What if I’m squandering my chance for the family I’ve always wanted?  What if that family IS what I really want and I’m just blinded by the easy fun I’m having right now?

I can’t help but think about the worst case scenario.  I’ve lived a worst-case scenario.  What if something happens to my only baby, my precious girl, and I’m left alone and it’s too late?  The thought of something horrible happening to my beloved daughter makes me want to irrationally fill my tiny house with babies.

What if only children just aren’t as happy?  New research shows that they are, but who knows? If all my hopes and dreams rest on my daughter, is that too much pressure?  Is the love/hate of a sibling one of life’s quintessential experiences?

What about that second baby that I know I’ll fall madly in love with – am I letting him or her down?  If I have that baby, I know I won’t regret it.  Yes, I’ll find my new kid just as smart and beautiful and irresistible as my daughter and maybe I’ll even wonder how I ever got along before.  Poor example I KNOW, but I got a second dog once.  I won’t take him back now that he’s here, but damn sometimes I wish I had a do-over (anyone interested in a terrier that just. Will. Not. Stop. Ever?).  No, I won’t offer my second baby up on this blog if it’s hard (and it will be), but haven’t you ever wished you had just taken the other road?  Deep down?  Can any of us really admit that we didn’t have at least have one tiny moment with that first baby when we whispered to ourselves, “Oh my god, what have I done??”

The truth is, when I picture my family in 10 or 20 or 30 years, I picture us with more than one child.  The picture in my head is lovely and we’re all happy and I weigh 20 pounds less.  Is that really what I want?  And to what extent do I set aside my happiness now for the fantasy?  We never really get the fantasy…right?  What if right now is the fantasy?  

One day over coffee, MD told me that there is no right or wrong – the right decision is whatever works for me and for my family.  But what works for us?  I just don’t know.

Here’s what I do know: I want to be happy.  I want my family to be happy.  I want to look back and have no regrets.  I want to have fun!  I want to be comfortable.  I want to be a good person.  I don’t want to be selfish.  I don’t want to let anyone down.  

My answer to The Question?  I just don’t have one.  

– ALW

Entitled

I wrote last week that I’ve been traveling and working long hours at my job. It’s OK, because I’m still in love with my work, and most importantly (to me, at least), am passionate about what I’m working for.

In the middle of my travels I was able to spend two nights at my parents’ house in Milwaukee. The same ranch house I lived in for six years before I left for college and never moved back to. One night when I got back around 9 p.m. from a long day of production, I sat in the living room as my mother made me a lovely necklace. In her empty-nesting years she has thrown herself back into crafting – sewing, quilting, jewelry making, flower arranging – and it’s nice to see her enjoying her evenings. I was talking about my day, sharing stories and more. At one point, I said that while I was so happy at work, I wondered if it was an issue that I didn’t have a great title, like “Manager” or “Director.” I have plenty of friends who reached these titles in their late 20s or early 30s, and now 32 and happily nestled into a job I love, know that I won’t get that title. At my organization there is no stepping into a larger title or role. I can grow my skill set and expand what I’m doing, but I won’t get “Sr.” or anything other higher designation now that I’m in a union. It doesn’t work like that.

In the middle of stringing the necklace, not even looking up, my mom said, “Honey, you are 32, have a toddler and work full time. You can’t have that title.” And while I know it’s true, I have been gnashing over the truth of that. Why do titles matter? Why do they matter to me? As someone who has been fairly career-oriented, I was always striving for next-next-next. Pushing, pushing, pushing. I clearly remember sitting in a job interview 7 years ago and when asked the dubious, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question, answering quite clearly, “As the Marketing Director of a non-profit.” Somewhat gutsy, given that the current Marketing Director of the non-profit I was interviewing at was sitting in the same room and she was new to the job herself. But that’s fine ‘cause we’re friends now.

This hangs in my office. By These Are Things.

So here I am, 32, and not a director. When RBVH and I finally met up this last weekend (I was the one who fell asleep and missed our coffee date – yeesh), she and I shared the same concerns. Should we be pushing, pushing, pushing for more?

But maybe what I’m not ready to say aloud – but guess what world? – I can say it on the internet! – is that I’m OK with not having the title. It’s not that I don’t think I could handle what came along with it, it’s that I like the other titles I (sometimes) come with: mother, wife, friend, partner, creator, (fledging) runner. Why? Because I’ve found my center-for-now. Sure, it gets wacky, laundry never gets put away, I miss having Fridays with my toddler, but I’m able to be all of the parts of me while at my current job.

I guess you’ll just have to call me Lucky.

– MD

Frazzle Rock

I’ve been working a lot of hours lately. That’s relative, since I’m not a physician or splitting the atom, but it has been a lot. I’m rounding into month five at my new job and I love it. Love, love, love it. I feel very fortunate to have found a place I will happily hang my hat. Thank you, Universe.

But part of my new job is occasionally, those occasions being now, traveling around our fair state. I’ve been putting serious miles on our car, drinking Diet Dr. Pepper and listening to the various Wisconsin Public Radio stations. This has meant more than a few nights away from my family. My husband has graciously taken on the added duties of solo-parenting, a task he never grumbles about.

Wisconsin!

In fact, let me take a moment to thank him over the internet for being such a great dad and partner. He doesn’t mind taking on more parenting because he sees that I’m happier, which makes our whole family happier and he’s happy for me and our family. But thanks nonetheless, because doing double duty even with our lovely toddler is well, doing double duty while I’m driving hundreds of miles every week and arriving for 6 a.m. production calls. And he’s really cute, too!

How has this changed our lives? Thankfully, our toddler hasn’t noticed a difference. She started going to daycare full-time, but it’s so awesome and fun I think she’s happier going five days a week.

But I’m starting to feel the difference. I’m more frazzled. Fridays at home with her meant a lot of activities, but those activities often included meeting friends for coffee or lunch at a child-friendly location, versus trying to schedule lunches or coffee a month in advance, or as I embarrassingly did this weekend, miss a coffee date with dear RBVH because I fell asleep on the couch. Ouch.

I’m happier, but the new job has also meant a few cancelled vacations and missed parties. There was a square dance I missed, a few planned getaways and other events as they’ve emerged.

I even missed an annual trip to northern Wisconsin, but was able to attend a great clothing swap last night, filled with lovely women, hosted by a fantastic woman. We laughed and ate her homemade ricotta on pumpkin muffins and chocolate-drizzled biscotti. We sorted through clothing and offered suggestions to others of new outfits. I got to see EKR in person versus via Twitter. We had a really nice time.

One exchange stuck with me for the rest of the night and today. One woman, showing me a dress shirt, asked how I needed to dress for work. “I need to dress nicely,” I replied. [Side note: dressing “nicely” in the Midwest comes in various forms, but overall, I need to look professional. Even if I’m in jeans, it needs to be classy.] She handed me a shirt that didn’t fit, and then asked “who else here works in an office?” and looking around, we realized that only one other woman worked at an office. The other women in attendance all worked – some as full-time moms, childcare providers, at the local food coop and a variety of other locations – but I was possibly the only person there who worked in an office, full time, and needed to dress in a traditional office way.

It made me melancholy for the rest of the night.

Over dinner my husband asked about the swap and I shared my feelings with him. Again, as if I almost had to convince myself, I said “I don’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom, right?” And I don’t. I didn’t want to before I had a baby, while I was pregnant or even after I had Lil’ Miss Red. I love working. I’m good at it, too. I love meeting people and working with situations and words and creating. I absolutely know that this is part of parenting, but maybe I’m just not wired that way.

But I used to have extra time with my daughter, where she recently started to call it a “mama day.” And while I loved the time with her, I can look back and say how exhausting it was. By the time my husband came home on Friday nights I felt zapped. Done. Over. I usually left the house to run a few errands (what becomes “free time” once you have children) to re-set. I honestly don’t know how full-time parents manage to engage their children so creatively. I think our childcare provider was crafted by Greek Gods, she with her imagination, patience and resourcefulness. I had to plan each fun activity with my daughter. My creativity tends to emerge in my work. My time with her was focused and while I didn’t develop fun art projects for her to explore, I did, and still do, give her (mostly) undivided attention as much as possible, in the form of reading books, playing cars, or dancing.

I often think of something LHW said to me three winters ago when she was hosting a swap. I was pregnant and looking for post-baby wear. We were talking about my (now previous) job and my question as to whether or not I’d ever want to stay home.

“M, it’s different for you, you have a career,” she said. “And whatever you decide, it’s the best decision for your family. Even if you change your mind.”

So while I’m happier at work, I am frazzled and sometimes tears are involved. Tears for no more Fridays at home, tears for long work days, tears for the new and exciting demands placed on me, tears when I think about the state of the laundry, tears that I now forget things, like minor to-dos, notes and coffee dates.

It is what it is and it’s wonderful. Even if I change my mind.

–       MD

Mondays and Fridays

I am incredibly fortunate to have a part time schedule that allows me to be at home with my daughter on Mondays and Fridays.  In a way, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it – I KNOW how lucky I am to have this time and the means to take it.  I will never take it for granted.

We save up errands for Mondays and Fridays – I do the grocery shopping and get in a couple of runs with the jogging stroller.  I clean, vacuum, do laundry.  I try to get my daughter caught up on sleep after three long days at daycare.  I remain in complete awe of single parents and families with both parents working full time.  

As it is with kids, some days are rough, other days are easier. Some days I am so focused on what needs to be done that I lose sight of my main purpose of being home – namely, quality time with my daughter.  

And other days, things just click.  

We dance in our jammies.

 

We stack blocks.

 

We watch them as they fall.

 

After a leisurely morning, we go to the zoo and ride the carousel.

We take a ride on the Zoo train.

 

We check out the meerkats.

I am incredibly lucky to have these days with my daughter.  In the years to come, when I am old and gray and my baby has grown up, I won’t remember if I got the shopping done, if I fit in a good run, or if the house was vacuumed.

What I will remember, what I will never forget, is the feel of her hand on my knee as we chugged along the track in the fall sunshine.

– ALW