For me, 2013 has been an incredibly unremarkable year. This was not a year for getting married, bringing a life into the world, earning graduate degrees, or starting a new career. I didn’t run a marathon, scale mountains, publish research, patent an invention, write a novel, learn to meditate, travel to distant lands, or even venture out of the country on vacation. In fact, my biggest accomplishments were lived vicariously, such as cheering my husband on as he earned a promotion and rejoicing in every milestone or wondrous (in our eyes) thing our 3-year-old did. A year ago (ok, even as recent as last week), I would have bemoaned my lack of accomplishment, especially since I’m nearing my 4th decade of life (you know, midlife-buy-myself-a-Maserati-crisis).
Like most moms, my year has consisted of putting hundreds of meals on the table; doing too many loads of laundry to count; sweeping and mopping the floors; tending to runny noses and scraped knees; wiping bottoms; staying up at night with a feverish child; managing tantrums (our child’s, my husband’s and my own); drying tears; singing the alphabet a bagillion times; coloring; wiping finger paint off of little hands (and the floor, and the table, and the cabinets, and clothing…); driving to swim class, ballet class, and preschool; reading the same books and singing the same songs over and over and over again until my adult thoughts are crowded out by lyrics to “The Wheels on the Bus…”; arranging play dates; trips to the park; nature walks; planting and (almost) killing an herb garden; multiple trips to the pediatrician; helping with homework; drinking over 600 cups of coffee; grocery shopping; clothing shopping; recitals; school activities; scraping food off of the floor; bath and bedtime routines; naps, naps, and more naps; managing finances; pumping gas; cleaning up toys; stepping on Legos; teaching- lots of teaching!- of morals, manners, anger management, self-soothing, academics, and life-skills; and numerous other activities that would be too tedious to list.
There is nothing considerably special about any one of these activities. These are the everyday expectations of mothers, be it stay-at-home, work-at-home, or work-outside-of the home. Not only are these activities not lauded, they are often taken for granted and underappreciated. And yet, their completion is most remarkable for many reasons. The accomplishment (and continued completion) of these activities is not motivated by accolades or a paycheck. They are exhausting to perform and societal expectations are great with regards to how, when, and how often these tasks must be done. Mothers are scrutinized by experts, spouses, in-laws, grandparents, teachers, doctors, politicians, religious authority, the media, bloggers, society, and other mothers. Mothers aren’t just expected to keep their offspring alive and provide for basic needs; indeed, we are expected to raise productive, kind, moral, responsible, mentally healthy, educated, happy individuals, often without the help of a village. More difficult still, many are expected to do these things well while dealing with additional pressures caused by factors such as a strained marriage, divorce, work, chronic illness, lack of resources (financial, emotional, etc.), inadequate childcare, and so forth. AND, while we are managing these feats, we are (ridiculously) asked to have a flat, firm stomach, look pretty, keep a smile on our face at all times, and do things like run marathons, travel the world, patent inventions…
In fact, when examined in this new light, my year was quite remarkable. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on my own dreams and goals; rather, my goals and dreams have merely shifted for the moment. What I have done, what I have accomplished this year- these things are enough. I won’t feel guilty for what I haven’t done. I will celebrate what I have managed to do despite all the roadblocks that I, like all mothers, have faced. I ask that you, wonderful mother who is reading this, celebrate in all the things that you have accomplished this past year too. Let’s celebrate each other. Society may still underappreciate what we do, but we can cheer one another on, offering encouragement, support, a sympathetic ear- and an occasional Cheesecake Factory binge.
There is still time for all the other fabulous goals we have yet to achieve in the years to come. Hang onto those non-Mommy related goals, as those are important too. But if you haven’t checked them off of your to-do list yet, know that you have still contributed your share to the world. In fact, you have had a most remarkable year indeed.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014!!!
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Before I had a child, I was blissfully unaware of the “camps” that existed surrounding child-rearing practices. Yeah, I knew some parents spanked their kids and others adamantly refused to, but I didn’t realize that there were so many issues that sparked debate within the mommy crowd. I began my education in “Parenting 101” when I joined a group of expectant mothers who were all due the same month I was due with MFP. Their support and knowledge served invaluable throughout my pregnancy and especially during MFP’s first year, as I struggled to figure out what parenting style would best suit MFP and our family. Early on I thought I had it all figured out. I would breastfeed until she was at least a year old, co-sleep (but with a side-sleeper since I was paranoid that I’d roll onto my slumbering infant and crush her!), never succumb to “cry it out” methods to get my child to sleep, only feed her homemade, organic baby food, use cloth diapers, never use the TV as a sitter, yada, yada, yada…Haha, boy, was I in for a big surprise! Despite herculean efforts, I wasn’t able to produce enough breast milk and had to supplement with formula; MFP was never a “good” sleeper as an infant, but seemed to do much better when she was moved to her own room away from my husband’s snoring; all non-cry-it-out (CIO) methods implemented failed to help my child sleep well during the night and I ended up resorting to Ferber’s “progressive waiting” method (a.k.a. CIO) when she was almost a year old and we were both incredibly sleep-deprived; while most of her food was organic, she hated the consistency of my homemade baby food and much preferred jarred; cloth diapers? Ha!; and while I held off on having her watch TV until she was 18-months-old, once she did start, I realized that getting a free half-hour here and there to complete a task uninterrupted while she was in a zombie-like state in front of the tube wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I mean, I watched a boat-load of TV as a child and I turned out literate and relatively normal, right? Um, don’t answer that.
Through the school of hard knocks, I came to understand that there is no one “right” way to parent and that what works for one child may not work for another, even within the same family. While it’s terrific to have some sort of framework in mind, being fluid in one’s approach is sometimes more productive than forcing one’s “ideal” upon a child or oneself, especially when the approach isn’t working. We should be kind to ourselves when circumstances nudge (or shove) us away from what we had envisioned as the ideal parenting approach, and accept that sometimes, we may have to adjust our expectations. We should also extend this kindness to other mothers who may make choices different than our own. Because in the end, what’s most important is that our children are loved, nurtured, and well-cared for, whatever approach we may use to achieve those goals. Our choices don’t make us “better” or “worse” than other moms. It’s helpful to keep this in mind when differences lead to arguments over parenting approaches or guilt over our own choices.
Several weeks ago, in a moment of thoughtful reflection, I wrote a poem about this topic. I’m not a poet (except for a stab at an occasional limerick or two), but I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Motherhood is not a competition
It’s not about who did attachment parenting
or let their baby sleep in a crib
or cry it out
or breast fed
or bottle fed
or made their own baby food
or bought jarred
or fed only organic
or let their kid watch TV
or banned TV
or stayed at home
or worked outside of the home
or home schooled
or public schooled
or private schooled
It’s not about whose kid is smarter
or more handsome
or more athletic
or more artistic
or reading first
And while it’s great to be proud of your kiddo, your hard work, and to share your joy with others
It’s not ok to
make other moms feel inferior
fail to put yourself in others’ shoes when judging their actions
belittle their parenting skills
pit working moms against stay-at-home moms and vice versa
blame a high-needs child’s temperament on a mom’s (lack of) parenting skills
try to outshine other moms with petty competitiveness
Motherhood is a gift
Please don’t take it for granted
Mothers need to support other mothers
Not with a facade that everything is perfect when they’re not
Not with a smile to another’s face while gossiping behind her back
But with genuine concern
and good nature
and gifts of chocolate (ok, that might just be me!)
Go out of your way not because it makes you look good
but because you care
Not to show off
but because you want to support the wellbeing of all children and mothers
Examine your actions
Sometimes the most confident are the least likely to assess their negative impact upon others
Sometimes the most worried and insecure are the ones who want to please the most
Sometimes the biggest showoffs or most critical are those compensating for their own insecurities
Sometimes the ones who think they know it all are the most blind to what they don’t know
Do your best to examine your motivations and grow
And sometimes despite our best efforts, we still fail…and that’s ok.
Because Motherhood is not a competition
and as long as we are trying
and recognize our own strengths and weaknesses
and continue to improve
and support each other
and our children
and other children
we all win
When I first decided to start my own blog, I was all, “Hey everyone, I’m writing a blog! What great fun!” Ideas poured out of me like raunchy dance moves from Miley Cyrus’s choreographer. Then I sat down to compose my first post and writing a blog started feeling like a monumental task. My first attempts sounded serious and trite. I became discouraged. Like, stuff my face with a pint of grass-fed cow’s milk, handcrafted, hazelnut gelato bummed. Then in a brief moment of enlightenment, I decided I would write the way I would speak to a friend, without worrying too much about sounding like a Pulitzer Prize winning author. My apologizes to Mrs. Shaw, my 8th grade English teacher, who had such high hopes for me.
Since this is my first blog post, I’m going to start at the beginning- the start of my journey in raising Miss Fancy Pants. And the beginning of that journey commenced with trying to get knocked up, not like in a “I drank too much and don’t remember what happened last night” kinda way, but in a “OMG, I’m 35 now and my ovaries are about to shrivel up!” sort of panic. Dr. X, my now former ob/gyn, who has a proclivity for wearing cowboy boots, insisted that due to my age and history of irregular cycles, I would need to get pumped up with fertility medication pronto. Clearly this farmhand didn’t know me and my love of all things earthy-crunchy. Much to his dismay, I began (under the direction of a naturopath) a regimen of herbs and supplements, a gluten-free diet, daily monitoring of basal body temperature, and um, secretions, and carefully timed twister games. My great science experiment produced a pregnancy after only five months of trying. Ironically, it happened New Years Eve after my husband and I had too much celebratory champagne to drink, in a very “I drank too much and don’t remember what happened last night” kind of way. Needless to say, I found a new ob/gyn. I should have listened to my husband when he warned me, “Never trust a doctor in cowboy boots.”
Thirty-eight weeks later, Miss Fancy Pants was born. But as blessed and grateful as we are to have Miss Fancy Pants (MFP)- I love her more than I could have ever imagined loving another human being- her first months were the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. Can you say colic, reflux, milk protein allergy, and poor sleeper? The stress and lack of sleep compounded my chronic health issues, and by the time she was almost a year old, I was ill, frazzled, and just plain worn out. I frequently found myself comparing my experience to that of my mommy friends, most who recalled with fondness the sweetness of their children’s first year. While I was honestly happy for my friends, I mourned how different from their children’s contented beginnings our daughter’s first months had been. It was during this sleep deprived state that I decided I would write a “Family Update” to send to our friends and family, an attempt to convey a decidedly un-sugarcoated and humorous version of my experience of Motherhood.
Below you will find the the very “H—- Family Update” that I emailed to my friends and family in my sleep deprived stupor. And yes, the details are true. I’m just glad that my mother doesn’t know how to turn on a computer, let alone find my blog on the Internet. LOL. For the sake of privacy, my daughter’s name has been changed to the initials “MFP” (Miss Fancy Pants) and my husband will be referred to as “MM” (Macho Man).
MFP will be turning one this weekend! It’s very exciting and I can’t believe how quickly the year has passed- and how many years it’s taken off my life. I just wanted to update everyone on her progress and what the H—– Family is up to lately. I know I haven’t written since she was 9 months old. I had every intention of sending updates monthly, but somehow, those 10 and 11 month pictures never ended up getting taken on the monthly anniversary of her birth. At 10 months, she was dressed as a bathing beauty but (MM) never charged the camera like he said he would and then she started crying because she didn’t like the kiddie pool and there went that idea. At 11 months, I bathed and gussied her up, ready to take her Glamour Shot but then it was time for her to eat lunch and she ended up smearing carrots and broccoli in her hair and, well, you know how it goes.
MFP has been having frequent play dates with one of her little friends, which is always a great time. Last week was their first time at the park. Her friend was all giggles while MFP cried and fussed the whole time, her cries reaching a crescendo as I put her on the swing. It was a blast! She was supposed to start swim lessons this week but she managed to scratch my cornea again (3rd time in 3 months) so I was unable to drive. MFP is turning out to be the good Italian girl. My bruiser can give a good whack, I tell ya! A whack to my eye, a whack to the dog, a whack to daddy’s head….anyway, I can’t say I was all that disappointed about the missed swim lesson since I wasn’t eager to shove my pale, unpedicured, unshaven, no bikini-wax self into my new “mommy” tankini.
MFP took her first steps at 10 months and started walking full force at 11 months! She also points to things, asking, “dat?” and “dere?”, requesting we label the objects. She can pretend to smell the flowers and points to the correct objects when I say “broccoli, butterfly, balloons, cat, dog, nose, mouth, feet, hair,” etc. I can take no credit for her progress as my mom visited for over a month and taught her most of her new tricks. Well, I suppose the genes I passed on have something to do with it, but they also probably account for her hairy back as well.
Actually, I did teach her a new word recently. When I don’t want her to touch something germ filled, such as the dog’s chew toy or trash, I tell MFP, “No sweetie, that’s ca-ca.” Her new favorite word is “cock.”
MFP loves her veggies! Actually, she loves every food I put in front of her, a far cry from back in the day when I used to” force feed” her the bottle. She’ll even eat a cup of steamed vegetables at one sitting! This does lead to some messy blow outs. In fact, MFP’s first sentences may be, “Get your hand out of there- it’s full of ca-ca!” or “Holy crap, MM, help me out, she’s got poop all over her, including her fingers, and she’s sticking her hand in her mouth!”
MFP loves to shop, just like her mommy, and in fact, the only time she likes to be strolled around now is in a shopping cart. She’s especially fond of Costco, which is where, by the way, I end up buying most of my clothing and all of my underwear. FYI, just because bikini briefs say, “Calvin Klein” doesn’t make them sexy, especially with 5 lbs of muffin top spilling over them.
MM and I reduced our babysitter’s hours to save money; hence, no more date afternoon. Not that my hubby seems to mind as now he has more time to watch college football. When complaining to him about our lack of fun interactions and the fact that he’s always working, he’s quick to cite the material things he’s provided, especially the Mercedes we bought when we traded in my Honda (before we had MFP and could actually afford such luxuries!). I told him, “That’s all fine and good, but until the Mercedes can do chores, take care of the baby, provide emotional support, and fulfill marital obligations (wink), I still need you as a husband.”
Life is great at the H—— household! Motherhood is fabulous- the extra dimples I got during pregnancy really add some pizazz to my ass.
Hope you all are doing well!