Stay-At-Home Mom Equals Stay-At-Home Kid?

Em is in school three days a week. He loves it. It took a few weeks for him to adjust, a few weeks of holding onto my neck for dear life every morning, but those days are gone. Now, he doesn’t even say goodbye. He just walks into the “The Science Center” (an area in the room with cool textures, shapes and sounds) and doesn’t look back. 

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It’s been great.

It’s also been expensive.

We’re in an awkward position as a family, a position I imagine many New Yorkers are in. It’s the position where the amount you pay out is dangerously close to the amount you take in, so you can’t ever really get ahead where a savings is concerned. That’s not to say we don’t have a savings. We do. It’s just not enough for a down payment. So, should we continue paying for things like Em’s schooling (or living in an overpriced apartment), we’ll never get ahead in order to buy our own home. 

You see the predicament? 

Today is the final deadline to reenroll Em in school for fall. We definitely can’t afford the 5-day; I would have to currently have a full time job to make that worthwhile. We can’t really afford the 3-day either. We discussed the 2-day school week, which we can afford, but we’d have to tap into our savings in order to do so.

Toby doesn’t want to do that. I can’t say that I blame him. We’re in the middle of a recession right now. Even the most secure job right now isn’t all that secure. Who wants to tap into their savings when the future is so uncertain?

I want Em to interact with kids his own age regularly, especially since kids thrive on repetition. Plus, he loves it. He has made amazing progress in the brief time he’s been attending school and I have met some pretty great mothers there as well. Socializing is very important to me.

It’s conceivable that I could arrange regular playdates with kids in the neighborhood. After all, that’s what my mom did with us. But I face another roadblock.

While there are other stay-at-home mothers living in Brooklyn, we are a small minority. Out of all the mothers I hang out with, only one has parenting listed as her full time job.

Living in a city has its advantages. I love Brooklyn and I adore the mothers I have come to know over the years. But I’m a minority here. That’s all there is to it. If I were to start a regular playdate, I can tell you exactly how that would look: it would be Emory, myself, and a couple of Tibetan nannies toting around someone else’s kid. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I do not sit in judgement of this, I’m merely telling you how it is here.)

There are weekly readings offered at our local library, which I have been to a few times. They are great for him. He listens and interacts with the other children (for a scant 45 minutes, but still). Me? I leave feeling even lonelier because almost every other adult there happens to be a nanny. (I’ve also been turned away because they only have room for 20 people.)

I’m not complaining. I usually only complain when I know how to go about fixing something but really don’t want to deal with it. This time, I want to figure it out. I’m willing to make it happen—I want Em and myself to find a regular group of kids and moms to socialize with. I just have no idea how to.

Taking Em out of school is fine. But taking him out of school also means no more regular social time and that’s not something I feel comfortable with. 

I’m in search of creative ideas and answers to this problem (and yes, I think it’s a growing problem). Getting Em around other kids is something I am very passionate about. I wish there were more communities and events in place for SAHs. Our culture seems to be built around both family members having to work outside of the home. I reckon this change took place sometime after the feminist movement—which is great, I am all for equality—but I can’t help to ask: what example were we trying to apply equality?  

Perhaps feminism needs to be redefined entirely to meet present day needs within the culture of now. In some ways, I think the future good health of our society depends on it.

My question to you all is this: when did the term “feminist” or “working woman” stop including “stay-at-home mother”? Staying home to raise children shouldn’t be seen as giving up and it shouldn’t mean kissing your other career goodbye. A person who chooses this route should not be made to feel like lesser of a feminist, working individual, or asset to society compared to someone who leaves the house and visits an office every day. 

I think that because of this transformation and way of thinking, there is a huge void for stay-at-home moms where community is concerned and because of that void, and the isolation that comes with it, choosing to stay home and raise our kids becomes the less appealing option. And that, my friends, is a crying shame.

But I’m not yet willing to give up that easy. Let’s get out of our living rooms and put on something other than sweatpants and start a SAH revolution. 

FOWAH POWAH!

One of Em’s first ever words was “flower” only it sounds more like “fowah”.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a book we’re reading, a TV show we’re watching, or an advertisement we pass by, he will find that damn flower, or anything that looks like a flower, and he’ll let you know about it.

“FOWAH! FOWAH! FOWAH! ”

On Tuesday, we took a trip to the overpriced grocery store that just opened around the corner from us. I have no idea how these guys are going to stay in business, their prices are astronomically high. But I am constantly amazed at what people are willing to pay here in Williamsburg (ourselves included). I think this is the only neighborhood in New York where rents haven’t yet dropped. We’re immune to lowering rents. 

So perhaps this overpriced grocery store will stay in business. 

All that said, we only ever go there if it’s really gross out or it’s not wise for Em to be outside for too long. And since Em has been sick this week with yet another wicked ear infection, I took him to the overpriced grocery store.

We weren’t two feet through the doors when I saw his eyes light up. 

“FOWAH FOWAH FOWAH! MAMA! FOWAH!”

The flowers were wilted and each one cost me almost as much as a gallon of milk at that grocery store, but I simply had to buy  this kid a couple of flowers. 

Emory gets excited about chocolate (which is known as “treat” at our house and is pronounced “teat” which makes me giggle), and he gets excited when he sees me walk into the room after a day spent at school, but I haven’t ever seen him this excited. He carried them around like they were treasures, new relationships, tokens of love.

Granted, all three flowers were destroyed by nightfall. They didn’t stand a chance against The Destroyer. He picked one apart petal by petal and I wondered who he might be thinking about. The other two were used to slap things, including Murray who mistook it for PLAYTIME!

Like I said, the flowers didn’t stand a chance. 

But it was kind of worth it.

File This Under: Inappropriate Children's Book Illustrations

Back in 2005 when the pope was dying, I wanted to capture the historical event on film. It was a rainy, chilly day, so I decided to rest on a pew inside Saint Patricks Cathedral for a bit. While there, I saw this peeking out from the top of a hymnal book.

Now, I saw a penis right away. But others felt I was grasping. Perhaps I was. I mean, what (relatively) straight gal doesn’t want to grasp at a penis every now and again? But I think it’s a no-brainer to suggest that the Catholic church make absolutely certain that all printed materials are free from the mere hint of a penis. Don’t they have a Penis Free committee for matters like this? If not, they should. I will head it up. (hehe)

But even so, I am now willing to retract my original belief that there was indeed a penis printed on that religious literature.

But this time? Well, if you suggest that it’s just me this time, then I suggest that you’re crazy.

What you see above is indeed an illustration taken directly from a children’s book my friend reads to her daughter. And we laughed long and hard (hehe) about it.

I am not sure what scenario would bother me more: that a man drew this for a children’s book and didn’t realize it was a penis; that a man drew this for a children’s book and realized it was a penis; or that a man drew this for a children’s book, did or did not realize it was a penis, and his editors let it slide (hehe).

Dear Rae Rae,

This response is very late and you’ve probably moved on by now. Truth be told, I am not sure you even visited after the way I initially responded. I can’t imagine why you would have. But I have to write this.

I think about you all the time, not necessarily you personally, because I haven’t ever met you. I don’t even know what you look like. The only role you had in my life was leaving a comment on my blog.

It read:

July 25th, 2007 at 02:21 PM

You only go through this a few times in your life. This time with your unborn baby and your husband are precious – don’t wish it away.

You were right.

I didn’t want to admit it then. Hell, I was about to meet my first child for the first time. I was sick of being pregnant. I wanted him out of me. I vowed to friends and family, “There’s no way I’ll sleep less when he’s born than I do now.”

(What a naive and silly person.)

But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about losing sleep or having to pee a lot. It’s not about any of that. This is about what you said and how often I think about it.

I guess I never realized how true your comment was until friends of mine started getting pregnant—close friends, acquaintances, internet friends—just friends. And I promised myself a long time ago I would not become that person, ready to give suggestions without being asked. And I’m not accusing you of that; I can’t begin to thank you enough for what you wrote. But I continue to bite my tongue even though sometimes it’s unbearable.

What I wanted to say to you then was this: OH MY GOD, WHO ARE YOU TO TELL ME TO ENJOY THIS! I HATE YOU!

That’s a little harsh. I know. It was true at the time, but that’s because you weren’t really a person to me. You were just someone taunting me, pointing out something I refused to see.

Perhaps my hatred was due to the fact that a part of me (the instinctual mother part every woman is born with) knew you were right. I don’t know. I never will. But I hated what you wrote. I spit at your words. I told my husband, “HOW CAN SOMEONE TELL ANOTHER PERSON TO ENJOY THIS!” And, well, come on! I was having trouble sleeping. I peed myself several times. I had trouble doing “other things”. I could not be intimate with my husband. I couldn’t eat because of the heartburn, my ankles swelled up to triple their size. I had high blood pressure. I was seeing white or black spots every time I stood up. I wanted that baby out of me! I felt awful.

I was mad at you.

Well, Rae Rae, I’m no longer angry. In fact, I want to thank you for having had such a huge impact on my life and in such a small way.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t like giving people advice unless they ask for it, specifically when it comes to motherhood. I had so many ideas when I was pregnant and then my son was born and I could barely keep up with any of them. I had delusions of how it would (and should) be. I made plans. And even though I knew that things were going to be hard, I never knew exactly how hard. How could I have known? (They offer classes about how to give birth and how to breastfeed these little people, but no one really helps you out with the remaining 50 years.)

Anyway, I did something out of character the other night in honor of you. I wrote this on a friend’s Facebook page:

You know, I said the same thing and meant it. And one day someone emailed me and said “enjoy this time!” and I wanted to punch them and I hated them. you know what’s funny? I think about it all the time now because they were so right!

So I am going to be that asshole now: enjoy this time. Sleep. Have morning sex. Cook. Take walks together. Go out! Go out! Go out! Have a romantic meal.

He will be here soon enough, so enjoy this time you have alone.

I have never left a truer comment.

But don’t hate me for it!

Have you ever experienced that moment right before a fresh snowfall where the world becomes eerily quiet, cars distance themselves from one another, the sky turns orange or burnt sienna, everything seems at peace in the world and we’re greeted with a smashingly fine silence?

Do you know that moment?

Or, how about that moment during a kickoff where opposing teams stand guarded on an untouched field. The crowd roars, the whistle is blown, feet stomp, the rising sound is spectacular. The ball is kicked! And as soon as it leaves the kicker’s foot, the moment the ball departs his toe, a silence blankets the crowd as if guided by a maestro.

How about that one? Do you know that moment?

I look forward to moments like those. They give me goosebumps fueled by anticipation. Those undeniable rests that punctuate great big, audacious sounds are pretty outstanding.

Rae Rae, you were right.

I should have known to enjoy that time more. I should not have wished it away. That time was just like the moments I described above. I just didn’t realize it until after the game was in session, the cake was cut, and the blanket of snow had already fallen.

Sincerely yours (a year or so late),

Michele

Beat Down And Falling Around.

I have no idea what’s wrong with Em and I hate that I’m about to post this, because I never wanted to talk about such personal things (about him) online, but I need help.

For a while now, he’s faced a great deal of frustration trying to poop. It can literally take him all day sometimes to get anything out and that’s after a great deal of straining and pain. And when it finally does come out, it’s rather hard. We called the doctor who told us to feed him lots of fruits and vegetables, which is just absurd because that’s all he really eats. (Unfortunately, this was left on a message as she was busy and I haven’t called back yet so I couldn’t then tell her no, that’s not the problem.)

A few nights ago, we woke up to hear Emory SCREAMING from his bedroom. He was making horrible sounds, like a woman in labor. He was trying to poop. He tried so hard, he threw up and it came out of his nose as well. (I am crying as I write this because he’s in school and I want so badly to hug him right now.)

Anyway, I decided that enough was enough, I did some online research. Several people suggested that babies who go through this type of situation often have milk allergies (which they eventually outgrow) and that it’s not often talked about by doctors. So, we decided to give him some soy milk instead of milk milk and see how that goes. We also added flax as well as prune juice into the mix. Things got better. They weren’t perfect, but they were better.

But then last night happened. I stupidly (I think it was the culprit?) gave him a homemade bread and cream cheese sandwich with chopped up dates. He ate it up fast—loved it. He drank some water and then some soy milk and went off to bed.

We woke up at 11 listening to him scream. He continued to go into contractions every 10 minutes until 4 AM or later. It was heartbreaking and there was nothing I could do for him.

I am not sure what’s going on with Emory. I need to fix it. I feel so badly for him. I am tired. I am making mistakes, fighting with my husband, flicking off construction workers, fighting with our passive aggressive previous landlord, discussing things with other mothers—mere strangers to me at his daycare—that I should never discuss. I feel as though I am bordering on that insane, hysterical mother—the one everyone whispers about when she leaves the room.

I have no idea how to control this, how to fix it, how to make him better, us better, me better.

I can’t help me. But maybe someone else can.

A Good Ache

We dropped Em off at school today for his first full day. I keep checking my phone to make sure they haven’t called letting me know he hasn’t stopped crying. I keep checking the clock to make sure I didn’t enter a time-warp and I’m actually hours late picking him up so they gave him to another parent.

I miss him. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but I miss him.

After I left, I had the best run I’ve had in months. I think it’s related to how I am feeling. I imagine I wanted to not let myself think about it. Sometimes the best way for me to do that is to beat myself up physically.

So I ran. I ran really, really long and hard.

Is this how people cope with losing a parent, child or spouse? I found this thought meander through my head as I walked home.

I felt immediately shameful and sought to apologize to anyone.

This isn’t the first time I have thought this.

When Toby and I were packing boxes to move from Russell Street to where we are now, Em stayed with my mother for two nights. We were midway through putting Emory’s toys into boxes, when I tearily looked at Toby and said, “Awwww, I miss him.”

“I know! Me too! But he’s not dead.” Toby said. “We’ll see him tomorrow.”

I know, that probably seems like a pretty harsh thing to say, and out loud. But it was precisely what I had been wondering about but unable to say. The taboo many prefer to ignore was suddenly filling our half empty apartment.

“How do people deal with losing a child? There’s no way I could do this.” I said referring to boxing up a bunch toys and clothing. “I cry just boxing up clothing that no longer fits him!”

“You know, I hope to never have the answer to that.” Toby said, sealing the hole again.

Sometimes I think I let my mind “go there” in order to mingle with an ache I hope to never know firsthand.

That particular ache is something undefined, impossible to know—wordless. That ache exists all around us but it’s rarely let out into the room.

I hope to never know that ache.

But the ache I’m feeling now is a good ache. I miss him, sure, but I know that he’s having a blast and I know I’ll get to scoop him up in just a few short hours. This is the good ache.

I am lucky to know this ache.

(This post turned out to be really depressing and I hadn’t meant for that. I’m actually in good spirits. I am truly sorry for bringing up quite possibly one of the ugliest thoughts imaginable. My apologies all around.)

Daycare Week!

I anticipated a rough week. And I could probably sum this post up in one sentence but that would be too easy. And this is a blog, blog posts are supposed to take up pages and pages of words before making one small point.

And so!

Emory had his first half day of school this week. They were to spend the half day in their classroom while we sat in a room down the hall, waiting there just in case there were any serious meltdowns. (You know, the ones that last longer than a specific amount of time and include a consistent and high level of desperation.)

Emory has been with me since the day he was born. I don’t have a babysitter, although, my mother watches him sometimes. I haven’t used a nanny, nor have I used a daycare. It’s been him and me from day one.

I anticipated a great deal of anxiety from him. I readied myself for a long few weeks of crying and screaming and carrying on. I readied myself for the worst.

There was one time that he was roughly 8 months of age, Toby Joe and I visited a gym where they have a daycare. For five bucks an hour, you can work out and drop your kid off while you work out

Ten minutes went by before a woman came to collect us. He had had a full-fledged meltdown.

And so I anticipated that sort of reaction from him. And I’m sure that by now you’ve already guessed the outcome.

It was WORSE THAN HORRIBLE.

ha! Just kidding!

It was perfect! Emory did amazingly well. He adjusted immediately. The only tears took place the very first day whenever I returned to the room. I think he was startled by all the parents, who crashed through the door unannounced and all at once. When he saw my face, he broke down. But the best part was how he walked up to me with both his arms open. I got the best hug ever. (Emory is not very affectionate, much to his parent’s dismay.)

Today went really well too. There was no crying at all this time around, even when I returned to collect him. He seemed to have a blast and his teachers said he’s doing exceptionally well with adjusting. I left bursting with joy and relief.

On Monday we can drop them off for the full day, or stick around if we want to. I anticipated having to transition him for a bit longer. But I’m thinking now that that’s probably not going to be the case. Which means my “free time” begins next week.

Keep in mind, that many of us “stay-at-homes” gave up full time careers the moment we had children. I discussed this today with another mother, who happens to be the main caregiver at their home. Our husbands went back to work right after our sons were born. They have had time to themselves (good or bad) and continued doing what they were doing before. The stay-at-home gives all of that up. We no longer have regular alone time. We all but forget what it’s like. In a sense, we lose a little bit of ourselves. At least temporarily.

When I realized that starting next week I will have a set number of hours to myself, I felt a little nauseous.

What am I going to do with this time?

I once compared motherhood to being on house arrest and I received criticism for it. (Granted, I also received a lot of comments and email from people agreeing with said sentiment). It’s obviously not entirely true and I don’t think that way all the time, but the alienation and the difficulty at which one can come and go is pretty on.

That comparison resurfaced again today.

I have heard that some people released from solitary confinement get into trouble the very day they are set free. (I think there is even a term for this.) They have been inside for so long, they no longer have any idea how to cope with the outside world, or who they were before that time. Whether it’s conscious or not, they simply freak out.

What will I do next week? I have been asking myself this repeatedly.

I will probably pace around outside, waiting to go pick him up so I can hug him, cuddle him, kiss his wonderful pink cheeks. I will think of all the things I can make him for dinner, buy him, bake for him. I will think about reading to him.

(My goodness, do I ever love this person.)

Truth be told, I don’t want to be “free” ever again. Imagining a world without my son is a world I want no part of. Yes, I am very excited that I will have a given number of hours all to myself every week, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also make me a little uneasy.

To Socialize Or Not To Socialize.

I’m going back and forth regarding our decision to send Emory to school three days a week. My emotions aren’t to be trusted, however. Because a lot of how I’m feeling can easily be attributed to my fear of letting him go. But I know that some of my thoughts at the root of the situation are legitimate.

How important is it to socialize children early on in their development? Because, when it comes right down to it, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. I know I complain from time to time about not having any “Me Time” but that’s because I’m an awesome complainer (you know, like most bloggers). When it comes right down to it, I love spending my days with him. I’m just not sure he should be spending every single day with me.

Em doesn’t get a whole lot of interaction with other children. Sure, I bring him to the playground and I take him on walks, but it’s getting increasingly colder here and the weather keeps us (and others) from venturing out much. I have brought him to a place called Mamalu’s here in Williamsburg, but now that it’s cold, it gets way too crowded and the bigger kids make him uneasy. He also always seems to get a new cold every time we go.

About a month ago, Toby and I started talking about ways to get Emory around other children—not only other children, but the same children. That’s how we ended up signing him up for school. (Well, that and I complain a lot about having no life—pathetic.)

But he’s not even two! He’s 17 months old. That seems so young! Is he ready? I know I am not, but is he?

I keep coming back to the fact that I was at home with my mother until I was five or six. I had my older brother around and we are very close in age, but he didn’t have anyone before I was born. And he’s relatively normal. (heh) My younger brother was even further away in age (six years), and so he spent early childhood alone. (I think. But only my mother could answer this definitively.)

We probably went to church groups growing up (CCD and the like), but not at aged two. And I know we went to camp but, again, not that early. I reckon my mother had other mothers over and perhaps they brought kids close to our age, but that’s not really an option much anymore (especially here) because most families around here do not stay home with their children and instead hire nannies. Many of the nannies around here are Tibetan. They know each other and tend to stick together.

What I’m trying to say is that I know of only one local mom who stays home with her daughter. That’s not to say there aren’t more, but that’s been my finding. Every other local mother I know works. So playdates are difficult.

Both Toby and I feel that socializing Emory is important, which is why we chose a school. But are we doing the right thing? Are we being over zealous? Are we possibly pushing him too early?

How important is it to socialize these little dudes at a young age? What are your thoughts on the matter?

The Truth About The MMR

Emory received his MMR immunization last Monday. We were told that any side effects associated with this vaccine would kick in after 7 to 10 days. We hit day seven and nothing happened and we thought, “Awesome! We’re in the clear!”

We were wrong.

Yesterday I noticed a few red spots on his face—just four—and lifted his shirt to check for more. Sure enough, there were a few more spots on his torso. At that point I took his temperature—a solid 100 degrees.

He was cranky all day, but it wasn’t any worse than whenever he cut his molars. We gave him some Tylenol and he was fine by morning. He’s back to his usual, insane, toddling self.

But we did notice something regarding the MMR and its apparent side-effects. They won’t tell you about this. So I am going to take the opportunity to do so. I hope you’re prepared. You may even want to sit down.

The MMR makes babies speak. It’s true! I watched it happen.

Prior to having been vaccinated, Em said a few words such as Mama, Dada, (a warped version of) Kitty Cat (that sounded like “Keecah”), Night Night (that sounded like this: “Nighnah”) and Hi. That’s pretty much it.

But since receiving the MMR words have been flying out. He’s like a little tape recorder! He now says Cracker, Blue, Blueberries, Mama (clear as day), Kitty Cat, Daddy, Hi, Elmo, Baby, Finished (not very well, however), Bubble and One, Two, Three.

I have deduced that the MMR vaccine makes babies speak. It may sound absurd, but then again, so does suggesting it causes autism.

Speaking of the MMR, there is a fantastic This American Life episode about a family who refused the MMR for their child. At age seven, he traveled overseas and brought the measles virus back home with him. The episode is about how he and his family brought an entire town to a screeching halt.

While all of that may sound really serious, it’s actually very funny. It’s well worth the listen.

(I know! Can you believe how much I’ve changed when it comes to immunizations? I am shocked by my transformation!)

Emory Is Starting School!

Emory is starting school in January. He’ll be there Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This comes as bittersweet news, naturally. On the one hand, I would love to get back designing and writing again. On the other, I’m really going to miss him. I think this will be good for him, though. My feelings aside, he likes to be around other kids and at this particular school, he’ll be with the same ten kids each day he’s there. Plus, they have music class, language class and art class. Which is awesome. I’m really excited for him.

I am worried about the food situation, however. Emory is not an eater. He is very picky. Generally speaking, if it’s not a fruit or a vegetable, good luck getting him to eat it. He will eat bread sometimes, as well as cheese (but not too often) and meat tends to freak him out (although, we’ve only tried chicken, fish and turkey). We’re working on the eating thing. He loves his milk. He lives for the milk. I haven’t ever seen a creature drink and desire so much milk! He’s picky so I got a little worried whenever I read over through manual.

They don’t allow nuts (makes sense), peanuts (of course), whole apples with any skin (Em likes the skin), grapes (unless they’re cut up in fours), string cheese (unless it’s diced up. Part of the reason Em eats string cheese is because he thinks it’s fun to pull apart), dried cranberries, or raisins.

We’ll make due with most of it. But raisins? Raisins? Emory loves raisins, like, they are the most awesome snack on planet earth. He lets out a joyous gasp whenever he sees the container.

He’s going to miss his raisins probably as much as I’m going to miss him.

As evident in the video above, we’re still trying to get settled into our new home. Naturally this is going to take some time, especially considering parts of it are still under construction, which has Murray in a tizzy. He just doesn’t like all the hammering on the 6th floor, the strange smells, the weird voices coming from the hallway.

We’ve had some growing pains with the move. Moving always comes with some setbacks, but deep down I know that things are going to be great. The cost of living here is almost double our previous rent and we had an overlap of rents. We’re entering the Christmas season. We owed the school its first installment. Murray had the whole vet fiasco last month. Things are hitting all at once, and this has put a huge dent in our savings. But I suppose that’s what a savings is for. There’s been some bickering. Transitions (for this family) don’t come without some fender benders. I owe my husband a massage and a night out with friends for sure.

I know he could use some rest.

So! If anyone out there knows of anyone who needs some design work done—production, layout, even dancing the Charleston—please let me know. I am all yours. I need to pull my weight somehow, especially now.

Edited to add: To those of you who emailed, called, and commented about how amazed you were at how delicate Em was with the can of raisins, this is how Em normally deals with his snacks. :]