Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Mom Type": Judge Not Lest Ye ... You Know

Yesterday, I read a post on what not to say to working moms. As a working mom myself, I nodded right along and reflected on those moments in the past 19 months since I've been back to work that people, even well-meaning people, have said things that have made my toes curl with the effort to not retort back or cry. It was nice to know that other working moms have heard these things too.

Then, I read the comments. Lots of nodding along like me, but also lots of stay-at-home moms who took great exception to what was said--and proceeded to SAY to the author many of the things the article addressed. My blood boiled, toes curled, as per usual.

I started thinking about WHY, whenever anyone says something about whether they work or stay at home, the "opposite" type immediately attacks.

And my conclusion: Fear. Guilt. Defense Mechanism.

We are all trying to do this parenthood thing "right," as if there even is such a thing. We all want to believe that the choices we make are the ones that will set our kids up for success, for happiness, for a fulfilling life. The decision to stay home or to work is a huge one, and these options appear to be diametrically opposed. One scenario has your kid with you most waking moments; the other has your kid placed in the care of another trusted individual for a large part of the day. It may be a daycare teacher, or it may be a grandmother or aunt, or it may be a nanny--but it's "not you."

How can both of these routes be "right"?

Underlying many of the comments I read from stay-at-home moms yesterday was judgment. "You had kids only to have someone else raise them." At the same time, an article about the challenges stay-at-home moms face would surely have the same types of comments from working moms: "Quit whining about how overwhelmed by your kids you are, at least you get to see them all day."

In my experience, if you judge someone, there's some part of you that feels insecure. Admittedly, underlying some of my thoughts about stay-at-home moms is jealousy. Though I find fulfillment at work, I wish I could be home with my kid during these early years. But our financial choices have led us to a place where that's not possible. So, I work. Others, I know, could stay home but choose to work. Others make incredible sacrifices in order not to work. Others have to stay home and desperately want to work.

Regardless of why we do what we do, we need to keep this in mind: We are all mothers.

I have grown to detest labels. Working Mom. Daycare Kid.

I am more than a "working mom." I reject that label and all of the stigmas and assumptions that come along with it.

I am a mother. I am a mother who works outside the home. I am a mother who makes up songs. I am a mother who lives for snuggle time. I am a mother who breastfed for 19 months. I am a mother who runs her hand over a hot forehead to gauge temperature. I am a mother who gives raspberries on a belly. I am a mother who often dresses her son in socks that don't match. I am a mother who cherishes her son.

I am a mother who trusts that the sum of all of our parenting choices is what counts. I guarantee: Among the ranks of the most successful people, and the least, are people whose mothers worked. And whose mothers stayed home. And whose mothers breastfed. And whose mothers gave exclusively formula. And whose mothers loved them and whose mothers maybe didn't.

Mothers who work and mothers who stay at home--we all do the best we can. Let's stop labeling each other, pointing at each other in judgment, and allowing niggling doubts about ourselves hold us back.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Munchkin Is 22 Months Old!

And only 2 months until he's 2!

All those 2s are appropriate--Munch has been practicing his "Terrible 2s" behavior! Lots of crying and screaming when he doesn't get his way. AND he's highly in tune to when Mommy and Daddy leave him. Distracting doesn't work so much right now. And he's getting three teeth at once, poor thing.

In honor of this month-birthday, here are 5 of my favorite things Munch does right now:

1) Sings. He has started singing the tune of some of his favorite songs. Some favorites: "yi-yi-oh" (Old MacDonald, e-i-e-i-o); parts of the ABCs; parts of Twinkle Twinkle; and, the highlight: the "la la la la la" part of Cobra Starship's "You Make Me Feel..."

2) Loves his friends--real and stuffed. He talks all the time about Co-Co, Arlee, and Jazzie from school, and he also loves to be surrounded by a growing band of stuffed animals. This stuffed love wins a special place in my heart because I was obsessed with stuffed animals as a kid and really, if I'm being honest, still am. His gang includes some old faves and new: Cow (pillow pal), Elfie, Monkey, Pooh, Puppy (from my grandma for Christmas), Dumbo (LOVES the huge ears and nose), Mouse (Steamboat Willie version of Mickey), Snoopy, and I'm trying to get him attached to Figment.

3) Asks to "ack": walk. He's just started this "ack" thing and pointing to the ground. Right now, he fakes you out that HE wants to walk when really he wants YOU to walk while carrying him. This is a short-lived transition step, I'm sure, and last Friday after Barnes & Noble, he walked holding my hand down the sidewalk almost all the way to the car.

4) Plays with my hair. Munch loves hair in general ("heee-ew"), but he especially loves to run his fingers through mine. He will lay drinking his bottle or going to sleep, fiddling with my hair. He sometimes likes when I have a "teee-ew" (tail--ponytail), but he most often will be like "No, no" until I let it fall to my shoulders.

5) Looks at pictures of the "baby." Which is of course himself. For many months, he's pointed out Daddy in pictures, then he included others, but now he's pointing to himself and saying "baby." I don't know if he realizes that the baby Mommy's holding in the picture is him (though I tell him so). But it's quite heart-warming either way.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Lone Man

Munch is experiencing some growing pains in day care this week. He was out sick on Monday, but Tuesday afternoon when I picked him up his teacher said that he had a very rough day because both of the other boys had transitioned to the 2s room from the 1s. Consequently, that left Munch with four girls--and he wasn't happy about it!

Apparently, he spent the day wandering about the classroom, unwilling to commit to playing. If he did play, he took his ball to the corner and played alone. He could be cajoled to join hands for Circle Time, but that's about it.

I find this whole situation hilarious, minus of course Munch's apparent unease with the absence of his friends. I also find it incredible that at nearly 22 months, he already recognizes gender differences. This truly is wired in the DNA. I figure--he'll learn to work with women!

Of course, we haven't controlled for all factors--two girls left his class at the same time, one for the 2s room herself, another for financial reasons. Munch adores these girls, saying their names all the time. Maybe he just doesn't like the four girls left!

I'm hoping that his friends' migration to the 2s room will ease Munch's own looming transition in a couple months--he hates the 2s room, cries upon entering it (even though he knows the teachers and it's a room adjoining the 1s room). My son has inherited my and my husband's resistance to transition and change, it seems.

The typical process for transition is for the kids to spend a couple hours a day in the new room, increasing the time over a few weeks or a month until they're used to it and can spend the whole day there. When Munch, at 15 months, finally started transition from the infants room to the 1s, he screamed and cried so bad when he had to switch back and forth that he went cold turkey--one day he was all infants, the next day he was all 1s. And he was perfectly happy.

The transition to 2s may be slightly more confusing thanks to the rooms' close proximity. It's not something I look forward to with eagerness (see previous comment about me and change). I like that Munch is comfortable and happy with his teacher. I hate that at this young age he already has to learn that things don't stay the same. So as I imagine him wondering where "Co-Co," "Ar-lee," and "Jazzy" are now, I do feel a tiny bit heartbroken.

But--hopefully learning how to evolve now will help him in school and in life, so that he doesn't cry for days at a change the way I sometimes still do. I can't tell you how many times, when one of my sisters is having anxiety at a new situation in life, I say, "It's a transition ,and transitions always take 2 weeks to get used to." At least, that's what my mother told me.

But again--Munch can't understand the concept that "things will get easier" and it's "normal" to feel out of sorts when things change. He just knows they've changed.

Maybe it's time to set up a few play dates!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fevers and Coughs

The weekend was spent nursing a sick kid. Luckily, Munch was in good spirits for the most part. We could all take a lesson for how he conducts himself when he's feeling under the weather--if he complains, then you know it's really bad.

On Friday, it seems he came down with the respiratory thing that is sweeping the nation. He also had a fever, which drives me insane. I check it all the time, running my head over his head, cheeks, and limbs nearly constantly. I try to remember that a fever is the body's way of fighting the infection, but it still whiggs me out. I think: "What underlying problem is this fever indicating?" It used to be that a fever meant an ear infection; however, it seems the fever may have abated today, so maybe his body is just doing its work.

On the whole, it was a nice, productive weekend. Hubs and I cleaned out our closets and dressers in prep for a new bedroom set coming our way in February. Finally, we'll have a queen bed! I'm sure I'll ask how I ever slept in a full-size for all this time, especially since a third body often wiggles in.

Update on Sleep

I am happy to report that for the past 6 days, Munch has adapted to our new routine. Firstly, we all go up to brush our teeth together, which Munch LOVES, then Hubs and I both go in to sway him for three lullabys at the end of which we kiss him and lie him in the crib. Then, we lie on the floor next to him until he falls asleep, which is generally within 15 minutes. The first night, he screamed for an hour, and that was hard, but I reminded myself--I am touching him through the bars, I'm right here, I don't need to pick him up. And, largely, he is sleeping, and he's sleeping longer in his crib. Of course, the illness has put a bit of a wrench in that, but only after he's initially not had an issue falling asleep. I hope this progress solidifies and continues.

One thing that really helped me was in my downtrodden post about this issue--I sort of wrote myself into an answer. It was about me feeling I have to put him to sleep rather than trusting him to put himself to sleep. It's a bit of letting go, of knowing he can do it, of being there more as quiet support and reassurance rather than active participation. This may be the story of motherhood. I know I'll need to eventually transition to not lying on the floor next to him. But this is much better than holding him for an hour and hoping he eventually falls asleep.

The best part of the weekend (or was this late last week?) was when Munch sat between Hubs and me and the floor, holding a bowl of Goldfish. Then he kissed each of us (by making a smacking sound with his lips and offering his head to our lips), then went to the front door and said, "Buh Bye!" This kid!

Resolutions are still mostly on track. I did break one last night--the reading, which was thwarted because of the late running of the Golden Globes, then the prompt wake-up of my sickly. I did read for an hour one night and 45 minutes another, so that must count for something, right? I went to the gym both Friday and Saturday and tracked food, though my meals were a bit higher than I'd like. 29 points is not very much at all, unfortunately!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Resolution Update, Week 1

I really should be calling this something more like Health 365 or something pithy, but it is what it is.

The resolutions are going well. I'm feeling confident that I made (mostly) the right call in the number of days/week I'm doing something. My weeks start on Thursdays because that's when my Weight Watchers meeting is.

1. Blogging: This is my second blog post this week, so goal exceeded.

2. Work out 4 days a week. Did it! And it felt so great. I worked out both weekend days during Munch's nap; one weeknight my wonderful husband did bathtime on his own and I zipped over to the gym; and one weekday, I left work a bit early (and picked Munch up from day care a bit late) to work out at the gym at my office. I can already feel some results; I also can already tell that the weekend days are crucial. Fitting in a workout 2 days during the week doesn't seem that daunting, whereas 3 or 4 might.

3. Track food 5 days. Did it, and lost 4.6 pounds! Much of that would have been holiday water weight, but it's a success! I still need to reign in some of the eating, but did much better this week than in months.

4. Avoid chocolate. This one hasn't been difficult, but I haven't done it either--espeically when I remembered my favorite Luna bar (Chocolate-Dipped Coconut) has chocolate and it's my go-to breakfast. So I've had chocolate here and there, and it hasn't "triggered" eating. Might drop this one.

5. Read 15 mins a day. Doing it. Usually it's ONLY 15 minutes and those are done IMMEDIATELY before shutting my eyes at night. Not quality reading time, but reading time nonetheless. I do wish I'd assigned a number of days per week I have to do it; will reevaluate in February.

6. No Dish Left Behind. Thanks to my husband, doing it! It feels wonderful to come down to an empty sink each morning. This is a challenge, but I already made different choices this week because of it. Sticking with it!

7. Write 60 minutes. On Sunday, Munch had a particularly long nap, and I got all of my minutes in in one sitting. I wrote for another 60 minutes last night, and I'm keeping those in my back pocket to apply to this week if something crazy happens. However, it's felt awesome writing again, and I feel the "drive."

8. Try 2 new recipes/month. Did one last weekend--a brunch-ish casserole that was a hit. One more to go!

9. and 10. Twitter and iPhone. These were sort of tacked on resolutions and that's how I've reacted to them. I've been on Twitter less and have checked my phone less, especially at home, and that's really my main concern: Focusing on Munch in the evenings. So these will likely be "loose resolutions."

Monday, January 7, 2013

"Tree. Buh Bye!"

Christmas 2012 officially ended in our household over the weekend. Munch, though not crazy about the attention Hubs and I had to give to the tree-dissembling, loved watching Daddy haul the tree out the door and even more loved watching Mommy vacuum up the leftover needles (which he then proceeded to pick off the soles of his bare feet).

Now, he points to the bare spot where the tree stood and says, "Tree. Buh Bye!" It's so cute, and, I believe, his first official sentence--two thoughts together, anyway!

But, it seems we're either in a transition period or still just having a rough-ish transition back to routine after being off from work and traveling over Christmas and New Years. Munch did so well all the way to New Year's Eve, though, napping and sleeping at mostly the appointed times, that I guess I didn't realize we had much transition to go through. Basically, sleep is sucking right now--or, rather, since we all pretty much sleep eventually, bedtime is sucking.


I didn't sleep train my son. There, I said it. I feel it's this dirty little secret I've been keeping, and reading mommy blogs where they talk about laying their babies down awake niggle into my brain as I know that Hubs or I spend 15-60 minutes swaying a 21-month-old to sleep before making the delicate transition to the crib.

I cannot let him cry. I just can't. Especially now that he inserts a desperately choke-screamed, Mommy!! when we let him sit in his crib for 5 minutes after we've unsuccessfully swayed for 60.

However, I know that there are ways to sleep train without crying it out and I just haven't fully committed to any of them. I imagined that as he grew older, he would come to understand that the crib is his bed and his bed is nice and it's there for sleeping. It would be a positive place for him. What it appears that he's learned is that the Big Bed is there for sleeping and it's much better and friendlier than his lonely crib. This also I've done to him, bringing him into the bed with us when he wakes at 1am instead of taking the time to sway him back to sleep. I've only got myself to blame, right?

And there it is: blame. I just keep saying over and over, I've done this to him, I've done this to him, I'm doing this to him. After all, he lies down by himself to sleep at day care. Mommy's presence is the X factor.

I tell myself I'm being dramatic. He'll sleep eventually, he'll get it eventually. But my mom didn't cry it out, but rather rocked me. And I have a very hard time as an adult getting to sleep. I understand I cannot say one caused the other, as I'm sure many other factors go into my adult sleeping troubles, not the least of which is my overactive, never-quiet mind.

But, the niggling thought: I'm doing this to him, setting him up for a lifetime of bad sleep.

Isn't this what we parents, but mostly we mothers, fear so much? That what we do now will have long-lasting detrimental effects. There's the old cliche: In therapy, everyone blames everything on the mothers. When we adults, or at least we adults trying to figure our shit out, take a macro look at our lives, Mother looms large. She's the one who loved us fiercest, protected us tirelessly, and helped set our course in the world.

But, in my son's case, she's the one who aided him to sleep instead of trusting him to do it himself. She's the one who has the TV on too much and feeds him ramen every night. Sure, he won't eat anything else, but maybe a better mother could get him to. She's the one who left him at day care. I'm the one.

Anyway, clearly I'm spiraling over this sleep thing. Parenting is hard. No one who hasn't done it gets it. I feel I have a life in my hands and it's my responsibility to make it his best one. We spend a third of our lives sleeping. That's a lot of time to fuck up.

But, surely all hope is not lost. Surely, I won't be swaying a 60-pound 2nd grader to sleep every night. Surely, we can take charge of this thing and "fix" it--change the routine. It will not be easy with my strong-willed boy. But, if only for his sake, I have to give it my best shot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolution Time

I love the start of a new year. I love fresh starts and the concept of a "clean slate." I strive for ongoing self-improvement, but I don't know--there's something grand about an empty calendar that gets me invigorated for change.

And, really, for me, resolutions are about the promise they hold. For me, the New Year is all about the possibility.

I therefore have 10 resolutions, some of which are meant to re-focus me on my health goals, others of which are to get me back in touch with the Girl I Used To Be, before I took on that all-consuming role, Mother. Or, at this stage, Mommy. Still others are meant to give me a quieter mind in the midst of this chaotic world. I'm sure I will fall short of some of these resolutions, but that's ok.

1. Write at least 1 blog post per week. Transitioning to a new, more demanding role at work and trading a laptop for a desktop caused my blogging to lapse in the past few months, and I want to remedy that.

2. Work out for 30 minutes 4 days a week. This is the resolution that feels most daunting to me. Time is required, full-on "me" time, and that is a precious commodity with a nearly 22-month-old running around.

3. Track food at least 5 days a week. The true goal is 7 days, and being on points, but this official wording gives me some wiggle room if needed.

4. Avoid chocolate except on pre-determined special occasions. I have to admit it--I can't have chocolate in moderation and stay on points. When I first joined Weight Watchers in 2001, I didn't touch chocolate for 3 months. I need to get back to that with this trigger food.

5. Read for at least 15 minutes a day. I love reading and it's sad that in my current life I have to resolve to do it; but it's something that if not made a priority can be pushed aside easily. I want to move through books a bit more quickly this year, and reading daily is the only way to do it.

6. Never leave a dish out overnight. Another challenging one, and one I will need my husband's help and support for. When my kitchen is a mess, my mind also feels cluttered. If we keep up with this daily, with each meal, it will not be impossible.

7. Write for 60 minutes a week. Not so long ago, I wrote a novel. The worth of these pages is as-yet undecided, but I wrote them. This novel needs significant reworking, but in the last couple years, I started another, and this story is one I think about--obsess as only a writer does--daily, hourly, minutely. I need to get this story out.

8. Try 2 new recipes a month. Part of my trouble with eating well is keeping meals interesting. This number is not overwhelming, yet will add variety to our table.

9. Only check Twitter in the mornings, after work, and before bed. As of now, I seem to check Twitter during every free second. Social media is a time suck, a procrastination aid, noise. I would like to cut this down to twice a day, but will start here.

10. Only check my phone/email once an hour. Along the same lines, when my phone buzzes, I jump on it. This leads to distraction during the work day and loss of focus during the precious time with my kid after work. I don't need to look at my phone constantly. It's a habit, and one I want to break.

That's it! What are your resolutions for 2013?