יום רביעי, 30 במאי 2012

Us and Me


As part of the final exercise for my coaching certification, we had to give feedback to each of our fellow students on which behavior/s each of us exhibited that really stood out during our eight months together. I thought it was a great way to see how people viewed me and was excited to hear the comments…after all this has been a very introspective process.

The one remark that I haven’t stopped thinking about is that I spoke a lot during the course about my space, my room, my time etc.  It struck me because of other things that have been happening lately. My babies are no longer babies.  They are almost three. They have opinions, likes and dislikes and they are not shy about expressing themselves.  How do establish a friendship with them while still enforcing rules and boundaries and repeating the endless NO that is part and parcel of life with a toddler.

In different conversations with various people from diverse walks of life I have had a similar discussion; the things I don’t do with my kids. I rarely take them with me on errands, unless it is one that lasts under five minutes. I rarely go to the grocery store with them, unless I just need to pick up five or less items. If we go on a day trip, I either go with family or my babysitter. They didn’t come to the Passover seder and if I am having a Friday night dinner, it starts after they go to sleep.

Part of this is simply that until now, that is when they were smaller, it was much easier to do these things on my own and I always had a babysitter for several hours a day, so I had the time to do it. Also, while that age is farther away from me than I like to admit, I still shudder when I think of having to go with my mother to do all these tedious errands. Some of it is that I don’t have a lot of friends with kids, who  a. live nearby b. have kids of a similar age or c. at all. But some of it, I must admit is that I have divided myself between us and me.

I am a compartmentalizer.  I have files for everything and to some extent this has also extended to the people in my life. I have my Chicago friends, New York friends and Israel friends. My Jerusalem friends and my Tel Aviv friends; my religious friends and my not religious friends; friends with kids and friends without children. I have begun to realize that while this method has worked for me in the past (maybe) it is not working for me now. At least not with my kids.  They aren’t outsiders; they are my family. The grocery shopping and laundry and holidays are for them and a part of them and are memories for them.  Now that they're almost three it is time to include them and watch them enjoy and learn.  When I look at them I see they are no longer babies. They're bodies have become little girl bodies and when we converse I actually understand what they're saying.

The other night a friend from the United States was here and suggested we go out for dinner…with the girls.  I immediately said no…but then I remembered what my friend from school told me and how my new approach is to relax, enjoy and include. So I said yes. It was certainly not a relaxing dinner over a glass of wine with meaningful conversation on a variety of subjects. It included spilled drinks, seven trips to the bathroom in 20 minutes (we're in the midst of potty training) crayons, stickers and about 100 wipes. But it was dinner at a restaurant with my family. And it was fine, pleasant, even fun…although of a different variety than once upon a time. It certainly helped that my friend was good natured and helpful.

Maybe I'm just a slow learner, but only now am I  realizing that my adjustment to motherhood is still ongoing. While I have adjusted to getting up at 6am and the 24/7 nature of my job and the midnight wake up call, I hadn’t really internalized that I have little people in my life who are part of my social life. Maybe when they're babies it's easier to separate because essentially you are a caretaker albeit a very loving one. But now they are little girls and they are the joy and loves of my life. It's time to become friends and not just a custodian. I am so looking forward to the continuation of our journey together and establishing an even more complete bond.

יום חמישי, 3 במאי 2012

Maternal Instinct


Maternal instinct: a mother's innate instinct to protect and care for her offspring. Why is there no term "Paternal Instinct"? Does the concept exist? Is it learned and not innate?

I have a friend who is in his early fifties. He desperately wants a child. He is looking into all the different ways to have (get?) one. I think it is cool. I wonder why I don’t think it is especially "cool" when a woman friend does it. It seems normal to me whereas a guy, well, that is something extra. It sort of bothers me that I have a different standard. While ruminating, I think of what a woman friend said to me just this past week…that wanting to have a child, the yearning for a baby, is completely different from actually having a child. At the time I laughed and thought "how true". But now, on second thought, isn’t that how most experiences are? Don’t we have an idealized picture of a life partner? marriage? "happily ever after"? Is the fantasy of motherhood really any different than the fantasy mate or the fantasy life that we create for ourselves? I don’t think so.  I have concluded that like everything, it is all about our expectations.

The difference, I imagine, is that with marriage and relationships there is a trial period; you can live together and get an idea of what your life together will be like.  With a baby there is none of that. You go from the dream state of pregnancy (assuming it is an easy pregnancy), fantasizing, decorating the baby's room, and choosing names to BAM! crying, exhaustion, and constantly trying to figure out what he wants and why he isn’t happy since you’ve just fed/changed/burped him.  You dreamed about this perfect child who eats and sleeps on schedule, goes six hours without waking and because of your maternal instinct you just know what he wants. You answer his need -of -the -moment and back to sleep he goes. Ahh…..not so much. If you’ve been reading my posts, or any other real moms' posts, you know, at least intellectually, that it doesn’t usually work that way. Of course there are moms with dream babies…I just don’t know them. I hear about them usually in baby books but I have yet to meet a real mom with a dream baby.  Is it possible that the dream baby is a figment of baby book gurus designed to make the rest of us feel incompetent, guilty and even more overwhelmed and out of control? Or is it simply an unreal expectation? 

When my girls were teeny, they cried almost daily from 4-6 in the afternoon. Most of us experience those hours as difficult at best. It still remains the hardest time of day. They're tired and crabby and demanding and now that they're older they can "gang up" on me. What makes it somewhat easier is that I know it is not just in my house. I hear whining children up and down the street (one of the true "pleasures" of living in a warm climate is open windows and the sounds from all the other houses on the street). I am able to stress out a little bit less. Somehow, knowing I am not alone makes it easier to cope.  My natural instinct is to cry, scream, yell out of frustration and run and hide under the covers. I would like to think that it is my maternal instinct that allows me to plod on, but more likely, the knowledge that I don't have a choice is what spurs me on….or the knowledge that in another hour they will finally be in bed sleeping and then I can go back to thinking how beautiful, gorgeous, brilliant and amazing they are.

I would love to have another baby; the warm smell, the nursing the cuddling and bonding…. That is maternal. Then reality sets in…the crying, bouncing, pacing, rocking; endless hours of no sleep and maternal instinct runs to the hills. I adore my girls; seriously I am madly in love. I treasure every second, as hard as it is, even the most trying of moments but now that I know what to expect I'm not sure I want to do it again.

I wish someone would write a real life story without rose colored glasses. That finding a mate, if at all, is not easy; that there are disappointments, frustrations and heartbreaks along the way. That even when (if?!) you find him it isn’t easy, that it still requires lots of work and attention. That having children is challenging and the most difficult thing most of us ever do, and juggling spouse, kids, home and job is a full time job in itself. But, even with all the challenges and obstacles we can live happily ever after.