Ewwww! Cooties!

July 23, 2009

As I was standing around at the playground the other day one mom mentioned how much she had enjoyed the public library’s storytime.  She said that she had been reluctant to go before now- her kid was around a year- because of all of the germs left on the books by other kids.

Now I know I should be generous and give her props for getting over the fear and taking her kid anyway.  And I know I shouldn’t be judgmental of other people’s anxieties and, for the most part, I’m not.   But this one blew my mind.  In part, I think, because she mentioned this fear without any humor or awareness that this might be a little over the top- her fear of germs in this way was, she assumed, completely and utterly normal.

I don’t know, maybe I am the weird one.  Maybe I am being reckless and exposing my kid to germs in all kinds of dangerous ways.  But I really feel that kids not only need to be exposed to germs and dirt and grime, but that they also need to be exposed to the world.  Keeping them sanitized isn’t doing them any favors.  If anything, it just teaches them to be scared of the world around them.  And, honestly, that just makes me kind of sad.

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Splurge or Investment?

July 22, 2009

When is a purchase an investment and when is it a needless splurge?  I have been struggling with that question A LOT over the past few months.  It has been a struggle in terms of a number of potential purchases: clothes that actually fit, shoes that don’t make my feet hurt, a jogging stroller.  I have been wracked with guilt about spending money on these things that I see as selfish, especially since I haven’t been bringing in much money.  It has sort of felt like I don’t deserve them.

The thing that has made it especially tough is that while my husband thinks that I am being silly and that I should get things I need, the truth is that we are paying much closer attention to our bank account now that we are pretty much living off of one salary.

This anxiety all came to a head this past weekend, though, in terms of the jogging stroller.  I had been thinking about getting one for over six months.  While I love my umbrella stroller, my daily (and sometimes twice a day) walks were definitely slowed down by it.  And this got pretty frustrating, especially since I use exercise as an emotional outlet.  So I had been looking on craigslist, scoping out yard sales, the whole deal, but I just couldn’t get myself to actually buy one- it just felt too extravagant to have two strollers.

And then my mom came into town for a long weekend.  She saw how crazy this whole search was making me and also how important a jogging stroller was.  So, after a day, she told me that before she left she wanted to make sure that I had a jogging stroller.  We searched on craigslist, on ebay, on overstock, etc.  And then, on Sunday, we headed out to Babies R Us.  Initially the plan was to just try the different strollers out so that I could decide which one I really wanted to hold out for on craigslist.  But, of course, we ended up coming home with a brand-new jogging stroller and not only that, we came home with a nicer, brand-new jogging stroller.  Not a $300 one, but expensive enough.

I was wracked with guilt.  Did I really need to spend this money? Was I going to put it to good use? Was I just being a consumerist yuppie?  And then went for a walk.  A walk I would never have been able to do before with my umbrella stroller.  And it was great.  Since then I have gone for a number of walks and am really happy with the stroller.

Do I still feel guilty?  Yeah, a bit.  Do I think it will help me stay sane?  Definitely.  Did I come down on the right side of the Investment or Splurge continuum? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Over the weekend I made what, to me, was a BIG purchase.  I bought a jogging stroller.  I had been thinking about buying one for seven months and had been looking around on craigslist but kept getting cold feet and avoiding actually buying one.   I just felt like it was an extravagant purchase, something I didn’t really need.  What is perhaps even more important is that since my big contract hasn’t come through, yet, I felt like it wasn’t responsible to be spending money like that.

Nurturing Nature

July 21, 2009

A group of scientists at the University of Iowa have made a huge announcement: it isn’t nature or nurture, it is both or neither.  My reaction: a big, fat, slightly unenthusiastic woo hoo.

While it would be nice and, in some ways, reassuring to have a clear sense of what behaviors and skills are due to nature and which are due to nurture, I have always wondered how anyone who has seen kids learning about and exploring the world could think it was as simple as one or the other.

While at first glance this may seem like a scary thing to parents- it becomes harder to blame that picky eater on your husband’s family- I think it is actually kind of a relief.  It means that we are involved in their development and growth, but that it also isn’t all on us.  We don’t have to hover all the time to make sure the environment is just perfect, but we also get to play an active role.

So I, for one, would like to thank the researchers at the University of Iowa for stating the obvious and helping to try to refocus important child development research towards a new and more complex approach.

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…

A Sense of Obligation

July 13, 2009

I had lunch today with a very good friend of mine who is starting to plan her wedding.  She is very excited but also paralyzed by a sense of obligation to have the “right” kind of wedding.  What she really wants is a very small event with just close family and a few friends, but she has this feeling that she is obligated to do something bigger and more traditional.

As we talked about it and I argued that it is more important to have the right wedding for them- a small gathering with fried chicken and ribs- than it is to invite the cousins you barely know and colleagues you don’t really like, I realized that these feelings of guilt and obligation that she was describing are very similar to the feelings I get about working/life balance.

Many of us, I think, are often so focused on our intention to do what is “right,” that we are unable to do what is right for us.  While I am not a fan of the overly entitled, “it is all about me” attitude that is on the other side of the spectrum, I do think that part of becoming a true grown up is learning how to balance obligations and what feels right, especially when those two things don’t coincide.

I was just approached about doing a very large project for one of my clients.  While this is exciting, I am also aware of the fact that it would mean a lot more struggles in terms of work/life balance.  It means figuring out how much I can honestly take on and also how much I am willing to commit to, given my desire to be present for the little one and working at the same time.

So here comes the challenge of practicing what I preach and making sure I figure out that balance from the outset…

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?

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!