Got Guilt?

I ran across this article on the ever present mommy guilt issue for working moms. I’ve known enough working moms to know that daycare drop-off can be the worst part of every day and the fear of missing a milestone moment can be demoralizing.

But ladies, the grass isn’t always greener. Don’t we all have mommy guilt no matter what our work situation? Maybe it’s just me, but some days when I’m watching peanut take out his blocks, throw them around the room, then put them back in their basket just to take them out and throw them around the room for the fifth time that hour, I feel guilty. Guilty that I’m bored out of my mind! I mean, I chose this stay-at-home-mom gig and isn’t it supposed to be the best job in the world? How could I possibly be bored?

I do love it most of the time, just like I’m sure working moms are probably happy most of the time. But we all have our moments and some days are going to have more moments than others. I just wish that when a woman wants to act on or express a personal need (whether that’s the need to work, the need to take a break from the kids, the need to pick up their peanut a little early that day for an extra snuggle, the need to express themselves apart from their families) we didn’t have to feel guilty about it.

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Finding it Hard to Fill in the Blanks

While filling out the new patient paperwork at a new eye doctor’s office today, I came to a halt at “Occupation.”

I had a hard enough time writing down “sales” while at my previous position. Technically, that’s what I did, but I felt more like a communications consultant. Semantics…maybe. But that’s how I approached the job, not by trying to meet a quota. It worked for me and I developed lasting relationships with clients, some of whom are still friendly acquaintances. Regardless of how I felt about the word, “sales” was the best one-word description for what I did.

But today, I didn’t know what to write. I could put down mom, but those women who work and have kids certainly don’t write down “working mother” or “paralegal and mom.” After all, a mother is a mother no matter what she does from 9 to 5.

I guess I’m a big old N/A in the occupation category until someone starts paying me for this mom gig. Any volunteers?!

One Mom’s Opinion

I admit to being a little behind in my reading, so it was only Monday night that I read last week’s My Turn column in Newsweek. Tuesday, Mojo Mom reacted to the same piece. Since this kept coming back to mind at random times over the last several days, I felt compelled to offer my two cents.

To begin with, I do have a problem with Ms. Friedman generalizing and stereotyping mothers. Many of her comments only perpetuate a negative image of motherhood that certainly isn’t the norm. I know many fabulous moms who are raising great, polite kids while following their passions, working in fantastic jobs, contributing to the community and mixing a mean cocktail. I think it is entirely possible that Ms. Friedman needs to expand her circle of mom friends to include a more balanced cross-section of motherhood.

However, she does hit on an unfortunate truth — when it comes to kids (having them, naming them, raising them), many people feel the need to impart unwanted advice as absolute truths. Why is it okay in this society to judge women about when/whether they have children and once they do, whether they continue working once they arrive?

While reading this particular column, I was reminded of all the thoughts/reactions/advice I received before and after having peanut about whether I should return to work or stay home.

Before the hubby and I even started trying to get pregnant, someone asked me, “well of course you’ll stay home when you have kids, right?” I was so thrown by the question and tone of the subsequent conversation. How could I possibly know what I would do in such a personal situation that comes with so many new experiences that I could not even pretend to imagine how I would react to any of them? Not to mention not knowing what kind of financial situation the hubby and I would be in whenever that moment arrived. But this person seemed adamant that I should stay home and would of course want to, insinuating that if I didn’t, something was surely wrong with me.

After I became pregnant, the closer the due date approached, the more people asked. The strange thing, to me, was that my husband was just finishing up grad school and still had not found a job. Of course I was going to return to work after maternity leave — if I didn’t, we were going to have BIG problems.

When the hubby did get a job (ironically receiving the offer the same day as peanut was born), I thought long and hard about whether to stick with my plan to go back to work or to stay home. This was an issue that was also a topic of much discussion in the media this year based on this book and this one and this one (all of which I admit to not reading…YET! They are on my to-do list, I promise.).

Of course not all the voices out there are critical ones. I received the best advice and support from family, friends who have been there and experienced moms who had the benefit of perspective on their own choices.

I do still find myself defending my decision to people in both camps, fearful of being judged. I realize that a lot of this is my own internal conflict as I grow into this new “mom” person while still struggling to hold onto my unique self. But perhaps if as a society we all redirected our questions and judgements to corporate America and our culture, women could grow in a more flexible environment, would have careers to come back to after an absence and wouldn’t feel so obligated to choose between career OR family (this certainly only applying to those of us lucky enough to have a choice).

In the meantime, I remind myself that the column is labeled “My Turn” and this is just one woman’s opinion and she is entitled to it. I respect her decision to not have children right now, after all, I don’t know her. I would hope that she could extend me, and the rest of us moms, the same respect. That, I believe, will create the best role models not only for other new moms but for our children as well.

The Date

Date night. Why this term sends shivers down my spine, I don’t know. But since peanut’s arrival into our world, I certainly understand its necessity. Our roadblock to date night has been the fact that we live far away from family and therefore have relied on a small group of local friends to help when we’ve needed a sitter. As a result, we tend to only call on them for this huge favor when we have commitment outings like parties or were just desperate to get out. Or we’ll go out when family comes to town to visit…after all, they aren’t coming to see us anymore, just the peanut.

So last night, we begged some friends so we could go out to celebrate our anniversary. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and wine, an evening stroll and then some delicious chocolate cocktails. After reading this and totally relating to it, I feared we’d have nothing to talk about during the date. After all, there have been some nights at home when we have run out of things to talk about during a commercial, not to mention a whole evening alone together. We weren’t naive enough to totally rule out discussing peanut, after all, he’s my job now and a moment alone means we can spend a second or two discussing a few recent parenting challenges. Luckily, I found we didn’t depend on him as a conversation topic.

Instead, we talked about our nine-year history, what we want to do for the big 10 next year, why two women at the bar kept looking over their shoulders at me during our “nightcap” (really, it was obvious and strange — I kept asking hubby if there was something in my teeth, my nose or if my dress was revealing more than it should), bachelorette parties (since the tables next to us were commandeered for such an occasion), what my next step should be, waiter etiquette, politics and just truly enjoyed each other’s company as a couple, not mom and dad. I got to wear a dress, heels, earrings and nighttime makeup (you know, eyeliner AND mascara, blush AND lipstick — as opposed to my normal routine of concealer, mascara and lip balm (when I can find it in the black hole that is peanut’s diaper bag)).

It was nice to feel like a woman again. We promised to find a dependable “stranger sitter” that can become our go-to gal/guy so these evenings aren’t so few and far between (feel free to send in your applications!!). Because I didn’t like feeling wobbly in those fantastic open-toed heels at the start of the night, but I was happy to see that it didn’t take long to find my stride.

Happy Anniversary

Dear Hubby:

Has it really been nine years? On the one hand, it seems like just yesterday. On the other, it seems like a lifetime ago.

I remember the summer we got married. Me, fresh out of college and treading water in a step-up from an internship part-time job at a marketing firm I had no intention of staying at. You, three years into your dream job that had started to turn into more of a nightmare. I remember how romantic it seemed that we had decided to strike out on our own, pack up our lives and head to DC so I could be something. And then I remember crying all the way until Petersburg, VA that Labor Day weekend, thinking what have I done?

I remember that first apartment in Alexandria and how we knew none of our neighbors. I remember you supporting me financially because I had taken a job that in retrospect was a great move that opened up lots of doors, but that paid probably less than the baristas at the Starbucks in our building.

I remember buying our first home for what I thought was a small fortune.

I remember you supporting me when I left that first job and went to the agency side. I remember 9/11 and doing all I could to get home to you but being stuck in Gaithersburg, MD with a colleague because I was scared to ride the train and she had the easiest way out of the city. I remember you picking me up at her house and driving back to Virginia on a nearly deserted Beltway at 5pm. I remember holding onto you that night and realizing silence had never been so deafening as listening to nearby Dulles Airport lay quiet.

I remember you helping to pump me up the next morning as I insisted on riding the train into work, feeling afraid and brave all at the same time. And then I remember getting the call from you later that morning that you had been laid off with a number of your colleagues. I remember how dark that time was for us as a couple and a nation and how we came out stronger on the other side.

I remember supporting you when you decided you wanted to go back to grad school. I remember the excitement when you got into the school you wanted and then the anxiety when we realized that this meant we’d be moving and leaving behind everything we’d built in DC.

I remember crying when we left the house in Virginia and how you held my hand as we headed south on 85 for the last last time. I remember how excited you were to start on your first day of class.

I remember how we supported each other through the loss of our remaining grandparents (your Grandmother, and my Grandma and Grandpa just 9 months apart). I remember when I lost my dear friend L. while away on a business trip and how you supported me when I decided I should stay away for dear D.’s wedding even if it meant missing L.’s funeral. I remember coming home from that trip and how you were waiting for me at the airport and held me while I sobbed, ignoring the stares of fellow passengers.

I remember how happy we were to start trying to have a baby and how excited you were when that second little line appeared. I remember you at the ultrasound, seeing that little peanut and finding out you were having a son. I remember when you finally felt him kick. And I will never forget how surprised I was that when the midwife said she saw his head you looked (after swearing throughout the pregnancy that you would be staying “north” of the action) and then looking at me with tears in your eyes.

I remember the sleepless nights in the beginning. The hours of just staring at this little being we created.

I remember all the laughter and the fun and look forward to more of the same in the years to come.

I remember that I love you, even if I I sometimes forget to show it in the hubbub of our newly developing family life. I promise to make this ninth year a wonderful one, full of love and family. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be on this road with. Thank you for everything.

Happy Ninth Anniversary!
Love,
Your Wife

Tissue Moment

As part of the third Disability Awareness Night at Fenway Park, a young man with autism, was invited to sing the national anthem and got a little nervous:

If we could all be so supportive of those with disabilities every day. What a truly patriotic moment.

Re-Entry

After five days barefoot by the pool, this high heeled mama is finding it hard to put her shoes back on.

The family vacation was a success. Peanut met three of my aunts, two of my uncles, two of my cousin’s kids, two cats, a bunny rabbit and a swimming pool. And he loved them all. He was quite the ham all week and perfected some tricks that kept us in stitches, among them:

* Waving — he’s been intermittently waving for a bit, but during this trip, he really seemed to get the hang of it. He proceeded to wave to just about everyone in the airport, on the airplane and on the shuttle bus to the park and ride on the way home.

* Stairs — we live in a ranch house with only one-step between our kitchen and den, so the set of steps from the guest room to the main living area were his mini-Everest. He insisted on climbing them every time. He’s not as adept at going down, however.

* Squealing — He enjoyed a call and response game of squealing, especially when he was looking for a bit of extra attention. He also tried a similar game with fake coughing, but we’re trying to discourage that one.

* Throwing a ball — Peanut loves throwing toys out of his crib/car seat/stroller, but hasn’t really “gotten” the idea of a game of catch. He caught on this week and started throwing a ball with purpose. Granted, he’s still missing the mark most times, but his face lights up when he releases at the right moment after a wind-up…perhaps a pitcher in the making?

Meanwhile, this high heeled mama and the hubby enjoyed the culinary achievements of my Uncle M. and devoured his apple-raspberry pie, blueberry pie and chocolate-raspberry cake. I’m currently in dessert withdrawal…my sweet tooth is twitching as I type. The New England weather was perfect — warm and sunny in the afternoons with breezy, cool evenings. We enjoyed sitting out in the sunroom after dinner and peanut was in bed with a glass of wine, a dessert, watching the curtains flutter in the breeze and the fireflies flicker. We talked about anything and nothing, just visiting with good friends that also happen to be related to us.

And then today we were back to reality — laundry, groceries (okay, I didn’t go, but I did make a list), and no dessert. Ah, it was good while it lasted.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I didn’t think I could look forward to vacation as much now that I’m not working as I did when I just needed to unplug from the corporate world. But man, I’m looking forward to our trip this week.

We’re headed to New England to visit the family. In some circles, this type of family “reunion” of sorts would not be considered vacation. But my sister and I grew up in the South, far away from my parents’ parents and their siblings. So every summer we packed ourselves into the car for the 13 hour drive or pinned on our airline wings to fly alone (now that I’m a parent, I don’t know how my mother ever did this) to visit the family for a few weeks. There was a pool, a pond, cousins, the best coffee ice cream in the world, beach trips, water skiing, tubing, hide and seek, clam cakes, clam boils, dress-up plays my cousin, sister and I would put on for Grandma and Grandpa, tire swings, movie nights, endless afternoons with a good book, shopping with the aunts and the comfort of family.

These yearly trips taught me that distance between family is not defined by the miles that separate you, a lesson that has been especially helpful now that the hubby, peanut and I live more than 350 miles away from our parents and siblings; that quiet spaces can lead to quiet minds; that food, moments and time deserve equal amounts of savoring; and that crazy ain’t so bad when it’s shared through a bloodline.

And so we head off this week to introduce peanut to the family. Although, the closer the trip gets, the more I fear it won’t be much of a “vacation.” With a baby in tow, I’m packing a lot of extra baggage, both physical (how could one little guy need so much stuff?!) and mental (routine outlines in my head, worries about peanut ruining something valuable, worries about how peanut will adjust). But I know that he will love the wide open spaces, playing in the pool and getting loved on by family.

And after a few deep breaths and a glass of wine, so will I.

The Time of Your Life

Not since Dirty Dancing has a summer been so full of “Baby!”

This winter, I realized that between April and Labor Day, I knew 8 couples who were expecting. That’s a lot of babies! So far, beautiful Natalie, little Lexie, adorable Liam and cutie Charles have arrived. In the next few weeks, two more munchkins are expected to join this brood.

All this pregnancy is making me crave ice cream again. At this time last year, I was three weeks away from my due date and feeling pretty good. Sure, there was the rib peanut liked to use as a foot rest, checking the mail was the most exercise I could handle, and did I mention I was nine months pregnant in the South? As some of these mommies are approaching their due dates and experiencing those first few weeks of motherhood, I thought I’d share a little mommy wisdom, you know, the kind you don’t get in the books.

What the books don’t tell you about the emotional roller coaster that you’re on the last few weeks of pregnancy:

Week 37: I am really enjoying pregnancy. I think I’ll miss being pregnant once peanut arrives. It’s been such an exciting time.

Week 38: Honey, we can’t leave the house because nothing fits anymore but this one shirt and I’ve already sweat through it twice this week. I think if I wash it one more time it might fall apart. Do we have any more ice cream?

Week 39: OHMYGOD I am so not ready to have this baby. What happens when he’s 16 and misses curfew? How will I handle that? Dammit, I can’t even have a panic attack without having to pee. Help push me out of bed.

Week 40: Any second now! I’m so excited! What do you mean I’m not really dilating yet?

Week 40 and 4 days: My house is immaculate, I’m trying every trick in the book, including eating the eggplant parmigiana at Scalini’s, my bag is packed, why am I still pregnant?

Week 40, 4 days and 10 minutes: How will I know how to take care of this child? If he stays inside at least I know he’ll be fed and taken care of. I can’t possibly mess that up…I’ve been doing a pretty decent job the last 40 weeks, 4 days and 10 minutes. Maybe I don’t want him to come out.

Week 40, 4 days and 11 minutes: Seriously, when is this baby coming out? I’m going to be pregnant forever. It will be discovered that I’m not really pregnant, that this is some unique, freak disease where I will feel, look and behave pregnant for the rest of my life. I will be a marvel of modern science…and permanently pregnant.

Week 41: We’re getting induced! We’ll have a baby soon…

Week 41 and 2 days (yes that translates into 30 hours of labor): PEANUT’S FINALLY HERE!!

What the books don’t tell you about labor and delivery:

* Labor can be REALLY boring.
* It’s only magical and wonderful when it’s over and a slimy little bundle is screaming on your belly (before that, it’s LABOR – it ain’t called that for nothin’).
* Make friends with your nurses so that when the epidural has been turned down too low and you’re screaming at your husband that you in no way wanted a natural childbirth and your midwife is in with another patient she will physically find the anesthesiologist for you.
* After several hours of labor and more internal exams in a day than you’ve had through your whole pregnancy, pooping on the table will start to rank low on your list of worries (so stop worrying about it!).
* Hospital food tastes damn good after 30 hours of labor and no solid food in 48 hours.

What the books don’t tell you about the first few weeks:

* Lanolin cream should be used right away, before you need it. Please ladies, trust me on this one.
* Your belly will be foreign to you. This bump that had become so beautiful to you, that you and your family touched non-stop, that had a life of it’s own will suddenly be big, flabby, squishy and altogether strange. I refused to touch mine for several days.
* You won’t (and if you do, please keep it to yourself) fit into regular clothes for awhile, but your maternity clothes will all fit differently based on the new squishy belly.
* The swelling gets worse in the first few days after delivery…as if I thought my ankles could get any bigger. Don’t worry it gets better. The day I realized my feet looked normal, I hiked up my pajama pants and tried on every single pair of heels in my closet. My PJs never looked better.

And to think we’re now approaching the one year mark — I can’t believe it. Peanut will be 11 months old next week and the whole pregnancy thing seems so long ago. So I suppose that’s my biggest nugget of wisdom — in a few months/days/weeks (depending on where you are in this crazy cycle), you won’t remember your life without your little one. Okay, you’ll remember it and miss some things, but you wouldn’t trade this absolutely wonderful being that looks at you with such love and joy for any of it.

Plus, you’ll finally be able to drink again and due to your 9 month+ alcohol abstinence, you’ll be a really cheap date, even if you’re still in your PJs, unshowered and on your couch at 8pm.

Good luck, mamas! Welcome to the club!