Mother: I was desperate for that title

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”

-Debra Ginsberg

Mother.

I was desperate for that title.  I went through years of infertility. I was diagnosed with a uterus septum several years ago; I had several operations and procedures to diagnose it, as well as, fix it.  My husband and I ditched fertility treatments (fertility drugs and two failed IUIs) and opted to have acupuncture.  That did the trick; I was pregnant two years later, with my son. He was born, May 13.  Now, his birthday falls this year on Mother’s Day.

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Photo by Sara Turner

Now, I am a mother.  And with this title, comes the work, the love, the magic, and the chaos.

Right now, he is watching Sesame Street so I can write this.  Well, now his bare chested toddler torso is up against my right shoulder and I am begging him to press play again. So much of motherhood is a series of meltdowns that fury inside me, silently, and sometimes not-so-silent, while outside my own body, my toddler’s hands are everywhere, and my body doesn’t seem to belong to me, with cries for “Ba Ba” (his name for my breasts) and toddler somersaults across my chest and legs, crying “Mama Mama.”

Nothing quiets, UNTIL I STOP everything I am doing and throw up the white flag.  I give in to his needs. I am not going to lie – this cheeses me off sometimes.  I JUST WANT TO FINISH THIS ONE ARTICLE – THIS ONE THING. But that’s the thing – motherhood surrenders, not in defeat, but in victory – for it is in these surrenders, my toddler rises higher, smarter, more loved, more nurtured.

But darn, I just got a knee to the shoulder and his little persistent hands keep trying to turn off my computer.  So, I compromise.  I stop.  And we read his favorite book for the zillionth time, Llama Llama Red Pajama.

The veil of motherhood only gets lifted for a few: my husband, my closest friends, and sometimes, it just does not. I cloak myself in the finest silk and finest expectations of motherhood, and sit idly, feeling ugly underneath that beautiful white silk – feeling dark, angry, forgotten and I stir.  Oh, do I stir.

The comfort of kisses and hearing “Mama,” from my toddler, are like waves of rainbows.  But the surrender flag must go up to see these rainbows, for I am blind to them if I do not.  Magic is a funny thing – it comes and goes and sometimes there are droughts for days – no rainbows – no flag.

I managed to get through the first year breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and no TV.

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Photo by R. Oteri

The second year, well, that was a different story.  We still co-sleep, but it seems to be something our queen mattress has outgrown.  And we are still breastfeeding. But motherhood is not a cut and dry thing.

I really have no idea what I am doing.  Really, I don’t.  I just have a swollen compass I call my heart which leads me in the direction of my instincts and those instincts some refer to as Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting has taken a beating with the recent Time magazine cover.  I have so many feelings about that cover, but mostly the feelings have dissipated and now I am left with the one feeling that is constant in my life: motherhood.  My choice is to be the best mother I can and to accept that some of my own expectations of what motherhood should be, simply are not realistic.  This flag of surrender, some might refer to as common sense.

Like Spiderman’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I am responsible to raise this little human being to the best of my ability.  But babies and children don’t come with manuals.  They do though, come into the world wanting to be loved and nurtured.  That is manual enough for me.

I have no manual though and do I ever wish there was one. I do not reference parenting blogs, nor do I reference parenting books.  Most of the time, I am frantic, unshowered, and bored out of my mind, waiting for something to happen. And it often does: a luminescent crayon streak on the clear plastic blender, a load of folded clothes haphazardly sprayed all over the not-so-clean living room, the dog’s water bowl tipped over onto something that JUST SHOULD NOT GET WET, and a plethora of other things.

I’m not sure if I am doing it wrong, or just being honest.  Motherhood is hard. So many slices of myself get deli-sliced-thin and result in a big ole’ hoagie of letting go, sacrifice, doubt, and insecurity.  The condiments hold me in place: friendship, love, and support, and the way my boy loves me.

Each mother has their own journey. And I just wish we would stop clothes-lining each other and let each other parent.  The Mommy Wars have got to stop.  We love our children.  We really do and to each his or her own.

Most moms are doing the best they can.  The judgment is excruciating. Painful.  Ugly.  But my theory of where the mommy wars and the judgement stems from is the Grand Canyon of doubt and insecurity you get when you have children.  This great responsibility leaves one feeling powerless.  And that is the truth (as I see it).

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg

There are so many things out of my control, so I hold tight to what I can control – how I choose to parent my child.  And nobody is going to get their claws on that, for it is wrapped in the impenetrable magic spider web of the love I have for my child. This intricate web is wrapped in the intensity of motherhood.

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Photo by Megan Oteri

My mother did the best she could and I am doing the best I can (and some days I totally stink at motherhood, but I keep going, keep trying, and keep evolving).  I have some more tools in my tote these days, with supportive mothers, and a computer to reach out on days I feel isolated and alone.  Just to know I am not alone on this journey, gives me some sense of peace.  I also have a friend who lives in the same town as me, who I can go to, and lift the perfect mommy veil, showing her my warts and scars motherhood brings.

She tells me, “Yeah, I get it.” That’s all I need to hear.

In the distance, I see the magic rainbow – and the beauty of it doesn’t make me feel better – it’s the realization that I can’t see the rainbow all the time that makes me feel better, because it’s raining – the hard hail storm pellets of motherhood.

The beauty, the heart wrenching worry, the deli-thin slices lost to the big ole’ hoagie of motherhood, another bite, another part of myself, as I knew it, gone.

But the rainbow comes out, as my toddler makes ambulance siren pitch sounds right in my ear, and talking toddler gibberish.  I see it.  I can smell it (or is that me who smells who has not showered or brushed my teeth this morning). I taste it.  I touch it.  I feel it (his toddler arms are wrapped around my neck as I write this).  This is the texture of motherhood – smooth, rough, splintered, cool, hot, layered in the mosaic of mother’s love.

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Photo by Sara Turner

Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother’s day will be the day to celebrate love

“Mother’s Day is your day to celebrate the way you choose. This day for us single women is all about recognizing the amazing life we have created. Celebrate yourself. You are a strong amazing woman. Take pride in that.”

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flickr/KazAndrew

 

I never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day – I never saw much point in it. Not as a child and not once I’ve became a mother myself. What is there to celebrate? And yet – this year I decided to start celebrating it.

At first it seemed that a lot of women would agree with my negative attitude towards this holiday. For example, would you be looking forward to it if you were a single mom of a very young child? Would you celebrate this day at all?

“Mother’s Day as a single mom has been like a box of chocolates. And by that I mean the cheap kind.” One mom says. “It’s a hard day for me, quite frankly.”

Another woman shares, “because I have to do all of the work. I cook, I entertain, and I try to celebrate my own mother. I usually end up feeling exhausted on the day that I should be given a break”.

“I love my children more than anything, but to be honest, what I could really use on Mother’s Day, is a break!  A day alone.”

The number of moms dreading Mother’s Day is astounding. The grass is not greener on the married mothers side either. A survey by a gift retailer revealed that nearly half of mothers don’t like their presents, and according to ABC News, more married women join cheating websites the day after Mother’s Day than any other day of the year.

Are there mothers who actually enjoy this holiday? And if yes, what do they do or think differently? What is it that they are looking forward to? Breakfast in bed? Flowers? A recent poll by Babyzone.com asked their visitors this question. The overwhelming majority of nearly 2000 participants wanted to spend a great day together with the whole family (40%) or to treat themselves to a day in a SPA (26%), closely followed by an entire day of napping (14%).  Check out Spa Source they offer facial beds/massage tables that can be used in your day spa, salon or private skin care practice.

“With crazy schedules, school, sports, work, we use it as a time to be together, not for alone time. I can go to the spa any time I want. On Mother’s Day, I want to spend it with the person who gave me the opportunity to be a mother on Mother’s Day, my daughter!”

My best friend is a single mom of a 4-year-old girl. Her husband died two years ago and my friend is still not really over her loss. When I asked her about the upcoming Mother’s Day, I was quite surprised to find out that she was looking forward to celebrating it.

“Mother’s Day is your day to celebrate the way you choose. This day for us single women is all about recognizing the amazing life we have created. Celebrate yourself. You are a strong amazing woman. Take pride in that.”

When I looked around I quickly discovered that the group of dissatisfied mothers mostly was complaining about not getting the right present, or no gift at all. Those who felt that their families should thank mothers for all the hard work were disappointed quite often.

Women who were very positive about Mother’s Day focused on pro-actively celebrating their relationship with children, grandparents and friends. As one mom has put it,

“I think we should be celebrating our mothers, and even our sisters, daughters, grandmothers and aunts on Mother’s Day.“

The more positive accounts about happy Mother’s Days I read the more I want to celebrate it myself.

As one of the moms suggested to me, “go with your child and do something fun together. Go to a park and have a picnic. Talk with your child and let them know how much you appreciate them. Write a letter to your baby or child and tell them how you feel about being their mommy!”

And this is exactly what I am going to do this year – I will start a tradition in our house. Mother’s Day will be a day to celebrate love. The most selfless and enduring love on Earth – mother’s love to her children.

Motherhood: Is It Holding Mothers Back?

“The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” is the latest release of self-effacing mom lit, by prominent French intellectual Elisabeth Badinter. From her recent piece in the Huffington Post:

Today’s ideal of motherhood requires that we give birth in pain, without benefit of an epidural, since this robs us of our first act as a mother. We are enjoined to nurse for six months, a year, or longer, day and night, whenever our child wishes, regardless of the mother’s situation. We are advised to practice co-sleeping, at the risk of sending numerous fathers to the sofa. The good mother who wants the best for her child is urged to forswear processed baby food, which is eyed as a health hazard, and to avoid daycare as injurious to her child’s healthy development. With all of its demands, the naturalist ideal of the 21st century means that it takes a woman as much time and energy to raise two children as our grandmothers spent raising four.

We’ve heard these types of arguments before from Erica Jong and countless mothers before her. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Prescriptive parenting, whether pro- or anti-naturalism, is at the heart of the issue. As Badinter herself agrees, when we look to gurus, whose opinions change with the mood of the times, we lose our way. Believing that there is a right way to parent, especially when that way contradicts with your own instincts, is the real prison modern mamas are facing.

Badinter continues: “Daughters have reacted against the feminism of their mothers. Most of all, we have seen the return of a naturalist ideology not much different from that of Rousseau, which kept women at home for almost two centuries. Its message was simple: ‘Ladies, your duty and your great achievement is to make the adults of tomorrow. You need only look to the teachings of nature and devote your days and nights to the task.'”

I’m concerned by this idea that modern or attached motherhood is setting back the feminist movement. For me, and for many of my generation, the lasting gift of feminism is the right to choose what we do with our lives: the right to self-determination. Not the right to sit in a cubicle all day, then pick up our child from day care and call ourselves liberated. Not the right to hate your life as you wash cloth diapers and puree baby food because someone told you that’s what “good” mothers do. For me, feminism means choosing how we navigate motherhood, whether we dress Junior in cloth diapers, disposables or none at all. In other words, if it’s not for you, just skip it!

Now to the valid issue Badinter raises about mothers whose lives revolve entirely around mothering. “We …fail to remember that raising a child doesn’t last forever, that when children grow up we have thirty or forty years left to live. To make a child the alpha and omega of a woman’s life deals a terrible blow to women’s autonomy and to the equality of the sexes.”

I’ll start by pointing out that this issue – identifying so completely with a particular role, always has the potential to leave our worlds completely rocked. A close relative recently told me about the best job she had. She loved it – the work, the people, everything about it. And she was there for a long time. But then one day she was let go. And she swore to never again identify with a job so completely. Work is work, she said, and that’s all it is.

So maybe identifying so completely with one role, to the exclusion of others, isn’t just a pitfall of motherhood. It’s a danger of completely identifying ourselves with what we do, rather than who we are. The danger is identifying as anything but our true selves, whatever that means to each of us. As long as we stand in our own truth, we’ll make the best decisions possible – for ourselves, for our families and for our careers. And if the highlights of our lives change suddenly or over time, we’ll be equipped to ride it out.

Busy as Can Bee

I do most of the correspondence for my work over the phone or e-mail or in ways that don’t require a peek inside my home. It’s not just the baskets of clean laundry stacked in my living room the past week or the pile of dirty dishes on my countertop or my chronically unmade bed that makes me unsure about using Skype and other webcam services. It’s the whole juggling act of working and parenting.

The other day, I was attending a webinar – thankfully not one with video-conferencing capabilities – on honey bee colony losses for an article commissioned by a local magazine. It’s a good thing most webinars are recorded, and if they’re not, their information can usually be double-checked on a website somewhere or at least by giving the speaker on the webinar a quick phone call.

So, I’m trying to write down various quotes and all the pertinent information on these beekeeping management surveys. A lot of research, something that requires quite a bit of attention. And I notice that the baby needs a diaper change.

The webinar is playing on my laptop, on my bed. The bed’s not made, so there’s only the thin fitted sheet between baby’s bum and my pillow-top mattress. I check out the situation and figure it won’t take me long to change his diaper, but in the middle of the said change, something comes on the webinar that catches my attention and I drop what I’m doing to hurriedly catch up my notes.

Somewhere in all this, my five-year-old and four-year-old burst into my room arguing about how each wanted to draw on this same piece of paper (we have a whole box of paper!), and one of the cats jumps up onto the laptop’s keyboard, muting the webinar. And I’m squinting my eyes at the laptop screen trying to concentrate all my energy into copying down the words that the man on the computer is saying without taking the time to process what that means in the scope of the story. No time for thinking – at that moment, I was a photocopier memorizing the words coming through my ears and the images coming through my eyes and using my fingers to put them on paper. I don’t have a true photographic memory, but I’m pretty darn close, which is very helpful in overwhelming moments.

I don’t know how many minutes pass, but somehow I do manage to get everything I need down on paper, including intact quotes, and I’m able to mediate my daughters’ quarrel without hurrying through it. I hear a noise, one that usually indicates a diaper change is needed and I think, Thank goodness I got a diaper on him. Except I don’t.  And now I need to do a load of laundry, by far my least favorite activity in the realm of housework.

This is an everyday occurrence. Maybe not the same events, but certainly the amount of distractions. Work, kids, kids, cat, other cat, mail, phone call, work, kids, mail is here, I’m hungry, work, kids, kids, need a nap, kids, work, kids, need a break…get a break, whew!…and repeat. Working from home while being a stay-at-home parent is a lifestyle choice, that’s for sure. This may sound like chaos, but it’s the only way I know to work and work well. I need that little bit of chaos to give my brain the motivation to hyper-organize to be able to be as productive as I am. For me, the fuller my life is, the happier I am. Although I do wish there was a way for me to avoid having to do laundry…

This post is part of the Delicate Balance series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Can You Please Retrieve My Bagel From Under the Bed?

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I don’t normally eat anything found under my bed. The vacuum cleaner can only reach so far. I also have two house cats, and that’s where they go to get a little R-and-R from my three kids. Plus I do have a kitchen stocked full with food found in usual places like the fridge or pantry. But since going gluten-free this winter for medical reasons, it’s not often I get a chance to eat a beautifully soft bagel mounded with cream cheese spread. And I really wanted that bagel.

Losing the bagel – sunny side down, mind you – to the depths reminded me of a great disappointment a few months earlier. I had just left the doors of Burger King with my three children, a baby in a car seat and two girls, ages four and five, and in the crux of my arm balanced a refill of Dr. Pepper that I was really looking forward to drinking. It was a little breezy, and the older children were tired, and the parking lot seemed to be especially busy. When I got to the car, I put the drink cup on the hood and began the process of getting the car seat into its base and the older children into their booster seats. Triumphant with how smoothly things seemed to be going, I reached for the drink cup – when suddenly, a gust of wind shot it off the car and my longed-after Dr. Pepper dumped all over the ground. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even think of going through the drive-thru to get another one.

So, yes, I wanted that bagel. I didn’t want a repeat Dr. Pepper episode.

How did that bagel get under the bed, cream cheese side down, stuck in the dust bunnies and cat hair? Well, I was doing one of my infamous multitasking attempts. I was breastfeeding my baby while sitting on my bed, using the breast pump on the other breast (due to chronic yeast), talking on the phone with a client, sketching out an idea for a project with a pen and notepad, and eating this bagel – at the same time. The baby is at that age where anything within reach is in danger and he batted at the bagel. It dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed. I couldn’t express my dismay more than grimacing a little, because I was still on the phone. And I couldn’t attempt to get the bagel before the 30-second rule, because I was still tethered to the breast pump.

My husband didn’t even blink when I asked him to please retrieve my bagel from under the bed, like I do this kind of stuff all the time…

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

A Mother to Mother Conversation With Mayim Bialik

“…neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true.”

We know of Mayim as Blossom, the Mayim who earned a PhD in neuroscience, Mayim as Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit TV series, Big Bang Theory. She adds “author” to her impressive list of titles with her new book, Beyond the Sling, scheduled to release tomorrow. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Mayim Bialik about her new book and her preferred role, Mayim the attachment mother.

First, I’d like to hear how your book came about.

I’ve been the spokesperson for Holistic Mom’s Network for a while now, and I started writing for this website called Kveller.com, and I guess sort of became this unofficial spokesperson for a style of parenting that I don’t see as particularly bizarre or strange at all. But obviously it’s really out of the norm of the way a lot of people parent. And so honestly, I was kind of just asked to write the book.

I was being interviewed by an actress named Theresa Strasser. She’s a comedian and she had just written a book about pregnancy, and she said to me, I would never want to parent the way you do and I think it sounds ridiculous in theory, but, she said, the way you talk about it makes it sound so not judgmental and it actually sounds like it makes sense even if I wouldn’t choose it. My book agent wants to talk to you. And I’m thinking, book agent? I spoke to him, and four months later we had a book proposal. Kind of an unlikely way to write a book, but I basically wrote the lifestyle that me and all my friends and everybody at Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League sort of know about but I guess once you put a celebrity name on it people will pay attention. I don’t know, I guess that’s the sad state of our culture.

It seems like it covers a lot of myth vs. fact, a lot of, the why behind outward appearances. What do you think people most misunderstand about attachment parenting?

I think people misunderstand a lot of things about the kind of children that people think you raise if you practice AP. People think that my goal, or anyone’s goal who parents this way is to raise spoiled, manipulative, whiny children who are clingy and never gain proper independence. But I think also one of the main things of the book is trying to take on is, not that you need a PhD in neuroscience to write a book about parenting or to be a parent, but that neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true. And that attachment parents don’t choose this because we’re lazy, or because we don’t know how to get our kids out of our bed, or because we don’t know how to say no to them when they keep asking to breastfeed. So I think the notion is that this is a conscious choice and parenting philosophy that is believed in. It’s not passive parenting, it’s not lazy parenting, and it’s not careless. It’s very conscious and concerted.

And there are a lot of different ways to do it! There are families with a lot of structure and discipline that also are attachment parenting families and there are families that are a lot more permissive. It’s a broad term that really describes a lot of people.

What is your biggest parenting challenge going on right now?

[Laughs] Um, how to pick? We don’t have easy kids. A lot of people think I have easy kids simply because they seem easy, but they’re high-needs kids. As anyone with a high-needs baby or child knows, it takes a lot of work to keep that going, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much more attention to give. But I’m getting clear signals that they need more attention and it’s a huge challenge and especially, my husband’s home with them when I’m working, so I’m here even less than I need to be. But there’s still so much that needs to get done. I joke with friends of mine, we say, how can they need more attention? I’m giving them all I have!

Having so much on your plate, author, blogger, neuroscientist, homeschooler,  and obviously Big Bang Theory, and with attachment parenting being the most hands-on parenting philosophy, at least the most hands-on I know of, how do you strive for balance? That’s one of the attachment parenting principles, so what do you do for Mayim?

I try and find small, not time- or money-consuming ways to kind of replenish. I think we’re in an unusual situation where I was the primary caregiver, you know, hands-on, 24/7 for years, and it’s only recently that I’m working and my husband is the one home. So I think it’s important also, for the primary caregiver which is my husband at this point to also find ways to replenish. So, I think he feels that sometimes I get to leave the house, and that’s my replenishment.

But I think that in weeks that I’m off, and all of those times that I am just me with them – I don’t do a lot of social things, I don’t go out a lot with girlfriends, I read, I study a couple times a week with a Jewish study partner, which is an intellectual exercise and also a social one. And I do small things. Like simplifying life so I can catch up on things that make me feel organized and like the house is in order. So for me, sometimes it’s relaxing to know that, like last week me and the boys, we re-did all of their little shelves where they keep their clothes. And things like that give me a sense of peace and balance because it’s one less thing that I have hanging over me.

You mentioned your husband is staying home with the kids full-time. The traditional role has the man as provider and the woman as caregiver. How does he handle that, and how does the family handle that?

It’s unusual for sure. It’s still an adjustment for him. It’s an adjustment for the whole family, but now that Fred is now out of the stage where he’s breastfeeding as much as he had been, it’s much easier. My husband has always been super supportive of breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding. And Fred does still nurse, but he’s not at the point where I’m pumping anymore, which I think is in some ways easier for my husband. He has more autonomy, now that he’s settling in and now that they’re both older and they can do more active field trips together and that the day is not dictated by naps, you know, for the little one.

This particular unit study is about medieval England. This unit study is called Time Capsule: Medieval England by Michelle Caskey. There are daily lessons to keep your children engaged and learning for 12 weeks (300 activities in all)! For each day you also have a variety of activity options to choose from to suit your child’s interest and needs. The unit study also includes a supplies list and suggested reading list.

In this unit study your child will experience being:

  • A Peasant in Medieval England
  • A Tradesman/Tradeswoman in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Lady-in-Waiting in Medieval England
  • A Monk/Nun in Medieval England
  • A Baron/Baroness in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Queen in Medieval England

Your child will get to create and wear peasant clothing, listen to Old English, go on a field trip to a local farm, one of my kids has dyslexia so when i try to find a place to go i make sure they have  dyslexia tutors to give to children with dyslexia where they can , learn to whittle, make a water clock, design their own castle, make a medieval battle axe, and much more.

While these activities would be fun for boys OR girls, they are especially suited to active boys. Not only will they be reading and writing, but doing lots of fun physical activities too.

I read that you’re the only parent on the cast of Big Bang Theory. What’s that like?

Many of our writers have kids, and I’ve actually done a little lactation consulting, on the side I guess, for one of our writers in particular. As it is, when you’re the only in a group of friends to be the first to have kids, it’s a little bit like being an alien species. And I think also, until you have kids, you can’t imagine how much of a part of your brain and your heart are always devoted to them, no matter what you’re doing. I can argue a lot of things about a lot of different styles of parenting, but I will say that when you choose this path, it really is a constant part of you in ways that sometimes I meet other parents who don’t feel that way. I meet a lot of people who say, I’m happy for someone else to handle them. I’m not really thinking about it, it takes a village, and I don’t want to be involved. For me, that’s not our choice. I always miss my kids in a very specific way.

What do you do when you mess up – when you’re short with your child, when you find yourself yelling and kind of losing it? What do you do to repair that relationship?

I guess I’ve been told it’s called a “mommy time out.” I need to know, literally, when to shut my mouth and walk away, meaning to stop the, you know, bad mommy behavior. And I think promptly admitting you’re wrong to your child is extremely powerful. I think I make a very very conscious effort to not make excuses when I apologize. Meaning, I don’t say, I yelled at you because, or I’m angry at you and I used harsh words because you blah blah blah. There are times to explain to a child why or how there may have been a trigger situation but when you’ve hurt a child I believe very strongly all that needs to be communicated is that your intention in life is not to hurt them, and that you feel bad and will do things to not repeat that with them.

And you cannot apologize to a child as if it’s a spouse. They’re not on the same intellectual or emotional level. That’s something I try really hard – I try to do that with adults too! To say, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry, is different than, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry but, you’ve really let me down, you know?

And I think also, something I try and do is I try and, especially with our oldest son who’s six, I’m not afraid – well, I’m afraid and I’m not afraid to try and be real with him and tell him, Mama messed up. Mama doesn’t know how to be the mama of a six-year-old except through this experience and we’re trying, and I’m learning. That’s one of my favorite things I say to them. I’m learning too. And I’m not perfect.

And I’ll make a joke out of it too, I’ll say, I know you think I’m perfect because I make the best pancakes, but I’m not. So a little humor also can take the edge off, so that you can have access to them because they put up a wall when they’re hurt. It’s what people do. It’s protective.

What do you say when people negate your parenting style?

I think with my first I was very sensitive and I was defensive and I questioned a lot, and I doubted myself, but for me a big part has been to find a community of like-minded parents and that’s sort of what API and places like API are doing. Once you have that support and you can have your behavior normalized, it really can give you a lot of strength.

And now I’ve learned which battles to fight and which not to fight. And even with family members, even well-meaning friends, I’ve learned a couple key phrases, like, “it’s working for us,” or, “thanks for your thoughts,” or “I guess we all get to do it our own way,” or, “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” But I really don’t get into the complicated discussions with people, especially when I can tell that they only want you to have their opinion. Because some people want to have a healthy debate, or they’re interested in decisions and why you make them, but a lot of people really just want to be right, and I don’t always have to have that conversation.

You mentioned the organizations that support you, such as API. What individuals make up your support system? Who are your rocks?

I have a group of girlfriends, who we kind of formed a renegade mom’s group and I single them out in the book. One of them is actually my friend who took the photographs for the book. She took the cover photo and, she’s one of those people. I have one La Leche League leader and mentor in particular who I kind of go to for all things even beyond breastfeeding, and she’s sort of my attachment parenting, well, everything. That’s pretty much it. I mean, we have a small circle. I do participate in La Leche League still and Holistic Moms’ Network events and things like that, but for me to have three people, three women in my case that I know I can turn to, even if they don’t agree or do it the same, I think that’s been the most helpful.

I personally struggle with this: how do you just do your thing without making other moms feel like you’re judging what they’re doing?

I know that other people’s opinions are none of my business now. And if people have guilt, it’s not for me to either create or take away. I simply keep it within my circle of my family, and know that what’s working for us works.

I had dinner the other night next to a very prominent celebrity mom and she was there with her nanny, and her two kids and I was there alone with my two kids, and it was very friendly and very nice, but I was kind of wondering, does she look at me and think, how’s she doing it? Why am I not doing that? Why can she do it? Do I even what to do what she’s doing? And I looked at her and I was kind of wondering, wow, that would be really nice to have an extra set of hands right now!

But again, I learned early on that you never know what goes on in people’s families or what they need, or why they’re doing what they’re doing or not doing what they’re doing, so I really try to mind my own business. I mean, honestly I try to mind my own business and I also make sure to use general concepts and phrases that I do believe are true. That we all want to do the best for our kids. It may mean different things to different people, but we all want to do the best. And once you kind of level the playing field, then you can open up a conversation and then you can get away from all that stupid mommy wars stuff.

Do you remember a turning point when you decided that attachment parenting was the way you wanted to do things?

Before we had our first son, both my husband and I were both planning on research professorships. I don’t know, I struggled a lot with breastfeeding. I had a difficult, slow learning curve, as it were. And I think making the commitment to stay home for 40 days, which is something we did after both of our sons were born, I think that tuned me into a new rhythm that I decided not to fight. Because I know a lot of people fight it, and I know people who go back to work after 2 and 3 weeks, you know? But I think for me it really helped tune me into that rhythm, and help us make that decision.

Does your husband read the AP books? Does he do the research?

My husband is rarely yes dear about anything, but if he sees something for himself, that’s the proof he needs. He’s a very principled, rational, confident person, and he, honestly, he doesn’t like to read things like that. I mean, he does a tremendous amount of reading, but no, he has really become a phenomenal example of someone who is not super interested in emotional attachment or psychological development, hadn’t really given it much thought, and literally lived for himself the evolution of this beautiful, beautiful relationship that he has created with our kids and that we have in our family. Although he sees, for sure not one of the principles of attachment parenting was something he thought was totally nuts, and once he saw how it worked, totally jumped on board on his own. But he’s not the kind of person who reads up on things or says yes dear, so it’s been actually really interesting to see. It’s even worked and made sense for him.

Who are your influences as far as parenting goes?

I admire Dr. [William] Sears and Martha Sears a lot, also for their functioning in a conventional world as proponents of attachment parenting. Our pediatrician, Dr. [Jay] Gordon is a huge influence for us, and then personally I mentioned my La Leche League leader, Shawn Crane who is also sort of my everything mentor and parenting expert extraordinaire. But I feel like the real people that kind of make it happen are my girlfriends, Nancy and Denise.

What was it like to work with the Sears’ and Dr. Gordon?

What’s impressed me kind of in this whole book journey has not only been the support on the professional side, from API and the Sears’ and from Dr. Gordon, also a really really positive, healthy general notion that we’re all working toward something good and trying to empower parents to make decisions that are good for them and for their kids. And I think that’s actually been honestly surprising. I’ve been shocked at the lack of ego that I’ve run into and I’d like to think that it’s indicative of the attachment parenting philosophy at work in adults.

Mayim’s new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, will be available in stores March 6th, 2012.

Photo: flickr/pennstatelive

Time Management

All my life I have praised myself for my incredible ability to structure my day and activities into neat little categories of time that allow for the accomplishment of tasks and leave ample room for fun and relaxation. I sit down every night and list my to-do’s and see where they can fit in during the week. Usually I only list 4 things per day, and many times I would even add to the side (lay down for ten minutes and nap), or, eat ice-cream and “smile.” Yes I was that detailed. But apparently there are others as crazy as myself since I saw a book at Barnes and Noble called “listography”, wholly dedicated to this habit of mine.

Since the birth of my daughter 8 months ago I have continued to write lists. Now they are even shorter though. Where on day used to be filled with laundry, grocery shopping, a workout and a full house vacuum, now the list simply says “laundry and pay bills”. And that is certainly enough for one day because in between those tasks there’s feeding, diaper changes, naps, etc.  This has worked pretty well for me. I love the feeling of marking off the task on the list and feeling accomplished. It’s great for my self-esteem; it means I’m productive and organized. On the weekends I never make lists and my days are open for anything, but ironically those days have proven to be the most anxiety-ridden for me b/c I get extremely bored and restless. If you are looking for Commercial and Industrial Laundry Specialists the you must know Aqualogic is a leading supplier of commercial washing machines & industrial laundry equipment around Australia (Queensland & New South Wales).

Recently, I haven’t been able to follow my lists at all. I am unmotivated and feel that everything gets interrupted so if I do make a list, it doesn’t get done and I feel like a failure. Just yesterday I spent 2 hours trying to get my daughter to take just one nap, and after all of that I was just too exhausted to worry about dishes. I just wanted to sit and stare at the TV. Too often I find myself slipping away from organized days. Now when I wake up with my daughter I feel lost. How do we play? What should we do all day? I feel that my daughter grows bored of the same few toys and games we play.  I’ve danced with her, took her on a picnic, took her to library story time, sign language classes, etc. Things just seem to get expensive and many times it feels like I spend more time researching and planning the activity and it doesn’t always even seem worthwhile. It turns into more of a stressor at times.  Seeing that I am a military wife and my husband is only here on the weekends, entertaining my daughter can be an exhausting task all by myself. Perhaps I am just getting really burn out.

All in all I’m still unclear as to what life as a SAHM is for me.  Do I need to let it be unstructured messy fun? What if all my lists are just sucking all the joy and spontaneity out of life with a beautiful baby?

I just can’t decide. I know deep down that I want a clear and focused perspective on my new role and lifestyle. Many days I wonder how other SAHMs feel about their daily life. Do they just wake up and live life without plans? Do they rush around from activity to activity? Where is the balance in this life…I feel that I could slowly become the mom who watches too much TV, drinks too much coffee and eats too many drive-thru meals. I just don’t know.

Mother to All

“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” — Charlotte Gray


Since becoming a mother, the above quote rings true with me, and with lots of mothers I’m sure. I was a lot colder, unforgiving, proud, and stubborn as a person before becoming a mother. A crying child had almost no affect on me. Any mother, aside from my own, wasn’t interesting to me. I didn’t want to hear their problems, or screaming children, or the amount of long hours that they put into their day. Quite simply, I wasn’t interested because I didn’t understand them. I didn’t understand what it took to be a mom. And therefore, their trials and tribulations didn’t hold my attention.

I can pinpoint when not only my attitude towards mothers changed, but also when my compassion for a mother came to the forefront. It was when I found out I was going to become a mother myself. To say that my life changed when reading the pregnancy test would be an understatement. Seeing two lines on a stick meant that I was going to become someone’s world. Their ENTIRE world. I would be responsible for this person in every way. Every move I made would be analyzed by someone.

During the nine months of my pregnancy, I became instantly aware that I was much more emotional. I cared so much more for strangers’ children. I would see other moms out with their kids and if I witnessed a bruised knee, tears welled up in my eyes. The rush of these new emotions scared me, I’m not going to lie. If I was this emotional being pregnant, I couldn’t even imagine where my tears would gather once I delivered my child.

The day came, however, when I did deliver my son. I cried the whole day. This being my first pregnancy and delivery, you can imagine that I was scared…and that too is an understatement. I cried because I was scared, because I didn’t know what to expect, and because I knew there was no going back. This was it. I was about to deliver life. A life that I made from scratch. From his eyebrows to his toenails. I made a human being inside me. Amazing. I still can’t really believe I did it…or that it’s done daily by women everywhere. The whole “sperm and egg turn into a child” thing still baffles me.

Once I settled into the daily routine of being a mother, although it’s anything BUT routine, I noticed that I was still emotional about children, especially infants. They’re so utterly helpless and dependant on their caregiver, that anytime I heard about a child abuse story or an abandoned infant, it just about stopped me dead in my tracks. I cried, I said “how could anyone hurt a child”, it bothered me immensely and still does.

I have grown more compassionate to children and mothers. I now understand what a mother’s job is all about, how hard it is to be a mom, how grueling and, at the same time, rewarding the process is. I feel for moms and children everyday. My tears and I have become friends instead of strangers now because I am so emotional since becoming a mother.

What Charlotte Gray says in the above quote is 100% true. Once you become a mother to your own child, you are now a mother to everyone’s child. And until you experience motherhood firsthand, you will never be able to understand the bond that forges between a mother and child. It’s so intense and so unwavering, that to describe it as unbreakable is even an understatement.

It’s so much more than that. It’s spiritual, metaphysical, and down right otherworldly. There are no words to depict the love between a mother and child. To say there’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for my son doesn’t even begin to bring the statement to life. I would kill, lie, cheat, and steal for my son in any way that I needed to. I am a normal person in every day life, but make me have to flex my mothering and I, like all moms, become supernatural.

We can take on the world and anything that is thrown at us. We are the strongest and most important women in the world. We are mothers to every child. And I firmly believe that there is nothing in this world that can rise above that.

Please, share your comments and stories. Hearing what other parents have to say is empowering to all mothers.

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