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. :)