Posts Tagged ‘ parenting mentality ’

The Pendulum of Pregnancy and Parenthood

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Oh the blogosphere. Some recent feedback about the blog has left me feeling like I want to explain myself further. Most of the time, I don’t take myself too seriously. I keep things on the lighter side. I try to be open and honest without crossing the line too far. But sometimes, I also feel nostalgic, or like waxing poetic, or being downright rosy. I am by no means a completely rose-colored glasses kind of gal, but there are plenty of days when I feel as the wonderful Anne Shirley explains, “it’s delightful when your imaginations come true.” Sometimes life really is good. And sometimes, it’s poopy. I try to keep a good balance of all emotions. Lest you get the wrong impression of me, let me explain my philosophy on pregnancy and well, parenthood in general.

Pregnancy and parenthood are on a pendulum. One side represents the delightful imaginations; the little hugs, the “I love yous,” the soft and surprising first kicks of a baby in your belly. The other side represents the crapper. It’s the horror stories; the 9 months of barfing, the baby vomit directly in your mouth, the poop smeared on the wall, the 100 pounds of rice spilled in every nook and cranny of your floor, the fun outing ruined by incessant whining and tantrums.

On any given day, in any given hour, parents experience a range of emotions. We swing from grateful, to miserable, to happy, to exhausted, to locking ourselves in the bathroom for a moment of sanity. It’s life. There are inevitable ups and downs. Occasionally, the pendulum feels broken, refusing to swing from one side. And honestly, this usually means it’s stuck in the crapper for longer than should be reasonable.

I have those days. One minute I’m writing love letters to my unborn daughter because I can’t tell her in person yet how much I adore her, and the next minute I’m crying because the pregnant body can be so awkward and uncomfortable and I’m just done being pregnant. Sometimes it just isn’t funny to be the pregnant stereotype that pees 37 times a day.

Just because I write love letters to my daughter doesn’t mean I am immune from reality. There are days where if I have to answer the thousandth inquiry of “why?” or listen to one more whiny “I don’t want to!” I might just implode from annoyance. I too feel that moment of sweet freedom and jubilation when I leave my daughter with my husband and have a few glorious hours to myself.

I experience plenty of parenting fails too. My daughter has hit me in the face, pooped her pants inconveniently in public, and spit her dinner out all over me in protest. She’s refused to go to sleep, she’s peed her bed, she’s done all the stuff that makes parenting grueling and often monotonous.

I live daily on both sides of the pendulum and I believe we all do for the most part. We’re all just regular people doing this crazy difficult, unforgiving, yet wonderful thing called parenthood.

The funny thing about parenthood though is how quickly the pendulum can swing. One minute you’re going ape crazy over the messes and chaos and the next, your kid says something totally hilarious that eases the tension. During a smoothie clean up that covered every inch of the wall, my daughter voluntarily said, “I’m sorry I made a mistake mom.” Melt me. Then, she proceeded to tell me, “My bum says it’s time to go pee-pee.” What else can I do but laugh? That’s sort of the idea Harper. No, it doesn’t make the smoothie clean up any faster, but it does remind me of how quickly the pendulum swings.

This is my pregnancy and these are my memories and I try to keep them as real and me as possible. That reality includes some sweetness, some dreaming. I’ve said it before, complaining makes me uncomfortable, but I’m also guilty as charged.

I try to laugh at myself, this pregnancy, and my daughter as much as possible to stay on the delightful imaginations side of the pendulum. For that, I will not apologize. I try hard to choose to enjoy it. I don’t pretend. I don’t think pregnancy or motherhood is easy, but I do think it’s worth it. And mostly, a pretty awesome gig.

I’m trying to chronicle it all and that means you’ll probably see a few more hormonally driven letters, a few more rants, and hopefully, a few more things that will make you laugh.

Update: I found out about the horrifying tragedy in Connecticut after this blog post was published. It makes any complaints on the pendulum of parenthood negligible. My heart breaks for the families who experienced losses today.  I know those parents would give anything to hug their children today. I hugged my daughter tighter today and I am praying fervently for the families suffering because they cannot.

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I’m Just a Mom, Standing in Front of Her Daughter, Asking Her to Pee

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Forget nannies or mannies or house cleaners, I’d like to go on record and declare the greatest luxury in my life would be to hire-out potty training.

With a second baby on the way, I feel immense pressure to potty train. I’m letting the fear of the “you’re crazy town for having two in diapers” comments get the best of me. Admitting it is the first step.

As we’ve begun on this potty training nightmare journey, I’ve come to realize exactly what mothers mean they say they’d rather have them potty trained before two, than talking before two. Being the parent of an early talker, I always thought the ability to communicate young trumps all with its glossy advantages of limited tantrums and frustrations due to lack of communication. However, over the past week, I think I’m changing my tune.

Of course, I don’t want a kid who will just learn to potty train before two, I want one who will do it themselves. They exist I hear. When I mention we’re potty training they seem to come out of the woodwork to regale me with stories of how they adorably trained themselves at 18 months and how their mothers didn’t do a thing. I don’t hate, I congratulate. But then I cry on the inside that I wasn’t dealt this luxurious self-potty training kid.

Before we started, I analyzed the readiness signs, did my research, purchased appropriate enticing character underwear, and forged ahead with a haphazard plan. I did not know what to expect as the toilet tales I heard ranged from success in the 3-day method, a naked weekend, or a horrifying 11 long, excruciating months. Please I prayed, don’t let that be my lot.

I think I read repeatably that “just roll with it” was the only acceptable mindset for potty training. As much as I want to be a “just roll with it” mother, a lot of times, I am not. I’ve said it before, I’m a serial worrier. It’s a frustrating characteristic, one I worry about. See what I did there?

I knew that it would take dedicated time at home and with a week as empty as I could make it, bribes in hand, and a smile on my naively optimistic face, we began.

Day One:

Accidents: A plethora

Mental State: Go on brush your shoulder off, totally expected it.

Day Two:

Accidents: Maybe one less accident than the day before

Mental State: Repeat after me, it’s only day two, it’s only day two. Eat your feelings.

Day Three:

Accidents: Increasing

Mental State: Getting a nervous twitch due to frustration that it’s not getting easier so we brave undies on an errand adventure because the walls are closing in.

Day Four, Five, Six and Seven:

Accidents: Everywhere

Mental State: Tears. Begin self-loathing over the nagging mom I’ve become who asks every nanosecond do you have to go to the bathroom? I may or may not have uttered the phrase, “potty training is my personal hell.”

Day Eight: Forgo potty training. Strap her in a diaper, head to the zoo, and say nothing about potty training while enjoying the best mom and daughter day in a week.

Mental State: Sleep blissfully with the weight of a thousand sumo wrestlers lifted from my shoulders.

Day Nine: Plan to forgo potty training again, diaper her up. Miracle of miracles she joyously tells me she has to go to the bathroom on her own accord and then she does. Repeats 4 times. No Accidents. We sing the hallelujah chorus over here and declare her a genius.

And here I sit, Day Ten, wondering do I dare to dream? Do I say it out loud, the word “progress”? Sometimes I think as a mom if I say something aloud (read: brag) my child humbles me by refusing an encore presentation. Sleep through the night? Who me? No that must have been some other baby you were bragging about. So I am not bragging.  Hear that universe? No bragging to see hear folks. Move along.

In the spirit of honesty, this potty training business plus pregnancy is a hormonal roller coaster that makes me crazier than any reality TV contestant. It’s all mental this potty training game. But it has reminded me as first-time novice parent that each time I encounter one of these parenting milestones, many aspects of parenthood are trial and error and frustration does little good. I always want to parent from a place of love and support. And perhaps, a little bribery.

For now, I’m holding my breath and hoping to soon give a full report of our toilet triumphs.

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What Shaped Me as a Mother

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Sometimes I think it is society’s expectation that pregnant women MUST complain. While one stereotype of pregnancy is the maternal glow, I think the other, more expected stereotype is the giant, tired, hot, cranky, pregnant lady mess.

I often get asked how I’m feeling during this pregnancy and I sense that I often let people down with my response of “good” or “great.” While my pregnancy has been relatively easy, there are a few health concerns about the baby and there have certainly been things to complain about but most days, I can’t bring myself to do it. Pregnancy is hard. Really hard. No doubt. And there are things I lament to my husband about on occasion or I wish in my head were easier, but then I stop myself. There are plenty of women who would relish this opportunity and I don’t want to waste it complaining or wishing it away. I only have this moment. And sometimes, unbeknownst to all of us, this moment is all we get.

Babies are not supposed to die. It goes against the natural order. When women become pregnant, I think the idea that the death of a child is a possibility is considered, but normally, optimistically, most women are able to push it from their minds.

I have not lost a child.

Like everyone, I hope to never lose a child. But shortly after the birth of my first daughter, my best friend lost her baby three days before she was due. While I was not the mother suffering an agonizing loss, and I don’t want to suggest I knew how she felt, I was a friend whose heart broke, a new mother who worried, and a helpless human being to the reality of life and death.

I write this not as an unequivocally sobering post, or to try to tell my friend’s story (it is her story to tell), but to explain how a darling baby girl I devastatingly never got to hold or watch grow up, shaped me as a mother forever.

When her baby died, I felt so much guilt. I felt guilty that my baby lived. I didn’t deserve a baby more than my friend did. I was a less knowledgeable mother than she was and I was racked with the guilt of laughing with, smiling at, and overwhelmingly loving my healthy, living baby girl.

Those feelings of guilt took a long time to subside and sometimes, they still resurface. They especially resurface when I realize that her heartbreaking death taught me so much about being a mother. The little girl I had planned on spoiling and giving so much love ended up giving me so much more in return.

After her death, in those undeniably hard newborn, new mom, bleary-eyed hormonal first months of motherhood, instead of complaining, I’d hold my daughter tighter, bounce her longer, and let her sleep on my chest more often. I would think of my friend, who would give anything to have a baby wake her up every half-hour in the night or nurse endlessly during the day. It made me realize I only had that moment. Today was hard, yes, that moment was hard, undoubtedly, but somewhere, there were plenty of people wanting that moment I was wishing away. Her daughter gave me the life-changing gift of perspective.

Please understand that I agree wholeheartedly that pregnancy is difficult. I hear unimaginable stories of the hardships women endure during pregnancy; perpetual nausea, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, insomnia, and bed-rest. Each mother bears some stripes of pregnancy. No one is unscathed. Pregnancy is really hard. It’s okay to say that. To express that. To vent that. But I refuse to willingly and overwhelmingly complain about pregnancy. I refuse to wish nine months, a sliver in actuality, away.

It is easy to complain, I’m definitely guilty of it, but it makes me uncomfortable and regretful. The cliché is true that “the days are long but the years are short.” While I imagine it will be easy to recollect all the adorable and funny things my daughter did and easy to forget her unpleasantness and the tears I cried in frustration, I also want to remember me as a mom who loved her the best I could in whatever hard, ugly, long, painful, moment we were in. I don’t want to wish any of them away.

I want to do the same with this pregnancy. I want to love it for whatever brings, good and hard. I want to be grateful for all the moments I do get.

Thank you to the sweet, little red-headed girl l I miss and am indebted to forever for helping me try to be a more grateful, present mom.

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“Dadchelor Party” Doesn’t Quite Roll Off the Tongue…

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

It has come to my attention that “dadchelor” parties or “the practice of hosting a blowout akin to a bachelor party for expectant fathers” is becoming a thing. Personally, it seems clear that the horribly constructed, roll-your-eyes worthy name is indicative that the idea itself is not a good one. It’s more than lame though, it feels one stripper short of bachelor party sleazy.

Apparently, this trend is big time in Hollywood, or should I say Hollyweird. Let’s be honest, there are plenty of Hollywood trends I’m willing to gracefully bow out of:  the paleo diet, a lack of nudie privacy (sorry Kate), divorce, botox, boob jobs (okay, maybe not the last one, but that’s another blog post). And yes, Dean McDermott is the latest celebrity dad seen merrily frolicking at his dadchelor party. I’m calling shenanigans. First of all, this is his 5th child and therefore disqualifies him from the bothersome “last shot of freedom” mentality these parties advocate. Also, his party included flower arranging as an activity. This seems a far cry from the dadchelor mantra that these parties involve “drinking, sporting events, gambling, and more drinking.” I have two theories. One: flower arranging was organized publicity for some thoughtfulness on his part. Two: “make flower arrangements” was code for something I don’t really want to know went down. Either way, this is another Hollyweird trend I’m a-okay passing up.

Maybe I’m too fresh off my annoyance that plenty of people gave their condolences to the dad when we found out we were expecting another girl, but why is it that parenting and for dad’s especially, is portrayed as a my “life is over” situation? With our first, I heard countless times how we’d better enjoy life now, because we’d miss it dreadfully once it was gone. Holy Negative Nancys Batman. One giant boo to you all and to all a good night.

Now don’t think I’m some sort of “ball and chain” wife who doesn’t believe in “guy time” or “bros before hoes” or whatever you want to call it. I support my husband’s quality time with his besties. I do not support however, “celebrating” first time dads by giving them a barbaric, Apocalyptic-eve style “man shower” because their sweet, carefree life is about to end.

Here’s my beef. These dadchelor parties are seen as a “farewell from the inner circle.” My questions: Where are you going? Why do you have crummy friends who don’t understand babies take up time, but don’t automatically make you a complete loser and a waste of space on their contacts list? These are the hard questions you should be asking yourself.

And let’s just say what the major problem is with this whole dadchelor gimmick. Why is the husband getting the party of a lifetime? Let’s remember his lady in waiting, her royal largeness, sitting at home, too uncomfortable for and prohibited from any type of getting wasted. Even chocolate wasted because there isn’t enough room in her stomach for the baby and the amount of chocolate she deserves for working that baby belly for the last 9 months.

Don’t tell me her prize is a baby shower. Baby showers are nice and thoughtful, but no last hurrah status, and really, just a thank-you card hand cramp waiting to happen. Also, they are for the baby, not the mom. While a breast pump and nursing pads are a necessity, they don’t make anyone’s wish list unless they are with child. They never make Oprah’s Favorite Things. If baby showers were for the mom, they’d involve 10 times the amount of food, napping with reckless abandon, and intermittent wakeful periods where everyone tells her she’s never looked foxier despite her compression stockings and elephant sized boobs. I mean honestly, they are actually more work than pleasure these days (thanks Pinterest) and while appreciated, not comparable to the man-shower trend.

And before you think I’m the REAL Negative Nancy in this situation, let me be crystal clear. I’m not anti dads-only parties or celebrations. I am anti the picture of parenthood “painted so dire, it seems like you do need a last night of freedom…” or a place to “commiserate amongst friends.” If you’re looking at parenting as a time when the good life ends and the crap starts to hit the fan, you have no business being a parent, let alone “celebrating.”

Life isn’t over when you have a baby. Life changes, yes. Life gets crazy, sometimes. But over? Not in the least. Babies are transportable people. You want to backpack? Strap that kid up. You want to take scenic drives? Let me introduce you to Siri, the best babysitter I know. You want to make flower arrangements without some blogger’s judgment? Give that kid some dirt and let him/her eat it until their heart’s content.

I advocate that you wholeheartedly enjoy the time before the baby comes. Both mom and dad. Together and separate.  But also, no amount of partying, relaxing, or napping you do before baby is going to prepare you for the loss of those luxuries. Instead of dreading the impending change and toasting it with immature partying, focus on the things you will get in return. Parenthood is about sacrifice, but what people won’t tell you often enough is that the sacrifice and reward of parenting is better than a thousand lazy day naps by yourself. You don’t want to be “tardy to the party” of parenting by begrudging it because being a parent is better than any “one last shot of freedom” party you could ever dream up.

Image: Old time bachelor party via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com

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