Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This Parenting Stuff

*Warning: Long, rambling, possibly scatter-brained post.

I am in the middle of re-reading "I Feel Bad About My Neck" -- a collection of essays by Nora Ephron. For those unfamiliar with Ephron, she wrote the screenplays of two of my favorite movies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle" (which she also directed), as well as "You've Got Mail" -- Meg Ryan owes her career to Ephron. She's also the author of numerous funny, insightful books, other than this particular collection, which deals with being a woman "of a certain age."

So the reason I'm blogging about E is what she says in one of the essays "Parenting in 3 Stages." In this piece, she talks about how parenting seemed a fairly straightforward business, until the 1960s, when she had kids. Quoting here, "You can blame the women's movement for it -- one of the bedrock tenets of the women's movement was that because so many women were entering the workforce, men and women should share in the raising of children; thus the gender-neutral word 'parenting' and the necessity of elevating child rearing to something more than the endless hours of quantity time it actually consists of.

"Conversely, you can blame the backlash against the women's movement -- lots of women didn't feel like entering into the workforce (or even sharing the raising of children with their husbands), but they felt guilty about this, so they were compelled to elevate full-time parenthood to a sacrament."

She goes on to make her case with lots of examples, including "playing Mozart CDs while you were pregnant, doing without the epidural, and breast-feeding your child until it was old enough to unbutton your blouse." (! So funny!)

This brought to mind a struggle we women, educated, highly qualified mothers, are facing these days. Let me see if I can articulate my thoughts in some cohesive manner.

If you're a stay-at-home mom like moi, chances are you've patted yourself in the back often with a self-satisfied smug smile, because you've sacrificed your no-doubt high falutin' career for The Greater Good. We are martyrs, we are. Not like our own moms, who, let's face it, didn't HAVE a career and barely any education to sacrifice for The Cause. They were parents just because they didn't have anything better to do.

And if you're a working mom, chances are not a day goes by when you don't feel guilty about having a life that doesn't include your kids. So you struggle. You compromise. Maybe you work from home. Maybe you take a pay cut and work part-time. Or you just live with the guilt of Not Watching Your Children Grow or Not Being There For Them.

Where am I going with this? I really don't know. I'm sure I'm not saying this as well as I want to. What comes back to me is this friend I met at a party recently. She's a biologist, who's worked very, very hard for her Ph.D. She's spent a few years as a post-doc. And she's a mom of two kids. She'd just gone part-time and was feeling glum.

"Why is it always we women who have to make these choices?" she complained. "I'm thinking right now that there was no point in my studying so much if all I was going to do was stay at home with the kids. But I feel guilty for working -- I don't even remember my youngest son's childhood. I want to have it all."

I listened, nodding sympathetically. But I disagreed with her on several points. First, her argument that she might as well have done just a B.S. if all it boiled down to was "just" staying at home. I think any and all education enhances one's life experiences, colors beliefs, boosts self-confidence, even a sense of self. If you're rearing a child, you're passing all that wonderful stuff on, so this should be a no-brainer.

Second, I told her she needed to define what "all" was. She wanted to be a full-time professional pouring all her energy and dedication to her job, as well as a mom who was a constant presence in her kids' lives. Since she couldn't be in two places at one time, that was just not possible. So what did she mean by "all"? And by working part-time, hadn't she come as close as she could to having it all? Why not?

She had man-envy. Her husband didn't have to make that choice, she said. I didn't say anything then, but it did get me thinking. Our husbands don't "have it all" either. They aren't always physically there for their kids -- does that mean they care less? If not, where is their sense of guilt? Is the answer that our kids need moms more than they need their dads? Or that they just need one parent to be always physically there? At what point do they stop needing that constant presence?

My mom was always physically there for me -- she was there when I left for school, when I came home to lunch, when I did my homework, when I had my dinner (except for the weekends when she and my dad transmogrified into party animals, but that's another story). Despite all that, I was always closer to my dad.

So, to stay at home or not? If so, for how long? If not, why feel guilty?

The bottom line I think is for the mother to be happy, whatever she's chosen to do. If she's happy, the kids are happy. If she's happy, she has it all. Simplistic? Possibly. But heck, it works for me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On A Lighter Note

Raina: "Mommy, I love you so, so much. I love you 49."
Me: "I love you 89."
R: "I love you 100."
Me: "I love you 1500."
R: "I love you 2900."
Me: "I love you 100,000."
R: [nonplussed, then lit up with inspiration] "Mommy, I love you ZERO!"


"Mommy, did hair fall from your head to your vagina?"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What Did You Do?

Rather unimaginative title, I know, but I am at my wits' end. So calling all you mommies out there... what did you do when your 3-month-old (or 6-month-old or 9-month-old) refused to take naps?

For the past week, Rohan seems to have decided that he's done with naps. He will NOT sleep. And if he does deign to fall asleep while nursing, he's going to wake up when I put him down on the bassinet. AND if he does not wake up then, he will wake up five minutes later. Or ten. But wake up he will. And start screaming like his mama's putting pins on him.

So I burp him. Or try to get him to pass gas. Or rock him. Or put him in the bouncer. Or talk to him. Or play with him. Few minutes of this, and the bawling starts all over again.

So I change his diaper. Coo. Take him for a walk in the stroller. Or the baby sling. Sing to him. Hum. Whatever, to get the job done. But it's no use.

It's gotten to the point that I've begun to doubt everything -- whether he's getting enough milk, whether I ate something that didn't agree with him, should I give him some formula, what? What is it I am doing wrong? And what should I do to fix it?

I went through something similar with Raina but it was when she was much older, and those were nightmare months of rocking and rocking and singing. And if she woke up, starting all over. Eventually, I just would let her cry herself to sleep. Because I knew she was tired and knew she needed to nap.

The good thing about this problem with Rohan is, come dusk, and he just drops off. He's gone for the night, or most of it anyway. But I am worried that if he continues to not nap during the day, it's eventually going to affect his night sleep.

So I turn to you, blogging mommies. WWYD?