Saturday Night

July 15, 2009

Last weekend we left our son with F’s parents for the night for the first time.  I found that as the time to drop him off drew nearer I became incredibly anxious and sad.  I wasn’t worried that something bad would happen, I knew he would be fine.  But just the idea that neither of us would be there if he woke up in the middle of the night was gut-wrenching.

So late in the afternoon we headed over to their place.  We stayed for a little while, playing with him, spending time with the family.  And then when it was time to leave we each gave him a small kiss and snuck out of the room.  When we got to the car F, who had failed to understand my anxiety throughout the day, turned to me and said, “Ok. I get it. I’m sad, too.”

But we went home, made a nice dinner together, relaxed for a while and then went out dancing.  Being at home was definitely strange- we kept thinking that he was upstairs asleep.  But once we were out in the city, it was awesome.  Going to a bar, being around grown-ups without kids, and not having to worry about how drunk I got was a truly exceptional feeling.

The next morning we woke up bleary-eyed and slightly hung-over (we hadn’t gotten to bed until 3am) and headed over to pick M up.  Seeing the look on his face when he saw us was absolutely wonderful and I was so glad to pick the little guy up and give him a hug.

But the whole night made me realize how it is possible to have both worlds, at least to a certain extent.  Being a parent does not negate being someone who goes out and dances until 2 o’clock in the morning.  And not only is is possible, I also think it is important to have nights like that.  If we don’t make space for ourselves and our marriages, we are going to be left not knowing how to be anything but a parent (and an overly involved parent, at that).

Would I like a night out like that every week or even every month?  To that extent? No.  But to know that there is that space, that opportunity to be my 28-year-old self again is really nice…

Give Sex a Chance

June 9, 2009

This past weekend we made a trip down to Little Rock for the wedding of a very good friend.  At the rehearsal dinner, the groom’s parents read a letter from the groom’s grandmother who couldn’t be there to the couple.  In it, she wrote about how one of the most important aspects to a good marriage is good sex. Gotta love a grandma like that.

I couldn’t agree with grandma more, sex is incredibly important to a good marriage and that is why books like the new What to Expect Before Your Expecting make me want to kick the author in the shins.  By putting so much pressure on the act of trying to get pregnant, not to mention the act of making love, you risk killing the passion and fun in the relationship.  

A friend who is thinking with her husband about starting to try to get pregnant recently asked me if trying to get pregnant had hurt my sex life with my husband.  I told her that, even with the fertility hoops we had to jump through, we managed to keep things light and fun.  That wasn’t necessarily easy, but we felt strongly that maintaining the sex for sex’s sake was important, that our relationship shouldn’t get lost in the work of trying to get pregnant.  I mean, honestly, what good are all of the sacrifices we make for our kids (and potential kids), if our relationships with our partners are in the dog-house? 

So while I understand that these books and websites that give advice on things to do to increase your chances of getting pregnant are serving an important informational purpose, I wish they all had a disclaimer at the beginning: “WARNING: The information that follows may severely damage your sex life.”

A Table for Two

May 26, 2009

We got back late last night from a wonderful extra-long weekend at the shore with family.  It was an immensely relaxing weekend including lots of outside time with M (beach, watering plants, going for walks, etc.).  But the highlight was definitely the time that F and I had, just the two of us.  It was really wonderful to be able to reconnect the way we did- a day in The City, a walk on the beach, a game of cards- we were able to enjoy time together without having to rush back to take care of M.  

It made me realize, yet again, how important it is to have that time with your partner.  We aren’t just parents, we are also a couple.  And while I love my son more than anything, I also adore my husband and want to make sure that relationship continues to flourish outside of parenthood.

It is really hard to find time to balance all that we have on our plates, but it is also important to not lose sight of the important relationships that contribute to making our lives livable.  And this is on both partners to do.  We both need to make time for each other, put in the extra effort to work out the details so it can happen, and power through exhaustion when necessary.  

I may not be the center of my husband’s world in the same way I once was, but it is nice to be able to go back to that a little bit every once in a while…

Banishing Bedtime?

April 29, 2009

Call me anal and uptight, if you will, but I’m a big fan of bedtimes.  I think it is important to keep little ones on a bedtime schedule for a lot of reasons, both selfish (i like nightly glass of wine to be uninterrupted) and responsible (they need the sleep to gr0w).  But last night we threw the bedtime out in favor of getting out for a bit.  We dropped M off at a friends’ house and went out for dinner and drinks with some other friends.  Even thought M wasn’t able to fall asleep at their house, and therefore got to bed very, very late, he had a good time and our time out was fantastic- especially because it felt incredibly decadent and naughty to be out on a school night.  

While I was dreading the repercussions that would come today, M actually has been doing ok and managed to get caught up on some sleep with good, long naps. 

So it got me thinking: while bedtimes and schedules are incredibly important for the day-to-day life, it is also important to change things up a bit every now and then.  It is good for us as adults to feel like we still have some freedom and access to the real world, and maybe it is even good for the kids because it helps them to remain flexible.  There is an important (and selfish) caveat to all of this- I think it is especially important that these exceptions be made for fun activities for the parents and not for obligations, these nights should be special treats that allow us to glance back to our lives before we had kids and should serve to remind us that, despite the spit-up and diapers and silly sound effects, we are still our own people and still a couple, independent of our children.

What do you all think? Am I fooling myself? Or is there something to this new theory of mine?

I must admit I was relieved to read this post on the Motherlode today.  While I have always been the one to reassure my husband that our one-year-old witnessing the occasional fight between my husband and myself wasn’t going to damage him permanently, I am happy that I now have a study to point to, both to assuage my own fears (and those of my husband) that I am full of shit.

According to the post, and the study it references, children who witness parents fighting “constructively” are just fine and, in fact, seeing your parents disagree and then resolve the conflict can serve as a model for later behavior.  Even cooler, these kids are often more caring and empathetic than their peers.  Whew!

But the other side is that those not-so-“constructive” fights are not only scary to kids but can also lead to emotional problems further down the line.  While I would like to pretend that every disagreement my husband and I have is dignified and filled with respect, which supposedly lead to “constructive” arguments, there have been a few humdingers that wouldn’t really fall into that category…

So, yeah, we have to keep working on it but at least there’s hope for those of us who have  the occasional “heated discussion,” right?

I just finished the biography of Michelle Obama by Liza Mundy and the thing that struck me the most is how despite all of the silencing, demonizing, and minimizing that happened over the course of the election and, if you think about it, even now in the White House, she still comes across as a force to be reckoned with.  

The book describes how at first her speeches were much stronger and more pronounced in her beliefs and in her hopes for the country. She would also playfully criticize her husband in terms of chores around the house, etc.  Overtime, though, as she was picked out by opposition leaders as the one to demonize and identify as a threat, her message got increasingly muted and manipulated.  “While it hasn’t yet put her in a church-lady hat, the campaign has begun to seriously limit Michelle’s accessibility, steering her into interviews with friendly media vehicles such as Us Weekly, who titled its cover story ‘Why Barack Loves Her.’  Interviews were given to People and Access Hollywood, emphasizing her parenting and domestic life” (p. 195).  In essence she began to be expected to play the “good wife and mother” role, rather than the “equal partner” role or the “more than competent professional” role.

And yet, when I think of Michelle I think of the amazingly impressive professional woman who made both her career and her family life a priority despite having a husband who was out of town the vast majority of the time.  What is more, she didn’t throw in the towel on her marriage nor did she acquiesce, she just found a way to make it work.  Granted, she had an income that made that easier than it might be for others and family right nearby, but she still made it work.  She didn’t take an easier route.

So the next time I get frustrated as I hear blow-hards on CNN or MSNBC or wherever spending their time talking about her choice of sweaters rather than the immense policy changes that are taking place as we speak, I will try to remember that, in the end, what they say doesn’t matter- what matters is what she has been able to accomplish already and all that she promises to bring in the years ahead.

Advice, Schmadvice

March 27, 2009

Maybe I have become overly sensitive in my pent-up, stay-at-home state, but I have started noticing these absolutely obnoxious “news” stories that show up a couple times a week on the log out page of my Yahoo account.  They are relationship advice stories like “Ten signs you are emotionally cheating” or “The real reasons men cheat” or “How to know if he is the one” or “How to keep the man you love.” 

There are a number of things that really bother me about them.  It drives me crazy that they are almost exclusively geared towards women who, in case you missed the memo, are desperate for love and incapable of keeping it if they have found it.  It also irks me to no end that they seemed to be playing on these antiquated and gendered notions of relationships- that it is up to the woman to keep her man happy, shit like that.  And finally, the advice could not be stupider.  Just in case you were wondering, one sign that you have probably crossed the line into an emotional affair with your guy friend is when you “touch your male friend in “legal” ways, like picking lint off his blazer.”

And then I realized something even more upsetting: these articles are there because people like them and read them.  People are eating this crap up.  Why is that?  Why do we think that we are going to find the answer to all of our problems in an article on a generalist website or within the pages of Cosmo or Jane or Men’s Health?  Is it because it is easy and requires no effort to seek it out?  Is it because they are approachable?  Or is it because they are playing on our unrealized fears and creating problems where they likely isn’t one?  I don’t know.  But in the meantime, I am going to feel perfectly fine picking lint off of my guy friends’ shirts and I may even give them a *gasp* hug.