The perfect thought at the perfectly wrong time

27 April 2016

time to one's self

I read a post recently titled "This Stage of Life? It's Hard." It resonated with me, as I'm sure it could with arguably most parents of young children. But the discussion about what you "need" when you're the parent of young children (especially the stay-at-home parent, it seems) has sort of stuck with me in a nettling sort of way. I find myself constantly thinking in some way or another about what my needs are or are not as a stay-at-home mom. I go through phases where clearly I'm not thriving, and I think maybe it's because I'm not caring for myself as I should. With a little more attention to myself, would I be able to avoid burn-out? Would I take more pleasure and joy in the day to day?

And then there's this part about adult discretionary time. It seems a huge difference between me and pretty much every other parent I know is that I have zero built-in adult discretionary time. We have our kids in bed with us and they depend on us helping them to fall asleep. Our bedtime structure basically involves everyone lying down in bed at essentially the same time. And during the night, we're always there. Nighttime parenting is not a break, a chance to be alone or with one's spouse, or a period to have uninterrupted rest. Parenting happens around the clock. I think we've adapted, but there are some serious limitations to this structure. Obvious restrictions. And I question it constantly! Do I need to teach my kids to sleep by themselves? Do I need time every night, or at least regularly, where I definitely don't have to worry about wearing the "parent hat"? Do we need to go on dates? (Can't remember the last time we got a babysitter and went on a date.) Do we need to go on vacations that don't involve the kids or leave them overnight? (Never done that!) Do I need to sleep for eight hours straight in order to be healthy? (I've not had a night of uninterrupted sleep for over 4 years!)

The author of the blog post writes that you need to "put your kids down for bed early . . .  you need your mom, . . . you need to not feel bad about using your kids [sic] nap time every now and again to just do whatever the heck you want, . . . you need to be ok leaving your kids overnight, and going away somewhere, . . . you need to do something you enjoy, every day, even if it’s for no more than 15 minutes."

So . . . what if you don't have those things? I don't think I'm trying to be a martyr here, although it might seem like that is my motivation. I hear a lot about the importance of self-care for moms, especially in the form of time away from your kids. It seems like we (moms? parents? media? culture?) are constantly talking about that in the conversation of parenting and childcare. "It's very demanding! You need time for you!"I totally agree and support that concept of ensuring that parents have the care and support they need to do right by their children (not to mention themselves)! I'm constantly getting messages about the necessity of structural space away from being "mom." Have I gone about this mom thing all wrong?  I haven't created this kind of structure in the (albeit relatively short) time I've been a mom. In some ways, I don't want to. In some ways I really do want to. Am I setting myself up for disaster? Am I dooming my marriage? Are these sorts of sacrifices inevitable? Are my compromises unforgivable? Is this component of my life simply another choice among many in the world of acceptable family lifestyles and ways to raise young children? Is it more essential and fundamental than that? Is it going to be the death of me and somehow permanently handicap my children's development too?

These sort of questions linger and hover over me a lot of the time. I've probably even written about it before, so sorrynotsorry if this post is redundant.

14 April 2016

neigborhood crime

There was a shooting in our neighborhood last week. Where we live seems to be in a bit of a pocket. A few blocks away in certain directions have more issues with crime, but our development seems to have pushed it out a little. This shooting, though, was within the development. After church on Sunday, we walked around the perimeter of the taped off area a little to see if we could discover any information about what had happened. There were a group of police/investigators taking pictures of some street-parked cars. We saw a woman come out of her house to ask them why they were taking pictures of her car. They told her that there was blood on it. "Sorry," said one of the police officers. "I didn't realize that was your car! Otherwise I would have told you." I keep remembering that little exchange. Like it was no big deal that someone else got blood on your car or something? S. has been very interested in toy guns and was playing with his gun he built from blocks even while we were walking around this crime scene. The timing seemed poor. I've tried to explain that guns hurt people, but the association seems lost on him. The shooting was a bit unsettling, as it occurred at a town home within our development, and there was actually a similar incident about two weeks ago not much farther away. The previous shooting three weeks ago was murky. Apparently they found a man who had been shot in a parking lot and it was unclear where the shooting had taken place. This one over the weekend involved multiple victims and possibly multiple shooters who were at a large party where an argument had taken place. I don't know if either of the shootings ended up involving fatalities, as the news reports don't really seem to include follow-ups after the initial footage.

Where we live has some interesting demographics and I am trying to wrap my head around it. We bought a house through the Good Neighbor Next Door program, so we didn't really choose the location ourselves. We knew it was deemed a "revitalization area" by the government, but we were pretty unaware of what the area was actually like. It's probably not that much different as far as crime goes than where we lived in Salt Lake, but I felt like I understood the neighborhood in Salt Lake and despite sometimes being affected by crime while living there, it didn't seem that threatening. But I have never lived in the South before, so it feels like a new ball game in some ways. My kid is also approaching school-age, so my involvement in the community is going to change, probably. I'm thinking about education with a new urgency than I did before, and I'm just not sure what choices to make. I don't know what to think. Neighborhood schools do not seem to be well respected.

I feel like an outsider where we live. It seems like our neighbors are all black. It sounds stupid to say this, but I kind of used to think that race didn't mean much and people were making a big deal out of nothing. But coming here has broadened my concept of racial identity in some ways. I realize there's a lot more culture associated with this racial group than I had conceived of before, and in some ways that's made me feel alienated and like there is even less common ground between me and people in the black community here. But it's also made me appreciate a bit more the complexity of race relations, so maybe that's a good thing? My world is still pretty small, as I spend my time at home with the young children and mainly only know people from going to church. I'm not necessarily proud of that, but it is what it is. People at church don't live in our neighborhood, so the people I might think of as peers normally also seem demographically different. Does that kind of thing matter or does it not? Color me confused.

01 March 2016

lost in the move

Strange things get lost in the moves. I get stressed out about lost stuff and can't forgive them for being missing. Not good at letting things go. I must obsess and categorize and record. But sometimes the randomness of such lists seems humorous:

  • a suit jacket, but not the matching suit pants
  • a gift card that once found a home in a wallet
  • straws to Camelbak-type water bottles
Where do the lost things go?

21 January 2016

self-conscious in NC

One thing I didn't necessarily anticipate about being in a new place was this uncomfortable self-consciousness and hyperawareness that I carry with me all the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm just bulging at the seams and not holding things together very well while my children yell and throw tantrums in the tiny library story time while everyone else sits there quietly with their kids who've probably brushed their teeth more regularly in the recent past and eaten something without added preservatives.

when kindness hurts

I read the article "A Daughter Too Kind for Her Own Good" and felt I could relate all too well. Gordon writes, "I’m not just her mother, but another girl who grew up being told not to ruffle feathers or rock the boat."

Kindness runs deeper than just being a people-pleaser, so I believe as a virtue it still deserves a priority place. But I know my tendency to want other people to like me, to be self-sacrificing at least under the guise of serving others' interests, and to avoid arguments on issues ranging from personal to political doesn't do me any favors sometimes, and I worry about what I'm inadvertently teaching my children.

And although I hate to admit that I judge other women with the same unfair measuring stick, I notice that I do. I think it's so culturally ingrained in our ideas about femininity. Just yesterday, I was listening to Hillary Clinton speak on public radio about her presidential campaign, and I found myself feeling uncomfortable because, completely aside from her politics, she didn't sound very matronly.

20 January 2016

campus dining

There are a couple of college campuses near us and on MLK day I decided we should try the cafeteria at NC A&T, a HBCU (historically black college/university) very close to where we live. I felt a bit out of place on a few counts: first, we were white; second, we had small kids with us; and third, we were not college students. So it was a bit of a weird choice for dining out, perhaps, but also kind of fun. Oh, the days of college when you could eat cereal with every meal on your meal plan.

18 November 2015

cross-country move cost, by the numbers

So how much does it really cost to move your person and stuff 2000 miles? Here's what it cost us:

Gas for moving truck:
$546.79

Cost of moving truck, with car trailer towing:
$1284.16

Gas for second car being driven:
$218.07

airfare for two people and a baby from SLC to RDU:
$497*

storage unit for 1.5 months:
$42

* Just a note--I did a six-day layover in Austin, TX, in order to attend my brother's wedding, so this flight might have cost something slightly different if I hadn't done that, but I purposely consolidated these trips in an effort to save money overall on travel costs.

Grand total: $2588.02 

Yowzers. Cross-country moves aren't cheap. This doesn't even include some of the indirect costs, like double rent and many meals eaten out because we didn't have a kitchen. If we had more time to plan this move, we might have made some decisions differently and possibly could have saved more money in the process. But for those who have done comparable moves, how do we stack up?

30 October 2015

thoughts on parenting styles

Today I find myself thinking about my parenting style. I am tending a 7-month-old baby in addition to my kids. This baby normally goes to day care while her parents work outside the home, but her mom needed a back-up today.

It's interesting to think about the difference in experience and environment for different children. Does it really matter that much? After 3.5 years into this parenting game, I find myself on the rather extreme end of the attachment spectrum. It was a little bit on accident that I got here. I would have said when Shep was a baby that I didn't feel like I had a choice. His temperament seemed to demand constant, exhausting attention in mostly one form: nursing. I avoided going in the car and leaving the house by myself with him because he screamed in his car seat every time, unless I was in the back seat with him, playing with him, leaning over his seat to nurse, etc. When I tried sleep training, it seemed to backfire. After a few days of trying to do cry it out, he started screaming bloody murder every time we even walked into the room that his crib was in. So I abandoned that attempt, despite being desperately sleep deprived. (I might have been doing sleep training wrong. It definitely didn't feel intuitive, so I adopted a method that seemed effective for others and probably didn't even follow the program correctly.)

Maya is a bit more adaptable. I think she would sleep by herself and sleep through the night if I taught her to. She would probably also be a bit more independent if I didn't hold and carry her all the time.

Being a parent always changes your lifestyle, but my life revolves around my kids in obvious ways. I don't do this because I have passionately strong beliefs that this is the right way to parent, and I don't pity every child who doesn't get the same parenting. I respect many parents who make different choices. I nurse my kids and I'm glad that there is some evidence out there that this is a good choice because it feels like a validating balm on my self-doubt, but at the same time, is the difference between formula and breastmilk enough to support the controversy that surrounds the issue? There are healthy, thriving children who develop into mature, responsible adults upon an infant diet of formula. Go figure. We humans are kind of resilient and adaptable, I guess.

So why do I parent the way I do? Am I just making things harder than they need to be? Am I exhausting and wearing myself more than necessary and thereby compromising my ability to contribute in more meaningful and impactful ways? I worry that I'm missing something, but I do this intuitively. It feels comfortable and natural. I do admit that it's a sacrifice. And maybe the sacrifices I make at times are not to the benefit of my family, even though I hope they are. It's a lot more work in certain ways and it comes at the cost of some things that might be good for both my children, my husband, and me. I'm sure some nights we really wish we didn't share the same bed and that everybody slept through the night because some degree of sleep deprivation seems to be a constant around here. I actually worry sometimes that I'm doing my kids a disservice. Maybe they would benefit from learning some independence skills. It might be a good thing overall if they could do some self-soothing, fall asleep without nursing, and spend time with someone other than me without their world falling apart. And while I'm fairly good at holding and nursing, I'm not very good at other things like making sure they get dressed or have stimulating activities that are engaging and developmentally appropriate. I see gaping holes in my disciplinary methods and find it difficult to enforce behavior standards with my toddler. I think it probably says something about me, not Maya, that I've never left her with anyone else besides Tim and even then, only for a few hours in the 10 months she's been alive. I like feeling needed and important, and my parenting style is a bit self-serving because it makes me feel good to be needed. I value being self-sacrificing in order to make a "contribution," so it behooves me personally to at least pretend that's what I'm doing. I don't really prioritize time to enjoy life and have fun, and I think that comes at a certain cost?

I don't know if I am doing this right, but I do know this: there is no one single right way. There are multiple ways to get this right, and every parent makes mistakes. I just hope that I can learn from mine and not cause my kids more issues to work through as a byproduct of being raised by me. Life brings enough problems on its own.

26 October 2015

Last week, we went to a warehouse for schoolteachers in the county to get school supplies. Shep had to go pee, but I couldn't see a potty anywhere. I took him outside (every time I do this, he's encouraged to pee outside rather than in a toilet, so I like to find the potty if there's one nearby), and we walked around to the other side of the building. I found a place on a wall that I thought he wouldn't be seen. Afterward, he was playing around outside and a woman approached me. "Do you need help with anything?" she asked. I said, "Oh, no, we're just playing a little bit."

"We saw your son going potty," she began a bit reluctantly. Then she proceeded to explain that her organization had employees, including their president, in a conference room in full view of my toddler, and that they serve lower-income individuals and ex-prisoners, some of whom are sex offenders. She said she wanted to ensure that they weren't violating their terms of behavior, or something like that.

That conversation both baffled and mortified me. I feel like a lot of my interactions with strangers out here kind of has this baffling tone. I sometimes feel embarrassed that I'm out and about at all with two young children. I feel very self-conscious, partially just because I feel uncomfortable in general, and partially because I get a sense we are violating social codes that I'm unaware of. We get a lot of positive attention, too--mostly from benevolent old people who love babies--but sometimes I feel like being a mom of young kids is like running a traveling circus. Maybe I should start charging people to see our freak show.

15 October 2015

breaking up with Utah

I've been thinking about my relationship with Utah in terms of a romantic relationship over the last month or so.

During the summer especially, our relationship status would have been "it's complicated" on Facebook. The relationship was long-term: Tim and I lived in Salt Lake for 5 years, I lived in Provo for 4 years before that, and then I lived in Layton for 8 years before that. The only time I left was for 6 months when I was in Russia, which doesn't even seem like it counts.

And then we broke up.

When I first got out here, I was feeling a little angry and betrayed by Utah. Now I've gotten over that and there are definitely things I miss about it.

It's a little hard for me to pinpoint exactly what was dissatisfying to me about my experience in Salt Lake, but I think it is connected to this idea of community and feeling like it was a struggle to be a part of a community that had any consistency. I am not sure why this is. Maybe it's less to do with the place itself and more to do with me, so it's dumb to look for things to blame Utah for.

I did always feel a little silly about my desire to experience living somewhere else for a little while. There are a lot of people who live in Utah whom I love and who love Utah and have no desire to leave, so why did I? And I don't know the answer to that question. Maybe we'll move back later, but right now I look forward to the prospect of getting to know a new place. I haven't found my place here yet. I mostly feel lost and confused right now.

I do miss shopping at NPS where you could find slightly questionable grocery merchandise at a discount, and I miss shopping at thrift stores where you could add to your book collection for a dollar here and there and buy your children's wardrobe, also a dollar at a time. Apparently I really like at least feeling like I'm saving money. I'm not sure where the weird discount outlets are around here, but I hope there are some. I almost asked someone at a regular grocery store what they do with their less-desirable produce: "I will buy brown bananas for half price!"


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