Moms Seeking Moms

Female relationships are tricky. As a young girl I was the target of what would be known today as bullying, when the cool girls ostracized me and gossiped behind my back all because I danced with the wrong boy. My experience left me alone at the lunch table, but also guarded around women for much of my life.

I generally made friends with males because they weren’t judgmental. After all, there’s no film called Mean Boys.

However, as a mom I find myself in the presence of a lot more females and if I want to make new friends they are likely to be those moms of my children’s peers, and they are often found at the classes my kids attend or the playground.

Trying to form female bonds as we age has proven to be a lot like dating. We want to find like-minded mates who share similar interests, and all the better if our kids could get along. It’s really not that easy though. The consensus from women I’ve encountered is discomfort and frustration in their search, too.

Are we focusing too much on our differences? We probably are more similar than the surface might suggest. We’ve survived sleepless nights, sick kids, tantrums, work-life balance, spousal disputes and family issues. We probably all revel in the hugs and kisses bestowed upon us by our offspring and may all agree that there’s no sweeter sound than the voice of our happy children. These commonalities may serve as a foundation for friendship. Yet, it would be nice to share a glass of wine (or bottle) with someone I’d also like to call my friend.

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Rising, But Not Shining

In my previous life I lived alone in New York City. I would set my alarm for 4.45am so that I could exercise, have breakfast at home while watching the news and maybe do the laundry before getting to my desk at 8am. Yes, I was certainly a morning person.

It’s one thing to make the choice to wake up early and another thing to be forced out of sleep by a toddler who most mornings at 4.20am screams: “Hello? Mama, you coming?”

I’ve tried ignoring him but he gets louder and then wakes our daughter. I’ve gone into his room to tell him it’s too early to get up and that he must go back to sleep. This approach is often met with violent screams and slamming hands into the wall while shouting “No” and “Stop it!” I’ve sat in the chair in his room to offer comfort to him, but he doesn’t sleep and neither do I. I’ve also climbed in bed with him only to be rolled on top of and hit in the face, hardly relaxing.

My husband and I thought for sure daylight saving time would offer some solace and we’d be victors of an extra hour of sleep in the morning. The first week provided a glimmer of hope when our son successfully went to bed at 7-7.30pm and woke at 5.15-5.30 a few mornings. And while the later bedtime has stuck, the early morning rising has returned, much to our dismay.

The pediatrician has told me any effort on my part to change my son’s sleep is futile because he is set to wake early. I can’t and don’t want to believe this but I feel that he has shown his resolve.

He’s also shown me up and I no longer would call myself a morning person.

Master of Manipulation

My 3-year-old started a new pre-school five days a week last month. He “gets” to ride on the school bus as part of the program in which he’s enrolled. It may sound like bliss to have about 3 hours a day without a tantrum-prone toddler whose favorite word is “No,” but the drama surrounding getting him on that bus each day is exhausting.

 

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He enthusiastically gets dressed and helps me pack his backpack and snack for the day. He eagerly wants to wait outside and watch for the bus with me. Then, the bus comes into sight and the game begins. Some days, his feet form roots. He freezes and I have to pull him to the doors of the bus. Other days he runs right up to the open doors and then stops dead in his tracks. He rarely will walk up the steps himself so I must lift and hand him over to the aide as he whimpers, “Mama, Mama.”

Everyday. Every. Single. Day.

And yet, I remind myself this is an improvement. He had been going to a preschool 2 days a week for 2 ½ hours that required I drop him off at the classroom. It was a similar experience: he’d happily get dressed for school, get in the car, carry his book bag into the school building and as soon as the classroom door opened, he froze. After six months he still cried or clung to me as I would say goodbye. He literally went from my arms to the teacher’s on many occasions.

I’ve asked my son why he does this and he always says, “I miss Mama.” While the cuteness of his response is endearing, it’s not lost on me that he’s probably just saying that.

His former teacher said it wasn’t separation anxiety and reassured me that he stopped crying within 30 seconds of my departure. The bus aide also has relayed to me that he calms down quickly and after the first couple of weeks he no longer even cries. Upon drop-off I’m told each day “he had a great day,” and the teacher has written me to say he is a “delight” to have in class. So the performance I suppose is really just for Mama.

I’m glad to hear that, of course, but it doesn’t make me feel better to know that I am being played by my toddler.

Everyday. Every. Single. Day.

A Culprit Called Croup

There is nothing worse than feeling exhausted, getting to sleep early and being awoken by a sick child, except for realizing you have a sick child. Somewhere in a semi-deep sleep, I heard what I thought was a dog barking. My husband, also hearing the noise, asked with a tone of disbelief in his voice, “Is that her coughing?”

Every fiber of my being wanted to deny that it was one of our children. I let my husband get up to investigate. Unfortunately, the barking got much worse and was intensified by wailing. I sprang out of bed to join him in our 14-month old daughter’s room. It was obvious she had a bad case of croup.

Having gone through it previously with our son, we knew to go outside in the cool night air and/or run the hot water in the bathroom to get it steamy. We did both. She calmed down and the coughing subsided eventually, giving way to heavy breathing with a lot of wheezing. She managed to sleep for a couple of hours, and then it started up again. We soon were back in the steamy shower trying to quell the stridor.

As a mom who has comforted kids through ear infections, fevers and stomach viruses, I find croup to be the scariest illness to endure. I can clean up vomit (and everyone always seems to feel better immediately after throwing up) or hold my child’s lifeless body until the Motrin or Tylenol kick in to fight the fever, but how do you quickly, easily and assuredly get a child breathing effortlessly again? It’s perplexing and terrifying.

Somehow, in the moment of needing to be alert and provide comfort to a sick child, all sense of tiredness dissipates and parents’ priorities shift. Being a light sleeper, I was doomed given the heavy breathing coming through the baby monitor, but my maternal sense of worry wouldn’t have allowed me to get the rest I intended earlier. I lay in bed listening for sounds of distress signifying that my daughter would need us again.

I also laid there knowing the next day would warrant a phone call to the doctor, which turned into a visit to the pediatrician’s office and then a trip to the pharmacy for medication.

It also meant a lot more coffee.

Bravery in Selling-Out?

Arriving at the decision to be a stay-at-home mom wasn’t entered into lightly, as I wrote about earlier. Despite all of the debates and discussions, I still feel weak for giving up and quitting. In the days before my departure from work, many colleagues offered support, expressed envy, lamented over their own situations and decisions, and some tried to dissuade me. A few of the comments:

  • “I find it incredibly difficult to do the juggling act so I completely sympathies that  you’ve decided that it’s too much to cope with at the moment. I have bloody Sheryl Sandberg (facebook woman) in my ear all the time telling me to `lean in’, and then I have 6-yr old Jeannie saying last Sunday night `oh no, it’s another week of not seeing my parents.’”
  • “I feel like giving up. Walter cried that I am not around enough last night and then I am rushing home to relieve the nanny cos jeff didn’t realise he was supposed to be home. Well done for being brave. Maybe you will inspire me.’’
  • “You did not think of gritting your teeth a year or two more? Your son will not need you as much as he does now. And your daughter would also have passed the difficult period. It is exhausting and hectic now. This would pass.’’
  • “You’re giving this version of yourself a chance to grow. Be on guard for any thoughts, especially when you are at your most pessimistic and fearful, that your children manipulated you into doing this. They did not. There was a need to fill and you stepped up to fill it. The only loss is material. Money. You, your children, your parents and family have so much to gain with you fully focused on taking care of them for a few years. You will not get this time back with your children and your parents.”

My struggles surrounding being a working mom aren’t unique to me. The guilt from having to take time off for school runs, sick kids and doctor’s appointments is ubiquitous. It’s a tug-of-war that all working parents face. I don’t believe I will ever regret being home for my children, though I may wonder what if I stuck it out longer to get over the hurdles facing me now.

At the end of the day, I realize it’s ok to feel like a sell-out for quitting, and that I did so in spite of it. Maybe there is some bravery in that.

Snow Day

I recall the excitement I felt as a child when I learned school was canceled due to snow. Fast forward to being a parent and discovering you have an entire day to entertain a three year old and 14-month old in 1800 square feet. Dread and fear are more accurate descriptors of my emotions now.

My son, the three year old, is the busiest person I’ve ever encountered. While it can be exhausting, I appreciate his energy as I also feel the need to be doing something every waking moment. I was not the mom able to nap when either of my babies did. Being stuck indoors also makes me claustrophobic.

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So yesterday’s snowstorm in the northeast was a particularly challenging day. Due to the sleet and winds, going outside to play in the snow wasn’t an option either. When noontime rolled around my son, getting fidgety, started asking where we were going. My answer “nowhere” was met with screaming, throwing toys and a lot of hand hitting into the wall.

I imagine with technology and iPhones it’s much easier to get through a snow day as a parent in 2017 than it was in 1980. We also have a dedicated playroom with balls, a kitchen, workbench, tents and every Bruder construction vehicle needed at a fully operational job site. Yet, even with this arsenal of tools it still took a lot of imagination, patience and a sense of humor.

Just as we were reading books before bed – beaming with a sense of accomplishment and relief that we had survived the day – I got a call from the office of the superintendent of schools saying there would be another snow day Wednesday for continued clean up and snow removal in our town.

No way.

 

Resigned to Chaos

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In the president’s address to congress last month he cited that more than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working. At the age of 40 I have become part of that statistic.

Perhaps unlike me, the majority of unemployed, eligible workers didn’t have a choice. Yet I argue that many moms don’t either. I struggled with my decision, discussed it repeatedly with my husband and friends as well as with a financial advisor, but with a toddler and infant at home, aging parents who had served as childcare and cost prohibitive daycare options in my area, becoming a stay-at-home mom seemed like the only option.

My three year old presented challenges of his own – yes, it’s the age, but it has become more complicated than a prolonged bout of the terrible twos.

While it seemed completely manageable to return to work after my first child’s birth, having two was a game changer. Any free time had to be divvied up between 2 children instead of devoted solely to one, and the different stages demanded individualized attention.

There’s the self-imposed guilt I feel because women before me paved the way and said we could have it all. Perhaps like Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests, until men have the same responsibilities and expectations at home as women we can’t have it all. There needs to be equality, but in my short experience as new mom, career woman and wife, I don’t see it as reality yet.

When the kids are sick or irritable, they want mom. My daughter refused a bottle for the first year of her life, requiring that I feed her exclusively until she finally and begrudgingly took a sippy cup.

The submission of my resignation left me feeling anxious and lost. Now what? Since babysitting at the age of 11 I always have had a means of income and sense of independence.

Who am I now? Am I cut out for this full-time mommy thing? My kids have mastered the art of manipulation so I embark upon full-time stay-at-home-mom status with trepidation and fear.