"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Friday, September 27, 2013

Family Friday ..... Mom Guilt

I completely understand that what I am about to write about is a 1st world problem. It is more than that, it is a 1st world middle class problem in a lot of ways. You see, I have choices in my life that other mommy's don't. My parenting choices are made by carefully balancing my needs and wants with the needs and wants of my children, while I also balance the reality that there is a mortgage to pay and food to purchase. There is a lot of balancing, but there are choices.

As I do most of the time I come up with a blog idea - usually based on something that I have observed in my own life, or a topic I am interested in -  I do some research. What are other people saying about this topic, is there something more I should know before I write my thoughts down, has someone said it better. More often than not something I read changes my perspective and makes me look at my idea in a completely new way. This is of course called learning and it is one of my favorite hobbies.

So, as I was about to lament about the time I have been spending away from home recently for work and for classes I came across more articles than I thought I would on Mommy Guilt.

First and foremost I had no idea there was an entire book about Mommy Guilt. I guess I should find solace that there are enough people in the world who have mommy guilt that they wrote a book about it. Perhaps when I have a moment to breathe I may even read it (of course by the time I have a moment to breathe I will be having grandmommy guilt).

Then I found the Working Moms Against Guilt blog. Which I perused for awhile. There were some good helpful hints and some funny posts, but I just wasn't feeling the connection. And then I found this post and I connected (I especially like the woman who would like to leave it all behind so she can hang out on a farm with her kids and raise chickens; and the woman with the list of 9 worries that can flit through her mind in a minute) and I grinned. I see it on the playground on those rare occasions I get the chance to pick up my son from school. We check each other out and you can almost see it in our eyes .... why can't I be as put together as she is or why isn't my kid as well behaved as hers, what would I have to add to their conversation?

I should say this now. When I raised the first child on my own I was working just hard as I am working now. I had the support of my parents but I was doing it on my own - working full time during the week, working part time weekends, and going to graduate school. And I don't remember having this much guilt. Maybe it is because he is on his own now trying to find his own way and I don't see him nearly as much as I would like to that this time around I have the feeling that I need to do it differently, that I need to do it better. Who knows. I am in graduate school again (because I have no idea what it is I want to be when I grow up) and I am taking a class on Life Span Development. We were talking in class about the "good enough" parent. That really we are going overboard with the idea of perfect parenting and that sometime it is ok to just be good enough. But I digress as I usually do.

So I continued my quest on information about Mommy Guilt and I found this blog entry: Jesus Canceled Your Mommy Guilt Trip. And I remembered my blog last Friday about being a "proud failure" and I thought, maybe this is what I am missing. Again, I admire people who have this kind of faith and I am not entirely sure that a little more faith in my life wouldn't be a bad thing. But I don't know if I can look at my day and not have pride in my child if it was a good day - or be angry with myself if it was a bad day. I just think trying to live my life in this way would make me more guilty because I would just fail miserably at it. And so I moved on.

I came across two articles in Parenting Magazine that caught my attention - one was Kissing Mommy Guilt Goodbye, which basically said we know you feel this way, cut yourself some slack, get over it and move on (great .... inability to move on, one more thing to feel guilty about .... check). But the other one I found more interesting - Mom's Dirty Secret. It talked about the things that mom's don't admit - sometimes we like one kid better than the other, or we aren't really happy with the person our teenager became, or my favorite, parenting older children is actually harder than parenting toddlers. I didn't see any of these really as secrets. Moms I know talk about stuff like this all the time. In the end we always end with the reality that we really do love our kids even if we don't like them all the time and really that is all that matters. And so I moved on.

I went to the Huffington Post - and I was amazed at the search results I got: 1 1/2  pages of links to stories about mommy guilt, and I started reading. This one caught my attention, Why do you have to work mama? I was really with her - wondering how do you explain to your child that work is more than just a pay check; that it is rewarding and fulfilling, without making him feel that you would rather be at work than with him .... until she started talking about the perks of her job that included free airline miles and points that got her family free vacations. That just made me angry because those free points and miles are one of the reasons airline tickets are so expensive and I can't go on family vacations and so I moved on. But post after post that I read were from really high-powered career women talking about problems that I just didn't understand, nannies and traveling and breast feeding in public. I would start reading and think ... ok, yup I am with you and then it would all fall apart because their mommy worlds are so far from mine. And so I moved on.
I went back to Google and started from scratch and that is when I came across this short piece that brought it all back into perspective for me: The Real Mommy Wars. And this led to my first paragraph and the reality that mommy guilt is a 1st world, middle class problem. I work because I have to, I am back in graduate school to fulfill my sense of self-worth, my career grants me opportunities that lower socio-economic moms don't have. It may not be free airline miles or nannies, but it is a flexible schedule when I need it, healthcare and a home.
So what brought me to this quest to overcome mommy guilt? Looking back it is silly really .... it was a field trip to go apple picking. When I sent in the permission slip for my son to go on the trip, I checked my calendar and had the day free from meetings and work responsibilities, so I happily checked the box that said I would chaperone. I thought notices were being sent home to confirm who was picked to chaperone and I had not gotten one. So I went about my business, scheduled several meetings for that morning and went about my week. When the day of the field trip came my son informed me that he forgot to tell me that I was chaperoning. I went into immediate panic. Why hadn't I confirmed whether or not I was chaperoning myself? Could I reschedule my meetings? And if I couldn't what irreparable harm was I doing to his psyche? So I logged into my e-mail, rescheduled what I could, cancelled what I couldn't and showed up at the apple orchard. It began as a great trip and he seemed genuinely happy to see me there. Until he stopped listening. Which of course frustrated me because I had scrambled to get on this trip, the least he could do is not require me to repeat the same thing over and over while he completely ignored my plea for him to behave. I knew he was excited and I didn't cut him any slack - which in retrospect had more to do with me than him (he really wasn't behaving that badly, just not listening). So the day ended with him sitting on a bench, not playing with his friends because he was angry with me. So instead of hugs and kisses when he was heading back to the bus I got "I wish you didn't chaperone." Ouch .... knife right to the heart and tears all the way to work.
He of course got over this more quickly than I did. This morning I got hugs and kisses because I sold enough candles for him to get the prize he wanted from the PTO fundraiser. And on Friday nights he gets to pick where he falls asleep; tonight he wanted to fall asleep in my room watching his favorite show Too Cute - and tonight I got hugs and kisses. I don't think I completed my quest to define, alleviate or conquer mommy guilt. I don't know if any women in our culture can. But we do the best we can with what we have and realize tomorrow is another day. A day in which the whole family is apple picking and there will be apple donuts, apple cider and laughter for all.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Being a proud failure on a Friday night .....

To say that lupus has reared its ugly head is an understatement. I went to the doctor today with what I knew was an attack of Pleurisy (which is very common in lupus patients). It started last weekend and I was convinced I had pulled a muscle and it would go away in a couple of days .... but it didn't. Now this is entirely my own fault. Since the semester started I have been going into work super early (7:00 am) twice a week to teach, then working my 35 hours, then one night a week I don't get home until about 10:00 pm because I am taking a couple of classes. Throw in a couple of work events, some Parent Teacher Organization meetings, soccer, homework, grading paper ... plus not eating right and you have a recipe for a lupus flare.

Now before you get all "I'm so sorry to hear it" I do not see this as a bad thing. It is my body's way of saying "Leann, what are you thinking?" And so for the weekend I have a Doctor's note which requires me to take it easy, and I will. The only thing that aggravates me is that I was really looking forward to the Boston Ballet perform on the Boston Common this weekend and I may not get to do that (my husband, the sweetheart that he is was going to go with me - but I think he would rather be bringing me avgolemo soup on the couch). Lupus is what it is. There is a great blog I follow called Despite Lupus. It is great for a couple of reasons - she reminds me I need to take care of myself & she reminds me how ok I am because her lupus impacts her life more than my lupus impacts mine.

So I have spent most of today sitting on what the boy calls the "love couch" and I should be grading papers or reading for class or something productive. But I have taken my Tramadol for the pain and my brain is a little too fuzzy to accomplish that at the moment. But I am pretty proud of myself. I have managed to do my nails ... nothing fancy just a little sparkly and purple (my signature color).

And this is the second blog I have written today (because I have to do something). I got watch a bunch of Walking Dead to get caught up for the new season and I plan on some NCIS episodes this evening. So while I am bored out of my skull I am proud of the fact that I have managed to go to the doctor and accomplish some stuff and I have managed to still be awake. Overall good day.

So the failure part. I have been surfing Pinterest and I have been searching for some new blogs to follow. And I have realized a couple of things:
Pinterest is designed to make average moms feel inadequate. Let's be honest - not a lot of men follow Pinterest. And what you find are things like:
  • How to make your sidewalk chalk
    Pinterest nails - so much better than mine!
  • How to make your own dishwasher pellets
  • How to make your own pumpkin scented paint for your kids
  • The endless ideas for Elf on a Shelf!
  • How to make furniture out of found pallet wood
  • How to make your own SportCream
  • How to make your own natural house cleaners
  • And don't even get me started on doing your nails!
It makes moms who don't have time to do all these things feel like failures - and add a chronic illness like lupus to the mix and I feel like spending my day sitting on my couch will completely destroy any chance my son has to grow up a well adjusted human being. Because let's face it - I am more likely to go to the dollar store if we need sidewalk chalk.
Then there was the searching of Blogger. I find the same thing in the blogs I am flipping through. Many of them written by stay at home, very religious moms. Now before I get a bunch of flack I have nothing against stay at home religious moms. Their blogs just make me feel like there is a utopian standard of parenting that I am just not living up to. And I have to wonder what is behind the blog. No family can be as perfect as some of these women claim their families are. In my sick twisted brain I am wondering what secrets hide in their closets and if I follow these blogs will I begin to see the cracks in the façade show.
Friends who know me and read this are apt to think I am crazy - when I have the energy I try and craft with my son and have him in the kitchen and go on nature walk adventures. More often then not however, I get a bunch of stuff to do crafts and it ends up sitting in my craft closet "until next time." I also like to have big, crazy parties - but what people don't know is that I spend the week before and the week after on the couch!
So now that it is Saturday morning and I have spent my time "resting" I have to get up and get ready for my day. It is birthday party day. No, I did not make a gift or a cute gift basket - I got my son's friend a Hallmark card and a gift card to the toy store. By the time I get home I am pretty sure I will be too tired to go to the ballet - but may be able to finagle some Halloween crafts before I get my butt back on the couch. In between I may manage to read a chapter or grade a paper. And in all likelihood it will be a pizza dinner - not with homemade sauce and dough, but delivered from Dominos, followed by some cuddling on the couch and a story before bedtime. This is our world, and really that is just fine by me!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Family Friday .... Let's Talk Halloween

It is once again my favorite time of year .... crisp air, apple donuts, county fairs, no AC needed and still no snow! It is the perfect intersection of all my favorite things! But my favorite thing about this time of year is Halloween. I realized that I have written blogs about Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but not really about my favorite holiday of the year!

There are several things about Halloween that disturb me:
  • It is the doorway to winter, once we pass Halloween it is all downhill from there.
  • The commercialism - while I have to admit I am guilty of supporting the purchase of costumes, decorations and goodies it has come to the point of ridiculousness when a bag of 100 pieces of candy costs $9.00.
But let's put those annoying things aside for a moment. Last year we had a Halloween party for a handful of 6 year-olds. It was unfortunate that we planned our party for the same day that hurricane Sandy hit our shores. But the kids had a great time in the mist (it actually made it a little spooky which would have been great had it not been so cold).
Here are some pics from the big event:
These are the "body part toss" game. My husband made the coffin out of pallet wood and we purchased the body parts at the dollar store. We hung a scary face guy in the coffin and the kids tossed the hands and feet at it and then they came out of the bottom.
This is the "Frankenstein Toss" Don't ask me how mu husband made Frankenstein because I have no idea. But we made Jell-O brains and Jell-O eyeballs for the kids to toss in Frankenstein's head. The morning after Hurricane Sandy he fell over and all his brains fell out!
These are the kids searching through the coffin of guts (colored spaghetti & noodles) so they could find the key to the box that holds the goodie bags (and yes, my husband made these as well).
This is one of the Frankenstein Jell-O brains that got stuck in a spider web! LOL!
This is a cemetery made out of what usually is our garden.
And then the food:
And our puppy Bumblebee - who we dressed up as a Bumblebee (she was not pleased)!
So what can we do this year - I may have mentioned once or twice (or three times) that I am a Pinterest junkie. I have an entire folder of Halloween crafts and food and cool things to celebrate the dead and the harvest and the beginning winter. I have already purchased costumes for myself and the now 7 year old!

This is my costume

This is the 7-year-olds costume

So it is beginning to look like a really good Halloween. I have picked out the links from Pinterest below as definite things to do. I am really hoping that the weather holds out and we can have another party in our yard.

Meat Hand
Halloween Graves

I know I am usually all about making vaguely profound observations of the world in which we live. My observation for today has to be that sometimes you just need to have some fun. Halloween makes me feel like a little kid again, especially when I go through the candy bag and pick out my favorites (don't judge .. you know you do it too!). Perhaps remembering our dead with carved pumpkins, and blue ninjas, and gory meatloaf was not exactly what the Celts had in mind 2000 years ago - but what would life be without this crazy celebration. Boring I think!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TMI .....

A few things intersected this week that made me start to think about today's blog.

What you may ask could these three things possibly have in common ... our electronic footprint. When combined the three stories are an interesting view of the perils of oversharing.

In the first story a teacher almost loses his career because people took his blog out of context and used his own words against him. It was both a sad story of how hateful cowards can destroy a good person and a triumphant story of how the strong survive.

The second story disturbed me. It started off innocent enough. A friend shared the blog which was entitled "We Gave Up Toilet Paper." It was intriguing, how does one survive without toilet paper. And so I clicked. Much like Miley Cyrus at the VMA  I wish I hadn't. 

My eyes are still burning from both. In the story the author not only explains that her family stopped using toilet paper, she shared intimate details about her sex life and apparent feminine issues that resulted in the family's decision to switch to fabric. I think she could have made her point without the excruciating detail - or maybe put out a warning like a Law & Order episode "This blog contains language that some readers may find disturbing." Of course I am kidding. I am a huge fan of the 1st Amendment and the right of people to share what they want when they want. There are just moments I wish I had not participated in their sharing and that I could get those 15 minutes of my life back.
Then there was the Navy Yard Shooter, Aaron Alexis. What I found interesting in the report about him was that the journalist made it a point to note that there was no real electronic footprint for this individual - no blog, no Facebook, no Twitter. I am not going to rant in this blog about the need for better mental health services and gun control, that is material better saved for another blog. But it is interesting that in this society at this time it is noteworthy enough to mention that this person did not post every minute of every day on social media.
The first and last story made me pause and start to think about my own electronic footprint. I LOVE Facebook and I really am beginning to think I need a support group for my addiction. I post a lot, but have changed my posting habits so the stuff I post now is pretty innocuous:
"To all my FB friends that have insomnia I have just found a cure ..... purchase any text book that explains in excruciating detail basic research design .... followed by a chapter on how to evaluate qualitative & quantitative research.
"TRAFFIC .... ARRRRRRRG! MONDAY ....... ARRRRG! I think that about says it all!feeling annoyed."
Because I am by nature a kind hearted and gentle human being that is all I am going to say about my day. You may of course come to your own conclusions."
And then there are the e-cards (which I love)
All of this seems innocent enough if you know me. But if you didn't it could come across differently. Could I get fired for my views? Could the parents of my kid's friends stop letting them come over my house? And if I died tomorrow - what would my electronic footprint tell people about me. I would probably come off as a ranting lunatic.
I don't think all this soul searching will change my posting habits, or anyone else's. It was just an observation I made while I was in my never ending commute.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I remember ......

I went back to look at whether or not I had written about my experience of 9/11 before and I had. But as I looked back I realized that I have been writing this blog (I know, not on a regular basis) for a few years now. So much in my life has happened in these years ... so much has happened since 2001. And yet the remembrance and the pain is the same today that it was on that morning twelve years ago.

When one of my classes happen to fall on 9/11 I start class with The Daily Show. So many people made powerful statements but Jon Stewart's really is the one that still gets to me, still gives me a lump in my throat and still makes me remember what life was like after .... when we came together, when we were, but for a moment, one nation again.

Many people remember 9/11 as a tragedy - the number of lives lost - the people that took out their vengeance on us. It is a day of pain and anger for many. I try and remember this day as the first time I realized what it really means to be American. Not enough people know that today is a National Day of Service, a day to give back to the community and come together as a people.
I teach a concept in my course about the rearview mirror impact on social change. Basically it is that current social change is impacted by recent history. So I wanted to take a look at how September 11th has had an impact on the debate on whether or not we should get involved in Syria. I think is has. Americans are what reporters are calling "war weary." George Bush's "War on Terror" (continued by President Obama) hasn't made the change people thought it would. We are still in Afghanistan and Iraq is still damaged. The impact of the decisions made on 9/11 have increased the probability of a terrorist attack on American soil by lone jihadists ~ American born, American made. And then there is what we have lost since 9/11 the Patriot Act has created a country where in the name of national security we can no longer trust in the tenets of the Constitution - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
~ Benjamin Franklin
It is unfortunate that the US government waited so long to attempt to help the people of Syria. Had this been two years ago when innocent people were being killed by their government I think there would have been more support - before Al Qaida went in to give rebels the support that American was not giving. Now our involvement would do nothing more than allow people who dislike us to gain power in a frantic nation - reaching out desperately and willing to support whoever will help them survive.
I recently lost a very good friend. The band of misfits I called my family in high school came together to help each other process and deal with the loss. There were tears and hugs and laughter and memory. But together we buried our friend and grieved as one. That is how I felt on 9/11. Like I had an entire nation of family and together we grieved, buried our friends, and dealt with our loss. And so today I remember that and that is what I will share with the students in my classroom this morning - students who were too young to experience the nation coming together.