Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mid-Life Crisis Moms

A friend recently sent me an article that depicted the mid-life crisis for the 40-something mother.  These mothers were described as party animals; while their dependable husbands are at home, caring for the kids, these women are living it up on the town and unabashedly drinking, cheating, and [gasp] dressing too young.  They are trying to recapture their lost youth, the article implied, rebelling against the constraints of motherhood and domestic life.  While their husbands are cooking 5-course organic meals and monitoring bedtime schedules, these floozies are inebriated in dark alleys with strange men, searching desperately for a momentary release from the overwhelming responsibilities weighing them down.

I didn’t initially understand the focus on the 40-something mother in this article.  Was the implication that these women were young when they first became mothers, and that after 15-20 years they felt like they had missed out on their youth?  Or, rather, was the implication that these women were older mothers, who had already had a significant taste of string-free life, and were now trying to recapture that?

My first reaction to this article was how sad.  If this is indeed an accurate – or even marginally accurate – representation, then how sad for these mothers.  Sad that they are unhappy, looking for an escape, and burned out by the tedium of their lives.  Sad that they are unable to enjoy their families in a way that fulfills them.

And then I wondered… Will I become like that?  Will motherhood ultimately make me miserable in my own skin, wishing for a life that I no longer have?

After thinking it through, I don’t think so.

I am going to take the liberty of making the assumption that the writer of this article was focused on mothers who had been young when they had children.  In my own experience, this is what would make the most logical sense.  They became mothers at an early age, and then after 1 or 2 decades (and along with their own aging), began to feel like they had missed out on a carefree youth.  So they began to chase that – the impulse, the experience, the autonomy.

In my own short experience as a mother, I’ve definitely noticed some differences between older and younger moms.  In no way am I saying that this is representative of everyone, or even the majority, rather that these are interesting differences I’ve noticed just in my own social circles.

The primary difference is the theme of sacrifice that I pick up on from some of my younger mom friends.  A general sense that the children, while loved immensely, resulted in significant sacrifices for the mothers.  Sacrifice in terms of time, finances, personal enjoyment.  Comments about “giving up” major components of their lives for the kids.  My own mother, who had me at age 24, would often point out how she had sacrificed her life for us – and I don’t think she was being dramatic… I think she meant it.  And I get it with the younger mother… Isn’t she truly giving up a lot?  Much of her freedom and youth become secondary once children enter the picture.  Careers are stalled (if begun at all), marriages take a different focus, and finances become tighter.  Travel and simply partying all become much more complicated, if even possible.  All at an age when the mother may still be coming into her own and figuring out her own identity.

Conversely, with many of the older mothers (myself included), I tend to notice a theme of overwhelming gratitude for the children.  And I’m not saying that this is any better than the theme of sacrifice – as the excessive gratitude is clearly leading to spoiled and entitled kids.  But why the gratitude in the first place?  My guess would be the fact that the older mother knows an adult life without children.  She has had the opportunity to be selfish for longer, to travel, to live it up, to live for the moment.  Chances are, she has had the opportunity to build a career for herself such that financial woes afflicting those in their early 20s no longer pose as much of a challenge.  Perhaps, at this later moment in life, she has had enough of a taste of the childless life to feel fulfilled – and ready to give it up to enter a new phase.

In my case, the gratitude is partially driven by fear.  I know I’ve discussed this in another post but, in a nutshell, I never knew if I wanted kids.  I loved our DINK lifestyle.  But then I got pregnant.  And got excited and attached.  Then lost the pregnancy.

And it was heartbreaking.  I had just assumed that I would be having the baby on the due date.  I had just assumed that everything would work out.  Plans were in motion.  It never crossed my mind that it could be taken away from me, just like that.

So when I got pregnant again, I spent every day worried that something was going to happen.  Googling every potential thing that could possibly go wrong.  Overanalyzing every pregnancy sympton for an early warning of impending miscarriage.  I just knew something would happen.  It was all too precious, too easy for it to slip through my fingers.

But then a miracle – I delivered a healthy baby boy!  And at that point and every day since then, I have been so overwhelmingly grateful for every day I get with him.  I am still scared.  Worried that something is going to happen.  Concerned that I have been, simply, too blessed… And that at any moment, it could all be taken from me.

I believe that my miscarriage, therefore, has contributed significantly to my ongoing gratitude for my child.  I also believe that my age, and all those years without him, are huge components.  I remember life without him; I have a reference to compare my new life too, and I can confidently say that it is better now, sweeter.  I have an established career, and am not worried about caring for him financially.  My marriage is stable and has continued long enough that I’m not expecting it to crumble in the face of new challenges.  I have the self-assurance that comes with age, that confidence in myself and my abilities (although I will admit that when it comes to motherhood, I still feel like I’m bumbling my way through the dark).

In short, what I definitely do not feel, is that I have missed out on something.  I don’t wonder what it would have been like.  I don’t have the What-Ifs.  I was fortunate enough to experience the things I feel I needed to before I had children: love, heartbreak, travel, partying, success, failure, and merely the time to mature into the “calmer, gentler” person that I am today.  For me, the time was right.  And I think the theme of gratitude is a result of all that – and drives the fact that I don’t want to spend a minute longer away from my son than I have to.  I want every moment, every memory, to include him.

So, back to the 40-somethings, I wonder if and I wonder when they will be able to answer their own What Ifs.  Continuing under the assumption that they were young first time mothers, I wonder when they will get their fill of the lives they feel they missed out on.  I wonder what becomes of their stories 10 years from now.  I wonder if these are simply classic mid-life crises that ultimately fade away.  Or if these are decisions, impulsive or not, that will shape their futures.

I also worry that perhaps my own perspective will change as the novelty of new motherhood begins to wear off.  Who am I, a smug new mother still aglow in the light of blissful ignorance, to sit here and dare feel sadness, even pity, for these women?  They’re further along in the motherhood journey, and in their lives.  And they have a perspective I couldn’t possibly have at this point of my own journey.

So who knows?  Perhaps a few years from now, I will be the subject of a like article.  I will be the one shunning my family responsibilities for another taste of the freedom-enriched life.  I will be the one wanting to recapture what I had before kids.

I don’t think so.  I don’t feel it.  And I can’t even imagine it.

But only time will tell.

Baby Travel Learnings

Well, we did it.  Completed our first trip with the baby.  And it was like ripping off the band-aid; we didn’t want to do it, dreaded it, but once it was all over we realized it wasn’t that bad.

We chose an “easy” first trip.  One hour flight to a city I know well, San Francisco.  An added bonus – no need to worry about rental cars or taxis.  Public transportation in the form of BART did the trick.

So, how did it go?  Well, 8 hours is the new time to beat from wake-up time at home to ready-to-go-out time at our destination (I suppose we have nowhere to go but up).  And, what did we learn?  A few things – which I will share below:

  • Take the First Available Flight:  We took Virgin America’s first available flight to San Francisco.  Baby was alert, curious, happy, and just an all-around bundle of join.  Coming home, we took the 5pm flight.  Big mistake.  Baby was cranky, screaming, and crying – and no amount of comforting, jiggling, or singing could calm him.  Yes, we got the looks and yes, the guy in our row finally grabbed his backpack, frustrated, and left to find another seat.  Going forward, if the flight is after 9am, we ain’t taking it.
  • Ensure Filled Bottles are TIGHTLY Sealed:  Yes, you can bring breastmilk or formula bottles through airport security.  And yes, you can even bring ice packs to chill the bottles.  But they WILL check the bottles.  In my case, they stuck them into some sort of machine that I am told detects consistency levels.  Apparently one of my bottles wasn’t up to snuff since they opened it to test the contents.  It wasn’t sealed tightly enough and soon formula was all over the place, and only a half bottle remained.  I spent the next 15 minutes using tissue paper to clean up the spills in the bin, ice pack, and all over the bottle.  OH and by the way, TSA is not supposed to handle the bottle.  Apparently the guy that tested mine was in training and didn’t know (nor did I) – he was promptly corrected by a superior that only the MOTHER is able to handle the bottle.  Good to know for next time; as soon as he began digging around in it with his gloved hand, I knew that was one bottle down the drain.
  • Pack Doggie Bags:  I thought we had accounted for everything in our packing.  But we missed something.  Who wants a trash can full of stinky diapers all day and night until a maid comes and cleans the room??  Not me.  We promptly purchased a package of doggie bags from the local drug store.  Dual purpose… Wraps up dirty diapers in the hotel room, and then can be used on walks with our little dog once we get home.
  • Early Dinners:  In the past, late lunch and drinks would at times linger until 5pm.  Now, 5pm is the new dinnertime when it comes to dining out in a restaurant.  Good for a couple of reasons: A) Baby is still in good spirits and is less likely to have a mid-dinner meltdown, and B) Most diners have hours until dinner; so if your little one DOES melt down, the only victims are likely to be fellow parents of young children themselves.  An added bonus – who knew that there were so many restaurant specials before 6pm??
  • Stroller and Baby Carrier on Long Days:  Would YOU want to spend the entire day confined in a stroller while sightseeing?  Yeah, neither does your baby.  We quickly learned to bring both the stroller and a baby carrier when we planned a full day of walking.  Most of the time, the baby can be worn (I recommend the Ergo Original Baby Carrier for infants over about 10-12 lbs).  But around naptimes or during fussy periods (or when Mommy and Daddy simply get tired), the baby can rest comfortably in the stroller.  Good to have options.
  • Confirm Crib Type at Lodging:  Based on a tip I had received from a friend, we untied, packed, and carried the baby’s breathable crib bumpers with us for our trip.  A good idea, definitely.  Except if your hotel provides you with a Pack ‘n Play type crib instead.  So those crib bumpers laid on the couch the entire week, and then I had the joy of reassembling them on the baby’s crib once home.  So note to self for next time: Call the place of lodging ahead of time to confirm what type of crib will be provided – traditional or portable.
  • Consider Hotel Alternatives:  When we were still a DINK couple (Dual Income No Kids), we had the pleasure of trying out the swankiest hotels that we wanted while vacationing.  We really took advantage of this too, spending time perusing TripAdvisor and like sites to find the hippest hotels at our destinations.  Now, these hotels would be the absolute worst places for us to stay.  Sterile, too loud (if a party-type hotel), too quiet (if an ultra-luxurious resort), and without the suddenly necessary amenities: kitchen or kitchenette, washer and dryer, and extra room or space.  While in San Francisco, we stayed in a hotel but were upgraded to a suite which included the kitchenette, extra room, and access to the concierge lounge (much more important now for those quick and stress-less meals and snacks).  Even that was not completely ideal – it would have been better to have had a washer/dryer or at least coin laundry available.  So we’re learning as we go.  Next trip we’re going to move away from hotels completely – instead looking into furnished condos with all the kid-friendly amenities (think VRBO and AIRBNB).
  • Inflatable Bath Tub:  One thing we completely neglected to consider was the need for some sort of bath tub while on vacation.  At home, the baby is bathed in a hard plastic tub that mounts over the dual kitchen sink or sits in the bathtub itself.  Obviously that contraption could not travel with us, but we naively assumed that we could simply bathe the baby in the bathroom sink.  How wrong we were.  He didn’t fit.  Then we tried to bathe him in the tub – one parent in with him and one out holding him.  This proved to be an incredible challenge.  Not fully reliable when sitting up, someone had to prop him at all times while someone else washed and rinsed him.  Not easy to do with a wet, slippery, squirmy baby.  For the next bath, we resorted to a simple sponge bath.  After lamenting to my nanny, she made the best recommendation – an inflatable bath tub!  What a great idea!  I haven’t purchased one yet, but something like this should do the trick.

And those were really the major learnings.  Armed with this new knowledge and the confidence of having done it before, I’m expecting a least a small decrease in the 8 hour timeframe (don’t want to get too crazy).  I will let you all know.