JUST STOP IT! PARENTING IS NOT A CONTEST!

workingmomedit

 

I apologize in advance that this will not be a nice, well-planned post with structure and all that good-writing-skills stuff.  It’s a rant. And I need to get it out. I hope it makes sense.

When I came across this article (from Working Mother Magazine of COURSE – see here for my feelings on the site to begin with), I was seething… it’s been hours now, and of course, it’s still on my mind. Can we PLEASE just stop comparing who has it worse, or whose kids have it better/worse, or dividing mothers into categories??

I have been on both sides of this imaginary fence: I worked full-time (45+ hrs/week with 2 hrs/day of commute time) for the first 3 1/2 years of my parenting career. I have now been a SAHM for 10 months. Guess what? THEY ARE BOTH HARD! Being a parent is hard, no matter what the circumstance. And it is not made any easier by having your need/choice to work or not work questioned and criticized at every turn.

I understand the guilt of being a working mom – you constantly question how much time you’re spending with your kids, you push to make every moment of that time be “quality time”, no matter how much you love your caregiver (ours was family), you worry that it’s not “as good” as having you around more… your exhaustion, especially in the first few years, leaves you feeling like you aren’t doing anything to the best of your ability – at work or at home… I get it, I really do.

It’s great to have reassurance that your kids will be ok, but, as these “studies” and “articles” do far too much of the time, that reassurance should not be gained by disparaging those who are living a different life. Would it not be sufficient to say that working moms’ adult kids “thrive” or “succeed”? Why the comparison? Why say they do “better” than those who had a parent stay home.

And exactly who did they study, anyway? There are MANY factors that go into a family’s decision about who works, who stays home, and how the children will be cared for… some women work because they want to, some because they need to for sanity, some because they need to financially… some women stay home because they want to, some because they need to.  There are many working moms who would love to stay home, and many SAHMs who would love to go back to work, but in each case, their current circumstances don’t give them the choice.

There are also many different definitions of a “working” parent – some work from home, some work part time, some work on a freelance basis so that they can schedule their work around their children.

Please, can we just stop with all this bullshit? Being a parent is hard. Period. And because people come in all varieties, what is hardest for one is not necessarily at all challenging for another. So let’s support each other instead of tearing each other down.

Yes, the children of working mothers can be very successful and well-adjusted adults. But screw you, Working Mother Magazine, for not just implying, but outright saying that they are better off than the children who have a parent stay home.

Ok, I think I’ve made at least most of my point. Now I need to get YC, who just woke from her nap, so we can pick up EC at preschool and come home and make dinner for when Mr I gets home.

Sorry my first real blog post in weeks was a downer.  Have a happy Wednesday, Imperfect friends!

 

My Daughter Doesn’t Talk Yet, And I Like It

delayed speech

Our younger daughter has hit most of her milestones later than her big sister did, and that’s fine. All kids progress at their own pace. While some delays have been minorly frustrating – it felt like an eternity waiting for her to walk at nearly 16 months when EC had walked shortly after 10 months – none of it has ever worried me. It was actually a little amusing, since she “walked” on her knees instead for a good 3 months or so before getting up onto her feet (I blame her freakishly tiny feet), and the knee-walk was cute to watch.

But I think my favorite “delay” is actually her speech. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not “speech-delayed” or anything dramatic.  She’s nearly 20 months old, and she has a handful of words – very normal according to all sources, but significantly less than EC had at that age. I looked back the other day at some videos taken of EC at this same age, and she was clearly singing full songs, and “reading” (read: “reciting”) board books. While there were definite advantages to having a child who was very communicative so early, there are some reasons that I am enjoying having a second child who’s not quite so chatty.

Less sibling fights. I know that there are plenty of years of bickering ahead of us, and I’ve already said more than once that when YC does start talking more, EC is in for a rude awakening, because she won’t always get her way anymore. Right now, she can’t understand her little sister’s objections, so I’m able to mediate with some fabrication. Once YC is expressing her opinions in her own words, it’s going to get interesting really fast.

Signing is adorable. We started sign language with YC pretty early on, and she signs “please”, “nurse”, “eat”, “milk”, “water”, “excuse me”, and “thank you” (which she has sweetly merged with blowing kisses). Though she is getting more verbal words all the time, she still insists on signing for all of these things, and it’s just so charming, I’m in no rush for it to change.

Her face tells me everything. One of the first things most people notice, and the biggest things they comment on, when meeting YC, is how expressive her face is. It doesn’t usually matter that she doesn’t say anything; you can’t mistake her attitude in any given situation. She has the most effective withering stare of disdain I’ve ever seen on a child, and a few seconds later, she might grace you with the most full-faced gleeful laughing smile. And the girl is smart as a whip. She understands everything, and does not hesitate to make her opinion known. She epitomizes the need for spelling in front of little kids, especially things like P-A-S-T-A or C-O-O-K-I-E.

It’s like she and I have our own private language. I’m not saying I always understand her, but being at home, and her sister being at school three days a week, I spend pretty much every waking hour (hers, I mean) with her, and a lot of it just the two of us, so no one understands her distorted words better than I do. I love being privy to her secret language. I love that I was able to encourage her to call EC “Sissy” when I noticed that her attempts at EC’s actual name were coming out as “Kuh-kuh”. Mr Imperfect might not have been a big fan of “Sissy” at first, but she can say it, and it’s better than her calling her sister poop – and EC loves her special nickname!

Every word feels that much more exciting when it does come. With EC, her words came so early and so fast that it just became old hat for us to introduce a new one and her to start repeating it. With YC, her common response when we ask her to repeat a word is a sort of humming sound, as if she’s saying it with no consonants, but when she does imitate the word, it’s thrilling – especially when she does it for her “Sissy”. The other day, EC was entertaining YC while I made dinner by “reading” a book about shapes. I heard this through the playroom window:
EC: This is a circle. Can you say “circle”?
YC: Hnnnhmmm
EC: This is a square. Can you say “square”?
YC: Hnnnn
EC: This is an oval. Can you say “oval”?
YC: Oh-bull.
EC: YES!! MAMA! DID YOU HEAR? SHE SAID “OVAL”!!!

Eventually, she’ll be in the full swing of toddler-speak, and then the preschooler lisp-y speech, and eventually totally normal words.  For now, I’m enjoying this unique communication phase. Who knows, maybe she’s a genius in the making!

It all fits...
It all fits…

Four Struggles of an Introverted Parent

INTJwordleFor those readers who know me in real life, what I’m about to say may surprise you. I am an introvert. I know, it’s shocking and I must be kidding, right? I’m used to that reaction. People often assume I’m extroverted because I don’t seem “shy” and because I’m not all that quiet. But what truly makes a person extro/introverted is where they draw their energy. For me, I need to be alone to recharge. I don’t think I’m particularly anti-social, but too much social activity exhausts me, and large crowds of people make me incredibly anxious.

Thanks to years of performing, I can fake it really, really well, but having to be “on” for too long can lead to total shutdown. Only, there is no chance to shut down with kids, is there? Being introverted is a challenge to my parenting, and being a parent is a challenge to my introversion. Sometimes, it feels like every part of my life is suffering from these challenges.

My friendships suffer. This seems to be especially true for my non-parent friends. I am better at making the effort when I convince myself the girls would be missing out on seeing their friends. And it isn’t that I don’t love and miss my friends. I just feel like I have a finite amount of energy to expend, and by the end of a day, there usually isn’t much left for adult interaction. You add into that the effort of getting childcare, or even making contact with people… and here comes the shutdown again.

introvertMy kids suffer. Or at least I worry they do… I hope they don’t really. Sometimes, I feel like I am holding my kids back. They want to go out, but I want to stay home. This one is a no-brainer usually, because I don’t truly want my kids to be homebodies, so I almost always make myself go. I love that they enjoy being out and about in the world. I want them to have experiences, and see their friends, and do all of these fun things. But I have to admit that I’m looking forward to a day when I don’t have to be so involved in all of their activities and outings.

My marriage suffers. This is not to say that my marriage is in trouble; even great relationships have weaknesses. I know that some of ours are a direct result of my introversion. Too often, after a long day of having little hands pulling at me, and little bodies climbing all over me, I feel like I want to put a bubble around myself with a sign that says “No Touching Please”. It’s not at all fair to Mr Imperfect, but it’s who I am and how I feel, and thus very hard to fight.

I suffer. As a SAHM, I’m pretty much never truly alone. As an introvert, I need alone time like water, or air, or sleep. If I go too long without that chance to recharge, I enter a vicious circle of guilt and helplessness. The more time I spend out of the house in social situations, the more tired I am physically and mentally… So I can’t gather the energy to do my usual work around the house, and then I start feeling guilty for not doing the things I need to do, and annoyed that those things aren’t done (but won’t let anyone do them for me, either), and that makes it even more difficult to motivate myself out of the house (not that I can get much done when the girls are awake and around anyway). So I sit here wishing someone would take my children away for a day or two so I can get my house in order AND relax alone (which Mr I does on occasion, bless that man), but then I feel rotten for wishing them gone…

Every endeavor has challenges, and parenting is no exception. For me, being an introvert is an obstacle I’m constantly battling to be the parent I want to be. What about you? Is there something, whether external or internal, that is a constant nemesis to your parenting ideals?

“Chore Wars” – Are You Kidding Me?

Cleaning DisputeHere I go again with a Working Mother Magazine inspired post. Part of me thinks I should just “unfollow” them, but then again, it’s giving me some good blog fodder… This time, it’s the “Chore Wars”, an article about a study they did, the link seems to be showing up in my news feed every 20th post because it’s “sponsored” (and because they’ve posted at least 4 different posts about the same article). Just the title makes me squirm, but the study, the couple they interviewed, and the comments that have followed… those tick me off.

Check the study out for yourself, but the short version is they interviewed couples about the division of household labor, and found that we’re apparently still living in the 1950’s. Then they’re asking their readers to play into this by posting pictures of themselves doing the chores and using the hashtag “#chorewars”. In other words, they are encouraging women to complain, and they are perpetuating the idea that this should be a “war”.

I’ve talked to countless women over the years, women who are my friends, former colleagues, acquaintances in online “mom groups”, who are frustrated because they feel that their partners don’t pitch in, that they take on the majority of the household and childcare responsibilities. I will say the same thing here that I say to them – we can’t just sit back and blame the men. If there’s an imbalance in your household, you own half of that simply by allowing it to exist. If you don’t like it, do something about it.

Now, my household isn’t perfect – I’m not perfect and my husband isn’t perfect. We have our own issues for certain, and we don’t have a perfect 50/50 balance of responsibilities. But I own that. If there is something I need or want Mr Imperfect to do, and I don’t communicate that, I can’t resent him for not doing it. There are also some things that I simply won’t let him do because I have a couple of anal retentive tendencies (understatement) and I want things done a certain way. To me, that means that I cannot resent having the responsibility of that chore. I can’t be pissed that I’m always the one cleaning the bathrooms, or vacuuming the house, or washing the floors if I would just be dissatisfied by the way he did it.

When it comes to the childcare, yes, I’m the “primary parent”, as in, I’m the one who’s pretty much always here. But we share the responsibilities when we are both here. He does his share (maybe more than) of getting up in the night with our girls, and has done so since EC was a newborn. EC didn’t nurse, so he as capable of taking care of her needs as I was from almost day one. YC did nurse, but he still got up some of the time and brought her to me in bed to nurse so that I didn’t have to get up. Even when I stopped working full time, he understood that it didn’t mean I was entering a life of leisure, and he continued to do his share. He also encourages me to go out and do things on my own while he watches the kids, and occasionally takes them away for entire days or overnights so I can have time to myself in my own home!! (Oh, and a minor pet peeve: When Daddy takes care of the kids – that’s not “babysitting”, it’s parenting.) Am I spoiled? Not in the least, because I not only need that time, I deserve that time.

I like to believe that there are two major reasons that we work in tandem this way. One is that I wouldn’t put up with anything less. The other is that it’s who Mr Imperfect is as a person… which kind of goes back to the first reason, because I probably wouldn’t have married him if he wasn’t that way – an equal partner. So some might say that I got lucky (which I won’t deny), but I also take credit for myself in the fact that I have no problem expecting my partner to do his fair share and letting him know that.

So the long and short of it? Ladies, if you feel like you’re pulling all the weight around the house, and it makes you unhappy, DO SOMETHING about it! If you aren’t making clear what it is you need, you don’t get to complain about not having it.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Violence – Where’s the Line? (An Tangent Topic in the Baltimore Situation)

Before I get to my point, I just want to say that the struggles happening in Baltimore, as well as the other areas with similar situations, are a symptom of a very real problem. My goal in this post is not to minimize that issue. This is not a political blog. I do not pretend to know enough about the racial tensions plaguing our country to put my opinions out there for consideration.

I talk on this blog about my thoughts on parenting, womanhood, and maybe occasionally other topics I feel knowledgeable enough to address. In this case, I want to talk about this video that has been circulating on social media…

According to reports I’ve seen, this is a mother upset with her son for participating in the riots in Baltimore. The vast majority of comments are congratulating the mother…

Comment 1 Comment 2 Comments 3While I can definitely understand this mother not wanting her child involved in these events for a whole host of reasons, this is not an example of good parenting. In addition, I can’t help but feel like a lot of people are being hypocritical by congratulating this mother, while simultaneously condemning the rioting (not to mention the peaceful protesting that is hardly even being addressed in the media). (*side note, I do NOT condone the rioting.)

I don’t care how old he is, or that he is taller than her, or about any of that bullshit. Bottom line, she is acting in pure anger and beating her son. Why is this ok?!?!? If she were doing this to a stranger, she’d be arrested for assault. If this were a video of a man with his daughter, or even a woman with a daughter, people would be up in arms. Oh, wait… what if this were a video of any other two people (say, a protester and a police officer…)? This is not an act to be congratulated or celebrated.

Violence begets violence, guys. And for the commenters who have been saying she “obviously disciplines well” because he’s obeying her… how about the fact that if he respects her and listens to her, she shouldn’t NEED to hit him? If her way of getting him to do what she wants is to hit him, what has that taught him about how to get others to do what he wants? And since I’m already standing on my soapbox judging this woman whom I don’t even know, let’s consider that if he really respected her, he would’ve known she didn’t want him there and never gone in the first place!

*Steps off soapbox*

Sorry, Fictional Moms Just Don’t Count…

Fictional momsThough I don’t currently work outside the home, for some reason I still follow “Working Mother Magazine” on Facebook. Even when I was working, I didn’t relate to a lot of their content – I found their podcast particularly pretentious (and that’s from an NPR listener) – but I did occasionally find something worthwhile on their site. A recent article I read there, however, really annoyed me… so much so that here I am, a couple of days later, still thinking about it, and still annoyed. The article was titled “4 Women Who Are Redefining the Concept of ‘Working Mother’”, and it was shared on their FB page with the caption “Most of us insist: ‘I’m a mom first.’ But are a lot of us hiding what we really feel about being a working mother?” I had a few issues with the article, including the fact that I disagree with the premise on a couple levels (another post for another day)… Today, I’m just going to talk about my biggest issue with the authors supporting “documentation” of her point:

Three of the “4 Women” are FICTIONAL!!!

The first “mom” cited is Leslie Knope, from Parks and Recreation. And it says that “Her children are part of the story, but they’re not the main event” and “…by showing that a woman can continue to be a productive, high-achieving professional while having children…, Parks and Recreation refuses to cater to misogynist stereotypes.” Never mind that the fact that the show is about her workplace, her children are merely “accessories” to define her character. Admittedly, I have not seen the show, so this is my assumption – after all, the name of the show describes her JOB, not her family – it’s not The Leslie Knope Show.

 knope    gina    maria

The other two fictional examples are from Sesame Street – Maria, a store owner, and Gina, a veterinarian. Of Gina, the author says, “… much of her time on the show is spent in her veterinary practice, giving advice to the animals of Sesame Street.” DUH! The show is about those animals – of course what we see of Gina is her in her professional role; the show is not about her family. I’d address Maria, too, but it’s the same story, and I’m starting to feel like a broken record already.

I’m sorry, but while it’s lovely that the characters are being written as strong, career-oriented women, the fact is that they are written that way. They. Are. Not. REAL. They are not actually doing anything! So props to the writers, but at the same time, let’s remember that we only see the sides of these characters that are relevant to the story being told.

The only real person mentioned is Beyonce, because she started recording her album “just a few months” after her daughter was born. Most working mothers return to work WEEKS after their children are born. And did they interview Bey for this article? It doesn’t seem so, so how can the author purport to know what her priorities really are? Maybe she didn’t want to get back in the studio so soon, but was pressured by her label… maybe she did it so she could record part-time and be with her daughter more, rather than putting it off and having to spend long hours in the studio to meet a deadline… maybe, maybe, she struggles as much with “work-life balance” as everyone else. Who knows?

babyblueMy point? Fictional characters can be written any way the writers feel like writing them. It’s great to write them in an idealistic way, but don’t ask me to look to them as inspiration or examples. If you want to inspire real moms, use real moms as examples… and don’t rely on assumptions about their lives, feelings and intentions – you have to actually talk to them.