I Can Finally Admit I’m Not Good At Being A Mom…Or At Least That’s The Story I Keep Hearing In My Head

Now that it’s over I can finally let you in on my big secret.  I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day.  There could be a lot of reasons for that — I don’t love being “celebrated”, I don’t love being forced to do things in the name of being “celebrated” when I really just want to go to a yoga class, or maybe because I feel torn as a mother and a daughter.  Or it might be because I’m super lazy and lame.

But if I am being honest, I probably don’t love Mother’s Day because the journey to motherhood has been a rocky road for me.  I struggled to get pregnant the first time, I was in the hospital with the “Royal Disease” (hyperemesis gravidarium) during my second pregnancy, and I flat-out sucked as a new mother with my first.  I couldn’t get him on a schedule, I couldn’t get him to stop crying unless he was being pushed around in a stroller, and I couldn’t get him to sleep…ever.

But that has changed.  I hit a stride when Gavin turned one and then a year later, Chloe was born as one of those mythical “easy babies,” so I haven’t really had a tough time as a mother in years.  Yet I still identify most with those first really hard months.

Today I have a feature up at Mommyish talking more about this strange feeling I just can’t shake.

I’m Convinced There Is No Comfort Zone In Parenting

Since suffering through that impossibly difficult first year with a challenging baby, I have never really allowed myself to get into a groove as a mother.  This isn’t a sob story about how kids constantly change and ruin your perfectly laid plans. I gave up those expectations years ago. I have learned to really go with the flow in practice. Yet in my mind, I find myself always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Four years and two kids later – despite many more good days than bad – I constantly wonder “when is it going to be like that again?”

Read more on Mommyish…

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Three going on thirty (or how many gray hairs my kids give me daily).

Three might be the best age ever.  Gavin can be trusted to do so much on his own.  He climbs the steep subway steps all by himself.  He walks the sidewalks in front of me, but waits without fail at least 5 feet before the crosswalk.

Hode my hand, mommy.”

One of our favorite things to do is spend time at the local playground.  He’s been playing here since he first learned to walk and he knows every inch.  Now that Chloe is walking, she’s beginning to investigate the steps, the slides and the scene herself.   I spend a lot of time shadowing her.  That leaves Gavin with free reign as I keep one hand on her, one eye on him.

At the park this April, er, winter?

There were a lot of bigger kids at the park on Saturday which instantly makes me queasy.  Gavin loves to run behind the older kids as they run and roughhouse.  On this day, I noticed two 8-year-old boys that he was trailing.  They clearly didn’t enjoy the presence of this “baby” and had told him to get lost as they ran away repeatedly.

He chased after them as fast as his tiny legs could carry him until the boys stopped suddenly.  Together they backed him against the slide and one boy screamed some awful things just inches from his face.

I was behind Gavin at the time this happened, on the other side of the slide.  I couldn’t hear what the older boy said but I could see the menacing look on his face.  When they ran away I quickly circled over to see my boy.  His face was contorted in that way when you are trying with all your might not to cry but all you want to do is bust up and sob.

Yeah, just like that.

I was so proud of him for holding it in until the boys left.  I was so relieved that he cried (and let me console him) when I arrived.  It was time to go anyhow and after this incident I hauled both kids over to the stroller.  I strapped Chloe in and handed her some snacks.  But Gavin suddenly stopped the waterworks.

“I need one more minute mommy,” he said.

Somehow I knew he was right.  Intent on leaving on a high note, he ran another loop around the shark infested waters playground.

Dun-nah, dun-nah, dun-nah

Collision!  The boys were back.  Gavin stood shocked when he spotted them but I caught his eye and smiled – letting him know I was there.  Suddenly his demeanor changed.  As the boys charged over, he met their pace.  When they were all face to face he yelled to them “hey, you’re not gonna follow me!” and resumed his stride.

But the boys were bored and content on breaking him down so they chased after him.  He stopped and faced them.  “Leave me alone!” he boldly announced.  And they did.

How my heart leaped!  He was cautious, but not afraid.  He was assertive but not aggressive.  I couldn’t have asked for a more positive result from what could have been a mother’s nightmare.

My heart pounded out of my chest for the entire walk home.  I was sad at what happened, proud of his reaction, assuaged I was there to witness it all, troubled by the fact that this is just the beginning.

Frankly, it was too damn much for a Saturday afternoon.

Who said this parenting thing was easy???

Love this boy

 

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Is all of life an indentity crisis? Or is it just me?

Now that I’m tanned, fed and no longer sleep deprived, I’m started to ponder some deeper questions.  Is 5’2 the maximum height Snooki’s baby can hope for?  Would Jen Garner have had a third if she had one of each first?  Are Gwynnie’s ovaries whining now that she is always holding baby Blue?

And then somehow this question popped into my head:  WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?

In sad contradiction to my 30s, I was the most certain teen I knew.  Since my junior high days, I can recall countless essays and papers spent detailing my life in the YEAR 2000 (sung in the Conan theme).  It looked like this —

To do:

Married.  CHECK.

Two kids, a boy and a girl.  CHECK.

Lawyer.  CHECK.

Home owner.  CHECK (it’s not our home, but it is technically home to someone).

Wait a minute second!  You know what this means??  I have accomplished all my goals in life!   Woo-hoo!  I never wavered in my path and now I am living proof that with determination and hard work you can achieve anything you want.

And then what??

I’m too young to be having a mid-life crisis, but I spend most of my days generally lost and confused.  Even when I am happy and in the moment, there is the nagging feeling that something is out of place.  Are Chloe’s pants on inside out?  Are there a handful of Cheerios in the shoe I just put on?  Oh no, I just don’t recognize myself at all.  That’s what it is!

I’d love to blame this on my kids and say that being home with them isn’t stimulating enough, but it’s simply not true.  I had a full-time job until just a few months weeks days minutes, a short while ago (ok, that’s another story).  Still I questioned my identity as a lawyer pretty much every second I sat behind that computer.

So I ask myself for the bajillionth time – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE CARINN?

Back at the drawing board, I wanted to be armed with important information — 2012’s list of the worst jobs and a reminder that others have it worse:

#7, meter reader.  Sounded ok until I read they get shot at regularly.

#4, oil rig worker.  I have no idea what an oil rig worker does but I once loved watching Deadliest Catch.  Does that make me qualified to judge?

Wasn’t Ben’s character in Armageddon an oil rig worker? Doesn’t look so bad from here.

#1 worst job, the Lumberjack.  Not to be confused with my #1 favorite breakfast, the Lumberjack, consisting of two eggs, bacon and a light fluffy pancake.

Ok, well now I’m hungry.  Figuring out the rest of my life will have to wait until after breakfast.

Parenting me (part II of Parenting Upstream)

A few weeks ago many of you shared your experiences with what I called parenting upstream.  You know, my futile attempts to nurture against nature.   With each new visitor comment I had a new theory.

Maybe all first-borns are CZD (“comfort zone dwellers”) and all second-borns are “daredevils”?  Nope, my own siblings negate that one.  Maybe all boys are the CZD and all girls are the daredevils.  Nope, we’ve got some boy daredevils in the mix.  Can’t really chalk it up to astrology, since my kids are the same sign.

So I have no theories as to why our kids are like this and definitely no answers as to how to parent either group.

However I did notice something really interesting.  Everyone seems to worry more about the one who is like them.  Are you a daredevil wild child?  I bet you sigh and wonder how you are going to ever get a handle this crazy mini-me.  Or are you the reserved one?  I bet you spend more time wondering how to pull this little one out of her shell more than you worry about the wild one.  In fact  you might even celebrate the wild one’s exuberance.

Ian worries a lot about our son.  He loves how smart Gavin is, but he doesn’t want him to always dwell in his head, to miss out on life in the ways Ian thinks he did. “Go for it,” he telepathically tries to encourage Gavin, “the world isn’t going to bite.”

I worry about Chloe.  I love how bold and fearless she is, but I don’t want her to just power through life and possibly make the same mistakes I did, especially believing you can do it all with no sacrifice.  “Slow down and enjoy the quiet moments,” I wish when I look at her.

If you worry about the one who is “like you”, it is because we know so intimately the struggles they will have to endure.  It’s a parent’s instinct to protect their child from harm.  It’s an adult’s perspective that gives us the experience of a hard lesson learned.  The balance between the two is the biggest challenge.  We can teach, we can show, we can warn but in the end each person – mother, daughter, father or son – has their own path and we need to respect that.

I was the wild child and I can already see Chloe doing this in a few years:

This is me in the 80s jumping off a Central Park playground

Playgrounds, the gateway drug to cliff jumping…

This is me jumping off a cliff in Maui. Twenty years later and all that's changed is the height of the things of which I jump off. Seriously, I pretty much have the same exact pose, don't I?

Instead of worrying about the lessons I know both my children will have to learn, I know I need to support them just being them. To gently guide without forcing a specific direction or result.

So I anticipate a lot of holding my breath as she explores the playground, a lot of sleepless nights as she navigates the teen years, and a lot of tears as she struggles with her identity.  And I forever wish that her path in life is smoother than mine…

 

The best consolation about her following in my footsteps is knowing she'll meet a man as awesome as her dad

 

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Three things all moms hate (except me)

I don’t know if I was born with some missing chromosomes or what, but there are a few “mom issues” that I don’t seem to get.

1.  I don’t mind when the little old lady in the Target checkout line tells me to “enjoy every moment.”  I don’t – enjoy every moment, that is – but I understand her sentiment.  The days are long but the years short.  I get it.  It’s true (even if your timing sucks).  And it doesn’t infuriate me.

She's just telling it like it is, right Granny Clampett?

2. If when I tell a story about how hard X is for me, or what a crappy day I’ve had and you respond with a story about the ways your experience is worse – it actually makes me feel better.  It means that you can relate to the way I am feeling and it gives me a little perspective to see the brighter side of my own situation.

This definitely looks rougher than my day

3.  When someone says something as stupid as this, I enjoy the validation that a mom’s job is the hardest job.   Sure there is a twinge of condescension, maybe, when these words come from Obama or Oprah – as if the subtext is a pat on the head and a “good for you, little mommy that could, you keep on trucking through your tough day while I get back to running the free world/company that’s bigger and more efficient than the free world.”

Being a mom is the toughest job – whether you do it for 2 hours a day or 20 hours a day – for one reason.  It’s the only thing in life that requires you to be completely selfless.  All. The.Time.  The more hours you do it, the more your patience, empathy, sanity and strength are tested.  Your own basic needs are secondary.  Any other job doesn’t have co-workers who steal your food right out of your mouth or bust open the bathroom door to chat, right?

Is it the “hardest” job in the world?  I don’t know.  All I can do is share my experience.  I was a stay at home mom for two years and then I went back to work for a year.  I can tell you that being home is FAR harder than even my most demanding day as a lawyer.  It’s not even close as far as personal challenges go.  The stakes are higher at home than anywhere else.

And since being a mom is also a thankless job, I take those nuggets of validation, even with a small side of haughty disdain, and pat myself on the back.

Because raising a boy who takes time to grimace at the flowers is a challenge

So maybe it’s just me…