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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.
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
Monday, January 14th, 2013
I’m going to do a complete 180 here. I got rid of my nanny and my life is easier. This is contrary to my post a few months ago when I wrote about why full-time help is necessary.
It has taken me almost 2 months to write about this. It was a painful experience and really hurt me to the core. These people become part of your family; they are taking care of the most precious entity in your life. And even though I know we made the right decision, and it was our choice, the loss hit me hard.
I don’t know why, but I just feel like telling my story. Maybe because I’m still hurt, even though at the same time I’m so relieved.
I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time. I spoke to her former employers to find out if she was late for them. They claim she wasn’t. She also lived nearer to them, which, in LA traffic, makes a difference. They also had full time jobs in which they had to be out the door at a certain time. Phil and I work from home, so we naturally create a more laid back atmosphere.
I did every sort of tactic. I switched the times around to help her avoid rush hour (didn’t work), I gave her a cushion time, as in between 8:30-9. Not only did that NOT work, it backfired and made things worse. I gave her pep talks, threaten-talks, and on two occasions I lost my sh-t and yelled. And then she cried. And I felt terrible. So after a year of dealing with this–yes, a year–I realized the situation was exhausting me.
It was time for a final ultimatum.
Phil and I told her calmly and clearly that one more time and she was done. Communication had been a problem in that her accent is heavy and she also doesn’t text (which was another issue altogether). I wanted to make sure she understood how high the stakes were. She said she understood and reiterated that if she were late again, it was on her. She cried saying she would miss our kids so much–the mere thought of it broke her heart. I could tell her feelings were genuine.
That’s the thing about her. I had such a soft spot. Yet she would drive me crazy.
Her life hadn’t been easy. Her mother pulled her from school at a young age in El Salvador so she could care for her handicapped sister. She crossed the border when she was 17. Now she’s 50, a legal resident, and has 5 grown kids. But even though we paid her well above the market rate, money was tight (in part to bad decisions that drove me crazy–though I know–none of my business). With no formal education she is part of the true working class.
She became my project and my boundaries went out the window. I was going to teach her how to read and write (she was extremely limited in that regard, which I found out after hiring her). I offered to give her time off for ESL classes. I told her I could help her learn. She cried, saying it was her dream to read the newspaper. Never happened. I mentioned it from time to time and she’d say she was going to do it. Then nothing.
There were other things too, because as we all know, no one is perfect. But as mad/frustrated as I’d get, at the end of the day, she did a lot of lovely things for us and ultimately, loved my babies as her own. If there were an earthquake, she would throw herself in front of a crashing beam to protect them. She is that kind of person. I would tell myself that that is really all that matters. But it’s not. She was still an employee. And there to make our lives easier.
The ultimatum came right before we were giving her a week off (paid) for Thanksgiving. That following Monday morning she was supposed to be at our house by 8:30. Fifteen minutes later I see a missed call on my phone. Phil called her back. She said her car battery died and she was just leaving her house. Wait, huh? If your battery had died, you would have known before 8 and called us. Which is what Phil said to her. No response. He hung up the phone and looked at me. We both shook our heads. He called her back and told her not to come. I haven’t seen her since.
I then sent her a check for 5 weeks severance. My friend Delia is the one who coaxed–and coached–me on that. I was just going to send her a week’s worth. Delia said, “Jill, there are the haves and the have-nots. We are the haves. You won’t ever miss the money. Consider it one less charity donation. To her, it is everything.”
I remember when I was in Al-Anon; there was a saying about detached compassion. “When the alcoholic is passed out on the cold, hard floor, rather than leaving her in anger, or trying to get her back on the bed, just drape her in a warm blanket.” So, even though I’ll admit the check was a little hard to write, I felt like that was my version of detached compassion. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas. I know how excited she was to buy gifts for her grandkids. And I know what a relief it would be to pay her rent.
She left us a message a few days later, after receiving the check. She thanked us profusely. I could hear her voice cracking. She knows she messed up.
I guess I felt betrayed. Hurt. Why didn’t she call us at 8 that morning? Why, after having a week off, would she not show up on time? On some level, my mind says, “Did she not love my kids enough to get out of bed on time?” But then I know: You can’t change someone.
I did get word that she found another job close to her house. In fact, I gave the woman the recommendation before all this happened, as we were going to take her down to part-time anyway and help her find a family to share with.
I’m sure this post sounds like an “upper class problem” to many people. Some would tell me to just get over it. And I am. But dealing with another human being on a deeply personal level is tough. I’ve never had a nanny before. And I doubt I ever will again. She was with Emmett from the day he was born. He is a special baby and I know she must miss him dearly. But at the end of the day, we are better on our own.
I have now hired a few sitters to work a couple times a week. They are young college graduates from New York. I won’t be taking on their problems. My boundaries are in place.
I also realize I’m utilizing my time far better. Instead of napping when my kids nap, I write or pay bills or make phone calls. I think having full-time help without a full-time job myself gave me license to be lazy. Now, every minute counts. Energy begets energy. I have cleaned out closets and organized photos that have sat for a year. I feel good. I have spent more quality time with my kids in the past 2 months than I did all year. I still don’t have any regrets in how we did it. I had some crucial time to myself and I needed it. I had plenty of delicious moments with my babies. More than most people probably. But now I get even more.
I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if “adventure” means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me. Granted, Em is almost a year now, so having him older makes all of this a helluva lot easier).
My mind goes back to a line I read not long ago. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and gives me great perspective when I do get tired from the daily grind. ”The days are long, but the years are short.”
Like I said when Fia turned 3,when my kids are older and out late with friends, I will be watching the clock, wishing they were home. I will yearn for these sleep-deprived nights. They are all mine (almost) all the time. And for now, I don’t want it any other way.
Took Em to a fun playspace the other day. Making it a weekly thing now because he had so much fun. And I had so much fun watching him!
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read, The Sitter Chronicles | Tags: childcare, daycare, firing, firing employee, full time help, Happiness project, late, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, nanny, on time, preschool
Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
My nanny has to be off the rest of the week for personal reasons. Of course, when I first found out, I panicked. I know, I know, I can hear Cassandra in my head: Mom-Up like the rest of the world. Well, I am. Just not in the traditional sense. Two words:
In my previous travel-obsessed life, I would get antsy if I were home for more than a few weeks. Since moving to LA and having a house–oh, and a second baby–I have barely traveled beyond the perimeter of our neighborhood. To give you an example: Fia was on something like 18 flights the first year of her life. Emmett, so far, has only been on one (for his baptism). He doesn’t even have a passport yet. Gasp.
Cleo’s time off is actually perfect because I feel a bit antsy right now. I mean, with kids, the routine is so, well, routine, that I find myself getting a bit bored; wanting to shake things up. I decided the best way to do this was to flee–with babes in tow. That way I don’t have to watch the clock. Instead, we’ll all have an adventure. And room service. Time will fly whether it’s a disaster or not, simply because it’s a break from the daily grind.
I enlisted Courtney and Teddy to come along too. We’re heading to San Diego. We got a hotel right on the bay, so the kids can frolick in the sun and sand for a couple days. Our room goes right out to the shore, and since it’s the bay, there are no waves. I am convinced there won’t be much “work” involved. Because if any of you have taken your babies to the beach for just one day, you know how much labor it takes. Umbrellas, towels, chairs–all for a mere two hours. Then you break it all down to rush home for a nap. Or because your kid is hungry. Or you’re all overheated and cranky. Possibly all of the above. My beach experiences with two kids haven’t exactly been serene.
I know this all probably sounds whacked, because I’m sure lugging all the crap and three kids down to SD for a 2-day getaway will be exhausting too. But at least it will be 2 days worth, rather than 2 hours worth. So there is more payoff in the effort (at least that’s what I’m telling myself.). Plus, to stay home in a non-air conditioned house with a baby who won’t take long or regular naps just doesn’t sound as fun. (I’m sure Phil will appreciate the house to himself.)
So folks, I’m checking out the rest of the week. Wish me luck on my version of Mom-ing Up.
Picture at beach via Shutterstock
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations | Tags: adventure, Airplane, beach, daycare, flight, getaway, Mom-Up, nanny, San Diego, sand, staycation, travel, vacation
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
I often joke that I’m the busiest unemployed person I know. Between a 2 1/2 year old, an 8-month old, and my pretend career, I have zero time. And I have a full-time nanny (Cleo) and a cleaning lady.
So it came as a huge surprise to me that a new study shows that working moms spend a whopping 3 1/2 hours less on their kids’ meals and exercise regimes than stay-at home-moms (SAHM).
First of all, that’s it? I would think it would be much more, considering that I can barely find time to work out or put a proper dinner on the table. Cleo helps us with meals and between all of us, my husband included, we manage. (The study also said husbands don’t pick up the slack. Mine does in many ways, though meals are expected to come from me. And I do the best I can.)
Sidenote: Phil did ask one day why Fia was eating so many chicken nuggets:
Me: “Because lately I haven’t had the have time to make good meals.”
Him: “We can’t become those people who only feed her one type of food.”
Me: “Then help me come up with a menu for the week for all of us.”
Him: (Shrug shoulders. Subject dropped.)
Me: (Looked at a cookbook–Ellie Krieger–that night and came up with meal plan.)
Him: (Meetings at night the rest of the week.)
Me: (Didn’t waste time making a meal for myself. Fia and I just winged it, which probably included chicken nuggets for both of us.)
Conclusion: Neither of us became obese.
I bring up obesity because the study actually states that the lack of parental involvement in a child’s diet is linked to obesity, regardless of socio-economic status. Huh?
This makes no sense. It has been reported time and time again that obesity in children is directly linked to socio-economic factors. The poorer people in this country have children with higher obesity rates. Doesn’t mean we all can’t stand to get fit and healthy, but the generalization towards working moms just irks me. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative is all about changing our lifestyle through education. We need to educate everyone: Caregivers, schools, parents, etc., on proper nutrition and exercise. An excerpt from the First Lady’s site states:
The threat of childhood obesity to the health of our children and the health of our nation has never been greater. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. Today, almost one in every three children in our nation is obese or overweight. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese.
To now link this obesity issue to working moms is preposterous, in my opinion. As if us moms don’t have pressure enough already. Now working moms have to feel guilty for making their children fat? Please. Everyone read my post on The Failure Hour. I now have another reason to celebrate my inadequacy as a parent.
Fia, Your Mom Pretends to Work. Therefore, You Might Get Fat. Sorry, Baby!
I’m not a scientist, nor do I understand all the research a study like this undertakes. I won’t bash the authors because they are just reporting their findings, but how many reports and studies do we need to tell us how to “be” a proper mom? How many millions of dollars do we need to spend researching pure logic? As my fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott says in High-Chair Times:
“Instead of fanning the flames of the mommy wars by comparing working moms to nonworking moms, why don’t these researchers redirect their efforts to curing cancer?”
My good friend Hulda, who just moved to LA from Iceland, is here with me while I write this. She is a PhD professor. She actually pulled the study for me and read it (bless her). She finds the hoopla this study is causing just plan silly (and some of the data a little questionable).
“In Iceland, 96% of moms work. It is just the norm,” she told me. “Almost all kids are in daycare from a young age.”
I’ve been to their country. It’s an amazing place. Theirs is a culture with an incredibly high standard of living. Their kids become productive citizens. Their babies aren’t missing out because the moms are working. Oh, and by the way, their obesity rates don’t come close to ours, though they are rising. But I’m guessing it’s not because the moms work (which has been the norm for decades there). I would bet a Big Mac that it’s because our American companies have saturated their market with all our crap. Soda, fast food, you name it. Those entities are the real enemy. Corporate greed at any and all cost.
At least New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets it. His soda ban (any sugary beverage over 16 ounces is O-U-T) passed this week. I believe it’s his most brilliant move to date. But I’m getting off track.
This whole argument becomes so circular. If you spend a couple hours less per day with your toddler, then we have to assume he/she is in daycare or with a nanny. Therefore, 2 of their 3 meals are taking place without you. So really it’s the daycare or nanny who is feeding your kid crap. Which I doubt is the constant in all this. But if it is, fix it. This isn’t rocket science.
Any child over 5 is in school full-time whether the mom works or not. So when they get out of school at 3 pm, make sure they don’t have a house full of Doritos to come home to. (The study says that unsupervised children are more likely to eat poorly. Wow, that’s a shocker.)
Come on people, this is basic stuff. Whether you stay at home or work, just love your child, feed them nutritious meals, have whomever is watching them feed nutritious meals, have them exercise with or without you, and instill the importance of healthy living.
Then, at the end of the day, plop down on your couch with your favorite glass of wine (red is better for you), and give yourself credit for making it through another day as a mom who is simply doing the best she can.
Photo of fat kid courtesy of Shutterstock
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read | Tags: Big Mac, Bloomberg, daycare, exercise, failure hour, fast food, health, healthy living, nanny, nutrition, obesity, soda, soda ban, stay at home moms, working moms
Monday, August 13th, 2012
Last weekend Phil was away. I don’t have help on the weekends. I was by myself with both babies.
Here’s the scene:
Up at 6 a.m. Throw Emmett on the boob. Park Fia in front of Super Why
. Make coffee. Get Fia breakfast. Switch to Sesame Street. Let Emmett roll around on the carpet while I supervise and sip coffee (2 minutes of quality time). Feed cat. Emmett poops. Explosively. Put Fia in her high chair with a coloring book and bathe Emmett. Then feed him again. Fia starts to whine for eggs. Put Emmett in the swing and make eggs. Plop eggs in front of Fia. Emmett starts to fuss. Pick him up. He poops again…a crazy amount. I am covered. In sh-t. I keep Fia locked in her high chair and give Emmett a sink bath. Put him back in swing, go change my clothes. Fia is finished. Begins to throw crayons. I am so happy she earned herself a time out, because for those 2 minutes I take my Lexapro, my Wellbutrin, and debate a shot of tequila.
I look at the clock. It is 7:30. Well f–k me.
At that moment, standing in my kitchen, dripping with sweat and both babies screaming, I had a complete and utter revelation. NO MORE GUILT. Divine Intervention of the Non-Guilty Mom spoke to me.
I’m totally going to “out” myself here. I have full-time help and a part-time job. Not even. I’m a freelancer. I even have a night nurse a few times a week. It was almost every night in the beginning (I’d pump and bring her the bottle.) With Fia, I lost my mind with lack of sleep. It was so stressful for all those around me; I decided with Emmett I would do things differently. I would take my therapist’s advice and throw money at the problem. Lots of it. I could have sustained a village in Africa. Maybe two. Instead, I’ve sustained my mental health. And my marriage.
Up until now I’ve been afraid to fully confess. I’ve been nervous about the backlash from moms who will say I’m indulgent, that I’m not taking care of my kids, or even the “extremists” saying, “Why did you have kids if you’re not going to raise them?” Because here’s the thing: I am raising them and I now know I am doing a far better job with hired help than I could ever do on my own.
I shouldn’t have to justify this, but before I go further here’s why I have a full-time nanny: with Cleo in my life, I can pick and choose which child I want to be with. I can get quality time with both. That is key. But, I can also go to the bank, the grocery store, the nail salon and get a massage, all without carting a kid around. I can pay bills without sticking Fia in front of the TV. And blog. Added bonus: Cleo sometimes cooks for us. I still feel like I have zero time and I practically have a staff. Yet I often battle the demons of guilt. Shouldn’t I just plow through this on my own and be with my kids every hour that I can?
First of all, carting my kids to the store isn’t quality time. But now I think holding down the fort alone with your kids isn’t quality time either. For me, it was about keeping them alive. It was S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L.
Yet, my battle is constant: When I’m not with them, I feel like I should be. When I am with them at my house with the to-do list staring me in the face, I think of everything else I have to do.
While I’m at it, here’s another confession: I don’t love to “play.” As in, sit on the floor and build blocks or have a tea party. I love watching Fia play though. I like to see the creative way she invents characters or stacks things. But pretending to pour tea over and over again? Honestly? I get bored.
So what I’ve done is carve out specific mornings and afternoons that Fia and I “do” things. We ride the kiddie train near our house, go on playdates to waterparks, museums, whatever. But usually it’s somewhere outside of the house. To me, that’s where I find my quality time with her.
Granted, throughout my solo-parenting day, we did have 9 more minutes of pure fun at home. Fia and I were watering the lawn and she took the hose and squirted me. A mini water battle ensued. We chased each other around laughing. Emmett was taking one of his 20-minute cat naps (which is about all I ever get). “Ahh, see I’m doing it,” I thought to myself. “This is what the full-time moms get.” But then she fell, screamed for a Band-Aid, Emmett woke up arching his back (ready to release 11 more fart bubbles), and the moment was gone.
So why do I feel guilty for having help? Without it, I wouldn’t have quality time. Or maybe I would for a mere 11 minutes per day. Hardly enough to justify the guilt.
Sometimes I envy the full-time working moms because they can totally justify their nannies or daycare. Other times I envy the SAHMs (Stay-At-Home-Moms) who I picture doing this in an orderly way. I think I fall in this in-between area and perhaps that is where my guilt comes from. Or used to come from.
But ever since my revelation last weekend, I am trying to stop second-guessing how I raise my kids and just feel lucky I have this luxury.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations | Tags: daycare, full time help, guilt, guilty, infant, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, mom guilt, nanny, newborn, night nurse, playdate, quality time, sahm, Sesame Street, Super Why, tv, working moms