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Saturday, October 29, 2005

I don't want to get it over with

So much of our lives we're waiting for the next thing to happen. As soon as I go to college... As soon as I graduate from college... Get engaged... Get married... Get that new job... Buy a house... Have a family.

We do it with our kids too. I can't wait for him to walk... I can't wait for him to talk... Eat on his own... Be toilet trained... Tie his own shoes... Go to school. Paramedic Friend once told me that the reason she wanted to have her kids close together (they're 17 months apart), was so that she could "get it over with." That made me so sad. Raising Toddler in Chief isn't something to just get through.

Raising a kid isn't like getting a PAP smear from your gynecologist--something to endure or just get through as quickly as possible and then forget about. It just happens so fast as it is. Sleepless nights, spit-up, nursing--it's all history.

Those five a.m. feedings were my favorite part of the day. In the darkness of his room, I tried to absorb every detail. The weight of him in my arms. The motion of the rocker. The warmth of his hand on my breast. It was our special time. I didn't want it to end. But it did as soon as he started sleeping through the night. And we learned to enjoy each other in different ways. And I try to sear his presence into my memory for when he goes off to school. Because it's not that far away.

Even the stuff I dislike (poopy diapers and whining, for example) will be gone soon too. I don't want to just get through it. I want it to linger and intoxicate me. Especially because the faster he grows up, the faster my own life whirls by. I know that my life was somewhat put on hold when we decided to have kids. And I fantasize about getting my masters someday when the kids are off at school. But most definitely not at the price of having it all behind me too soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Dating Game: Mom style

There's something about going to the park that feels like dating. Or maybe it's more like being out at a bar on singles night. Only instead of hoping for a hook-up, I'm hoping for a friend.

I was at the park yesterday surrounded by eligible bachelors--ahem, I mean moms. I just sat on the sidelines scoping out the women near the play structure, the sandbox. And it felt sleazy. And I hated doing it. I hate feeling like I'm out there again. I never wanted to be out there again, but super, fabulous Attorney Friend is relocating to Atlanta next week. I was so happy. We have such great chemistry. Our kids are the same age, and now I'm out there, sheepishly checking everyone from behind my giant sunglasses and navy newsboy cap.

And I don't want to talk to any of them. They all look all wrong for me. None of them seem like my type. It's so lame. It almost feels like not having any friends to talk to during lunch in high school. I have friends. Just none of them were there. So I felt awkward. I looked down at my corduroy pants and the giant holes in the heels of my socks. I avoided eye contact.

Who do I talk to? The mom with four over-stuffed bags of toys? No, she seemed over-prepared. The mom with the stain-free shirt and neat tied-back hair? No, she seemed too clean. I tried finding someone who looked like Attorney Friend, but I doubt any of these women can fill her shoes. I'm sure I'm being overly sensitive. I'm sure a lot of these women are just like me--looking for a buddy to help pass the time at the park.

Sure I have other friends, but a lot of them are MIA. So I sat by myself and waited for a familiar face to appear. And they did eventually, and the stress of losing one of my best friends subsided. At least temporarily.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Oh! Baby: A little personal space, please

I'm with my kid 12 hours a day, seven days a week. And that's plenty for me. Where is he the rest of the time? Sleeping. In his own bed. In his own room. I appreciate that he knows how (and actually likes) to sleep in his own room, away from me and Father in Chief. That way, we get a little time and space and privacy for just us. Not to mention precious, quality sleep.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Is preschool replacing playgroups?

One of Toddler in Chief's playgroups has all but dissolved. All of the women are just weeks from Laborland and Newbornville, so they aren't making it to the park. I'm sure they're home feeling large and are focused on finalizing the nest.

For TIC, those weekly groups are his primary socialization with other kids. Sure we go to the park and the zoo and have play dates, but those groups are a staple in his life. Perhaps the absent moms aren't so worried about a lack of socialization because many of their kids are enrolled in preschool. To me, it seems so strange to put a 2 1/2-year-old kid in preschool. But the moms have been pleased with the results because they combine chunks of socialization, with structured activities, and other adults in authoritative rolls.

Could it be that preschools are replacing playgroup? Now that we have moms' night out without kids, why do we need playgroups? It was really all about the moms anyway. The fact that the kids got to play together was an extra benefit the way a dollop of whip cream enhances a tasty mug of hot chocolate. And if there is a program doing what the playgroups were doing--socializing the kids--then why bother?

Sam over at PlayIsTheWork is on the other end of the spectrum. She had a post earlier this month that talked about why her five-year-olds are not in kindergarten. Rather, they started pre-K this year. She wrote, "One more year to further develop their social, emotional and yes, their academic independence before being faced with the rigors of kindergarten." I'm a big advocate of having lots of time for free-play, downtime, and boredom. Sam wrote:
"...children are overstressed and over scheduled, and we parents are suffering under unreasonable expectations and a pervasive sense of guilt. Too much of childhood has been taken over by preparations for adulthood--to the point that young kids’ afternoons are being scheduled with an eye toward college admissions. If it were not so harmful to parents and kids alike, it would be funny."
There are zillions of activities we're supposed to have our kids in so that they are well-adjusted and well-rounded by the time they start school. But sometimes all that activity seems like overkill. I'd love a three-hour break while my kid is in preschool, but not at the price of pushing my kid into a structured environment too soon. A lifetime of structure isn't that far away.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's hard not to take it personally

Outside of taking your clothes off in public, writing is one of the most revealing things a person can do. Every time I write, I feel like I've exposed an extremely private part of myself. It doesn't matter what I’m writing about. Because I sat back and thought about how to phrase something, the end product is very personal.

So when someone criticizes my work, doesn't return my calls, or never responds to my freelance proposals, it feels as if I've been rejected as a person, not just as a writer. Bethany at Mommy Writer has been working on getting her novel published. In her October 10 post entitled, "The post that had to be written," she wrote about the frustration that goes hand in hand with that arduous process. That frustration--sadly--is part of the territory. I know that I have felt it time and again, and I wanted to share my comment to her here:
Rejection, even when we know it's going to be out there coming out way, is never fun or easy to deal with. And writers are rejected in so many ways--it's too long, too short, need another point of view, wrong angle, etc., etc., etc. And I don't think it ever gets easier. Being a reporter for five years didn't make it any easier. I give freelance writing a try and hit one large speed bump with an editor and I quit (although it was temporary). It just felt so defeating. It's hard to not take this kind of stuff personal, well, because writing is personal. We come up with ideas and then pick words and sentences to string it all together. So fact or fiction, it is personal. Therefore, if someone doesn't like our writing, then it's hard not to interpret as they don't like me or I'm not good enough. And I agree that you should keep writing about the rejection too.. Possibly because it's therapeutic... and also because…we can all relate.
I try to remember that even the best Major League players strike out seven out of 10 times at the plate. That said, it's strange how a little encouragement in the form of steady work can boost my spirits, crack open that tough shell that I attempt to build around myself, and help me forget about previous rejection. My most recent encouragement came in the form of a paycheck. My first financial reward from the new gig arrived two days ago. I drove immediately to the bank, deposited the check, and dipped the stub in gold.

I have been so at ease. I'm not stressed out. I'm exercising. I'm not I think I'm even sleeping better at night. I’m not stressing about my other freelance projects--or lack there of. Perhaps it has something to do with the regularity of the whole thing. It's a real job. It's regular work. It's something to point my family to so that they know what the heck I'm doing with my journalism degree. Okay, so it's not hard-core journalism. But I'm writing and I'm very proud of it.

When I was trying to drum up more freelance writing, there was something very unsettling about temporary nature of every project. I know that's the deal with freelancing, but even when I had scored a writing job, I knew that the cycle would soon start all over again. The research. The pitching. The writing that goes no where. The rejection. And so for now, I'm basking in the warm glow of predictability. If/when it ends, I'll have plenty of time to stress out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Oh! Baby: How much is too much motion?

You want your kid to experience the world and be exposed to all kinds of activities. But is there a point at which you are doing too much? Or is constant motion good for kids?

Check out this week's debate over activity overload on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog. And don't forget to chime in while you're there.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Women and the stories that sell

In my October 17 issue of The Nation, there was a column called, "Desperate Housewives of the Ivy League," responding to the New York Times page-one piece about Yale women who plan to put their careers on hold if/when they eventually have kids.

I know that people love to hear a happy ending--like the Yale women who will never struggle with their career or parenting choices because they have their lives all mapped out. (Although there is much debate over the methodology used for the Times' piece). But most of the time those happy endings aren't the norm. The Nation's Katha Pollitt wrote:
Cutting back to spend time with one's child shouldn't be equated with lack of commitment to one's profession. You would not know, either, that choices about how to combine work and motherhood are fluid and provisional and not made in a vacuum. The lack of good childcare and paid parental leave, horrendous work hours, inflexible career ladders, the still-conventional domestic expectations of far too many men and the industrial-size helpings of maternal guilt ladled out by the media are all part of it...Wouldn't you like to read a front-page story about that?

And my favorite line of the Nation piece is this: "What's painful about the way the Times frames work-family issues is partly its obsessive focus on the most privileged as bellwethers of American womanhood--you'd never know that most mothers who work need the money."

The Nation hit it spot on. But sadly, the media gets it wrong again and again:

Women don't ditch their careers because they are a lack of choice. They are simply bored. When asked glossy questions about themselves, women are "satisfied." Women do make more money than men--in "women's careers." Women lead in top jobs, if you don't count executive positions . Women don't make as much money as their male counterparts because they don't feel entitled. So really it's their own faults. The only way to career utopia is planning when you're young.

All of these stories do a huge disservice to the public. Why don't we hear more stories about the reality of motherhood and workforce? Why don't we hear stories about women whose jobs don't pay enough money to cover the cost of childcare? What about all the women who don't breastfeed their kids because their jobs don't have a comfy "mother's room" or flexible enough breaks to allow for pumping? Or that buying a $250 pump would be a financial hardship for many families.

The media is a powerful force. Now if only it would yield it's power for promoting more of the hard truths. It's only when we read about that stuff on page one will there be real change. We need to hear all the news, not just the happy endings.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

To change or not to change your name--Internet style

I decided to keep my own last name when Father in Chief and I got married in 1998. It was a outward way to acknowledge that I truly am a modern feminist. I also had something to do with my journalism career. During the previous two years, I had built up a small reputation with my maiden name and I didn't want to mess with that.

But there was more to my decision.

Galante is just a kick-ass name. And Norton, well, is Norton. There aren't that many Galantes out there. And there are heaps and heaps of Nortons out there and almost as many Norton-related jokes. The Best Man at our wedding was very disappointed not to be able to run through some of them during his toast at our reception. There was even a DJ from my childhood known as "Snortin' Norton." And I certainly didn't want to be associated with him.

But there was a secret side to my decision as well.

When gainfully employed, most companies take the first letter of your first name and slap it onto your last name when they establish your company email address. With "Galante" as my surname, my email address translated into: "sgalante" at (where I was a reporter at the time). If I had chosen to take FIC's last name, my email address would have become "snorton" at Who wants to be "Snorton"? No one respects "Snorton." No one wants to give scoops or exclusives to someone known as "Snorton." Snorton is the company clown. The butt of jokes. It was definitely not for me.

So basically, it all came down to the Internet. The Internet and likely unflattering email addresses played a BIG part in me keeping my maiden name. For Anne over at The Barely Attentive Mother, the Internet has played a role in her deciding to change her name. After being content with her maiden name for years, it all came down to domain name availability. She wrote:

The web address for my name ("") is not available. It's taken by a half-famous artist who carries my name...However, "" where Bloohbloohblooh=my husband's last name is available. So I'm going to change my name. What the social culture couldn't do--make me change my name--the web will.

Who knew that one of the side effects of the popularity of the Web would influence something so profound as what the world knows us as.

On a side note, there are many reasons to change your name. City Planner Friend once shared that the last name issue was a point of contention because they weren't sure how it would affect their two cats--whose last name would they take?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Oh! Baby: Is television Friend or Foe?

When our kids are small, we are the gatekeepers to everything: what they eat, when they sleep, what they wear, and how much TV they watch. So how much is okay? A little here and there, free reign, or is finding the right balance nearly as impossible as finding Tickle Me Elmo during the 1996 holiday season.

Check out this week's debate over television on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog. And don't forget to post your two cents worth while you're there.

Friday, October 07, 2005

It's the new cleavage!

I used to joke with Toddler in Chief's pediatrician when he was growing two pounds a month and subsequently out of his clothing. I would say with a big smile on my face, "Gee, I wish I could get new clothing as often as he does." And then his pediatrician would so eloquently put it all into perspective: "Not because you keep outgrowing the clothes you already own." True and true!

Babies and kids aren't old enough to torture themselves with the mental mind-fuck that goes along with needing larger-sized clothing (I don't think that starts happening until they are 10 or so, right??!!). But no grown-up--man or woman--ever wants to admit to themselves that they no longer fit into their favorite jeans, pants, T-shirts or any garment of clothing in general. And Bethany over at Mommy Writer had a very entertaining post about finding and purchasing the right pair of jeans for your body type. She wrote:
Now, imagine yourself slipping into those too small jeans. And yes, they are too small EVEN IF YOU CAN STILL ZIP THEM UP. Do you bulge over the sides? Are you love handles more apparent? Still not ready to admit you need to go up in size? Where a form fitting T-shirt and tell me how you feel?
I believe the tortuous process of buying pants that fit (no matter what size you are) has been exacerbated by the fact that women's fashions--women's jeans in particular--have made it extra difficult for anyone with any curves whatsoever to feel good in. The low, low, low rise cut is the height of fashion. Women even need to buy special low rise underwear to fit under their ultra low pants.

This look was designed by someone who never, ever needs to sit down. Not on a bus. Not at a desk. Not at a restaurant. Certainly not at the playground. Not anywhere. If you do, you ultimately end up with the "I'm-working-under-the-sink" look. I've always been extremely private when it comes to matter of the throne, and I certainly don't want to share my derriere with the group of moms and kids at story time at the library, or with all the folks getting their morning brew.

But my fabulous and gorgeously curvaceous Therapist Friend helped me see things in a new light. She said, "Ass-crack is the new cleavage!" As a women in my early 30s, I might be too old to be that self-confidant. But perhaps with the proliferation of tight tees and low-cut jeans, that bulge in between will become the new thing to have and to flaunt.

But, with any luck, I'll be able to score pants that are just high enough and shirts that are just long enough to meet in the middle. That way, I can accentuate my other, more traditional assets.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harvard President aligns with Teen Talk Barbie

I was browsing through the latest issue of Skeptic magazine, and I came across another great article about the irresponsible and insulting 80-hour-work-week comment made by Harvard President Lawrence Summers in January.

It got me thinking again about Summers' comment, the outrage, and the apology. It reminded me of the Mattel debacle of the early 1990s, when the toy maker pulled Teen Talk Barbie from store shelves because it proclaimed that "math is hard." Only this time, instead of a doll convincing young girls that math isn't for them, we have the president of a top university telling the world that girls just aren't hardwired for science.

There are differences between boys and girls. In the playgroup that I go to with Toddler in Chief, it's already clear that there are differences--even though they are just two-and-a-half. TIC and his male buddy push around cars and trucks, while the three girls of the group fawn over the group's token newborn.

I have no official gender, biological, or sociological research under my belt. This is just plain observation from a very small subset of toddler-society. And I have no idea if liking cars and trucks equals liking and excelling in science. I also have no idea if liking newborns and dolls equals an aversion to science.

The Skeptic article, entitled "Gender Differences & the 80-Hour Work Week," took issue with jobs in the sciences and long hours. Women aren't absent from science career because they demand long hours, wrote Susan Carol Losh, because women are putting in the heavy hours in other fields and excelling. Losh wrote that Summers' arguments:

...were trotted out when I was a kid to explain the scarcity of women doctors and layers. And yet thousands upon thousands of women now appear willing to put in those 80-hour work weeks in medical residencies and internships, and to make partners in law firms. How come we have that motivation for medicine and law but not physics?"

So if women are able to hunker down and work long hours, if need be in some fields, it's just plain sexist to say that women aren't in some sciences because their brains weren't programmed that way. Maybe more women aren't in the sciences because they were led to believe that they couldn't make it. Maybe they were pushed towards more "female-friendly" career paths.

Let's hope our kids will have more encouragement to believe in themselves and their abilities--regardless of what Harvard's president says.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Should you vaccinate your kid?

The issue of vaccinations is a topic that every parent must face when they have a baby. Some people don't think about it and just proceed with the doctor's recommendation. Others fret about it and the possible consequences.

Check out my debate over vaccinations with Laid-Off Dad on Oxygen Media's brand new Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Check out our passionate opinions on both sides of the debate, our fiery rebuttals (on Wednesday), readers comments, and our final words (on Friday). And don't forget to join the discussion by voicing your opinion!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

An introspective trip down memory lane

Father in Chief, Toddler in Chief, and are in Boston for a wedding this weekend. It's the first time I've been in Boston since before I was pregnant. And, to my surprise, I have mixed feelings about being in the town I went to college in with my family.

When we were flying here, I felt so excited to walk through Northeastern University's campus, to see how much has changed, to pass by the dorms I lived in, and to soak up some of the campus energy that lingers around colleges. This time of year—the beginning of the fall semester—is especially exciting, as thousands of first-time students arrive, liberated from their high-school selves and the small towns they grew up in.

But instead of feeling excited to be visiting the city and the campus where I spent the better part of five years, I have been feeling ambivalent about being around all of that unbridled college spirit, the hopefulness, and the feeling that anything is possible.

Perhaps it is because I know not everything is possible—although I'll keep trying.

But more than that, it is strange to be in a place where I spent five years and to think about myself and the woman that I have become. When I was a college student, I don't think it ever occurred to me that 10 years later I would be married or have a baby or be an at-home parent. When I was in college, I thought about what exciting jobs I would get and what career path my education would take me down.

I remember pitying women I worked with when I was in college, who were "trapped" by their kids and husbands. They were in their late 20s and early 30s and they seemed so old, so foreign to me. I also remember (with remorse) giving women the evil eye--as their babies cried on the flight from Boston to Buffalo--on my trips to see my parents.

I guess it's just strange to think that I have changed so much during the past 10 years. Circumstances and time change us and shape us. Fundamentally, I believe I'm the same women I was when I graduated college. But in so many ways I’m different from who I set out to be. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

As I walk around my alma mater with my husband and son on Monday, I'm sure some of the young women will pity me, and vow to never become me. At the same time, I suspect that I'll be relieved that I'm not them.