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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, January 29th, 2013
I hate perfume on women and cologne on men. I didn’t always. When I was, oh, 10?, I got Jean Nate after-bath splash. When I was maybe 12, I graduated to Love’s Baby Soft. At 16, I know I used some horrendous smelling thing with a name escapes me. I think my mind may have blocked it out. I dated guys who wore Polo cologne. I remember that was a “selling p0int” with my girlfriends. “Oooo, he wears Polo!” we’d whisper. I don’t judge myself because I was, well, a teenager. Plus it was the 80s and perfume was in, patchouli was out. Unless you were a Dead Head. Which I mostly wasn’t.
Anyway, I digress. It’s now 2013 and I often wonder when all these celebrities endorse a perfume, who is buying them? Old ladies? Must be, right? I think my generation is mostly into natural scents and aromatherapy like lavender and rosemary. My younger friends say they don’t wear perfume. If they did, they say it would be Jo Malone, which none of them can afford. So perhaps in a push to get the infant generation interested in manufactured smells, Dolce and Gabbana released its latest product. You ready for this?
Perfume for babies. Yes, infants, babies, wee ones. I guess they want to get them hooked early. I mean we all know how horrible babies smell right? The B.O. from their mature sweat glands is enough to send you running. In fact, I know most people just leave their babies for days at a time because they can’t stand the stench. The good news is the perfume is alcohol-free. The bad news is it’s still made with chemicals. Something every baby should be saturated with, right?
Quoting from the Today Show, here is the following from a doctor:
“Babies and people who have babies should not wear fragrance,” Dr. Gordon told TODAY.com. “There are chemicals and toxins labeled as ‘fragrance’ in these products that can cause children to have respiratory reactions.” He adds that even though most of the formulas that make up baby perfumes are alcohol-free, it’s the components that create the actual scent that are the most potentially harmful to a baby’s developing respiratory system and sensitive skin.
Is D&G ridiculous or what? I shouldn’t even waste my time writing about how stupid this gimmick of an idea is. I honestly don’t care that much because no one I know would be the type to purchase this idiotic product anyway. It’s simply unnecessary. What irks me is the idea that babies need perfume!
If you don’t have a kid, let me tell you something: their skin is like sniffing purity and perfection–if there were such a scent. Their hair is like sniffing heaven. Inhale their breath and you get an instant high. Basically a baby’s smell gets you closer to God than anything else I know of. Why in the world would you buy a $45 bottle of chemicals to change that?
I won’t even hire sitters who wear heavy perfume. I did once and as soon as my child stopped smelling like my child and more like the beauty counter at Bloomingdales, I let her go (there were other reasons too, so let’s not jump on this sentence and turn this blog into something it isn’t, i.e.: another nanny war).
I am obsessed with Emmett’s head. I often have him in the Ergo (baby carrier on my body) and I smell him constantly. It’s just instinctual. Each night before I go to bed, I pick my babies up, hold them tight and inhale them. I feel their rhythmic breathing as they snore gently on me. It’s like having a natural dose of Ambien. If I could bottle up their smell–their essence–maybe I’d be onto something. But I would selfishly keep it for me and me only.
I know it sounds like it, but honestly I’m not anti-perfume. I know there are probably some really light, non-offensive fragrances out there. My mom always wore White Shoulders. To this day if I smell it, it takes me back to happy moments with her. It’s just that perfume is not for me and definitely not for babies. So until researchers and product manufacturers figure out how to bottle up your own baby’s scent, they can all go smell themselves.
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baby sitter, baby smell, cologne, Dolce and Gabbana, Ergo, nanny, perfume, perfume for babies, scent | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read, The Sitter Chronicles
Thursday, January 24th, 2013
When we first moved to LA, loads of people suggested I put Fia in swim lessons. I was told everyone has pools and that we’d spend many a day in them. The idea of swimming lessons was both for her comfort in the water and my peace of mind. Not that she’d be in alone, but just knowing the basics of holding your breath, paddling, etc., would make the pool a more enjoyable–and safe—experience for us both.
Fast-forward a year and a half. I have been to exactly one, yes, ONE, pool date. However, I have invested 1400 minutes (5000 minutes if you count the time to the lessons and back) and gobs of money. And guess what? She still can’t swim. She can paddle about 3 strokes on her own with her face in the water. Certainly not enough to be considered “pool safe.”
Here’s the kicker: we both hate it. Every Monday morning as we make the trek to the Valley (we live in Los Feliz for those who know LA), she asks who her teacher will be (we’ve had to switch several times because she didn’t like some of them). Then she starts saying, “I don’t want to put my face in the water.” I try and convince her why water on her face is fun. I don’t mention that I, too, hate water on my face. Even raindrops. I cringe just thinking about it.
I also remember having swim lessons when I was about 8-years old. I remember all the kids jumping into the teacher’s arms and me standing there crying and afraid. I remember the teacher’s frustration with me as I simply refused. Granted, Fi is with an instructor one-on-one. And at this stage, there is no jumping into arms. I should mention it’s the Jim Herrick swim school. It’s a top-notch place and there is no part of me that thinks they aren’t doing the best job possible. There are also phases where Fia seems to enjoy it. So it’s not like I’ve dragged her kicking and screaming for 70 weeks. She does love the water when she’s with us (pictured above).
My question is: do I just cut my losses and consider it a “sunk cost” or do I forge ahead? The teachers keep saying she is really close to “getting it.” But I don’t want her to start hating it so much that the water becomes something fearful.
I was all ready to pull the plug until this past Monday. I took Emmett with me and we sat on the steps of the pool splashing around, getting soaked. He was loving it. We told Fia to show baby brother how to swim. She loves nothing better than being the boss and showing him how it’s done. Swimming was no exception. It was the most excited I’ve seen her in the pool in a long time. She did amazing too. The instructor suggested I bring him every week. It interrupts his naptime but that is the other option I’m debating.
Do any of you have any experience with this issue or any suggestions for me on how to proceed? If I get in the pool with Fia myself, 1) I have to get on a bathing suit. 2) I have to get water on my face. 3) I have to get Emmett a babysitter. (God forbid, judging from the backlash I received on that issue last week).
If I give up now, has it all been for naught or will some of this experience stay with her until she’s older and we try again?
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floaties, nanny, pool, pool party, pool safety, swim lessons, swimming, swimming pool, toddlers swimming, water, water danger | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving Mid Pregnancy, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read
Friday, January 18th, 2013
Big news. Emmett took his first steps this week. Two. In a row. It was very exciting to everyone but him. We were all in Fia’s room playing. Even Wayne Sanchez. Em stood up using the rails of Fia’s crib, balanced and took the steps. We all freaked out, clapping and screaming. He plopped down on his butt laughing and looked kind of baffled in his happy-go-lucky way. Like, “Why all the hoopla?”
I don’t have any pictures to show of his steps, but I do have one of him standing proudly.
Emmett turns a year old next Friday. Hard to believe. Here are some more recent pics.
I took them to the zoo today. Loads of fun, as usual. (Take that all you blog bashers who called me a bad mom this week…not that I need to justify anything to those types….)
Fia on our way up to Death Valley. Exploring a ghost town.
Last weekend Phil and I took the babes on our backs for a 3 1/2 hour hike up some incredibly tough hills in Griffith Park. I’m the beached whale nearly passed out on the table midway through….
I swear he gets prettier by the day…he is such a beauty. And a delight. Inside and out. They both are.
The two below are a little blurry because he’s such a mover, it’s hard to capture him! He is funny! His tear duct on his right eye is supposed to open when he’s a year. Come on duct…. do it.
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backlash, Death Valley, firing, first steps, Griffith Park, hike, hiking, nanny, one year birthday | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, The Sitter Chronicles
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!
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childcare, daycare, firing, firing employee, full time help, Happiness project, late, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, nanny, on time, preschool | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read, The Sitter Chronicles