Tag Archive | motherhood

How I Feel Running v. How I Look In Pictures Where I’m Running

Here’s the thing: When I’m running, I feel so alive, so strong.  I feel the sweat trickling down my back and the endorphins slamming into my cells. I feel like I could do anything.  Like solve-the-Middle-East’s-problems anything.  Now that I’m semi-fast runner (8.30 min/mile), I love dodging and weaving and making my way forward.  During a recent 15K race, I actually thought to myself, if this is how fame feels to Kim Kardashian, then I get it.  Grease my ass and snap a picture; I will judge nevermore.

What the ?

What the ?

If I run more than 30 minutes, I start to envision my body lean and fat-free. Like a Kenyan.  I picture myself long, graceful, lithe.  I get a tremendous amount of pleasure during these extended visualizations of my gazelle-like legs propelling me ever onward.

Then, I see a picture of myself running.

Um, what?

Is that how I really look?  It’s not AT. ALL. how I picture myself. Body dysmorphia aside, I look sort of ungraceful.  And way thicker than I feel when I’m actually doing it.  I know I’m not supposed to say that as a feminist, a mother of a daughter, a survivor of bulimia/anorexia, an over-educated woman in this culture moment, an Oprah fan (including, inter alia, Super Soul Sunday).  But, it seems I can’t help it.

Just like the ice bucket challenge, I loved the moment, but the picture drags me into a nasty vortex of body shame/hating.  Makes a girl start to think she should stop looking.

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Also, it’s not easy to run with your arms making the touchdown sign.  And what’s that guy on my right (your left) staring at? Has he never run a race next to a mother who just spotted her children on the sidelines?

 

 

 

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Cravings: Before and After Pregnancy

 

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The moment I heard I was pregnant, I zeroed in on the Do’s and Don’t’s list provided by my doctor’s office. I memorized all the foods I wasn’t supposed to eat and bid farewell to sushi, lunchmeat, fancy cheeses and caffeine. Oh and that giant slab of swordfish I typically ate on Tuesdays for lunch. Buh-bye.   I also studied the list of activities that I was supposed to curtail for the following nine months—the rigorous exercise, super-hot showers, heavy lifting. I was ready and willing to do absolutely anything to ensure a healthy environment for my baby.

I’m a good mama!

The first two trimesters were easy. While I missed long runs and hard spinning classes, I had my eyes on the prize who was going to be sleeping in that new bedroom we had just decorated. The food part wasn’t that hard either—my cravings for mac and cheese and Twix bars kept me too busy to miss nigiri and sliced turkey. I also had a near-spiritual experience with a jumbo-sized bag of Frito’s, so I wasn’t complaining.

One week into that third trimester, though, it hit me. A craving for raw fish and an overwhelming desire to stand for hours in the hottest shower possible.  I wanted it like Gwyneth P. wants free-range brussel sprouts cooked on 1,000-count Egyptian sheets.  As the weeks peeled by at a pace slower than the service at a Cheesecake Factory on a Friday night, I could almost taste the salmon roe I’d begged my husband to bring me in the hospital. At 39 weeks, I finalized his marching orders: as soon as we have an Apgar score, fetch me sushi from our favorite place, frozen yogurt from Costco, and a giant bottle of Gatorade 2 (grape).

But the birth was about a zillion times more intense than I’d planned. There was the last-minute C-section and the challenges of breast-feeding that I never expected. While I was overjoyed to have my baby in my arms, the only other thing I was craving was privacy so I could cry alone. A big, fat, ugly cry.

I’ll be a great mama soon as I can get this cry out.

I was too scared to ask for it. What kind of a new mother just wants to be alone to cry?

I could hardly remember that woman who thought her biggest obstacle in the hospital would be having to say no if someone asked for a bite of her yogurt or a piece of her sushi. That woman was gone and in her place was a terrified woman who was so afraid of her incision and her baby’s poor latch to even care what her next meal was.

When, by chance, I finally found myself alone in my hospital room, I started to release the tears like hostages from a hijacked airplane. Then a nurse walked in and told me that she saw “the cry thing” all the time with older mothers.  “You’re so used to being in control– running companies or lawsuits or non-profit corporations that you don’t know what to do when your baby won’t wake up to nurse.”

Wow.  Maybe I am an okay mother.  (Did she just call me old?)

After the wise old (if she can say it, I can too) nurse gave me my meds, I cried some more.  It felt better than gorging myself on dragon rolls during a spin class. I needed to cry for the joy and fear I felt too tired to process, and for the changes to my life that seemed to be suddenly etched on my abdomen. I didn’t need sushi or sweet treats; Gatorade 2 couldn’t begin to scratch the itch deep within me. I’d changed so much that I didn’t know what I needed or craved or desperately wanted, but the cry was a very good start.

 

Partner Travels During the Week? Lower Your Standards

Here’s a shout-out to all the parents whose partners travel during the week.   Jeff’s traveled since Sadie was about a year old, so I’ve amassed some advice to share.

Basically, I’ve finally learned to have two different sets of standards: one for when Jeff’s in town and one when he’s not.

Example: When Jeff is here, we do family dinner at the table and you are 99% likely to find proteins, vegetables and a whole grain starch on the table.  On those nights, we all sit in chairs and have discussions that begin thusly: “Sadie and Simon, what were your favorite parts of the day?”

However, on the nights when I solo parent, you are more likely to find me scraping food off the floor to serve to my children than to find a bona fide protein source that I cooked by hand.  I actually haven’t sat down to eat a meal since Monday night, right before Jeff left.  Come to think of it, Sadie ate her “dinner” while riding atop our rocking horse (which she dressed up like Yoda, because why not?).  Not to be outdone, Simon found his digestive bliss while sitting on the potty.  Me?  I stood at the island checking the weather, thinking that if a snow storm or weather system was on its way and likely to deter or delay Jeff’s flight, then I was going to make a run for it.  On foot.  In the rain.  Without a sports bra.

Mama, I'm hungry!

Mama, I’m hungry!

For years, I’ve tried to run the same ship when we were down one parent.  I’ve berated myself for being more short-tempered, for cutting corners, and being less playful when Jeff was gone.  The guilt of turning to the devices of Apple, Inc. to entertain the kids so I can get the dishes washed or take a shower before work has eroded pieces of my soul.  (And the soul doesn’t grow back overnight.  It’s not a goddamned earthworm.)

It simply doesn’t work to keep the same standards on the weeks that Jeff is gone. Period.

 And it’s Jeff’s fault.  If he were just a figurehead or a pop-in-right-before-bedtime dad, I wouldn’t miss him as much.  But he’s busy when he’s home: he does most of the cooking, half of the bedtime routine, half of the morning routine (and how fucking soul-destroying can that piece of the day be?).  Come to think of it, he does at least half of everything.  He’s not perfect– he’s not great with washing dishes and doesn’t seem to realize we have a dirty clothes hamper, but he’s super involved in the big stuff.  Like parenting.  He also must do all of lots of stuff I know nothing about since I am busy doing none of it.  See changing light bulbs, killing rats in the mini-van, explaining to the children how ice gets into the ice maker, and balancing the check book.

My point is that parenting is like a table and if two legs are knocked off it, then the table can’t stand up straight. It’s going to wobble and shit’s gonna slide off of it.  And that’s okay, because there won’t be anyone around to see you scoop stuff off the floor and serve it for dinner.

The Thing About Change: Some Things Stay and Some Things Go

“I just hate change.  All I can see is what’s slipping away. I’m not in touch with the good parts.”

Those were my opening words to my therapist recently.  It wasn’t a complaint so much as a wish to have different vision.  Like a figure skater who can’t land a jump on her left leg, I can’t survey my life and conclude, “Hey, this is going so well! Much better than I thought.”

And nothing’s wrong– it’s just different.  A recent birthday party for my son filled my house with more of his friends and less of mine.  It wasn’t bad, but it was a shift to not have my kitchen filled with my best friends who’ve loved my family since the day it was created.  With all the new families we’ve met at both kids’ new schools, it’s hard not to wonder who will stick around and be around in two years.  Or four. Or until I die.

It’s already March and I’ve met lots of great people in our new communities, but I’m struggling to take it to the next level.  I sit in the carpool line and wonder who, if any, of the moms I see will one day be close enough to me that I ignore her voice mails or text her in the middle of the night to complain about Jeff’s snoring, Sadie’s attitude or Simon’s erratic sleep.  Like the old chestnut Are You My Mother? I search each face wondering if I’m looking at a bird of a feather or just an airplane or crane.

My therapist dusted off his Yale-educated brain and came up with a brilliant answer to my implicit question: Will I ever love what I’m gaining as much as what I’m losing?  I was referring to friendships that have grown more distant, job offers that never came, dreams that have been deferred well beyond my timetable.

“You gained weight during your pregnancy, right?” He said.

“Um, you don’t remember those glorious 40-50ish pounds I sported thanks to the actual baby and the Fritos?”

 

Here: only 20 lbs in.  Mostly Fritos and mac & cheese.  Some change is good.

Here: only 20 lbs in. Mostly Fritos and mac & cheese. Some change is good.

“Well, did you lose that weight?”

“Yes.  Eventually.”

“Well, there’s something you lost that you don’t miss.”

Kind of hard to argue with that.  It didn’t stop me, but it was an uphill-battle-barefoot-in-icy-nettles kind of situation.  And since that conversation, I’ve felt less like a snow(wo)man in a miniature globe, the pieces and people in my life swirling furiously around me.  I feel more like a woman whose willing to wait and see– what will remain and what will become part of a treasured history.  No pointing in chasing the flakes– I’m just letting them fall around me, trying to enjoy the view.

I Shared The Books of My Childhood With My Kids, But They Cried and Begged Me to Stop

All whipped up in a froth of nostalgia, I started sharing my favorite childhood things with my kids.  I pictured them embracing their history through the “antique” items that represented my youth.  Because they already know Blue Baby, they were right to be cautious about stuff from Mommy’s childhood.

How can my kids resist the toys from my childhood?

How can my kids resist the toys from my childhood?

But still, they’d come around on Blue Baby, so I assumed they would see beneath the scars of love and overuse to embrace the “new” toys I was introducing them to.

What actually happened is that they not only rejected half of the relics, but some of them actually seemed to distress and traumatize them.  The themes of the books I loved were troubling to their modern sensibilities.  Apparently, my kids don’t like stories about poachers or near-death-by-drowning or the arrogance of “Man” vis-a-vis the animal kingdom.  Where in the world did these radical children come from?  Commies.

It shouldn’t have hurt my feelings, but I confess I felt dissed.  Then I felt ridiculous when I heard myself saying, “Just ignore the part where Babar’s mom was murdered! Wait till you see him get married. It’s the coolest!”

Fine.  Your American Girl dolls are fancier than Blue Baby; your muddled and incomprehensible Dora stories are better than Babar.  I just hope I live long enough to meet my grandchildren and roll out the crap my kids think is so freaking awesome and timeless.  I will have the last laugh here, even if I have to live to 90 to get it.

To read about how my children reacted as we plowed through Babar, Curious George, and other classics from my 1970’s childhood, click here.

Making Every Mistake In “The Parenting Book”

 

open book

 

Am I going to have to make every single parenting mistake in the book? You know, THE BOOK, the one where sage wisdom is collected. It says stuff like “walk your kids back to their beds when they show up at yours or your lazy ass is gonna have helluva time getting them out.”  That BOOK.

According to the tests of the material in that BOOK, I’m an average student.  And that’s if you grade on a curve.  In reality, I’m sort of below-average and that’s a hard rock for this valedictorian to swallow.

As alluded to above, I have a small child that comes to my bed every night.  He comes when we are already asleep, which means he’s not interfering with “adult” time, but still.  It’s like sleeping with a windmill or an angry judo master.  Chop Chop Chop go his arms and legs all night long.  Jeff and I take turns acting like shields for the other when Simon crawls into bed.

Just walk him back to bed, right? Of course.  Except, that requires me navigating a flight of stairs.  And it’s cold.  And he won’t stay in his room without a battle royale, so screw it.  He says; we get bruised in our sleep.

Then, there’s schedule.  My kids are under five, so of course I know not to overschedule them.  But I did. Oh yes I did, because I got sick of lying around at home watching them fight over toys they ignore until the other one shows interest.  In addition to preschool, I’ve got them in soccer, art, golf, tennis, gymnastics.  It’s insane. It’s not recommended by the BOOK.  In my defense, I’m not building a get-into-college resume; I’m trying to survive the polar vortex.

The BOOK also suggests less snacking so kids will eat meals.  My kids have trained me to get them a snack to tide them over as they walk from the living room to the kitchen.  A twenty-foot walk.  Yessiree, I pack them pretzels or Graham crackers so they can walk to the other end of our modest townhouse.

Insane.

Bedtimes should be before 8PM? Um, not happening.  Toys should be rotated and selectively displayed for maximum enjoyment? No and no.  Parents should avoid bribing kids for good behavior and compliance?  Well, do stickers, candy and cookies count as bribes?

I’ve created all this. I’m the one who rolls over when Simon shows up at midnight.  I’m the one who signed my kids up for seven park district classes.  I too am guilty of indulging every snack whim no matter how many seconds before dinner they want a whole mango with some full-fat yogurt.  I carry around a cache of goodies with which to bribe them to get into (or out of) the car or to be quiet while I’m on the phone or trying to take a nap.

The mess is mine, all mine.  There’s no one to blame except myself and I gave that up for 2014.  So, I’ll just live with it and accept my mediocre grades.

Sad To Hear Hate On My Kids’ Lips

Lots of stuff has happened in my parenting before I was ready.  Examples? Teeth on my nursing babies.  Repeating curse words after hearing Mommy say them all the time once.  Getting in trouble during dance class for “not paying attention.” 

Those little surprises have kept me on my toes from Day 1, and I am learning to roll with them.   Except for the ones that involve my pre-kindergarten children acting like teenagers.  No one told me that eye rolling and looks that convey Mom, you are so STUPID would start so soon.  And I don’t like it.  On the one hand, I have a daughter who is scared to get into a swimming pool, but thirty minutes later she can tell me how lame it is that I don’t know all the words to The Green Grass Grows All Around.

And who’s the genius who taught my kids to throw around the word “HATE”?  You know what I have for that person? I have a standing invitation for that person to come to my house and hang out with my kids from the hours of 5-7 PM on the days when neither of them naps, but both have been slipped some super sugary snack.  Yeah, come on over and spend some time in the darkest rung of hell, then let’s talk about the appropriate vocabulary for preschoolers.  (For a few more choice thoughts about being a hater in my house, click here.)

To cope, I am taking shelter in rage and indignation that my children think it’s ok to say that they “hate” Willie Nelson’s music (unforgiveable offense) or that they “hate” what I cook for dinner (understandable, but still not cool). 

But really, I’m sad.  I don’t want to hear about hate, and I don’t want it directed at me (or Willie), even though I am committed to supporting them in expressing their anger. 

To my ears, there’s something particularly hurtful and cutting about the word “hate.”  And while I am sure there is plenty in their little worlds to hate (see, e.g., eating my “cooking”, having to brush their teeth every night, being stuck in the car with only 7 Willie Nelson CDs, etc.), I was still hoping that we had some hate-free years ahead of us.

But we don’t.  So here are some synonyms I’ve offered them:

VERBS: abhor, scorn, digust, loathe, resent, repulsed, repelled, object to, revile

What about you? Do your young children say they hate you? Does it pierce your very soul?