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Thursday, March 28th, 2013
I wrote my post this week about having this nagging sense of guilt whenever I leave my kids. I had some great comments from moms who validated how I feel. Whether right or wrong, it’s nice to know you’re not the only insane one.
Then this morning I think I figured out how to NOT feel guilty: Push yourself to the absolute limit of supermom. Then your psyche won’t f–k with you and throw guilt your way. Instead, it will tell you to flee as soon as the sitter arrives. Don’t look back. Go! Which I did.
Now I am sitting here having my haircut and colored. The gray is out of control. The back looks like a mullet. After this, I am going to get my hooves–the thing most people call feet–pedicured. My hands will get a much-needed manicure. Then my husband and I are going out to dinner and to our favorite massage place. I don’t feel badly at all. The reason? Because when you spend almost all week with your kids, culminating in today’s cluster-f–k you are so ready for a break all guilt goes out the window.
We started the morning off as usual: Up at 6:30. I made eggs for them; Emmett splattered his on the floor. Fia started coloring and Emmett tried to take her crayons. He pulled her hair (his latest thing). She started wailing. This is in addition to the usual 7 head bumps he has from knocking against our table, the face plant that inevitably leads to a bloody lip at least 3 times a week and the screams of agony from them both for taunting the cat to the point of getting scratched.
Around 10, I needed to get out. We live right near Griffith Park that has just about everything. I figured the little train and pony ride would be easier than the massive zoo. We loaded up and drove down the hill.
A lot of it was great. Emmett had his first horse ride. I walked beside him, stepping in horseshit with my flip-flops.
Then we went to ride the train. The ticket line was a mile long. We waited. And waited. We were getting close when Fia said, “Mama I have to go to the bathroom. I can’t hold it.” Crap. We left the line and ran across the parking lot so she could go pee. I dangled Emmett in one arm so he wouldn’t lick the bathroom floor. The kid is a menace. A cute one, but good god he never stops. He is into everything. This is what it means to have a boy. I had no idea.
After the bathroom Fia decided she wanted something to eat before the train ride. We stood in the longest, most inefficient line run by the Parks and Rec department. We finally got our turn. All she wanted was cheese fries. While they were apparently growing and cutting up the spuds to fry, Fia took off running and did a face plant right on the concrete. Shit. She starts bawling. My sciatica has been acting up. But being supermom, I had no choice. I picked them both up and walked back across the parking lot to the car. I grabbed the stroller and plopped Fia in. Though Em is the one I really need to chain down.
Throughout this I remained calm. Even chipper. I deserve an Emmy.
We went back to get our food. I sat down and took a bite. The cheese fries were spicy. WTF? The sign didn’t say “spicy cheese fries.” But they are. You know, that fake nacho kind? Maybe they won’t notice. Wrong. “Mama, it’s too spicy!” Fia screamed. Emmett just threw his glob on the sidewalk where it won’t disintegrate for a century (did you know Velveeta can survive a nuclear attack? And that when they make it in the factory it’s a big gray gelatinous rectangle? In case you weren’t sure, the yellow color is fake.)
I’ve been trying to do this Mediterranean diet to keep healthy. Gloppy, goopy fake cheese is definitely not on the list. But what can I do? I sit there slowly licking blobs of cheese off, handing them the fries. It may have been the best part of my day.
Time for the trains, then home. The ticket line is gone. Thank god. We go up to the window. “Closed for lunch.” Cue the wailing. I drag my now overtired, still hungry, hot, injured daughter and son to the car. I sit down as pain shoots through my lower back. I text my sitter. “Can you come tomorrow morning?”
Oh, I broke down and also got an ice cream sandwich. Emmett’s first. What a milestone!
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips | Tags: babysitter, exhaustion, guilt, hyperactive, mom guilt, nanny, playdate, potty training, stress, toddler boys, zoo
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
When I walk in the door after having a sitter, my mere presence sets Emmett off. He is like a cat that can sense me a mile away. He starts howling. This has happened with the previous nanny, with every sitter…. basically everyone but Phil. Phil is excluded because the same thing happens when he walks in. Emmett wails.
He could be perfectly happy playing or eating, but wham, we walk in and he is suddenly aware that he hasn’t been with mom or dad and starts to cry. Often real tears stream down his little face. I usually walk over to him, pick him up and hug him. “Emmett,” I say, “it’s okay. Mama’s here.” His crying immediately ceases. He burrows himself into me, his arms down at his sides in a little cocoon. We call it “pod-ing” like he’s a pea going into his pod. I kiss his head. And every sitter says the same thing, “He was fine until he heard/saw you.”
I know this is part of an infant-toddler’s development. But it gets me every time. I have this heart pull. It’s not even conscious. It’s a visceral reaction. I know my kids are in excellent hands when they aren’t with me. Three days a week Fia is in preschool and absolutely loves it. She is really blooming there too.
I know Emmett has loads of fun with our sitters. I honestly don’t believe in the extreme version of attachment parenting–where you’re supposed to be with your kid 24/7 until they’re 3. Or 13. I’m not judging those who do it, but for me, I know exposing my kids to different people, different races, different environments is good for them. So why is it so hard to NOT feel guilty? I wish I knew…
I’ve said before that I think moms with full time jobs in some ways have it better. They have a purpose, whether it’s career aspirations, or providing for their family, etc. I’m in a murky place because I’m freelance and I don’t have a set job. Each time I plan my week I do it in a way that I get enough play time with Em, enough with Fia and enough with both. Then I fill in the gaps with a sitter. But why do I even have to make sure I clock in with my kids?
In November I stopped having a nanny. Now I have about 15 hours a week of help. But the fact that I want to say in the next sentence “but I try and book my sitter while they are napping” is just whacked. It’s like I have to continually justify to myself that I’m not abandoning my kids. I have to make sure people know that “Hey, I’m a good mom. And I’m around.” It’s ridiculous on so many levels.
My sitter Michele is amazing. She was our night nurse for, oh, 7 months. I didn’t feel guilty about that at all, because with Fia, my lack of sleep led to an insanity that wasn’t pretty. I am terrible without sleep. I never pulled an all-nighter in college. So justifying my night nurse for Emmett was easy. I have no regrets. I was a better mom to everyone. I don’t feel like I “missed out” on anything.
When we didn’t need Michele anymore she offered to babysit during the day. And get this: she has 5 kids. Yes 5. Her oldest is 19. Her youngest are twins Fia’s age: Maci and Cruz (pictured below).
As a veteran mom, Michele is always telling me to stop feeling guilty. She pounds into me that we all need our own time. I know she is right. But in going to my yoga class this morning, leaving to the cries of Emmett, I felt that usual pull on my heart. It sinks deep into my stomach. Not for long, but it is always there. Should I be doing this? In downward dog I noticed how bad my toes look. Damn, I need a pedicure. I guess I could do one while they nap tomorrow, since I have Michele again, I thought.
I am seriously pissed at myself for thinking this way. I would have slapped myself silly in my pre-kids day if I ever thought I would be like a walking blanket of guilt.
I often ask Michele to bring her twins. They go to daycare most days, but if Fia isn’t in preschool, the three of them have a near perfect chemistry. Plus, instead of saying to Fia, “Michele is coming today!” and her replying, “No mama, I only want you”, (cue the guilt) I can say, “Guess what? Maci and Cruz are coming!” She jumps up and down. “Yay! Yay! No Way! [pause] Ballet” (her new thing with rhyming words). I am reassured she won’t miss me. That I am ok.
It’s like the rational side of my brain can’t reconcile with the primal side of my being. Logically, I know I need a break. I know it’s okay to go to the store by myself. I know it’s okay to do yoga, get a pedicure, write a blog, and have time to myself. I also know it’s good for my kids on so many levels. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t even consider it. So this is all on me.
So how to get rid of the guilt? Maybe I need to go back to my hypnotist. Or maybe this is just the way it is when you’re a parent… battling conflicting emotions that put your heart and head in the middle.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read | Tags: attachment parenting, babysitter, daycare, full time job, guilt, hypnotist, mom guilt, nanny, sahm, stay at home mom, toddler development, working mom
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Okay folks. This Sunday is Oscar time. Do a good luck dance for Wreck-it Ralph. Preferably to Owl City’s When Can I See You Again. Unfortunately, Phil and I don’t get to go. Since it was nominated for Best Animated Picture, but not Best Screenplay, only the producer and director go.
For the Golden Globes it was the same thing. But we did get invited to the big CAA after party (where apparently the best sighting of the night was Bill Clinton). And guess what? We were L-A-M-E. As we sat on our couch feeding the kids–banana and macaroni smeared everywhere–both of us in our sweats (me greasy from my Thai massage I had earlier in the day in lieu of a manicure), watching the stars parade around, we slowly lost all motivation for going. Then when Brave won (WTF? We thought if it wasn’t Ralph, it would be Frankenweenie.) our night was sealed. We’d rather be in bed. Or with friends.
We had already booked a sitter, and our good friend Jenn Lee, who helped Phil write the movie, was going to the party with us. Earlier in the day we had discussed our dresses, what time we’d go, etc. We were set. I called her–even before Brave took the prize.
“Are you watching?” I asked.
“Yeah, I am,” she said with a bit of the same joie de vivre I had in my voice.
“How set are you on going to the party?”
“On a scale of 1-10, I’m at about a 2. In terms of not going.”
Me: (Sigh of relief.) I don’t have to shower after all. I can stay greasy.
We decided instead to meet at a local wine bar. One that reminded us former Brooklynites of our past stomping grounds. We three hadn’t gone out like that since we left the borough. We had a blast, drank too much, and celebrated not winning. It was like old times–before the Oscars were even on our radar.
Phil and Jenn met on their first day of Columbia Film School. He brought her home for lunch. I was unpacking our apartment. Phil and I had just driven a U-Haul from Minneapolis with all our possessions, plus two cats. Draino (found in a sewer) was loose and got stuck under the brake pedal just as Phil was crossing the George Washington Bridge. I was under the steering wheel, sweating, trying to pull Draino out. Fur was flying. It was a record heat of 103-degrees so it stuck to me like a lint brush. It was high drama. And thrilling. It was a month before September 11th. We were young(er), naive(er), and never planned on having kids. I made us turkey sandwiches. Then they went back to school.
Fast forward to this night at Bar Covell. Jenn and her 8-year old daughter are thriving out here. I have two babies who have turned my world upside down with love. We are all aware that we have “made it” in business terms. But we are equally aware of how blessed we are personally–and how sacred that is.
But back to the Oscars:
We decided for the Academy’s we had to rally. We would go to dinner while the awards were on. That way we’d already have momentum. Then we’d go straight to the party. I promised I wouldn’t get a massage since that just deflates all my energy.
So now Oscar night is fast approaching. The sitter is booked. The dress is picked out. And guess what? We aren’t invited to any official after party. HAAAA HAAA. The joke is truly on us, huh?
Oh well. Maybe we’ll sit in our sweats, pop some corn, and enjoy it from our couch. Win or lose, we’ll toast to the fact that we are even here, in this place and time… That we have two slumbering bits of perfection upstairs sleeping while we watch to see if a movie their Dad wrote–partially for them–gets an Academy Award.
My prediction–based on the winnings at the Producer Awards and the Animation Awards–is that Ralph will take the big prize. Even if it doesn’t we already hit the jackpot. Big time.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Moving to Los Angeles | Tags: babysitter, Clark Spencer, golden globes, Jenn Lee, nomination, nominations, Oscar, Owl City, Phil Johnston, Rich Moore, Wreck It Ralph
Friday, October 26th, 2012
No. No. No.
It can’t have happened.
Eyes partially shut, trying to skim the story without really digesting it.
Compartmentalize. Don’t think about it.
But then, you look at your kids–in my case–Fia hugging Emmett. Your heart crushes to its core.
Super Why is on television. It’s daddy’s birthday and we’re letting him sleep in. It is, by all accounts, a normal morning. Except it’s not. Something awful—unthinkable–has happened.
Two kids are stabbed to death in their Upper West Side apartment bathtub. A 2-year old and 6-year old. The mom is out with her 3-year old. She comes home to a dark home. Something is amiss. She opens the bathroom door and sees something no one, absolutely no one, should ever witness. Her two children. Dead. Her nanny is also there with a stab wound to her neck. She is alive and suspected of committing this atrocity. The mother goes into a psychotic state. The father gets off an airplane in New York. The police meet him and deliver the awful news. They take him to the hospital where he joins his wife. Their life is forever changed. For the worst.
Terrible things happen all the time. A plane crashes and it’s front-page news. This too, is front-page news. But as awful as all tragedies seem, this one hits a different chord. It is so personal. We are moms and dads. It is we who make the decision to have someone help us with our kids. We entrust these people with the most precious thing in our life. And 99.99 percent of the time they are a gift. A story like this so rarely happens. But when it does, it is a nightmare beyond comprehension.
There are no words to comfort, no justification to make us feel better for this family. And no God who can say this was meant to be.
I have a nanny. She loves my kids like they were her own. I know her whole family. We did a background check on her before we hired her. It was flawless. When I told her about this story, she started to weep. “How do you ever know someone, truly?” she said to me through tears. “You know me, you trust me with your kids, but how do you know you really know me?” I understood exactly what she meant. Sometimes as hard as you try to do the best for your children, your efforts fall short–and tragic.
I don’t want to put myself in the shoes of this mom or dad. It’s too painful. But I can only imagine if the allegations prove true, and the nanny did this, not only will this mother be haunted by the loss of her children, but also by what she maybe had missed. The clues, the signs. And sometimes there simply aren’t any. Sometimes people just aren’t who they seem. My heart just aches for her, the dad, the surviving child–how will they go on?
When Fia was a newborn, I, like many moms, was paranoid to leave her with anyone. A friend of mine said, “At some point, you just have to trust.” She was right. But stories like this leave you reeling. Questioning.
I can’t live my life in fear. But today’s nightmare is a stark reminder that it is only by the Grace of God, Go I. And all of us, for that matter.
Darkness picture courtesy of Shutterstock
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, The Sitter Chronicles | Tags: baby, babysitter, caretaker, death of a child, infant, nanny, nightmare, toddler, tragedy
Monday, July 16th, 2012
This is going to make me sound like an inept parent, but here goes: I haven’t “done” anything with Emmett yet. As in, any mommy-and-me classes, music, a stroll in the park — nothing. With Fia, it was the exact opposite extreme. We never stayed in, partially because it was a Brooklyn apartment and we always had neighbors and friends to hang with. Plus, you stroll everywhere there and isolation just isn’t an option.
With Em, we hang out around the house and on weekends when we go somewhere we (obviously) don’t leave him home. But if I’m doing playdates they are with Fia, and our nanny is out and about with Emmett or at home with him. In fact, she’s much better at figuring out fun parks to take him to. She puts down a blanket and they play. That’s another thing I don’t really know how to do. Play. I’m great at smothering him. Sucking his cheeks, smelling his hair… if I could eat him, I would. He’s that delicious. But playing? Not so much.
Anyway, this morning a crew was coming to work on our house. We had to leave. Cleo had arranged a playdate with Fia and I was taking Emmett. Because I’ve given myself an online blackout at nights, I didn’t Google anything to do. I panicked. I also felt like a major idiot. What mom doesn’t know what to “do” with her baby?
I drove to a nearby park, put his car seat in the stroller, and went to a patch of grass, only to realize the morning dew made the whole area wet. Back in the car feeling like a total failure, I drove to an indoor playground I’ve been to with Fia.
I walked in and began doing what I do when I feel insecure. Over-explaining.
“I know he’s only 4 ½ months, so we probably don’t belong here, but I wasn’t sure where to go with him and my daughter is on a playdate and there are people in our house, so I’m sorry, if you think we shouldn’t come in…”
She gently interrupted my diarrhea of the mouth.
“This is a great place for him. You can sit in the ball pit, he can look at all the colors, see other kids. And, because he’s so young, it’s free for you both.”
Huh? No way. With a small amount of confidence back, I walked in and started to “play.” With my new Blackberry blackout plan, I didn’t check my phone once. I even met a nice dad there with his son. I felt focused and in the moment. And I remembered that I do actually know how to play.
After an hour, we got back in the car, he zonked out, and I took him to lunch, where I’m writing this post. I’ve had a great date with my son and plan to do it every week. Momma’s got her groove back.
Small update: Just as I finished writing this, two large men came in and started bellowing a conversation back and forth. Literally talking as if there was a jackhammer behind them. The whole restaurant was empty, yet they choose to sit near me. Really? I did loud shhhhh-ing in Emmett’s ear to make the point. Hello! Infant sleeping! Not a clue. Within minutes Em was awake. I wanted to poison their food. Aaarrrggghhhh.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations | Tags: babysitter, blackberry blackout, indoor playground, milestone monday, play date, playdate, playing, technology, technology addiction