Monday, May 11, 2015

Motherhood vs. selflesshood

Since yesterday was Mother's Day I saw a lot of memes and statuses talking about what a difficult job it is to be a mother, it is selfless, and no one appreciates you for the work you do. Except:

1. We get an ENTIRE day EVERY YEAR devoted to the fact that we are mothers, and then there are things like birthdays, holidays, and any other day of celebration filled with the opportunity for you to receive cards that say you are loved and appreciated.

2. Motherhood is only selfless if you do not expect anything for the work that you do. Otherwise you are essentially offering service for goods in the form of hugs, kisses, kind words, and presents.

Yes, motherhood is not easy, but it is difficult and shitty? Only if you allow yourself to think it is. Remember my post from yesterday. Not everyone has the opportunity to clean up projectile vomit and deal with a tired cranky baby. Be grateful, not angry that you were blessed with the opportunity to be a parent.

Yes, I hope that one day my children appreciate me and love me. But that is not a given right based on the fact that I birthed them and thus I do not expect it. It is something to be earned over time free of conditions. If that's what makes successful friendships and romantic relationships, it will make successful familial relationships too. Will I be saddened and probably devastated if my children grow up to hate me? Yes, of course, but that does not mean I'll ever stop trying to earn their love or blame them for it (unless they've stopped taking their medications of course).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My first Mother's Day

Recently a woman I know split up from her significant other. The gist of their break-up was that he realized she was not "the one." As we talked about how she was doing, her anger was understandable. I have been there before and I know the hurt I felt as someone I cared about told me it was not to be. The difference between my experience and hers, though, is that we did not have a child together. The longer we talked the more I implored her to think of her child and remember that her actions would have a direct consequence on the baby. But the thing that struck me the most was that while she expressed feelings of failure and frustration towards herself for not being able to provide a full family for her child, she also said that it would be better off if her child was never born. I won't go into all of the specifics of our conversation, but suffice it to say she was serious and simultaneously felt bad for her child while also feeling that its presence would make her life difficult in certain ways.

The therapist in me recognized the difficult situation she was now in and the hurt she was feeling. The mother in me was shocked and angry with her for saying something so flippant. I wanted to say "you don't mean that" but before I had a chance to she expressed the frustration she felt towards others who tried to tell her that her child was the best thing to come out of the relationship and that she should focus on the positive and be grateful but she felt that it was "not true. I meant what I said." At that point I honestly wanted to tell her to get out of my house. I kept my mouth shut as part of me still felt like she didn't mean it and I didn't want to add to the drama or my own hurt at having heard that.

Over the past few of years I have been exposed to the world of child loss and the grief that parents feel when a child is lost in someway. I know people who have had a child pass away. I know parents that have struggled to conceive a child for years. And then there are parents who choose to terminate a pregnancy, mothers who choose adoption (and either lose their biological child or have their chance at a child taken away after investing their hearts in one), and parents who for a number of reasons have children who are alive but are not in their lives. When you are not able to experience the life and growth of your child for any reason, it is one of the most painful things a parent can go through. There is no end to the pain. And while every parent may not feel that pain on the same level of intensity, to say such harsh things, as the woman I know did, may have farther reaching consequences that beyond their own self.

Little Guy was not our first rodeo. The pain I felt at anniversaries of loss was something I had to suffer in relative silence. I have had some support through the years, but it is still difficult. Difficult to think about a child that could have been. Difficult to hear people say "well when you are a mother you will understand." Difficult to hear "I wish it was never born." And difficult as I prayed all throughout my pregnancy with Little Guy that nothing would happen again.

This morning, as I looked down at a smiley, healthy baby I thought about my own loss and the loss other mother's I know have suffered. I hugged him, kissed him, and told him I loved him. He was worth the wait and I am incredibly grateful for the chance to be his mother. Because of the loss I suffered I will never wish he had never been born. I will do my best to appreciate every moment with him (both good and bad) because every moment is short, one day I will not be able to easily fix his distress (or he may not want me to), and not all women get the chance to love their children in the flesh.

So moms everywhere, know that you are loved, appreciated, and supported today and everyday.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A list of comparisons

It has finally felt like spring in New York after a long winter that actually felt like winter. For four years I have been saying how much I missed the months of September through January in New York. The Bay Area does not get a proper fall or a winter. There is no turning of leaves and no snowfall. So I was thrilled to have my first months at home be during the time I usually felt most homesick. And I made it through most of the two seasons being happy about the weather too...Until the end of winter when I got sick of the hazard of being pregnant. Our landlord is not the best (this is an understatement) and without proper drainage on our gutters our walkway and driveway was often buried in 2-3 inches of ice. Hubby had to pick away at it with the back of a hammer multiple times a day just so I could walk to and from the car. On days he did not do this I was a prisoner in our apartment due to a realistic fear of falling. I couldn't leave wearing anything but heavy snow boots (even after the snow was gone) until our roof fully melted and dried up. It was the first time in my life I actually wanted winter to be over and I dreaded snow.

Now that it is finally Spring, though, and Little Guy has been born I am back to my cute shoe collection and am safe to romp freely. I told Hubby that this Spring would be one of his favorites he'd ever have a chance to experience as winter makes you truly appreciate the warmer weather and beauty of blossoming flowers. I think it is safe to say we both feel this way. But as is usually the case is Southern New York, spring lasted two weeks and now, in the first week of May, we have 80+ degree weather and insane humidity. Summer is here (ugh). That is the only thing that can make me long for California. The dry air, comfortable summer temperatures, and good hair days.

Of course thinking of that got me to thinking some more. As always this resulted in a list...or actually two lists.

Things I missed about New York when I lived in California:

1. Pizza and bagels - I think this is self explanatory. I've spent most of my life in the NYC metro area but the times when I have lived or traveled outside of it (even as little as 2 hours away) have left me more than a little disappointed with the local offerings. I really do think it has something to do with the water.
2. The Fall - Nothing is like Fall in the North East. Even places that have a fall season with changing colors and pumpkin festivals, etc. have nothing on the home of Sleep Hollow, Salem, and everything else that comes along with the area. Apple picking, cider donuts, not to mention the weather. This was the time I was most homesick, and for good reason.
3. Real winter and the Christmas season - My first December in California, Christmas felt so lack luster by the time is happened. I always went home for it, but when it is 60 degrees out every day, it doesn't feel like Christmastime. The same is said for a winter without snow. Even adults get snow days in the North East. For a surprise day off to sit next to my window watching snow fall with hot cocoa snuggled up to Hubby, I'll shovel the drive way and deal with frosty winds any day.
4. New York City - It's the number one city in the world. I don't need to spend time telling you why, and there were many NYC exclusive things I missed (all the Christmas offerings, certain restaurants and stores, the museums, etc.). But I think what does need to be said is the extra stuff you only get about this area if you are local. The open and honest attitudes of the people (I missed how straightforward everyone was), how people dress (I hated getting comments about my sense of style and how over polished or even how over stylish I was), and the general atmosphere of the city. Things don't close at 6pm. People drive fast. You can walk (fast) anywhere you want to go (and get easy transportation if you don't). It is dirty and gritty. You need to be tough but it makes you feel alive.
5. All the people I love here - Also self explanatory. It is hard to not be able to talk to friends and family because of a three hour time difference. It's also hard not to see them and miss out on Thanksgivings, birthdays, etc.
6. The terrain - TREES. My god I missed trees. Yes there are trees in California, but the South Bay does not have the same kind of big leafed thick greenery that we do here. To get to places I felt at home I'd have to drive. Greenery in general was not common once the winter rains were over (and we know all about the drought, so you can imagine how rare green grass is too). I'm also including in here the architecture of homes as well. This area has so many beautiful European influences and homes are gorgeous. California has short boxy things to withstand earthquakes with some random Victorians thrown in here and there. Hubby and I have spent hours just driving around here looking at trees, homes, and everything in between repeatedly saying "wow." I grew up here and I can still do that all day if I could. California never gave me that kind of a rush when driving around neighborhoods.

Things I miss about California now that I am back in New York:

1. Napa - I became a serious wino while living in California. Hubby and I also got married in wine country. It holds a special place in my heart and stomach/palate. There are wineries in NY, but the legitimate wine areas are much farther away that Napa was to us and not as good in terms of number of quality places, size, number of quality restaurants, etc....although it is cheaper so there's always that...
2. Comfortable summers - 90+ degree weather with 100% humidity describes July and August. Even when it is 80 degrees it is God awful. My cousin, who lives in the Miami area, i.e. a place with a tropical climate, said our summers are worse. Need I say more?
3. Having easily accessible chains I like - Specifically Drybar (which was within 10 minutes from us, now I must drive over an hour to get to my affordable hair obsession), Sift (an amazing local Cupcake chain), and Cream (THE BEST ice cream sandwich shop of all time. I continue to get weekly cravings for this place. Please, if you are reading this, expand over here too! )
4. Year round soccer - The one plus to lack of winters. I could play soccer all year round and never go two weeks without playing a game. There were also plenty of women's leagues to join as well (while NYC may have a bunch of options, in the burbs, pickins is slim). I've played since I was 5, but being able to play 1-4 games a week really improved me as a player. Plus I was in great shape!
5. Camp Okizu - Okizu is camp for children and their families affected by pediatric cancer that we became involved in. It was a life changing experience and we plan to be involved for years to come because of the positive atmosphere and amazing people we met/meet. But with a newborn making a trip out there right now is not easy. And even when things settle we cannot make the number of trips per year we'd like to be able to. Now that camp season is in full swing our fellow counselors have been posting status updates and pictures about their times there. I am so jealous. I miss those people as much as I miss the campers.
6. Cali friends - Similar to missing people from NY. A three hour time zone difference and busy lives as students, mommies, etc. make it hard to keep in touch. Thank God for texting and Facebook.

So even though these lists are even in number of items, there is a winner here. I will always cherish my time in Cali for the reasons listed above (not to mention I was able to make significant headway on my nearly life long career dream and I met the love of my life there), but I love New York. There's just no other way around it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I'm worried

Growing up one of the most fun, yet simultaneously annoying things, about any event was getting your picture taken. This simple routine ensured that you'd have evidence that the event happened. You existed. And, for a brief moment, looked as you did. Sometimes I love to get my picture taken. Other times I hate it. Either way, being able to look through my photo album and reminisce about memories, people, and a specific time in my life is something I really enjoy. But I'm really worried. Now that we have phones and everything is stored on our computers, what if something happens to those files and my kids do not get to witness their childhood from a distance? As I watch Little Guy grow so rapidly, this fear becomes more and more poignant. The same thing can be said for video. My younger brother routinely has weekend home video marathons. He starts with the earliest tape from before I was born and watches through to the most recent one. He loves to see us a toddlers and laugh at the dumb things we said and did as kids. Now all of life is condensed into 30 second clips for Facebook as seen through a sepia filter. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to get curious, be able to pick up a photo album, flip through it, and watch their history progress. I loved nothing more than seeing picture after picture of my parents as children. "I make the same face as Daddy!" "Wow, I really look a lot like Mommy does there." Hard copies of pictures give all generations something so important. Hubby and I plan to routinely go through our computers and print things out for our kids. I just hope that drug stores keep allowing us to do that... Every time I see your face It reminds me of the places we used to go But all I've got is a photograph And I realize you're not coming back anymore Photograph - Ringo Starr

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Good touch vs. bad touch

I think 90% of the people who know me view me as an extrovert. I am friendly, personable, talkative, and wear my heart on my sleeve. But people who truly know me and understand me also know that I am secretly an introvert and can only be extroverted when I've had a chance to retreat into myself to take time to rest and replentish the energy it takes for me to go out amongst the people.

Because of that need for personal time I also often need personal space. My body will close up into a ball, almost as it was hibernating or entering into a cocoon, and I am filled with the desire to be quiet mentally and physically. In college this got me the reputation of "not being that into hugs" as one of my suitemates put it. Even though she got it wrong (I LOVE hugs---good bear hugs are the best), something inside of her sensed that, at times, I did not want to be approached in this way and she respected my need for space and thus the silent personal boundary I set up.

As a child (3 or 4 years old) I remember several times when this need was not respected and the frustration I felt because of it. One time in specific I was with several female family members and when approached for a hug I was very adamant that "no, I do not want a hug right now." I was told that I was being rude/mean and that I should accept the hug or risk hurting my family member's feelings because "she just wants to show you she loves you." After much arguing and a near hissy fit on my part I was forced to give in, reluctantly accepted the hug. Afterwards I felt frustrated and hurt that my need to not be touched was not respected. I wanted to cry, but after the earlier lecture I received I kept the feelings hidden and was silent the rest of the afternoon. No one noticed and the rest of the world kept turning.

I bring this up now because recently I have seen another blog post being circulated around Facebook about the importance of not keeping secrets in families and how this relates to sexual abuse. This kind of touch is universally accepted as being bad and so is any other kind of unwanted sexual touch (i.e. even towards adults). We, especially women, are taught from a very early age that if anyone touches you "down there" that it is not ok and you are allowed to say no. Yet somewhere it is often lost that there are other kinds of touch that are also unwanted, but because of manners and social niceties you are not allowed to reject them. The sloppy kiss from your hairy, lipstick stained great aunt. The pinch of your cheeks from your grandmother. The hug from your younger cousin. This list is exhaustive, but no matter your age, even if you do not want to, someone stands over you and says "do it, don't be fresh." Even though this is another form of unwanted touch, your personal boundaries and desires are not respected. People have a hard time recognizing that negative experiences are in the form of the person receiving the touch, comments, etc. and not the person dishing them out. I think this lends to itself to a very confusing message that children receive and given the fact that most sexual abuse occurs at the hand of someone the abusee knows, it is no surprise that it can be so easy to manipulate the victim into keeping silent and feeling confused and ashamed (I think it is also the reason why people have a hard time recognizing and stopping verbal abuse---but that is a different post).

Now don't get me wrong, I do not by any means want to equate not wanting to get a hug from a well meaning relative to sexual abuse. I am just trying to draw a parallel between all kinds of unwanted touch and the need to teach our children it is ok to have boundaries, demand respect for them, and that as adults we should not have a problem with a child saying no to us for this reason. Allowing our children to say no will not turn them into spoiled brats (good parenting ensures this). What it will do is show them that they are respected both inside and out.
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