So, today, in my quest to befriend a stay-at-home dad I introduced myself to a dad at the playground with his one-year-old daughter.  I am pretty confident that he is a stay-at-home dad because I have seen him there before and overheard him making plans with other stay-at-home dads (potential jackpot!).  But all did not go as planned…

It started out really well.  He complimented my son on his Grateful Dead onesie.  I then said hello to his daughter.  We then exchanged the normal, requisite (dare I say tedious) pleasantries: age of kids, names of kids. And that is when it got awkward.  I introduced myself, “I’m J, by the way.”  He introduced himself.  And then, silence.  I didn’t know what to say. I suddenly felt totally constrained by lame-ass insecurities.  I didn’t want to seem too eager and I definitely I didn’t want it to seem like I was hitting on him.  So I just went quiet.

After a couple of minutes I asked if he lived nearby (another normal playground question).  He answered.  We each said one sentence about how great the playground was.  And, done.  Then he wandered off, and I wandered off.  And we avoided one another for the rest of the hour or so we were both at the playground.  Lame and awkward.

I did have a nice conversation with another mom, though.  Same questions to start, but then it just happened.  Was it because there weren’t the same stereotypical gender dynamics to worry about?  Was it because we just clicked better? Was it because I was more relaxed?

I still want this to happen and I will try again.  But somehow I feel like I need to adjust my approach so that it doesn’t seem like I am desperate- don’t want them to smell blood in the water… Suggestions? Words of advice? Tales of your own humiliations?

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Twice in the past two weeks I have been at playgrounds and encountered stay-at-home dads with their kids.  In both cases I have immediately developed serious friend-crushes.  I want to be friends with these guys really badly.

Why? You might ask.  Well, a couple of reasons. 1) I just think it is really cool when a guy is willing to put social pressures aside and be a stay-at-home dad.  I think it shows confidence and openness. 2) They usually seem to be pretty adventurous- up for fun trips with the kids to new places or events.  But most importantly, 3) I just miss hanging out with guys!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful that I have the mom friends (and non-mom women friends) that I have- they are incredibly wonderful, strong, smart, exciting, bad-ass women.  But there are times when I really miss testosterone.  I miss open competitiveness.  I miss stupid, dirty jokes.  I miss eating like a guy and not talking about calories or food-guilt.

So I’ve decided that I have to get over my befriending people at the park fear and take the bull by the horns.  I am going to befriend a stay-at-home dad even if it kills (or humiliates) me!

Back in the Saddle

July 6, 2009

After taking a couple of weeks off due to travel, house guests, and work, I am jumping back into the saddle.  The past couple of weeks have been utterly insane and exhausting.  But I have also had a lot of fascinating conversations and interactions about parenting, working, balancing, and feminism.  Sometimes I am amazed at how many people are struggling with these issues and it is both reassuring and depressing that I am not alone.

I had a really wonderful conversation with one friend the other day as she prepares to go back to work after four months of maternity leave.  She was telling me how she is both excited and nervous about going back.  Excited because she is looking forward to using her brain professionally again, to spending time with adults, and even to having a break from her son (and, honestly, who among us haven’t wanted that sort of a break at one point or another).  One thing I really appreciated was that she said she thought she would value the time she had with him more once it was limited.  But she is also nervous about this transition.  She is nervous about leaving her baby with other people, about how it will change her relationship with her son, and also about how her ability to do her job will change- not that she won’t be able to do her job, but that her attention and priorities are different now.

I also read this wonderful letter on Motherlode that talked about similar struggles with going back to work- definitely also check out the comments, some of them are incredibly thoughtful and interesting to read.

Both of these women’s struggles really brought home to me how no one, not even the person who is absolutely clear about their child care situation- whether it is staying home or going back to work- escapes the angst, the sadness, and the insecurities that go along with these decisions.  I just deeply hope that we can support one another through those decisions, no matter which way they fall.

Beach Bound…

June 15, 2009

We leave first thing tomorrow morning for our second beach vacay of the season!  This will be the first time that I am doing the stay-at-home mom thing of going off with another mom and having our husbands meet us for the weekend.  I am super excited for the trip but am feeling a bit like, “wait? how did this become my life?”  But I am determined to embrace the trip for all of its relaxing potential- bring on the sun, the drinks, and the sandy fun!

I’ll be back in about a week…

Friday!

June 12, 2009

I don’t think I have ever been so relieved that it is Friday.  Poor M has been teething like CRAZY this week- fevers, whining, crying, temper tantrums, the works.  On top of that, we are definitely entering a new phase of development which we haven’t figured out yet.  He is desperate to communicate a whole lot more to us but doesn’t yet have the words which leads to amazing amounts of frustration for him.  You can practically hear him yelling, “why don’t you understand me?!?!?!?!?!”  It has felt like living in a vortex of baby angst.

My mom always tells me that just when you think you are about to kill them, they do something amazing that makes it all ok again.  Well, this morning I felt like M was going to need to bust out in complete, Dickensian-style sentences for me to be happy again.

So I am incredibly grateful that it is Friday and that tomorrow I get to leave M with F and go have lunch with wonderful women friends who don’t have kids (read: no kid talk).

Unpaid Vacation

June 11, 2009

While I am happy with the decision I made to be self-employed and work from home while M is small, there are times when it is really tough.  The obvious one is when you have a big deadline coming up and your kid won’t take a nap.  But the other time that is really hard is when you are offered a job but are unable to take it.

This week I was contacted about a small job that needs to be turned around in two days next week.  Unfortunately, I am going to be on vacation next week (well, fortunately I am going to be on vacation next week but unfortunately I can’t take the job).   As a self-employed person, turning down a job is always a hard call.  But turning down a job as a self-employed stay-at-home mom is awful.

As a self-employed stay-at-home mom I often feel guilty about how little money I am able to bring in.  I know that the work I do for our family is invaluable, blah, blah, blah, but the truth is contributing financially also feels really good.  So turning down jobs suddenly becomes not only about the risk of turning down a job and the loss of the income, but also about the self-esteem blow that comes along with all that. 

I know I made the right choice by saying no and I know that my vacation is well-deserved and will be a lot of fun- I likely won’t even think about the job lost- but, man, does that twinge of guilt suck.

Yet another story in the news about the rising number of food allergies among kids has got me thinking that living in sterile environments is bad, bad, bad.  While the news of the story is actually good, that exposure therapy for kids with peanut and milk allergies has promise, the part that really struck me was this: 

The reason for the [increase in the number of kids with food allergies] is the subject of intense research and debate. There are several theories, including changes in how food is processed and children’s not being exposed to certain foods early in life. Evidence has also been mounting for the “hygiene hypothesis,” which blames growing up in increasingly sterile homes, making the immune system overreact to ordinarily harmless substances, including food.

So two out of the three possible reasons on the table- not exposing them to foods and raising them in sterile environments- are tied to sheltering our kids too much.  We are hurting our kids by protecting them so much!!!

And this all goes back to the same anxiety provoking information that I have blogged about before.  When you think about what we grew up with, not to mention what our parents experienced, all of this paranoia is just laughable.  But perhaps even more importantly, all this worrying and hovering and sheltering takes up a ton of energy that we could otherwise use to enjoy time with our children.

So bring on the peanuts, the dairy, the dirt, the pets, the alcohol, and all those other things that make life fun.