The Facebook Post That Made Me a Terrible Mother

by Kristin Parran

I can’t keep it in any longer. I must be the worst mother ever. It doesn’t matter that my not-yet-3-year old son adores me. Or that he climbs in bed with my husband and I and tells us we make the best team (then asks for high-fives). Or tells me he loves me more than cars. CARS! None of that matters.

Two things I have read today make me believe that despite all of these things, I must be a terrible mother. First, I read a blog post about breastfeeding. Or, rather about not breastfeeding. The author shared her honest feelings around the disappointment – and subsequent judgment – around not being able to breastfeed. The point was that mothers should leave other mothers alone – breastfeeding or not. Funny, though, all of the comments from women who felt judged about not breastfeeding came from a place of not being able to breastfeed. I didn’t see one from a woman who CHOSE not to breastfeed, like I did. It’s hard as a new mother to not feel at least a little judgment with every decision you make – even if it’s self-inflicted judgment. But, I am increasingly finding that mothers like me – those who choose to bottle feed for one reason or another – don’t exist in public forums. They sit back, try to stay unnoticed and feed their babies the best way they know how. Some choose the expensive organic formula. Some pay for soy-based. Some do extensive research to understand which product is best for their babies. But the thing that connects all of these women is that they love their babies just as much as breastfeeding women do. I love my son no less than the next woman. I firmly believe – and would argue til I died – that in the way I know how, I have given my son the best chances for a life full of love, happiness and health. But it’s hard to find people like me out there. At least those who admit it.

The second thing I saw was on Facebook. This kind of thing usually doesn’t affect me the way it did today. Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive, or because my stepdaughter is visiting and that always has my emotions doing somersaults. Either way, it hit me. An old acquaintance just went back to work and posted that she’s missing her babies more than ever. But that’s not it – it’s what she said next that hit me: “I know every working mom would rather be at home with their babies all the time.” I dropped everything and started this post. I couldn’t help it. My brain is screaming. You ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom. But, am I? Really? My response to that post was not: “Sister…you are so right! I would so much rather be at home with a screaming toddler, playing with cars and arguing about naptime Every. SINGLE. DAY.” Rather, instead my response: “That’s BS! While I LOVE my baby, I also LOVE my job. And the people I work with. And the opportunity to be ME. And the socialization. And that I contribute something financially to my family. I love having both. I NEED to have both.”

I get the sense that a lot of mothers will read my response and gasp. GASP. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT!?! How could you say you love your job AND your baby? How could you not want to spend every single waking moment with your child? The answer for me is simple. Being me – the me who loves my job and my husband and my son and my friends and my time alone – makes me the very best mother I can be. Whether or not that mother meets standards set by others is something I can no longer judge myself against. I wish I could say that feeling follows me everywhere, every day. But, it obviously doesn’t. Rather than reading that post and saying: “There are mothers of every color, and I happen to a bright pink” I took it as a jab. A knife turning in the heart that is still trying to heal from post-partum. So, I’m not perfect. I do let some things get to me. But after the initial crazy self-judgment and guilt wear off, I once again see that I’m not such a bad mom. My son is an incredible human being. And, at the end of each day, I have to believe that I have something to do with that.

Kristin Parran is a mother of one (nearly 3-year old) boy and wife to a husband who anchors her in peace. Wise enough to know life can (and should) have balance, brave enough to listen to her gut – but not always smart or Zen enough to stop sweating the small stuff – she recently moved her family 1,100 miles to give everyone the best shot at equilibrium. She spends her days working from home for a tech PR firm and shedding tears of gratitude for newfound peace – which is soon interrupted by the impatience of reality. Each time she leaves her house, she secretly hopes to be discovered by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley or Dierks Bentley as a (silent, yet energetic) back-up singer. Or, to someday see her name on the cover of a book.

KP

For the Love of …. Dish Towels

Husbands and wives argue over many things: money, schedules, kids, cleaning up, folding laundry the right way, loading the dishwasher, other women, other men, clothes, music, TV, sports and so on. If you’re married, you know how it goes.

Fortunately, me and my hubby, we really don’t argue. Sure we nit-pick from time to time: it’s healthy. We are also incredibly silly, which is even healthier. But one of my pet peeves that really gets me going in the spousal bickering department is our opposing views on  … dish towels.

Me: Dish towels — or tea towels, as we call them in England — are intended, as their American name suggests, for drying dishes. Drying dishes that have been cleaned. Therefore, said dish towel should also be clean prior to their drying function or else the dishes would become dirty again. Ammiright or ammiright?

As a secondary function, dish towels can be used to dry one’s hands, after one has washed said dishes. Again, this calls for use of a clean dish towel, or else said hands will be rendered unclean once again and the whole thing is “moo” (to quote Joey.)

Him: Dish towels are rags with wide-ranging functions from wiping down messy counters, to cleaning the inside door of the wood-burning stove, to handling sticky, hot pots and pans.

We’ve had several run-ins on this delicate topic. We’ve called each other names. We’ve thrown our hands up in the air. We’ve laughed and snickered at each other’s weaknesses on the topic. We’re both right and we’re both wrong. It’s a hoot.

The good news is we found a solution. We’ve established hooks by the sink, designated for the clean dish towels to be used only for drying dishes. And another spot where we hang a towel, designated only for the drying of clean hands. This makes me happy. All other dish towels, tea towels, rags or whatever you wish to call them are his to use however he sees fit, as long as they eventually find their way into the washing machine and never, never, put on the hooks with the clean towels.

Yes, I am a control freak and he is a professionally-trained chef. It’s a beautiful thing.

The other funny footnote to add to this seemingly pointless post is that, when towels are not hung back up or put in the washer, but are left in random places within the dog’s reach …. well then, off they disappear to be buried outside in the mud somewhere, as our dog likes to do. Often.

So there you have it. Happy weekend, folks!

How Marriage is Like a Presidential Debate

As I watched President Obama and Governor Romney duke it out again in last night’s third debate, it struck me that there are a lot of similarities in the way husbands and wives often interact – minus a Candy Crowley or Bob Shieffer to moderate. After all, aren’t we always trying to be heard, get our argument across, point out injustices, fact check and fix the deficit? And much like in presidential debates, we also enjoy  talking over each other, rebutting and trying to get the last word.

In my marriage, however, my husband always gets the last word. It’s “yes dear.”

Here are some other ways the recent debates can be akin to marital dialog:

We need to do a better job of balancing the budget.

That’s a lot of malarkey. I think if you did the math, you’ll find that I actually took the trash out 208 times over the last four years.

Why is your 401k bigger than mine?

Honey, can you bring me those binders full of healthcare bills?

Not tonight, sweetheart, unless you support planned parenthood.

Can we outsource the children to your parents this weekend?

And while I am at it, I’d like to offer the candidates these words of wisdom that my father offered my husband on our wedding day. It goes like this. “If you’re wrong, admit it. And if you’re right, shut up.”

For the Love of … Loading the Dishwasher

I recently blogged about my love for laundry, how it feeds some deep-seated compulsion for order and organization, how much I enjoy converting a smelly disorganized hamper-full of dirty clothes into fragrant, neatly folded piles. A few of you called me weird. I get it, that’s cool. But it also sparked a lot of empathy and discussion among readers of the Framingham Patch (where my post also ran.)

And so this brings me to the topic of loading the dishwasher, another contentious topic methinks, especially among married couples. Raise your hand, readers, if you reload the dishwasher after your spouse does. My hand is raised. The Boston Globe even wrote about the marital strife that the dishwasher causes.

Bottom-line, I have a system and it works.

On the top deck:

  • cups and mugs on one side, handles all facing the same direction
  • big drinking glasses on the other side
  • kids drinking glasses in one row
  • bowls, lunch boxes and other random plastic items in the middle –  but arranged to make optimal use of space

On the bottom deck:

  • plates of the same size, stacked all in the same direction
  • silverware sorted by type
  • bowls, dishes, lids, other utensils around them -  but arranged to make optimal use of space

This, my friends, is not rocket science. Note the phrase “optimal use of space.” For the life of me, I cannot understand why some people throw everything haphazardly? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. And while I’m pointing the finger mostly at you, men of the world, the fact is that I also know of some women who are dishwasher-challenged. (You really must check out this funny card on the topic!)

But let’s get back to the enjoyment factor. When the sink is full and the counter is littered with the detritus of dinner, I get deep pleasure from opening the empty dishwasher, assessing the mess and then methodically organizing and loading. It is always a titillating challenge to try to fit as much as humanly possible into the machine, while not overloading it and rendering the cleaning ineffective.

Equally pleasing, though at first mighty annoying, is opening the dishwasher to find that someone has already filled it, kind of. After an initial sigh, the process of reorganizing and reloading ensues and, lo and behold, another 50 percent more stuff can fit in there. And, because there is organization, the unloading and putting away process is equally efficient.

Call me OCD, call me a control freak. And I reassure you I am NO domestic diva. But I have this strong inkling that you get my drift, am I right?

Several months back, I wrote about the importance of teaching your kids resourcefulness (so that ultimately you can get them to do stuff for you.) My goal is to teach my son how to load the dishwasher efficiently. If I do it right, then not only will I have to load the dishwasher less but I’ll be setting him up for future household (and marital) bliss!

What If?

What if I hadn’t been applied to a job posting for an au pair in Paris when I was 19?

What if my host family there didn’t have a friend from the USA who was visiting London?

What if I had never introduced that friend to my brother?

What if they hadn’t got along?

What if they didn’t move to the USA several years later with their kids?

What if I had stayed in France?

What if my brother hadn’t worked with someone who’s cousin lived in Boston?

What if I hadn’t bothered to contact him?

What if I’d hadn’t dared to meet him on a blind date?

What if I didn’t say yes to his marriage proposal?

What if we had decided to live somewhere other than our town?

What if it hadn’t been a struggle to have kids?

What if …….?

Life is so full of what ifs. They blow my mind, quite literally. If any of these questions had a different answer, I would be living a different life altogether. But I believe in serendipity as well as in creating your own destiny. Every decision we make shapes the next. We make things happen, they don’t happen to us. This is my credo. What ifs are about looking over to your shoulder and marveling at the path that has brought you to today. I march forward, savoring one moment at a time.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

This week, Devin and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary. Wow! Ten years.

When I said “I do,” to him back on April 25, 2002, it was with the conviction that I had found someone who matched me. I knew that being married to this guy would be fun. Of course, it would have its share of ups and downs, like any marriage. Naturally we’d bitch and moan at each other along the way. I knew there would be many things I’d do and say that would bug him – and that there would be many, many (did I say many ?) things he’d do that would seriously nark me. And then there would be all the other regular stuff that would interfere, sneak up, challenge, or freak us out. Like pets, work, no work, children, money, mortgage, fridges, religion, family, schedules and all that.

Of course we love each other. That’s a given. But the secret to what has kept this union sound, light-hearted, reasonable and fun is ….. silliness.

Very early on, I realized that Devin is as silly as I am. What clicked between us – and which has endured through ten years of marriage – is our very natural way of not taking ourselves too seriously. Once when we were dating, he gave me a copy of Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, with his own silly riddle hidden inside. Of late, I’ve taken to secretly doctoring his daily to-do list. Instead of saying goodbye when we speak on the phone, he’s started saying “f@*k off Frank.” No clue why, but it makes me chuckle.

Fortunately for us, our innate and combined silliness was a perfect foundation for raising children. Now we have an audience! Our kids get a huge kick out of us all being silly together – and an even bigger thrill when they watch mama and papa being silly with each other. It’s downright gleeful.

Other couples count on love, respect and teamwork to nurture their relationships. We have that too. But for us, being silly is the cherry on top!

(Post note: I looked up the definition of silly on dictionary.com and was displeased. I much prefer the definitions on Urban Dictionary, check them out!)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers

%d bloggers like this: