AddThis script

Monday, December 26, 2005

Books I never knew I needed to read

Before I was a parent, I don't know that I even considered myself a feminist. Sure I believed in equal pay for women and that women should have all the same rights as men. But beyond that it seemed foreign to me. And because Father in Chief and I weren't sure we wanted kids, it wasn't as if ending my career to be a parent was even in my thoughts. I know there were crappy days at work when I thought it would be easier to be home with kids, but it was not something I'd actually consider. That is, until I was pregnant.

Anyway, now that I'm home and I wonder, "Who am I?" I want to read all of the books that women read and have read. So my Christmas list was filled with stuff I'm almost embarrassed to admit I haven't read yet…probably because I'm too busy chasing after my two-year-old. They are:

I hope to finish reading these by the time Toddler in Chief goes to kindergarten. Do you have any other must-reads for identity-struggling parents?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How did we get here?

In this hectic world, it so often seems that we value what is not important (big car, fancy house) and devalue the most important things (time with our family and friends). And as we spend Christmas with our families in snow-covered Buffalo, this time underscores what is most important to me. Even though I often struggle with floundering, non-existent career, I’m so grateful that I get to raise my son.

That seems like such a strange thing to say. It makes it seem like it's a privilege instead of a right as a parent. But more often that not, parents do not get to raise their kids. In 2004, 70 percent of women with children under 18 years of age were in the work force, compared to 27 percent in 1955. And of those currently working, "only 16 percent say they would choose to work full time if they felt they had the choice," according to the January 2006, Sojourners Magazine cover story called, "Taking Back Our Kids: Child rearing, never an easy endeavor, has become in many ways a countercultural activity." (free registration required)

How did we get here? How did something so valuable as raising our families end up in the backseat? Or how did we get to a place where parents don't feel they have a choice in the matter?

Much of it comes down to our government not caring enough about its future. It has done little to preserve manufacturing jobs in this country. It has done little to curb the "womb to tomb" adverting overload, which overwhelms influential kids with advertising, increasing the wants that families have. And it would rather spend money on war than on benefits that would revamp the way the American families live, such as a separation of job and health care and longer, better-funded maternity leaves. At the same time, real wages have declined by 10 percent from 1973 to 1993, according to the magazine, leaving families with less money.

So what does this have to do with moms working? Families are making less, there are fewer jobs, and advertising has increased people's expectations about what they should have. And many families find that the only way to do this is to have two incomes.

The more I think about the policies of our government--especially the Republican party who claims to be so "pro family"--I'm disgusted and disappointed that the priorities actually sacrifice families and instead focus on short-term gains, personal vendettas, and profits for the wealthy and corporate America.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oh! Baby: Take your commercialism and get out of my holiday

It's the most wonderful time of the year for retailers. But for people who want to enjoy the season, the over-spend mentality is stressful and downright unappealing. In so many ways the holidays have lost their meaning and somehow gotten all mixed up with shopping and Santa and crowds. It doesn't have to be that way. We've decided to avoid the whole Santa story altogether and focus on what we believe is the most important part of the holiday season: being with family.

Join this week's debate on this Season's of Spending on the Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Let's clear the air

I know that some of you think I'm totally judgmental. But honestly, I don't care that much about the choices that other parents make. I know that no choice is made in a vacuum and each family makes trade-offs based on what works best for them. Cloth versus disposable? Boob versus bottle? To snip or not to snip (although I do have a hard time not judging people who cut their kids for cosmetic reasons). Preschool at two or four? How long your keep your kid in diapers?

I'm far from perfect. And I don't like admitting I'm wrong--just as Father in Chief. The stuff I write here is the real me. The stuff I write elsewhere is in the spirit of entertainment and debate. And at times I have triggered some really interesting and thought-provoking comments, which makes it all worth while. That doesn't mean what I write elsewhere isn't me or my thoughts. Really, they are all my thoughts and my opinions--just amplified to the extreme. Don't take it personally, okay? It's in the spirit of fun...and it pays some bills.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

How did I become that parent?

I'm so disappointed with myself.

Somehow--and I'm really not sure how it happened--the other day I encouraged Toddler in Chief to be interested in a boy thing and discouraged him from a girl thing. I'm having huge regrets about this. I never wanted to be that kind of parent.

When we were out shopping for a bike for Christmas, he really liked the purple girls bike. He picked it out. He rode around on it. And he wanted to bring that one home with us. We let him ride around on it, but then we also had him ride the red boys bike. And we ended up buying the boys bike. What difference does it make? Why did I do that? I don't care if he wears pink and purple and likes girl things. I have always joked that "TIC is in touch with his feminine side."

The scariest part is that I don't think I did it on purpose. I hope that my subconscious doesn't do that again. I feel so crappy about it that I want to return the red bike and get the purple one. He doesn't seem to mind the red bike. And Father in Chief has a red bike, so he likes that his looks like daddy's. But ugh. I don't want to force him into boy things or boy colors or boy stereotypes. I'm so frustrated with myself.

He's only two and I'm steering him in gender-specific directions. How did this happen?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If it were only that simple...

I really like what David said: "[W]ho cares what you tell people you do? What nonsense...Spend more time doing it and less worrying about these silly things."

The plain truth is that I need to focus on my shortcomings and flounderings and delve into who I am and wonder what I should do when I have a life to myself. I need those silly distractions. If I don't use these diversion tactics--regardless of how silly they seem--I'll be forced to think about the real stuff in my life. And that is just too fucking hard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oh! Baby: When should you ditch diapers?

Diapers have never been one of my favorite parenting tasks--don't know many parents who savor it. And I've always been determined to have my kid out of diapers well before his third birthday. Is this possible? Will I psychologically scar my kid if I work to wean him off of diapers before he's ready? And can I get him interested sooner than he would have otherwise made the choice on his own? So far the reward systems seems to be working well, but what if he decides he doesn't like the reward anymore? Will my plan totally backfire?

Join this week's debate over potty training on the Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It's so obvious, I didn't even see it

Even when some things seem so obvious we don't always notice them until someone else points it out to us. I'm thinking of my post from last week about floundering through life without knowing where I'm headed.

I never used to identify myself with what I did for a living when I was working full time. It was just a *part* of who I was. I wonder if because I no longer have this thing occupying a good chunk of my life that I feel the need to identify with some kind of thing outside of being a parent. I used to love telling people I'm a writer and I still do, but it doesn't have that same satisfying ring that it used to.

Perhaps I'm floundering because I wish I had something to identity with. Then again, I think Babs might have hit something that I hadn't even thought of...and it seems so obvious now that I think about it. She wrote that because my fabulous part-time writing job is about parenting, my non-parenting work-break is all about the thing I'm trying to get a break from. So it's almost no break at all. And my writing is not just about parenting in general. It's about my life as a parent. It's about my kid. And it's about how I handle different parenting issues in our lives. It's almost as if my writing job is more intense than my actually parenting because I really have to dig into my parenting self and ponder, contemplate, and wonder about how I do things or want to do things.

It's almost no break at all.

That doesn't mean I don't like my job. I think it just means that I need other stuff in my life. Mostly, I think I need to hire more childcare so that I can go out and take a class--a non-writing, non-parenting class that's just for me and no one else. I need some selfish time to really detach myself from this seven-day-a-week job that I love most of the time...except when it makes me forget how to do anything else.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I saw the pity in their eyes

Cold season has kept us very close to home the past week or two. I can barely recall the feeling of a cool breeze on my face, yet alone my arms or legs.

That said, we had a fabulous adventure yesterday--to the pharmacy. Toddler in Chief was thrilled to be going in the car and he announced our destination again and again during our 12-minute drive to our local Kaiser facility. "We're going to the Farm-a-Cee, Farm-a-Cee, Farm-a-Cee." Not sure what types of animals he suspected lived at this kind of pharm, but no matter what he imagined I'm sure he was sorely disappointed.

As we waited in line for our consultation with the pharmacist, TIC admired the vitamin bottles and announced each one by name: "Vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C." And then he wondered aloud with good reason, "Where's vitamin J? Where's vitamin L?"

There we were out in public. My hair had not been brushed. I'm can't recall if my teeth had been. I was still wearing my PJs. They were simply hidden by the sweats that I had pulled on over them that morning. I was braless--and I can assure you that this isn't a pretty sight. TIC was completely mismatched. Orange pants, red shirt, hair askew with lunch acting as some kind of colorful styling product. Super goo was running down his face and was caked into any and all crevices.

As we waited for our turn, two very stylish and totally groomed women in their 20s with perfect hair and makeup got in line behind us. I could see the shock on their faces and I could almost hear the declarations being made in their heads to never, ever have kids. I knew they pitied me for my disheveled look and my predicament.

I suspect that they were waiting to talk with the pharmacist about their new birth control pills and I was the ad proclaiming that they'd made the right choice.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Matters of the heart

When my son was born and his health problems unfolded before us in those endless days in the NICU, I vowed to change my life, my purpose. Not only would I be a mother, I would be an advocate for my son. I would raise awareness about congenital heart defects and raise funds to help advance technology that may eventually extend his life.

We had little luck (and no help from the hospital social worker) in finding local support groups for families like ours. I vowed with every ounce of my being to search out other families and befriend them and together we would start a a support group for lost and hurting families like ours.

Months passed, and while the tears seemed to linger behind every thought and action, they were not always openly present as they had been in those first several weeks. I was adapting to our new situation. I was mourning the life I had hoped for my son and the life that I thought I would have as a parent. We eventually found a support group three hours away and it was my goal to attend every meeting, every function. But even then, as the months passed and those initial gunshot wounds of my son's birth healed, I started to move those ambitions in the background.

Earlier this week, father-in-law blogged about being a cancer survivor and how he doesn't necessarily identify with that label. It got me thinking about how I relate to and live with the label of being the parent of a child with a life-threatening heart defect.

As my ambitions shifted, I realized it was because I didn't want to be labeled either. More than anything I wanted to live as normal of a life as we could muster, an anonymous life. I wanted to do normal things with my son, even though he's not totally normal. I wanted to blend in and be thankful in less outward ways. I wore a "Hope for Heart Defects" wristband for a while, but stopped doing it because I didn't like branding myself in one way or another. Mostly I still care strongly about those initial ambitions, but they've taken a backseat to living my life.

R's defects were jolted to the forefront this week because his cardiologist told us that it's time for his third open-heart operation. He will have a heart catheterization at UCSF on March 2, and his Fontan surgery on March 9. R's dad posted some helpful links about those procedures here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Oh! Baby: Isn't not just about the boobs

We all know that breast is best when it comes to food choices for babies, but is it the only choice? Is making a choice to formula feed versus breastfeed really just about whether or not what's best for baby? Sometimes I'm envious of the women who choose to bottle feed their kids. Their bodies are their own and they get to share those overnight feedings. No swollen boobs. No clogged ducts. No pumping. It just seems that there are so many other factors involved in deciding how to nourish the babes.

Check out this week's debate over breastfeeding on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

How do you know when you've found yourself?

How could I be in my early 30s and not know for certain who I am and what I'm striving for? I know I've never really been 100 percent certain that I should be a reporter/financial journalist, but I always at least thought on some level I was a writer. Even back in college when I was trying to nail down a major, I always envied those people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives. For years and years, they always knew that they would study engineering or public relations or physical therapy. Perhaps they knew that's what they wanted to do because some family member pushed it on them. Or perhaps they genuinely knew what they were interested in.

After my previous post about wondering why I still feel incomplete, I had a terrible thought. What if I'm not a writer? That would mean that everything that I thought I knew about myself would be wrong. Every aspiration, every desire, every aching finger and sore wrist would be for nothing. That would mean that the past 14 years of my life--my entire college and professional years--would have been taking me down the wrong path.

So here I am, a lifetime later still wondering what I should do with myself. Wondering what impact I'm supposed to have on the world. Where I fit in. This sad stream of consciousness started after Bethany followed up my incomplete post with her own thoughts about realizing she is a writer and loves being a writer, even if her day job isn't writing novels.

I've never felt totally sure about what I wanted to do professionally. I waited until the last possible moment to pick a major (journalism) and then even longer to pick a concentration (broadcast journalism). I did have a couple of jobs working in the news departments of television stations (one in Boston and one in Denver), but even then I wasn't that excited about it. A former editor once asked me if I like "having written." And I do. I love seeing my name in print because it makes me feel accomplished. Seeing my work out there is solid proof that I've contributed something. And then after I said yes, he said that is the best a writer can hope for. I'm still not sure if that is reassuring or just more smoke and mirrors.