Friday, May 6, 2016

My Favorite Thing To Do With My Mommy

My 4yr old made me a banner at school this week for Mother's Day.  It had a sweet hand print, an adorable picture of him and a statement about his favorite thing to do with his mommy.  I was all smiles until I got to the end of it.  "My favorite thing to do with my mommy is watch TV."  WATCH...TV.  WHAT??  Ok, I know one of his teachers asked him the question while he was in the middle of something extremely fun and he likely spouted off the first thing that came to his mind, but this one kind of hurt.  My dear, sweet, eldest son Noah is my best friend.  He cooks dinner with me almost every night, he and I read special big boy books every night after his brother is in bed, I swim in a freezing cold pool with him every Sunday, yesterday I had Master Christopher teach ME a couple of freakin' Tae Kwon Do moves so I could practice with him. I am not a perfect mother, but of all the things I do with him, him choosing TV was not something I immediately understood.  Heck, most of the time I'm reminding him and his brother that they can only watch one or two shows on weekdays, and I'm not even with them while they do it,  I'm finishing working, showering or putting dinner on the table.  But sometimes, if I'm ahead of my game with work or we're eating leftovers or I decide not to shower (ha, sorry, it happens), and most certainly on the weekends when we watch a movie or something as a family, I AM with them while they watch.  Noah and his little brother will take turns cuddling with me under a soft Star Wars blanket and we lay there, quiet, squeezing, hugging, tickling and laughing.  Noah calls me his "cuddle girl" and will give me lots of kisses and will tell me he loves me and that he loves "hangin' out" with his family.  His brother will move him out of the way to have a cuddle-turn and I will always gladly make room in my arms for both.  It is, well, awesome.  We do a lot of fun, quality things together everyday, but 2 and 4yr old boys are rarely quiet and still.  And, really, neither are their mamas.  It occurred to me that he must appreciate a time when I'm not on the move, or talking to (or at) them, a time when his mom is just quiet and still with him.  I can close my eyes in those moments when I am laying with them and feel, truly down deep in my soul, that there's no place I would rather be, nothing that makes me feel quite as full.  I have those moments when I'm watching them play together outside or when we're doing fun,active things together, too.  But the special-ness of a close cuddle on the couch - I get it.  And I realize my ability to cuddle with them in this way won't last forever.  We'll (hopefully) always eat together and play sports and go on fun trips.  But one day, they'll be too big to lay with me on the couch.  They won't even want to.  And I'll long for the day that my sweet babies just wanted to be super close to me more than anything else in the world.  For me, that will never end.  Thinking about it in that way, perhaps my favorite thing to do with my sons is watch TV, too.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Wet Hot American Post-Kids Friday Night

Ok, so it’s 7:22pm on a Friday night. Let me guess. You and your spouse are finishing up bedtime with the kids and fantasizing. Not of a romantic dinner out and hours of nookie after. No, no, no, the post-kids Friday night fantasy goes a little differently. You’re anxiously waiting to hear the doorbell because it means the sushi has arrived, you can almost taste the cheap Trader Joe’s red wine on your lips, and oooooh so soon you will be hearing the most exciting sound...the opening credits of [fill in whatever series you and your hubs are currently obsessed with]. Yes, honey, I’ll go get the soy sauce and you pour the drinks. You’ll figure out where we left off (because one of you ALWAYS falls asleep in the middle of an episode), while I change into my sexiest sweatpants. I understand that communicating and connecting with each other is very important in a marriage but, lezbehonest, sometimes you just need to be able to sit silently next to the person you love, eat your damn sushi, and get in touch with your inner Heisenberg. And, why not?

It Reinforces Your Vows.
On your wedding day, you likely vowed to be true and faithful to your spouse. That shit doesn’t just apply to physical cheating. If you’re watching episodes of a show you watch together behind your spouse’s back, that’s a friggin' betrayal. And if it’s the series finale of the show, well, you should probably call a lawyer, because you deserve to be left. Just kidding. Well, not really.

 It Teaches You To Be Patient.
Sometimes life and marriage are about playing the long game. If you and your spouse stuck through Lost until the end, you can get through anything together.

It Makes You A Better Person.
Friday Night Lights will make you a better wife and make your husband a better husband. Forget couples counseling -- watching 5 seasons of Coach T and Mrs. T work through the challenges that wayward West Texas teens, a crushing pressure to win and an alien baby daughter throw their way, all while never, ever wavering on their love and respect for each other will have you reflecting on your relationship in a whole new way. Clear eyes, full hearts. Seriously.

 It Reminds You Of What’s Really Important.
The magazines say the secret to a good marriage is having a regular date night, communicating, not going to bed mad, blah blah blah. But I sort of think that the secret to marriage is liking your spouse enough to just be with them. No frills, no fancy restaurants, no distractions of friends. Just being perfectly content sitting in a room, in comfy pjs, debating whether lesbians should really be placed in female prisons or frantically theorizing about whether John Snow is actually dead (he’s not, is he???). My hubs and I have been together a million years so we were on the binge-watching train well before having kids, and to this day some of our favorite memories include watching 17 episodes of Lost in a row while only breaking to go buy chicken nuggets and ice cream, and buying bootlegged copies of seasons 2/3 of Mad Men on a street in Thailand during our honeymoon. Sure, I also appreciate fancy spas and nice restaurants, but ultimately, before and after kids, I just enjoy being in the same room as him. Especially if it includes sushi and wine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Making Breastfeeding Work At Work

Ask any nursing mama who is looking down the barrel of her return-to-work date what she is most anxious about and she will probably say continuing to breastfeed while working. It’s a major source of anxiety and stress that forces many to quit breastfeeding before they’re ready or lose confidence in their ability to be successful working mothers. Indeed, only 26% of full-time working moms breastfeed for the first 6 months of their baby’s life and only 17% full-time moms manage to for the first year.

We need to work together to make it easier for moms who wish to continue breastfeeding. But if you are the mama going through it right now, you don’t have time for all that, you just want to know how the hell you’ll do it. Here are some things I learned as a breastfeeding/working mama of two kids these past few years:

1.  Don’t Hide It.

It’s ok to be discreet, but don’t treat pumping at work like a secret you have to hide from everyone else. I don’t mean that you should pull out and start pumping your bazongas in the middle of a meeting, but you have to be open about your status as a nursing mom and what that means for you with your coworkers. It feels awkward to talk about it at first, as if there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, but your boss and coworkers aren’t going to treat it like a natural part of your daily routine unless you do. And you know what’s REALLY awkward? Two coworkers walking in on you pumping because you were too embarrassed to tell people they should knock or ask for a lock on your door (or even ask for a cover for your door window, which is why you were hiding in a corner of your office). So just tell people the truth, it’s better than the alternative, trust me.

2.  Ask for What You Need.

If you need a lock, get one (see above). If you need to block out your calendar at certain times of the day, do it. If you need to adjust your schedule temporarily to meet the needs of your baby’s feeding or pumping schedule, ask your boss for a change. I’ve turned down lunches, excused myself from portions of long meetings, and shifted my entire schedule to make it work. It’s not easy, and there are probably people who won’t understand it. But once you prove that how you feed your baby doesn’t interfere with your brain or productivity, most people will be fine. And if they’re not, f them.

3.  Remember How Tired You Are.

A mama who was up 3 times feeding her newborn and still has to be showered (sometimes) and presentable (sort of) and at work by 8 will sometimes forget, well, everything. Forgive yourself for how absent-minded you will be in advance, and just prepare for it. Leave extra pump parts and freezer bags at work for when you inevitably forget something. Carry your pump charger with you in case your pump dies midday. Leave an extra shirt (or entire outfit) in your car for when you spill milk. And let yourself weep when you spill it.

4.  Keep Your Perspective.

Breastfeed for as long as it feels doable for you, but don’t think in terms of goals. Your kid will never remember or care that he or she wasn’t breastfed. That said, you can ride out the hard days by remembering that it continues to get easier and easier.   If you would like to do it for a year, just know that the 2nd 6 months are WAY WAY easier than the 1st 6 months. Your baby will start sleeping through the night, and it will get easier. Your baby will start drinking less frequently during the day (so you get to pump less), and it will get easier. Each month, it WILL get easier.  If it doesn’t, or you don’t enjoy it anymore, then stop. But if you’re just having a hard day or week, just know that you can do this.

5.  Pay It Forward.

No matter what your feeding choices are, support other moms and their choices. If your coworker is going through it, advocate for them. And if you supervise a new mom, be cognizant of what she may be going through and ask how you can help make it work. When breastfeeding at work becomes a normal part of the dialogue, policies will change and the stigma will (hopefully) vanish. We can all be a part of that. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mommy Tracked

It is Thursday at 1:59pm and I am watching an April rain storm from my sunroom with a piping hot cup of tea in hand.  The kids are upstairs napping and I am sitting in peace, happily writing.  I didn't wake up 2 hours before my kids did this morning, I didn't drive to work in the pouring rain, and I showered at 1pm because a friend is coming over later (otherwise, waste precious nap time on a shower? As if). I've played with the kids, had two meals with them, and had the longest conversation I've ever had with one of Noah's teachers.  There is still a lot of day left to go but, at this moment, I can say that I made the right decision.

A month or two ago an opportunity to go part-time at a law firm presented itself to me.  Leaving a hard-to-get in-house position wasn't something I would just do so, with nothing to lose, I decided to ask for exactly what I'd want in a job and not a drop less  (a mostly flex/work from home schedule, a couple of days "off" a week, a very competitive salary, and opportunity in the future for partnership), and see what happened.  Well, to my surprise, they said yes.  To all of it.   I was thrilled.  I would be able to continue developing as a lawyer, continue to significantly contribute financially to our family, and have much more time with my kids.  I made something happen that I've been talking about for years, and was feeling pretty empowered...that is, until I resigned from my job.  People at my company were shocked that I was leaving -- until I said the words "part-time."  And then, each and every person responded in the exact same way: they nodded their heads.  I know, it seems like an innocuous enough gesture.  But (to me) it meant "of course, you're a mom, part-time makes more sense."  For weeks I listened to all of the trite commentary: "You'll never regret the time with your kids"; "They're only young once"; "They grow up so fast".  And then it hit me...the outside world had officially mommy-tracked me.  Nevermind that in my new role I would still be working the majority of the week and in a rigorous and even more demanding setting.  Nope, in their eyes, I had officially taken a step back in the name of my kids and that put me in a different bucket.  For some reason, this perception (or what I perceived to be the perception) really threw me.  Of course the primary reason I was taking the new job was to achieve a better balance and have more time with the kids.  But if I hadn't worked my butt off for the past nine years, such an opportunity may not have presented itself, and I certainly would not have been able to negotiate the salary and schedule I got.  I didn't feel like it was a step back, but a rare career opportunity that I had earned.

It gave me a small glimpse into the real perception of FT working mamas.  That we aren't fully raising our kids, that we are missing something...and while admirable and respectable, making that choice doesn't always feel "right" to others.  People tend to make the assumption that if a mom could choose to spend more time (or all of her time) at home, she would.  So my news was met with more than just understanding from others, it was almost met with a sense of relief.  And I sorta felt like I was letting the FT working mama cause down.  The truth is that I would have preferred to remain full-time if I had more flexibility.  I wasn't missing my kids grow up - I had good, quality time with them each day and did all of the things I would do if I were home with them on a smaller scale.  I didn't make the change to be more of a mom, because I was always 100% a mom.  And, likewise, working on a new schedule won't make me less of an attorney.  The "tracks" are far more complex than "mommy" or "working".  Oversimplifying it does a real injustice to almost all the women I know who, whether working or not or raising kids or not, pretty much rule the world.

But today, well, today is glorious.  Today, I will put any (perceived) perception aside and have faith that I made the right choice.  I will revel in the extra time with my kids, I will work hard to prove myself in a new job, and by golly I will finish this hot cup of tea.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I don't hate the winter, in theory.  There's something so peaceful and quiet about it.  A nice break in the year after an every-weekend-is-booked summer, a hustle start to the fall which, for us, includes a million birthdays and runs straight into Halloween and the holidays and another birthday without much of a break.  Get past Christmas and end-of-the-year work deadlines and we - finally, deservedly - coast into a sort of quiet zone where we can watch movies guilt-free all weekend because it's too cold to go out (ok, yea, we should be at the museum or something, but shut up), subsist on homemade stew, wear sweatpants as much as life will allow, and teach our kids about snowball fights and igloos.  Sounds lovely, doesn't it?  It is, for the 3 days or so this idyllic winter hibernation plan actually works out.  Because when you have kids, the other 117 days of winter are spent with at least one person in the house (if not all) being sick.  And I don't just mean a cough and runny nose (which for the purposes of assessing whether to go to work or send your kid to school does not register even a 1 on the "sick radar").  I'm talking about rashes, multiple doctors visits, weird viruses you've never heard of, antivirals, antibiotics, ER visits, just shit that will mess your life up.

After 4 winters with kids, I can no longer passively sail into winter without feeling dread and anxiety about what's to come, saying little prayers that this or that doesn't happen.  As confident as I feel (most of the time) about being a working mom, when my kids get sick, it always takes me back a notch.  I don't want to diminish the particular torture of stay-at-home moms who have to take care of their sick kids all day and night (especially if they get sick, as well), because that is just exhausting and unrelenting.  But when you're working too, there is a nagging anxiety about how you will fit in this unpredictable nonsense, and it's always coupled with a feeling of guilt that you're giving work or your kids the short shrift (although I've found that if you want predictability as to when your kids will be sick, plan a vacation, party or presentation at work, that oughtta do it.)  Am I going to be up all night before my presentation this week?  Will I or my spouse have to stay home?  Will I make it home for a doc appointment?  Does my child need ME?  Will my boss think I'm lying?  What if my nanny gets sick?  I've delayed much-needed doc visits until my pre-scheduled work-from-home days, and I've stayed home even when I was sure my kid would be fine with our nanny.  I've canceled trips and plans, and I've traveled with kids who had no business being out of the house.  I've walked out in tears, I've stayed home in tears.  No matter what side you land on, it's always stressful.  And HA! the joke is on you if you are foolish enough to get sick yourself.  You go to work regardless because you need to save your sick days for your kids and you don't want to infect them at home.  And then people look at you like, why is she here?  You can't win.

We're not an irregularly sick family; we usually go through the same cold/ear infection rigamarole most Chicago families do (I'm curious - do families in California deal with this too?? I'm willing to move).  But years of breastfeeding, probiotics and vitamins aside, we've gotten hit hard this year.  We've already been riddled with both kids getting the flu (they're fine), our younger one hospitalized for some bowel issue I hadn't ever heard of (he's fine), and me currently on day 9 of viral pink eye/head cold (btw my tactics on trying not to infect my children with one of the most contagious things out there while still having to make dinner, change diapers, breastfeed, give baths etc is nearing comical).  But I'm fine.  Well, I've lost my will to live, but otherwise, I'm fine. 

And it's only January 26.  JANUARY 26!  Sigh.  Cue the GoT music.  It's going to be a long winter.

Friday, December 5, 2014

You're not 1 yet

I just ordered the cake, so I guess it's're turning 1.  I'm not sure how it happened.  It was yesterday that I wrote Letter to my First-Born, and now here you are; this sweet, joyful little person who bounces his butt to Taylor Swift,  is in love with a mangy stuffed bunny (named "bunny"), and laughs when people sneeze.

You don't know it yet, but things are about to change for you out in the world.  In 9 short days, they'll call you a toddler, they'll give you the OK for regular milk, you'll have your first party.  But me, I'll still be calling you baby, I'll still be nursing you, and while I will enthusiastically sing happy birthday to you at your party, all I'll be thinking about is the day you came to me a year ago on that snowy December night... the most peaceful, beautiful face I had ever seen, beaming with a light that hasn't ever gone out.  I'm happy, of course, that you are growing, but if I'm expected to just let it happen without a fight, well, they don't know your mama (it's a proverbial "they", by the way; there is no specific evil force aside from Father Time at work here).  I'm not there yet.

But, lucky for me, you're not 1 yet.  So I can slow it down just a little before you're tossed out of babydom into the noisy, messy world of toddlerhood, just to savor that sweet baby essence a bit more, and to let you in on a little 11 months and 21 days, you already know pretty much everything you need to know.  Sure, it'll be nice when you're over 3 ft tall and can say crazy ass stuff like your brother, but today, your heart and soul are already perfect.  Blow out (or spit at) the candle, start drinking out of a sippy and running around, but really, please, for this mama's sake, don't actually change a thing.  Especially these things.

- That smile -- when you smile, your whole face sparkles.  I swear it does, ask anyone.  You have some kind of innate radiance; you've had it from the minute you were born, and I only wish it could be bottled.  Something, someday, will make you sad, I know (yes, something aside from us taking  the shoes you want to lick away from you) wish is that you're always able to see the world through this same lens.

-You adore your brother, and he adores you.  I know you'll fight one day over toys and friends and life (hopefully not about girls, please don't fight over that)....but my wish is the current open-mouthed kisses and chasing after him when he leaves the room is actively altering your DNA such that deep down, no matter what, you will always have each other's backs.  He already advocates for you having 5 more minutes before your bedtime every night, so I can tell you that at 3, he already has yours.

-Your openness.  I know you can't really complain much yet, but there's an ease about you.  You already know how to go with the flow and adapt to change.  I hope you always raise your hand when things are really important to you, but that you are also able to roll with the punches and be open to life's ebbs and flows.  

-Your courage.  Before you jump off a couch you hesitate and make sure there is some kind of support there, but then you jump -  no holds barred.  I love that.  I hope you always jump when it feels right.

-Your affection.  For me, for your daddy, for your brother, for that mangy bunny.  You hug and kiss everything like you really mean it.  People will tell you boys shouldn't be so sweet, but I can tell you that strongest men I know really are.  Plus, girls dig it. 

-Your passion.  For food, for sports, for animals (ugh but the cat love may have to change)...whatever it is, you act with intention, you love with gusto.  Please don't get lazy, please stay passionate and (for your mama's sake), please continue eating copious amounts of food.

So fine, I know I'll get over this whole birthday thing, and we will have so much fun when you can talk and sing and run like your brother.  But in my heart, you will always be this perfect, sweet baby.  And down the line, when we're seeing you off to college (or you're selling your multi-billion dollar start-up, that would be fine too), I hope I am still reminding you not to change these same things; that you will still know that how perfect you've always been in my eyes.  Thank God you're not 18 yet. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

On Sleep Training (just kidding)

Who else is sick of reading judgy parenting articles, and then the articles and social media posts judging the judgy parenting articles?  I can hardly stand it anymore, so I have to go on an ironically judgy rant.  I belong to a couple of those FB mom-groups which, for the most part, are a great platform for exchanging information and offering encouragement.  But in the past 48 hours, I've seen 4-5 incendiary posts on one of these platforms about sleep training, followed by some commentary that is equally as self-aggrandizing and divisive.  Sure, I suppose I could stop reading it, but gawking at mommy wars is something like driving by a car know you might see something that will upset you, but you just can't help yourself.

The current tagline among moms is judge lest you be judged.  But these types of posts and the commentary that follows show that that's not really what's happening.  Which begs the question for me... is it really possible to NEVER judge the parenting of another mom?  Maybe we are setting some unrealistic expectations and could look at it another way.  After all, don't we all have a few issues that we feel really strongly about?  Presumably, when we make choices related to those issues, it's after evaluating the options and ultimately determining what we think is "best."  I think it's natural that when we see someone else making a different choice about the same thing that we - dare I say it - make a judgment.

If you're not sure if you do it, don't worry, you do.  Whether it's sleep training or nursing or vaccines or discipline or private school or epidural or processed food or iPads or extracurriculars or TV or working, there is SOMETHING you care enough about that makes you react, sometimes not in a positive way.  Sometimes we admire another's choice, if it's something we wish we could have done.  But other times, maybe most of the time, what is perceived as "judgment" is really just a guttural reaction to something that helps affirm our own sense of what is or isn't right for us.  Feeling affirmed and validated isn't a bad thing in it of itself.  We all need it, from time to time.  In your first few years of being a parent, everything is new and you are often unsure that you're doing the right things.  But in the rare moments when you feel confident that you are making good decisions for your family, it's ok (I think) to bask in it a little, even if what made you realize that is seeing someone else do it differently.

However, putting other people's choices down and taking offense in a debate is an entirely different story. Internet commentary has put all mother-in-laws since the dawn of time to shame.  I have never thought, let alone said, that someone was a bad parent for doing X, but have I noted (to myself) that X is not something that would be right for me?  Sure.  Have I given myself a proverbial pat on the back when I hear of some problem we have worked hard (and successfully) to prevent?  Sure.  Do I feel miffed if someone tells me they'd do something differently than I do?  Sometimes.  I think making these judgments from time to time and feeling defensive when you're challenged is inevitable when you care so much about doing "right" by your kids.

Perhaps the message shouldn't be, "don't judge" but, instead, to forgive others when they do and be mindful when you find yourself doing it, as it may be a good opportunity to reflect on your own choices.  We should share information, but if we don't like information that's being shared, we can choose to disregard it and not take its circulation as a personal attack.  We can acknowledge that our strong opinions can coexist with those of others. We can stop working ourselves into a tizzy trying to justify our choices to perfect strangers (sometimes really to justify to ourselves that they are the right ones for our family).  A person who feels strongly against sleep training just won't ever see it the other way.  And that's ok.  There's probably something they do that you think is ridiculous.  That's ok too.  Judge away.  Let's all just stop taking it personally.  After all, in a few short years our kids will make us feel like we did everything wrong anyway :)