We Don’t Ask For Much

This week, I asked some of my other mommy friends for inspiration.

And, they answered. I asked what they were struggling with, what they would like to read about, what topics plague them as working mothers. Thus come this week’s post. Take a break and click over to Liberating Working Moms to read my latest post dedicated to a working mother’s “me time,” something we often forget to give ourselves.

I’d like to taste my food again. Is that too much to ask? It’s always, “You feed the baby while I eat” or “He needs to be changed now” or “Hurry up, he’ll be awake any minute.” (That last one can apply to more than just dinner.) I remember a time when I didn’t have to chew my food like a malnourished dog.

I’d like to pee in peace. Good Lord. I swear, as soon as I feel the need to pee, the baby wakes up from a nap, or puts something in his mouth that isn’t supposed to be there or the telephone rings or I’m late for work. Or, well, you know. Everything. I never realized peeing was a luxury…

One thing EVERY mom—work at home, work outside the home, stay at home, hybrid, whatever you call yourself—fails to do at one point or another is take care of herself. We’re busy wifing, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, working, mommying. We wear all these figurative hats, but forget that at some point, we were individuals. We treated ourselves once in a while…

Continue reading at Working Moms: We Don’t Ask For Much.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Just Please Go Away

This is my first official post as a WordPress user. In the last few months, I’ve sunk my teeth deep into the world of blogging, and thought I needed to start a fresh project, where I could really be who I truly am. Everything I truly am.

But let’s start with being a mom, since motherhood has been my biggest inspiration for blogging lately, and since I am a regular contributor on Liberating Working Moms.

I have noticed that people always think their ways are the best ways. I used to be one of those people. Until I started to hate those people.

When I was a kid, my family members and I all went to the same dentist who liked to tell jokes while his hands split open the sides of your mouth. This is one of my favorites. A joke that made my mom spit her own saliva right at him before he could get that sucky thing out.

Three Southern Belles are sitting on the veranda of a very spacious plantation sipping mint juleps. The second Southern Belle asks the first Southern Belle, “What did your husband get you upon the birth of your first child?”

The first Southern Belle says, “Upon the birth of my first child my husband bought me that lovely swimmin’ pool you see over there down the lawn.”

The second Southern Belle nods in appreciation and the third Southern Belle says, “How nice.”

Then the first Southern Belle asks the second Southern Belle, “Well, what did your husband get you upon the birth of your first child?”

The second Southern Belle smiles radiantly and says, “Upon the birth of my first child, my husband bought me this beautiful diamond ring.” She holds her hand out for all to admire.

The first Southern Belle exclaims, “Well, my! How very lovely!” and the third Southern Belle says, “How nice.”

Then the first Southern Belle and the second Southern Belle turn to the third Southern Belle and ask, “Well hon, don’t keep us waitin’. What did your husband buy you?”

The third Southern Belle turns her head down demurely and then looks up with the slightest smile. She says, “Upon the birth of my first child, my husband sent me to charm school.”

“Charm school?” ask the first and second Southern Belle. “But why?”

“Well,” she answers, sipping her mint julep. “So I could learn to say things like ‘how nice’ instead of ‘I don’t give a shit.’”

I’m no Southern Belle. Quite the contrary. I’ve lived in Florida most of my life, but I’m a New Yorker by birth and at heart. I think that’s why I like this joke. I don’t say “I don’t give a shit” when people offer unwanted or unsolicited advice to me. But I think it. Because really, what gives you any right to tell me how to live my life or raise my child? What gives anyone that right?

So, here’s my story, or part of it. I married my high school sweetheart the month after I graduated from college. I’ve never been what you would call a “baby person.” Sure, I babysat for friends and family members, volunteered in the nursery at my church, and I’m a teacher by profession, but I always gravitated toward older children. The ones who walked, talked, wiped their own asses. The ones, for the most part, with whom I could reason. To me, babies meant screaming. And I don’t handle screaming well.

My husband and I agreed we would probably have two kids maximum (if the first one went well) and that we would wait 3-5 years to start “trying.” Two months before our third wedding anniversary, my prince was born. And he, and only he, has made me into the baby person I never was and thought I never could be. And his raising is up to his daddy and me. Plain and simple.

I love my son with an everlasting love. He is a happy baby. He has never been (should I delete that because I’m jinxing something?) sick in his almost eleven months of life. He crawls. He stands on his own. He talks a mile a minute—even though I can’t understand a word of it. He fake sneezes when you say, “God bless you.” He laughs like it’s his job. He climbs on everything. He watches ball games with me–like watches them for real. So when someone tells me what a disappointment I am to mothers everywhere because I didn’t exclusively breastfeed or use cloth diapers, I have to laugh, and think what the third Southern Belle had the gall to speak aloud.

For my first post on WordPress, I wanted to do the “mommy blog” thing. But I don’t want to do the typical tell-you-what-to-do mommy blogging. Because I’ll bet you’re a good mom. Even if you are different from me. So I guess, what I want to do, is stop the madness. Please, please, please, stop the incessant “you shoulds.” We’re all mothers. Our goal is the same: a happy, healthy child.

So, here is my favorite—or, not so favorite—comment from a judgmental nobody. If you’re an expectant mother, be prepared to hear some of these jabs. If you are already a mother, you either know where I’m coming from or you live under a rock. And if you are the type of person who would make this comment, either learn not to, or get off my blog, don’t follow me on Twitter. I don’t want to know you.

I was in Babies ‘R Us when my son was just a couple of months old and yes, I was already buying formula. We’ll save the formula argument for another post, though. A woman behind me (who I assumed just wanted to make friendly conversation) greeted me as we both waited in line. The following conversation ensued:

“Do you mind my asking what that costs?” she asked, pointing to the formula bottles (ready-to-feed Similac Alimentum in case you were wondering, otherwise known as liquid gold).

Yes, I mind… I thought to myself. “They’re about $9.00 each,” I answered, realizing that by the time my son turned a year old, my bank account would be nearly $3,000 lighter because of formula. God help me.

“Well, I’ll make sure to tell my daughter that,” she stuck her nose up in the air. “She’s planning on breastfeeding. And this will encourage her.”

You uppity, nosey, overweight, know-it-all… “Well, congratulations on your grandchild,” I smiled through gritted teeth. “And I hope breastfeeding works out for her.”

I paid and left the store, angry, baffled, a slew of emotions jumbled into one.

I’m an outspoken person, but the thing I pride myself in is that I try (I said try) not to put my foot in my mouth. I try to think before I speak and I always ask myself, “What if?” This lady—and I use that term loosely—failed to think of the what-ifs before she let her comments flow.

Things Obnoxious Nosey Lady Should Have Asked Herself (because I actually can testify to all of the following situations):

What if…this is the foster mother of multiple children taken from the same abusive drug addict? 

What if…this is a woman who has been on fertility treatments for months to no avail, and she’s buying formula for her sister-in-law’s child because they’re a little strapped for cash?

What if…this is a mother who takes a medication that is necessary to her physical well-being but also prevents her from breastfeeding?

What if…this is a first-time mother who has sat and watched her underweight premature baby in the NICU while nurses feed him through a tube?

What if…this is a single mother who has to go back to work tomorrow and just doesn’t have enough supply to pump?

If she had taken a second to think of one or more of these possibilities, she would have kept her unkind and boundary-overstepping comment inside her judgmental, close-minded little brain. But she didn’t. Thankfully, I’ve grown some figurative mommy balls in recent months, and the comment didn’t make me cry like it would’ve in previous years. But it did make me think.

The reason why the world is such a cruel place is because of people like this. People who are so intolerant of anything with which they may disagree. People who don’t think before they speak. What are you so afraid of? That I can’t possibly be a caring mother because I’m purchasing formula? That your daughter might fail at breastfeeding, too?

Really, that’s what it boils down to. Ignorance, hate and judgment are all driven by fear and insecurity. And I refuse to live my life by either.

Working With Style {Kiss Me, I’m Irish Edition}

This week on Liberating Working Moms, I hosted Working With Style, and it just happened to fall on one of my favorite days of the year: St. Patrick’s Day!

…I have shamrock beads hanging from my rear view mirror that jangle when I drive. It annoys the bejesus out of my husband, but I refuse to take them down because I got them at a St. Patrick’s Day street fair and I just love looking at them every day. I got engaged at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m currently writing a novel set in Inistioge, Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. And it’s on my bucket list to visit there someday.

So this week, in order to pay homage to my heritage and make my green eyes pop, I decided, why not wear a green top every day?

…continue reading my Kiss Me, I’m Irish Edition…

Oh, and for a little sneak peek at the utter cuteness I experienced in my daily life, I present to you, my little Puerto Rican prince… who looks quite a bit more Irish than he does Puerto Rican.

Lessons from My Little One

My son has taught me more about love, life and myself than I ever thought another person could. Please see my latest post on Liberating Working Moms, Lessons from My Little One. ❤

As a working mom, and even more specifically, as a teaching mom, I often mull over the lessons my son might learn from me as he grows up. Will he be a planner like Mommy or will he go with the flow like Daddy? Will he be a horrible cook like Mommy or a quick learner like Daddy? Will he be outspoken like Mommy or a quiet observer like Daddy?

Too often, we ask ourselves these questions. We wonder which of our traits—good and bad—will rub off on our children. Then we think about academics. We wonder if they’ll learn their letters, colors, shapes and numbers before they go to school. We wonder if they’ll be potty trained…ever. Because we’re the teachers. And they’re the learners.

But this week, I realized something. That’s not true. I realized it before this week, but a few things this week reminded me. My son has taught me so much about life, love, and myself. More than anyone I’ve ever known has, or ever could have. Here are a few simple lessons I think we, as hard-working moms, can learn from our wee ones.

1. “Sometimes…what you least expect happens.” -Love and Other Drugs 

Man, there were moments during my pregnancy when I experienced wicked feelings of regret. Why didn’t I just get my Master’s degree, dedicate my life to teaching and writing, and put off the whole start a family thing for a few more years? Why did I subject myself to daily trips to the bathroom to puke?

Well, now I know why.

I expected the worst throughout my pregnancy. I thought about miscarriage, deformities, colic, and more. And you know what I got? Literally the healthiest, happiest, funniest infant I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. My son has taught me that from now on, I’m not going to fear the unknown or unexpected. Because those might be just the things I need.

2. “Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” –Henry Ford

My son has taught me to problem solve. Lately, he loves to turn the television and Playstation 3 on and off. Although I think it’s hilarious when my husband is playing a video game and my son crawls up to the entertainment center to do his trick, it’s really not a safe place for him to be. I don’t want him messing with the cords and systems, so while we await the arrival of our monster play yard, we’ve been blocking him off with various other items. Items he has learned to push. And items he has learned to climb.

When I strategically placed a laundry basket in front of the cable box and game system, I watched. I could see the wheels turning in his little baby brain. He was problem-solving. How do I get to it? he would ask himself if he could speak out loud. He pulled himself up, cruised to one side, and began pushing it until it was far enough on one side that he could make it to the Playstation 3. He pressed the button, the light turned blue, and he looked at me as if to say, “I got it!”

Sometimes as working moms, we’re so busy that we fail to realize the simple solutions to problems that plague us. We need to look at our problems the way our children do. To them, nothing is insurmountable.

3. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did… Sail away from the safe harbor… Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Babies and children love just checking things out. When I handed my son a piece of banana for the first time, he examined it. He passed it from one hand to the other, squished it between his fingers, stared at it, then ultimately, put it in his mouth. When we’re outside, my son looks around like it’s the first time he’s ever seen a tree or a sunset before. Because maybe, since he’s so young, to him, it is the first time. He chases ants crawling, sticks his finger in between the sidewalk cracks. He turns his head when he hears a fire engine siren. He is inquisitive. He wants to discover.

We need to appreciate beauty in life. We need to try new things. As working moms, we have to make sure to stay out of a rut. Routines can be beneficial. But they can also be stifling. We need to experience things the way our little ones do—like it’s the first time, with awe, and with curiosity.

4. “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” –Aesop

There is good stress or anxiety. The moments before a wedding. The start of a new job. The arrival of a newborn family member. But then, there are bad kinds of stress and anxiety. And I think we face those more regularly. My son isn’t stressed or anxious. He can’t be. His needs are met. As working moms, we work to meet the needs of our family. We feel like we are entitled to stress, am I right? But the thing is, the stress isn’t helping us accomplish our goals for our workplace or for our family. We need to let it go, eat the crust of bread while breathing easy, and forget about the things that plague us. Even for a few moments a day.

5. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” –The Shining

When my son wakes up every Saturday morning, he plays on his play mat in his pajamas for at least an hour. No, he doesn’t have to do laundry. He doesn’t have lesson plans to write. He doesn’t need to send out birthday invitations or grocery shop. But he’s a person. And a person needs play time. Which means, so do I.

Jack Nicholson’s character typed the above quote over and over and over again. Then he went crazy. Ladies, if we don’t have time for ourselves, if we don’t make time to do something for fun, we will lose our minds. I know that I grow resentful if I feel like all I do is cater to the needs of others. While I love pouring into my family and teaching my students, I have passions and hobbies that need tending to, as well.  Find something you love and dedicate some time to it. Dedicate some time in your day to play.

6. Love unconditionally.

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned. There’s really no love like the love between a mother and a child. People told me that. But I didn’t believe them. Til I felt it.

For thousands of years, people have been trying to put the love between a mother and child into words. In my humble opinion, no one has even come close. The love I feel for my son when I look into his sweet brown eyes is a love I never knew existed. And the way he looks at me is indescribable, too. What I’ve learned about love from him is that you only truly love someone if you love him or her unconditionally. Period. Real love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.I guess the point is, maybe I’m not the teacher, after all. Maybe I’m the learner. And maybe, that’s the way it should be.

Down the Road, the Sun is Shining

I’m a pessimistic person by nature. A Negative Nancy. A Debbie Downer, if you will. I often have to remind myself of the little ways in which I am totally rich and blessed: I have a husband who loves me unconditionally, a house to live in, a job, a car to drive, a beautiful, happy, healthy, funny baby boy. Yet, I often find myself confronted with anxiety or depression or just simple disappointment that I haven’t accomplished everything I’ve wanted to in the time I wanted to.I went back onto Liberating Working Moms and saw the post where we all shared our New Year’s resolutions. I’m not gonna lie. I kind of threw my list together last minute. All of them were items I fully intended on addressing, but my heart really wasn’t in them at the time. The only resolution on that list that I have kept is probably the most important one: to play with my son daily. All the other ones, in some ways, I have failed.One of my dear friends, Laura-Jean, decided upon the arrival of her third and final (so she says—not many of us believe her) sons that she would sit down and write a goal timelinefor herself.Because if anyone deserves to put herself first now, it’s her. I mean, she won’t put herself first. Technically. Her handsome young men will still be educated, loved, played with, entertained, cooked for, and her husband will still have a saint of a wife to keep their home as perfectly organized and smoothly running as only she can, as she accomplishes her goals. But she’s making herdesires and passions a priority. And for that, I salute her.I decided instead of making lofty long-term goals and dates I MUST stick to—because I know I’ll become Negative Nancy if they don’t happen according to plan and get down on myself if I’m at fault for letting a goal fall by the wayside—I decided to make a list of things I’m looking forward to in JUST the next four months. That way, when I become pessimistic about all of the items on my to-do list for each week, when I miss my son while I’m at work, when I have doubts about my future, when I get stressed out at work, I can remember these little pieces of sunshine that will greet me soon enough.

MARCH 2012

Things I Look Forward To:

1.              Going on a lunch date and to see The Hunger Games with Jimmy- We both read and enjoyed this trilogy. We’ve gone to dinner and a movie ONCE since Will was born. It’s overdue.

2.              Seeing Matthew and Caroline!!!- Our best man and his lovely wife will be visiting from Asheville. Even if we only see them for a day, it’s worth it. They are two of the most beautiful people I know.

3.              Participating in my first MLB Fantasy Draft on March 31- nervous, but so, so, so excited about this. And determined NOT to be the quintessential girl.

Goals:
1.              Write one new short story

2.       Finish The Scorpio Races– I don’t read as much as I used to. I started this one over Christmas break, put it down, picked it up, put it down. I just re-started it last week and I will keep reading until I’m finished, even if it’s only a couple pages a day.

APRIL 2012

Things I Look Forward To:

1.              Spring Break- just me and my boy ❤

2.      Major League Baseball starting!!! April 13–Braves home opener!!!3.             Will’s first birthday party!!! <–event of the century, people!

4.             Jimmy’s graduation-Master’s Degree, baby!

(I just realized that April is going to be a pretty badass month.)

Goals:

1.              Compile milestone pictures and create Will’s first year scrapbook

2.              Take Will to one new place and try one new craft over Spring Break

3.              Start reading a new book, preferably on my Kindle

MAY 2012

Things I Look Forward To:

1.              Turning 26 (not really… that sounds too close to 30, but it’s an excuse to eat cake)

2.              Celebrating Mother’s Day

3.              Seeing the Braves at the Trop!!! />/>/>

Goals:

1.              Organize all educational materials from my classroom at the end of the year

2.              Get to the stadium EARLY to see batting practice when the Braves play the Rays

JUNE 2012

Things I Look Forward To:1.              Summer off!

2.              Celebrating my 4thwedding anniversary with my love

3.              Seeing COLDPLAY live in concert!

Goals:

1.              Write DAILY

2.              Use Rosetta Stone or Little Pim (haven’t decided which to buy yet) to learn Spanish FLUENTLY… No seriously. This NEEDS to happen this year. No excuses.

3.              Work out… Also NEEDS to happen.

4.              Look for an online teaching position to relieve some of the stresses of working outside the home and to be more available to my son

5.              Contact advisor at University of Tampa, University of South Florida and University of Central Florida regarding applications for MFA in Creative Writing

6.              Study for the GRE if necessary

7.              Get new glasses 🙂

8.      Enroll Will in swimming classes!

Before I wrote this, I didn’t realize how much I had to be positive about in the next four months. I think this is a good start.