Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Weirdness that is Parenthood Edition

We've had a vendor in at work this week installing a bunch of upgrades, which always makes for an intense week, and one in which I cannot take any time off. So of course Petunia started getting a fever on Wednesday. She had been so looking forward to her class Valentine's party (and her fever wasn't technically high enough to require day care to send her home, and she has a history of non-contagious fevers), so day care worked with us to make sure she could go to the party. Our day care is awesome like that. Mr. Snarky had to go get her and take her home not long after it was over, though. Luckily, my parents were already on their way over for the weekend. They'll be watching the kids tomorrow, and also while Mr. Snarky and I escape for a couple of nights of uninterrupted sleep, dinners with adult beverages and adult conversation, and some exploration of an area of SoCal we haven't seen before.

I was struck by how crushed I was for Petunia when I thought she might not be able to take the cookies she'd picked out for her class party in to day care on Thursday. She'd been talking about doing that ever since we bought the cookies on our way home on Monday. Rationally, I knew it would be no big deal. We'd send the cookies some other day, and she'd get to share them with her friends (the key component of this experience, according to her). But it still made my heart hurt because it made her sad, and while I found that amusing, my heart still hurt.

So I was probably as happy as she was that she made it through the party on Thursday. And then I got home and saw the Valentine's card Pumpkin made at school. It has a heart on the front listing all of her family, including both sets of grandparents and both aunts. And two of my uncles who have visited relatively frequently. Names were spelled with the usual charming kindergartner spelling. And the rest of the card is in Spanish- and the first sentence is "Yo quiero a mi hermana." ("I love my sister.") The entire thing just made my heart melt.

Parenting is like that.

But I suck at writing about parenting, so lets read some posts from people who do a better job of capturing how it feels.

First up, Meagan Francis has a good post about why it is OK to look forward to the time when your kids' demands on you are a little less all-encompassing. I like this reminder: "Life holds so much living beyond the years of babies and toddlers."

Next, a post from Renegade Mothering about what it means to "become a mother." It is a very honest and raw post, and I don't think I can really explain which parts resonate with me and which don't, except to say that yes, it wasn't just that my life was turned inside out when I became a mother, it was that my entire concept of who I was had to be torn down and built back up, and I had to figure out which parts from before were essential and which I could jettison- had to jettison, even- now that I had this baby demanding so much from me. I know that the experience is not so jarring for everyone, but it was certainly jarring for me. (However, my husband's sleep patterns did change, and are still changed, although not exactly like mine, and yes, the middle of the night work falls more on me than him for a lot of complicated reasons that neither of us like and both of us wish we could change, and try to change. A full discussion of that is too much for a links post.)

Let's end on a lighthearted note, though. Scalzi is taking a break and posting some really old things to amuse us in his absence. The flaming diaper story is pretty funny, although I doubt his mother thought so at the time.

Happy weekend, everyone! I hope no one manages to reproduce the conditions that lead to flaming diapers.

11 comments:

  1. I wonder if I'm the only person in the world who doesn't feel all that different after having had kids. I mean, I feel different because I'm getting older (academics start working smarter rather than harder at some point in their 30s), but not so much because of the kids. Also, everyone talks about how they never imagined what kids would be like etc, but I dunno, it's been pretty much what I expected with a few things here and there being different, but only after I did some research that I probably wouldn't have done without kids in the picture.

    But perhaps it's a failure of memory on my part more than a foresight of imagination.

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    1. I should also perhaps note that I've been called "motherly" ever since before I can remember. So even though I don't care for children generally, perhaps I was already maternal. Except I don't think I'm particularly maternal now. I'm more paternal. Fortunately my kids are great. (I always thought, "MY kids will be different," and they are. Their snot and spitup etc. is the adorable kind.)

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    2. scantee8:01 AM

      I don't feel all that different and so I guess it is unsurprising that I don't relate to Renegade Mothering. I AM different, of course, but in a way that feels pretty natural and expected, like many of the other big changes in my life.

      Can I say how much it irks me when women makes blanket statements about all women? No, not all women are the same. Not everyone experiences life the way you do.

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    3. scantee8:02 AM

      The "you" being Renegade Mothering not nicoleandmaggie.

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    4. scantee6:55 AM

      I see my original comment didn't post and my second comment makes no sense without the first.

      Ah, well, the cliff notes version is that I too do not feel all that different after having children.

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    5. Sorry, @scantee- I fished the original out of my spam folder. Not sure why it landed there. Sorry I didn't notice earlier!

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  2. I had a complicated reaction to first time motherhood. On one hand I found it quite easy - it seemed natural to have the baby around, I was comfortable around babies, I was totally in love, no ppd, easy time bf all that. (Of course the physical recovery from labor was much more difficult than I anticipated, and that's part of renegade mother's story - birth and the body, and the postpartum body. It's wild/scary/painful.) On the other hand, as time wore on I started suffering from the shocks she talks about - how I had lost my autonomy, and that I'd never really had any idea what it would feel like to have this child shackled to me 24-7. We moved right before I had the baby, so I was terribly isolated too, totally alone in a strange, small place, too introverted to go out and make new friends with a new baby. The isolation plus the sleep deprivation plus the screaming - I mean, how can that not be a shock, a struggle?

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  3. Motherhood was not planned for me when it happened, and it totally fucked me up. I ended up making quite a few adjustments, switched graduate schools and majors to be with my husband and I don't think I ever completely got over that. I had never cared for kids before, and everything was new, scary, and I felt very isolated. The physical recovery was easy that first time, was harder with the latter two kids as I was older.
    I think I did change forever after having kids, but I am still me. Motherhood revealed parts of my personality and some abilities that might never have emerged otherwise.

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  4. Life with Kiddo is partly how I imagined it would be. (Moments of complete awesomeness followed by moments of ewww how can something so gross come out of something so small?!) What I didn't anticipate was how the loss of autonomy would affect me (and to some extent my husband) and the consequences it would have on my relationship. We have a constant round of negotiations (eg. If I let you sleep in on Saturday, will you let me take a nap in the afternoon?) to get each of us some free time/extra sleep. Prior to Kiddo, these sort of things happened (mostly) organically and there were minimal discussions on the topic.

    I'm not sure how much I've changed personality-wise. At work, I feel mostly the same-- except for being a lot more focused now. My social/home life has changed entirely and my relationships with friends and family have experienced the most change.

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  5. Thanks for the interesting comments, everyone. It would be interesting to try to tease apart why some women adjust easily to motherhood and others (like me!) get knocked off balance for awhile. Maybe post-partum depression is a spectrum? Maybe different types of baby experiences are more or less disorienting? Maybe I just didn't read enough about what motherhood would be like? Maybe I read the wrong things?

    Maybe some smart social scientist somewhere is working on this!

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  6. Renegade Mothering cracks me up. Probably because I can relate to a lot of what she writes, and I appreciate the unabashed candor with which she shares her thoughts.

    Motherhood derailed me quite significantly. I think it would have been less significant if it hadn't simultaneously derailed my employment plans and state of residence (literally, in order to support a larger family, we needed to move to a new state.)

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