Archives for posts with tag: parenting

Having my first born start kindergarten next week is bringing out all of the ugly in me. I’m so conflicted and resistant and upset, not because I’m going to miss her or that I don’t think she’s ready, it’s because I am being forced to confront some truths about myself. I am a firm believer in public schools and I have no qualms about seceding my everyday influence to a teacher that I haven’t yet met (ok, maybe not ‘no qualms,’ but very little qualms). Many of my friends and family work in public schools and that is precisely the reason I am not concerned with the kind of people she will have as role models. And it’s because of this fact that I, and my husband, believe that schooling is the most successful when parents and teachers are a united front. No undermining one another. Keep the child’s best interest at heart. Get through the school year with dignity and grace. But, I am having cold feet about such a big commitment. The way I see it, when she gets on the bus, we are committing to 13 years of backing up teachers’ rules, a school calendar, curriculum, and all that goes with it, whether we agree or not. Granted, most of the time we will align, but there will be times when we won’t. I feel like this is when parenting will get even harder. Ugh. This transition is a tough pill to swallow after being home with her for 5 years and making all of the decisions on her behalf. But now, we’re on someone else’s radar, and schedule. Gone are the days of impromptu day trips or moving on from an activity at our own pace. Gone are the days of hand picking who she will take classes with and with whom she spends most of her time. I know, that’s what weekends and summers are for, but it’s absolutely not the same. The overall time that she is out of the house will just barely be less than when she is in the house. I’m happy for her because she will have experiences and learning opportunities that she doesn’t get at home, but I will miss that freedom to do as we please and to answer to no one.

I know she is ready for kindergarten and she will love every minute of it. There are so many positives and things to look forward to her in her school year, but I am just not there yet. I am crying over the mere mention of the word. Next Tuesday, she’ll be shepherded into a well-run machine with little more than a card around her neck stating her name and homeroom. She’ll have some hard lessons right up front. As will I. We’ll learn that what is best for her personally, may not be the best for the whole class, or the school, or the district. It’s a great thing to learn, to change one’s perspective, and to see oneself in relation to others, but there is definitely a part of me that mourns for her loss of individuality. At home, she is the center of my universe. At school, she will share that center with 19 other children, and several hundred more. I see the importance of this life lesson, and I am excited to see her grow among her peers, but I am just not ready to accept that she’ll be lost in the sea of children sitting in the lunchroom or bobbing on the playground. I seek comfort in knowing that she loves being around people and this will not impact her in the least, but for me, this transition is huge.

I am not ready for this. And worse still, I can’t slow down the clock. I’ve been told to wear sunglasses at the bus stop, so she can’t see that I’m crying, but I already know I’m going to ugly cry, and there aren’t sunglasses big enough to hide that.

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Last week when I read about the comments to female Bernie Sanders supporters by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, I was surprised that their message was one of judgment and derision. I always thought that feminists tend to raise women up, not tear them down. Right? I initially shrugged both of them off as bitter and out of touch. I read an article today about Adele’s Vogue cover photo, prominently displaying a tattoo of her son’s name, and how she touts motherhood in ways that other famous women have not been able to get away with. I believe the author of that article suggested that perhaps she is not a feminist if her family has higher priority than her art. Really? So, naturally this got me thinking. Am I a feminist? Can someone like me be a housewife and a feminist? This is not a new question. I have struggled with this personally over the past 5 years, as have many others. I have always considered myself to be a feminist, I believe in equal opportunities for women, and yet I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. When I first decided to stay home, I was deeply conflicted about living on someone else’s merits. I always considered myself to be an equal partner, but once I gave up my earning power, I felt inferior in my relationship. I put that pressure on myself, this was not coming from my husband. Feminism is about achieving equal status as men in work, in politics, and in life. Feminism is deeply rooted in the notion that procreation is not the end-all for women. I understand what the movement was rejecting, but now that I somewhat embody those rejections, I have to say that I don’t think I am a feminist.  And I’m ok with that. However, I still believe in the basis of feminist principles and I’ve modified them according to my situation.  I don’t know if there is a word for this yet, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the post-feminist movement, but there has to be a place for women like me, women who elect to put others first and are equally contributing to society. I really do wonder if the movement is dead. It’s fascinating to me, that at a time when biologically I am the most feminine that I have ever been in my entire life, having given birth, that I feel the least feminist. Is that really the intention behind this movement? I guess I always saw feminism as advocating for myself, and making elbow room for my career, and not being willing to compromise. I never extended those principles into motherhood. Is it even possible? These days,  I have taken on a more holistic and conciliatory approach to my life and family in that everyone plays a unique role, and yes, sometimes it is gender normative, yet we are all equal and appreciated. I still advocate for myself, but the difference now is that my career is not in the public sphere. I know, a big feminist no-no.

When did I make this switch? I’m really not sure. When I first became a mother, it was a jarring transition: physically, emotionally, and in my marriage. Up until that point, my husband and I shared the load, and I had every intention of continuing that equality into our growing family. Something changed though. Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a completely female experience, there is no equivalent for men.  That experience was my first clue that the balance of power shifts sometimes and it’s not something to fear, but rather embrace. It is not and cannot always be equal. And that’s ok. If anything, having a baby was the first time, that as a woman, I felt superior to men. Yup, superior. That is a pretty awesome feeling.

So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I feel women should have equal say and equal compensation and equal rights, but also that we should be open to different interpretations of what it is to be a strong woman. I don’t feel like I am a subordinate for making the choice to put my family first. In fact, I feel the opposite. I find empowerment in bringing happiness, love, and order to my household. While I am home, I have also helped other working women by caring for their children, and I feel that I am helping them achieve their highest potential. I’ve elected to take on these roles because I thoroughly enjoy them, not because I was told that I should enjoy them. What would Madeleine or Gloria say about that?!

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 read this article yesterday about staying relevant in retirement, which has some great tips for anyone really. The main point is to do what you can to stay healthy and connected. It got me thinking of how it also applies to stay-at-home parents, who are also transitioning out of a work environment and are desperately avoiding being overlooked. There is one major difference between the two groups: retirees have the benefit of more time in their day. Since I haven’t found many articles pertaining to relevance for full-time parents, I decided to come up with my own list.

  • Stay Sharp. Read, write, create, make time for your hobby, exercise, eat healthy, learn a language, take a class. The key to this point is that you want to maintain your identity outside that of your role as a parent. Find something that inspires you. It keeps you interesting. Your friends, family, and partner will appreciate that you have more to talk about than the everyday minutiae of raising a family.
  • Stay Sexy. You probably never thought you’d see the day, but it happens to the best of us. When you are suffering from exhaustion, you rationalize that sleep is more important than sex. But, you clearly aren’t thinking straight. You’ll never feel caught up on sleep. Make time for intimacy. Plan a date night. Don’t let the dry spells turn into the norm. For the health of your relationship, sex needs to be a priority.
  • Stay Positive. Keep the complaints to a minimum. Your job is thankless, non-paying, never-ending. I, and many others, can sympathize. But, nobody wants to hear it all the time. Find the silver lining and focus on THAT instead. If for no other reason, there are young, impressionable minds watching how you deal with life. Model positive behavior.

If you want to maintain healthy relationships and feel connected to others, especially your partner, implement all of these things into your routine. I know that the reality for most full-time parents is that your personal well-being is lowest on the totem pole, but I assure you that everyone in your family will benefit when you are in a healthy place. Find the time. This is how you stay relevant.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you currently do these things? Is there anything you would add to the list?

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?