Posts Tagged ‘ sahm ’

The Evening Mom Blahs

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

I find that right around 5 pm, when dinner is looming and the kids are typically at their worst, my mentality starts to shrivel. It’s why I founded The Failure Hour 2 years ago, but have been a terrible president as of late. My backyard has remained devoid of girlfriends, toddlers and wine.

Sure, I’ll get one together soon, but my emotions that go along with this time of day have confounded me. It’s not like getting dinner together and sitting down with the family are a bad thing. Sure, the bedtime routine can be tedious, but it can also be fun.

I realized my restlessness and blah-ness are because while many parents switch gears in terms of leaving work and coming home, my gears don’t really switch. I’m not in a boardroom or an office. And no matter what I’m doing–even if my kids are in school–I’m always wearing my mom hat.

From the caption here, I’m not saying I yearn for either side–the working mom or stay-at-home one (though I’m sure the cartoon will provoke outcry).  It’s just that I never have the opportunity to “forget” I’m a mom. Well, except if I’m in Bikram. And dear god, the instructor gets more insufferable each time. The other day she said we could grow an inch by doing a certain pose. Seriously?

I’m not even remotely attempting to have a poor-me, I’m home all day with my kids moment. First, because it’s not true. I’m not home with my kids all day. Fia is in school 5 days a week, Em is in preschool 2 days now and on those days I have a free life to do what I want. Sort of. If you count trips to the grocery store, errands around my area, taking kids to and from school, if I’m lucky a workout (though that’s proved disastrous), meal planning (also semi-disastrous), and, if I’m lucky, a blog post. Thus, the mom hat. I’m not complaining. It’s part of what I signed up for when I slowed down in the career arena and sped up in the mom space.

So I have come up with an experiment to try.

There is a big comfy chair in our living room that we rarely sit on. Around 5 pm, I’m going to sit in it with a cup of tea, a glass of wine–anything that physically tells my brain I am crossing over (not in the John Edward way, of course). I’m going to attempt to sit and do some Sudoku. I know this probably sounds lame, but I need my brain to have some sort of “jolt” to shift gears. It’s a far cry from leaving a boardroom and coming home, but I’m hoping it will train my brain to look forward to 5 pm rather than dread it.

During this time I will unapologetically park my children in front of their favorite show for 30 minutes, which I usually do anyway. I call it our time to regroup.  Fia will sometimes say, “Mama, can we regroup today with Daniel Tiger?” I see nothing wrong with this, especially since any show they watch is educational.

I’m hoping this shift, while not drastic, will be enough to take away the antsy, blah feeling. I will let you know. If anyone can relate and has other ideas, I would love to hear them.

Cartoon of mom via Shutterstock

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The Mom Mystique

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I know that Betty Friedan brilliantly coined the term The Feminine Mystique. Her book came out at a time when women were voicing their dissatisfaction with simply being moms and housewives. Friedan’s book is often credited with starting the feminist movement.

I also know that Rosie the Riveter sparked an earlier feminist wave in which women worked the factories while the men went off to fight in World War II. It was the first time women in droves truly held jobs outside the home. And liked it.

No, this isn’t a book report.

My revelation is I never realized that being a stay-at-home mom, which I largely am, is a very recent phenomenon. Which is why parts of it feel unnatural to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love being with my kids. I love the fact that I have such flexibility in my schedule. I had a successful TV career. I don’t want to be a desperate TV person, trying to hold onto a career that is so different now anyway. Good hosting jobs, which actually pay decent and cover interesting topics (i.e.: not reality TV crap) are few and far between. I’m not saying I will never go back to TV–and I do gigs here and there–but I refuse to be clawing to stay in the game. Not to mention the countless auditions it can entail. It’s all so exhausting and often fruitless, it makes me want to barf.

What doesn’t make me nauseous is writing. I picture myself as an author down the road. Or at least trying to be, once the kids are in school full time. That’s one of the reasons I keep doing this blog: to exercise that muscle in my brain. I don’t have the discipline to do it on my own.

But having said that, I can’t escape my type-A personality. Nor can I escape the blueprint of my life. I’ve always been a go-getter. So when I say I love being with my kids, what I mean, besides that blanket statement–is that I love “doing” things with them. Whether it’s adventures to our secret forest, watering the lawn, or baking with Fia, I like teaching them and accomplishing things at the same time. I actually love clean up. It is therapeutic for me to help sort the toys into different categories with them. Strange, I know. But remember, I had hypnotherapy to cure my cleaning compulsion.

What I don’t love is playing Legos. Or dolls. At least for an extended amount of time. Sure, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes (maybe) there…but all day? No way. I would lose my mind. (And thank god Fia doesnt’ like dolls yet. I never did. Maybe she will be like me.)

I went to a new therapist this week. I decided two years without someone to bounce ideas off in a neutral setting was long enough. We sold our Brooklyn apartment last month. We bought a house out here. It was time to put my roots down in California.

The woman I met with seemed, well, for lack of a better word: brilliant. In our first session I gave her a very condensed snapshot of my life. Manic depressive, drug and alcohol addicted mother (now deceased), narcissistic father who, with my step mom, labeled food in our house growing up so we wouldn’t eat the name brand stuff (No relationship with them anymore), two adopted siblings, blah blah blah.

Married, never wanted kids, cool career, traveled the world, then decided to have kids, then pow–best decision ever– and now–my life as a mom.

So here I am telling her how I yearn for my kids when I’m not with them but when I’m with them all day, every day, I realize why I need sitters. It is my paradox.

She then dropped this incredibly enlightening fact into my lap.

“You know that a mom alone with her kids is a new concept, right?”

Huh?

“No, I don’t. What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” she said. “Before WWII, families were mostly together all day. Moms were doing things with their kids. But not Legos. They were tilling the fields while the kids played nearby. They were cooking the meals with the grandmas and the aunts while the kids were in eyesight or earshot. This whole concept of a big house alone with your kids goes against all of our natural instincts that date back to caveman days/the beginning of time. ”

Well, holy shit. Please hit me over the head with a frying pan.  How did I never realize that?

She’s not saying it was easy. But I am guessing most of those moms didn’t feel guilty for their daily accomplishments while their kids played in the fields. Those accomplishments are what helped them literally survive each day.

In modern times it’s basically why the “play date” was invented. But instead of doing/accomplishing stuff, we are just chatting with our mom friends while chasing our kids around the playground. Which isn’t a bad happy medium, but it’s no wonder I don’t feel super accomplished at the end of each day.

She also pointed out that we live in a manic world. And what happens to manics? Having grown up with one, I got an A+.

“They crash,” I said.

“Exactly,” she replied. “Our mood swings are all over the place because we, as a society with technology, are all over the place.”

I’ve written about the Facebook Depression before and how I have largely broken my tech addiction (which has been damn cool). But if you put it all together–the frantic nature of our society, coupled with how we as humans, moms, communities, etc, evolved, it all makes total sense. Depression and anxiety rates have never been higher. It seems so obvious to me now. Not to mention I had kids late in life. It’s different when you’re procreating at 22 and haven’t “lived” yet.

All this to say, I have a new perspective on my mom guilt and the mystique of my emotions as a mom. My paradoxes make sense. They are still here, but with the help of this therapist and some new realizations, I’m hoping to alleviate a lot of it. Or at least comes to terms with why I sometimes feel the way I do. Because this guilt sh-t has got to go. It’s a waste of space in my already crowded brain.

At least for today I have accomplished a lot. I have partially cracked the mom mystique code. And took Fia to get a haircut. It may not be tilling a field, but I’m quite satisfied with myself.

Pic of We Can Do It via Shutterstock

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Mom Guilt: Why Do I Have It? How Can I Get Rid Of It?

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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(My) Milestone Monday: No More Mommy Guilt! I Refuse It

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.

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Can You Work Through Maternity Leave? Marissa Mayer Is. Or So She Thinks.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

I crack up sometimes thinking about my take on motherhood before and during pregnancy. I’d tell people, “I’m not going to change. I’m going to strap the baby on my back and go, just like I always have.” I was a world traveler before I became a mom. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Went to Fiji on a whim. Spent New Years in Timbuktu (sadly, overtaken this spring by Islamic Extremists). Now the most I do is look at a globe and thank my lucky stars I’m not globetrotting. For me, motherhood did what wanderlust couldn’t. It made me content. I would have never predicted the impact it would have on my whole way of life.

So I had to laugh — and cringe a little — when I read this week that Marissa Mayer, who was just named Yahoo’s chief executive, is pregnant, and — ya ready? — says, “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”  HAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

Clearly she has never had a baby before.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for working moms. And before I had kids, that quote would have made her my hero. But now? I think she’s being a tad naive. I can still be her biggest cheerleader, but first I think she needs to realize that today’s woman simply: Can’t.Have.It.All. Or at least not the first few weeks with a new baby. And why should she? You never get the birth of your baby back. And physically, a birth through the chute knocks you for a few days. A C-section? 2-3 weeks. Not to mention the emotional toll it takes on your entire being. I felt–and looked–like I had been hit by a bus. To run a $2-dollar company, much less a $20 billion dollar one? Impossible. Unless you want to fail. And right now, Yahoo isn’t the dreamboat. It’s a mess. This is no walk in the park.

Simply put, people who don’t have kids: Don’t.Get.It.

Even if she has a baby who comes out sleeping 12 hours a night and refuses the boob (so he can be exclusively bottle fed, which is fine, really. I don’t judge how women choose to feed their babies), I still think she will be so utterly turned upside down that she may have to eat her words.

There are a few things in her favor. Let’s face it: babies are blobs those first few months. I’m sure she’ll have lots of help. The baby will be cared for and loved, both by her, her husband, and her help. It will eat, sleep, and poop. And that’s about it.

But what’s not in her favor is Mother Nature — because unless you’re a zombie or a drug addict, she does kick in, swiftly and (hopefully) beautifully. No amount of money can keep her force at bay. She brings even the strongest women to their knees. The maternal instinct and motherly love is earth shattering. (If it’s not, then the postpartum depression is. These are the things you can’t predict.) I don’t think running a Fortune 500 company can compare to what a baby does. At least not initially.

So my question is, will Mayer battle the demons of guilt? Will she be too exhausted to care? Will she miss out on bonding with her baby while bonding with Yahoo? Or will she be the first woman to “have it all” and thus, will I be eating my words?

No doubt Yahoo is to be commended for hiring a pregnant CEO. But as blogger Julie Ryan Evans points out in her piece:

“I so wish she and Yahoo would set an example — that they would give her a full maternity leave, and that she would take it and still keep her position. Even just the minimum — 6-8 weeks, and show the world that it’s okay for women to have babies and then to care for them and themselves for more than just a few days. That they and their skills are important enough to the company that they’ll figure out something in a woman’s absence and welcome her and her expertise back with open arms.”

Maybe Yahoo did offer her the full maternity leave and Mayer is choosing to work through it. Regardless, it’s unrealistic and naive. I just don’t see how it’s humanly possible without letting something — or someone — suffer. Namely, her.

But I get it. Because you don’t get it until it happens to you.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps I’m being one of the “judgey” moms that my fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott refers to in her very well-put piece on this issue. I’ll admit, she did make me pause when she wrote the following: “Instead of judging Marissa Mayer, and using her achievement as an excuse to rekindle the debate about whether women can have it all, why don’t we sit back and watch her work? I’m betting she’ll show us some magic–and probably teach us all a thing or two.”

I worry though, that Mayer could also send a message to the rest of the world that women can push through their maternity leave if they want; that all it takes is “a few weeks.” She could ultimately be hurting the case for the majority of us who actually want to enjoy our babies–and take care of them–before returning to the workforce.

Devon Corneal wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in which she says, “I don’t judge her for embracing her job — I hope she’s a success. I just want to make sure that her blithe decision to take a truncated, working “maternity leave” won’t be held up as the paradigm or used to pressure other women to follow suit. We all deserve better than that.”  

Evans echoes that sentiment:

“Maybe she’s superwoman, but a few weeks is barely long enough for the epidural to wear off. To think that she’s going to be mentally and emotionally ready to go back and lead a company two or three weeks later and leave her baby is ambitious at the least; thinking that’s what a woman has to do to keep such a position of power is depressing.”

It’s even more depressing if this is all Mayer’s choice. I’m hoping she just doesn’t know any better. Then again, maybe I should know better and hold back the judgement. We’ll see.

 

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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