Category Archives: Random Thoughts on Parenthood

Can Mothers Really Have it All?

working momI know – it’s the billion dollar question.  The question that has been debated for generations, and yet remains unclear.  Can mothers really have it all?  Or is it a myth, an unattainable rung on the ladder that serves only to remind us that we are failing?

I don’t know.

I am trying, dammit.  I grew up in the generation that was taught that we women could do anything and everything.  And do it well.  And with grace.  And beauty.  And charm and wit and manners and all the rest of it.

Were they right?

For my first 35 years, I would say yes.  I would probably say a resounding yes.  The formula simply worked.  I studied hard, I worked hard, and I soaked in every experience that I could.  My achievements were recognized and I was rewarded.  And so I worked harder… for greater achievements and larger rewards.  I was striving towards my potential, and slowly but surely realizing it.

I felt that I did have it all.  The education, the career, the house, the travel, the husband, the enriching friendships.  All it took were some goals and elbow grease.  I was smug.  If others worked as hard as I had then they, too, could have it all.  Perhaps those whining about not having it all were just a bit… lazy.

And then as the story goes, my first child arrived.  Then my second.  And then all hell broke loose.

Cracks began to appear.  A child is shushed on a Saturday because Mommy needs to finish something up “really quick” for work.  A project proposal draft is halted because a feverish child needs to see the pediatrician.  My new greatest fear is the nanny calling in sick.  Or an out of town business trip.

When I am with the children, I am worrying about all the things I need to remember to do at work… and emailing myself reminders.  When I am at work, I am missing and worrying about my children… and emailing myself reminders.  I am juggling, as millions of mothers do every day.

Suddenly I am torn.  My former 100% at work has doubled with a new additional 100% towards the children.  Some say that it becomes 50/50.  I don’t agree with that.  If I don’t give 100% at work then, well, my work will suffer and I will not achieve and that begins a downward professional spiral.  If I don’t give 100% to my children then, well, I don’t even want to think about what could happen.  So we try to pull the additional hours out of thin air.

Sleep suffers.  Relationships suffer.  Stress levels skyrocket.  But above all else, I feel like I’m not doing anything well.

Is this what “having it all” means?  Trudging through day by day, checking the endless boxes on a laundry list of tasks to simply make it to bedtime?  Refocusing constantly between kids… work… logistics?

But on paper, I have it all.  The family and the career.  I am living the American Dream.

Maybe this is temporary.  My children are young, ages 3 and 1, and we don’t have any help that is unpaid.  Perhaps this is the tough stage before it gets easier.  Maybe when they are ages 15 and 13, I will be so grateful that I powered through this stage to have it all… my wonderfully raised children and my flourishing career.

And maybe I won’t.  Maybe I will regret the time I missed with my children.

Or maybe having it all isn’t a destination at all.  Maybe it isn’t a societal prescription of accomplishments.  Maybe instead it is simply a frame of mind.  A focus on gratitude for whatever decisions we make in our lives.  The work-outside-of-the-home mother being grateful for the ability to nurture both her personal and professional sides.  The stay-at-home-mother being grateful to experience every moment with her child.

Maybe once we peel away the expectations of what we think having it all is supposed to mean, then we can begin to understand what it actually means for each of us.  And then our natural priorities can begin to shine through.

I still don’t know.

But I do know that the answer is not nearly as clear to me as it was a few years ago.


In the Words of My Toddler 2

And they just keep on comin’!  My toddler has become quite the unintentional comedian.  A few more jewels of wisdom for your reading pleasure.

Me: [driving to doctor’s office for son’s potential ear infection] Does it still hurt, Sweetie?
Toddler: Yes.  I think I hit my ear when I was running.  I have to be more careful.
Me: Does it hurt on the inside of the ear or the outside?
Toddler: On the inside.
Me: What does it feel like?  Is it a sharp pain?
Mom: [in a eye-rolling kind of tone] Nooo Mommy!  A shark swims in the OCEAN!  Not in my ears!

Hubby: [getting toddler up after an early nap for misbehaving] Are you in a better mood now?
Toddler: Yes.  I sorry, Daddy.  I sorry for hitting.
Hubby: Why did you hit?  Were you tired?
Toddler: Yes, I was tired.
Hubby: If you’re tired, you can just tell us and we can leave the park.  You don’t have to misbehave.  You don’t have to hit.
Toddler: [stunned] I no have to hit?!
Hubby: No.
Toddler: [still in shock] I no have to hit when I’m tired?!  [pause, thinking]  When I’m tired I just tell Mommy and Daddy?  Then we go home??  I no have to hit?!

Toddler: [with his toy doctor kit] Mommy, let me listen to your heart!
Me: Okay. [toddler listens with toy stethoscope]
Toddler: Okay, now I will look in your ear.
Me: Okay. [toddler peers inside]
Toddler: Turn around, Mommy.
Me: Okay. [I turn around but startle as toddler tries to insert something sharp into my you-know-what] Hey, what are you doing!?
Toddler: [holding up his toy thermometer] Taking your temperature!

Toddler: [with list and pencil] Mommy, what do you want to eat?
Me: Hmmm… I would like an ice cream sundae.
Toddler: Okay! [runs into the kitchen, then back] Here you go!
Me: Can I get a cherry on top?
Toddler: We have no cherries.
Me: Can you go get some?
Toddler: Okay! I am going to the store now! [starts walking across the living room]
Me: Okay, start your car…
Toddler: [shaking his head, exasperated] MOMMY!  There is no car in here!  This is the LIVING ROOM!

Toddler: [standing shirtless in front of the mirror and repeatedly pressing his outtie belly button in roughly] AARRRGHH!
Me: What are your doing??
Toddler: I’m trying to fix my belly button!  It broke and I can’t get it back in!

Baby: [crying at the dinner table]
Me: Aw, are you all done with your dinner now?  What’s wrong?
Toddler: [earnestly] I think he wants some mint chocolate chip ice cream now.

Toddler Friend: [helpfully, after having just beat my toddler in a foot race] You should really try some more vegetables.
Toddler: They will help me go faster?
Toddler Friend: Yes they will.  You should really think about it.  Try it and see.

Toddler: [running ahead of us on a walking path] I’m fast, Mommy!
Random Couple: [smiling as toddler runs by them] Wow, you are fast!
Toddler: No!  I am SUPER fast!  I eat my vegetables.  The vegetables make me go SUPER fast!

Seriously… Can I just freeze this age??

Photos from a Toddler’s Perspective

After having children, I quickly learned that relying on pricey photo shoots and the gracious generosity of dear photographer friends was not practical to capture all the moments I wanted of my two babies.  So… I took up the hobby of Photography.  Hesitantly at first, but embracing it more and more as I continued to learn.  A couple books here, a new lens there, and a photographer friend’s advice to boot – and I am slowly but surely starting to improve.

This means practice.  Lots and lots of practice.  Pictures of everything.  Kids playing.  Kids sleeping.  Kids eating.  Kids crying.  Everything.  At these beginning stages, I rely on the theory that if I take 1000 pictures, at least 1 of them is bound to turn out.  I figure that my semi-obsession peaked once my toddler began carrying around a coaster, plastering it over his eyes, and yelling “SAY CHEEEEEEESSEEE!!” every 3-5 minutes.

Well.  We can’t let the poor guy walk around with a rubber coaster glued to his face.  So we talked Santa into bringing him a toy camera for Christmas (the VTech Kidizoom Camera).  A heck of a step up from a coaster, if you ask me.  (Really?  Kids’ cameras these days have memory, zoom, and a video recorder??  That’s better than my first 10 adult cameras).

Back to the point.  Our son now walks around with a kiddie camera glued to his face, constantly imploring us to “WAIT” while he counts to an arbitrary number (sometimes 3, sometimes 10, sometimes 17) before yelling “SAY CHEEEEESSEEE!!”

It finally dawned on me that we could actually download the pictures he was taking – and so I did.  And it has given me a glimpse into his world, these photos through the eyes of a toddler.

To begin, a few atmospheric shots.  Here is one of his kitchen – specifically the fridge and cupboard.

Kitchen, by Toddler

Kitchen, by Toddler

And another one, of the counter.

Counter, by Toddler

Counter, by Toddler

Now for a close-up.

Counter Close-Up, by Toddler

Counter Close-Up, by Toddler

And the floor is also very important.  Glad he captured this.

Floor, by Toddler

Floor, by Toddler

Don’t forget a perspective shot.  At dinner.

At Dinner Table, by Toddler

At Dinner Table, by Toddler

And he couldn’t forget the Christmas tree!

Christmas Tree, by Toddler

Christmas Tree, by Toddler

Now that he had better familiarized himself with the camera, he decided to move on to some live subjects.  First, the dog.

Dog, by Toddler

Dog, by Toddler

Then an artsy close up.

Dog Napping, by Toddler

Dog Napping, by Toddler

And finally, a pretty impressive head shot.  At eye level.

Dog Head Shot, by Toddler

Dog Head Shot, by Toddler

Not too shabby!  At this point, he was ready to tackle something a little more challenging – his brother.  A nice action shot, with professional-like off centering of his subject.

Brother, by Toddler

Brother, by Toddler

And finally on to his taller friends and family.  Notice the technique of cutting off the heads… To keep it interesting.

Friend, by Toddler

Friend, by Toddler

Daddy, by Toddler

Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

And here he captures the top half!

Daddy, by Toddler

Daddy, by Toddler

And finally, he is ready to bring all his experience together in the quintessential couple photo.

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

And let’s not forget the Selfie.

Selfie, by Toddler

Selfie, by Toddler

I clearly have a budding Annie Liebovitz on my hands.  I can only hope that I am able to nurture and encourage his talent despite my lack thereof.

Holidays – Then and Now

Christmas TreeI love the holidays.  Truly my favorite time of year.  The festivities, the crisp in the air (well SoCal crisp, anyway), the music, the food, the lights – all of it.  I look forward to it all year, and then miss it once it’s gone.

And having children has only heightened (changed?  evolved?) my joy of the season.  Never will I look at Christmas the same way again.

Then, during a typical pre-child holiday season… After a leisurely Thanksgiving feast, we would enjoy another glass of wine and begin thinking about our Christmas plans.  Should we travel?  Hawaii for the holidays?  How about Aruba?  Is Australia too far?

Now… You take the kids and I’ll do the dishes.  Hey, we don’t throw pumpkin pie in this house!  We need to start getting ready for Christmas – so much to do.  Did you get the decorations out of storage?  Do you have a list?  Add the kids’ x/y/z events to the calendar.  Don’t hit your brother!

Then… We’d take a quiet stroll around the neighborhood to enjoy the holiday lights.  Look at that house – that’s creative!  Should we put up our lights?  Eh, we’ll get to it.  Oh, I booked our flights to Hawaii.  Need some new clothes!

Now… Daddy, what are THOSE lights?  Mommy, wow, look at these lights! LOOK DADDY MOMMY LOOK LOOK THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS LIGHT!  Daddy, STOP TALKING TO MOMMY AND LOOK AT THE LIGHTS!!  Ohhhh wooowwww, purple lights!  Look MOMMY DADDY LOOK IT’S PURPLE LIGHTS SEE IT IS PURPLE SEE MOMMY DADDY STOP TALKING AND LOOK!  Daddy, when are you putting up our lights??  Can we get purple lights too?  I help you Daddy.  Can we put lights up tonight??  Let’s put lights now!  I want PURPLE!  MOMMY GO HOME WE ARE PUTTING PURPLE LIGHTS UP NOW!  OH LOOK, RUDOLPH!  Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle allll the wayyy….

Then… Okay, let’s start our Christmas shopping.  What should we get so-and-so?  Maybe we can personalize something.  I will look at a few catalogs and check out a few stores.  Oh, and maybe we can stop by that cute little specialty shop in Santa Barbara this weekend.  What would you like?  A weekend away?  How about a new TV?  Surround sound?

Now… Hurry up, we have a lot more shopping to do!  Sit down in the cart, boys!  What?  Yeah, yeah that’s fine.  It’s ripped?  Oh it’s fine, it’s the last one, they won’t even notice – throw it in the cart.  Quick – grab that sweater!  We don’t throw things out of the cart!  How many more people do we have on the list?

Then… Yay, wrapping night!  Honey, can you make me a candy-cane-tini?  Turn up the holiday music.  I can’t wait to wrap this gift in the fancy paper and with that adorable tag idea I found on Pinterest!  So pretty.  I can’t wait until she sees it!  Let me take a picture of it under the tree.

Now… Put the kids to bed.  I’m running to the Dollar Tree to stock up on a mountain of wrapping paper and gift bags.  Okay, I’m back.  Quick – help me wrap these.  Only have a few hours.  No talking – just wrap!  Cover the tear with tape; he’ll never know.  Throw them under the bed.  WTF – no more gift bags??  We need more bags!  Go get more bags!  My back hurts.

Then… [In the mall] How adorable!  Look at those sweet children sitting on Santa’s lap.  Isn’t that cute?  Imagine if we had children, and they were waiting in line to see Santa.  So darling.

Now… Where’s Santa?  Mommy Daddy where is Santa?  He is on a break?  Why?  Whyyyyy?  Why do we have to wait?  Is that Santa’s brother?  Santa went potty?  I want Santa NOW!  Mommy, is he in the North Pole?  He went on a break to the North Pole?  Where is Rudolph?  Is he outside?  MOMMY HE IS COMING BACK THERE HE IS!   LOOK LOOK THERE IS SANTA!  Is it my turn?  When is it my turn?  After that boy?  Now?  Is it my turn now?  Now?  After her it is my turn?  Now?  Can I see him now?  Yes? … Noooo!  I don’t WANT to see Santa!  NOOOO!!!  NO!  No SANTA!  I don’t want a candy cane!  I don’t WANT TO!  AAAAAHHHHH, NOOOO!!!!  I no LIKE SANTA!!!!  WAHHHHHH!!!

Then… Holiday parties!  Lunches!  Cocktails!  Dress up!  Dancing!  Music!  Bubbles and fun!  Presents!  White Elephant!  Mistletoe!

Now… Threats.  Santa is watching you ALL THE TIME.  You need to be good or Santa won’t want to bring you gifts.  Yes, Santa saw you hit your brother.  Yes, the Elf tells Santa what he sees.  Stop that right now!  If you don’t stop that right now, I am going to be making a phone call to Santa!  I talked to Santa last night and he is NOT happy.

Then… Ahh, Christmas Eve.  Let’s have a drink in front of the fire and watch the lights on the tree.  Tomorrow, Hawaii!  One more drink and then let’s call it a night.

Now… How is it already Christmas Eve!?!  Here’s the game plan: I’ll take the kids to the park and you wrap the remaining gifts; I will come back and drop the kids with you and then run to the store for the gifts I forgot to buy you this year; then when I come back we’ll put the kids down for a nap and I will wrap the new gifts and you can go buy a few gifts for me and then we can start on Christmas dinner.  OH NO – tree!  We need a Christmas tree!  Okay, go get the tree and I will find the lights.  YES BOYS, Santa saw that and he is NOT pleased right now – we do not throw toys in this house!

…. And at the risk of cutting this piece awkwardly short, just know that I could go on and on but, frankly, am exhausted.  And let’s face it – these gifts ain’t gonna wrap themselves so Mama’s got some work ahead of her!  I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and joyful holiday.  And restful.  Did I say restful?  Get some rest and relaxation in there as well.  🙂

Happy New Year!

New YearWow, already 2013.  Cheers to a safe, happy, and healthy year.  Our little ones are growing up fast, aren’t they??  My little one is already 13 months.  13 months!  Over a year old.  Can hardly believe it.

I do get a bit misty-eyed that my baby is growing up so fast, but it’s hard to stay sad for long because he is so So Much Fun now.

I have a friend who told me her favorite time with her (now grown) son was about 6 months old.  I agree that was a lovely time; the child is just beginning to become aware, can actually leave the house, and is still a baby.  But I must say that I think this time period, the 1-year range, tops it.

  • Baby can drink by himself.  Finally!  No more bottles.  No more formula.  He can drink regular whole organic milk (found anywhere!)  Out of a sippy cup (no more small parts to clean!)  And by himself (no more bottle propping!)  No more bottle racks cluttering up the kitchen.  No more bottle nipples found under chairs, couches.  No more brushes and tools laying around just to clean out the insides of ridiculously tiny tubes and pieces.  No more burping!!  He does that just fine (huge monster burps) by himself, thank you very much.
  • Baby can self feed.  Cut up a banana, steamed carrots, steamed broccoli, pasta, meats – and just leave it on his tray.  He will take care of the rest.  No more pureeing.  No more blending.  And he is starting to eat more of what we eat.  Fewer special meals!
  • Baby is mobile.  I know everyone warned us about this and, it’s true, it means we have to keep him from getting into things and make sure all baby gates are closed and locked at all times.  But it means he can get places on his own!  “Come here” and he comes.  “Stand up” and I can put a jacket on much more easily.  “Give that to me” and he hands it over.  I am no longer required to carry around a 25 pound weight wherever I go.  Added bonus: unlike rolling, which is a silent endeavor, crawling/running means I can HEAR where he is at any point.  It is only when there is silence that I start to worry
  • Baby can play.  Not just sit there and watch us playing.  But actually engage and play WITH us.  His newest game?  Catch.  And racing the toy school bus around the living room.  And his “vroom vroom” cars.  And throwing all his books in the bookshelf on the floor (I am trying to divert his attention away from that game).  Climbing in and out of his wagon.  Even playing the “Clean up, clean up, everybody do you share” game.  But the most fun is at the park.  He goes nuts!  No fear.  Barrels down the slide head first.  Wants to be pushed higher!  higher! on the swings.  Climbing through tunnels.  The more fun he has, the more I have just watching him.
  • Baby is developing a sense of humor.  He laughs.  Pretends to give us something only to pull it away and then laugh hysterically.  Throws food on the floor and then looks at me and laughs.  Rubs food on my face and laughs.  Throws banana slices on top of the dog and laughs.  Throws noisy toys down the stairs and laughs.  Throws stuffed animals out of his crib and laughs (following an innocent-sounding “Uh Oh” and shrug of the shoulders).  There is nothing in this world that warms my heart more than that kid’s laugh.
  • Baby is talking.  Okay, so he’s not waxing poetic just yet, but he is TRYING.  We have entire conversations in baby babble, peppered with real words.  He has the expressions – questioning, then answering my questions, then explaining, then showing indignation.  Every new (real) word is amazing; and then it becomes a game for us to try to make him say it again! say it again!  He wakes up and calls for us.  We hide and ask “Where are you?”  And he answers.  He’s getting it, and it is so much fun to watch.
  • Baby comprehends.  He understands a lot of what we say, and reacts accordingly.  If I see him doing something wrong and say NO, he collapses on the floor with the most gut-wrenching sobs you ever saw (BREATHE, baby, take a breath!)  If I ask him a question, he responds or attempts to.  If I tell him to stand up, sit down, come here, go over there….  He complies.  This also means that the minute I ask him to “stay away from that” – he is headed straight for it.  So I suppose that reflects his assertion of will as well.
  • Baby displays affection.  I was waiting for this!  He hugs me now.  He blows kisses to me at the most unexpected moments (MUAH!)  He pets the dog.  He pets my arm.  He lays his head on my shoulder and sighs contentedly.  He is becoming happier to sit in my lap and cuddle for a few minutes – I was worried those days were long gone!  He smashes his face against my face and holds it for a few seconds while saying MUH….  Which I like to think is his version of giving me a kiss.  He does the same with the dog.  Every night as I am sitting on the bed or the couch, he brings me my slippers and then pats my leg.  He just seems to genuinely enjoy giving and receiving affection.

So overall, it’s just getting better.  Easier and more fun.  I can’t wait to see how he develops this year.  The words and activities and games he will learn.  2013 is going to be a great year with my son!  Happy New Year to all of you!


What’s the deal with all the shameless competition between moms?  I get that a little bit of friendly competition is human nature, and even healthy.  But what is it about becoming a mom that makes some feel that they have suddenly been entered into the Hunger Games??

At first I thought I was being sensitive.  Hormonal.  A bit of postpartum.  But no – I am well beyond that and it continues.  I am convinced that some mothers are unwittingly using their prized children as the ultimate pawns in this chess game of life.

Perfect example: I am attending a baby class at the local Gymboree (yes, I signed up and I am certain that I enjoy it even more than him).  So anyway, I am at this class with all the other, mostly first-time, moms and their babies.  We sing a song.  We clap our hands.  The kids begin rolling on the mats.

Mother A [looking with feigned concern to Mother B]: Ooooo, he isn’t crawling yet?

Mother B: No, he sticks his butt up in the air, but just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Mother A [looking worried]:  Oh…  My Tina has been crawling since 4 months.  I wonder why he’s not?  Maybe he just isn’t ready.

Mother B [frazzled]: Why, is he supposed to be crawling by now?  He is 6 months.  Do you think he’s behind?  I will mention to my pediatrician…

Mother A [high-pitched and cheerful, secure in the fact that her Tina has “trumped” this little boy] Oh don’t worry, I’m sure it’s fine.  He probably just isn’t ready yet.  My Tina is just advanced; she tends to do everything early [another dig].  I wouldn’t worry about it.

Now what’s going to happen?  Mother B, who was perfectly fine before, is now going to worry that something is wrong with little Tommy because “My Tina” has been crawling for months.

And this is not an isolated incident.  These one-uppers are everywhere.  Even at work.

Co-Worker:  You’re never going to believe it; Jordan just said “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” [or something along those lines] this morning!

Me: Wow!  That’s really cool!

Co-Worker: Has your son said that yet?

Me: No.

Co-Worker [in a concerned tone]: Oh, has he said anything?  Is he not talking yet?  How old is he again??

Me: He’s about 7 months and no, he’s not talking, except for baby babble and the unintentional mama or dada.

Co-Worker [smiles and shrugs]: Oh of course.  Yeah, he’ll speak when he’s ready.  I guess we just got lucky with Jordan – he tends to be advanced.

So what drives mothers to do this?  The underhanded digs.  I see it all the time.  Which babies are cuter?  Happier?  Healthier?  Smarter?  More advanced?  Better behaved?

I wonder if it’s a play on our own insecurities… A culturally acceptable (debatable) way of highlighting our own strengths without boasting.  Because, after all, the conversation is about the child, not the parent.  If so, this is a pretty thinly veiled thought process reminiscient of the old my-dad-can-beat-up-your-dad mantra.  Since my BABY did this or that or the other, it means that I am a better mother/woman/citizen.  I am responsible for my child.  So therefore any credit given to my child is indirect credit to me.  I suppose this is how the reasoning goes.

But is that valid?  Is it legitimate to take credit for my child’s every action or trait?  Suppose I had the most advanced baby… Am I due credit for that?   Assuming that IQ is largely on the nature side of the argument, what specific actions would I have taken to create that in my child?  Would it have been because I took DHA during pregnancy?  Because I talked to my belly?  Because I didn’t eat soft cheese?

Get real.

I would have had, at best, a very minor concerted influence on my child’s natural intelligence level.  So his successes, although undoubtedly making me beam with pride, are not mine.  They are his and his alone.

I suppose comparisons are acceptable and even helpful.  How else would we gauge ourselves against our peer groups?  Milestone date ranges  are made available for a reason – to allow parents to confirm if their children are developing within normal ranges.

But they are guidelines – and are date ranges for a reason.  Everybody develops at their own pace.  I have yet to see a study linking adult success rate with age of first crawl/step/word/etc.  I suspect because no correlation exists.

So, fellow mommies, let’s try our best to keep the rivalry to a minimum.  I am confident that our babies will all crawl, walk, and talk in due course.  I am confident that all our children are brilliant, beautiful, and special in their own ways.

I think my pediatrician said it best:  Don’t micromanage your child’s development.

And don’t micromanage my child’s while you’re at it.  😉


I have a friend who I’ve known since I was 19 (and began my first big girl job at a financial services call center).  She was about the same age when we met.

We’ve had one of those relationships where we’ve been primarily peripheral friends…  Definitely closer and more in contact at certain points, but typically long periods of time go by without contact until joint friends get married, have birthdays, or host gatherings.

Yet when we do talk (or email, such is the sign of the times!) there is a comfort and level of familiarity that makes it seem as if we’ve been in constant contact the entire time.  We’re able to connect and she has a wonderful ease about her that is disarming and prompts open and natural communication.

She is also a beautiful writer, and has been blogging about her experiences with life and MS.  I read all her posts, and she inspires me with each one – with her strength, honesty, and vulnerability.

Yet one recent post especially hits home with me – you know the feeling, Yes!  Exactly! 

And I think it’s very applicable to this audience.  I’m sure others can relate to these very feelings – mothers, would-be mothers, should-we-be mothers, and happy DINKs alike.


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.