Anyone else have days like this?
I was almost finished making dinner when my husband returned home from a long day at work. He spotted our younger daughter, C, playing and cooing in her walker, picked her up and took her into the living room. A short time later the two of them returned to the kitchen and we all ate together. Then, Mr. Mustard went back to the living room alone. By that time, C was getting tired and a bit clingy. I knew she wouldn’t allow me to put her down while I cleaned up the dishes, so I brought her to her dad and sat her next to him on the couch.
“No thank you,” he said. “I already held her while you were cooking.” Now friends, I don’t get much sleep lately and it’s sometimes hard for me to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable things for a man to say to his wife. I was annoyed, but I picked C up and took her back to the kitchen with me. I realized Mr. Mustard had worked hard all day, but so had I, and it certainly would have been nice if he could have helped me. In hindsight, I see that the problem lies in my ever wanting/hoping for/requesting help from him in the first place. Real men don’t help with their children.
You see, help is something voluntary, which should always be appreciated. The term implies that the helper is doing the helpee a favor, and etiquette would dictate that some form of compensation or reciprocity is in order. To help is to give of one’s own time and energy in order to lighten someone else’s load. Helping is noble. Helping is admirable. Helping is going above and beyond the call of duty and bearing someone else’s burdens. If my teenage niece comes over and plays with my children while I run to the grocery store, she is helping. If my husband entertains our daughters long enough for me to clean the kitchen or take a shower, he is not. He is parenting. He is carrying his own weight, fulfilling his own obligations, and *gasp* raising his own children.
By labeling interactions with their own children as ‘helpful,’ society has made fathers impervious to the guilt and judgement that plague mothers. Men can either decline to help, turning their wives into nags or martyrs (after all, help is not something one can force another person into), or they can comply with our requests and feel entitled to gratitude and accolades in return. It may sound like a win-win situation for men, but make no mistake–it is costing them dearly. The semantics is demeaning to men; it diminishes their role in the lives of their children, implying they are neither essential nor capable of anything more than holding down the fort while their wives indulge in the occasional well-deserved break. This mindset is harmful to both parents, and particularly detrimental to children.
While a mother’s need for help is transient, a child’s need for love and attention from her father is enduring. Dads who see themselves as second-string parents often feel justified in ‘checking out’ when their wives have life under control. Whether they excel or miss the mark in their role as parenting assistants, these men are missing out on the opportunity to act as hands-on fathers. They relish a certain freedom from monotony and responsibility, while withholding their contribution to those simple and priceless memories that solidify the bond between parent and child. In time, these dads begin to question why the children are closer to their mothers, and they withdrawal further as a result of feeling excluded from the family dynamic.
How can we, as families and as a society, bring an end to this vicious cycle and restore a healthy level of accountability and respect to the role of fatherhood? We can start by eradicating the word ‘help’ from a dad’s job description. Let’s not fuss and swoon when we see a man at the local park playing with his children. Let’s not act as if he deserves a medal because our husbands “never help us out with the kids.” Let’s not ask our fellow mothers, when we see them out alone, if their husbands are babysitting. My daughters’ birth certificates (too politically correct now to use gender-specific terms) list my husband as a co-parent. Not an assistant parent, not a backup parent, not an intermittent childcare provider–a co-parent. So the next time I’m tempted to ask for his help with the girls, I will choose not to insult him and shortchange them. I will simply remind him, instead, that his children need him.
There was a time, not long ago, when I thought staying at home with children would be easy. I was a newlywed, and although I was working full time, I also felt primarily (even solely) responsible for making our first apartment feel like home. This involved dinners cooked from scratch daily, as well as the complete roster of household cleaning duties. In hindsight, I was suffering from a severe case of June Cleaver Syndrome, and while my husband certainly didn’t expect this level of achievement from me, he also wasn’t about to speak up and demand to wash the dishes himself. I knew the standards I’d set for myself were incompatible with working outside the home, but I kept plugging away, knowing my end goal was to care for my family full time time. I used to daydream about how much easier things would be when I could start cooking earlier in the day, freeing up more time to enjoy with my husband and our (then hypothetical) little cherubs in the evenings. I would be able to keep up with the laundry through the week, rather than being faced with a mountain of it every Saturday morning. Yes, life would be easy, and I would excel at it. We would live in a spotless home, eat healthy, homemade dinners every night and raise little, exceptionally well-behaved geniuses with permanent smiles plastered across their impeccably clean faces. I would even tend a garden and write a book in my spare time.
My reality check arrived two years later, in the form of a tiny pink bundle we’ll call E. She was perfect–she was everything I’d ever hoped for. My new job description, on the other hand, fell somewhat short of my lofty expectations. All of the sudden, instead of working under close supervision and producing results that could be quantified, I was working in relative isolation, accomplishing tasks that would need to be done all over again within a few hours. I missed the validation that came from hearing I’d exceeded expectations on my latest project. Also, my house was not spotless. While she only knew how to make one type of mess, E commanded a great deal of my attention. Some days she was fussy and would cling to me, refusing to be put down anywhere. Other days she was happy and so adorable with her giggles and squeals, I couldn’t tear myself way from her. In good times and bad, she had a way of making the time pass more quickly than I ever imagined it could.
Was it hard to keep her clean, fed, rested and entertained? Not really. Was it hard to complete the basic chores required keep our household running? Sometimes. Was it hard to keep my morale up when performing the same mundane tasks on an infinite loop, with minimal adult interaction? YES. I didn’t have any mom-friends, and my old childless friends couldn’t really relate to my new lifestyle. They couldn’t imagine how staying at home with my baby could really be all that hard. Neither could I…and yet it was. I missed the moments of solitude I had once enjoyed while driving to and from the office. I missed the feeling of solidarity that came from commiserating with coworkers over a hot lunch I hadn’t had to prepare. Giving up those things was a small price to pay for seeing my daughter grow and change before my very eyes. I didn’t miss a single one of her milestones. Our time at home together was sometimes sweet, sometimes hilarious and sometimes frustrating. Overall it was priceless, but I wouldn’t say it was easy…at least, not in comparison to my life before she arrived.
These days, E, Mr. Mustard and I share our lives with a delightful little micro-person I’ll refer to as C. When I tell you that C is happy to be here with us, I mean that she is positively ecstatic just to be alive every day. The unfettered joy that illuminates her tiny face is eclipsed only by the happiness she brings to each of our hearts. Is it hard to care for C? Not at all. She’s as ‘easy’ as E was, and this time I have some idea of what to expect from her as she grows. Meanwhile E is in the final stages of graduating from a baby into little girl. She uses her potty, communicates beautifully, and seeks to help me with her baby sister at every opportunity. I could never have asked for a more amazing child. Is it hard to keep up with E? YES! It ‘s not only hard–at times it’s impossible. She is two years old, after all, and she has more energy than anyone I’ve ever known. It would be a challenge to care for her alone, but throw in C also, and I am in way over my head.
By now, I’ve come to accept that I won’t be truly alone with my thoughts again for many years. I’ve found solace in a community of other moms who face the same challenges and get to experience the same joys I do. So life at home has gotten easier from a mental/emotional standpoint, but much harder from a strategic one. Now I struggle with knowing how to respond to synchronized crying. As I wander the house with a baby on my boob and a toddler clinging to my leg, I wonder if I’ll ever make it out the door again. And if I do, which child should I load into the car/grocery cart first? I also wonder what color my living room carpet is, as I get my daily workout in by carefully stepping around the all sharpest/most breakable toys in the pile. I ask myself, is it really this hard, or am I doing something wrong?
I finally did make it out the door last week, to visit the post office and take C in for check up and vaccinations. The post office is a particularly frustrating errand to run, because there are no carts, and the distance from the parking lot to the counter doesn’t warrant the use of a stroller. I had to unload both kids and carry/herd them a distance of about fifteen feet to the entrance of the building, try to pick up my package in less time than it took E to pick up and throw a stack of empty boxes, and then get everyone back out to the car and strapped in. I was exhausted by the time we got to the pediatrician’s office. C was found to be healthy and right on track with her development. As the nurses prepared to administer her shots, E announced that she had to use the potty. I asked her to wait just a moment, and as the sound of C’s heartbreaking cry filled the exam room, I glanced over and noticed E had stripped down to her skivvies.
The whole appointment was a disaster, from my perspective, and I thought we’d never make it back out to the car. I love my car. It’s the one place where I can strap my children into restraints and take my eyes off of them for a moment. To do so is not only considered a wise parenting decision–it’s actually required by law! My girls seem to enjoy it too–C always goes right to sleep while E sings along with the radio. Sometimes, averting our eyes from our own struggles even for a fifteen minute drive is enough to provide us with fresh perspective. On this particular trip home, I found myself near tears at the thought of how hard life can really be. As frustrating as my day had been, I understood the difference between difficulty and hardship. Difficulty was wrangling a mini-streaker in the halls of a pediatrician’s office while comforting a baby who’d just received two shots in her little legs. Hardship would have been hearing that something was wrong with my baby and having to schedule further testing. Difficulty was the two hours of effort required just to leave our house that morning, but hardship would have been having no shelter for my family to begin with. Is it really that hard to lead an ordinary life as the mother of two small, healthy children? No. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by a long shot, but in the grand scheme of things I realize I’ve got it easy. The mishaps and setbacks that bring me close to my breaking point now will all seem funny when I look back on them later, and that isn’t the case for everyone.
Is raising children for a living really as hard as stay-at-home parents make it out to be? It’s actually harder, and more rewarding than words could ever describe. It’s a delicate balance of profound gratitude and prolonged exasperation. It’s a daily struggle to maintain perspective and to impart life’s most fundamental lessons to the impressionable young minds in our care. There is never enough time to do it all, and there’s no way to avoid making mistakes. But if there ever was a calling in life so noble as to warrant the sacrifice of one’s career, sanity, and personal hygiene, it would be parenthood.
Happy Friday! Or if you’re in my line of work, Happy 879th Consecutive Tuesday!
The bad news is that my washing machine is broken. There is smoke rising out of it, and I’m wondering whether a washing machine can actually catch on fire? After all there are buckets of water already inside…Anyway, you know I can’t post about this on Facebook because certain people who struggle with reading comprehension would interpret it as an invitation to dinner (see my prior post about asking for help).
The good news is twofold. First of all, a broken washing machine is what’s known in my house as a ‘man problem.’ So unlike the 726 other things that need done around here, I get to leave the issue of fixing it entirely in my husband’s capable hands.
More importantly, it looks like I will be making a trip to the laundromat, an establishment which has been counted among my top five favorite destinations to visit since childhood. And that’s not sarcasm.
There is nothing to do at the laundromat but think, people-watch, and write while waiting for the next load to wash and dry. I can see why most people would hate it, but for me, it’s like a forced vacation from the supremely important (yet endlessly monotonous) work I do at home. A quiet, fresh-smelling oasis wherein I can explore my thoughts and record them without feeling the shackles of guilt tighten and pull me towards the next chore that urgently requires my attention.
Of course, I’ve never been to the laundromat with a two-year-old and an infant. I’ll probably end up seeing the place in a whole new light if they accompany me. I just need to come up with a way to frame childcare while I go to the laundromat as a ‘man problem.’ Wish me luck with that!
From the moment that second pink line appears, onward into eternity, we mothers are surrounded by parenting experts. They have answers on everything from sleep training to feeding schedules, and while the sudden influx of information can be overwhelming, I’m pretty sure my personal panel of advisors forgot to mention these five facts about newborns:
- Their eyes cross. Newborns lack the muscle control required to focus their eyes for any significant length of time, so you’ll see a lot of crossing early on. For each of my girls, this lasted about six weeks.
- Their tongues turn white. Sometimes it’s a sign of thrush, but more often it’s mill buildup due to baby’s lack of saliva. It’ll only last a few weeks before it’s washed away by an endless flood of baby slobber–woohoo!
- Cradle cap. This was a killer for us. It starts off as just a flake or two in baby’s hair, which doesn’t seem that unusual since you’re already dealing with some acne on her face and some peeling of her wrists and ankles. But as those other skin issues fade away of their own accord, cradle cap is likely to spread over your baby’s scalp and stay there for months on end.
- Their hands can get stinky. I had always enjoyed the clean, sweet scent of other newborns in my life, but it wasn’t until I had my own that I discovered some other, far less decadent aromas. Of course they poop, and even their breath can get questionable at times, but the biggest surprise for me was the odor their hands took on. It makes sense, when you consider the way they’re scrunched in little fists all the time and often slobbered on without being properly dried. Add a pair of mittens covering them up for half the day, and those sweet little hands can get to smelling pretty sour. No one told me I’d be constantly washing hands that don’t really touch anything.
- They shake. This was probably the scariest one for me, because I worried something was terribly wrong with my child. It turns out it’s common for newborns to tremble–not just when they’re cold but at random times. They also flail their hands around when they’re crying. I have no idea why. I only know that it’s very common and it eventually stops on its own.
And of course no one tells you just how much love your heart can hold. They try, but no one can ever prepare you for the exhilaration you’ll feel at the sight of that first smile, the sound of that first giggle. No words can convey the peace and contentment that comes from feeling that soft, warm baby skin snuggled against your cheek. For all its challenges, new motherhood is a profoundly beautiful experience.
It started out as an ordinary evening, with me rushing around trying to cross the last few items off my holiday to-do list, and my two young daughters just along for the ride. We ended up hurrying in to the mall to pick up a gift, and my two-year-old couldn’t bear the thought of turning around and rushing back out again. This wasn’t the first time she’d ever seen the twinkling lights of the Christmas trees and the carrousel illuminating the night sky, but it was the first time she’d been old enough to really notice and appreciate them.
She wanted to ride the train that was circling the lower level of the shopping center, running without any tracks. She wanted to climb aboard the carrousel and pick out her favorite horse. She wanted to run from one store window to the next and peer in at all the toys on display. She wanted to extend a friendly greeting to every man, woman and child who crossed our path. But of course I didn’t have time for any of that. After all, we had an appointment at the portrait studio across town.
So in spite of her protests I dragged her away from the glittering majesty that was our local shopping mall and drove us full speed ahead to our next destination. Once there, I hurried her and her newborn sister out of the car and into the dressing room, into their fancy new dresses, and into the ideal poses suggested by our photographer. I pleaded with them to smile, and of course they did not, because they’re babies. It was only later that evening, as I reflected on their expressions of bewilderment and annoyance, that the guilt came upon me like a ton of bricks filling my chest.
All at once I realized I’d been treating my children as mere playthings—china dolls to dress up, show off and carry with me on all my errands. For two years my older daughter hadn’t minded this, but she was now developing her own opinions and taking a unique interest in the world around her. Why did I need these pictures, anyway, and why did I need my children to look happy in them? Was it so that I could look back years later and remember the magic of this holiday season? And if so, why had I, in my quest for the perfect portrait, actually deflated my daughter’s Christmas spirit by depriving her of the wonder she’d perceived in the simplest aspects of the occasion? Wasn’t it my own childhood memories of train rides and window shopping that lent this holiday the splendor and enchantment it still holds for me today? Shame on me.
As I kicked myself, a guilty mother’s version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol played on the reels of my tired and flustered mind. I imagined myself as the too-busy, thoughtless mother (i.e. Ebenezer Scrooge) who awoke one morning to find myself an accomplished, world renowned writer. My daughters were grown and one of them was no longer speaking to me. The other daughter was still in touch, but I did not feel as if I knew her. I certainly couldn’t reach out and scoop her up, smooth her hair, and treat her to a ride on the carrousel as I once could have. Where had the time gone, and who was this woman standing where my little girl had once stood?
An afternoon on the town square with this young woman revealed she had children, but no time to spend with them. She’d misplaced her priorities just as I had, and was perpetuating a cycle of simply missing the point. She treated the children as mere extensions of herself, teaching them to put on airs in public and to always smile regardless of how they were truly feeling. They were remarkably well mannered when addressed, but could not be bothered to notice the man on the corner ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, or the homeless woman pushing a shopping cart down the sidewalk. If anything, they saw the strangers around them as a captive audience of sorts—a faceless mass who existed solely for the purposes of witnessing their perfectly coiffed charades. My grown daughter confided in me that her sister had chosen not to have children at all. It wasn’t a matter of having found fulfillment in another calling, but rather a belief that children were a burden she would come to resent.
To imagine that either of my daughters had ever felt that way was simultaneously excruciating and enlightening. While I’d never felt burdened by my role as their mother, I had often made my girls feel like barriers to progress. Like Scrooge in the classic novella, my heavy heart desperately longed for another chance. I wished I could wake up in time for Christmas, in time to relive that day at the mall, but of course I did not. That beautiful moment—my little girl’s wide eyes shimmering in the light reflected off of those giant Christmas trees—had passed and was gone forever. I had run it over with my freight train of selfishness disguised as productivity. I had messed up, and there was no taking it back.
Mercifully, though, as parents of very young children, we are all granted a clean slate at the start of each new day. We inevitably fail, and we’re inevitably be forgiven—invited with tiny open arms and huge hopeful hearts to try, try again. In a way our children are far more patient with us than we are with them. I awoke the following morning to find myself still delightfully entrenched in the exhausting, glorious days of early motherhood. My oldest is still two years old, with a world of surprises in store for her this Christmas season. My youngest is still a newborn, and has yet to make her first lasting memory. Today is sweet, in all of its stressful splendor. It is a fleeting opportunity to focus my attention on what really matters, and I’ve resolved to do just that.
I can’t promise that I will never again rush my children through a busy shopping center or ask them to pose for a cheesy family portrait, but I can tell you I am going to do better in 2015. From here on out I will no longer be the first to break eye-contact with a smiling baby. I will make a point of greeting toddlers (and dogs) with the same boundless enthusiasm the offer me. And I will make special trips to the mall just so my daughter can tug my arm and lead me around, showing me how to live. Now and then, when she begs for one more ride on the train, I will indulge her, because the last day of her childhood will be upon us soon, without warning, and I know I’ll be wishing for one more day like this one.
There’s no question that becoming a mom for the first time is beautiful. I remember so many quiet mornings spent rocking my newborn, studying and memorizing every detail of her perfect face. Showering one tiny person with all my affection was wonderful–an experience I’m happy to have had–but I’m here to tell you, friends, five reasons why becoming a mom for the second time has been even better:
- I have more confidence and the benefit of strategic expertise. I don’t know everything when it comes to parenting, by any means. I have a lot to learn. But I can now change a diaper in the dark without getting poop all over myself, nurse discreetly while standing in line at the bank, and fold laundry with one hand while building a Lego tower with the other. This baby can hit me with her best shot, because she’s going to need a lot more than a month’s worth of life experience to get the best of me! Ironically, as my level of functioning has gone up, my expectations of myself have gone down. There was a time, not long ago, when I used to wake up every morning and tell myself I’d have the house spotless by dinnertime. I lived in a constant state of stress and saw myself as a failure. Now, I wake up every morning and tell myself I’ll still have two living children by dinnertime. So far I’ve been able to accomplish that every day, and if I also happen to pay a few bills and put the laundry away, I feel pretty impressed with myself.
- I have my older daughter here to keep me company and keep things interesting. Baby snuggles are one of the greatest gifts life has to offer, but sometimes a mom needs a little entertainment to go with them. My newborn sleeps for a good portion of the day, but with my toddler around, I don’t have the chance to get bored or lonely. She’s learning new skills every day, and the things she says keep me laughing in spite of myself. When I hear her thanking the cashier at the grocery store, I’m reminded that all my efforts are paying off–I’m raising some awesome kids here! But the best part is seeing my little girl interact with her baby sister. She’s so gentle, so attentive, so caring towards our new little one it just melts my heart. I couldn’t be more grateful that they have each other to grow up with.
- I have a network of mom friends. With my first, I was making the transition from the workforce to staying at home. As much as I loved spending all my time with my little girl, I missed adult interaction. I had nobody with whom to commiserate over day-to-day frustrations and celebrate small victories. As my baby grew, I took her out more and we got involved in activities like story time at the local library. We met other moms and babies, and over time I made connections that helped me feel more fulfilled at home. Forging those bonds was an awkward and stressful process, and I often felt like I was picking up women in a bar. (The process was completely foreign to me: does she like me? should I ask for her number? am I supposed to wait three days to call?) This time, I already had all those connections in place. I had friends to see me through the transition from one baby to two–there was no awkward period of isolation and uncertainty.
- My husband is more involved. I don’t mean to say that he’s more involved with our second baby than he was with our first. He is simply more hands-on with our family as a whole than he used to be. Part of this has to do with how much he’s grown as a dad. Part of it has to do with our older daughter beginning to verbally engage him, and part of it has to do with my inability to be all things to everyone all the time. He sees that I’m outnumbered now and he rises to the occasion. There’s always something to do, so if he doesn’t feel comfortable giving our newborn a bath, he can read to our toddler and help her brush her teeth.
- I’ve caught a glimpse of what lies ahead. I remember feeling sentimental as each day passed with my first baby, knowing I would never get that day back and wondering how I would ever love a rambunctious toddler as much as I loved my soft, cuddly infant. Now, I understand that a mother’s love for her children grows with them. Instead of dreading the passage of time, I’m grateful my baby has survived another day of being extremely fragile (no small feat in a house with an active two-year-old). Every day she gets a little stronger, a little more interactive, and we get to know each other a little better. One day I’ll take her to the zoo, one day I’ll show her fireworks for the first time. One day she’ll be able to respond to her sister’s questions and return her daddy’s hugs and kisses. I’m not wishing these newborn days away; I cherish every one of them. But now, understanding just how much I can love a rambunctious toddler, and knowing how fun the next stages in her life will be, I can hardly contain my excitement!
I only wish I would have known how joyful this experience as a mother of two would be. I spent much of my last pregnancy tormented by guilt, wondering if my daughter would ever forgive me for disrupting her life, wondering if my heart was big enough to hold two times the love. It is. So is yours. If you’re nervously expecting your second baby, grieving what feels like the end of an era with your first, please know, the best is still ahead.
Last night I laid you down to sleep
And didn’t hear another peep
You slept hour after hour
Long enough for me to shower!
Knowing better than to wait,
I seized the moment and I ate
You were still deep in your repose
While I got dressed (in normal clothes!)
I spent the morning in sweet bliss
Playing and snuggling with your sis
And when I finally heard your voice,
It made my refreshed heart rejoice
I ran to scoop you from your bed,
And kissed you on your soft, sweet head
There’s nothing else I’d rather do
Because, my baby, I’ve missed you!
In this age of mommy wars, when women seem to enjoy criticizing others’ parenting choices as a means to assuage their own insecurities, I would like to try taking a different route. Today, I’m giving a shout-out to all the moms out there who are boldly going where I, personally, haven’t gone before, and who are earning my sincere respect in the process.
- The Exclusive Pumper. Between blinding pain in the first month while baby is learning to latch, constant worries about having an adequate (but not over abundant) supply, and the fact no one can ever help with 3 am feedings, we nursing mothers have it rough. Formula feeding moms, meanwhile, have to deal with measuring and heating bottles at all hours of the day and night. And then, when baby is finally asleep, mom has to wash all those bottles. Keeping baby fed around the clock is exhausting by any method, but you, exclusive pumper, have it the hardest by far. You obsess over your supply while washing bottles, and you have to wake up at night even if someone else feeds the baby. You also carry around electronic equipment everywhere you go, and you schedule your day around pumping sessions, all to provide the best nutrition possible for your sweet baby. Sometimes she cries for you while you’re pumping, putting you in the awkward position of deciding whether to keep her waiting or stop just short of expressing the full amount you know she’ll need for the next feeding. But you persevere, taking on the worst of both worlds and providing your child with the very best.
- The Babywearer. Not everyone understands babywearing, and when you venture out of the house, you can never be certain what reactions you’ll encounter. It could be anything from the side-eye to frantic insistence on confirmation that your child can breathe. Someone may tell you it’s too cold, or too hot outside to be “doing that,” but you know the truth. Your baby is safest and most comfortable close to you–strategically shielded from the unwashed hands of nosy strangers in the grocery store. And speaking of the grocery store, you’re able to make full use of your cart while you’re there. Your baby’s car seat is neither precariously perched over the seat portion of your cart nor taking up prime real estate in the basket. It is securely installed in the car where it belongs, and your shopping is efficient. When you get home, you’ll be able to put all your groceries away the same day you bought them, and you may even finish the laundry. You’ve found a solution that works beautifully for you and your baby.
- The Working Mom. Not to say that moms who stay at home don’t work hard–we do. And sure, we miss out on things like adult conversation, warm lunches and private bathroom breaks, but that’s okay. Our toil is all for the purpose of making memories with our children, keeping our homes clean and cozy, and putting food on the table every night. So is yours. Yet somehow you manage to do all the same things we do in less time, with the added pressures of demanding bosses, annoying coworkers and difficult clients. Something has to give, and never having walked in your shoes, I’m not sure what that something is. All I know is that I admire you, and all you do for your family.
- The Single Mom. Or the wife of a husband who is not around. Whether he is deployed overseas, working long hours to make ends meet, or actually choosing to be elsewhere, you are on your own. Parenthood is hard, and lonely at times, but you roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done. Breaks, if there is any such thing for you, are few and far between, and there is no other adult in your home to even acknowledge what an awesome job you’re doing. Your only accolades come in the form of seeing your children succeed, and that is more than enough for you. One day they’ll look back in awe at how you rose to the occasion and wore many hats to be everything they needed.
- The Mom of Three or More Small Children. One is more than enough for some people, and it only takes two to wear me out, but small families must seem dreadfully boring in comparison to yours. Whether you planned the close spacing of your children or just embraced the surprises life threw your way, you have a lot on your plate. But it probably doesn’t even feel that way to you, because by now you’ve mastered the art of motherhood. You don’t have the time of day for strangers who ask intrusive questions or comment that you have your hands full. You’re too busy fostering lifelong bonds between your babies and catering to the unique needs of every child. You don’t bother doling out parenting advice to your friends, because you’ve seen enough differences between your own kids to know there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
- The Mom who Nurses in Public without a Cover (especially if she puts a nipple hat on her baby). You have chosen to prioritize your child’s need for nourishment and oxygen over your own modesty and the comfort level of strangers. Good for you! It doesn’t matter whether you forgot your nursing cover at home, your baby pulled it off, or you just hate wearing one–you are doing the right thing. Your act of courage, confidence and motherly love is moving our society one small step in the right direction. The sight of you gives me hope that breastfeeding will eventually return to favor and regain its rightful place as the norm in our society. And if I happen to notice a hat on your baby’s head that in any way resembles a breast and nipple, I will drop what I’m doing to stand and salute your mothering moxey.
- The Unapologetic Formula Feeder. Speaking of moxey, there is no reason a mom should ever want to hide while feeding her child a bottle of formula either. That’s right, I said it. The ‘Breast is Best’ campaign has now crossed the line in some advocates’ minds and led to a practice known as formula shaming. This practice is utterly preposterous and benefits no one. Breastfeeding may not have worked out for you, in spite of your best efforts. Or you may not have tried it at all. The reasons you’re feeding your baby formula are none of my damn business, and none of anyone else’s either. You know this, and you make no excuses. You are providing your child with the exact nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. Some people want to act as though you were feeding him garbage; intentionally poisoning your precious baby. You know that this insinuation is every bit as revolting and untrue as it would be to suggest that a breastfeeding mother is nursing for sexual gratification. But you would never dare suggest such a thing. You don’t want to attack the breastfeeding mother because you know how it feels to be attacked, and you wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So instead you take the high road, tuning out any ignorant comments you receive and continuing to provide your baby with exceptional care. I tip my hat to you.
- The Grandma who Truly Understands. This does not apply to every grandmother. In fact, far too many of them are either pushy and demanding. They insist their way is right, and that we, as young parents, have no idea what we’re doing. But as the grandma who truly understands, you have confidence in us. After all, you didn’t raise a dummy. You realize that many of the standards for safety and baby care have changed since you were in our shoes, so you either listen to us or take it upon yourself to stay informed on the latest product recalls and APA recommendations. You remember how it felt to be a new mother: tired, overwhelmed, and under way too much scrutiny from other moms. You provide emotional support, unconditional love, and advice when we ask for it. You’re patient with us when we try things that you know won’t work. You show us by example, rather than telling us, exactly what it means to be a great mother.