Thursday, October 07, 2010

My way

I’m not going to pretend this is some sort of enormous revelation, but grilled cheezus if I am not at all the type of mother I envisioned myself being, way back when. “Way back when” being… I dunno, as a 22 year old newly married know-it-all? The girl who thought this family she married into had a bit of this crazy-hippie thing going on with their homebirths and homeschooling and non-vaccinating ways, and she was a little… dare I say judgy?

I give myself more credit than that, I didn’t openly judge any of the parenting and personal choices my in-laws made, but I certainly dismissed a lot of it as “out-there” and unquestionably not for me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t know. I was young, and I had only my own upbringing to fall upon as “the way”.

Well that and TV and the Movies.

I may have concocted somewhat of a Hollywood-ized version of what it was like or should be like to start a family in the 21st century. I saw myself as a latte-sipping, suit-wearing, daycare dropping off, city-dwelling, working mother of 2 (a boy and a girl of course). All of my baby’s clothes would be unique and perfect and come from specialty boutiques rather than big-box stores. My kids would grow up eating sushi and using sign-language, and would certainly be potty-trained well before the age of two.

They would be well-mannered little angels who always did as told. We would go to church every Sunday as a family and I imagined the compliments we would receive from the elderly couple behind us about how wonderfully behaved our children were. We would still travel as a couple quite often, I mean what is wrong with those people who can’t leave their children for someone else to watch? Cut the umbilical cord already!

My house would not be cluttered with offensive plastic toys and baby contraptions, specifically the living room would be off limits for those kinds of messes. Oh, and HELL to the NO would I be bringing my baby to bed with me, that is horrifying! Babies belong in cribs!

In short, my life would be somewhat of a cross between Ally McBeal and the movie Stepmom, except I wouldn’t be a stepmom, I would be the real mom, and I wouldn’t have cancer and my daughter wouldn’t be a total snot. That’s really confusing because I need to reiterate that I wouldn’t be divorced, and my husband would not have left me for a younger woman, and neither would I be that other woman. Basically I would just look effortlessly beautiful like Julia Roberts all the time, live in a fantastic and chic loft, and have some sort of amazing kick-ass professional career. And my kids and I would spontaneously break out into song in the car as a way of cool-mom/kid bonding.


What I’m getting at here is that it’s interesting to see where I’m at, a little over a year into this whole parenting gig. A lot of the clothes Gus wears were purchased at thrift stores and garage sales by my mom, or given to us as hand-me-downs from Dan’s mom. Otherwise they’re from Target, Kohl’s, JC Penny, or Old Navy. Gasp! All very mainstream, big-box retailers. My inner 22-year old yuppie is horrified when she sees another kid wearing the same Carter’s dinosaur onesie that Gus has. Yeah, not really.

My absolute FAVORITE place to buy baby/children’s clothes is from, specifically, I am obsessed with Zutano baby clothes. And honestly, their prices are not that unreasonable, but when it comes to buying clothes that my kid is going to grow out of in a matter of months, $20 for a pair of striped cozy knit pants or ridiculously adorable coveralls with little aliens and spaceships all over them is even too much for me. So I save that website for when I need a pick-me-up that only periwinkle sherpa overalls can provide.

Again, I am getting off track, cute baby clothes will do that to you. The point is, any normal day, set me loose on the table of $4 basic sweatpants and t-shirts at Target and I’m good to go.

At about the 6-week mark of my maternity leave I had a meltdown when I realized I couldn’t fathom going back to work full time and bringing Gus to the wonderful in-home daycare we had set up. So now he spends most of his time with his grandmas while I’m at work just three days a week, and I couldn’t feel more lucky or thankful for how everything has worked out. We’ve been able to find the work-life balance that works for our family and of course it looks nothing like what I thought it would.

As for our posh sushi dinners, I don’t even like or eat sushi, so my kids will have to settle for deep-fried sunfish and popcorn shrimp at grandma and grandpa’s cabin in Wisconsin. Sign-language has been a big old parenting fail, something I talk like I’m going to do but don’t actually do, and future Alicia will worry about potty training because this one doesn’t even want to think about it yet.

And the rest of that about my perfect family with well-behaved children who clean their plates and quietly play with their educational/developmental toys in a very specific corner of the house? That doesn’t even sound appealing AT ALL. I mean who are those people? What kind of life is that? Where’s the fun, the spontaneity, the messes, the yelling, the chasing, the chaos, the laughter?

Anyone who knows me knows that becoming a mom has brought out my inner-hippie. I am officially down on The Man, I don’t seem to quite fit in with the moms at my mommy-and-me class, and my friends think I’m crazy because I still haven’t spent a night away from my 13 month old son. I had an unmedicated Bradley birth and am still breastfeeding with no plans to stop anytime soon. My baby spends about 4 hours, at most, in his crib every night, and the rest of it snuggled up next to me and Dan in bed.

He’s nowhere close to sleeping through the night, but I can’t let him cry-it-out. I just can’t. Life is so short, our babies are only young once, and I am pretty sure, one way or another, he’ll be out of our bed someday and I’ll miss his sweet breath on my neck. The inconveniences I feel today of co-sleeping will seem so trivial when my baby is no longer my baby and I would give my right arm to go back in time and cuddle him all night long.

So I pretty much break all the parenting rules, and let my instincts guide my decisions. I “get” why people homeschool (and there are so many different reasons). I “get” why some people choose not to vaccinate. And homebirth? Gosh, sometimes I think I might even consider it if the idea of cleaning up the mess afterwards didn’t appall me so much. ;)

Mostly I’ve learned that there is no one way to do this. We’re all figuring it out, we’re all doing what works for our families, and I’m ok with that. Dan’s mom wrote something in an email to me once that just said it all, explained perfectly how it feels to be in charge of a life. We were talking about child care, my “Tuesday nanny” moved away this summer and I had the daunting task of finding someone new to watch Gus once a week, and of course I was a wreck about it. My brother was a bit dismissive, said something like, “people drop their kids off at daycare everyday and they’re fine, you’re being crazy”.

And I know, I probably was being a little crazy, but no! He is MY BABY and he is helpless and I am in charge of making sure he feels loved and cared for and trusting of his environment. I get why someone without a kid might say that, but gosh, when it’s YOUR BABY it IS different. We’re not just talking about some kid. That’s my kid. Though these days I can’t even look at a child and think of them as just “some kid” anymore.

Anyway, my mother-in-law said this to me, “When you’re the advocate for someone so trusting and small and you’re leaving him there, all by himself… that’s a responsibility that feels very huge and serious.”

YES! That is exactly it! And that is exactly why we all need to figure out for ourselves how we’re going to do this parenting stuff, and we all will probably do things a little bit differently.

So yeah, I’m surprised by what end of the parenting spectrum I ended up falling on, that’s for sure, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of mom of a preschooler, pubescent teenager, and adult I end up being. Life is full of surprises, it’s something new every day, and I can thank God that I didn’t have it all figured out at 22.


Betsy said...

I love your hippie-ish mom ways :) It's fun being on different ends of the parenting spectrum and seeing how normal and awesome our kids are, regardless of how we do things. (Although it's possible I'm creating a monster with my dvd player in the car. Isla will scream on 10 minute trips to Jewel without it on. GRRR! I swore I'd never have a dvd player in my car!!)

And I don't think you are crazy for not leaving Gus for a night yet...although I do wonder how you maintain your sanity. I go crazy without a break :)

I never wanted toys in my living room either...and now thanks to my obsession with Craigslist, I have 2 little tikes high chairs, a changing station, kitchen, doll cradle, riding horse, stroller...etc...ALL IN MY LIVING ROOM. Oh well. At least I'm buying Isla all of the awesome toys I always wanted and never had :) That makes me feel better.

Mandy said...

Alicia, I think your parenting style is amazing! Gus might quite possibly have the best parents ever and he should feel very lucky! I am glad you are breaking some of the "rules". Believe me when he is 4 and wants to do everything on his own and in his own way you will look back and cherish all those time he couted on you to make the right decisions for him!

I know people probably look at me and think what is she doing? We are not the main stream parents by any means - we take Colton everywhere with us (and always have, heck he went to Apple Bees for the first time when he was 5 days old). We let him do things that other poeple might think he is way to young to do (but how will we know if we don't let him try). He used a bottle before bed until he was almost 18 months old and he was 2 years 9 months when we finally kicked diapers and I was totally okay with that (so what if others were trained by 2 I didn't see the rush).

Everyone has their own ideas, their own timelines and their own routines that work for their family and that is what makes parenting so awesome! You aren't ever wrong and you might not ever be right but as long as the kid is healthy and safe that is all that really matters.

val said...

Isn't it an amazing surprise how the real stuff turns out to be so much better than the plan?

Life is good, and it's been really fun watching you three evolve as a family into I don't know...a way that works, that you like, bits and pieces that come together right.

love, Val

Lisa said...

There's no better way than your own way. And you, my friend, are a fabulous mother and should feel proud of the precious little guy you are raising.

Freckles said...

I agree with the comments that everyone else made about your parenting style. I envy it, for sure. I hope I can stick with breastfeeding as long as you have - heck, I'm so proud of myself for going this long and am shocked that I LOVE breastfeeding. I definitely didn't see that coming before I got pregnant. I'm the only one in my mom & baby class that nurses my child when he gets hungry - everyone else brings a bottle. I guess that makes me the most hippie-like of the moms. As long as you care for and love your child, and have his best interest in mind, you can't go wrong. Screw what others say about co-sleeping and nursing beyond a year - its your life, your kid, your choice. And as far as not being able to spend a night away from Gus, I have a feeling I will be the same way with Kellen. I have a hard enough time leaving him alone with Aaron, let alone someone overnight. I started crying when I got lost on my way home from Lisa's because it was keeping me from my son for mere minutes longer than I was prepared for. Kind of embarassing to admit, but yeah. Just know that you are doing a TERRIFIC job at being a mommy and don't feel any guilt or worry about what others think. You're awesome!

Angela said...

Buddy, that was such a great post full of self reflection and such appreciaiton for your life. I love it. I think you're a great mom. Heck, I think all our friends are great moms and from the little I know and see, looks to me you all do things in different ways that work for each family. And I think that's great.
On a less serious note, I love how you were describing Step-mom except nothing was the same. So funny. And, FYI, my family was the family with the perfect kids at church that ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Allie said...

Parenting brings out your true self, not the self you wish to portray to the world. When you allow yourself to run on women's intuition and instinct, great parenting takes place. And it sounds as though Gus has a pretty fabulous set of parents!

Anonymous said...

Don't let anyone pressure you into quitting nursing... #1 was 13mths, #2 was 18mths, and #2 was 2 1/2 yrs...and I wish I wouldn't have been in such a hurry to quit with the first 2. I agree...I had so many pre-conceived notions about parenting and well then I met your motherinlaw and I saw what her "type" of parenting produced and well...I think her track record speaks volumes. What an incredible family you have married into! I'm actually jealous!
Love Renée

Baby Mama said...

I love this post... I was also SO wrong about what kind of parent I'd be. I have no idea what determines the kind of parent we become, but I've got to trust my gut none the less.