Sep 28, 2010

Am I Also Allowed to Feel Guilty?

Today, Liz over at Mom 101 (she needs no introductions, of course!) talked about the guilt she feels about being a working mom and missing out on some important events happening in her kids' lives -- from first words to routine pediatrician visits.

As I told Liz, guilt and motherhood go hand-in-hand; it's an intrinsic part of the parenting experience. The large majority of working moms feel like they are missing out on what ought to be their natural right to watch their children grow up and are trying to juggle too many things at once. All this guilt seems to be rooted in our aspirational image of the perfect woman. You know, the one who can attend every soccer game while nailing it at boardroom meetings, the one who has a fully cooked meal waiting for her family after she's worked a 10 hour day and not a single hair out of place. Being a woman, a wife, a mother, a working mom, all strung together so effortlessly. We all know this delicate balance -- whether we experience it first hand or not -- and empathize deeply.

Which led me to wonder: Am I allowed to feel guilty too for not being the perfect mom and wife even though I don't work? I wonder what would happen if I talked about feeling guilty for letting my 21 month old watch more than his daily 20 minute allowance of television or for procrastinating to make his check up appointments or for willing the day to go by faster because I cannot physically do another Lego tower. After all, this IS my job, right? My "job" allows me to be present for every "first" in my child's life, every pediatrician appointment, every laugh and every cry. And perhaps therein lies the issue: there is no more novelty. It becomes difficult to decipher what would be deemed a "special event" from just another milestone.

The reality is that I do feel guilty for not always giving K. a hundred percent. We have good days when I can look at myself in the mirror and say "You get a gold star!" But then there are days I know I could have done better. I could have played more, read more, been more patient, less frustrated... And yet, I don't feel like I'm allowed to publicly admit of my occasional meager performances. What would the reactions be? A few eye-rolls? Some "lazy-mom" comments?

But like Liz's kids, I know that K. doesn't feel less well taken care of than the next kid at the playground. Most importantly, he knows he has two hundred percent of my love. I see it in the way he looks at me, in the way he shows his affection towards me and others, and in the incredible personality he has (He knows my love for him is and will always be there, which allows him to be himself).

Working-mom or stay-at-home-mom, we're all doing our best. And unfortunately, our best isn't always good enough. The quality of our mothering will only be truly judged once our kids are grown (how much time they're spending at the therapist about their mom-issues) and can understand why parenting is the toughest job there is. Until then, we shall all continue to feel guilty about our perceived shortcomings.

Sep 24, 2010

Yogi Tea Wisdom to Live by

I have a bunch of blog entries sitting in my draft box that have never seen the light of day and probably never will. I worry sometimes that they will just pop out into the bloggesphere, like an evil plan to air out my dirty laundry. And by dirty laundry I mean blog entires that would qualify as incomplete thoughts, unfinished points, and aimless rants at best...

I usually start writing with a purpose. I start with a real thought. One that I hope will intrigue you, make you laugh or at least have you nodding along. And don't think I'm completely insecure in needing your approval, I do also write for myself. After all, that was the whole point of this blog. And then along the way, I get caught up in trying to be "clever," for lack of better word at this time of night. Why do I get in my own way, I wonder. Just write the thing, post it and see what happens!

I think therein lies my problem. I am thoroughly incapable of just writing something (or even at times doing something) without self-critisizing -- This could have been better written; You sound so dumb; What if they don't get it; Really?! Is this the best you can do?! -- it's quite sad, really.

So, before I start questioning this simple, random entry, I have decided to follow the wisdom imparted to me this evening by my Yogi Tea: "A Relaxed Mind is a Creative Mind."

I don't take to preaching at all, but I shall take master Yogi's advice and allow myself to just write without fear.

Sep 22, 2010

Last Taste of Summer

I love summertime. And this summer was a truly special one. We spent an amazing 5 weeks in the Mediterranean with my family. K swam every day and was spoiled rotten by his grandparents. It was also the first time that I'd left him to spent 5 days alone with DH. Before I left, I never thought I would ever be able to leave K behind, but after the first day in the south of France -- living a second honeymoon -- I've decided that we should do this every summer! I think it's also good for K to know that sometimes mommy & daddy have other things going on and that he has to make his way.

My favorite shot of K. from this summer

There is a snack that K. loved having while we were with my parents. We ended up bringing back two large boxes with us to the states. It so happens that today is the last on those bars It is filled with pistachios and dried fruits -- all of which remind me of my country. I'll miss seeing K's face as be slowly munches through the whole bar. Savoring it with constant "Hmmm...Yummmms." It's a taste of summer that we'll have to recreate in the colder months (I think my parents have another box on the way for us).

"The Gift of Magi" by O. Henry
I also was reminded how lucky I am to be married to the most amazing guy on the planet (ok, at least on my planet and that's what counts!). For over 6 months, we've been exploring the possibility of moving to another state for what could be an tremendous career opportunity (and LOTS of money) for DH. From the start I wasn't thrilled about the idea of moving but I wanted DH to pursue it for the experience and possibly a way to leverage the offer at his current job. For 6 months we went back and forth (this must have been the longest interview ever). I really put my best foot forward and did everything I could do be supportive. I know he wanted this and I wanted it for him. Eventually, I broke down and told DH I couldn't move; that being out there, isolated, in a city that doesn't speak to me would make me miserable and eventually lead me to resent him. In the end, we chose our marriage (each other) over money. Our story was like this wonderful short-story by O. Henry, "The Gift of Magi." If you've never read it, please do.

Perhaps out of fear that we might be leave New York behind, we were pro-active and made the most of what our area has to offer. We had a spectacular day at the Storm Kind Art Center, which is now by far my favorite art center. K ran free, weaving through the giant sculptures. He and I went to the Children's Museum, which he really enjoyed (albeit exhausted me in the process). We went countless times to the Museum of Natural History -- it's always a joy to see him go "Woowww!" at all the life-like animals.

On a sad note, a friendship that I cherished, unravelled. For over 6 months I had noticed that things weren't the same but was willing to accept the lame excuses she was giving me. But as her silence grew longer and more pronounced, I eventually confronted her. From the conversation I discovered that the person I thought I knew and loved had only been an external layer, and that peeling things down to her core, she was actually a very insecure person. Distorting reality and facts; seeing things through a lens that can't be rationed with. Despite it all, I still miss her terribly and am saddened by the loss. But I guess people come in (and eventually go) for a reason. But summer is ending with new friendships that I've made with women who seem to have a stronger head on their shoulder. New season, new friendships. Hoping these will not disappoint me.

Tomorrow is the first day of fall, and I wanted to make the most of this Indian summer we're having this week to do something new with K. I'd never been to The Cloisters. We had this incredibly lovely morning there. The religious art was truly beautiful (that's where it stops for me). But the most stunning was the peacefulness of the courtyards. Surrounded by the gorgeous views of the Hudson, I watched K. sniff the flowers and lean over the fountains. I know he won't remember any of our cultural outings together, but I will never forget them. He is growing up so fast (he goes down the slide all by himself now) but thankfully I have pictures that I will forever cherish.

A last taste of summer, that can be lived again and again thanks to little bits of life -- a snack bar, pictures, books. Oh, I am so going to need those come winter.

Sep 21, 2010

The Invisible Line of Parenting

On my Infertility Doula blog, I talked about an invisible line that can sometimes divide an otherwise strong and close community of women (and men) who are all trying to make it to the other side of infertility. This led me to wonder whether a similar visible line exists in the parenting community. I guess, I don't so much "wonder" it, as I visibly notice is daily; whether it's at the playground, parenting blogs and parenting literature.

Like the infertility community, we all have so much in common. Whatever it took to become a parent (au natural, via IF treatments, adoptions, etc.), we are doing our best to raise our kids and turn them into productive adults. And yet, how we go about it can vary drastically. Before we even start raising our kids, there's the natural vs. medicated vs. cesarian groups. Once they're born, then it's all about breastfeeding vs. formula (Stirrup Queen has a great post about that). Then there are plastic toys vs. wood toys only. Or attachment parenting vs. independent parenting (I'm not sure if that's the correct terminology). You get my point.

We sub-divide ourselves into groups of moms who only believe that their way is the only way to care for a child. And chose to solely seek out friendships that will not challenge our mindsets. Sort of like political affiliations, I guess.

As for me, there are certain decisions that I made for myself and K. that I felt/feel were right for us. They were decisions that were affected by my past and what I wanted for my future (one day at a time). And now, as I try to assimilate myself into this world of suburban moms, I've come to meet some mothers/parents who each have their own philosophies about parenting and are accepting of our differences. We don't pass judgement on how we've managed to keep our little toddlers alive thus far (and you know that's a hard task) and we share all the initial wisdom we've acquired thus far.

Motherhood is truly a gift (albeit one that requires frequent diaper changes and patience). I'm not suggesting that we sit around a camp fire and sing Kumbaya, and braid each other's hair, but before we roll our eyes at this mom or that mom at the playground (or in the bloggesphere), let's try to remember that we're all (ok, most) on the same team.

Sep 17, 2010

When I grow up, I want to be a ...

I was always a driven person. As a high school student, I busted my butt to get good grades and get into a good university. While in college (Ivy League) I had my eye on law school and finished my education in 3 years with a 3.75 GPA. Upon graduation, I found myself back in an emotionally abusive relationship with my on-again off-again boyfriend, which led me to want to take a break from studies (to get out of my own head) and instead work (to be around new people). I was hired by a great advertising agency, did really well and after 4 years, I was one of the youngest senior account supervisors. I decided to leave my more corporate job for a career as a stylist and right as things were picking up (magazine calls, good photography team, etc.), I faced the greatest challenge of my life: Infertility. Up until that point I felt like I was destined for greatness...

Here is am now, 5 years later and I find myself wondering what I'd like to do when I grow up. Part of me really envies working moms or even new moms who have an acceptable "excuse" for the 1-2 year emptiness in their resume. How could I possibly even make it to the interview process with the big gap in my resume? Should I just put something like this?

  • Motherhood 2009-present (New York, NY)
  • Crippled by infertility 2005-08 (New York, NY)

No one would buy that right? ...

I guess I'm disappointed in myself. I thought (as did everyone around me) that I would be making something of my life that would be of note. Don't get me wrong, I feel so lucky to be able to (finally) say I'm a mom (I'm ashamed to even complain when so many are still coping with IF). When I finally became a mom, I thought that title was going to validate me somehow. And in many ways it has. It is truly rewarding and I wouldn't trade it for anything. My son is relatively well behaved, has clean clothes and nutritious food on his plate. I'm doing pretty well overall. But I feel guilty for not being able to say that I'm 100% content. I want more. There. I said it! I feel so guilty about that feeling. I honestly thought that once I became a mother, nothing else would matter. That perhaps my only real ambition was motherhood -- you certainly would have thought so if you'd seen how I dedicated I was to making my infertility treatments work. And now, I wonder what else is in store for me.

I woke up this morning with a new sense of hope and aspiration. I'm thinking of going back to school. A clean slate. A new beginning. Maybe finally an ability to have it all.

I still have to put more thought into this and of course, I'm already thinking of the 100s of reasons why I couldn't possibly go back to school. Money and time being the key hurdles.

Dear readers, do you feel 100% fulfilled?

Sep 14, 2010

Appreciation, or lack-there-of

I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't feel appreciated by her toddler. I guess after years of infertility and dedication to bring K into this world, I thought I would be blessed with the kindest, gentlest and most compliant little guy... Instead, I'm constantly bombarded with "Nooooo!", followed by lots of hitting and temper tantrums. I know, I know, it's his age, but K is an incredibly... what's the polite word for it again? Oh yes, strong-willed child. It's his way or the highway.

For instance, this morning started at 5:30am. I tried sleeping through his whines and shouts (No crying really. Just demanding that I get him. NOW!). Eventually I got him at 6:45am and got ready for the day. Today is a day when I don't have my babysitter and in my new found determination to get out of the house as much as possible during my full-time mommy day, I planned for us a fun filled adventure into the city. As I'd hoped, K took a nap and I patiently waited for him to wake up before hitting the streets. I made sure he first got some outdoor play, followed by lunch and then The Children's Museum of Manhattan. What could go wrong right?

Well, everything. He played nicely with the kids at the park. Great. But by noon it was time to go to lunch and of course, big meltdown in front of all the nannies. I don't know why I feel so embarrassed when meltdowns happen in front of other care takers. I was so hoping that one of them could give me some pointers --- come on nannies, you know this crap better than I do. Can't you see I'm an amateur?! Pretending not to hear his screams, I strolled down the street to a restaurant that I know has things K likes for lunch. And cue the temper tantrums. We weren't seated by 5 minutes when K decided that he MUST have the knives placed at our table. Then it was the salt shakers. Then wanting to eat his soup on his own without a bib. I couldn't eat my food fast enough. Raising my voice and giving him a stern "No!" was making it worse.

With the hopes that K will finally appreciate what mama had in store for him, I finally arrived at the museum. It's a children's museum, what more could he possibly want, right? Wrong! He wanted to keep doing the same activity 100 times. And my feeble attempts at trying to entice him to explore another area of the museum just led to more floor swimming on his part (Although I did consider doing the same at one point out of sheer frustration). He was having fun no doubt, but I wasn't planning on spending the entire day in there. But I remained patient until it was time to go. Needless to say, I left the place in complete frustration, after trying to coerce K to leave the Dora the Explorer room and finally get into his stroller.

When I plan a day of fun to solely make my child happy, I expect a little appreciation. No thank-yous of course, but a little cooperation would be nice. Anyone with me on this one?