Wednesday, March 30, 2011

practice makes...

My darling husband emailed me an article the other day (with the subject line "article for blogpost"... he's so supportive and encouraging... and he likes to harass me) about a new trend of parents who don't enjoy parenting. Some of this article was very frustrating to me... study after study sited of why parents should be miserable, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and dissatisfied with their lives. And of course we all feel that way sometimes. Maybe even for an entire day. Perhaps even the bulk of an entire week. But my argument is that we have to remember the difference between our own happiness in the immediate present moment, and the fulfillment and satisfaction from creating a family that includes happy, well-adjusted, intelligent kids. I completely agree with the author of the article that we also need to acknowledge that our very ability to analyze our own personal day-t0-day happiness while raising children is a testament to the country we live in and the resources available to us. Our children are not out herding goats while we figure out how to feed them for another day. We can whine about not having time to fit in a yoga class. But I think the most important point the article makes comes at the very end:

Susan Callahan, co-author with Anne Nolen and Katrin Schumann of "Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too," points out that the intense focus on our children can lead many moms to resent motherhood. "We believe that parents, and women in particular, run into a couple stumbling blocks when parenting," Callahan says. "The three big themes tend to be perfectionism, multitasking, and stress." After interviewing more than 500 women while researching their book, Callahan says that she and her colleagues found that "perfectionism is the number one issue keeping modern mothers from enjoying the moment." "We are all so busy trying to be everything to everyone—and doing a stellar job while we’re at it—that we don’t have a spare second to plug into our own needs or desires," she points out.

This point was driven home to me personally when I was reading a parenting magazine last night before bed. There was a section devoted to healthy eating and an active lifestyle for children- something I am sure we can all get behind 100%, especially given the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. A sidebar caught my eye, informing parents that a serving of applesauce can have as much sugar as a brownie and a "turkey and cheddar on wheat has approximately 500mg of sodium" (GASP). Some of this options given (and these are the "good" options... not even the "better" or "best"... because, really, who wants to do the "best" for their kids?) are making your own breakfast treat with Greek yogurt, frozen bananas, honey, wheat germ, and a few semi-sweet chocolate chips or whole grain pasta tossed with a tomato based meat sauce- with grated carrots, zucchini, and wheat germ in the sauce of course. Now I am in no way poo-pooing these meal ideas. But in place of a good ol' turkey and cheese for lunch every now and again? Sorry Parenting: Early Years, I don't think applesauce for an afternoon snack is the dark horse problem behind childhood obesity. I just don't buy it (the idea... I DO buy applesauce... the unsweetened kind, of course). But now am I supposed to feel guilty when I slap together a PB&J for Laine's lunch? Should every lunch involve wheat germ (btw... EW)? How much pressure do we really need to add on to the already mind-blowing task of raising a decent human being?

I don't know how I feel about parents who find parenting to be depressing. I wonder if sometimes we do idealize the lifestyle, or perhaps look back on it when our children are grown with somewhat rose-tinted glasses. But don't we do that about everything? Was college really the "best time of our lives"? I think right now is pretty darn good in Casa Caldwell. And I think a great deal of why I am able to feel that way is because I know without a doubt that I am not doing everything right. I'm not feeding Laine flaxseed and quinoa everyday. I'm not reading every parenting book or following every guideline thrown at me by the pediatric association folks. I am not the perfect mom, but I enjoy my daughter and I try my best.

And I'm ok with that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

self help

I feel slightly ridiculous saying this since approximately 4,003 of my friends are currently pregnant right along with me, but being pregnant for the second time is kind of a lonely experience. There is no What To Expect the Next Time You Get Pregnant When You Already Have a Brilliant, Independent, Busy Toddler book. I actually looked. Not for that exact title, obviously, but I did peruse the Family and Parenting section at Barnes and Noble when we took Laine to play with the train set develop her young literary mind. I scanned the shelves for anything about introducing a second (or third, or fourth, or eighteenth if you're the Duggars) baby into your pre-existing little family. Nothing. There were books on children with special needs, discipline, how and where and what to feed your toddler, baby sign language, baby underwater basket weaving, and how to control sibling rivalry once those other babies have made their debut and are fighting it out Darwinian style. But what can this anxious second time mommy turn to while awaiting #2? Even the best of the best websites for expectant mother (What To Expect, The Bump, etc.) don't have articles beyond "Are You Ready For Another Baby"? TOO LATE, The Bump. Now what do I do?? Of course the other moms in my life are a huge resource. My college roomie Katie is expecting her second (a little boy!) in August, and she and I discussed this very issue while our precious little firstborns were napping the other day. She told me that her husband sent out a message to their friends with multiple children asking what advice they wish they had been given when expecting (brilliant) and almost all of them said they didn't expect the guilt and difficulty of balancing the needs of their toddler with the demands of a newborn. Well... yeah. At least I know I'm nervous about the right things.

Of course I know that once BC2 is here we will adjust to the "new normal" of having two kids. Laine will never really remember a time before she was a big sister (I don't, and I was older than her when my sisters were born) and the guilt will fade as we learn how to balance their needs and divide time and attention between the two of them. But I knew the same things when I was pregnant with Laine: having a baby would be our "new normal", we would learn how to manage our time and keep our marriage a priority. But it was calming, refreshing, and encouraging to have shelves and websites full of expert advice and other people's experiences to guide me along the way and to remind me that other women- thousands and thousands of other women- have been through the very same things. I wonder why no one has capitalized on the needs and questions of all of us anxious, excited, terrified, and thrilled second time mothers?

Maybe it's time I wrote a book after all...