Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Mommy Wars

I find it amusing how some women seem to make mothering a sport. At a time when most women are at their most fragile, most unsure, least confident, and are most in need of feminine support (that sounds like it should come in a pink box from the drugstore), rather than rallying around our sisters, we'd rather make them wrong. Because, of course, that makes us more right.

It was only recently that I became edumacated on all the different wrong ways to raise a child. I've compiled a list of some of the major contentious issues on how to raise a baby. And of course, whichever of these you choose, you're dead wrong, according to someone.  Let's no particular order...

breast vs. formula
public breastfeeding
ear piercing
co-sleeping vs. crib
attachment vs. "you'll spoil the baby"
babywearing vs. stroller
when to start solids
homemade baby food vs. jarred baby food
organic vs. regular
cry it out vs. wait it out
TV: friend or foe?
and then there's all the debate about discipline methods - spanking, yelling, praising, ignoring.

To make it extra fun, there are the people who lie or exaggerate.  Does anyone actually care what other people do with their kids?  I surely couldn't care less if your child's crackers are organic, multi-grain, gluten-free, sweetened only with honey or not.  And I hope you don't really care about my kid's crackers. 

So here's my problem, though.  In the Mommy Wars, I am just not a contender.  In a world full of nuclear superpowers stirring shit up with each other, forming alliances and blocs, I suppose I'm like Switzerland.  I have a firm commitment to neutrality.  However, most of the coaltions in the Mommy Wars expect everyone to be a ideological fanatic.  You must be either a die-hard lactivist or a militant formula feeder, for example.  Which is hard for me to do.  I fed my firstborn both by breast and bottle, by necessity, but I also really enjoyed having the option of giving him either, and that's a super awesome metaphor for how I approach, well, pretty much everything.

It's probably part lack of confidence, part inability to make a decision, and part fear that I'm accidentally going to inflict serious and permanent emotional damage on my boys.  But I can almost always see everyone's side and rarely think anyone's wrong.  I don't engage in competitive mothering and I think it's hilarious that mothers who spout all the time about how their little ones NEVER watch TV are the first in line to buy tickets to Thomas or Yo Gabba Gabba or the Wiggles or whatever hallucinogenic kid's entertainer is in town. 

But even if I did feel firmer about my methods, I wouldn't think that feeling strongly about my choices would make other people's choices wrong.  Different kids need different approaches and whatever's right for you is  It might not be right for me, but that doesn't make it wrong.  I don't know what happened to moderation these days.  Grey is the new black, but we still don't see most things in shades of grey.  The uniforms of the Mommy Warriors only seem to come in black and white.  I never was too good at laundry...mine seems to have bled.

And I'm pretty ok with my firm middle ground leaves the door open for me to discover new and better things and to learn how to be a better mother every day.  But it comes with one pretty major corollary: I don't fit with any groups.  At least not very well.  As such, I don't really have a whole lot of mommy friends, and spending as much time as I do with the short ones, I could use some more adult interaction.  My poor husband must feel like I pounce on him at the end of each day, grilling him for details of his day just so I can feel like my brain hasn't completely atrophied.

I wonder if the members of the Swiss Federal Council have to deal with this too.  Like, do they really want allies, but the Americans and the Russians don't really like them that much because they are just so Swiss, and well...all that's left is Luxembourg?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mommy 2.0

So Thing 2 was a surprise.  We were not trying for another baby...we were thinking about starting to try, and fully expected it to take months.  I could have used more time to prepare mentally, but by the end of the pregnancy I felt pretty ready.  And felt pretty ok about the whole thing.  Yes, I knew that two boys 18 months apart wasn't going to be the easiest thing I ever did, but I felt strangely ok about it.

Roo wasn't an easy baby.  He hated sleeping, hated nursing, hated a lot of things.  He is now a simply wonderful toddler.  I really feel like we put in the hard work in the front end and now we get some rewards (he might become a demon again when he's a tween but maybe Alzheimer's will have set in by then).  I figured it couldn't possibly be that bad the second time around.

Having a second baby is so different than having a first.  I am more confident, more comfortable, less surprised, and less anal about things.   I told myself (and countless sanctimommies told me too) that it would be easier.  I would be more chill, and thus my baby would be more chill.  I was certain that this baby just HAD to be easier.  How could he not be?

Well.  He's not.  If I am being truly honest, Cat is more difficult than Roo ever was.  For fun, I made a list.  With all this spare time I have.

Shit Cat Hates
  1. Bassinet
  2. Swing
  3. Stroller
  4. Sleeping on his back
  5. Sleeping in any position for more than 30 minutes
  6. Soothers
  7. Bottles
  8. Car seats
  9. Driving slower than 60 kph (he's like the bus in Speed)
  10. Sitting still
This begs the question, "Well, what DOES he like?"  I can really only think of two things.  Dancing and boobs.  Great, my youngest son is fated to either own a strip club or spend a whole lot of his adult life as a patron of one.

In spite of lowering my expectations and simply not having the energy to give a crap about a lot of the things that I was all Momzilla about with Roo...Cat is still giving me a run for my money.  At four months old he is clearly in charge.  He is like Vegas...randomly rewards me with decent sleep or with a quiet ride in the stroller.  But most of the time, dealer wins.

However, it really pisses me off when sometimes I vent or whine about it and people suggest that it's somehow my fault or that I just haven't found the magic bullet.  That if I simply relaxed more it would be easier.  That all I need to do is whisper "shhhh" and pat my baby's back and he'll magically sleep better.  People said crap like this with Roo and I stupidly believed them.  I figured I was simply doing it wrong and it really was my fault that he was a pill.  Now, as a veteran mom, I know better.  I don't suck.  My baby kind of does though.

My boys are obviously super speshul.  They reject social norms already; aren't they precocious?  Unfortunately for me, I have not given birth to the kind of kids that people write books about - well, maybe an autobiography of a raging alcoholic.  They don't follow rules or schedules, they don't care what they're "supposed" to do or what I want them to do.  I do know them best though, and I know their quirks and what workarounds are necessary. 

And yet I love them.  They have forced me to learn patience (a lesson I sorely needed, and continue to need), and to give up control, and to be more flexible and spontaneous.  I've become far more creative than I ever dreamed.  And I've learned that anything more than three hours of sleep is just gravy.  And I wish, pray, and hope that it's true that after putting in all this hard work now it will be smooth sailing when they're older.

See...having kids hasn't killed all my optimism.  Only most of it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Losing yourself

Here's the thing.  You can know that it's a bad idea to lose yourself in motherhood.  You can be aware of others who've done it and you can tsk tsk at them.  You can say "pfffft, that will never happen to me."  And then you can wake up one day and realize that it has. 

At least that's how it happened for me.  I never intended to be one of the mommy drones, who drags her carcass out of bed in the morning only to slave away all day and into the night serving every need of her children and drop into bed, exhausted, unkempt, and having accomplished absolutely nothing for herself in the past 20 hours.  And yet...I somehow ended up giving birth to two kids within 18 months.  I'm kind of there.  At least part of the way.  I'm not unkempt, but that's about the only thing I haven't caved into. 

My husband and I keep trying to implement ways for each of us to get some "me time" but it's not going so well.  Either something goes sideways and we feel too needed to leave, or we are just too tired to actually do anything.  I'm sure it will get easier as time goes on, and this blog is actually a big part of it for me.  I'm not crazy enough to try to make any commitments of how often I intend to write, but I do have plenty of ideas of topics that I intend to write about.  So I really hope that I am able to stick to it.