Martyr Mommies

I love my children dearly.  I love them and want them to have everything.  I give up many things in order for them to have things I didn’t have when I was their age.  My biggest wish is for them to have more, experience more and do better in their endeavors than I have.

However, one thing I do not agree with is Martyrdom Mommyhood.  There are moms who give to their children to the extent they themselves are unhappy.  They stay in unhappy marriages to give their children two parent homes.  They isolate themselves from adult friendships because their kids cry when they leave or because they are afraid to leave them with anyone else.  They give up their favorite activities, hobbies, or work (in essence sacrificing their individual identity) because they can not find a balance between family time and personal time.  They always go where their kids want to go, eat what the kids want to eat, listen to what the kids want to listen to and talk about what the kids want to talk about.  They sacrifice their individual identity to become MOM.

A mother’s biggest job for her kids is to be a role model.  How can a mom teach a child to be a well-rounded person if they themselves are only one-sided?  How can she encourage her child to explore their capabilities and interests in their lives if she stifles her own?  How can children learn about healthy relationships (marriage and friendship) if their mother doesn’t teach them relationships take hard work and time?

It is good and right to sacrifice for your children.  Just consider how much of a sacrifice you are making and whether it might actually be taking away from your child’s experience.

  • Are you happy in your marriage?  If not, are you working to make it better or just allowing things to happen without speaking up for yourself?
  • Do you occasionally meet friends to talk and have fun?  Do you HAVE any friends?
  • Do you occasionally spend time away from the kids to do things you enjoy such as hobbies, activities or work?  Do you spend ANY time away from the kids?
  • Do you have goals or accomplishments you work towards (other than being a mom) which you are proud of?

If you can’t answer Yes to any of these questions…you should rethink who you are as an individual in respect to your family.  If you don’t know who you are without them…how can you teach them who they can be without you?

Mothers Be Tolerant

One resounding theme which I have been struggling to express on this blog is to clearly articulate the importance, and our apparent loss of the ability to, openly discuss parenting styles and have open-minded dialog about raising children.

I am fairly new to motherhood (a 3 year old and a 10 month old) but I’m not a youngster myself (38).  I was shocked to be welcomed into motherhood with a constant barrage of people’s opinions on how to raise my children.  The advice (almost always un-welcomed and in the form of instructions, not really useful advice) was hurled at me very pointedly from every opposing direction you can imagine.  And it was always with the intent I was somehow endangering or mis-raising my child.  A small snip-it of the many examples include:

  • I was carrying my son in a strap on carrier with his body facing mine.  He had a bad habit of pushing his feet up against me so he could lean his head back and look at the ceiling (ceiling fans and lights are more interesting than mom’s chest) and as soon as I would adjust him back into position, he would do it again.  So I gave up and began using my hand to support his head a little bit and just left him like that.  While I was in a store one time, a woman came over to me and said I was carrying my son wrong and I was straining his neck and literally would not listen to a word I said nor would she let me pass until I adjusted him in the carrier.
  • My son was very hot natured.  I started off like any mom with putting hats on his head and heavy coats when we went outside.  He started getting a weird rash on his head and neck so I took him to the doctor.  The doctor said it was heat rash and I should not put caps on him.  A few days later, I took him out for a walk in 50 degree weather in his stroller with a coat on.  A man who coached a toddler soccer class across the street from us literally yelled at me as I started going down the sidewalk.  “Put a hat on the baby’s head!  Babies loose 90% of their body heat through their head. Here, let me help you.”  And he proceeded to leave his class to come over to talk to me.  I just walked off, I was so mad for someone to think I needed to explain myself and my parenting decisions to them.
  • I took my son to an indoor playground with other toddlers.  He was climbing up on a play area and fell so he started to cry.  I started to get up to pick him up and a stranger touched my arm and said, “Sit down.  If you get up every time they cry, you’ll spoil them and they will cry about everything.” I thanked her for her advice but opted to pick him up and she snidely says, “Your going to regret that some day.”

Instead of having open conversations to learn about different parenting styles, since as parents we are all in this together really,  we treat parenting styles like we do religion and politics.  The fastest way to get into an flaming argument over a small disagreement is to discuss parenting, religion or politics.  Except, it’s worse when you are a parent.  Strangers don’t usually walk up to you and say, “Hey I see you have a Socialist bumper sticker on your car…You can’t do that!  Take it off or I won’t let you leave.”  But for some reason, if you have a child with you…they feel free to say and do whatever they want to with no social stigma attached.  I’ve never had a stranger approach me and offer me advice about anything…except parenting.

Furthermore, it seems to be mainly a woman thing.  Men don’t seem to notice or care how other men father their children.  They will discuss things on occasion (mainly complaining about their wives LOL) but otherwise, they don’t usually get up in arms about parenting.  As women, we do this to ourselves.  We are so worried about being perfect mothers, we are afraid to be honest.  And we are so judgmental about kids being raised right, we can’t see past our own viewpoint to entertain other ideas.  As women, we should be lifting each other up and giving support rather than judging each other and tearing each other down.

My best example…since the time my son was about 9 months old, I have been a member of a mommy’s playgroup.  We work together to put on educational activities, play activities and whatnot for our kids.  The group is actually very diverse, with lots of parenting styles, lots of different races and religions.  We also have differing political views and socioeconomic statuses.  But yet, this group works!  Our numbers fluctuate from around 25-50 due to people moving, kids growing up, new kids on the way, etc. but the same basic group of about 20 women have stayed.  The reason is because we are tolerant and as a result, we are able to openly discuss parenting and how each woman handles each stage of life.  I can honestly say, if it were not for being in a group of women like this, I’m not sure how I would have survived parenting so far.  I have learned and adopted into my lifestyle so many new things I would not have tried on my own had I just followed the way I was raised.  It has truly been a blessing.

My worst example…there is a woman in my life whom I respect, but we have very different parenting styles.  As a result, almost every time we have seen her (about once or twice a month) I hear some sort of derogatory comments about my parenting choices.  They range from, “Mason is so depressed all the time, you are too hard on him” to “You’re going to break his spirit” to something about how I brainwashed my kid to think he is a “bad boy”, which I can assure you…never happened!  It has been very hard on me.  People tell me to ignore the comments but as a mother it is hard.  We always second guess ourselves anyway and to have someone over your shoulder trying to solidify those feelings…it’s really tough.

We are pulled in so many different directions as mothers.  The truth stays true, no one person is perfect and no one parenting style is without drawbacks and rewards.  I just encourage each of us to remain open minded as we discuss parenting and if we disagree, do so with respect and not hatred.

The Have’s and Have Not’s

There is a huge disparity between those who “have” and those who “have not”.  And I’m not talking about prosperity, I’m talking about kids.

I also am guilty of this sin.  I turned 35 before I had my first child.  And I was as guilty as anyone for thinking I understood what it meant to be a parent before I actually was one.  And it’s not like I was one of those people without any exposure to kids.  I think it’s even worse when you are “around” kids a lot vs. “having” kids of your own.  When you are “around” kids a lot (aka daycare worker, Sunday School teacher, nursery worker, have a lot of kids in your family) then you think you know everything there is to know about raising kids.  WRONG!  There is a world of difference between “working with” or “keeping” OTHER people’s kids than having one of your own.

When you interact with other people’s kids…you get to send them home at night…you work with them for a limited period of time (vs. 24 hours)…you see them in specific situations where they are either performing better than normal or worse than normal (depending on the situation) and the truth is…YOU HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE WHAT IT IS LIKE TO HAVE A KID UNTIL YOU HAVE ONE YOURSELF. So…yes, you can know more about kids than the average non-kid person…but just trust me, when you have a kid of your own…you will learn.

I worked for many years as a nursery school director and kid’s Sunday school director in churches and I felt like I had a solid understanding of how kids behave.  For the most part, parents really liked me and trusted me with their kids and it gave me a sense of thinking I understood child rearing.  I was very sympathetic towards parents and I tried to help out when things weren’t going so well (a kid throwing a temper tantrum, teens acting out, etc) and I always thought…having kids is not for me.  It’s too much work and not enough return.  But as I got older, the biological clock started ticking.  And I realized my life wouldn’t be the same without kids.  So I had one…and oh, holy hell…it was not what I expected.  It was WAY HARDER than anyone had ever told me it would be and it was WAY MORE REWARDING than I could ever imagine.  I though, “Why had no one ever told me how this would REALLY be?”, and I realized at that point…there really is no way to explain it.

Here are a few examples of the variety of ways you can NOT KNOW what it is like to have a kid until you do:

Myself and some other moms I know recently befriended a woman who was pregnant with her first child.  She was a 1st grade teacher.  All she talked about was how she was soooo ready to be a SAHM and how she was “mailing it in” as a teacher for the rest of the year because she was “over” the brats in her class.  My friends and I thought it was not a healthy way to think (because at any point in time, any child, even your own, has the potential of being a brat) and we really saw a storm brewing on the horizon.  The storm hit right after she gave birth to her beautiful baby girl, who for some reason wouldn’t sleep through the night.  (I got quite a laugh over her calling her daughter “vampire baby” because somehow she thought her baby would be completely perfect and automatically sleep through the night…unlike most regular children…seriously…WTF?  Did you not pay attention in your early childhood development classes when you studied for your teaching certificate?)  We ultimately broke ties with her because she couldn’t quite figure out how to get her kid in a car seat and make it to a playdate because her life had turned upside-down.  And it wasn’t because she was just late…she routinely didn’t show up at all and even had events at her house where others attended and she didn’t!  She couldn’t cope with life with a kid…her kid didn’t follower her rules and she couldn’t cope, and she had been a school teacher for God’s sake.

Another problem my husband and I often have is going on outings with people who don’t have children.  We have  a lot of family members and co-workers who don’t have kids but want to seem “kid-friendly” although they don’t have the slightest clue about what “kid-friendly” means.  They invite us to events and say “please bring the kids” but the events are scheduled at “trendy” places that don’t have high chairs (the first clue a restaurant is NOT kid-friendly is no high chairs and no kid’s menus), or they schedule it after the kid’s bedtime (FYI kids go to bed earlier than most adults) or they show up late while you are trying to entertain the kids at the table (kids can only last 45 min to an hour, at most, when you go out to eat before things get really scary).  Sometimes people give non age-appropriate gifts…like giving a newborn a “walk and push” or a “pull along toy”.  These are only things parents would understand and realize.  So as parents, we grin and bear it, because after all, these people are trying to be understanding…but it ends up being more of a hassle to us than what it is worth.  I was recently invited to a girl’s outing for a lunch and a pedicure and the invite said “we love kids, bring them with you if you have them.”  AYFKM?  That means ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Bring my 3 year and less than 1 year old to a lunch and pedicure?  LOL  OK whatever….I would bring them with me, if I felt like committing suicide.

But what do you say to them?  You can’t bitch at them because at least they are not the people who glare at you while your kid throws a fit on an airplane, or a restaurant, or wherever.  But still, even though they may “love” kids…they still don’t understand them.


Moms, Talk to Your Daughters

I don’t know about you…but I had a horrible experience when it came to learning about my period.  Some of the stories I have heard from other women are also pretty terrible.

I was with a group of women at work (one of those intolerable situations where a group of 6 women were stuck in a room together all day long, no men, lots of drama).  Another quirky thing about the job was my pastor’s wife from my church also worked there.  I don’t recall how the conversation started but at one point we were discussing how we found out about our periods and learned how to deal with them.  The pastor’s wife started complaining she was 10 years old when her period started and her mother did not talk to her about it at all.  She didn’t have any friends she could talk to because 10 is a really young age to start.  So finally her aunt helped her figure it out after she had spent a week thinking she was dieing.  What’s a 10 year old to think?  Blood..stomach pain.  Pretty bad scenario right?  So I knew the pastor’s wife had a daughter…so I asked her how old her daughter was because those types of women’s things usually flow down the generations (horrible pun).  But it is true women tend to develop the same way as their mothers (body shape, periods).  The girl was ten she says.  Then I asked…So have you had that talk with her?  So that she will know what’s going on when it happens?

“Oh Lord no!  I have no idea how to handle that!  She’s going to have to figure it out just like I did.  That’s just not going to happen.”

(for the non-geeks who may be reading this and other posts from me, the …’s in conversations stand for pauses of silence based on disbelief, shock, horror, exasperation or various other emotions within the context of the conversation.  Now you are informed!)

Are you freaking kidding me?  Did this woman just say she was going to doom her daughter to the same fate she had, even though she should know better?  Yeah, she did.  So of course, all the women in the room took up arms against her and tried to convince her otherwise.  In the end, there was no convincing her and I don’t know whatever happened to the poor girl.  All I know is this…it is the year 2012…and this backwards backwoods way of dealing with life, sex, relationships, etc. has got to go!

My Bad Manners

Have you ever experienced this?  It’s a situation where someone you know has particular feelings about a topic, and even though you agree with them on this topic, somehow you end up doing just the opposite (over and over)?  It’s a strange phenomenon.  For example, let’s say you know an English teacher, and you want to impress that person, but for some reason you keep stumbling over your words and using bad grammar every time you see that person?

There is a person in my husband’s family who is fairly particular about manners.  Normally, I’m pretty good with manners.  For having been raised in a rural Texas town, I’m not too shabby, after all, I do have a college degree and have traveled the world doing important business.  But when I get around this person, I always screw up.

A few years ago before my husband and I married, we went to dinner with his family.  If you have ever been to the old Steak and Ale restaurants then you know they serve bread at the table for everyone to share.  About three quarters of the way through the dinner, this person announces, “Who used the bread knife to put butter on the bread?”  To my horror, I realized that I had cut a piece of bread and just used the knife to put the butter on instead of using my butter knife.  I immediately confessed and said I did it and I was sorry and I had not put the knife to my mouth but I asked the waiter for a new knife to replace the used one.  I’ve really never done that in my life and I’m not sure what caused me to do it that time, although to be honest, I didn’t see it as THAT much of an infraction.  But it was inappropriate.

Fast forward a couple of years to another dinner, this time at my in-law’s home, I did a similar thing, but worse.  I inadvertently put my used butter knife into the jelly jar and again, something was said to me.  Damn it!  WTF?!  I KNOW BETTER!  So why do I keep doing this shit?

So fast forward a couple more years to yesterday.  The worst infraction yet.  We were eating at a Mexican food restaurant with chips and salsa.  We were served community bowls of salsa.  I have developed a habit of breaking my chips into pieces and dipping the untouched end of each piece into the salsa.  Obviously you can NOT double dip a chip.  Everyone knows this.  But it’s too dry to eat a whole big chip with just one dip of salsa, right?  LOL  So, I developed this method and it has served me well.  Until today.  I had my two kids which I was juggling and feeding and whatnot.  I picked up a flour tortilla and while eating and chastising my son for getting our of his seat, I lost track of what I was doing.  Just as I realized I had already taken a bite of my rolled up tortilla, I dipped it into the salsa (I had been sharing with you-know-who) and as my eyes trailed up from my hand (still holding the offending tortilla in the salsa) I see that person’s glare staring right at my hand.

I’m just going to give up ever eating again now, because apparently my brain can’t handle even the simplest of commands anymore.  Sigh.