Tag Archives: stay-at-home moms

Let’s Call A Truce For International Women’s Day!

It’s International Women’s Day, but you’d hardly know it from the way endless arguments about women’s choices keep exploding the internet.

In fact, many women are on strike today, which will undoubtedly receive ample criticism in the days to come.

Why? Because we keep shaming each other like it’s an Olympic event. Both the left and right accuse recent women’s marchers of showing their privilege, Adele fans are fighting with Beyonce fans, and Emma Watson made everyone clutch their pearls at her topless Vanity Fair cover, many demanding that she hand in her feminist card.

And the mommy wars haven’t stopped either….

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Hey, we all have to make tough choices in our lives, each involving unique hardships and challenges. So instead of fighting, I’d like to take a moment today to appreciate all the other women out there. Especially the ones who are typically at war:

Child-free Women

You guys are bucking the trend, facing criticism from everyone who believes any “normal” woman’s primary focus should be on having children. You’re changing ancient stereotypes about women being walking uteri while creating more independence and career opportunities for future women everywhere.

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If only you had the right lipstick…

We don’t ALL need to have kids, and I thank you for bearing with those of us who are trying desperately to calm ours down at the restaurant or grocery store. Your taxes help pay for the next generation’s education too, so I thank you for being team players who are contributing to the group at large.

 

Plus, there didn’t used to be many options for women who didn’t want to focus on being moms, and that’s unfair. Our wages were pitiful, we were locked out of many career tracks, and were eventually viewed as old maids trying our best to scrape together something resembling a life after clearly being unable to land a man.

Thank you so much for helping to change this.

Single Moms

You guys have it ROUGH. You’ve got the pro-life crowd demanding you see every pregnancy through, regardless of circumstance, while experts demand you leave dysfunctional relationships or marriages, and then your morality is considered questionable after following everyone’s advice.

I have a hard enough time raising kids with a supportive partner, so I can’t imagine dealing with a screaming kid for hours, day after day, all by yourself… no one to shoulder the burden for a bit, while you regain your sanity. I honesty don’t know how you do it, but I’m impressed as hell that you keep it together the way you do.

Stay-At-Home Moms

Kids are a nearly-endless pool of energy and irrational desires. It’s DRAINING to take care of kids all day, Sisyphean at times… you slave over meals they refuse to eat or even throw on the floor. You clean out bodies and butts that get dirty five minutes later. You spend hours trying to either figure out why they won’t stop yelling, dumping out every jar in the house, or trying to stick silverware in the light sockets, only to relive the cycle again and again.

Trying to keep a house with little kids in it clean is like trying to file a huge stack of papers in front of high-powered fans. You can spend the entire day on your feet: chasing kids, putting out high-priority fires, and never getting a break, only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of it.

And meanwhile, everyone’s rolling their eyes about how you’ve probably been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day, while assuming you’d undoubtedly be doing something more important (i.e. better paid) if you had the skills for it. It’s tough to be a SAHM in a society that equates work with identity, but you’re still doing important work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to pay other people to it.

Working Moms

You guys are troopers, taking on a full work week during the day, then spending your evenings raising your kids. While SAHM’s don’t always get to take breaks, they do get some control over their own schedules, whereas you’re locked into a sunrise-to-sunset grind from the moment your alarm first starts screaming.

The American workplace doesn’t accommodate parenthood nearly as well as the rest of the developed world. You weren’t necessarily given much maternity leave, if any at all, and may have a brutal time reconciling your work schedule with the needs of your family without either shortchanging your kids or damaging your upward mobility. It’s a constant tightrope walk.

Meanwhile, you’re being shamed about letting strangers raise your kids, as if it were always a choice. Keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table is probably a higher priority, right?

And even if it is a choice, what’s wrong with being invested in your career? Maybe you’ve worked long and hard to get where you are and didn’t stop caring about it the moment you had a baby. Why doesn’t anyone question working fathers like this?

Breastfeeding Moms

bf.jpgEven though it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging. The technique is tricky to master, it HURTS for the first few weeks, and it’s very easy to get discouraged and give up.

It also takes an enormous amount of time. You have to breastfeed babies every couple of hours, which makes it tough to do much else. Doing so in public makes many people uncomfortable, which means you’re either living under house arrest for the better part of a year, or suffering lots of uncomfortable stares from people who find it disgusting.

But experts now recommend it as the healthiest way to feed your infant, so you’re working hard to do right by your kid. Good luck, and keep your chin up.

Formula-feeding Moms

food-drink-world_of_cow-cowtoons-forumla_milks-baby_formula-cow-01238016_low.jpgSince experts now strongly encourage breastfeeding, moms who use formula also face loads of social disapproval, even the unspoken suggestion that they’re lazy or don’t care about their baby’s health.

And that’s an incredibly painful judgment, especially if you really wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t build up enough milk or had a baby with latching issues. Beyond that, there’s a good chance you had to go straight back to work, which makes it exponentially harder.

Pumping enough milk takes more time than I can imagine being available to you at a full-time job, even with breaks, and women who try are looked down upon by their coworkers. It’s also much tougher to produce milk for a machine than a baby. Many moms smell their baby’s clothing or look at baby pictures when they try because the right mindset helps. I have the deepest respect for any working moms who manage it at all.

It’s easy to feel like a failure when you feed your baby formula, but don’t. Many, many generations of healthy babies were raised on formula and your kids will be absolutely  fine.

Liberal Moms

It’s a bad time right now for liberals in America. Our side lost, and the entire government is packed with members of the other team.

And now we’re fighting amongst ourselves as we scramble to understand how it all happened. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, many calling another subgroup the weak link in the chain as we splinter into warring factions. Was it racism? Was it elitism? Was it the failure to focus on the economy or the failure to do what we were doing even harder?

I don’t know, but I hope we don’t cannibalize ourselves in the process. We’ve got to keep our heads in the game, guys. That win margin was awfully narrow.

Conservative Moms

I may not be on your team, but I’m friends with many of your teammates.

In other words, we may not back the same horse, but we often have similar values. I think most of us want to live in a world where people don’t fear for their safety, where they can be productive and take care of their families, and where our kids can grow up with a good education and ample opportunity.

We both want less crime, fewer unwanted pregnancies, healthy people, and a healthy economy where we can live comfortably after putting in a hard day’s work.

We both want these things, even if we have different ideas about how we can get there. Maybe it’s naive, but I’m really hoping we can both learn to start talking to each other instead of demonizing the other side. I think we’ve probably got more in common than we realize, because it’s usually the extremists taking up all the air in the room.

Besides, we’ve kind of been forced to pick teams in the grand Super Bowl that is American politics. I’ll bet most Americans aren’t 100 % strict adherents to EVERY last position and theory spouted off by their political camp.  Most are probably more moderate than that, which means we have some common ground to logically hash out some of these issues.

In short, I think we’d all do well to recognize that while we face some hardships, everyone else has hardships of their own. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, so maybe we could put down our arms and try to understand someone else’s perspective, while giving ourselves a break at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seven Ways I Have Changed Since Parenthood

photoBefore I had kids, I was the perfect parent. I had tons of great ideas about how I would raise my pretend children and what our life would look like (generally, it looked a lot like a happy sitcom family). Between all the media images and examples around us, we are all parenting experts…. I mean, it’s just the advanced version of having a pet, right?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (That’s me responding to my former self.)

Now that I’ve had a few years of actual, on-the-job training, my perspective has completely changed.  For the benefit of pending parents, I would like to share some lessons I’ve learned:

1. I have learned to relax about a little messiness.

I wouldn’t go so far as saying I used to be OCD, but I was very averse to clutter. You never know who is going to drop by, so I always picked up after myself and tried to keep excess possessions to a minimum. Any lingering crap would irritate me until I took care of it, because clutter quickly snowballs into filthy surroundings and out-of-control To-Do lists.

Fast-forward to having kids: a perfectly tidy house is impossible. Kids reach a stage where they are incredibly curious about the world and want to run around opening every drawer and cabinet while dumping its contents onto the floor. They will carry handfuls of toys into every room and leak them into hidden crevices. They are messy eaters who will launch rice grains into every nook of your kitchen while rubbing beans into their hair.

Toddlers are very mobile yet too young to clean after themselves, so they run around exploding your house all day long, day after day. Picking up after them is like using a sieve to empty a lake–the mess just keeps filling in as you scoop it out. Keeping down your number of possessions is also difficult because kids grow out of clothes within hours and everyone is constantly giving them presents… and they are Super Mega Attached to every last one of them (You’re throwing away Broken Doll Head with the sad eyes? You monster!).

Eventually you either have an aneurysm from the chaos or learn to chill out about it, scooping it all up at the end of the day.

2.  I have learned to relax about being messy.

Before kids, I used to be the type of woman who usually wore heels (or at least boots), even when pregnant. I wore skirts and dresses as often as jeans and always flat-ironed my hair before applying light makeup. I was always clean, perfumed, and accessorized. I did not understand why so many women chopped their hair off and ran around in sweats and flip-flops after becoming moms.

Now I do. When you have a baby, anything you wear is bound to be covered in puke within hours and chucked into the laundry bin. This puke-fest will include your hair. Babies spit up, smear everything with goop, and sometimes overflow their diapers. You might have to change your clothes five times in a single day. You will not only be exhausted from sporadic sleep, but will also be sprinting everywhere, cleaning up spills while carting around infants with flailing limbs. If you do this in heels, you will eventually be doing a face-plant into the wall.

While I still try to dress with some dignity in public, my at-home wardrobe has slid into yoga pants and comfy flip-flops. Your life is so much easier if you tone it down a notch and keep remembering that everything washes off/out.

3.  I have learned to build extra time into my schedule.

Me getting out the door for an appointment used to look like this: am I dressed? Check. Do I have my wallet and car keys? Check. Did I turn the coffee pot off? Check. Okay, now I’m leaving the house. Done!

Now it looks like this: Okay, the kids are up and dressed and have eaten now, are their diapers clean? No? Okay, I’ll fix that. Okay, how long are we going to be gone? Do I have enough extra diapers, baby wipes, a change of clothes, emergency snacks, extra milk and water? Okay, we are ready… no, oops someone just crapped their pants. Gotta change them, oh well it got on their clothes… need more clothes. Actually, a quick shower. Alrighty now, wait, “Brontë what’s on your hands!? Okay, we are washing your hands. Where are your shoes? WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES? (I trip over a pile of kid crap). Why did you put your shoes THERE? Don’t cry! It’s okay! Yes, you HAVE to wear shoes. BRIDGET, GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE TOILET!” Oh Hell, we are 45 minutes in but FINALLY walking out the door… what’s that? Someone crapped their pants AGAIN?

Little kids just DO NOT CARE about getting places on time.

4. I have learned to manage my expectations.

Somewhere recently I read about a stay-at-home mom looking at her crazy, scattered house and thinking, “I have been up for hours and what have I done?” It really feels that way sometimes, because everything takes So. Much. Longer. than it used to. You make breakfast and feed your child, then need to spend time scrubbing all the breakfast off our baby, the high-chair, and kitchen. You’re dressing and constantly changing your kids and trying to entertain them while containing explosions and looking for a brief window during which to take your own shower and brush your teeth. You get the kid(s) down for a nap, finally, and have to decide whether to use that precious hour to do errands or catch up on sleep. By the end of the day, the house is still a wreck, you have only managed to meet basic life demands  (eating, sleeping, and showering) and yet you are completely exhausted, thinking about everything you didn’t accomplish.

Eventually you develop better systems, becoming more organized and efficient, but there will always be particularly hard days where your kid got into a bag of flour and dumped it all over the house or decided to throw a two-hour fit. Give yourself a break. We are all doing the best we can.

5.   I have more empathy for parents.

I used to see kids acting up in public and shake my head. “Why don’t the parents do something, ” I would think, “My kids wouldn’t act like that.”  I would envision the imaginary monologue I would give my pretend children that would be so reasonable, so effective… It’s not unlike when someone is super rude to you and you later imagine what you should have said to them, some witty comeback that humbles them and amuses bystanders.

The problem with that kind of thinking is it’s all scripted in your head. Of course it’s effective–it’s part of your fantasy scene, where you control all the responses and reactions. In movies, the main character’s witty comebacks always go over well because they are written that way. No one interrupts them halfway through or fails to be appropriately put in their place afterwards.

Not so in real life. In real life, you dish out your heartwarming pearls of wisdom or parental threats and sometimes… the kids don’t care. It doesn’t help. They keep screaming in the restaurant or knocking crap over. You give them a toy, a snack, you try to hold them… and it doesn’t work. Or maybe it works on one kid, but not the other. They just keep going batshit crazy as you scramble to figure out how to handle the situation.

In the meantime, you are probably getting eye-rolls and disdainful snorts from bystanders, which doesn’t help one bit. Single people like to talk about what they would do if they were the parents (in their fantasy land where everything works out the way it should) or say obnoxious things like you chose to have kids so you need to take responsibility for them. A number of times, I have encountered grumpy eye-rolling just because people saw that I have kids–kids that weren’t acting up or doing anything objectionable beyond existing. “Oh great,” people’s faces seemed to say, “Kids. Terrific.”

Okay, I get it. You don’t want to be disturbed by other people’s kids. Some of you think kids get too much attention anyway and not everyone should have kids. You might not want kids and resent the idea that you should have to.

I agree. Not everyone has to or should have children. You can have a great life, with more time and money, after choosing to not have kids. Maybe you don’t have the right temperament or lifestyle for children, and it’s great that you understand that about yourself and have chosen to forgo having them. But someone needs to have kids, unless we want the human race to go extinct, and those kids can’t be locked away in a tower until reaching maturity. They must live among us as they learn how to behave. Try to give their parents a break. They are probably mortified and are doing the best they can.

5. I’m more comfortable with all children.

Kids used to frighten me. I didn’t dislike them, I just didn’t understand or know what to do with them. People would pass me their new babies and I would freak out a little (“Oh no, aren’t they supposed to have a soft spot on their head? I gotta make sure I don’t touch the soft spot!” Little kids would settle near me and I wouldn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t know how much their brain had developed at a certain age, how much they could understand and communicate, or what they thought was interesting. If a little boy was staring at me, I might pick up a couple hot wheels and smash them together, “Is this fun? Are you being entertained by this?”

So imagine my panic upon discovering I was pregnant. I wasn’t a “kid type” woman. I didn’t swoon over baby photos or look at kids with a yearning ache. Could I really be a mom?

Yes. As panicked as I was throughout my pregnancy, the first sight of my newborn’s shiny eyes melted my heart and kick-started my maternal instincts. We have to give Mother Nature some credit here: we have been having babies for thousands of years and all of those generations survived to bring us the people around us. This doesn’t mean I suddenly knew how to handle every parenting situation, it just means I loved my baby to pieces and would do anything to figure out how to keep her safe and healthy. I even went on to have another kid.

Now that I have kids, other kids don’t frighten me anymore. You learn they aren’t a foreign species, just little people who are learning how to navigate the world around them.

7. I trust my instincts more.

Regardless of what choices you make as a parent, someone thinks you’re wrong. Medical and generational advice constantly changes. When I was pregnant, the official stance was to avoid eating nuts because they could trigger allergies. I’m glad I didn’t listen to that because now they are saying we should eat nuts while pregnant to prevent allergies.

Breastfeeding is taught as the healthiest option for babies, but a couple of generations back, formula-feeding was considered safer.  We are supposed to put babies on their backs to sleep, but my mother’s generation was advised to put babies to sleep on their stomachs. They used to advise sterilizing anything coming into contact with babies, but now we are finding out that this is bad for developing immune systems. Early potty-training used to be very important, but now they are saying kids train when they are ready.

My grandmother is horrified that I let my daughters suck their fingers and thumbs. She mentions it every single time she sees them, believing it will give them flat fingers and giant thumbs. She claims her mother was allowed to do it and had to live with giant, flat thumbs.  I try to keep a straight face when I hear this.

Some people think letting babies cry-it-out to learn to sleep through the night is barbaric, while others think it’s necessary for parental well-being. Some people believe strict discipline prevents your kid from becoming a thug, while others believe it  crushes creativity and breeds resentment.  Some believe in time-outs, while others see this as a demonstration of alienation and conditional love.

Working moms are berated for “letting other people raise their children.” They are called selfish and greedy. Stay-at-home moms are berated for betraying the women’s movement and not planning for the future. They are called lazy and spoiled.

Single parents are criticized for irresponsibly bringing children into this world without an intact family, whereas parents with troubled marriages are told they shouldn’t stay together “for the sake of the kids.”

I think everyone gets my point here, which is that no matter what your choices are, you can’t satisfy everyone. In the end, you have to listen to all the theory and then apply what you think is right for your family and your individual situation. You might have to try different things and see what works. If your heart is in the right place, however, everything will probably turn out fine.