Sunday, September 2, 2007

Bleeding All Over


In case I haven't made it clear yet, let me say this:  being a working parent is tough.  Being just a parent is tough, no doubt about it.  And I know I don't have the fortitude to be a stay-at-home parent.  Being a working parent, though, has its own set of challenges.  Including losing your mind every eight hours as you're forced to re-adjust to the many different realities you're supposedly living in.

There are the little things that are trying, and that I've written about here, for example, the extraordinary amount of schlepping that must go on.  You schlep your stuff, you schlep your kids, you schlep your kids' stuff.  You're Hansel and Gretel, and you find your way home by following the trail of stuff you've left behind every day.  I think this is partly where my recently impulses to simplify have come from.  I don't want to become a prisoner to the stuff.  But even functioning at a minimum in this society, when you have kids, implies a staggering amount of stuff.

The little things are easily addressed, for the most part.  We are huge on routine, and that helps a lot.  We need the kids to go to bed and wake up at certain times.  We feed them certain things, and give them baths at certain hours, and for the most part keep our social engagements at a minimum so that we can be, well, free when we have free-time.  We use our free time to be spontaneous.  The rest of the time, which is most of the time, we rely on routine so that nobody blows a gasket.  There are just too many balls up in the air to not do some planning.

That said, the big things for me are about letting go of the plan when I have to.  The big things for me are about figuring out how to transition between work and home.  The big things for me are about paying attention and being present as much as possible, and letting go of ridiculous expectations.

Nolie's going through some changes at the moment, changes that have required I let go of the plan and my expectations, and that I transition into home life by paying better attention.  She's off of formula now and is drinking milk, we're not letting her have milk in the crib, and we're weaning her from the bottle.  She's much more interested in walking now, and is doing more focused play (she loves to slam her dollies into their "crib" and "highchair" as she loves on them with big, open-mouth, drooly kisses).  She is in daycare 35-40 hours a week.  She's overcoming some of her stranger anxiety.  She openly expresses her affection for us with hugs and kisses and cuddles.  These sound like tiny things, but taken together, they represent a shift in who Nolie is, and entering into a different state of being and being with.  I'm delighted by all of it, and certainly wouldn't want any "plan" to get in the way of these developments (as if it could).

A lot of this I'm really in tune with.  Nolie and I have a strong connection, and I've been doing better just hanging out with the girls when I'm home.  But some of this I hadn't noticed.  It took her daycare provider (who I swear is some sort of angel) to gently prod me:  When do you think you'll start introducing milk? she asked.  Do you think she still needs to be on baby food?  "Duh," I slap my head.  "You're totally right.  We'll start on the real food." 

I think six months ago, this would have made me feel like a failure, like I was a loser as a mom for not knowing the timeline.  I would have worried that I was ignoring Nolie.  But now I think I just welcome the help, and am glad to have others I trust involved in Nolie's growing up. 

Even as I write this I worry that it sounds as if I've abandoned my baby to the arms of a babysitter.  Those guilt-inducing voices are powerful, and I've internalized them well.  And we all know I'm prone to comparing myself to others--moms who have chosen to stay home and whose voices I hear in my head all day long, berating me for selfishly working.  Love those internal dialogues--so abusive.

I know this isn't the truth, though.  Nolie and Addie are amazing people and their lives are filled with people who love them.  They know their Dad and I love them more than anything.  We love to teach them and learn from them and be with them, especially now that the pesky newborn days are behind us and we are all getting to know each other better as conscious beings with flowering personalities.  I like that they see me go to work, and get excited about work.  I think its good they see Eric and I read and play games and talk animatedly about our days.  I like the time in the hammock, reading books to them.  I like playing dollies.

I just wish I was better at switching gears, at moving from the internalized world of books and research to the externalized world of being mom.  I fail at it a lot.  I try to read while I'm watching the kids, and get annoyed when I can't do both.  I take care of personal stuff when I'm at work.  Try as hard as I can, I can't always keep the worlds separate, even though I know everybody feels better when I do.  It's bleeding, is what it is, the bleeding of time and space and identity. 

There's got to be a better way to think about this.


  1. Hi Love. My only strong thought is, Let it Bleed. The idea that public and private, work and family have to be distinctively separate worlds is an old patriarchal construct rooted in Enlightenment-era social contract theories. You read dudes like Hobbes and Locke and it's as if women don't even exist, but who's caring for the children when the "citizen" enters the public sphere to work and do business? Women. Who's running the household? Women. And if women weren't, guess what men would have had to do? Think differently about separating the two spheres. My colleague has been bringing her infant son (and husband) to work every day during summer school so she can manage nursing and teaching; we all get it. Besides, in a 9-5 world, how can we not do personal stuff at work and work stuff at home? I'm thinking buying into the strict segregationist impulse just adds to the stress and is unrealistic anyway. You do an awesome job no matter what.

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