Archives for category: On a side note

I attended the Women’s March on Washington “Sister March” in Trenton, NJ on January 21, 2017. I was inspired and in awe of the energy of my fellow marchers, but soon realized that I had to address the many people whom I know and love who were critical of the march.

womens-march

That’s OK if we don’t see eye to eye,
That’s OK if you think things are fine the way they are,
That’s OK if you did vote, didn’t vote, or can’t yet vote,
I marched for you, and for those you love.

That’s OK if you’re happy for a change of pace,
That’s OK if you choose to look past actions of hate,
That’s OK if you believe that this administration has your best interests at heart,
I marched for you, and for the bond we share.

That’s OK if you’re tired of politics and its ugliness,
That’s OK if you are confused or feel betrayed by how your vote has caused division, not unity,
That’s OK if you need someone to direct your frustration at, and you’re pointing fingers at me,
I marched for you, and I will do it again and again and again.

That’s OK if you refuse to see the beauty in fellow Americans marching with open hearts and minds,
That’s OK if you made a disparaging remark about several million people, here and abroad, exercising their right to assemble,
That’s OK if you don’t think that a march for equality has any relevance to you,
I marched for you, and for those who look up to you.

While you may say what you want to discount the extraordinary turnout of American citizens, the largest demonstration in our history,
There are a few things you should know,
I am not going away; I have the best of intentions at heart,
I love you, and respect you, and I celebrate the differences between us,
But I just want to be clear, YOU WERE THERE,
I carried you in my heart, along with my love of country,
I marched for you, and for all that is good in the world.

-Elizabeth Fiore

Read this.

The author touches on many topics like pandering and invisibility and white privilege and motherhood, but to me, her take on sexism so clearly articulated what I had experienced in my short time blogging, that even as someone who is keen on it’s presence, I needed to be reminded that it was there.

When I started blogging earlier this year, I decided that I would write about topics that are important to me, as my creative outlet, and to keep my writing skills fresh. I guess I never thought much more into it, about who my audience is and how it will be received. Early on, I would ask my husband to edit them, because I was self-conscious of my grammar. On at least one occassion, he would offer an opinion or praise and sometimes I would go back and edit based on his feedback. But, I quickly didn’t like going down that road, so the next few times I needed editing help, I would ask him just to check grammar and keep his opinions to himself. Ha! (He didnt take any offense to this and is incredibly supportive of me). What I was doing, without realizing it, is what I was trained to do my whole life, was getting permission/approval/praise/whatever you want to call it from someone other than myself, because as a woman, I don’t/shouldn’t have total control over my body, mind, or spirit. Needless to say, I won’t be doing that anymore because 1)I want to be true to myself and 2) I want to see what it feels like to write like a man. Well, sort of. That’s my goal. I still heavily censor myself because of my own insecurities about offending people, but I’m working on it.

Now, I don’t consider myself a writer, because I didn’t study it in college, but I do enjoy it very much. While most of the feedback from my blog has been positive, I did have 2 digs: that I complain too much (not even sure this person read my blog) and that it’s just another mommy blog, which is offensive to me because we don’t call men’s blogs ‘daddy blogs.’ Care to guess their genders? Men. But I digress. Don’t get me wrong, I get feedback positive and negative on individual posts, almost exclusively by women. My point is that I think I was subjected to criticism of the overall integrity of my blog by men, because I wasn’t pandering to a male audience. My posts are either not interesting or irrelevant to them, so the only response they had was to ‘put me in my place.’ I hadn’t made the connection at the time, but reading this article solidified it for me.

So naturally, I am going to keep writing what I want, when I want. And from now on, I’ll be more aware when my gender intersects with my writing. Thanks, Claire Vaye Watkins, I enjoyed your piece.

What did you take away from the article?

I started a post last week over Labor Day weekend, but never got around to finishing it. I read this article today on NPR and said to myself, ok, ok, I’ve got to pick this back up.

Any Masha and the Bear fans? It’s fabulous. I love the episode when Bear teaches her to play piano and she says something along the lines of, “I never knew how much music was missing from my life”. As I was painting my daughter’s room over Labor Day weekend, I couldn’t help but repeat those words over and over in my head. I was rocking out and dancing and it seriously brought me back to my childless days of music, concerts, weddings and parties. I miss those days. I can clearly remember moments in my life and what songs I listened to at the time. Some of my favorite memories with my husband are centered around music. I can’t believe we used to go to concerts on weeknights and still get up for work the next day. That is a foreign concept in my world right now. On more than one occasion, we’d wind up in a really bizarre venue with a not-so-great band and we just rolled with it and had a good time. Imagine this: we used to throw awesome parties with dishes we slaved over for hours or days, like our homemade pizzas and tamales, and we meticulously perfected our playlist to go along. And then there were weddings. We danced embarrassingly bad at many of our friends’ and families’ weddings. Sorry that everyone had to see that, but we had such a good time, especially at the wedding playing all 90’s music. I felt so old and so young at the same time.

All of this talk makes me realize that I haven’t listened to any new music in years. Kids music doesn’t count, except for Father Goose. That is pretty good music. Anyway, this situation is not good. I want my kids to see how music moves people. I want them to create memories around music and not just know all the words to whatever soundtrack Disney is churning out. I want them to feel confident to sing and dance however they please to whatever strikes their fancy. I have decided I am not going to play kids music anymore when they want an impromptu dance party. My husband decided this from the get-go, but I thought it would be good for them to learn easy nursery rhymes, so we could sing together. I was also trying to avoid obscenities or inappropriate topics for my toddler, but easy music is boring and it doesn’t challenge you. I need to get back in the game. Anyone else feel this way? Anyone have advice on how to find the time to seek out new music and incorporate it into family life?

We NEED to stop shaming mothers who are not able to breastfeed. This morning I gave my 7 week old son his last bottle of breast milk. I’m not happy that I have had to switch to formula, but it is the right decision for me and my family. I successfully breastfed 2 children until they were each 13 months. I would consider myself a pro and yet my third child was having great difficulty. I consulted a pediatrician and lactation consultant and I pumped religiously for five weeks while I tried to work through the issues. I cried a lot. I felt shameful. I was so focused on figuring it out and pumping that I lost sight of the main goal of breastfeeding, which is to give the baby nourishment. It shouldn’t have been about me and my ego. Had my son been born last century, he may not have made it. Failure to thrive.

I met with a friend today and she confided that she, too, is having difficulty breastfeeding, trying the same things as me and she, too, felt shame in not being able to give her child the best nourishment. We talked about this article that we both read last week.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/11/429392544/im-an-obstetrician-and-i-failed-at-breastfeeding

Initially when I saw the article, I screamed ‘YES! She gets it!’ and I wanted to write a blog post about it, but then I thought that it isn’t really anybody’s business how I nourish my baby. But the next day I went in for my six week post partum appointment, and there I was staring at a poster on the wall that brought all of my feelings and insecurities right back. It said breastfeeding is instinct, it is natural, it is easy, it is beneficial to both mom and baby, it is Best. Yes, I believe it is best, but it is also unrealistic for some women. Seeing my friend today made me realize that many of us carry this shame and even guilt and it needs to stop. The last thing anyone needs, while they are hormonal and sleep deprived with a hungry baby, is judgment from others that what they’re feeding their child is inadequate. I don’t feel shame anymore. My baby is growing and thriving and I have two hours each day of my life back, now that I am not pumping. So, to all the Moms out there who struggled to give your child the Best, but had to settle for the bottle, I salute you, don’t beat yourself up about it, you are a great Mom in my book.

This past weekend my father stayed at my house while he was in town visiting. For those who know me well, this is an odd scenario, because I sadly didn’t have a relationship with my dad for the better part of my twenties. I don’t know if it was a byproduct of being a kid of divorced parents who witnessed ugly exchanges between adults or plain old immaturity, but I dismissed him from my life and judged him very harshly, and now I see that it was unfair of me to do that.

At some point, probably around the time I was ready to start my own family, I decided that I wanted to let go of the baggage/drama and set a good example for my children so they could have a relationship with their grandfather. If I had to pinpoint what about our relationship I was hung up on, it was that I had unrealistic expectations of what our relationship should be like, particularly as an adult. As a child, you are essentially dependent on your parents for everything: food, safety, shelter, emotional stability, etc. Everything. As a teen, you are less and less dependent on them, but they still have a huge amount of influence in your life. Up until this point, you have little input into the relationship, you see them as belonging to you, and you have little accountability for your actions. You can kick and scream and act like the child you are and your parents excuse most of it because of your age. Once you are living on your own, you have to calibrate to a new normal of being independent, which includes being responsible for your actions and words, recognizing your place in the world and reflecting back on how you got there, and defining this new relationship with your parents as equals. It took me quite some time to get there.

Having an adult relationship with your parents is just as much your responsibility as it is theirs. Yes, it’s true, there will be a point in your life when you don’t *need* your parents anymore, and you can set out on a 10 year experiment to prove that to yourself, like I did, but it’s a waste of time. What I learned and I hope my children learn too, is that when it gets hard to navigate those waters, you can’t give up. On the other side of that transition is when you learn to see your parents as the world sees them, in all their glory and imperfections. And it is beautiful. Being your parent is just one aspect of their being. They are so much more than that. It’s a magical discovery of life that nobody ever told me about. I hope my children get to experience that as well. I want them to see me as I am to the world, who just happens to be their parent. I very much look forward to that.

As I was walking by the baby’s nursery on my way to putting my soon-to-be-middle child down for his nap, I realized how different this pregnancy has been compared to the others. I am 33 weeks along and the nursery is mid-renovation, nothing has been washed (clothes, bedding, etc), and I have yet to buy one new item for this child. Not a one. My former, 1st pregnancy self, would be horrified. Yet, I am not the least bit worried. It feels kind of nice actually to not stress about being “ready.” I thought it might be a fun exercise to write up my list of worries in each of the pregnancies.

During my first pregnancy, I worried about (in no particular order):
Having the best baby gear
Having the nursery ready one month in advance
Sending timely thank you notes for each baby shower gift
Reading all there is to know about pregnancy, parenting, and infants
Getting hurt or eating something that would jeopardize the pregnancy
Am I going to make it to the hospital on time
Are they going to make me have a cesarean section
Will I have a safe delivery
Will my baby have a secure latch during breastfeeding
Will my dogs accept the new baby

During my second pregnancy, I worried about (again, in no order):
My first child’s reaction to the baby
Will the children have compatible personalities
Who will watch my first born while I am in the hospital
If I will be able to get a hold of my husband at work (he had no cell reception) to take me to the hospital
When will I sleep
Will I have enough love, time and energy for both children
How will I handle both children in public when the baby starts walking
Getting through another year of bickering with my husband about who does what chore
Is my freezer plenty stocked

During my third and final pregnancy, my only worry is:
Will I ever leave the house

haha. My have I changed. Or maybe I just don’t have the time to worry that I used to have. Either way, it makes life a lot less stressful.

I’d love to hear from others. Have you had a similar experience?

My husband’s company just announced a generous maternity/paternity leave policy and I couldn’t be happier with the news. While I think everyone understands the need for a mother to be home with the baby: bonding, recovering from childbirth, nursing, childcare; to some people it is less obvious why a father should have a leave policy, too. (I’m just speaking in terms of a heterosexual couple here, same sex couples have their own leave policy/childcare challenges.)

During the first few weeks after giving birth, my husband did everything I usually do plus his own responsibilities: taking care of older children, taking care of me, preparing meals, cleaning, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, managing the household (visitors, bills, doctor appointments, pets, lawn care), filling in for me while I napped, etc, etc, etc. Did I forget to mention he had to hold down a job on top of all of this? I’m not even mentioning the lack of sleep. Let’s just say there is no time for sleep.

In the 17 years my husband and I have been together, I can honestly say that the most stressed out and ragged I have ever seen him was in the first year of both of our children being born. He would say the same about me. Those years were coincidentally low points of our relationship, there just wasn’t enough in the tank to take care of each other’s needs. Normally our priorities are: our relationship, then kids, and then work. During the first year of their births, it was: kids, then work, and then us. Not good for any relationship. At this point with baby 3 on the way, we have a mutual understanding that we just need to get through the first year and then reprioritize. The new paternity leave policy doesn’t change the order of priorities, but it will give both of us more time to focus on our relationship and make that first year a little more bearable. It will make him a better employee because he will be less stressed at home. He’ll also be more alert at work and mentally stable. And he will not be as distracted or feel guilty about not being present in the baby’s life as much as he would like to be. Win, win. Hopefully that is the company’s reasoning for extending the policy. It is a tremendous gift to have more time to be together as a family. I sincerely hope this is the start of a new workplace trend for everyone.

I recently moved to the exurbs. Generally regarded as a conservative enclave, exurbs are pretty far physically and ideologically from where I thought I’d end up. I’ve been thinking about my outward progression through the eyes of a geographer. I love studying the movement of people and I find it fascinating to see these changes happening on the ground, rather than through census data from 10 years past. This has been my perspective and is by no means representative of everyone. To give you some background, my demographics are: I am white, married with two soon to be three kids, four year degree, upper-middle class, I lean left, and I consider myself to be an old millennial/young gen X’er. In the past three years, I have moved from the first ring suburbs of a small city to the suburbs of a large city to the exurbs of a huge metropolitan area. My political tendencies have not changed. My ideal neighborhood does not exist. Or I should say, I can’t afford it and nobody my age, that I know of, can either.

For me, living close to a city meant diversity, access to the global marketplace, and top-notch food/culture/art. In the small city, I was lucky to have all three and the cost of living was much lower. Midwest cities are pretty great. When I moved to the suburbs, diversity fell by the way-side (New England is not the most diverse region) but it was a short drive to the global marketplace and food/art/culture. Now, in the exurbs I don’t have any of those things. So if you are asking why -the biggest driving factors for me was quality of schools and number of bedrooms. This is not unlike the reason my parents moved to the suburbs in the late 70s, but I think the difference now is that people marry/cohabitate and start families later today than back then. Cities have become effectively a playground and jumping off point for my liberal-leaning generation, often shaping our identity. And by the way, cities are also becoming the playground for empty-nesters, eager to start their second act in gentrified neighborhoods. Both of these groups are essentially pushing prices up and pushing young families out.

So, where am I going with this? I am anticipating a shift as millennials start recognizing that the housing stock and city schools are not suitable for their family, and the few city neighborhoods that are, are not affordable. I am hoping we’ll see more diversity and food/art/culture in the ‘burbs in the years to come. Maybe all my empty-nester neighbors will move to the city and the former hipsters, too tired from parenting to keep fighting for the urban life of their yesteryear, will set down roots across the street. I will be waiting with open arms. I am here to tell you, it is not so bad. I am making the most of it: composting, gardening, and bat and bluebird boxes. Word of caution, kombucha and craft (anything) won’t be anywhere in sight…yet.

Do you see this happening around you? What demographic trends are you seeing?

This post is dedicated to my brother-in-law who chided us about getting a mini-van this past weekend. Mind you, he is a DINK living it up outside the greatest city on Earth, and I am so happy for him. And NO you are not detecting jealousy. I lived the city life and I’m happy with the mini-van, suburban, wiping kids’ noses life that I lead now. We’ve all reached a point when we begin to do things for our kids that we never thought we’d do. At first it feels like you are selling out, but in reality you just don’t have the energy to fight it. You have to pick your battles. In our case, a mini-van was more convenient to transport 3 kids and 2 dogs on our trips to visit family. I fought it like hell for a while (“I was NOT going to drive a mini-van”) and then I thought rationally and it became an easy decision.

As I laughed off his chiding, I started to wonder if we each have, in our head, a line that we will not cross as parents? Something that will turn you into that ‘ugly’ stereotype you never thought you’d be. They’re pretty funny to think about. I feel like I have a few of them and I admit they are ridiculous. Completely arbitrary. I have no leg to stand on, I am completely and utterly a suburban mom (and if my kid wanted to pursue something I would normally cringe at, I’d oblige). BUT I am still very much me. I didn’t sell out. I just happened to trade up from my fast, yuppie sedan to a shaggin wagon, as my husband likes to call it.

If you’re curious about what lines I won’t cross, here goes: I won’t plan a vacation to Disney. I won’t be a dance mom (sorry Mom). I won’t plan extravagant kids birthday parties. I won’t convince my children that santa, elf-on-the-shelf, a leprechaun or the easter bunny are real. Go ahead, laugh. What is the ‘line’ you won’t cross?