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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.
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attachment parenting, babysitter, daycare, full time job, guilt, hypnotist, mom guilt, nanny, sahm, stay at home mom, toddler development, working mom | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read
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.
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babysitter, Clark Spencer, golden globes, Jenn Lee, nomination, nominations, Oscar, Owl City, Phil Johnston, Rich Moore, Wreck It Ralph | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Moving to Los Angeles
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
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baby, babysitter, caretaker, death of a child, infant, nanny, nightmare, toddler, tragedy | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, The Sitter Chronicles
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.
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babysitter, blackberry blackout, indoor playground, milestone monday, play date, playdate, playing, technology, technology addiction | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations
Monday, July 9th, 2012
Is it a milestone to suddenly turn shy? To go from boisterous to bashful?
The other day I went to pick Fia up from preschool. I asked the director if she was the wildest one in her class. What she said made no sense to me.
“Fia? No, she’s probably the quietest one.”
Huh? Feral Fia? The one who never stops chatting at home? Who oozes personality and spunk? Who dances and climbs and twirls? Even the other day while we were sitting at dinner, she squeezed her eyes shut, put her hands in prayer position, and went into a yoga chant. Phil and I almost died laughing.
“Fia, where did you learn that?”
“From yoga at school!” she exclaimed.
I’ve seen her do downward dog and tree pose, but the chants blew me away. It was so damn funny.
The school situation has me baffled. They said that during free play, she usually just plays quietly with herself, reading books or coloring. During the structured activities she is with everyone else. But other times she’s kind of a loner.
They told me she often stands back and just watches the other kids; that she is an observer, not a participant. I don’t know why the thought of that breaks my heart, but it does. Is she shy? Scared? Not confident? This is a girl that for months couldn’t stop hugging every kid she met.
She’s 2 years and 7 months. Is this still the age of parallel play? Or is she insecure? This side of her is a mystery to me.
She only goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The teachers suggested we bump her up to 3 days in a row. Tue-Wed-Thur. Perhaps the repetition will make her more interactive with the other kids.
I have no doubt this is a great preschool. So it’s not that. Maybe my girl is just more subdued in unfamiliar situations? Or larger crowds? The other day our nanny had 6 kids over. Phil observed from his study that while all the other kids were running through the sprinklers, Fia just stood back and watched. She did that for 10 minutes. When she is one-on-one with a playdate, she is much more engaged. I’ve never seen her just stand back.
Should I tell our nanny and the school to pull her into the group more? Or is this something where you take a hands off approach and let her find her own way? Is going to preschool for 3 days in a row a wise choice, so it becomes more familiar? (It’s only from 9-1 pm).
I’m looking for advice from the moms who have been there before me. I don’t want to overstep my bounds with her, but I don’t want to ignore something either. Thoughts?
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babysitter, class, daycare, familiar, independence, loner, nanny, playdate, preschool, routine, school, shy, sitter, toddler, yoga | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Must Read