Choices

In the twilight, I rocked my baby girl back to sleep after she had woken up screaming. At 15 months old, Keira very rarely wakes up crying. Instead, she may cry for a second before lulling herself back to sleep. In fact, it seems as our little toddler has become so independent that the moments of need pass all too quickly. But there in the dark, I lulled her back to sleep after what I could only assume to be a nightmare. I felt her tiny arms grasping at me tightly. She needed her mama to hold her.

I rubbed her back gently and begin singing back to her. She sighed briefly before giggling and closing her eyes. I laid her back down in her crib and her eyes fluttered softly to gaze up on at me. Sweetly, I rubbed her face and told her I loved her. She sighed again before snuggling into her stuffed Piggy and I gently closed her bedroom door behind me.

I stood at her door for a moment, filled with that overwhelming feeling of love. I had soothed my daughter’s tears from her fear, her giggle letting me know that I had set everything right. In that moment and for the first time I pondered, “Is this what it’s like to be a stay at home mom?”

Those are the moments that beat down a working mother: when you’re wondering if you’ve made the right choice. Of course, there aren’t a lot of “right” and “wrong” choices in parenting. It’s a balancing act of give and take. My career, while not the only part about me, has always been an important part of my identity. While I had earned a very important title to my identity as “Mom”, I couldn’t fathom walking away from the years of education and hard work and give away the career side of my identity. But the question was still ringing in my mind.

Then I pondered, would that hug, that grasp around my neck have the same meaning if I hadn’t been missing my daughter during the week day? Would I still experience the thrill and excitement of walking through the door after a day at work: Keira running across the kitchen and eagerly declaring “MAMA!” followed shortly thereafter by two tweens pretending to be toddlers? Would my boys relish our weekend errands as much if this was a part of our normal everyday process? Would I still find solace in cuddling at home after the kids have gone to bed if I had been at home the entire day?

There’s my balancing act. With my hours spent away from home, those moments with my family build up so much more meaning. With the confidence and happiness I find in my career, I bring that back home to share with my children. And in those moments before going off to bed, listening to my husband replay the stories with the kids gives up a point to connect our days together, bringing our marriage closer together.

No, I may not have made the “right” choice in all women’s eyes. But I had made the right choice for me.

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Room for a Working Mom?

I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It’s a growing, yet quiet county. There’s a focus on the community and the family with a fair cost of living. After growing up in over-priced San Diego, where the focus of the town is on the night life, Cow-town sounded like an ideal place to raise a family.

As a working mother, however, this has created a sense of displacement in my world with other parents. The community is filled with stay at home and work from home mothers who are able to keep the home life afloat. While moms are going to market once or twice a week to pick up fresh produce and local meats, Jason or I are running to the grocery store to purchase overpriced, over ripe bananas at midnight when the kids are all in bed. Markets and local stands are closed by the time I make myself home and don’t open until I’m already sitting at my desk at work. I’ve moved to belong to a wonderful community but I’m missing out on the participation.

I watch as my fellow Mommy friends have weekly play dates at 10am, drinking their coffees as they watch their young kids play in the park. Meanwhile, there are close friends who live less than 5 miles from my house that I haven’t seen in months. I shared my pregnancy with 4 other moms and we have yet to plan a play date, nearly 10 months later.

This isn’t the Beverly Hills of Pennsylvania. These aren’t the wealthy hiring a nanny so they can go get their nails and their hair done while they sip champagne. These are everyday families who have scaled back their lives so they can afford to slow down and enjoy the young years with their children.

And then there’s me.

I knew at 15 what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to have a high paced career with travel around the world. I pictured myself working hard through the week and coming home to my family on the weekends, doing stroller walks with like-minded moms on the weekends.

So where are those like-minded moms? In this family-focused community, am I left to socialize only with working dads? Is there room for stepping outside the stereotype?

Secret Sleeper

This is the post where I admit it: I’m a hypocrite.

You see, before baby Keira was born, I researched cosleeping. I read the articles and the research and what I determined was…. I’m against it. I realize it works for a lot of people and many sing the praise of cosleeping. But I couldn’t wrap my head around trusting myself with a tiny baby in our bed. With all the pillows, my husband flopping around in his sleep and our heavy comforters, I just didn’t find it safe.

Flash forward to the night after Keira was born. I was sore from the c-section and couldn’t move from my bed and was highly relying on skin-to-skin time to encourage breastfeeding. I remember waking up to the nurse coming in the door around midnight to check on us and little Keira was fast asleep in my arms in the hospital. I panicked! I chided myself for being so careless to fall asleep with Keira in my arms. What if she fell? What if I moved and I dropped her? I asked the nurse to promptly re-bundle Keira up in her clothes, swaddle her and put her back in the hospital bassinet.

From that point on, I was done with cosleeping. I was so scared that something could go horribly wrong and I would lose the little girl we’ve been dreaming of for years. My compromise was keeping her in the cradle next to our bed for the first four months until finally moving Keira to her own crib.

Fast forward even further to our trip to D.C. last week. The entire family was staying in one room with Keira in our pack n play. In the middle of the night, Keira woke up crying. I immediately picked her up and rocked her back to sleep, fearing that she would wake the boys up. But every time I tried to pull her away from my chest, she would cry instantly. I gave up and laid down with her in the hotel bed. I reasoned with myself that if I stuck a pillow between Jason and her, he wouldn’t roll over her. And at 6 months, Keira was strong enough to move or cry out if a blanket got in her way. We both slept great from that point on. And woke up feeling happy and refreshed.

The 3-day weekend came and every night Keira would wake up around midnight, crying. I reasoned with myself that she missed me and needed to sleep near Mommy. Then we both got sick and I justified that she didn’t feel good and of course needed Mommy Magic to sleep.

Then came my work day. My alarm went off at 5:30am, bright and early! I quickly turned off the alarm before it woke Keira. But she had already opened her eyes. She looked at me, grabbed my pajama shirt, pulled me close and then fell asleep. We both fell asleep. Until 7:00am when the boys knocked on the door. Crap, crap, crap!!! I’m late for work! I scrambled out of bed, handing Keira over to Jason and running into the shower.

The next morning, my alarm went off again at 5:30am. Somehow, it didn’t wake Keira. I gently pulled her out of bed and put her back in her room, as Jason was already heading off to work and wouldn’t be able to watch her as I showered. As soon as I got out of the shower, Keira was wide awake and ready to start the day. An hour earlier than her usual time. Ugh.

Now I wrestle with how to handle this cosleeping arrangement. Do we break it cold turkey, knowing that she just can’t sleep in our bed due to our morning routines? Can we balance the nights where there’s cosleeping and other nights in the crib? How do I calm the shouting Mommy Guilt that I’m not convinced that cosleeping is 100% safe? Or calm the Mommy Guilt of putting my baby in her relatively cold crib compared to Mommy and Daddy’s warm bed?

But every evening before bed I hear Jason say, “tonight, Keira sleeps in her own bed!” And then every night he retracts, “should we just let her sleep here one more night….?”

Middle of the Road Mama

I know I’ve spoken the praise of social media for mothers. But I can’t help the feeling of being estranged from my motherhood brethern as I search for moms like me through the internet. I’m a middle of the road mama. In the Mommy Wars, I tend to ride the line.

Watching Ethan's Football Game

Breastfeeding? Formula? Do whatever you feel comfortable with. But the mom should be the one deciding, not well-meaning relatives or formula companies.

The ever present Mommy War over on-demand feeding and scheduling: Ha – I do both! Cloth diapers? Disposable? Sure – love to do cloth. If only I wasn’t already 8 loads of laundry behind… so disposable it is.

I carry my baby around in a sling one day and then keep her in the car seat the next. I’ll put her to bed in her own crib in her own room and then curl up with her in my bed for naps during the day. I’ll let her the baby grumble and fuss her self to sleep but always rock her if she screams or cries.

The best way to get work done with a fussy baby!

For my older boys, I believe in the use of positive reinforcement. “Use the carrot – not the stick.” But I also know that sometime, positive reinforcement just doesn’t answer all the problems. And then comes groundings… and priveldges lost… and bedtimes moved up.

It’s a Mommy balancing act. I strive to make my children independent and self sufficient. But I hope to instill into them the love and support that their Mommy is there to back them up when they need it. I’m not into attachment parenting – I’m into connection parenting. Create that connection with your child, teach them the rules of the game, and let them jump out of the nest when they’re ready. If they fall, I’ll be there at the bottom saying, “Sucked, didn’t it? Ready to try again?”

My Little Birds!

Social Media for Moms

Moms on social media have a bad rap. I’m always hearing talk about how moms use Facebook just to catch up with old flames, leading to divorce. Or how about those moms just use social media to blast photos of their children without any content? Yeah, you’ve heard that one before…

Well, darn it. My children are cute!

Anyhow…

What people are missing is the relationships and the information being spread around for moms in this social media world of Facebook, Twitter and anything else good that comes along. When the formula recalls took place, many moms in the social media world were already past alerting the news and were instead discussing how to respond before many of my mom friends “in the real world” knew what was going on. Because, seriously, how many moms you know have time to sit and read the newspaper or watch the morning news? And it’s not like a lot of formula vendors were actually looking out for the recalls in a timely manner. And it was the same with the crib recalls, sleep positioner recalls, sling recalls and the backlash AGAINST the sling recalls… I’ve never felt in fear that I’d miss out on important news.

Because I’m connected to a community of moms.

At first, this community was just a lot of faceless moms – People I’d share the latest child picture or share the latest laugh of “kids say the darnest things”. But what grew out of that was a support system and true friendships. When I’m awake at 3 in the morning (yet again!), I can rest assured that there’s probably another mom awake with me to commiserate the lack of sleep. Or if I’m heading into the cold, I can get a quick opinion from five friends – Did I dress my baby warm enough? And the emergency “help! My baby is sick!” Suddenly, I’m being talked down from the ceiling to remain calm and given helpful tips to make her feel better.

And dare I say it? I’ve actually found businesses that have made being a mom just that much easier: a bookstore that’s kid-friendly and open, a work-at-home mom who supplies me with my babywearing habit or the latest fashion in keeping babies warm.

So, Moms – if you’re not taking part in the Social Media world (then how did you find my blog??), you’re missing out!

The Great Mommy Divide

Last weekend, I took a trip to BabiesRUs to pick up some much needed baby supplies. While I was there, I cruised the jumperoo and baby entertainer aisle to price items for Keira. There in the aisle was a very pregnant woman picking out items for her registry. She cooed over the sleeping Keira in my arms and we chatted about her upcoming bundle of joy. We exchanged information on what we heard about different toys. And eventually I walked off to get my baby supplies.

Later, she found me in the bottle aisle, picking up extra bottles. “Oh, I’m glad you’re here! Can you recommend any good bottles??”

“Sure! No problem! Are you breastfeeding?”

And then I got “the look”. The look of “how dare you ask me that”. “No,” she replied. And I watched as she visibly shut down on me.

I tried to keep my face blank. “Oh. Okay. Well, you’ll have more options since you don’t have to worry about nipple confusion. I’ve heard this brand is good.” And pointed out a particular bottle.

“Okay, thanks.” And off she ran. (Or waddled, cause she WAS 8 months pregnant.) Later, I saw her in another aisle; she completely ignored me.

Really? Because I breastfeed and you won’t, we’ve now created the Great Mommy Divide.

That’s the sad part. It seems moms are so quick to try and separate themselves from other moms. We’re focusing on all the differences between us instead of being supportive of everything that we do the same. The truth is that every mom has a different parenting style and makes different parenting choices. That’s what makes each baby, child, adult so different. But we’re still doing the same job. We still want the same outcome: a happy, healthy baby. Perhaps if moms were quicker to accept that, we’d all feel a lot less guilt and judgement.