Mommy Dating

After 6 years of marriage, I suddenly found myself in the dating pool again.  Glances and smiles at potential prospects.  Polite small talk during which I try to make sure I sound fun, light-hearted, and engaging.  And if I succeed and someone asks for my number, then there’s the anxious waiting period during which I overanalyze our initial interaction and wonder if the call will come.  And if I get that second date my husband laughs at me as I try on different outfits before I select just the right one.  Wait, you’re thinking, did she say her husband?  Yep.  I’m still happily married.  These “prospects” are other moms.  It’s called Mommy Dating.

I chose to stay at home with my daughter.  For those of you who chose a similar path, I think you’ll agree with me that it is not always easy.  How many times can a grown adult be expected to reenact every episode of The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?  There is no limit according to my daughter.  And don’t even get me started on the baby days.  I felt my brain turning to mush as I made funny faces and silly noises in an attempt to get the ever elusive baby giggle.

Enter the Mommy comrades to save the day.  I crave adult interaction.  Just having another adult around during the day does wonders for my sanity.  Even if I can’t actually speak to that adult because my daughter literally grabs my face, turns it away from said adult, and says, “no Mommy.  Don’t talk.”  At least I can exchange a sympathetic look with someone other than Daisy Duck.  Or when I’m dancing along with the Elmo CD player and thinking, good thing I got that Master’s Degree, at least I can look at my fellow mom friend also who is also making a fool of herself and not feel as bad about myself – she has a PhD.

So I search for other SAHMs to help me make it through.  I scope them out at playgrounds, libraries, sing-alongs, and museums.  I’m looking for a few key qualities – general pleasantness, flexibility, proximity (I rarely leave the 10 mile radius surrounding my home), availability, and similarly aged children.  When I’m able to find all those qualities wrapped up in one Mom…magic!

The Mommy Dating scene has treated me well since moving to New England two summers ago.  I’ve been able to fill my Mommy Black Book with fabulous friends who make my life as a “stay at home” mom (who stays home?) a true pleasure.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without these ladies.

So Moms of New England, if you find yourself at the playground and you get this nagging feeling that someone is checking you out, don’t worry.  It’s probably me.  Wanna have a playdate?


Gong Gong and Por Por

        The night before my parent’s arrival from China, we went to bed feeling so proud of the work we had done to prepare the house and guest room for them; cleaning, reorganizing, getting rid of stuff, replacing closet rod, replacing their ceiling lamp, cleaning our cars…etc. It got off to a wrong start as I woke up at 6:20 in pure horror that my husband was sleeping soundly next to me. The alarm clock set for 5:20a.m. did not go off. As he frantically dressed and made a mad dash to the airport, my parents called me twice to ask where he was. I apologized profusely and they were understanding. I hung up feeling grateful, then I realized I didn’t give them my husband’s cell number. So I was trying to take care of two needy kids who just woke up while I looked for a calling card in my e-mails and punched in 5 billion numbers of toll-free numbers, pin codes and long distance phone numbers. I had to do that about 3-4 times because I kept messing up the long distance codes. I just wasn’t able to think and function with no coffee, with a crying baby in my arm, and a whiny toddler at my legs (who thinks the open computer desk means he gets to watch a video), both with sopping wet diapers. I was also trying to figure out if I should be mad at my husband- and decided not to be (maybe just slightly annoyed since he was the one who set the alarm, then somewhat amused when it did eventually go off but at 5:20p.m.).

        I knew we were in trouble the moment they started unpacking their luggage and filled the entire dining room table with stuff. They proudly pulled out an absolutely ridiculous Minnie Mouse dress for baby Banana, insisting she wear it next year for her second birthday. There are also little over indulgences, like letting Lemon Cake use their ipads whenever he wanted, or yesterday when Gong Gong let him have 3 cookies before dinner time, later explaining that he just couldn’t refuse Lemon Cake asking so sweetly for another cookie, and besides, Lemon Cake started talking to him in very fast English he couldn’t understand, so he thought offering a cookie couldn’t go wrong. Some of this stuff is just annoying  like Lemon Cake did not have appetite for dinner after the three cookies, but it could also be dangerous. When they visited two years ago, around the time Lemon Cake turned one, I specifically instructed them NOT to feed him peanut butter given his severe eczema thus possible food allergies. Guess what Por Por did? She sneaked him a spoonful of peanut butter the very next day. His face blew up immediately, and he cried and scratched at his eyes. We administered Benadryl and luckily, he didn’t go into shock. I was a crying mess for the next hour, and I was PISSED. Apparently, my mom was just trying to fatten Lemon Cake up.

        Despite everything, a two month visit from my parents is mostly a blessing (ask me again in a month and my answer might be different). Most of the cooking and cleaning is done by them for that time period. We mostly get along well. My husband almost never complains about them staying with us (even though my mom is convinced that he must think they are intruding on our privacy and romantic life- little does she know that our romantic life is sitting on the couch from 8:30-10p.m. eating cookies, drinking tea and watching t.v. shows and sometimes videos of our children, or talking about how crazy and wonderful they are). Our children show genuine delight at having them around, and they clearly care about our well-being and want to be helpful while they are here.

        Last night before bed time, baby Banana downed an 8 ounce bottle of milk, and then promptly threw up everything she ate. It was a white slippery thick and smelly mess dotted with fruits, cheese and meat, and it covered me, herself, the rug, and her lovey giraffe. My mom helped wash baby Banana and scrubbed all the puke-drenched clothes, while my dad bundled up to look for her alternate lovey in the car in the freezing cold. Normally my husband would have helped, but he was cleaning Lemon Cake’s pee off of the dining room floor and getting him cleaned, changed, toothbrushed and ready for bed. Finally, with my parents’ help, we got both children settled down for the night.        

        Things felt much calmer this evening before dinner, as Lemon Cake and I snuggled on the couch enjoying a book together while Baby Banana played quietly on her own. It would have been perfect, were it not for the sound of my mom pacing the living room, complaining that the piping hot chicken she had just placed on the table was getting cold and would taste bad. The next two months will be interesting to say the least.



Rescue Mission

Papaya: “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”

Sturdy toddler feet busily running around furniture, turning corners tightly and swiftly avoiding corner crashes.

Papaya: “Mama! Do you want to help me rescue Baby Jaguar?”
Me, sensing that I am about to be roped into tiresome play: “Sure, maybe in five minutes?”
Papaya: “Baby Jaguar needs to be rescued now!”
Me: “Well in that case, sure, I’ll help you rescue him.”
Papaya: “Hurry, Mama, we have to help him!”
Me: “I’m hurrying!”
Papaya: “Here, I can teach you. Watch! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! You say G-O-R-D-O, Mom!”
Me, running in step: “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”
Papaya: “Faster! Faster! Faster!”
Me, a little breathlessly: “By the way, Papaya, what does gordo mean?”
Papaya: “It means rescue a baby! Silly Mama!”
Duh. But of course it means that.
Papaya and Mama running around a table: “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”

A week ago “gordo” wasn’t part of the play. A week ago the play was finding sleeping animals in the forest, and the dialogue between us went like this:
Papaya: “Mama, do you want to help me find the sleeping animals in the forest?”
Me: “Sure, I’ll help you find them.”
Papaya: “Good! Okay, Mama, we run around the table like this!”
Around the table we run and run in a never-ending circle…until…I stop to rest.
Papaya: “Mama, you want to help me find the sleeping animals in the forest?”
Me: “I just did, love.”
Papaya: “But we’re not done! The animals are not found!”
Me: “Okay, I’ll help you for five more minutes, but then I have some grownup work to do.”
Papaya: “Okay Mama! Let’s do it!”
Around the table we run and run, in search of sleeping animals in the forest. We take breaks, many breaks, because Papaya wants to take pictures of me finding the lost animals in the forest. (The day before she received a tiny toy camera at a nature center; it’s still a novelty item.) Papaya: “Smile, Mama! Smile!”

In defense of my unenthusiastic “Gordo!” shouting and telling Papaya that I have only five minutes to engage her in play, this exchange comes on the heels of two million requests to find the sleeping animals in the forest, one million requests to run around the dining room table with her, in order to find the sleeping animals, and two million requests to pose with a smile so that she can take a picture of me finding the sleeping animals in the forest. Wait. She just asked again. Make that two million and one requests.

So, here’s a thing about parenting: it’s repetitious. Often, and frequently. Whether breast or bottle feeding, diaper changing or underwear and clothes changing during potting training, you do the same thing over and over and over, and then over and over again, and again, and you try to do it enthusiastically more times than not, because being the earnest parent that you are, you get it that to your child the thing that’s being repeated over and over is novel, and her engagement with it is pure and essential.

Not that this truth means you always, or in some cases ever, love it, or the repetition of it.  Look at me, for example; my mouth is upturned in a smile but my eyes reflect weariness…as I stomp around the dining room table calling out “Gordo! Gordo! Gordo! Gordo!”

There’s a baby jaguar to rescue. This is important work!

Manic Monday

I hate breastfeeding.

There, I said it.

I am 9 months into breastfeeding my second child (I breastfed my first for roughly 11.5 months), and I can say with confidence that I hate it.

Neither of my daughters would take a bottle.  Not too shocking, given that I can imagine plastic doesn’t compare to a boob.  Of course I can’t really say that I tried too hard to get them to take the bottle since I am a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and it just seemed easier not to force it.  I think the problem is that I’m so tired all the time that I don’t have the energy to fight any battle that doesn’t absolutely need to be fought.

Breastfeeding is so hard, and so draining, that I think you should get an award if you manage to do it for 12 months.  I’m not kidding.  I would gladly take some cash, or a paid vacation.  There are very few people who manage to achieve that goal, and I feel we should be greatly rewarded.

The exhaustion kind of snowballs when you’re a breastfeeding mom, I think.  In the very beginning, you just run on pure adrenaline.  From week two until about 3 months, you’re in a fog and don’t realize how tired you are.  Then things kind of perk up a bit, and you feel like maybe it’s not so bad.  After that is when it starts to go downhill and, in my case, you hit the wall at 9 months.

I have been through this twice now, and clearly my body can only handle no sleep for 9 months.  When my first daughter was this exact same age, I had a complete breakdown and we sleep trained her.  The same thing happened this time around, except that #2 got bronchitis on the day the sleep training was supposed to commence.  So, now we’re a week past my breaking point, and I think I have entered into the realm of delirium.

We’re going to sleep train her ASAP, believe me.  But, of course she still breastfeeds in the middle of the night – usually twice (hence why I’m so tired) – and this brings me back to my point: I hate breastfeeding.  I don’t hate the actual act of it; that’s fine (outside of getting bitten).  It’s everything that comes with it.  It’s the exhaustion from getting up in the middle of the night for months on end.  It’s the feeling that you can’t ever be away from your kiddo for more than a few hours.  It’s the fear that when you are away that they are freaking out on whoever is watching them for you.  It’s the leaking, and pads, and horrible clothes that you have to wear for a year out of your life.  It’s the fact that your body is not your own; it’s constantly being shared with someone else.  And, most of all, it’s the fact that you’re supposed to love it.  You’re supposed to think that this is the best thing that’s ever happened to you, and that you want to continue doing it forever.  That isn’t even remotely how I feel.

I do it because I know it’s the best thing for my children.  I have read the studies.  I get it.  Breast milk is best.  And we’re mammals.  This is what we’re supposed to do when we have a child.  Fine.  Just don’t make it seem like we not only have to do it, but we also have to love doing it.  There are about a thousand things I do because I should, not because I like to.  Flossing comes to mind.  It’s okay to say that you hate to floss.  Why isn’t it okay to say that you hate to breastfeed?

It’s almost 9:00pm.  I’m going to have to be awake in 3-4 hours for you-know-what and so I have to go floss now.

Welcome to Parenting

I am just home from my 2nd ER visit with a Little Miss who is almost three months old; let’s call her Little Miss  Jr..  Little Miss Jr. is 11 weeks old and I know more about children having fevers under the age of three months than I ever wanted to.  Apparently, the #1 medical priority is to be certain there is no bacterial infection.  This means a full work-up:  drawing blood, taking a urine sample via catheter and, the icing on the cake, a spinal tap to test the cerebral spinal fluid within.  Within the span of two weeks my less than three month old daughter has had not one but two spinal taps.  My usually mellow and very happy newborn screams and I cry.  These are all day ER visits with procedure, hours of waiting for results, procedure, hours of waiting for results, procedure, hours of…well, you get it.  We would be able to soothe her, get her warm, dim those fluorescent lights and then in walks a nurse, needing to check vitals.  It was brutal.  Excruciating and brutal.

I have another Little Miss, my first born.   She screamed at me for 5 months straight.  When I say she screamed at me for 5 months straight, I am not exaggerating.  She yelled all the time, demanding to be bounced.  Her only comfort was me, sitting on a yoga ball, bouncing up and down.  I bounced thousands, literally thousands, of times a day for 5 months.  She is still the jumpiest kid I know.  So – daughter #1:  uncomfortable and very colicky. Daughter #2:  multiple hospital visits within the first 11 weeks of her life (did I mention we had to go the hospital at 3 days old for a jaundice test, or that we required an additional ultrasound because she had a soft marker for Down’s Syndrome show up on our routine 18-week ultrasound?) I asked my husband today, “would you rather be screamed at for 5 months or would you rather have this?” He replied “this” because the screaming was that bad. 

 And this is parenthood.  Not all of parenthood, but a snapshot of some of my welcoming moments.  But the pendulum swings both ways.  The joy, pride, and pure love I feel is vast.  Little Miss and I were lying in the bed the other day and she looked at me, caressed my face and said, “Oh, baby Mama (this is her lovey dovey nickname for me) I love you so much.”  Then she lowers her voice just a notch and says, “You are so good and fun to play with.”  I had tingles from the intimacy of the moment.  The first moment I saw her was transcendent – otherworldly – and those moments with her keep on coming.

Little Miss Jr., well she’s young yet, but she is cuuuuuute.  She looks like an elf with her button nose and she has deep blue eyes the size of saucers.  She looks for my voice whenever she hears it, especially if I’ve been gone a couple of hours.  There is a deep sense of satisfaction in our relationship – a peace that exists between us already.  It is easier with my second child to accept the mother that I already am, instead of figuring out the mother I am going (or desperately want) to be.  That  allows Little Miss Jr. to just be who she is without the entanglement of what it means about me (mostly).

I have a lot to say about these little girls, parenthood, marriage, and life in general so I started this blog.  It is a collaboration of women’s voices.  They are representative of many women who have listened to me, talked to me, provided shoulders to cry on.  Every single one of these specific women has made me laugh really hard – something I value a great deal.  I hope they lend the same voice to this blog and we reach some readers out there who can relate and feel supported.  Why a group blog, you ask?  #1 – blog resources recommend you blog everyday and really, who has the time for that?  #2 – it takes a village; this is not a journey to traverse alone.

So, there you have it.  My first post.  I look forward to seeing theirs.