Mommy wars redux: The truth is ladies, it never feels like a choice, even when it should

GRRRROOOOAAAANNNNNN!!!!

That is the collective sound every woman with even a bit of sense made yesterday when Mommy Wars MDCXXIII commenced around Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney.  PunditMom already did a good take on it here and Rosen did an “oh would you please get grip on reality, people” here.  But the sad thing is that this election is now about to devolve into mommy blogger bedlam, and it’s going to be just as embarrassing to watch as an old man learning exactly what a transvaginal ultrasound is.

So should miffed mommies come the way of this blog, let me speak directly to my fellow stay-at-homers.  Yes, YES, being a stay-at-home mom is hard work.  As much as I wish it weren’t so, I do not catch up on my stories and eat bon bons all day.  If I could, I sooo would.  And not every mom staying home does so because they are “privileged.”  Many make hard sacrifices in order to stay home.  You know this, ladies.  So let’s not try to make this into something it’s not.

But if we have to add “Mommy Wars” to the all the “war on women” back and forth, let’s remember that this story isn’t just about how out of touch Romney is or about how Ann Romney’s going to jump all over this in a desperate attempt to bring personality to her husband’s campaign.

The real story is that it IS a major problem that every mother does not have the ability to stay home for more than a handful of weeks when her children are born.  And by stay home, I mean the very hard job of providing the constant, grueling care that goes into raising a child.  Our government simply does not truly value the importance of giving women this time with their family, no matter what their economic situation is.

Stay-at-home moms – you know this.  You know you WANT every woman to have the ability to stay at home with their kids during the day if that’s right for them, even if you know full well that you are nothing like Ann Romney and you have to scrimp, save, cook, clean, and go without so you can work in your home, caring for your children.  So if for even a second, you are feeling compassionate for picked-on Ann Romney, think about whether her husband as president would do anything to make raising children easier for women.  Does he support extended paid maternity leave?  Does he support reduced health care costs for women and children?  Does he support reducing taxes for middle class families or does he support major tax breaks for families like the Romneys, who don’t have to scrimp, save, cook, clean, and do without?

I am a loud and proud stay-at-home mom.  I love, love, love it.  But the “choice” I’ve made is so not a choice…the truth is that in this country, it is a privilege.  But it shouldn’t be.

But I think to all of us moms – working moms, stay-at-home moms, and everything in between – no matter how much privilege we have or how how hard we scrimp and save to get by, it never really feels like a choice, does it?  We just do what we have to do.  Tedd has a job that sometimes keeps him from seeing O for days at a time and commuting from the ‘burbs.  Some days I miss my old career so much I want to cry.  But we’ve cobbled together a life that works and we just make our way through, grateful for all the good things we have and how much better off we are than so, so many.  I can’t speak directly for my working mom friends, but I know they don’t wake up every morning and feel like they have a choice either, even if they could change their situation if they really wanted to.  They just do what they have to do.

We’re all just waking up every morning, stumbling for the coffee and filling the sippy cups, taking one step at a time, with babies, children, partners, co-workers, and bosses in tow.  The least we can do is send a friendly wave and a knowing smile to the other moms passing by with the same load.

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Want happiness? Think like a toddler

I decided this morning I’m going to challenge myself to write a post a day for 10 days just to see if I can.  So if I stick with it, at the end you have to do something for me.  Well, more like for moms like me.  Stay tuned.  Anyway, for the next 10 days I’m going write whatever’s going through my head because it’s only the Internet and it’s not like it’s permanent or anything.

I  never seem to watch music videos any more.  Ok, except for recently when I made Tedd watch this creepy and trippy yet inexplicably addicting kids song.  I dare you to watch it and not imitate it all day.

Anyway, someone posted on Facebook the video “Young Blood” from The Naked and Famous, which I’d never watched before.

And while watching it, I realized something.  This is the music video of O’s life.  Like every single part of it.  The jumping, the dancing, the running, and the bleeding.  Except there’s music instead of wild yelping, crashing, thumping, and screaming.  And watching it made me so, so happy.

Toddlers make every single choice based on a single criterion: Does this have the potential to make me happy at this exact moment. I say at this exact moment, because the moments following something like lying down in a rain puddle, diving off the sofa, seeing if your finger will fit down the bathtub drain,  and smacking the dog across the nose are accompanied by a decidedly unfun aftermath.  But that’s not the point.  The point is to not think, to just do.  To give every possible opportunity for happiness, even if it’s fleeting, the chance it deserves.

Most of the time, I am the buzz kill to O’s high on life.  BE CAREFUL.  DON’T TOUCH THAT.  SLOW DOWN.  But sometimes, I follow him around and do what he does.  We run wildly through the park with no direction.  We put all the pillows in the house in one pile on the floor and throw ourselves onto them.  We tear up magazines because the sound is so cool.

I also let O fall.  A lot.  I worry that if I ever had to take him to the hospital, they’d call Social Services because he is a mosaic of scrapes and bruises on any given day.  But generally, if I am confident he can’t break his neck and probably won’t break a bone, I believe the aftermath is worth the adventure.

If you are having a bad day, you should stop for a moment and act like a toddler.  And don’t give me that I have responsibilities BS.  Go outside and just run without thinking.  Stick your hand in some mud just to feel it ooze under your fingernails.  Take something – just anything you see – and dump it on the floor to hear the noise.  Make the craziest sound you can think of until you feel better.

I know my job is literally to follow around a toddler.  I know, I know.  My life is sweet ass.  But like I said, I’m still a buzz kill to O 99% of the time.  It doesn’t matter what my job is now, I still think like an adult.  How much time do I have?  What needs to get done?  What’s the next step?

You gotta force yourself to think differently sometimes.  O is right.  Sometimes happiness is watching a plane float by.  Sometimes it’s rubbing yogurt through your hair.  Sometimes it’s spinning in circles until you can’t spin any more.

It doesn’t matter how much planning I do or how thoroughly I weigh the consequences, happiness really doesn’t ever change, whether you’re a toddler or adult…it is always fleeting.  But I forget that.  I keep forgetting it’s not a long-term accomplishment.  I’ve been thinking lately about how I’m not doing enough with myself.  I’m not “furthering my career” or “making the most of my time.”  But when I look back at the people and things that have made me most happy in my life, they are a series of tiny, fleeting moments that can’t be quantified.  Somehow they all just add up into one big general state of just feeling happy.

So when I’ve been feeling like that, I take a tip from O.  I grab a little bit of happiness where ever I can find it, even if it’s fleeting.  Even if there’s a mess to clean up afterward.  It’s worth it every time.

 

Feeling dumped by your child and learning to happily, but begrudgingly, let go

I feel like I’ve been dumped.  After 16 months in an exclusive relationship, O has informed me that he wants to see other people.  And by other people, I mean “Dada.”

Up until recently, I was O’s main squeeze.  Sure, when Tedd came home, O’s face would light up in a way that it never did for me.  Even when Tedd wasn’t around, he would squeal “DADA!” when confronted with something so exciting it could only be compared with the awesomeness of Tedd.  But when the world was overwhelming, a fairly constant state for an infant, “Mommy” was the only one who could bring him total comfort.

And I complained about it.  Ughhh, I can’t hold you all the time.  Arrrgggg, I can’t even go to the bathroom alone.  Let go of Mommy’s leg, O.  LET GO!

Whattaya know – he let go.  About two weeks ago, he woke up and decided there were more fish in the sea.  He spent an entire Monday looking for Tedd in various rooms.  When I do something he doesn’t like, he wails for Dada.  He calls for Dada when he wakes up from naps and when he wants something to eat.  Yesterday, he spent 10 minutes kissing a picture of Tedd, but when I tried to give him a kiss, he pushed me away and said, “NO!”

But it doesn’t end there.  When we’re out on the block, he’s just as likely to ask a neighbor to hold him as me.  He gives hugs to random people we meet at the park.  And when I do hold him, he tries to wriggle out of my arms.

I feel like he looks at me and thinks, man, this girl cannot take a hint.

Ok, so deep down I’m proud my little man is happy and confident enough to not need me all the time.  Isn’t that what we want for our kids?  But I have to say, after dedicating my life – not to mention my body and sanity – to him, I’m sad about it, too.  It’s addicting to be the center of someone’s universe.  And motherhood is way more challenging than I ever imagined, so when your kid gloms onto you, it feels like at least they think you’re doing something right.

When O used to cry whenever he wasn’t in my arms, I would tell myself, enjoy this, because it will not last.  But just because I knew it was coming doesn’t make me any more prepared.  It’s silly to be hurt, but as I told Tedd, I feel like I have a job where every day my boss tells me how much he doesn’t need me.

Oh of course I know he still needs me.  It’s just one of a bazillion transitions in the parent-child dynamic, and it will change again and again.  But I’m struck by how this time, it’s O pushing the change while I drag behind.  It coincides with another thought that’s been drifting through my mind…having more children.  After recovering from the PTSD of new motherhood, I started thinking, sure I want to have more kids, but that would mean it wouldn’t be just O and me.  We’re a couple!  We have our things we do and our inside jokes and little games.  Another kid would mess that up!  But while I was ruminating on the sanctity of our exclusive relationship, O was growing up.  It’s almost like he’s telling me, come on Mom, we gotta let other people into our world.

Here I am teaching him songs and how to ride his tricycle, and he’s teaching me how to open myself up to even more love.

The thing I love most about parenting is that there is nothing else I’ve encountered in this over-communicated, social-networked world that is such a universal experience yet still feels like a personal revelation to those who experience it.  Yeah, all parents go through this, but it’s still an incredible shock to me.  I think, does everyone think it’s this glorious and unbelievable that these little half-formed people teach us how to be better people ourselves?!?!  Yeah, they do.  And just like I eventually will, they just get on with it.

Meanwhile, I’ll take whatever hugs and snuggles he’s willing to share with me when he has the time.  And halfway across the country, I bet my mom is thinking the same thing about me.

Why Dems should think twice about using the phrase “war on women”

All last week the media was hyped up on the phrase “war on women.”  Something about those words just kept bugging me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

As a quick recap, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said that the “war on women” was a made up concoction by Democrats to create drama in the media around women’s issues and then said, “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet[s] talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars.”  I don’t have to rehash why saying that makes him a total ass hat.

But it’s clear why the phrase “war on women” is a touchy subject for them.  As the Washington Post reported:

Among independent women — a key group of swing voters — Obama had been trailing Romney by five points in a series of surveys late last year. But that number shifted dramatically in polling conducted in February and March, and the president took a 14-point lead over the former Massachusetts governor, marking a net gain of 19 points.

No one can say for sure why this shift happened, but many in the media have speculated that perhaps it’s because of the Republicans’ constant obsession with controlling both the comings and goings of a woman’s vagina, which maybe isn’t the best way to win over half of voters.

I’m obviously pumped that more women are seeing this as we head into November.  But that phrase “war on women” just keeps irking me, so I spent all weekend thinking about it.

And I realized this morning what it was.  It kinda makes me tired.

Old 20-something me would have loved the phrase “war on women.”  It’s got the drama and fire that drew me to politics.  I wanted to fight for my rights, damn the man, have them hear my roar, and be a part of a movement.  I wanted to be involved in big  issues that used words like war, fight, and battle.

Now it just makes me want to take a nap.  Ok, to be honest, everything makes me want to take a nap.  But really, I need less drama in my life, not more.

I realized that this phrase “war on women,” which may be the perfect lure for women in the mood for a fight, might actually turn off women who say, “ya know, I got enough madness in my life, so can we cool it on the war talk?”

I just get this sense that there is a pretty large faction of women – many who are probably still undecided voters – who feel like they have enough wars to wage in their lives.  They’re fighting crime, drugs, and illness.  Against bullies and for better teachers.  For a little more money and little more sleep.  We’re even fighting traffic, rude people in grocery stores, plaque on our teeth, and fine lines and wrinkles.  Women already have wars going on in our lives left and right – not to mention real wars with sons and daughters overseas – and then we have to fight a “war against women” too?

Aside from already having enough wars in our personal lives, the phrase also puts gender inequality in the category of phrases  like the War on Terror or the War on Drugs, things we totally want to annihilate.  And then women think, oh come on now, no one wants to annihilate women.  Can you cut the drama please?

And that’s the twisted genius of the actual policies behind the “war on women.”  It’s less like a war and more like death by a thousand paper cuts, so when you look at the big picture, most women say to themselves, oh yeah that sucks but I have way bigger problem in my life.  Yes, health care is more expensive for us, we make 70 cents on the dollar compared to men, we can’t control our own family planning, we can’t get the maternity leave and child care we need, but there are just so, so, so many other problems in our lives that these women’s issues can get pushed down the list.

It’s less “war on women” and more like “the slow water torture of government-sanctioned subservience,” but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

I know it’s just words, but we all know that in politics, words matter big time.  I just worry that overuse of the phrase will turn away those independent voters Obama still needs – many whom might be like a lot of the moms I meet out here in the ‘burbs -  who just don’t have the energy for the fight.

But I also know that these women spend every single day dealing with the policies behind the “war on women” that really do make their lives harder.  Less money for the same work, more money for health care, and less assistance for raising a family.

There’s gotta be a way to say to them that fighting the “war on women” sounds like a lot of drama, but will actually cut some of the drama out of their lives.

What happens when lawyers marry politicos: Planning a family vacation

If you have a personal relationship with a lawyer, you will probably agree with me that they never fully agree to anything.  Ever.  There is always a clause to get them out of it.  And it can drive a non-lawyer insane.

Typical conversation between Tedd and me:

Me: Is chicken ok for dinner?

Tedd: Sure, I think that will be ok.

Me: What do you mean “think?” Are you hungry for chicken or not?

Tedd: I’m not hungry right now, so I can’t tell you if I’ll be hungry for chicken later.  It’s likely I’ll be hungry for chicken, but I don’t know for sure.

See how forehead-smackingly frustrating that is?  Most of our conversations about making decisions usually end with me screaming something like, “FINE, I’m eating chicken and you can eat whatever the hell you want.”  (Hang up phone.)

But this is how lawyers talk.

Me: Do you want to see a movie this weekend?

Tedd: Maybe.

Me: Do you want me to buy you such and such?

Tedd: If you want to.

Me: Is today Thursday?

Tedd: Yes, however, I reserve the right to alter my statement if presented with new evidence.

He never commits to anything, despite the fact that it drives me so batty that I act in response like a person who should be committed.

I, on the other hand, will commit exuberantly to just about anything, which often gets me into trouble.  I think this has to do with the fact that I had a career in politics, where the goal is to convince people that you are absolutely committed to something even though you haven’t really given them an answer.

If you asked me if I wanted chicken tonight, I’d probably say, “I LOVE CHICKEN (a thousand exclamation points),” and then maybe eat your chicken or maybe not.  Just like if you asked me whether I support deficit spending, the point isn’t to answer your question, but to simultaneously kiss your ass while providing such a thoroughly confusing answer that you assume I support whatever you support.

Tedd: Do you want to see a movie this weekend?

Me: I’D LOVE TO SEE A MOVIE OMG MOVIES MOVIES MOVIES!

Me (the night of the movie): Ohhhh, but I didn’t actually want to see a movie today.  How about next weekend?

Tedd: I knew I should have made you sign a contract.

This is what happens when lawyers marry politicos.  And side note, this is also why lawyers seem to always get into politics because everything they say is so noncommittal yet sounds so convincing that everyone believes what they say while they secretly take over the world.  Or something like that.  :)

This is a really long lead up to announce after hours and hours of harassing Tedd, I got him to agree to something: a family vacation.

Note that we have not taken a family vacation since BEFORE he became a lawyer.  And by family vacation, I mean a vacation that was just the two of us.  The previous vacation being our honeymoon.  This is an epic victory.

But now “family” includes O, so I had to find a vacation that is toddler suitable and something Tedd would agree to.  Of course, I should point out that Tedd made me call American Airlines to double check their cancellation policy (because he felt the Web site was not explicit enough).  He also said that he would like to rewrite the contract on our cabin rental, to which I said, “DON’T BE CRAZY” and “too bad because I already paid in advance, TAKE THAT!”

The big reveal is that we are taking a thoroughly American family vacation this summer by renting a cabin at Mount Rainier National Park outside of Seattle.

Source: Photo by Daniel Keebler, NPS

This is the most perfect toddler-involved vacation I could think of because 1) he cannot destroy a national park (at least I don’t think he can), 2) a cabin means we can have all his super special must-have snacks and yogurts and other toddler crap, and 3) we have two bedrooms, which means Tedd and I don’t have to go to sleep at 7:30 in a sensory deprivation chamber with two jet engine sounding white noise machines.

We are pumped.  And by pumped, the following things have been said in our house:

Me: OH MY GOSH SO EXCITED FOR OUR VACATION AHAHAHAHAHA ARE YOU EXCITED TEDD?!?!?!

Tedd: Sure. If it works out.

Every. Time.

Confessions of a Commie Mommy

I started this blog for two reasons: 1) I was afraid being a stay-at-home mom was making a certain part of my brain mushy and 2) I was realizing that life as a mom “outside the Beltway” was like a slap in the face – there were so many things I thought I understood before, but clearly had no idea.  Literally, my water broke, O popped out, and in an instant I went from insider to outsider, and started getting the education that came with it.  I thought it would be fun to capture my thoughts and share them with my friends.

But what I hadn’t completely figured out was that leaving DC and becoming a mom in the ‘burbs of Illinois, where everything I knew and almost everyone I cared about was hundreds of miles away, had made me feel incredibly alone and sometimes really sad.  I am so lucky to be able to stay home with O, but it’s been hard for me to redefine myself.   Being a mom is amazing, but it’s also monotonous and isolating.  It’s easy to feel like the whole world is passing you by.

This blog made me feel like I was a little bit “in the know” again.  And people were sending me notes saying they liked a post or suggesting new ideas.  I email with people I haven’t spoken to in ages.  I even email with total strangers.  It got me off my butt to start volunteering and getting involved with local issues.  It was just what I needed.

I also realized there’s this whole community of moms who write about policy and politics.  They are so much savvier than I am.  And can clearly write faster in a baby nap than I can.  I started thinking, wow, these people are taking the whole “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand the rules the world” thing and trying to change the way people think.  About women, about our kids, about life.  Rockin’.  I want to do that.

So when some nice person nominated my blog for this Circle of Moms competition, I 1) didn’t want to be in last place (duh) and 2) thought, well, it’s not like I’m getting paid, at least I might get some positive feedback other than O not throwing the food I made him all over the floor.  I also learned about some other awesome blogs.  I even voted for two of the super conservative blogs because I thought they were well written.  That was the point of the competition, right?

I’m such a dope.  Somewhere between Capitol Hill and Mommyland, I got all mushy, moms-are-the-best, we-all-just-want-right-by-our-kids and totally forgot what a bunch of assholes are out there with blogs.  Yeah, I know, I’m the real asshole.  Here I was writing a blog from my own perspective, and despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, trying to be occasionally really critical of the Administration when I thought they deserved it.  I try to write as well as I can in the 45 minutes I have allotted.  And then I was naive enough to think this competition wasn’t just about who could be the craziest person dangling by their pinkie finger from the edge of the political spectrum.

Last night I got on the Circle of Moms site to see that a bunch of the conservative blogs had put out a call to “stop the Commie Mommies.”  At first I laughed about it with Tedd.  Ha, ha, there go those crazies.  And then, I got indignant.  This is why people – especially people in power – think blogs are ridiculous hobbies by people with nothing better to do than spout drivel and propaganda to readers who already drank the Kool-aid.  Some of these blogs are definitely not trying to make our kids’ lives better.  They’re spewing hate on an Internet that already has enough crap on it.

Circle of Moms is a really great resource for parents and it’s clearly not their fault their nice competition got hijacked.  If you are a mom in need of info, they have awesome stuff.  And I bet I sound like a sore loser.  I am honestly nowhere near as cool as the vast majority of political mom blogs and don’t expect to be.  But this list – as least what it has become – isn’t what I’m about and I’m kind of sorry for asking everyone to spend so much time voting for me.  Yes, at the beginning I had a longing to beat certain sites.  But I realized now I’m just playing into the BS.

I’m sure in real life these people are probably decent and hopefully wouldn’t call me a Commie Mommy to my face.  (Who am I kidding? – I’ve seen enough of their protests to know better.)   And there are extremes on both sides that are equally as intolerant.  But I only have a small amount of time in my day to try to do some good after the other 99% of me I pour into O.  I’m going to focus on that.

Sigh.  Motherhood is isolating enough.  The world is hateful enough.  And I already spend my day surrounded by poop.  Enough already.

Peace, love & happy babies,

AnnieDubs

Drugged up cows and chickens are not our problem

As much as I try to maintain some hippie mom cred with organic this, natural that, and breastfeeding until the end of time, I am very glad to be a mother in the 21st century.  As I’ve written before, I am grateful for vaccines that protect O from deadly diseases and a c-section that may have saved O’s and my lives.  I try to use it very sparingly, but I think ibuprofen is freaking nectar of the gods when it comes to bad teething.  I nearly dunked O in hand sanitizer after he stuck his hand in the bird cage at the zoo today.

But being a parent in the 21st century also means you have to be constantly searching for info on which modern day advances are good ones and which are bad ones.  One day Tylenol is recommended for babies, the next day it’s causing asthma.  Teething gel is good…no wait, it’s bad.  Vaccines are good…no bad…no good again.   Oh you didn’t know that formula you’ve been using for months killed a couple babies?  You’ll either be neurotic trying to avoid all the bad stuff or feel guilty because you didn’t.

So I think most of us wait for news like government recalls before we totally freak out.  Someone in charge is monitoring this stuff, right?

That’s why I got so agitated last week to learn that a court had to FORCE the FDA to take action on the ridiculous amount of antibiotics used in livestock.  If you don’t know how bad the use of antibiotics are, the Atlantic just published a piece by Dr. Robert S. Lawrence that describes it perfectly:

“The vast majority of antibiotics in this country — about 80 percent — are sold for use in food animal production, not to treat humans. The vast majority of animals that receive these drugs are not sick, and the doses they receive would be too low to successfully treat bacterial infections if they were. Rather, low doses of antibiotics are fed to healthy animals throughout their lives to speed their growth and to reduce infections in the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions commonly found at the industrial operations that produce these animals.

“Using antibiotics this way continuously exposes bacteria to low doses of these drugs, providing an ideal environment for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans on farms, in the environment, and in the food we eat. For this reason, physicians and scientists have long sought restrictions on the agricultural use of antibiotics.

Likewise, the World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the misuse of antibiotics in food animal production when warning of a “post-antibiotic era” in which drugs are no longer effective and currently manageable infections, left untreated, turn deadly.”

So despite the overwhelming evidence that the overuse of antibiotics is putting the public health at risk, a court had to force the FDA to do something other than ask the livestock industry real, real nicely if they would pretty please consider not using so much, which is what they did in 2010.  Surprisingly, that tact did not work.

Meanwhile, I have heard lots of parents say they try to avoid getting antibiotics for their kids for fear that the overuse will make them ineffective.  While that is a concern, it doesn’t appear to be the primary problem.

At the same time, a lot of parents are also forking over a lot of money to buy meat and poultry that is antibiotic free.  But that’s not going to protect our kids from these super antibiotic resistant bugs if everyone else is already eating the bad stuff.  But the people buying the bad stuff aren’t to blame.  It’s not just expensive, but very hard to find antibiotic-free meat and poultry.  This is exactly the type of situation – when the public can’t do anything on their own to protect themselves – when the government needs to step in.

Fortunately, a judge realized this and told the FDA they need to do their job.  Unfortunately, it will undoubtedly take years for a decision and compliance.

Of course, you absolutely should try to buy organic, naturally-produced meat and dairy if you can.  And I think there’s good reason to talk to your pediatrician about whether your kids really need antibiotics when they’re sick.

But of all the stuff we have to worry about, this is absolutely one that should be taken off our plate.

O at the petting zoo before I bathe him in sanitizer. Plus, this goose totally looks stoned.