Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Her Bad Mother, My Bad Guilt

Blogger Her Bad Mother recently wrote a terrific bad mother manifesto of sorts. How we are all collectively caught up in trying to live up to the ideal of the perfect mother. The "Good Mother." Excellent. I encourage you to check it out.

This post really resonates with me. There are so many mothering things I feel I should be doing, so many ways I don't live up to my ideals.

I loved this post in particular because it hits at the mothering side of perfectionism. I have made great strides in rejecting the perfectionism I learned from my parents, but as a relatively new mother, I'm wading through the weeds yet again, longing for a happier, shinier shore. ha! There is no such perfect shore. I know that.

I have yet to use cloth diapers as I had hoped. Yes, I'm a wimp.
I hardly ever give her a full bath. I wipe her down every day.
Sometimes I get so frustrated, I yell. OMG, I'm scarring her for life. Ack!!!!
Sometimes I ignore the fussing and crying and go pee or eat some lunch. Before I fall over.

It hurts my heart to be less than the Good Mother. But really I'm just an ordinary mother.

Or the short version, from my comment there:
I'm an ordinary mom too. When things get rough, I keep repeating to myself: I'm doing the best I can. Which over all is pretty good, it's just swaddled in the guilt of not living up to the Good Mom ideal or my better self. It's a particularly sharp stick with which to whack myself with when things are going badly. My DH, though, tells me I'm a fantastic parent, and that thank god we have each other to hand her back and forth in the middle of those late-night screaming fests.

This post also reminds me that noone is served by my guilt about what I haven't done or managed to accomplish. I always want to do better by my daughter. I don't think that will change. What I want is to stop beating myself up with guilt and allow myself more compassion for myself, doing a reasonably good job (most of the time) in difficult circumstances of raising a young child.

When is this ever easy? Never.

Some days I hold my shit together, not always happily, not always well, but I make it work. Some days I don't have enough reserves and I just lose it and have to regroup. Some days I'm so good, I'm freakin Mary P0ppins over here.

This parenting thing is all on-the-job training; I learn from my mistakes, and I try to not beat myself up about it. And that seems to be the key. Why hit each other with that Good Mother guilt? Why hit ourselves? Enough of that, I say.

I saw some of my husband's colleagues recently, briefly. One woman rhapsodized over the baby, how beautiful and wonderful she was, all the amazing things you get to experience as a mother, a parent. Then her voice dropped a little and she asked how I was doing at home. I said I was doing okay. Oh, I cried every day... she said. I could have hugged her. I loved that she acknowledged that this parenting job is as freakin hard as all get out (I'm censoring myself), and even though her kids were teens, she still remembered how hard it was. How hard it can be. And I told her about the first weeks after my husband went back to work that I cried every day too.

I'm doing fine, really I am. I love being a mother. I'm just trying hard to not whack myself with that Good Mother stick on those days that I don't. Blessings to all mothers!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Grace in Small Things 24:365

1. Ear plugs for babies: bright hazard orange balls of silicon with just enough stickiness to stay put when mashed into place.

2. Lentil stew with kale, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, savory, bay leaf, oregano, and green curry paste.

3. La la la, la la la, Elmo's Song! "To think he wrote it himself!"

4. Baby giggles when one cleans under their chin.

5. Compact fluorescent light bulbs that last a looong time, use hardly any wattage and put out hardly any extra heat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Small Accomplishments Presents: Sushi & Shopping

Yet another installment of small accomplishments. I not only aspire to the things on my "to do" list, I celebrate that which I have actually done, no matter how small or mundane that might be.

1. Drove half an hour to meet a friend for lunch with little Wookie in tow. She's getting better in the car, but it takes planning and strategic timing. I make sure she's been well-fed and freshly-diapered. I have the paci* and other entertainments for her. I adjust the panda mirror that lets me keep track of her status in the backseat. I adjust her coverings so she's shaded but warm/cool enough. Then I pray. It usually works. It worked today, at least on the outward bound trip. On the inward bound trip, I had to stop to readjust the paci and coverings, then gritted my teeth for the rest of it.
* What some people might call a binky.

2. I put the little Wookie in the sling facing forward. First time I've really done that. She likes looking at things these days, so I tried it. Sitting down, not so hot. She can look about, but her feet either dangle or rest on my legs. The sling configuration is not the best support for her without a bottom to hold the cloth. And her little bottom had a tendency to press into my stomach, not ideal for when I'm eating! Judgement: bears tweaking.

3. I sat the little Wookie on my lap/leg while eating. This actually worked pretty well. She can sit up, see everything that's going on nearby, yet she's past the stage of attempting to pitch herself off my lap, while not yet at the stage where she's grabbing everything in sight. I could eat soup and sushi one-handed without dropping anything on her head. Judgement: It worked! Also easy to jiggle her if necessary.

4. I calculated a tip. Trust me; I don't have all my calculating brain today (um, this year?), so I was pleased that I didn't sweat this one too much. I admit that sometimes I give a 20% tip instead of a 15% tip to avoid further calculations.

5. I took the baby into a grocery store using a store baby carrier attached to a shopping cart. This was one of those molded seats. I spent a few moments figuring out how to secure the baby and how to adjust the fittings. I did add a burp rag layer under her for padding, and another layer over her for drool interference.

6. I kept the baby mostly happy throughout the store. Thank goodness I had a list. I barreled past a number of slow-moving shoppers with only slight qualms of guilt. Pardon me! 'Scuse me! I was pretty sure they'd rather I skidded past them than have to endure a screaming baby. I even made a mommy-fool out of myself, doing that high-pitched baby-talking, smiling at her, pretending to eat her toes, and cooing at her in the middle of my cashier transaction to distract her (the baby) from any awareness of disgruntlement. Ya do what ya gotta do.

7. Breast-fed the little Wookie in semi-public. My friend asked me if I had ever BFed in public. Here! I said. This isn't public, she semi-snorted. No, but it's a step up from stripping to the waist! This was still an accomplishment because I didn't have any of my usual accoutraments, no boppy pillow, no soft blankie, no shelf within reach to store needed items, no soft chair, no novel to read. I did borrow a small pillow to help hold her up. but then she kept falling asleep! Later I punted to a bottle. Oh yeah, I also kept her happy enough so that she didn't scream (too much) in my friend's office. Yes, let's not disturb the working peace.

8. I went shopping in the drug store only holding the little Wookie. Gee, I am trying out all sorts of carrying options recently. On one arm, I had the baby and a burp rag over the shoulder. On the other arm, I had the diaper bag and carried another burp rag. 'Cause you just know you'll need another one as soon as you put it down. I probably should have gotten a shopping basket, but I just carried everything, a glutton for punishment that I am. Found hair product, teether toys, gummy bears, et cetera. Then I checked out at the cashiers without loosing my wallet, sanity, or anything else. Parenthood: the art of juggling of at least five things at once without once dropping the baby.

9. Found bath soap for Mr. Sweetie. He likes bar soap for baths, so I'm always on the lookout for inexpensive, yet good quality soap. Not too fancy, but not too drying or harsh, and unscented or only lightly scented. I found another option today, inexpensive but likely good. We'll see how it goes.

10. I folded clean laundry, brought it upstairs, and put it away. Yeah. This is nice. Sometimes I don't get down there for days. 'Twas nice to finish up that load.

11. I downloaded photos from my camera. I haven't adjusted or posted any photos in the last six weeks, but at least everything is currently downloaded!

12. Ran more soapy dishwater and soaked another round of dishes. Part of my strategy for finishing dishes. At some point, I wash the dishes. Maybe later tonight.

13. Cleared out the pile of old newspapers from the nursing station for recycling. The pile was getting kinda unwieldy. Then I put those and other newspapers out in the bin.

14. I responded succinctly to someone nagging me about a health concern I am already aware of and was taking precautions for. Maybe this is not an accomplishment. I get annoyed about being nagged about health concerns, *especially* if I have already read a lot about it. As far as I'm concerned, unsolicited health advice is between me, my doctor and my husband, although my mother occasionally gets a pass. Folic acid! Calcium! she says. Anyway, it might be just as efficient to pretend that I didn't hear it, but I wanted to acknowledge that I already knew about the issue and was not interested in taking the hardline approach they seemed to be implying I should. "Don't you know that...!!!!" Uh, yeah, thanks anyway. Mini grouse: Who are they, the nutrition police? Yes, they are! I know they mean well. Maybe my favorite New York friend is rubbing off on me a little. She suffers no fools and always tells you what she thinks.

15. I kept mostly cheerful all day. When my daughter reads my moods and responds in kind, it's incumbent on me to keep my mood (or at least the manifestations thereof) upbeat in the face of adversity, no matter how large or how trivial those aggravations may be. Oy. So this is a big one. Yay, me!!!

16. Breast-fed the fussing baby while eating a cheese sandwich and fending off a disgruntled cat with a squirt bottle. I needed at least a couple of extra hands for this, but I made it work with my available ones. Some days I do all of the above while reading a book as well.

17. Inspected the garden. Some days I hardly get outdoors, much less pay attention to the yard, so this was big too. Oo! Look at the salvia blooming! Oh, there's some more monkey grass invading the front garden bed. I even pinched a couple of tomato plants (pruning for better growth) and admired the chive buds, marigolds and blooming parsley. All plants appear to be thriving. Tomorrow, I'll water.

18. Read some books to the little Wookie. Sometimes after feeding, she doesn't want to be either upright or lying down. I'll sit her in my lap and read Boyton and Dr Seuss books, and other things from my childhood. I especially like the books with rhyming and rhythmic language. It's fun! It's language exposure! She looks at the pictures and gurgles.

19. Threw out some trash. Expired coupons, current coupons, fundraising mail, church news, city news, toy packaging. Stuff comes in, I throw stuff out.

20. Changed the onesie. The little Wookie was getting all sweaty from running around in the heat. I hope she's acclimating, but meanwhile, we all can use a change of clothing after a sweaty day. She felt so much better afterwards. As a bonus, I washed her face. She loves that! Today I was washing her to not only clean but to cool off. I got at some of the neck gunk too. Classic "neck cheese" from milk and drool blorpage.

21. Put away all groceries. Everything in its place. I made a small bowl for snacking on of dark-chocolate raisins, raw almonds and chili-chocolate-covered hazelnuts. Then I hid the rest of the snacks to slow down our consumption!

22. Noted events in the calender then deleted emails. Consolidate, consolidate, delete, delete, delete.

23. Noted recent gifts on my master gift list. Stashed gift list and thank you note cards for easy access during nursing. At some point, I will start working on thank you notes again. As with many other things, I am running weeks and months behind. I do have high standards for myself. At the moment, I am avoiding email thank yous while holding out for written notes. I hope this doesn't turn into my never writing them at all. :P

24. Swept the floor in the bathroom. I keep a dustpan and broom right by the wastebasket for just this purpose. Helps me keep up with the ongoing kitty litter, kitty hair, and random dust.

25. Brushed teeth, brushed hair, got dressed, put on earrings, looked presentable in public. This does not sound exciting, but some days, this is a big deal. Today, it was a basic manuever.

26. Washed new teething toys in hot soapy water, and put them in bags to keep clean before use. There is not only a lot of drooling going on, but more *chewing* as well. We figure we might as well prepare for future teething! The toy links are also good for practicing grabbing and chewing.

27. Pumped breast milk. This was actually last night, late. The little Wookie was running behind on nursing, but fell asleep at her usual hour. I was left with a painful ache, which motivated me to drag out our very fancy breast pump (the new one) which I have hardly used since the little Wookie figured out how to latch and nurse. Ugga-ugga-goosh-goosh. Nobody woke up while it chugged away, and I got some slight relief.

28. Put out new wipes on the changing table and in the diaper bag. Gotta have the wipes handy. I have become a fan of the cotton-supplemented K1rkl@nds brand from, you know, that big bulk shopping place. (Shhhh! :) )

29. Stayed hydrated. I have been religiously drinking water every time I sit down to nurse, and often more. I find that my body craves it, so I do my best to keep up. I've been doing a good job in the last couple of weeks especially.

That's a pretty good list. Cool! Anything else? Oh yeah!

30. Wrote another post. Yay me!

Now I just have to wash bottles and prepare for tomorrow. How about you?