Thursday, October 29, 2009

This job is impossible; how are you going to help?

Yesterday, I was in the drug store with both kids, buying Halloween candy and bottle nipples with a faster flow so I can feed Ira in under 45 minutes. We'd already had a lovely trip to the hardware store and the grocery story. The stroller was loaded with cider, a pumpkin, and the three bags of candy I was about to buy. Then the baby, who was riding on my back in an Ergo, really needed to fall asleep but couldn't quite do it on my back. So I put down the giant bags of halloween candy, took off my babywearing coat, took the baby out of the Ergo, strapped the baby into the stroller, and tried to figure out how to carry the halloween candy, push the stroller, and answer my daughters incessant "But why aren't we ever going to buy it?" questions.

The baby was on the verge of sleep and I was wandering around, exposing my three-year-old to more products we weren't going to purchase when I finally found the bottle nipple aisle. I set the giant bags of candy down again, parked the stroller right next to them, and walked eight feet or so down the aisle to the get the nipples. Nipples in hand, I came back to the stroller, but then had to deal with the Q-Tips my daughter had aquired. Back at the stroller again, I was ready to step two feet away to buy the stupid candy from the cashier. This series of obviously neglectful acts got the three cashiers up front freaked out, so the highlight of my shopping trip became getting told what a bad job I was doing as a parent by exposing my baby to all those potential kidnappers by stepping 8 feet away from his stroller.

You can imagine what that did to my mood for the day. Just in case you can't, it sent me into something of a tailspin of bad parenting. Back at home the stroller tipped over with the Ira in it (he was unharmed). Then everyone needed lunch at once so I had a screaming baby as I warmed a bottle and got something filling but non-nutritious ready for Leigh. Later I neglected a very fussy Ira so that I could have Leigh help me make dinner. I turned my back and my daughter was hitting my son over head with a toy. I got angry and frustrated while trying to put the baby to bed and was then mean to my Leigh. I left Leigh in rest time a little longer so I could watch "Supernanny" on Hulu. When Ira started crying in the bedroom I felt glad he was doing it in there and not out in my space.

Most every moment of the rest of the day reminded me that I can't do a really good job as a parent of two children, if "good job" means meeting their needs, having them both directly under my watchful gaze at all times, making sure they're moderately presentable and behave well (especially in public), protecting them from everything, keeping them happy, and helping them to develop -- all things expected of parents these days, every moment of every day. I guess I really couldn't do that with one child, but with two I'm totally out of my depth.

Having two kids isn't easy, and I'm still holding myself to the same standard of parenting I had when there was just one kid. Somehow I have to cut myself some slack without just deciding to throw in the towel (or to never go to a store again with two kids, which I was seriously considering yesterday). What I need is a community that gives me a hand, supports me as a parent, and provides extra sets of ears and eyes. I guess I should consider myself lucky, because I get that with my friends and in my neighborhood park. But in much of the rest of the world that extra set of ears and eyes seems to be concentrating on finding my flaws rather than helping watch over and care for my children.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Just me and baby

My Dad's mom passed away last week. It wasn't necessarily unexpected and she lived a long and good life, but it was somewhat sudden. Gail and I decided it was a good idea for me to fly out all the way to the other coast with Ira to be with my dad during this time, but that it wasn't possible for our whole family to make a sudden cross-country trip. So here I am, spending about 5 days with my parents and with extended family, some of whom I haven't seen in years. It has been a sad but also in some ways a happy time, sharing memories and reconnecting, and there's something beautiful about having a baby here when we are marking life's passing.

But that's not really what I came here to write about. We decided Ira would come with me primarily due to feeding since I'm his primary (but not his only) milk supplier, and so that Gail would have some hope of both working and successfully holding down the home front without going completely batty. So, here I am, spending one week as Ira's primary parent.

At home, neither of us is a "primary" parent to our kids. Or rather, maybe it's more accurate to say that we are both primary parents, and we endeavor to structure our priorities, life and time to make this a reality. There have been times when this has set us apart from our parenting peers (in both good and sometimes uncomfortable ways), far more often than being a two-mom family.

So this week, for pretty much the first time in the over three years that I've been a mom, I'm living a little bit like "everyone else." I'm making all parenting decisions regarding Ira's feeding/sleeping/bathing/etc. I'm changing pretty much every diaper and all feedings are coming directly from my body. I'm up every night for every waking and feeding. This is not to say I don't have help. There is plenty of family around, and my parents love nothing more than spending time with Ira. They've both spent plenty of time both playing with him and soothing him, but it is just that, it is only "help."

I'm actually really enjoying parts of this experience. Ira is proving to be adaptable and good natured in pretty extreme circumstances. He seemed to think that our nearly 12 hour stint in various airports and airplanes to get here was just one big chance for him to make new friends. As I whisked through the subway and airports, successfully managing gear and baby, I enjoyed feeling kind of like super-mom. I'm enjoying the simplicity of feeding him without ever needing to pump. I love that all the complements about what a beautiful and delightful baby he is are coming straight to me (who wouldn't love that?). I'm somewhat surprised to find that I'm understanding a little about why other moms might not want to really share parenting. At least when parenting one good-natured 4 1/2 month old, who also happens to be my second child so I'm not a giant bundle of nerves, it's kind of nice to be the only "Mommy."

But as much as I'm loving parts of this experience, mostly I'm missing home. I'm missing Leigh with a physical ache, and am worried that this trip will lead to a rocky transition home. I'm missing Gail, which feels a little like missing the other half of my brain. I'm really really missing that sleep I get every other night at home (which is probably dropping my brainpower by another half). I also know that soon, babies become toddlers, and that I (in particular) need a true teammate for that. I also know what it's like to be away from your baby, since I took a conference trip when Leigh was this age, and so I'm sad for Gail, knowing she is missing him deeply while I'm having this time with him.

When I called home earlier today and got the machine that said "You've reached Gail, Lyn, Leigh and Ira" it almost made me cry. I love my family so much. I love our whole complete four-member family and am so glad that soon I'll be home, and we'll be all together again, even if that means Gail gets to take some credit for how fabulous Ira is, and that sometimes I have to pump.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Parenting Roundup

  • Bedtime Stumblings from Killing the Buddha Peter Berbergal writes about his brother's suicide, how he talks about it with his six-year-old son, and his own religious faith. It's a
    lovely look at those challenging bedtime conversations.
  • Must Hollywood dads be so clueless? from "Moms and dads alike, single and partnered -- not to mention their children -- deserve more than this myth that women instinctively know what they're doing with kids while men, left to their own devices, will neglect their young at all times except at playtime." Amen to that.
  • Census: Stay-at-home moms are not who you think from Penn State News Interesting article on stay-at-home moms (which makes me wish for a corresponding census study of stay-at-home dads). However, I take exception to some of the things they say. For instance, "though there's a perception that many well-educated, well-to-do moms are opting out of the work force to stay home with their kids, the census found that only 7.4 percent of stay-at-home moms had a master's or more advanced degree." This isn't the number that you need to make the argument they are trying to make. Only about 9.4 percent of people in the US have a masters degree or higher (and I don't have the figures for women of an age to have young children). Thus we should expect the percent of stay-at-home moms with higher degrees to be low. The percentage that we need is the percent of all women with masters degrees and higher that are stay-at-home moms, and then we need to compare that to the percent of women in the general population (or other restricted groups) that are stay at home moms. That would tell us something about whether there is an "opt-out revolution." OK, now I'll stop ranting about mathematics.
  • Daddy Dialectic: Does parenthood make men more conservative and women more liberal? Jeremy Adam Smith's take on a recent study showing that men and women move in opposite directions on the political spectrum once they become parents. He asks the question, "Does taking care of kids push men in a more liberal direction?"
  • rad dad -- a zine about parenting: Parenting Has Everything to Do With You Rad Dad writes about why you should read a parenting zine even if you aren't a parent and about the whole parenting zine scene. Makes me want a copy of Rad Dad 15, if only I'd get off my butt and get one!
  • A Somewhat Shallow Exploration of Gender Preference « Project Kjetil Bree writes about wanting a boy and having a girl.