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Archive for October, 2006

As a woman and as a mother I am currently working on two things. 1.) Understanding what racism is, where it is, how it came to be in all it’s different forms, how to spot it, how to apply a language to it, to see it in my own thoughts and ideas, to spot it in other’s when it’s not glaring but instead subtle and seemingly “harmless,” and how to give this knowledge and language to my children. These are things I’ve been working on since my early 20’s but I still have so much to learn. AND 2.) Having the right attitude about food so that my children have a healthy relationship with it. This means taking a long hard look at how I react to food, talk about food, prepare food, and even how and when I eat food. This is especially important to me since we are having a daughter… not that men aren’t affected by body image and their relationship with food… but because my daughter will look to me to learn how to view her own body and what she eats. What I learn, inevitably, will affect both our children. And, I’m of the belief that our attitude towards food affects them as much if not more than what they are actually eating as they grow up.

These are going to be personal goals that I will not ever be able to stop working on. I was introduced to an excellent website (blog?) to get me started on goal #1 called, Anti-Racist Parent – there is also a link to this site on my blogroll. This is a site that everyone should bookmark and read regularly, not just parents. I’ll also be checking out the book, “Let Them Eat Cake!:: The Case Against Controlling What Your Children Eat” by Robert E. Kleinman.

Wish me knowledge!

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Lovin’ the Lazies.

I spent half the day on the phone and the other half taking a nap with Max. What a lovely relaxing day I had! I got absolutely nothing done around the house that I wanted to do and never made it to the bank. Ya gotta dig days like this because they are really far and few between… this is especially so because Max pretty much *let* me talk on the phone fo-eva and then slept for three hours after that. Nice.

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Mother Earth

Just as I was really starting to feel alone in my thoughts with the last post, I got my “Mothering” magazine in the mail. My favorite writer on the topic of motherhood is Peggy O’Mara. I feel like she puts my feelings into words that I’m still searching for and may not have found otherwise for years. The title of her article in this issue is, “Reclaiming a New Archetype.” In it she writes:

The view of mother as victim does not match the experience of giving birth or that of adopting a baby. A woman is transformed by these experiences. Mothering unlocks in her an instinctual intelligence that generates confidence in her own authority. Inevitably, this increased confidence changes the relationship between her and others. A woman who has given birth is not easily intimidated. A woman who has adopted a baby is fearless.

She goes on to say, and I have read this many times before as well as experienced it, “Not wanting to be dominated by others is a legacy of the new mother, because in becoming a mother, a woman also gives birth to herself.”

The article talks about how our culture has fallen from viewing motherhood as a strong archetype, such as Mother Earth, the original model of the mother, to a stereotype of a woman who has given up “a life” to become a mother. The stereotype of mother is a woman who is making great sacrifices to stay home with her children, the martyr, or a victim.

While many accept that mothers can be creative and that mothering is in itself a creative endeavor, the dark side of the stereotype suggests that any distraction from the task of motherhood compromises a woman’s devotion. We can be ambivalent about whether or not it’s OK for mothers to have separate lives as women or other serious pursuits. What this dilemma highlights is the stereotypical idea that being a mother means self-sacrifice to the point of self-destruction or martyrdom. Having a life of one’s own, paid or unpaid, threatens the stereotype that mothers must be willing to be consumed.

Peggy really puts things into perspective for me. I teeter back and forth from being focused on mothering to thinking about and doing activities that are completely separate from my mothering experience. When I’m out doing my own thing away from family and in the position of being asked, so what do you do? I feel insecure. Not because I don’t love my life right now (well, most of the time anyway) but because I’ve internalized these negative stereotypes of mothers.

When I hear a new mother go off about how she doesn’t want her life to change because she’s had a baby (I did this) or she doesn’t want to become a “soccer mom” (a term meant to be derogatory) I know that she too has internalized this hatred and disrespect for motherhood.

Now, this isn’t a very well thought out theory, but, I would gander to say that in some ways feminism has left motherhood behind and possibly contributed to the negative stereotypes of the mother. However, it is also feminism that will take back the original strong archetype of The Mother. What’s that saying?  Two steps forward and one step back.

When I go out and spend time with friends that are mutual to Hal and I, I find it incredibly insulting when someone badgers my husband as to why he’s not going. Yet, when I do not accompany Hal, no questions are asked about it – because of-course, I’m home taking care of our son. So, this expectation that I stay home and make the social sacrifice for the good of our family is acceptable and expected but when Hal does it people think I’m being a selfish tart and he’s a GREAT father (which he is but that’s not because I have a social life). The irony of this… I don’t find staying home while Hal goes out with friends to be a “sacrifice,” and neither does Hal.

Oh boy… I’m starting to ramble so I’ll stop right here. Maybe I’ll have more to write later.

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I went out last night to a Halloween costume party. It was the first time I’ve been in a social situation outside “mommy world” in a very long time. It was long over due, let me tell you. I realized that outside of motherhood – which is a very deep and complicated topic – I have very little to start up or carry on a conversation with. In some ways this is depressing to me. I do remember the days when I was more inquisitive about other people’s life experiences and could hold a conversation for extended periods of time just based on the questions I’d ask them. It is a social skill that has slipped away due to lack of practice. I’m going to start practicing it again – as soon as I can remember how! I also remember when I thought about life differently than I do now.

When it comes to birth, motherhood, and parenting in general I would love to talk about these topics from a more intellectual and philosophical perspective but have not found a group of people outside of the Internet world to do this with (just need to say… thank you Liz for being my IRL highbrow outlet on this subject). I also always just *assume* that people are not interested in this type of thoughtful conversation. This assumption, I’m going to work on shedding. Because I think people need to hear, want to hear, or would be surprised to find out how interesting and complex motherhood is from a more real, in-tune, and deep thinking perspective.

I think we are conditioned to dummy down our lives as mothers as if we are robots who don’t think about anything important outside of our children. We are taught to separate motherhood from big issues like racism, sexism, and other isms when in fact, these are concepts that mothers like me think about a lot when trying to figure out how to raise our children.

I think if motherhood was truly appreciated in all its complexities there wouldn’t be so much fear circling the loss of self before and during motherhood (I have experienced these fears). Instead, we would embrace and honor our new selves, challenges, and priorities. Those of us who think about what we are doing as parents in the way I am talking about are far and few between – or – we are right next to each other but are afraid to broach the topic with a serious tone.

How we teach our children about white privilege and how to spot and deal with isms are conversations that I would have greatly appreciated before motherhood came to me and are conversations I’d love to have, now. And there is a whole lot more to talk about than the “isms” that corrode our society. Breaking life down to how children see the world may help other’s (not to mention ourselves) learn to back track and understand why we see the world the way we do… and more importantly, question why we see the world the way that we do.

Last night I realized that I need to give myself permission to be more honest about what my life is about. My insecurities about being different were really glaring – which makes me examine, how different can I really be? I felt pretty isolated even though the room was filled with people. I felt my face light up when someone asked me how far along I am or about my son. But, I want to start to make people think about motherhood differently when they walk away from a conversation with me about it. This is my life right now. I need to stop feeling ashamed that it is *mostly* all that I think about. It is the first work I have been really passionate about outside of writing so I’m going to reconstruct my approach to talking about it with others. It’s not going to be my focus for the rest of my life so I need to cherish it while I’m in it because one day I may look back on all those missed opportunities to share and educate another about motherhood and think, “I should have said this.” And, I don’t want that.

Here is an example of what I mean when I say, “talking about motherhood”: I was asked if having a two year old makes me remember what it was like to be two. I said, “no, not really – my memory isn’t that good.” What I wish I would have then said to expand on that is, “but I have learned to empathize with Max and see the world through his eyes when he’s both happy and cranky like for example…” And this could have given me the opportunity to talk about how I don’t like the term “the terrible twos” and how I believe it is a cliche’ saying derived from the idea that children should be controlled. And that it is from a lack of understanding that children are independent beings who can teach us empathy when we least have the patience for it. It should be called “the independent twos.” So on and so forth. And it could have been done without being long-winded.

Anyways, that is what I mean when I say talking about motherhood honestly and deeply. I mean not depending on cliche responses – which I have found myself doing often.

Of-course I mean talking about the political, too. But, to me, it’s all political.

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Grandma fell out of her bed last night. At least that is what my MIL thinks happened. Grandma can’t remember and all she keeps saying about it is, “it was really weird, Rosa.” I can’t even describe the pain I’m feeling in my heart with just the thought of her not being here. She is 85 years old. Death happens, I know. But, I am envisioning her living another 5-10 years, at least. I need her to see our children grow. I want my children to remember her.

When I found out this morning about what had happened it took everything I had to not cry in front of Max. Not that I’m against crying in front of my children. It’s just that I’ve been sick since last Friday (well, actually, on-and-off for the past month) and today was the worst of those days. So, Max has already seen me cry a couple times this week for different reasons. He is very sensitive to my facial expressions and will not let me hide my face. When I was up at 1am with him on Sunday night because he wasn’t going back to sleep he saw me crying out of exhaustion. He stared at me and I will never forget the look of compassion in his eyes. He immediately calmed down and hugged me. When his head came up from the hug and our eyes met again there was one tear coming out of the inside corner of his eye. We went to bed and fell asleep within minutes after that happened. That was the first time he has ever seen mommy cry. Today I cried a couple times becasue of how I feel physically – it only slipped for a few minutes at a time but I needed to release it. I’ve had a rough week. More later.

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I just had to add…

I know mothering is hard. Every mother knows this. SAHMs really know it because it is all we do. One aspect of working moms that I envy is that they have a good chunk of their day where they think of something else other than mothering their young. They have a built in social life that includes full sentences that lead to complete thoughts. I have to work at finding this within my day. I have to go outside my comfort zone to look for other moms who want to talk and are also somewhat compatible with my communication needs. I know there is a flip side to everything. I know if I was working I’d long to be home more. I understand there are pros and cons to both modes of mothering. That’s just the nature of mothering. Anyway, the point of this is to acknowledge (to myself) how hard it is to be a SAHM.

My husband, as awesome as he is, gets burned-out after very short amounts of time with Max. He complains (as I do as well) that Max needs/commands sooooo much attention. He always wants to be picked up. He always wants to be read to. He always wants something to drink or eat. He’s needy. He’s fiercely independent.  He’s about to turn two. When I see how hard it is for him to be the only one there for Max during a short amount of time, I pat myself on the back. Hal gives me props, too. I know if he was the one to stay home as the full-time parent the tables would be turned completely and I would find long hours with Max more exhausting than a hard day at work, too.

I’m rambling, but just wanted to make note of these feelings.

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After I made my last post I was depressed up until Hal got home and I was able to let a little bit of it out to (on) him. He let me do my bitching about how hard life has been since getting sick three weeks ago and then he bitched about how hard his day had been. Ahhh, misery loves company. Then, I looked over on the kitchen counter and saw that he brought home, Brokeback Mountain, for my viewing pleasure. My day was officially over and the night was starting out right.

I had a hard time getting Max to sleep, because, you know, when momma really wants to get out of bed his sixth sense kicks in and he refuses to go down quickly. When I finally got him to doze off, I snuck out of bed into the arms of my hubby who was waiting for me with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We got through maybe half the movie before Max woke up and joined us for the last half. Little stinker.

Max has been getting this crazy energy before bedtime almost every night. I think it has something to do with the fact that he is having all of these amazing developmental milestones with his communication. He’s speaking in four word sentences and loves to tackle any word you give him. Makes a momma and papa proud, I tell ya.

Friday morning we went to Hundsader’s Farm for their annual pumpkin festival. I have been looking forward to doing this since the day Max was born and I turned on the TV to watch “Baby Story.” We didn’t have cable before Max was born so I devoured every show as I sat in my rocker nursing him. It seemed like every other episode featured a family going to a pumpkin farm to pick wild growing pumpkins. It became seared into my head that THIS is a “family” tradition that I want to adopt.

Well, my fantasy became a reality on Friday and it was wonderful. However (because you know nothing is as great as what you see on TV), unlike the crisp fall weather that graced the families on TV, it was sweltering Floriduh HOT heat that was beating down on us. And, there was no wild pumpkin patch. All the pumpkins where picked already and placed under a tent by size. Oh well. Oh, my other complaint (hey, I’m okay with nothing ever being perfect!) is that they didn’t really have any food that we could eat. Pretty much everything was meat based. Next time, we’ll pack ourselves a nice picnic.

Aside from the minor discomforts/disappointments we had a great time. Max’s favorite part was riding in the little train. He went like a big-boy all by himself. I was a little hesitant at first to let him do it but was like, what the hell, if he cries the guy can stop the train (it wasn’t a real train with tracks and it pretty much just went around in a circle) and I’ll get Max off. But, once the wheels started ah’ rollin’ my baby-boy grabbed his steering wheel and drove that car! He waved to us each time they drove by and just looked so damn cute and happy.

We also checked out the farm animals because this is Max’s favorite book. He knows every animal by name and sound. There was a frog show and high school band playing, too. Max really dug the drums and continued making drumming motions long after the music stopped. We ate ice cream, went into the butterfly tent, and of-course, went on a hay ride. After all that, we were pooped (although Max didn’t want to leave) so went home.

On the way to the farm we stopped at two stores looking for the battery my camera takes but to no avail. I ended up buying a disposable camera. When I get the pics developed I’ll post them. I haven’t been able to post any belly pics because of no battery in the camera and I need to reload my Kodak Gallery program. Hopefully I can get that done sooner rather than later.

I apologize if there are a lot of spelling and grammatical errors in this post – I didn’t take a lot of time to write it out.

A Word To Fathers:

When your wife/partner is sick, we truly love it when you take over the parenting duties and play with our children. It’s even better if you take said children out of the house for a few hours so that we may convalesce in peace in quite. However, this is not enough. You must also clean the house. Do the things we do when we are well so that when we get better the house doesn’t look like a hurricane swept though it.

PS – Thank you Hal. You are THE GREATEST (not perfect, just the greatest) hubby in the world. Other men could learn a lot from you.

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