I’ve been struggling a lot with my circle of moms. I know a lot of really wonderful ones who are raising wonderful human beings and I am so glad they are in my life. I am very fortunate to have such a good group of people in our lives.
But very few of my mom friends work outside the home. The ones who do work part time or jobs that have full time hours but in long shifts a few days. They can do daytime activities and their instagram feeds show daytime hikes, classes and lessons, and nap time snuggles. I struggle with the fact I will never be able to do those things and there are days that makes me so sad.
Beyond the pictures and knowledge about what folks do during the day I feel like my friend group has a belief that it is best to have a stay at home parent (always mom though). One friend recently told me that she thought she and her husband were so fortunate to not have to use childcare (they both work but they work intense long schedules a few days a week so that one of them is home with the kids all the time). A conversation today turned to our lack of good parental leave in the US and how getting just 12 weeks is not enough (and rarely something people get).
I agree that we need better parental leave and I agree that 12 weeks is not always enough but you know what? It was for me. I work because I want to work and around the time Gus was 2 months old I NEEDED to go back to work. I struggled to be home with him and still get a little frantic around 5 o’clock on Sunday. I want to work and Lesley and I feel fortunate that we can afford having Gus in full time childcare.
I’m not saying that my way is best or for everyone. Our childcare works for us, our both working works for us. If we could change anything it would be that Lesley work 32 hours a week and you know what we’d do? We’d keep Gus in full time childcare and she’d have a day to get stuff done at home. I feel like I am a better parent because I work and I think he gets things at childcare that I could never give him. He is happy, well adjusted, and thriving in every single way.
Yes, there are days that I am sad I can’t be with him. Of course that is true and it will always be true. Even if I know we are making the best choice for our family it is still hard. Yes, I struggle with feeling that I don’t really belong with stay at home moms (or two kid moms but that is another post). But what’s larger than that is that I feel that people think I shouldn’t want the life I have. I should want to stay home with Gus. I should have wanted a year of maternity leave. I should be siting at work crunching numbers trying to figure out how I can quit my job. None of those things are my reality and the realization that people assume it is sucks. When we discuss paid family leave and economic stability we need to remember that not everyone is a prisoner here – some of us thrive with this life.
A woman who lives in a town near mine recently lost her husband and young son to a tragic accident. I won’t say much more than that because it’s the kind of stuff that keeps you up at night. Every now and then the story comes up in the news and I look at her facebook page and see what a mother’s heartbreak looks like. I did this today and now I feel frozen and just want to go hug my baby instead of stare at my computer screen.
This combines with another conversation we’ve been having over the last couple of days. I think my kid is overall easy. I’m not saying there are not difficult moments but I feel like we can manage and make it work. We are talking a parenting class/group for two year olds and I find that I don’t have a lot in common with other parents when it comes to their frustrations. I don’t get that frustrated with Gus. Some of this is because I think my expectations are realistic and some of it is because I don’t overthink it in the moment. I overthink it plenty overall – when we have an issue I read and study and talk to folks but then we just make a decision and do that. Other folks are coming week after week not knowing what to do and I just don’t feel that way.
That sounds smug and I don’t really mean it to but I feel like we all mesh well together and beyond that, I love being Gus’ mom. I’m not saying I loved it last night when him and I went to pick up take out and he tried to eat a nickle and hide under a table but overall. A friend of mine said years ago that if she could list her three year old as her best friend without people thinking she was weird she would. I thought she was weird. I get it now.
But the other part of this is that I still feel we suck at everything else. Our kid is awesome and I love and enjoy him so much but our house is still a mess and food isn’t prepped like I want it to be and there’s no time and the dog needs a bath and we have 500 projects we’d love to do but will never get to. All those things feel so overwhelming all the time and as I try to live in the moment they hang back there. I wish it was easier to get things done. I wish we had more time. I wish that we worked 35 hours a week with full time childcare. I wish we had an extra set of hands. I don’t know what would make it easier. I feel overwhelmed by the stuff that needs to be done and overwhelmed with love for my son and I look at a mother grieve on facebook. My priorities are right even if it is hard.
Overall I really like my job. I believe in the work I do (in short I am a case manager for low income folks. The long description is long), I like the people I work with, and while I have a ton of shit to do I am able to spend a lot of time procrastinating by doing shit on the internet (like this).
It’s good that I like my job because I can never leave it. For my training and experience my pay is pretty good, the only logical move from here would be things I absolutely do not want to do (child welfare worker), and I have good benefits. I had three months full paid parental leave when Gus was born, We are all covered on my insurance for $0, I get 20 hours of time off accrual a month and I get 12% of my pay put into retirement without any obligation for me to contribute a thing. I will never be able to leave this job if I wanted to.
Today my boss told me she is going to retire this summer. I have worked for her for 8 years at two different places. I’ve worked for her for 1/4th of my life. She’s a lesbian, super liberal, and loves whiskey. I adore her and she adores me. While I enjoy my job I have a lot of issues with how upper management runs our agency. She has the same issues and works hard to shield us from a lot of bullshit. I am 100% confident that whoever they hire to replace her will be more in line with their way of thinking.
There is a lot that can happen between now and then and one of the things is me moving into a middle management type of position. That is her hope. She would ideally like to go down to part time for a while before retiring so would like me to run my program and supervise my two coworkers which means I would report to her and other programs would report to her but it would cut down on her work load.
This is an interesting idea and I think would be a route I would be comfortable with. I like direct service work and working with clients but there is plenty about it I don’t like too. I would still have some client work but move into more administrative stuff, too. This would at least give me more options for the future whether it be here or not.
Ultimately it is really hard news for me. No one else knows yet and she doesn’t plan on telling anyone soon. Her next move is to start working me into the position she wants me in and then moving her work load around to make it work. In the end I know getting a new boss is likely and that sounds horrific yet with my benefits there is nowhere else for me to go.
Sometimes I get to the end of a blog post and am not really sure how to end it. I think it is best when I just randomly stop writing.
So, you know, the world is shit. (At least here in the U.S.) This post is about that.
- Gus asked us this morning what we wanted to do today. We said we were going to a rally, like the march last weekend. He asked why and Lesley muttered, “This is how we spend our time now.” I don’t think he is old enough to be making permanent memories here but there is a part of me that is kind of happy he will grow up going to protest. marches, and rallies. It’s a pretty small part of me, clearly.
- Lesley and I had a conversation where she asked me what we would be doing right now if we didn’t have a kid. I said I am not sure I would feel the same sense of urgency. She said she would be chaining herself to shit. I am normally the more fired up person so it is interesting to see her as worked up if not more.
- I am a part of a big mom facebook group that has a political subgroup. I am part of the political subgroup, too. It’s one of my favorite places on the internet. It is mostly liberal and has smart people in it – lobbyists, former conservatives, average folks. On Friday the subgroup got kicked out of being associated with the main group for some super bullshit reasons with a claim of not being tolerant enough of other’s opinions. It’s all weird and strange and surprisingly emotional. It’s brought a conversation into both groups about whether or not parenting at it’s core is political (subgroup says yes, most of main group says no) It’s honestly a question I had never considered. Of course parenting is political. The existence of my family is political. The existences of so many families (queers, immigrants, POC…) are political. This has made me so angry at people who don’t care about politics.
- We have family members who voted for Trump. They have not told us but we have a small list of folks we know did. This includes some of our parents. Some of these are people who not only supported him but by no means would denounce a single thing he has done. We’re kind of at a loss. At what point in this do we say that their support for them will not be tolerated by us? What is tolerating it? They do not speak of it (we mainly see things “liked” on facebook) but will there be a line where it severely changes or ends our relationship with them? We don’t know. We are in the midst of planning a trip to see all of our family this summer. It sure puts a damper on it. (Not all of our parents voted for him and a few are unknown.) We’re not sure where to go from here.
So yeah, there is no real end to this post – this is just the stuff I keep thinking about without any real answer. This is why I am 4000 years behind at work.
Yesterday we had our first parent teacher conference. They were by no means required but we had the option and we took it. We love the two lead teachers at our daycare and it was an opportunity to sit with them and chat about Gus. Why would we pass that up?
Mostly the conference confirmed what we knew. He’s a great kid and while they are not suppose to have favorites he is it. They also confirmed something we knew and I often talk about – he just has a lot of energy and doesn’t settle his body well. He has improved since being at daycare. He used to need a teacher to sit with him at circle time just to help him sit down. Now he does a bit better but he sits right next to the teacher so she can help him with reminders. Daycare has a PreK class and the only thing keeping him out of it is he can’t sit still.
All in all this is okay. Gus won’t start Kindergarten until he is almost 6 so there is really no rush for any of this and in some ways we are lucky that he has extra time. We talked about ways to help him with this (setting a timer) and how they will help ease him into more formal “lessons”. We talked about our concerns for when he is school age and the need to find a teacher who is understanding of where he is at and what he needs.
Gus really loves to learn and that shines through. He is so excited to do new things and fully experience everything. He is extremely caring and aware of other’s emotions. He has a good retention for knowledge and makes good connections between things. He asks complex, well thought out questions and talks about things that I wouldn’t expect him to know. (Currently we are talking about engines a lot. What engines do. What has an engine.) I asked about where I feel he doesn’t know stuff. He has some colors but they aren’t catching on as fast as I would have expected, for example. They reassured me that at this point there is no value in him knowing those things. He should have exposure to lots of that kind of stuff but until he is 3-3.5 it is not important. That put my mind at ease a bit. I look forward to him learning those things but I also appreciate that his social/emotional knowledge is so good.
I’m glad we scheduled the conference. I spend a lot of time worrying about if we are doing the right stuff with him or if he is on track in certain ways so I will never skip an opportunity to get feedback on that.
I’m not sure if any of you have noticed but the state of affairs in the US is a bit bleak right now. Some folks elected the most awful awful dude and here we are, living it. I’m guessing y’all knew this.
In response to this there has been organizing and big conversations. I see them happening everywhere through memes and chat groups, especially centered around the Women’s March. There are good, difficult conversations happening about race and I have been reading what I can when I can and exploring my thoughts. I have had big conversations with friends and listened to what others are saying.
But in listening I am noticing that people are left out of the conversation. Conversations about the impact of T and T’s America have mainly been centering around people of color and trans folks. Those are important conversations to be having, I don’t disagree with that. But it’s hard for me to never see the word “lesbian” mentioned. The other group that I am seeing left out in a major was is folks with disabilities.
The National Women’s March released their platform which included stuff about trans rights and gay marriage. Gay marriage is not the only issue for gay folks. Their planning committee had no one representing an LGBT organization. It included Janet Mock but nothing that represented lesbians. The march in the big town north of us has been having really intense conversations about race. After failing to address race a queer woman of color took over the planning. It opened great conversations about race but still, never mentioned lesbians.
I see this in memes and stories explaining how to be an ally. Race. Nationality. Trans Folks. Stop. It’s not that I don’t understand the need to talk about those things and work on them. I hesitate to write this blog because I don’t know how to express it well enough and don’t want to convey that I don’t think those are important. It’s just hard. I see all of these conversations about Intersectional Feminism happening but it’s not including everyone.
I’m not sure why this is. One reason I think is because now that the hip term is queer all us LGBT+ folks get grouped together and Trans folks appear to have the most pressing needs. I’m not sure if folks don’t think there is stuff at risk for lesbians. (There is. Not just marriage too. Stuff comes with marriage like family security and the ability to visit our spouse in the hospital but it goes beyond that. Housing discrimination. Employment safety. Conversion therapy. Bullying.) I’m not sure if folks realize that some of these things are different from what Trans folks or other women experience. I’m not sure if people just don’t think lesbians exist anymore.
I don’t know why I am having such big feelings about this. The day T took office and his new website took over all mentions of LGBT folks were gone. I realized we are invisible to our government and I feel invisible to it’s citizens, too.
On weekends we normally drive Gus around to fall asleep for his nap. He transfers from the car to the house pretty reliably if we time it right and the whole process takes 20 minutes while trying to get him down inside in his bed will take 45+. (Don’t you worry, he naps like a dream at daycare…) We know many good routes but often we just go somewhere in the morning to be wild and he falls asleep on the way home. Occasionally we need to do a big lap around the neighborhood to seal the deal.
This weekend we took a bit of a drive up through the hills behind out house. It was snowing up there and we drove through the slush listening to Neko Case (Gus’s calm down music) and pulled in the driveway thinking he was asleep. We had something we wanted to do that afternoon and worked hard to time it right and were annoyed when he was wide awake in the back seat. Lesley went inside and I did the lap again where he promptly feel asleep, took a long nap, and we were a half hour late for our afternoon engagement.
The drive up through the hills has us pass by our old rental house. We lived there for two years right before we bought our house three and a half years ago. Both years we lived with roommates – first a good friend who is no longer a good friend. She was an easy roommate as she was at her boyfriend’s 95% of the time. Our next roommate was our dear friend K who moved from Canada from grad school, lived with us there (thanks craigslist!), moved with us to our current house when we bought it, moved into her own place when I was pregnant, and then went back to Canada. (This is a lot of information that doesn’t relate to this but she is temporarily moving back and arrives Sunday and I CAN’T WAIT.) We paid something like $650 in rent, called our landlord when there were problems, and had no major responsibilities.
The house had many drawbacks. It was likely not insulated. Mold grew out of our floor. It was impossible to bike to and from it unless you were in much better shape than I will ever be. But life was so simple and easy. We thought we had no money but we paid $650 in rent and did not have a toddler. We did whatever we wanted when we wanted. We went out for beers and bike rides and binge watched tv. It was super great.
Life now is good but different and when I drive by the house on the hill with a toddler who won’t nap unless being driven around (and that’s iffy), a toddler I screamed at moments earlier for never not touching things, it seems so simple there. Retrospect life seems so amazing and I feel a twinge of something that is more jealousy than regret. I’ve lost good friendships since having Gus and while those weren’t because of him I wouldn’t have lost them without him coming. I’ve made new friendships but they are not as close as old ones. I have a group of mom friends that are wonderful but don’t feel like home. I have a life that I never feel I can control. I want to get my shit together and I just can’t. I didn’t have it together before but I really want to now. I want to show up somewhere on time.
It’s so easy to find the negative in life with a toddler. But while looping around, listening to baby snore over the sounds of Neko Case I remembered that that day, last Saturday, was three years since I got pregnant. I got pregnant three year ago on New Years Day. So much changed in the time around that. We had bought a house 7 months earlier. Our relationships with people changed in the year after. Our lives are so different than they were when we lived in the house on the hill. They are better. We have less time to drink in the sun. We ride bikes less. We are always late. But life is so much better. And you know what? In a few years we’ll be able to do all the things that we can’t do now. He’ll hang out with us when we ride bikes to a bar in the middle of the day. (We do this now with him but it will become more fun.) We’ll get places on time. It will all be okay. This is just a small part of our life that is fantastic and really fucking hard. But realistically – isn’t all of life fantastic and really fucking hard?
Also, after we moved out there was a murder/suicide in the house on the hill. Definitely makes it seem less awesome.
One thing I strive for in my parenting is being tolerant and understanding of other people’s parenting. There is a mom who I socialize with semi regularly. Her daughter is close in age to Gus and such a wild child. I think her kiddo and Gus are fairly similar, all things considered, but parented very differently. I’ve watched her with her daughter- what she does and doesn’t do. I think she’s a great parent. I think about the implications I fear of having a boy who is wild and the implications I know she fears of having a girl she tamed. We parent differently but both kids are doing just fine.
We just had friends come and stay with us for a week. These friends are some of our best friends from our twenties (Hereby mom 1 and mom 2) and they have two kids, kid 1 is 4.5 and kid 2 is 18 months. After a week of them in our 1142 sq ft house I am saying what I try so hard not to say: They are bad parents.
I tried to keep an open mind about it. I dreaded the visit and then hoped that I was expecting the worst and it wouldn’t be. Mom 1 does all the parenting while mom 2 does nothing. Mom 2 spends 14 of 16 waking hours sitting on the couch playing games on her phone. The only interaction she has with kid 1 is to yell at her and tell her she is doing something wrong with such fantastic parenting lines as “If you don’t shape up I’m going to return all your presents” which, don’t get me wrong, is the kind of thing that sometimes comes out of someone’s mouth out of frustration but these kinds of threats seem to be her parenting philosophy. She does a lot of praising of kid 2 but only in front of kid 1 so kid 1 notices that she doesn’t get praised. Kid 1 is not able to deal with her feelings or emotions at all and anytime she expresses a strong emotion, good or bad, mom 2 is upset with her. Mom 2 consistently threatens kid 1 with punishments and does not follow through. She “jokes” with her constantly because she believes kid 1 needs to “toughen up”.
Mom 1 tries. She really does. Kid 1 favors mom 2 so mom 1 clearly has a stronger bond with kid 2 who does not speak so doesn’t do much wrong (besides hitting and biting people non stop with little consequence. Mom 2 “fixed kid 1’s biting as an infant when mom 2 bit kid 1 back…) I feel for mom 1 because she does try and I can see it is so hard when she is the only one trying. But she honestly has no idea what to do. She talked to her counselor about it and her counselor suggested they watch some episodes of Super Nanny. Kid 1 doesn’t eat anything. She doesn’t eat anything because the food struggles are the only attention she gets. Mom 1 sits next to her, forcing her to eat a number of bites with promises of cookies, and reminds her that there are staving children in the world who would love to have that food. Whenever she does try to make her do anything she does not follow through with it and whenever kid 1 explodes (often) mom 1 tries to talk to her but doesn’t force the issue. In the week they spent with us I never once heard kid 1 use a feeling word to describe what is going on with her.
Kid 1 gets no praise and little to no attention. When kid 2 naps moms either nap or play on their phones leaving kid 1 to do whatever. They pride themselves on how independent she is – the entire time they were here she followed Lesley and I around. Yes, she can play by herself but she doesn’t want to – she just knows you won’t play with her. She repeatedly asks her parents to play with her – play is never offered to her. Moms never made her pick up after herself so she basically tore our entire house apart multiple times a day every day as we tried to put it back together. They do not care at all about what she does, as long as it doesn’t bother them.
In addition to their less than stellar parenting mom 2 is very mean to mom 1. She is not helpful at all, criticizes her when she tries to parent, and undermines any decision she makes. Their relationship dynamic is uncomfortable to be around.
After a week they left and we took stock of our lives. That’s where the benefit of the visit came in. We feel more confident than ever in our parenting and while it is a lot of work to parent Gus the way we do we are sure it is the right path for us. It also made our relationship look awesome so that’s cool. We got to see some of the things we fight most about (phone use, household helpfulness) played out on a jumbo tron. It gave both of us a better understanding of what the other sees (intensified times 1000) and a desire to make our own shit better. Those things are great.
I’m not sure what to do about our friends. We will likely see them this summer (we will not stay with them but we haven’t told them that yet) but we don’t want them back to visit. If they came back to visit they would not be welcome to stay with us. It would likely be 3 years or so before they came back to visit and how would we tell them no then, after all this time? I did mention mom 2’s behavior to mom 1 at one point when I saw an opening. She said she noticed it too but that it is unlike her and she doesn’t know what is going on. We have known them for 10 years and while the behavior was worse than I expected it was not unlike mom 2. I should also note they had a great time – they saw nothing wrong with the visit.
So here I am trying to figure out if I navigate this now or at some point in the future. I would hope to never navigate it at all. If we lived close to one another I would slowly let the friendship go without any big conversation but unfortunately, that is harder to do here. So that’s where I end after this visit – trying to figure out how to not rock the boat but also never have to experience that again.
And now, Gus pictures:
I keep thinking of things to write and come up at a loss. This space is strange now. So many folks who I know and follow here are working on ttc number 2 (or 3!) and write about that and that’s not where we are at. It’s odd when the group is your peers and you are not a peer in the same way anymore.
I want to write about Gus but what to do I say? He is so fun but I feel like trying to explain it in words cheapens it. In the last couple of weeks he his speech has changed. He has become much more conversational. He’s communicating complex ideas. The other day he was singing a song, I don’t remember which one but something he sings often, and he stopped and said, “I don’t really understand the rest of this song.” It’s something so hard to describe but it has been a notable shift.
So much of our life is day to day without any big news of events to report. I thought I would be sad to reach this point of less concrete milestones and while there is some sadness to that there is so much joy in other places that it is okay. He’s fun and smart and a good kid. We like him. We’ll keep him.
He does have challenging moments, don’t get me wrong. We struggle a bit with his behavior sometimes – we’re not always on the same page and react in the moment. The other day I told him if he didn’t nap he’d spend the rest of the day in his room alone. Clearly that isn’t true. I took that as a sign that what we were doing wasn’t working and I packed us up to leave a play. Children are really freaking amazing in that they are forgiving souls. I can be mad and frustrated and he gives me big whole body hugs and kisses that would surely be criticized by the internet were I famous. It’s a sad and wonderful fact. Wonderful because I am a good parent and he forgives my mistakes – sad because if I weren’t he would still be forgiving because that’s what kids do. We’re starting a parenting class for two year olds in January. I’m super excited and hope it helps me be a better parent.
Nothing else in life is too exciting so I never write. I never know quite what to say to sum up life with our sweet boy. Yet I don’t want to abandon this space. I come on here and quickly browse other’s posts once a week or so. I’m here, lurking. Most of you know me other places and see our lives there and I like that. Maybe this space feels distant because so many of you are not people on the internet but my for real friends. Maybe I’ll continue to stay at this distance – updating every now and then and reading along so I know when everyone is knocked up. I’m not sure. Maybe my big mouth just ran out of things to say.
So I guess I have to talk about it, right?
It sucks. I’m so sad. I’m sad for me. For my family. For our county. For Hillary. I didn’t not want Trump to win – I wanted Hillary to win. I have voted for her every time I could since 2008. I was ready. She was ready. I thought it was going to happen. It did not. And everything feels terrible.
But here is the good.
- My best friend of oh, maybe 15 years, came to town this weekend with her wife and 21 month old. I have not met her baby. She has not met mine. We have not seen each other in four years. It was perfect. I love her baby. She loves mine. We did nothing. We talked about politics a lot. It felt like home.
- After the election a friend messaged me asking if she could fund raise for our second parent adoption. I said yes and added two friends to her cause – one a friend of hers, one a couple she does not know (both bloggers but I will let them name themselves if they want to). We made a fundraising campaign. We announced it and within two days got $300. Friend put up a Thanksgiving pie sale and within a day we made $200 more. She got a percent of sales night set up a local bar next month. She is planning a chef’s dinner. She refuses to stop until all are paid for.
- Wednesday morning a friend sent me $200 I did not ask for. She is the adult child of two moms. She never wants Gus to worry like she had to.
- I had a stupid conference today and we did an exercise where we had to a list of values. One of them was “comfortable living”. I rated it low and this other woman rated it lower. I like this woman a lot. She is a young lesbian and super feminist and writes zines and makes art – the last two I know from stalking her online. When asked why she ranked it low she said we shouldn’t be comfortable. Comfortable living is why we now have Trump. I love her. I love her outspokenness. I am sending her an email tomorrow telling her I am always happy when we get to share a space. The values exercise and that made me more committed to speaking my mind. I do a lot already but not in groups. I need to be louder. More kick ass.
That’s what I’ve got. Some really good things. A lot of sadness. A lot of booze to numb it.