Friday, February 25, 2011

What Happened to Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Have birthday parties gone too far?

My mother always threw me the most amazing birthday parties and I made a vow to myself that I would do the same for my children. It wasn't always about how extravagant they were, but they were always meaningful and very creative. I am talking about themed slumber parties, murder mystery dinners (I was born at the end of October) that my friends still remember to this day.

My son is still in preschool and at this time (during my generation) most of the parties were held at home. Parents made a cake or bought one from the grocery store. We played table/board games, maybe pin the tail on the donkey, and just relaxed with friends and family. Now kids have formal invitations made and the parties are held at museums, "wee" gyms, and other venues. (I am guilty of this as well... but I love stationery). I am concerned that birthday parties are becoming another avenue for us to flaunt the things we do and don't have (a little "friendly" competition between parents and kids) and I wonder if we do all these great things before our kids turn double-digits, what are they going to expect? Lavish trips? Fancy cars? My son doesn't have another birthday until the Fall and he's already talking about who he wants to invite and what he wants as presents. (That's a whole other topic... the gifts/toys grow out of the control quickly.) I am guilty of having already booked the party, defined the guest list, invitations, etc and it's only February. (So what does that say about me?)

I love living in the Washington DC metro area and it has a lot to offer career wise and for families but there's a part of me that wishes I could raise my son with good old Midwestern values. I know that I can but then he won't keeping up with the "Baby Joneses".

Along with the awesome parties, my mother also told me not to have more children than I could take care of and that my hope for them should be that their life would be "better" than my own. But how do you define better? I already feel like I am not even half the parent my mother was/is and I am not sure if I will ever be. Sometimes I feel like the parties, sports, the play dates help me to feel like I am being a good mother because I feel guilty. Guilty that I didn't immediately embrace my motherly role. Guilty that I am a single mother. Guilty that I am not near family. Just plain guilty about everything so I fill myself and my son with stuff to mask it. (This blog is really helping me get to the bottom of my fears of being a mother.) I am terrified that I will fail because I don't like to fail. That somehow I will mess up my child and that's the last thing I would ever want to do.

I guess we will just throw another party...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stress Reduction and Access to God

Last Sunday my pastor preached a sermon on how Jesus' death and resurrection has given us open, unrestricted access to God (Mark 15:38; torn veil first act after the resurrection) and got me to start thinking about all the situations I have experienced, big and small, that I could have drawn on his strength, wisdom, hope to get me through it if not overcome it. Lately, due to stress, I have found myself being quick to anger especially with my son and it's so disappointing to me. Mainly because he isn't really doing anything wrong, just wanting my time/attention. He doesn't realize that I also have to make sure he has dinner, clean clothes, and a clean home. I feel like we as parents (humans) try to carry the burden of so much on our own and forget that we don't have to live like this. Yes, we will all have struggles but we can still have joy in the midst of them if we truly rely and trust on God. Just a little thing I have learned that I think will help out a lot.

So from this point forward on my car ride, or after parking the car in the preschool lot, I will say a little prayer:

"Lord, help me to be the mother that I desire to be. Help me to be understanding, loving, and most important reliant upon you to do great things through me. So that my son, and others, will see your love in me."

I am hopefully optimistic...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mommy (or Daddy) Guilt

Everyday I see the same scenario play out at preschool. Parent A drops off toddler A and toddler A has a meltdown because they couldn't pick out their spoon to eat their yogurt. Parent A leaves with toddler A screaming and crying and Parent A feels totally guilty all day for not being a stay-at-home parent. Or, lets say it's Valentine's Day and all the super type-A mothers made elaborate treats and tokens of love while the working mommies bought the pre-made cards from Target the night before. Not to speak lightly of the role stay-at-home parents play because it's an awesome responsibility... it's just one that I personally couldn't handle. I want to work. I love to work and it has nothing to do with me being a feminist. I think if you feel like you can do the job well then do so... but I digress.

So I thought I would tackle the issue of mommy guilt. Society has evolved so much over the past few decades and it seems like regardless of societal norms, women (mothers) are always held to a higher standard. Although things are changing, many women who work outside the home are still "required" to take care of many of the household responsibilities including parenting. At least with me, and I know my perspective is slightly different because I am/have been a single mommy, there's a lot of pressure to be exceptional at everything that we do. We feel like somehow if we don't give our children 100% and give our work 100% that we are a failure. Personally this has been extremely stressful for me and exhausting. I struggle daily with not having enough time to take care of me. Eating properly, working out, adequate mommy-only time (I often "mourn" for my pre-child life) because I feel like any of those things would take away from the precious 3 hours in the evening that I have to make an "imprint" in my son's life.

The other catch-22 is when to start having a family and the major effect it has on your life going forward.  I was 24 when I gave birth to my son and had a great job and college education (and a partially completed Masters degree) and even though I am relatively young, I still feel drained everyday. Those couples who decide to delay parenting until they have reached a certain economic level may find that when they do start a family that their work is so consuming because they are at mid-senior level of their organization. Whereas if you have children younger, you are not as financially secure but then the demands of work may not be as great. I am at turning point in my career where I must decide how much rising up the ladder I can take and still be a good mom but still feel fulfilled. Mommy guilt factors in because my son loves babies... I mean he will hug and kiss every baby if I allowed him too and he asks me regularly... "mommy when am I going to be a big brother?" Dagger... I can barely handle parenting him and he wants to add someone else to the picture. But I feel guilty that he doesn't have a playmate and sometimes I wonder if he did, would that alleviate some of my stress because they would have each other. Then I remember the sleepless nights, pumping, baby gear, doctor's appointments, potty-training, rising infant care/preschool tuition and wonder if I could really do it all over again.

I could talk about a million different scenarios but I am just curious about how other parents deal with guilt and wanting to be the best parents you can be without losing yourself. I would love to hear your perspective...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Am I Being to Harsh?

My son and I have experienced many changes over the last few months and I have noticed that he's more clingy to me than he used to. He also requires my assistance more with tasks he used to happily assume on his own. Unfortunately, most of this happens at nighttime after I have already had a long day (I rise around 5:45am everyday) and I know that I don't always respond in the best way because I am beat and just want some peace. A little reprieve from playing, reading, and other motherly duties.

A little background...Before we moved, my son slept in his own bed, in his own room, all night. Once I put him down there really wasn't much more after that unless he was sick. Now, it's a major production... which is understandable (because of the new surroundings and he has a big boy bed) however this has lasted for nearly three months! If I deviate from our normal routine in anyway he has meltdowns or "refuses" (meaning stays awake quietly in his bed for hours) until I come into the room and sleep with him. I don't know about you all but after 8:00pm it's mommy time. I need those two hours before I put myself to bed to recharge and prepare for yet another day. Although things are getting better, I still wonder if I have somehow damaged my son.

What are you thoughts?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beginning...

Life as I knew it was completely turned upside down one super hot day in August of 2007. My beautiful baby boy was born after an extremely long and complicated labor. People say that you are never really ready for the dramatic changes that occur when you become responsible for another human being... let's just say to date I have experienced a whirlwind of highs and lows... from a broken arm to Christmas concerts and good morning kisses followed by "I very very love you." It's because of him that I want to learn to embrace my new role as mommy while still balancing my desire to have a meaningful career and being a loving the future. I don't have all the answers but my goal is to be open, honest, and share feelings, experiences, and emotions that are often reserved for our most sincere friends because I believe motherhood shouldn't be a secret society and we all can help and encourage each other on this journey. My goal is blog at least three times per week about any and everything that I think is worth sharing. Please feel free to ask questions, make comments (but please be nice. My feelings are easily hurt, which is probably not a good thing as a parent because kids are brutally honest) and I hope that we will laugh, cry, and grow together.