Meta Mommy Advice

Look, we’ve all done it. We are pleasantly chatting with another Mommy about our children and then before we can reach out and pull them back in, those ‘words of wisdom’ come out.

“Just wait until you have another baby! (you’ll never carry around that much stuff anymore.)”

“We never let Junior have anything that isn’t organic. (because we don’t want him to be fat and sick like your kid.)”

“We don’t believe in spanking (because we don’t want him to be a violent hate monger like your child.)

“Better get sleep while you are pregnant! (because as soon as baby get’s here, you won’t sleep again because BABIES NEVER SLEEP.)”

I am sure everyone could add a few more to this.

While being offended when other mothers give me some of this unsolicited advice, I am ashamed to say that I occasionally dish some of it out myself.

And so I had to ask myself why? Why do I do the very thing that I find so annoying/rage-inducing about other moms? Is it revenge? Indifference? sadism?

But my answer was much less nefarious. I do it because parenting is intrinsically a loner sport. And that gets really lonely.

It is the one solitary thing you do in your life that no one can relate to. No one.Yeah, everybody has kids, but no one has your kids.

You are a beautifully complicated snowflake just like your child is a beautifully complicated snowflake. Furthermore, without a rule book, you are both teaching to and learning from each other, and it all happens in a very ephemeral and visceral way.

So you scored a big parenting win today? Don’t get to excited, because tomorrow it all resets back to 0.

Basically, we are predisposed for failure. No one is going to get a 100 on this test, we can only hope for a passing grade.

I think I second guess myself at least 10 times a day when it comes to my parenting. Should I feed them that? Are they getting too much/too little sleep? Is my disciplining technique effective, or am I just making things worse?

That is why they say being a parent is the hardest job. It is, because it is constantly changing, and no one can tell you how to do it right.

But still we search for a way to connect with other parents. We reach out to ask for advice, find a shoulder to cry on, or share in our triumphs.

Then we are P.O.ed when a parent shares their experience with us. It’s a vicious cycle. But we need to connect with each other, we need to find common ground. It’s important because no one can do this solitary, highly specialized job alone. We all need some support.

I guess if I think about it, the support and the camaraderie are so much more important to me than sheltering myself from the ‘advice’.

My advice on giving advice? Don’t do it.  Most people just want you to listen. occasionally someone will ask you how to change a baby’s diaper or is it ok to leave them alone with the dog for a few hours, which you should have quick and direct answers for. But what kind of formula do you use? Keep it simple. Using Brand B instead of Brand A is not going to compromise the health of their child, but ticking them off will jeopardize your friendship.

And when you inevitably get advice back don’t be offended. Save that for political discussions with your family.

 

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Oatmeal Raisin Feelings

I am literally eating my feelings today. My husband would say that isn’t possible, but I just cried into, and then ate, a delicious oatmeal raisin cookie I procured from the coffee shop near my office. I wanted a latte, but the espresso machine is a total jerk and decided to quit working. The girl behind the counter felt so sorry for me she gave me free coffee. Which is awesome, but not as awesome for the boob milk I am trying to keep at least partly caffeine free. If anybody knows any science about that and how I shouldn’t be worried, please let me know, because I NEED my delicious coffee flavored drinks.

In hindsight, I think she might have given me free coffee because she thought I was homeless. I look way worse than I feel, and I feel like a dead espresso machine.

It’s not even fair how crappy today has been. I mean, it’s Friday! The most magical day of the week! I also had grand plans this morning to write about marketing yourself when looking for a new job. It was going to be full of buzzwords and encouraging statements with exclamation marks after them. But like every single episode of Game of Thrones, something terrible was about to happen.

The content of yesterday’s blog was about a work conflict, and I went home smugly thinking that I had handled it with class and it was over. No no NO ma’am it was not. It reared it’s ugly passive aggressive head during a presentation I gave this morning. A beotchy attitude was in full effect. So like any other professional would, I started to cry.

It was awful. It was like a John Hughes movie, accept the main character is much older and chubbier. I managed to keep the alligator tears in check, but I’m pretty sure the rapid blinking and sniffling gave it away. So after the massacre was over, I crawled back to my desk and shut the door and just had a Molly Ringwald pity party.

Two days in a row! Why is this happening to me?

So like yesterday, I went back to my other office – the bathroom – and pumped milk and thought it over. I waited for my mammaries to give me some sort of zen like wisdom about the whole incident, but no. No clarity this time, none.

So then I sent my poor husband an email about how everyone hates me and how I hate me and how life is so unfair, and he responded appropriately so I stopped crying. I even got a little work done.

But then my mother sends me a text to tell me that my baby rolled over for the first time! She rolled over and I wasn’t there. This did me in utterly. If curses are real, my place of employment will probably sink into the ground tonight and never be seen again, or something. I don’t really know a lot about curses. I only really care if they can, in fact, sink my workplace in the ground so I don’t miss another precious baby milestone.

Why? Why couldn’t I be there to see her roll over?

The problem with searching for a new job after your maternity leave is that you are racing time. Your baby is growing faster than you can send out resumes. Faster than you can get your small business off the ground. It makes you question everything, all the things you are doing and why you are doing them. And if you aren’t careful, depression looms in the distance.

I have kept the baby blues and sad stuff in check for the most part, though, and I’m soldiering through all this stress because I know there is a change coming soon. I have found that taking a few extra minutes to myself, writing down my feelings, and well, eating them, helps while I’m in this postpartum stage of my life.

So after that, I took my inner fat girl and my outer fat girl and we marched down to the coffee shop to get a latte. Which morphed into a cookie, which is even better. And you know, Tina Fey really said it best in response to the quote ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ with ‘I don’t know, you ever put a doughnut in the microwave?’

I’m ok now. I ate my feelings cookie and now I am ready to go home to my babies and forget about this place for two days. When I come back on Monday I will again attempt to act like a grown up and begin anew with my quest to become a full-time writer at home that gets to watch babies do stuff for the first time. I might even have a few days where I don’t cry at my desk. Maybe, let’s not push it.

 

The Postpartum Work Conflict

I was in the process of formulating an idea for today’s blog while I was completing a rather lengthy document I am presenting to my team tomorrow, when I had a rather unpleasant exchange with a coworker. It was more passive aggressive, actually. Which is the worst kind. But it upset me completely, and since I have lost focus on anything productive I thought, ‘hey, I’ll just write about that. It’s relevant.’

As a woman in a male dominated field, I am used to having the occasional conflict. What I will never get used to is having them with other women. We have to constantly assert ourselves into the Boys’ Club that is so prevalent in our work environment that I don’t understand why we as women can’t band together. Not exclusively like starting our own Girls’ Club, but in some personal ways that I think most women respond to, such as support and encouragement. After being called ‘little lady’ and ‘darling’ on a construction site, or I don’t know, losing my raise because I’m reproducing (yeah, I’m still really bitter about that) I think we owe it to each other to give each other a break.

But I have found that women in my industry can be, for lack of better terminology, high-strung control freaks. I am sure it is some sort of coping mechanism to compensate for our lack of man-ness. It’s the idea that we as women have to be twice as good at our jobs to be taken seriously. And then we get labeled the B word. I find that so insulting and such a double standard. The problem is, we as women in any industry dominated by men tend to involuntarily develop these defense mechanisms. And it becomes a problem when women develop it with other women. Because then it turns into B Fest 2014 in your office, and that isn’t very professional.

My little ‘episode’ we will call it, revolves around two emails I received. They were from my only other female coworker asking me to perform a task. A task I recently performed for our boss and another coworker. The problem is, she actually had inserted herself into the discussion the first time I performed the task for my boss because SHE HAD ALREADY DONE IT BEFORE. She had all the facts, and passed them along to me. Condescendingly maybe, but I am also very sensitive right now, so she might have genuinely meant to be helpful. In any case, now she has requested that I do this for her. This task requires personal information that she is already in possession of. So, in a nutshell, she wants me to do something that will require several email exchanges for information and could take up to an hour to complete that she could do herself in five minutes. She basically asked me to go make her coffee, folks.

So I considered throwing things in my office. Especially after the second email making specific requests about how I handle it. I responded with ‘DO IT YOURSELF!’ but I didn’t send it. Instead I went to ask her politely about it, and she told me to do it again, even though she admitted having all the information and necessary tools at her disposal. So I came back to my desk. And I cried. My sad, ‘I want to be home with babies’ cry.

Here’s where the postpartum comes in. I had my beautiful daughter almost four months ago, but my emotions are still a bit tricky, my body is still very much showing signs of recent childbirth, and I am still pretty stressed juggling my work schedule, pumping milk, and going home to take care of Squishy Bug and Panda. So when I feel affronted, I have to take some extra time to chill out. I’m not blaming my hormones, don’t mistake it for that. But I do find some comfort in the fact that I might not be the B that everyone expects if it weren’t for a little bit of the chemical stuff still being out of whack in my system.

So I went and pumped my baby’s milk and thought it over some more. And let me tell you, nothing makes you really feel your situation like standing in a bathroom stall at work with your boobs out while a machine squeezes milk out of them.

I considered going to my boss and explaining how I can’t work with her, and yada yada yada. Bad idea if I wanted to maintain his respect. I considered sending her that email I typed out earlier, but that was also a bad idea if I didn’t want this to become an office vendetta.So then I had to totally dismiss the idea of keying her car, because you know, what if I got caught?

I realized that the only way not to be the B that everyone expects me to be is to just do it. Just complete the dumb task for her. I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to do it like she wants me to. If she wanted it done a certain way she would have done it herself. But if I want people to respect me as a professional, then I have to be very careful which battles I pick. And this is a very silly battle.

So I’ll do it.

But I might make her wait for it for a little while.

Keeping the Romance Alive

roses

Today my husband sent me roses to work. It’s not my birthday and it’s not our anniversary. I checked. But we did have a real date the other night.

My parents are in town so I took the opportunity to ask him out while we have free babysitters. That’s me, romantic and economical.

We went to see a movie, but we were so excited to get out of the house and go to the theater that we went an hour early. But luckily we live in Austin where there are Alamo Drafthouses, so we sat at their bar and had a few beers.

And we talked.

We talked about stuff we wanted to do. Not about our kids or work or bills, but our interests. I had been thinking a lot about reconnecting the last few days, and how having babies and a hectic work schedule really does put a lot of space between you and your partner over time. Even a short period of time.

So I wanted to get to know him again.

And I think we did, a little. And we saw Godzilla, so that was cool too.

I am not saying that he sent me flowers because I had asked him out. He is a great husband, and he probably would have done that if we had stayed home changing diapers all weekend. But I think it helped the romance theme we sort of organically rekindled.

I think it worked because it wasn’t forced. We didn’t get reservations at a fancy restaurant and dress up and place expectations on sexy time later. We need that sometimes, but when you are wading in postpartum body acceptance issues and fighting off fatigue, the idea of getting naked just sounds like a chore. Getting physical is a very important part of a healthy marriage, but hello, we have two babies, I think we have that part figured out. It’s the other stuff in our relationship that needs some TLC.

My husband and I have been together for five years now. We have had two children, started a business, and moved twice in that time frame. We are basically just getting started, but I think we surprised ourselves when we realized how much we have changed. We as a couple, and we as individuals.

Sometimes when we don’t change in the same way, or at the same time, it causes conflicts. i.e. fights. But I realize as I change myself that I have to communicate with him, because I want the person that I am becoming to still be the person he wants to be with.

And vice versa.

I have been telling him all about my new endeavors as I try to change my employment situation and he has listened and encouraged me. So the other night I did something that I generally don’t have time to do when we are home with our children.

I listened to him.

And I really like the person he is evolving into. I also think the person that I am evolving into will really get along with him. I just have to keep listening to him and he has to keep listening to me, and I think we are really going to grow to love each other’s new selves.

Mother’s Day

Sunday is my big day. My husband already delivered on the present front, because he is out of town on business through next week. So I have a nice little box sitting on the counter, waiting to be opened. My two year old and my three month old, hereto be known as Squishy Bug and Panda, are going to get a pass this year on the account that neither one can use the bathroom independently much less use a debit card.

My mom is in town helping with my rug rats, though, so now I have to worry about making Mother’s Day awesome for her too. Lunch? Well obviously, I’m not going to get by without that one. It’s like ‘Happy Mother’s day! Here are some flowers! Hungry? I’m making grilled cheese!” So we will be dragging my spirited two year old and breastfeeding marathoner three month old out to lunch. Did I mention my father is also in town? Well, that’s important, because he hates going out to lunch. Or going out period. So he will be loads of fun waiting in line at some crowded restaurant on Mother’s Day with two screaming babies in tow. Yep, my day. Awesome.

But it is also her day, so I have to think of something awesome besides lunch and flowers. She has racked up some miles traveling between here and my home state to help me with the babies. She lived with us for almost three months to help when Panda was born. My husband would probably say that was an eternity, but he wasn’t recovering from a c section. She has been an enormous help, physically and financially many times. So she really deserves something special.

What are you getting your mother for Mother’s Day?