Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Case of the Monday Mornings- My Messy Beautiful

 My former self was a morning person. Having enjoyed a full night’s rest, snug between my adoring husband and two bad dogs, wearing matching pajamas and a coordinating hair wrap, I’d bound gleefully from bed, bright-eyed, perfectly highlighted, filled with joyful exuberance, ready to delight in whatever my day had in store for me. Lattes from Starbucks. Pastries or cookies from my favorite french bakery. Coach accessories. Strolling through farmer’s markets. Enjoying workouts and movies and happy hours with friends. Lazing about in hammocks, admiring the herb garden my hubby added to our handcrafted deck, just for me. Even getting dressed each morning was an absolute joy for me, as Mike had lovingly gifted me an entire room in our house for my personal use as a closet. My shoes lined the floor, all neat and tidy. Dresses hung below shelves of purses, scarves draped across rows of hooks. And I felt loved. I had created a perfectly perfect life for myself, full of friends and love and abundance and indulgence and happiness.

Even my pregnancy was a magical experience. I learned I was expecting just after an incredible weekend with my bestest friend in the whole wide world, eating, shopping, skating and theater-going in New York just before Christmas. We’d stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall Irish pub to celebrate our last evening in the City, after channeling our inner Grace Kellys and savoring a pre-theater dinner at 21. My last hurrah couldn’t have been more appropriate- cocktail after cocktail purchased for me by new admirers, devilish confessions shared between my friend and me, photographs with the bartender to document our debauchery. And then I came home, celebrated the birth of baby Jesus, and learned my own precious child was on the way. I spent 9 months joyfully converting my closet to a picturesque Pottery Barn nursery, attending prenatal yoga classes and showing off my expanding girth with adorable maternity dresses. We took a romantic, relaxing Babymoon to the Florida Keys, where I received maternity massages and took baths overlooking the ocean and sampled all things yummy and floated, carefree, in turquoise water, dreaming of the miracle to come and the perfectest of perfect childhoods our girl would have. My bump gift was a ring with a stone that mimics the water and when I wear it, I can still hear seagulls serenading me on those last few lazy afternoons.

The day my Amelia Rose arrived, I changed into my own gown, a colorful halter Pretty Pushers dress with matching headband, dutifully filled my pink x’s and o’s patterned ice pack and allowed myself to be induced. I labored a bit, got my epidural, napped, woke up refreshed and had time to re-apply lip gloss before pushing my Milliebug out to the tune of Salt and Peppa’s push it. Or it might have been Pink’s Get This Party Started. I had lengthy “pushing playlist” after all. We posed for our first family photograph, and I am still the only mama I know who is happy with that I-just-had-a-baby-OMGOMGOMG photo. It took me a while to realize that life as I knew it was so over.

Mamahood was the great equalizer for me, the nittiest of grittiest things that could ever happen to me. The designer rose-colored glasses through which I viewed the confection that was my life were in actual fact, knock-offs- and in any event, they were shattered. No question, Millie was amazing. I cannot believe, to this day, that God has trusted one of his most precious creations to my care. But until she arrived, I believed that I would get all of the wonderful and none of the hard that comes with mamahood. There would be no financial burdens, no disagreements on child rearing, no difficulties beyond the occasional sleepless night from growth spurts and teething. My parents had relocated to the area to watch her when I returned to my awesome role as industry relations manager at the local visitors’ bureau, a position in which I flitted about the country talking up how awesome all things Gainesville were, intermittently entertaining travel writers and hospitality professionals, trying new restaurants and attending shows all within the scope of my job. I had all the support I ever thought I needed.

There was only the dimmest of warning signs, sometime during the summer preceding Millie’s arrival, that perhaps the life I imagined myself living wasn’t real- and in this admission, you’ll see how deep the depth of my denial really went. Because there are parts of my story that aren’t really mine to share at all, suffice it to say that in my family, there is addiction. Food, alcohol, tobacco, shopping- we each have one to call our own. And I had a glimpse of how I may have to actually address those addictions- that I would be unable to stop myself from addressing those addictions- that the primal Mama Bearness I was already feeling toward my girl would make it impossible for me not to fiercely protect her in ways I’d never protected myself,  if I felt like she was in danger in any way. And yet, because I wanted so desperately to believe that the people in my life could be, and would be the people I wished they were, I wagged a stern finger at the tiny voice heeding warning, slipped those designer rose-colored glasses back on and traipsed about prepping for Baby Girl’s arrival joyfully.

Six weeks into mamahood, and life is (mostly) blissful, except I’m about to return to work. My parents have moved here, and we are all preparing for the first day they’ll watch her. I have been setting my alarm to wake up and pump so that Baby Girl has enough breast milk to sustain her through those first few days away from me. My mother and I have had several rounds of arguments regarding nursing. I forge on. The day comes and I dutifully deliver my precious girl to my mama’s house and report to work. Within hours, she has tossed 6 ounces of my liquid gold and mixed two bottles of formula for my child. It is a huge betrayal to me, one that I still share with my trusted mama-friends- an act that I felt represented any and everyone who would question my parenting decisions, not just my own mama. We argue some more. Somehow over the next two days, there is much anxiety, much indulging in the various and sundry vices among my family members, and a personal injury that culminates as the straw that breaks this mama’s back (figuratively- the literal part comes much later.) By the end of the week, I’ve found space in a daycare. The lead teacher in the baby room reminds me of Mammy in Gone With the Wind and I resist the urge to buy her a red petticoat, as I am about to be very poor from the cost of daycare, which is $819 a month. I break the news to my mother, who promptly sends me on an all-expenses-paid-for-by-me guilt trip to end all guilt trips about how they moved here to care for Millie and now I’m dashing their dreams.

We cannot afford both daycare and our mortgage, and we need my income too much for me to quit working. We quit paying the mortgage instead. Within a year, my hubby has declared bankruptcy, we’ve moved out of our house and into a friend’s rental property, and I’ve changed jobs, under the presumption that I’m going back to school for my Master’s degree, when in fact it’s because it’s hard to travel about talking up your destination when your infant is out once a month from daycare germies. We eventually must get tubes for the baby’s ears because her tolerance for antibiotics has built up so much that even potent antibiotic injections of Rocephin are powerless against her raging ear infections.

As I wean the baby from nursing at 11 months, my hormones shift and I develop back problems. 6 months of physical therapy later, I am diagnosed with a herniated disc and need surgery. I can’t lift my tiny child for 6 weeks, and while I was touched by the thoughtful meals that poured into my home during that time, I also haven’t quite forgiven our golden retriever for eating my helping of Chicken Ritz as I shakily escorted my caring friend to her car. 5 months later, I herniate another disc and have my second surgery, which I am delighted is covered 100% by my insurance since I’d already met my deductible. I find myself appreciating all things grown-up like proper insurance coverage and out-of-pocket maximums. .

I blame myself for all of these hardships and convince myself  that my hubby resents me, hates me. I sell things, throw things away, deny myself small joys in which I used to delight, punishing myself further for the wear and tear I’ve brought upon my family. I absorb all the workload for our household, then allow my resentment to creep up and start arguments. I do all the things. I cry. I gain weight. I stop trying to talk about anything real. I am too exhausted to keep trying. I need a haircut.

And then- I dig deeper. I look back at how I’d gotten here, and realize that I’d begun denying the bad, only letting the good in, when I was first living by myself at 22. With every insecurity, every mistake I’d made, every time I felt abandoned in my life, every time I felt like I wasn’t safe being myself,  I’d turn to one of any addictions around me- I smoked, I ate, I shopped, I drank. I drank and drank and drank. I imagined myself to have many friends, I imagined it was all part of being in my early 20’s in a college town. I embraced an unhealthy relationship and I absorbed all of his interests, taking careful notes to cultivate myself into his perfect mate. But, that never works out. At times, I found myself alone without knowing what to do with the oceans of time that stretched before me, and rather than dive in and learn the answers to the hard questions, I allowed only the positive to rise to the surface, and hush the negative. My beautiful, perfectly perfect life begins to emerge, only it is skin-deep. Everything about me from my shiny highlighted hair to my pedicured toes is a sham. A fun, lovely, delightful sham. I see how foolish I’ve been, only trying to let the good in, because denying the bad eventually brought it in droves, pummeling my doorstep until it finally broke through and engulfed my family.  I realize I never took the time to really get to know myself, and here I have a hubby and a daughter and a net that I have cast wide, but shallow. No one really knows me, because I am afraid if I invite someone all the way in, and not just to the fun parts, they will reject the not-so-fun side, and I will see my own rejection of myself reflecting in their eyes. I laugh off any signs of weakness that accidentally show themselves. I am always on the go, moving rapidly from one activity to the next when I’m not at work, an over-scheduler because I don’t want to think the thoughts I have when I am still. Thoughts like:

I am unloved.

I spent my childhood all alone.

I am spending my adulthood all alone.

I am not equipped to raise this child.

I don’t want her to see me unhappy.

She deserves better.

I have nothing to offer anyone.

No one appreciates me or cares about me in any way.

They neither appreciate me nor care about me because I am not worthy.

They may be right.

Someday she may believe that too.

About me. And about herself.

Most of these feelings surface in the morning. When the alarm is going off and I try to consciously remind myself to follow Louise Hay’s advice and say thank you to the Universe for all that I am grateful for, which despite these admissions here, is plentiful- the job I have now, with my amazing, powerful, inspiring boss, whose heart overflows with gratitude for the work I do. My gorgeous, brilliant, funny, brave, defiant, curious, voice-like-a-songbird little girl. My creaky 1950’s home with its exposed brick walls and original hardwood floors and chipped tiles and failing pipes. I cling to the gratitude, but then my husband rolls over and puts a pillow over his head and proceeds to sleep until the last.possible.second before dragging out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed, walking about asking where things are and making declarations about his lateness, then departing, while I run from room to room, trying to dress myself, dress the child, get her to go potty, feed her, feed me, feed the dogs, find shoes, find phones, pack lunch. My mornings are filled with bodily fluids that gross me out, and I consider, for a moment every day, the likelihood of them finding me should I ever run away.  I long for my former wardrobe, hair products and clean countertops. I wish I could temporarily change my name from Mama. I resent my job for its mere existence, for all the tasks waiting for me there once I finally arrive, almost an hour late, and after a 10+minute walk from the top of the parking garage since all the spaces are usually filled by the time I drop Millie off at school. I glare at Hubby as he leaves, knowing he’s about to enjoy a few minutes of NPR during his commute before pouring himself a cuppa coffee and perusing the internet in the comfort of his office, whereas I will still be negotiating which tennis shoes his daughter will wear to school, before slipping on my own tired, overworn gray wedges.I close my eyes and silently scream, WHY IS EVERYONE SO NEEDY?! And then, miraculously, I stop. I open my eyes to look around. I see:

Hubby has made the peanut butter and jelly for Millie’s lunch already and it is emitting rays of sunshine inside the fridge as angels from heaven sing.

The jam inside said sammie is strawberry, delish, and home-made expressly for me by my mama.

Tiny child is going potty on her own, singing to herself.

The dogs are curled up together on the guest bed, all cozy, and haven’t been bad all morning.

There is wisteria hanging from the trees outside.

I have splenda for my coffee.

The fitbit on my wrist, a gift from the hubby celebrating my recent success in a 5k, saying I’ve already walked 2,000 steps.

Millie’s overnight bag, still packed from a sleepover at my parents’ house, where they cooked and played and made memories together.

I see all of these things as they are, without rose-colored glasses, designer or otherwise, and they are all lovely. And I can see me, too, with kind, forgiving eyes, and see that the scattered toys, my sticky floor, my day-old ponytail, my tired eyes from staying up too late to watch a rare episode of grown-up TV with my hubby, are all signs of my chaotic, disorganized, perfectly imperfect, messy beautiful life, and that I am not alone, but rather am one of many with a pile of laundry, crumpled from me and Tiny Child curling up on top of it for a movie, taking up space on the couch. And I remember, mornings aren't so bad.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dear Millie....

Dear Millie,
Three years ago tonight, I checked into the hospital to have you.  Always a planner, your mama packed her monogrammed Vera Bradley duffel weeks before your arrival with everything from citrus-scented face wipes to my favorite La Leche League nursing jammies to my fabulous pastel rainbow striped delivery gown and matching headband, which I loved although it never made it onto my head. I packed my X’s and O’s retro ice pack, your delicate little floral onesie to wear home from the hospital and a basket of moonpies for the nurses who would prove to be my cheerleaders during your journey from my belly to the wide wide world. We had your room freshly painted key lime pie green, with a custom mural courtesy of your already-doting daddy. For months I’d been preparing for you, even ordering a ladybug print birthday hat for your first birthday to go along with my pre-determined theme of ladybugs, given your nickname was already Milliebug. And sometimes Rosebud given your middle name, although that never stuck.

The day you were born, I woke, well rested thanks to an ambien from the night before- the nurses were merciful in ensuring one last peaceful slumber, knowing it would be my last- and I carefully tucked my freshly blown out hair from the day before under a shower cap so I could wash up before my scheduled induction. I changed into my soft, colorful birthing gown, satisfied, as ever, that I’d found the perfect outfit for your arrival (and to this day, I’m grateful for my efforts, because I’m the only mama I’ve ever known who continues to be pleased with our first-ever, baby-fresh-from-the-womb family photographs.) You came leisurely-like, dawdling in a way I have now come to know, love and plan for. I got my pitocin, I had my water broken at 9 a.m. and by noon I’d had my epidural and was napping- we do love ourselves a good nap! I woke up at 3:45 and less than an hour later out you came, to the tune of Salt and Pepa’s Push it, or possibly Hey Ya! By Outkast, or perhaps Eye of the Tiger- I’m not quite sure, but all three were on my Pushing Playlist that your daddy dutifully played for me. You arrived right on time for your very first birthday party, surrounded by laughter and nurses dancing and I’m pretty sure your first tears were just requests for us to tuck you into your first party outfit- a stripy hospital swaddle blanket that we now use as a dishtowel- and get you a drink- which I worked on directly, despite my body’s inherent stubbornness.

Even with all the bullet points on my to-do list checked, all the careful planning, birth class, product reviews, maternity massages, prenatal yoga, a luxurious babymoon and a scheduled induction could not have prepared me for you. The first moment we laid you down in your crib when we brought you home, I couldn’t last 2 minutes before scooping you up again and I’ve struggled to lay you down ever since. Each passing night over the past 3 years that I have held you and rocked you we have grown more and more attached to one another, such that tonight, you clinged to me, your little hand over mine, cradling your face, your little body becoming more limp and relaxed as we rocked in the darkness, softly saying to me, Mommy I want to go to your bed. Not an unusual request, of course- we have literally shared almost every nap you’ve ever taken at home, even the one earlier today- and yet I had to insist that I lay you down in your crib. Yes, you’re my almost-3-year-old sleeping in a crib, but you’ve never once protested, or climbed out and risked falling to certain death (or, at the very least, certain injury) and to be quite frank, your daddy and are still trying to catch up on all the sleep we’ve lost since your arrival into our lives, and we didn’t want to rock the boat. But tomorrow, for your birthday, you’ll get your big-girl bed (really, we’re turning your crib into the toddler bed, but for you it comes with shiny new Ariel bedding and you can hardly wait.)
Tonight, knowing it was the last night I’d ever lay you down in your crib, with its pottery barn crib sheeting I picked out excitedly while perusing the PB Kids catalog in the hammock one hot lazy pregnant afternoon, knowing I would no longer lean over to rub your back with your fuzzy polka dot blanket as you snuggled into your Luna Lullaby swaddle blankets, knowing that tonight in so many ways marks the end of your babyhood for me, I just could not let you go. Could not put you down. The tears came- and keep coming, truth be told. Some, I must admit are tears of resignation, knowing that the coming days and weeks will be filled with trotting you back to your bed as you try out your newfound freedom, knowing that if you make your way to my side of the bed in the middle of the night it will crush me to have to turn you away in the name of good parenting, let alone a good night’s sleep. But mostly they are tears of loss and love. My heart truly aches with love for you, my precious girl. Being your mother is the most overwhelming, wonderful passionate exhausting delightful breathtaking frustrating scary amazing incredible thing I have ever done. Every day I am challenged by you to find my patience, my compassion, my sense of humor and my sense of responsibility- all traits I hope I am instilling in you. And every day I am delighted and amazed by how you do demonstrate these traits. You are an incredibly funny child. You tell jokes and you love to laugh. You like tickles and games and jumping on the bed and when we wake up from our weekend naps, we often lay in bed giggling. We play chase games, and hide-and-seek, and we play pretend and we play I’m Gonna Git You and we play. And play. And play. When I am sad and you can tell, you will wrap your arms around me and tell me it’s okay. And sometimes you’ll randomly belt out Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every little thing’s gonna be all right. I sing this to you over and over when you are sad or hurting and there are no other words of comfort to offer, and you too, my darling girl, are compelled to offer comfort whenever and however you can- provided you’re not in your own state of distress, of course!

My Millie, you are so strong. Physically, yes, you climb on everything from furniture to countertops to the monkey bars and each evening I count your bruises silently and say a prayer of thanks for your adventurousness and for soft landings and for the fun you are having as you learn about yourself and your limitations, of which there are fewer with each passing day. But you also know what you want and aren’t afraid to speak up, especially when you witness unfairness. You are just and fair and indignant in the face of unfairness and I hope to nurture this in you and let your voice be heard so you can call out for justice whenever and wherever you see it lacking, and on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves.
You also are a girlie-girl like your mama, and love a fresh pedi (luckily most nail salons will paint your lil piggies for $3, making it an easy and fun excursion for us girls to share.) You like princesses and sparkly things and playing dress up. You love dresses and up until recently, loved your flippy flops so much the only argument I could make to wrangle you into sneakers was that your new teacher wouldn’t let you climb in sandals.

You are incredibly helpful- with the dishes, with the laundry, and especially in the kitchen, where we make dinner together almost every night. You love baking with me, sometimes in our matching aprons, and we have made so many memories licking spatulas. Some of my favorite pictures are of you laughing, a spoon in hand, with brownie batter or frosting splashed across your nose and cheeks, joy radiating from your beautiful little face. And you are beautiful, Millie. You are so so beautiful. Your sparkling brown eyes, a gift from your daddy, look around in wonder and expectation whenever you step out of the car. Your little hands brush your bangs out of your eyes impatiently as you take in your surroundings- and often you share your observations with me and I am amazed at what you’ve noticed that I so readily overlook- a beautiful butterfly, a ladybug on the sidewalk, helicopters in the air, snakes in the stream… thankfully, you noticed that one, Tiny Child, or else we’d both have been in trouble. You notice every little thing and I hope that when your keen eyes someday look upon yourself for appraisal that you will be kind to yourself and see the beauty in your platinum curls and the occasional freckle, and in your sense of humor and in your sense of adventure.

We have already shared a lifetime of memories, Little One, swimming in Cascade Lake and hiking, together as a family, to the top of Moore Cove Falls in Pisgah National Forest. We have already seen so many last’s- the last time I nursed you, the last time you had a bottle, the last time you wore diapers, the last day you said chlocolate instead of chocolate, and ka-ka- instead of kitty cat. The last time I could dress you without your input, the last time you wore your squeaky shoes that had us in fits of giggles, the last time you slid down your tiny Kangaroo Climber. And tonight is one more “last” and I am mourning the fading of your babyhood, and fighting the inevitability of the last day I’ll rock you, the last day we’ll nap together, the last time you’ll cry for me after I tuck you in. This passage of time, these precious days with you that I’ll never get back, these fleeting moments that I’m so afraid of forgetting and losing forever, it is terrifying to know that already three years have gone by, more than a thousand times I’ve kissed your punkin head and tucked you in at night. And yet- we have a magical future ahead of us. Tomorrow we get your ears pierced (well, that’s the plan at least!) we’ve booked a snowy, wintery Christmassy vacation in New Hampshire this December where our entire family will ski for the first time. I can’t wait to watch you in your upcoming swim and dance lessons. I can’t wait to hear you read your first words, sounding out each letter and stringing them together. I can’t wait to climb more mountains with you and see more of the world with you and plant our garden and years from now, watch you grow into a young woman and find your confidence and your path and fall in love and stumble and recover and try new things. I can hardly wait to see who you’ll become, Amelia Rose Herchel. But I will try to be patient, because who you already are is amazing and we have a wonderful abundance to be thankful for in this beautiful time of now. I love you more than cupcakes, my precious, darlin’ girl and more than I ever thought possible. Happy birthday.

Love Mommy

Monday, July 9, 2012

Something happened to me today that I hope will never happen to Millie. I was made to feel like a complete idiot, in front of other people, by a colleague. Now, this is not the first time I have felt like an idiot. In 8th grade, I didn’t do the reading assignment and stood up, in what I remember well to be a terrible fashion choice of white jeans, cuffed, and a blue silk button down with a *gasp* brown and blue scrunchie and ugly brown sandals, and basically admitted to the class that I didn’t do the reading, instead of passing on my turn. Once, in 6th grade, I was in gym class sitting out a square dance lesson with some classmates. One classmate saw our teacher motioning for us to help her with something, and said “let’s go!” I thought this meant we were to cut in on some of the square dancers and so that’s what I did, not noticing what other people were doing; I caught the eye of my classmates leaving with our teacher just a few moments too late. I felt really dumb both of these instances and they’ve stuck with me. But overall, I’m pretty confident. Even when, in 8th grade, I tripped on my way to the podium to nominate my bestie for vice-president of student government, I got up, laughed it off, and gave a good little speech. I’ve always been what I consider a good public speaker, even though I do talk too fast.
But I have had my moments of insecurity and humiliation, where I feel like the dumbest person in the room, and today was one of the worst of those moments. See I have taken a new job working in marketing and PR for a natural history museum. I am a science dud. I’ve always kinda embraced this, seeing as I make a fantastic marketing and event planner, and felt that everyone can appreciate the fact that my strengths are not their strengths and vice versa. But I am interested in science even if it’s not my strong suite, and am extremely enthusiastic and excited about my new gig.
Today, we visited one of the research labs to observe a 16.5 foot python’s necropsy (autopsy for non human animals.) A media photographer for the museum escorted me and a new intern into a room filled with the mildly nauseating aroma of chemicals mixed with rotting flesh. A long table taped with saran wrap supported the 140+ pounds of the creature, sliced open to reveal her internal organs. What a sight! And I did not look away, nor did I gag at the smell. I was interested and ready to learn, to ask questions, and take in the procedure.
Today was my second day on the job, by the way. Day 2. Day 2 in Marketing Land=Giant Snake Guts.
I asked questions like, how did she die? Well apparently she was tagged and it was time to euthanize her. How did they tag her, track her, find her, sedate her, kill her? Science Guy in Charge says: “That’s not my area.” Okay.
A hot issue regarding the snake was whether she’d had eggs inside her. If so, then essentially her euthanization prevented all those baby snakes from hatching and continuing to populate. While talking about the baby snakes, the maternal instinct in me kicks in, and I wonder whether, had she had babies, if they would stay with their momma, if she nurses, how they survive. I formulate a series of questions in my head, the first of which was :
“How do they mate?” Science Guy in Charge sighs. “You’re asking some REALLY BASIC QUESTIONS.” I flush. I can feel my skin getting hotter. We’re in a room full of people, including new coworkers and an intern which I will be working with and supervising, and this is what he says to me. Nevermind my previously inquisitive questions which he could not answer. THEN he follows up with a nod to their science intern: “you’ll have to answer questions like this, why don’t you practice by answering her.”
I was mortified.
And I realized that it’s part of why my science education was so poor. I came late to the game, and so all my questions seemed novice in the beginning, which made me feel embarrassed, which reduced the amount of questions I asked, which reduced my absorption of and comfort level with the material. Over time I just gravitated away to where I felt comfortable- writing, planning, marketing.
These are all things I am good at. But who knows what I’d have been drawn to had I received proper science education. I was a star math student for many years, and maybe just maybe I could’ve been a great pioneer researcher had the opportunity arisen. I still have my 6th grade art project about growing beans under colored lights and have always been intrigued by agriculture and the food industry in particular. Perhaps if those interests had been nurtured, rather than cast aside as the foolish thoughts of a dumb blonde girl, I could have blazed a trail. I’ll never know.
What I DO know is, if anyone EVER makes my girl feel stupid for asking a question, I have a response ready for them, which I will begin teaching her straightaway. “The only stupid people are the ones who don’t ask questions, because they aren’t giving themselves a chance to learn. I am NOT stupid, so I’m asking you a question to express an interest and learn the answer.” And if anyone- a peer, teacher, guidance counselor, coach- continues to belittle or humiliate her, that will be the last interaction they have with my daughter. But it will NOT be their last interaction with me. I will do them the kindness of telling them how incredibly wrong they are, in hopes of them encouraging rather than diminishing those “basic” questions from which an interest and passion can truly blossom. My girl will not have a question go unanswered; even if the answer is “I don’t know.”
You know what? Scratch that. I’ll be saying, “let’s find out!” 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mamahood in Moderation

There’s a slew of articles popping up like weeds across the sordid interweb, all with the underlying message of giving ourselves, as mothers, and others, as fellow mothers, a break. Get off Pinterest! They say. Stop knitting! Hug your children! Leave the dishes in the sink!
These articles are primarily referring to stay-at-home moms, or SAHM’s, in  blogging acronym world. According to some writers, these women feel the need to validate themselves and their life choices by making cake pops in the shape of their children’s elementary school mascot in preparation for the PTA bake sale, by doing baby signs with their toddlers, by nursing, by only feeding their children organic, by using cloth diapers, growing your own garden, making your own baby food, sewing your own smocked outfits in accordance with the next holiday, sprinkling reindeer food on the lawn at Christmas, planting jelly beans in the yard to grow lollipops at Easter, to do crafts and sing songs and all the while keep a spotless house and feed your family gourmet meals you bought for pennies on the dollar, so savvy you are at manipulating grocery store savings!

You know what? I totally get it, and here’s why. Before I got engaged in 2007, I had an idea in my head what it meant to be a good girlfriend, and I did my best to adopt some of those practices, within reason and ability, to make my relationship a little sweeter. I am by nature a planner, and there is truly a 1950’s farmhouse wife within me who is just dying to get out, so it is easy for me to plan parties in honor of Mike Baby- the year I did a Roast for him for his birthday, complete with all his high school friends to tell hilarious tales from days of yore comes to mind. I love to cook, to try new recipes, to delight in a bowl of strawberries fresh from the farmer’s market- or better yet, fresh picked by own hands.  I am also, by nature cautiously adventurous, as is my now-hubby, and he and I had a blast traveling, discovering dive bars, camping, rafting, hiking… We stored up a lifetime of memories during our courtship, and he could see himself enjoying an actual lifetime of said memories, so he proposed. For the 8 months after our proposal, I was in wedding-planning frenzy, wanting a million different things, and completely consumed with the decision making of it all. Luckily there was really on The Knot to distract me- if Pinterest had been around back then, I’d still be pondering centerpieces and hairstyles, and would have yet to set foot down an aisle. Whew! Crisis averted.

Once the chime of wedding bells faded, I set about the happy task of becoming A Good Wife. What this meant to me was entirely different than what it had meant to be a Good Girlfriend. A Good Wife plans meals, makes sure we all have vitamins and that we get our annual physical, schedules the dogs’ shots, and essentially takes over all manners related to the household, much like the House Manager job titles floating around the blogosphere in reference to SAHM’s. Granted, I did all of this managerial type stuff in addition to my actual job in tourism marketing, which oftentimes means that the things my HUSBAND thought a Good Wife might want to do didn’t make it on the list- I was simply too tired from being a Good Wife to be a good wife! Finally, we had a talk about it and I realized I was measuring my worth as a wife on things that, to him, didn’t matter. Now, I could tell myself all day long that I knew what was best for my household and my husband, and I could convince myself that this role needed to be carried out in just this way. But, would I do that in my place of employment? Would I say to my boss, I’m sorry you wanted me to get XYZ projects done, it’s just that I decided it would be best for the company if I reorganized the supply closet first. See how great it is to have paper clips sorted by size! THIS is how my merit as an employee should be rated! Of course I wouldn’t say that. My boss chose me to do a job that I’m good at, and my husband chose me to be his wife because he loves ME. He does not love, or even notice, my ability to coordinate table linens. Not one little bit. So why should I expect him to determine whether I’m a Good Wife from these things? Those things mattered to ME, not him. And I’m not my own wife, I’m his, so…. Naturally his input on such matters should be of value.  

The thing is, when a SAHM settles in to her new role, it is COMPLETELY foreign to her. Just as settling into my new role as a wife was foreign to me- at least, that’s how it felt. So, for a role that 1. Has no job description, and 2. Has no official frame of reference from which to base success (nor a performance evaluation to rate said performance) she inevitably finds herself turning to other moms for that frame of reference. And sometimes that frame is a comforting $5 black frame from Wal Mart. More often than not though, and particularly thanks to modern advances in lifestyle photography and Adobe Photoshop, that frame is an intimidating wall display of perfectly un-posed captured moments of family joy, framed by The Organic Bloom.

Those bitches.

The truth is, though, that I have no idea what it’s like to be a stay at home mom, and I can fully appreciate that. I don’t know whether I’d succumb to the pressure weighing on me from the mountains of laundry growing, whether I’d slowly grow weary of the fingerprints and spills, whether the constant chorus of Mama! That rings out in our home would, over time, sound like nails on a chalkboard. My frame of reference is that of working mama- and in fact, there’s literally no frame at all really- the pictures I most want to display are from over a year ago, and still only on a disc, my never having time to decide where I want them, which to order, and in what sizes. Thus I paid a photographer $150 for pics that have only made it on to a Facebook album.

You will not see me writing any financial books any time soon.

I had 6 beautiful weeks of maternity leave, 2 of which have been lost to the cloud of sleeplessness, the other 4 of which were wonderful. I went to post-partum lunches at my hospital and met the incredible, talented caring loving funny women and their precious babies who make up my playgroup mama friends, I napped and nursed and watched more than my fair share of 16 and Pregnant. I blow dried my hair while Milliebug observed from her bouncy seat. I cried and cried my last few fleeting days at home with her, but then I dusted off my black pants and returned to work, and I was engulfed in the breath of fresh air that was the familiar. I KNEW how to do this job, and how to do it well. All levels of incompetency and uncertainty that filled my days of new motherhood washed away as I logged into my computer each morning. True, things would never be the same, particularly as the sound of my Medela serenaded me when Pandora stations once did. But I had the opportunity to return to the familiar playing field I knew best, and that made a huge difference for me in preserving my self worth and self-confidence.

I believe that there are good points and bad points to both staying at home and working, as is with everything in life. Stay-at-home moms don’t miss a minute of their children’s youth, they see every step, hear every word, kiss every boo-boo. Their clothes are inevitably more comfortable than their working mama counterparts, and I would love the chance to grocery shop with Millie on a Tuesday, after naptime and a snack when she’s fresh and cheerful, instead of the intimidating hour post-work day, wen we’re both irritable and can’t even find parking.  But again, I can only imagine the rough patches for a SAHM. Sleepless nights with sick children and no rest, because Daddy’s gotta get up and go to “work” in the morning. Spills and accidents and errands to run and phone calls to make, and gone are the days of peeing in peace.  And that’s just scraping the surface of how a SAHM’s day could go.

I often wonder how a SAHM imagines my day to be.  I write this from the comfort of my air-conditioned office, and peeking from underneath my desk is my left foot, adorned with salmon pink toes and a strappy black shoe.  On the other hand (er, foot) the matching strappy black shoe is covered in dried toddler puke, which I didn’t actually notice until I got to work and couldn’t understand why, when I crossed my legs, I could smell sour milk. Turns out when Baby Girl threw herself at my feet last night after I got home, the warm slobbery “kisses” I felt were actually subsequent yaks. I am too embarrassed by this to actually take said shoe off and rinse it in the office bathroom, for fear of being spotted by a coworker- and as I am the only one with a small child at home, this would serve to further alienate me from the office and evoke a chorus of “ew’s” in my absence.

I have a to-do list a mile long, and I try to cram every.single.errand I have into my lunch breaks ,because God forbid that I navigate the grocery store after picking Bug up from school- nothing says take-out like a hungry, cranky toddler, clambering out of the shopping cart, teetering on certain death, as I juggle her dropped paci, two cartons of milk, food for our dinner, and a bag of dog food that weighs more than she does, if that’s even possible- at the 90th percentile, I am toting around a solid 27 pound wiggle. Wiggle, as a noun. That’s right.

When I get home, Mike Baby and I play Beat the Clock to feed everyone, clean up, do something as a family like take  a walk or snuggle, then it’s bathtime, storytime, bedtime. Whew!

Think I’m done? Oh, no. No sooner has the door to the nursery shut than I am sprinting to the kitch to pack up tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch and snacks for the following day, washing sippy cups, wrapping sandwiches, etc. Then I have the most important choice of the day: do I take a few minutes and shower (NEVER blow-drying- don’t want to wake Princess Pouty Pants) or do I forgo hygiene, resigning myself to another ponytail in favor of a few minutes of reading and going to sleep early?

The morning comes, all too early, and it starts all over again- on good days, I’m woken up to the melody of Ring around the Rosie over the baby monitor- more often, it’s a resounding MAAAAAMMMAAAA!!! And we’re off. Baby changed and dressed, Mama dressed, ponytail secure, dogs outside, dogs inside, dogs in their cages… Millie, please don’t put your sippy cup in the doggie water! Now where are my keys? Where’s Millie’s bag? Is my phone charged? Did you remember to send me that email reminder about depositing that check in the bank during lunch after my doctor’s appointment, and don’t forget to text me the grocery list, I’ll swing by on my way back to the office. Millie loaded up into the car, my bag, her bag piled into the front seat. I navigate two school zones to get her to daycare, scoop her and all her belongings up, deposit belongings in her classroom, weather a tearful goodbye during which her teacher has to literally pry her tiny hands from my shoulder, and for once am grateful I have no time for makeup, as it would certainly have been ruined while I cried myself all the way to work.

And let’s just stop there before we get into the ACTUAL work, shall we?

But when I pick my girl up, she’s so happy to see me and we cling to one another like there will be no more tomorrows, no more separation, no more trauma. Just hugs and happiness, and maybe we’ll stop for frozen yogurt on the way home, spoil her dinner a bit and have some fun together.

On my sick days, I’m thankful to have a daycare to take her to, to not subject her to my sloppy parenting when I’m not at my best, and give her consistency and friendship and an immune system of steel. I feel guilty taking her, knowing I’m going to go home and crawl into bed, but I am so grateful for this option. And it’s much better for her… or so I tell myself.

We all have our definition of Supermom that we strive toward, every day. But there is no perfection. There is only us, covered in baby puke, day-old hair in ponytails, bags under our eyes and arms outstretched to hold our wonderful, vibrant children for as long as they will let us, and we are doing the VERY BEST that we can, every single day. In a perfect world, we’d all have a part time job to give us a little sense of accomplishment and connection outside our home, plenty of time to love our children and play with them, as much time as we want, housekeepers to take care of inconvenient laundry and dishes, and oodles of opportunities to care for ourselves. But this is our Day in the Life. And I say, everything in moderation. Mamahood in moderation. There is no ONE way to be a good parent- we’ve all got our own style and we’re all doing just fine.

So yes, get off Pinterest- and if you feel like it, go do something you’ve been pining (and pinning) away for. Or not.  Stop wondering if the grass is always greener, because certainly in some patches it will be, but there is always, always someone who secretly wants to ask you who does your landscaping. And chances are, more than greener grass she just needs your friendship, or at least your kindness. We are all in this mamahood boat together, and if we don’t start paddling in tune we’re going to sink each other- and ourselves!  (but if that happens, I’m sure one of us knows how to make cookies shaped like life-rafts, complete with perfect royal icing. Yum.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The last day of my 20's

Tomorrow I turn 30. Now, I have many friends that have blazed this trail before me, and to be quite honest, I am not so affected by this new chapter in my life as some. Many times in the past week I've even forgotten that this day was creeping closer, even though this time last year I was much more aware of my age.

I remember my 10th birthday party, planning a sleepover with my mama. It was my first birthday after moving to Florida in 1991, and I was so excited to have so many friends to invite- and to my first BIG sleepover! 10 friends since I was turning 10. I can still hear my mama's voice telling me that 10 was special, and asking me how I wanted to celebrate. It was the first time I had friends of a different race (mainly because with my hometown being so white there were few options!) and my friend Jeannie dared my sister, then 17 and oh-so willing to be cool in front of my adoring gal-pals, to eat a raw egg, and she did it.

I'm pretty sure she still regrets it, too.

Neal gave me a giant roll of chocolate chip cookie dough, tied with a pink bow and left for me in the freezer- a nod even then to the lengths he'd go to care for me in the name of loving my sister, and later me. (and Neal, if you ever read this.... I've had to pee since Georgia. And I don't NOT love you, even now.)

 I don't remember much about my gifts that year, only how many friends I had and how relieved I was, since I'd been so certain the move to Florida would be the end of my budding 4th-grade social life.

The next 10 years brought: boys, family drama, boys, losing weight, boys..... Boys got me into so much trouble! I spent my teens misbehaving, testing limits, as many teens will do in search of themselves (and boy do I wish I could go back and tell my 15 year old self that, darling girl, you'll not have even found yourself by the time you double your age, but you will, at least be closer. So slow down... and have faith.) and when I turned 20, I was so very NOT self aware, so very interested in trying hard to play yet another role I'd cast myself in that I took no time for reflection and instead forged ahead blindly into a relationship I knew was bad for me. I let school slide, I got comfortable earning meager wages as a receptionist, seduced by my name on the office door, and imagined myself to be a big girl.

In my 20's I: got my own apartment, which I dearly loved, I attended UF and graduated, I worked at Barr, at GHFC, at the Baughman Center, at Re/Max, at the Athletic Association. I chose event planning and tourism for a career. I moved away for work.... I moved back for love. (which has worked out, by the way!) I got married, I traveled, I made friends, I threw parties. I started writing, and realized how much I dearly love it and that it is the thing that I do that makes me happiest; it's the answer to any career or aptitude test I may take. I. Must. Write. I changed my mind about having children. (that's right, there was a time when I didn't want babies.) but I realized I made that decision based on my observations of others with their children, and that mamahood could be what I made of it, so I embraced the unknown like I've never done before and there are no words for the amount of gratitude I feel for my precious darlin' Millie.

I enter my 30's with a new job at the UF Foundation that I'm still trying to figure out. I am one step closer to realizing my dream of becoming a full time writer, as I am now blogging twice a week for Visit South and hope to find more opportunities like it. I'm going back to school to get a masters' degree next summer when I will qualify for employee tuition waivers.

As I enter my 30's, I do not have my best haircut. I have not taken care of my skin the way I wanted to. I eat terribly, and while during my GHFC days I worked out 6 days a week, 2 with a trainer, I have not maintained that level of activity. I am at my unhealthiest. This is my biggest regret, and I am having harsh words with myself over the years that have passed where I've told myself, one day I will simply outgrow my inability to make healthy choices. One day I will just wake up and the resolve will be there. That day has not come and I am faced with the cruel reality that all the careful steps I have taken to ensure my life is full of friends and family and future successes to enjoy, I have ceased to preserve my own health- I give of myself to so many endeavors, but it is a lesser self for this reason- I have not sought out wellness.

This is the change I promise to myself in my 30's. I promise myself the birthday gift of better health.
Fingers crossed I have outgrown my habit of being an Indian giver. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


So, I'm still nursing FYI. And as long as I am nursing, I will be questioning my decision to keep nursing, whether it's right for me. I find it at times the most limiting, clumsy, cumbersome thing I do- but of course this is when I am in public. At home, curled up on the couch with the boppy and the baby, I am cozy, and holding her hand, kissing her little punkin head, having her reach out and pat me (or sometimes pinch and grab, depending on her fiestiness) looking into her blue-green-brownish-hazel eyes and hearing her sigh with contentment are precious, priceless, fleeting moments that I will protect fiercely. So... Me and my trusty pump continue to spend each passing day together, so that I can have my 20 minutes a day of nursing with Bug.

I've thought so much of happiness lately, mainly because I have discovered my own personal Bible, the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I, too, imagined myself to one day outgrow all of my shortcomings- I'd be effortlessly thin, have plenty of time to cook delish healthy meals between going to the gym and playing with my dogs and my child, I'd have a better attitude, better style, I'd be more patient. I imagine myself a writer- even the cover of the book, which has a title, if nothing else- and yet my day-to-day life reflects none of these aspirations. I worry what kind of role model I am; I worry about how my lackadaisical health could result in ultimately fewer days on this earth to marvel at my amazing little girl in her eventual womanhood. This book is guiding me to making decisions- albeit little ones- that will lead to positive change for me, my family, and my household.

There's a chapter on friendship, which I could've used many lifetimes ago. I have cyclical best friends, you see. Over the course of the past 10 years, I've had several "best friends," from Tracey to Renee to Iris to Mike Baby (who doesn't count, now I've up and married him) Carlye, to Natalia. Max and my sis are always in my life, but are so far away we can't spend time together on a regular basis.
My problem is with friendships lies in the maintenance, as I get busy, and I also just enjoy more alone time than most people, but still I feel so lonely at times, especially now. I've got a perfect baby, but none of my superclose friends do. We have friends that have older children, and they get together more because the kids play together. I join a mom's group- wonderful women who I wish wholeheartedly I could spend more time with- but I can't, because I work full time and it's easier for them to make more time to get together than it is for me. I have no one really close to me who's in the exact same situation that I can share with, other than on Facebook... My social (media) life is the only *social* life I seem to have sometimes!

I've been thinking a lot of my work lately; how there's really no room for me to grow within the office, a result of my own doing, frantically trying, and failing, to juggle work life with home life has unfortunately done some damage to what I feel was previously a reputation for creativity and capability. I am trying to come to terms with the fact that we'd have to move out for me to move upward, and if I want to continue to use my degree there are precious few lateral moves I could make in our area... It's created a lot of anxiety to wonder how to go about preserving my work. I still do love what I do, so that is always a bonus. I've worked hard to be in a position that makes me happy, even when my work doesn't feel that valuable... but hey, I plan luncheons and group tours for a living so maybe legitimacy is not something I should strive for, haha!

I've made it an entire week alone with Millie, as Mike is out of town, and it's been easier than I expected. Peaceful. No worries about him coming home from happy hour and messing up the kitchen, no TV (especially no TV since it's always tuned to crap I don't watch to begin with- it's just noise. Crappy, annoying, distracting noise.) I miss him, and look forward to his return, but I am pleased with the calm that has blanketed our home this week and wish we could bottle up and reserve it for when we need a little more peace around here!

In other news, I've made it this far with my one-sentence-a-day project, where I write a sentence or two about my day every day. It's good to keep track, and funny to read what I've already written... I write the same things to Millie all the time about how amazing she is.... which I guess is a sign I'm into this mama gig huh. :)

We have her 6 month photos next week at the Thomas Center and I can't wait to share!!

She also does all kinds of cute things like creeping, scooting, saying Abbah, squealing with anticipation when I'm about to blow on her belly, and chew on her books. And her toes. And me.

It's pretty awesome.

She's napping, but I kinda miss her so I think I'll go bug her now so she'll get up. I'm so sweet like that. :)

Good night, blogosphere!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On being a good mom:

I am one of the good moms. You may not think much of this statement, but the fact that I can say it at all is a sign of tremendous self-awareness on my part. I make this statement as the weight of my role takes its toll on my shoulders, quite literally, as I’m constantly sore from carrying around my 6-month old in her front carrier. I make this statement knowing there are a million other moms out there, changing a diaper, wiping a nose, folding laundry, perhaps, who are wonderful, talented, loving women suffering from the internal, eternal conflict- balancing their mommy perfectionism with their need to wash their hair. These women question the truth of this statement, not as it applies to me, but as it applies to themselves- and they make never say those words with even an ounce of confidence: That they, too, are one of the good moms.

Good, by the way, is the most arbitrary of adjectives, a word with no meaning behind it without some basis of comparison. What makes a “good” mom is entirely in the eyes of the beholder, and as such we mamas strive for the ultimate appearance of success, as it’s that appearance on which we are judged. Do our shoes match? Is the baby adequately dressed, having taken into account not only the weather but current trends in baby couture and their gender, as we have only their clothing to mark them “girl” or “boy” and scorned be the mama who adorns her precious darlin’ baby in ambiguous attire.

We set out food at playdates, a tremendous feat, and even ask ourselves, and each other, what other moms have been serving when THEY host playdate- as much as we shouldn’t, and in many cases, don’t judge one another on our spreads, the ability to set out appropriately appetizing snacks is one more item on our proverbial to-do list, and one more task on which we base our success.

Many corporate jobs allot one year for a new employee to become proficient in their new role, and that is with a myriad of resources available to them at their fingertips- policies and procedures, how-to manuals, meetings with a supervisor to set role-specific duties. There’s a job description to adhere to, and goals with which to measure success. However, in my new job, that of a mama to one perfect, miraculous baby girl, I have no job description, no manual, no way to measure my success… and no time-allotted learning curve. My duties vary from day to day and from age to age; I fail as many times, if not more so, than I succeed. Some days my daughter sleeps 7 hours, sometimes she’s up every 45 minutes. Sometimes I manage to blow-dry my hair before work, sometimes I end up in a ponytail for 3 days straight. Sometimes I give my baby formula- which for me is a crushing failure every time, a sign of my inability to maintain an abundant milk supply for her to nurse- while for other moms it’s a necessity, and in no way indicative of her mothering ability, no more than my daughter being 80% breastfed gives me bragging rights. (although, I do swell with pride at the sight of her chunky lil hamhocks. How can I not?)

It shouldn’t matter if the laundry is done, if the dishwasher’s been run, or the rug’s been vacuumed. It’s impossible for me to cook like I used to now that I’m caring for her, and the responsibility of her nutrition falls in large part on me. But still I feel the anxiety creeping in every time I am faced with a basket full of clothes to fold, or when I realize I forgot to order diapers and we’re down to the last three.

I feel bad that I’ve neglected my dogs, who look at me longingly while I nurse the baby. I vehemently regret the fact that, on Valentines’ day, my husband took me dancing and I started to fall asleep mid-twirl. I wish that I had a chance to iron my work pants every now and then, and that I could be more focused at work.

And yet, I know I’m a good mom. I am a good mom because when I was faced with the choice between free, but unstable childcare and completely overhauling my family’s finances in order to place her in a reputable, but expensive childcare center, we opted for the daycare… and have never looked back, despite the stress and uncertainty it’s caused us. I’m a good mom because I’ve given breastfeeding my very best of efforts, pumping at night and during the workday to provide Millie with enough breastmilk to sustain her at daycare, and I’ve kept this up even on days when pumping goes poorly and I’m devastated…. And I have, quite literally, sat in my office and cried over spilled milk.

I have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on breastfeeding aids- two breast pumps, storage bags, nipple creams, nipple shields, nursing bras, car and battery adapters, and herbal supplements that I misused; my fenugreek habit was up to 18 a day at one point, as I waited for the desired effect to kick in- a faint smell of maple syrup that was to indicate its effectiveness. I’ve pumped on bathroom floors in between breaks at trade shows; in the parking lot at McDonalds’; on the interstate; on the way to the movies. I’ve struggled with my decision to go to the gym in case I miss a feeding; I struggle with my decision to go to the gym because I’m away from her 9 hours a day already and my workouts feel like too much of a luxury, even as I preach the gospel of healthy habits to anyone who will listen; especially how my healthy (or not so healthy) habits translate to her future habits as well.

I endured abuse from my family when I chose daycare. I endured skepticism when I chose breastfeeding. I endured, and continue to endure, judgment at work when I choose to take Millie to the doctor when she’s ill, when I choose to use my lunch break to take part in playgroups. As much as I made these choices with the belief that they are the very best for me and my baby, they are different from the choices other moms make; different from, not inferior to. These choices make me no better or worse than other moms…. Although we all share the same guilt that each decision prompts, no matter our intentions.

We good moms, we mourn the loss of our bodies and our sanity, the loss (or impending loss) of our nursing relationships with our babies, we mourn the loss of each fleeting moment as we watch our infants grow and learn and change… just as we celebrate their triumphs, anticipate their milestones, and struggle to document each memory so that we can share them with our children as they get older. The good moms, we blow raspberries on our baby’s tummies during diaper changes, even as we secretly look forward to the day when they’ll pee-pee in the potty. We know we should go to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow at night, not knowing whether we’ll be woken up or not; and yet, we can’t stop marveling at our sleeping children on the video monitors we’ve installed. We lean on one another, and admire one another, and we always wonder how the other moms are doing so well, even when we know in our hearts we’re all in the same rocking boat.

I hope for Millie, not monetary wealth or success, but that she will grow to appreciate all the love that surrounds her every day, that she will find happiness and meaning in her life, that she will wake each day hopeful and full of vibrance…. Even as I hope to bring out those things in myself. I try so hard every day, even when I am exhausted, even when I want to crawl under the covers and not come out until she’s 18, even when I feel like anyone else is more qualified to care for her than I am.

I know I’m a good mom because I wanted Millie more than anything in the world. Because I ate right, exercised, and read to my belly while I was pregnant. I read reviews of nursery furniture, bedding, toys, clothes, and diapers before making what I thought was the best selection for her. I had the very best of intentions when it came to diapering, feeding, making my own baby food. I chose to keep my job, because I wanted to raise my daughter to know that she won’t have to choose between a family and a career…. And I wanted to earn enough money for my family to be comfortable and enjoy a few treats here and there like family days, meals out, vacations, and Dr. Seuss books.

I’m a good mom because my heart aches with love for her, and because knowing I’m her first teacher, her primary role model, is bringing out wonderful qualities in me like patience and kindness and empathy. Because being her mom has made me want to be my very best self, not just for her but for both of us. Yes, I will mess up. The occasional swear word will pass my lips before I say "earmuffs," I'll probably give her chicken nuggets, let her stay up past bedtime, and watch cartoons on days when she should be outside soaking up sunshine... with sunscreen on, of course! But overall... I'm definitely a good mom. :)