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Archive for the ‘mommy blogging’ Category

It is no small thing to talk about the child who made me a mother at age 24.

Isaac’s cries, his coos, his giggles, his feet plumping up, taking one tentative step then another- these were the things that ushered in my adulthood. They were the soundtrack playing while I became more patient, a bit stronger, more selfless and a bit more myself.

These days I am reminded of Isaac’s toddlerhood (not the tantrums or the sobbing, mostly) but the incredible deliciousness of discovering his apartness from me and the novelty getting to see him from a far. I remember noticing his growth- how large he would seem in my mother’s arms, or at the top of a slide. I remembering him returning to me more himself than before with a satisfied grin and sturdier legs – a being who owned his space in the world.

These years will be more of the same. I am proud to be your mother- the one you can leave and return to as more and more of yourself. You are funny, you are kind. You are smart. You have more thoughts at one than most people I know. You are fiercely independent and helpful at the same time. You are a loyal friend, brother and son.

When you were born, the nurses put you on my chest and my first words were struggling ones- words I know now are the very essence of young motherhood trying to integrate the pure body experience of pregnancy with the reality of a needy,wet human in her arms. I said, “Is that you? Is that you? Is that who you are?”

Every day since day that you have told me, “Yes.”

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After a post went up from a Babble blogger that shamed mothers who breastfeed without a nursing cover, and piece over at Slate that indicated the simplest way for us to move forward as women in society would be for lactivists to care less and the market to over better nursing covers, I was invited to write a guest post for Annie at PhD in Parenting. I hope you will visit me over there and join our conversation about misogyny, the female body, judgments and the mommy wars.

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I’ve begun to think about a short story based on my recent joy in purchasing winter coats in the most reasonable way ever – online at Land’s End. There is not much more to write about buying a coat for a child on-line at Land’s End. I did it and it’s done. Amen. But that is not the way I have traditionally purchased (or come by) winter coats.

Because of money. And so really, the short story I’m outlining is about money and mothering. The first thing I ever wrote about money came out of my brain whole my junior year in high school while I was reading Virginia Woolf. For some reason it became incredibly clear to me right then, sitting at a desk more appropriately sized for an 8-year-old, staring at the gigantic word processor my dad had bought me (some sort of type-writer with a screen that looked like it could swallow me), that it would be nearly impossible to “do better” than my parents had. I called my sister at college and she agreed, so I figured it must be true. The mere fact that I got a hold of her on the hallway phone for her floor was like some sort of sign from the gods that I was onto something (much good may it do me, as they say)

Both my parents were in the first generation of their families to go to college. Both came from truly working class backgrounds. Both of them had advanced degrees & professional jobs in Manhattan. It seemed unlikely I could even duplicate such a leap, let alone overtake it. I wrote a paper and did not mention the word money or class. I had no idea what I was writing about but it hit me – the urgent impossibility of my position being educated at prep school in New York, sent off to college and absolutely bewildered about what I was going to do for my life (code for earn money, I think – the 17 year old brain perhaps fuzzy on this point.)

This proved to me even more true when I graduated college during a tiny recession that by today’s standards does not rate. I was working, married and thinking about all of these things – and also none of them because I was working so much for not so much money, as was my spouse – and then we had a baby and so I was home to think about them all day long. All day – and some of the nights too.

My breastfed child did not enjoy me holding a book while I nursed. He repeatedly swatted at it. It was just this object in his peripheral vision to be grabbed, I suppose. So I did not read but rather thought about things. Does anyone else have a child old enough to remember breastfeeding in the years before streaming video and podcasts? My youngest child was breastfeed to podcasts and streaming npr, netflix – and even had the tenderness to not swat at books or magazines while they were in my hands.

That many years later, with children off at school and my career taking some pleasant turns, I am here pondering NaNoWriMo, sketching out this story & wondering if there is quite enough there for a novel. I don’t want to start writing until I know. Because two years ago, when I last attempted the athletic feat that is NaNoWriMo, I was without an idea at the start. I had such a long ramp up period, that I never could have finished. I also had a three-year old and we all know how crazy they are.

What do you think about mothering and money? And what do you think I should do about the agony of National Novel Writing Month? What are you going to do? Also, one more thing about the Land’s End coats – they have grow with me sleeves. Why did I not invent that when I was 17 or home breastfeeding a baby who rejected novel-reading?

*PS Land’s End did not pay for this post.

Sadly.

– Maybe –

Never mind, I like it better this way:

The coats are great. My thoughts are my own.

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September is more than half gone, and yet it is still the first Monday all three of the children are off at school. It’s like that, Kindergarten. Your five your old goes off on the bus,  catches all the germs by licking the Legos, and then comes up and collapses in your arms on Friday afternoon.

He’s recovered now. So it is my first Monday of shipping them off. Were it not for my sister, I might have spent the day in my pajamas watching Mad Men on Netflix. Instead I am writing in a coffee shop with her. I have a coffee cup, a cell phone and a red netbook.  It turns out I look exactly like people who do this all the time.

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Summer’s end has been celebrated here for the past few weeks: one last swim with friends, one last trip, one last time eating ice-cream for dinner, one last beach day, one last let the kids stay up til they are stupid-tired and tip over when they walk.

I’ve been preserving the harvest, allowing the kids to watch one more TV show so I can get the jars packed and sealed in the proper time.  For the last month, I have shelved every possible project that seemed like it could stay on hold until they all went to school, all day, for the first time since I had my first baby 12 years ago.

That day is tomorrow. Summer’s true end was bedtime tonight, with my husband scrubbing down the children after a sticky long weekend  and with me filling out the last bits of the school paper work at a kitchen table littered with jars of sauce, salsa and chutney.

Our kindergartener  is asleep.  In a matter of hours he will be off and away with his brothers and friends. I have no idea what tomorrow brings for me – aside from sorting through the endless projects, ideas and tasks that I have spent my summer brushing aside with what has been become a mental tick of so many years making, “this can wait til everyone is at school.”

I am going to have to stop saying that.

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It’s too insane to be real. A baby-swinging mother, from Russia now living in Egypt, can show you on the internet how to do ” intense baby yoga” with your newborn. And it is crazy. Sane mothers everywhere look at their screens and hope it is a newborn doll – like the slightly surreal looking ones used in childbirth classes at hospitals.  The video quality is just poor enough to allow for disbelief. But then, Gawker says it is real.

I’m hanging on to disbelief – yes, for the obvious reasons – I don’t really think this is a safe newborn practice. I am old school:  swaddle them, support their heads, keep them warm! Plenty of time for nose-dives when they are 2, that’s what I say. I’m also hanging onto disbelief because this woman seems to be offering herself as a path for mothers to take – come, you can belong here, be part of our baby-yoga-swinging community. You can do this and belong.

We seem to be finding smaller and smaller camps to divide ourselves into as mothers. Are we so unwilling to hang out with people who do not mother similarly to ourselves? Do we do this while we tell our children they are unique and special? Do we do this while we teach them to celebrate the diversity in their communities, be that home or school, town or country?

Did our mothers so sub-divide themselves, or where their fewer divisions. You were poor, middle class, or rich and  you were black, white or latina. You lived in the suburbs, country or city – but that is all. Are we more fearful? More confused? More lonely?

When I had my first child the term “Attachment Parenting” was just hitting the streets of my community. There was no internet in the way we have now. No websites, coaches, groups and fan pages. There was one sling for sale in the whole wide world.  I visited an attachment parenting play group and felt it was a group too exclusive for me.  I could not believe there was only one right way to mother. I could not be so vehement about umbrella strollers. I’d grown up in an odd little corner of Manhattan where Harlem met Columbia University. To me, attachment parenting meant rigid hippies in suburbia who had Subarus. If they had to walk as far as the mothers of Harlem, they’d have umbrella strollers too.

I never went back. I continued to breastfeed. I continued to use a stroller and a baby carriers of various sorts. I continued to “co-sleep” until none of us slept well and then we put the baby in a pak-n-play. We didn’t call it “co-sleeping.” We called it sleeping and the babies slept, with us, until they didn’t. When friends or family asked how we slept, we said, “great!” or “terrible,” depending on the day. I breastfeed and let them grab food of my plate – and formula fed when faced with Henry’s intense medical challenges.

Before the wrath of the attachment parents visits my blog in the night, I have many friends now who refer to themselves as attachment parents. They use strollers, have a long way to walk (and some of whom have Subarus.) But I won’t pick.  I won’t pick breastfeeding or formula feeding or extended co-sleeping or cribs, schooling or not – nor will I pick attachment or whatever its opposite may be.  And I will not pick intense baby yoga swinging. I’m assuming you won’t pick that one  either, but I’d love to know what you won’t pick. Or if you have picked, why it works.

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Just like that I’m working. A month ago I was feel rather gloomy about working  here in Northampton. I couldn’t quite find my feet despite all my skills, experience and training.  We moved. It was hard to start over. It felt for a while like my work didn’t come with the rest of our stuff. What turned the tide? Social media, prayer and hunger most likely.

So just like that, I’m moderately busy. The more work you have, the more work you get – and it must come from clients. There is no one like a satisfied client to send more business along.  I’m not quite as busy as I’d like to be, but busy enough considering that like most working moms I don’t have enough affordable, quality childcare and we are running full speed into the Holiday Season. As an aside,  we generally call it the Season of Croup for lo, as long as we have been parents (11 Christmas this year), there hath been croup at the holidays. We inevitably end up with someone sleeping between us with the windows open to the cold New England breeze in dark December because nothing is better for a swollen larynx than your own mothering’s teeth chattering as you sleep on her chest.

I find myself leaning into next fall as I scramble to keep my work life flowing with a 4-year-old in tow. He is in very part-time preschool. It is very nice and very affordable. The only three moves we can make are

1. Very unaffordable preschool/daycare

2. Very not nice daycare

3. Wait it out til all day public Kindergarten.

We are waiting it out. He is in the school’s preschool program. He will be happy at the Kindergarten is 10 months away. Summer will be a whole different animal – every working mother stares that beast down pretty hard right at the end of February break.Next September everyone will get on that bus and stay there til 3 – though 4 would be better.

Waiting it out has been our family policy on the day care conundrum though for 11 Christmases now we have doubted and reevaluated that decision. We’ve always ended up picking high quality, affordable part-time care. We are not alone in our confusion. I had a chance to hear Sharon Lerner, author of The War on Moms, spoke this morning at the MotherWoman breakfast here in Northampton. I learned that 62% of mothers report wanting to work part-time and 26% are actually working part-time. This means 36% of women are working way more or way less than they want to be working. We aren’t getting enough help here. I feel it everyday. I’m aiming for the 26% mark. It’s a teeny bulls-eye to shoot for from a great distance.

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