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 Comfykid.com, 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.