Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So who has it harder anyway? SAHP vs. WOHP

 I read a humorous article Monday entitled "Stay-At-Home vs. Working Parents" that made me smile. Truly I may even have giggled a little. This article was supposed to be about the differences between the day a husband/wife team faces when one parent works outside of the home and the other stays home to tend to the children. In our family, I have been blessed to be the stay at home parent while my husband goes to work every day as a middle school and high school band director. Sure I teach flute lessons twice a week and I am training to be a doula, but I don't really consider those jobs time consuming enough to even warrant the label "part-time job." Maybe I would feel differently if those jobs weren't enjoyable for me.

The author poses some questions from the stay at home parent's point of view for the working parent to imagine. I inserted my husband's coworkers' names for a more personal effect and he seemed to enjoy hearing the article that way. For example, the first question is, "When you walked into work this morning and pleasantly greeted your co-worker Jim, was his first reaction to scream, "NO! WANT JASON!" followed by an office supply being thrown at you?" That first question made me giggle a little. Rarely do articles make me laugh out loud (seriously), so I knew I was in for a treat.

After being in the mommy blogging world for nearly a year now, I should have known better than to read the comments. Why oh why did I do it? I couldn't resist the call of the comments section even though I knew beyond all knowledge that someone was going to be mean. Someone was going to criticize. Someone was going to say something to make me feel bad about myself even though their comments were not directed at me. I learned of a new fight (or perhaps it's only new to me as I am a new parent) that parents are having. I knew about CIO vs. no CIO, circumcision vs. no circumcision, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, unmedicated birth vs. medicated birth, and vaccinating vs. not vaccinating. Here was a new argument. Who has it harder? Who is the better parent because they have it harder?

Honestly, these comments did not bother me as much as I thought they would, but they did make me think. Not, who has it harder? But, what is the real issue here? Why are people getting offended at what should have been a light hearted and funny piece? I have been thinking about this for days now. I am not sure I have found THE answer, but maybe I have found AN answer. I think....and this is just a guess...what everyone wants is appreciation. I am sure there are other issues, but I think those that were the most offended were lacking appreciation in their lives.

I am a SAHM. I don't get paid for what I do as a parent. Who does? I take care of our daughter and I try to make sure all the household-y things are taken care of. My goal is to make sure things are taken care of so my husband doesn't have to do any household-y things when he comes home. Unless, of course, it is some icky ol' man job like unclogging drains or something that I wouldn't know how to do. (Yes, I've watched the Bill Cosby skit and women can use it to their advantage too! Those who have seen it know what I am talking about.) The reason I enjoy staying home and serving my husband after a long day is because he appreciates me. He notices the things I do for our family and he expresses appreciation all the time. It really is a huge boost to my ego when I am the one that might have to go out and do something work-ish and he has to stay home and he says to me, "I don't know how you do this!" It feels good to hear him say that and makes me feel like he "gets it."

Even though it's been awhile, I remember what it is like to have to wake up early, and have to be at work all day. I remember how exhausting a mundane work day can be. I remember how exhausting having a supervisor breathing down your neck is and all you want to do when 5 o' clock hits is get in your car, get home, walk through your door and sink into your couch. The last thing you want to do after a long day is to do anything, much less cook, clean, go shopping and tend to children. Sure a working parent gets paid for the work they do, but they still need appreciation as well. I remember when I was getting paid to work it didn't really seem like all that much of a reward. It was amazing what a kind word and someone expressing appreciation did. It was unfortunately extremely rare.

I appreciate my husband for the sacrifices he makes for our family. His is not a 9-5 job. It's more like a 5am-6pm job. LONG day. Even though I get up several times a night with our daughter, I am glad I am not the one that has to leave at 6:30 every morning. I am glad I have the freedom to do what I want during the day. It can be a different adventure each day, and I like that. My most aggravating days are those days that I have to work AND be a parent. Ugh. I like just being a parent and I appreciate my husband for doing what he does to allow me to be the one to stay home.

So which one has it harder? I would say he does. He would probably say I do. And here is why. My husband has this phrase, "You know what you know." I have grown and improved as a SAHM. I've, through practice, developed a system that works for me. My husband has grown and improved as a teacher. He has developed a system that works for him. I don't understand how he can do what he does and he doesn't understand how I can do what I do. But he appreciates me and I appreciate him.

But....which one has it harder????

Why is that an important question? If you are working harder, does that make you a better parent than someone else? I think there has to be more to it than that, but I have not figured it out yet.

Different people handle stresses very differently. It may be very stressful for someone to have a rigid schedule though not for another person. Someone else may be very grossed out by having peanut butter smears all over their clothes that they haven't changed since yesterday, while someone else may just shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well." One person may relish hearing, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" all the time whereas the next person may feel like pulling her hair out. One person might feel extremely guilty staying home, feeling like they are mooching off the working parent, while another may feel guilty working and may feel like they are neglecting their children. So who has it harder? I suppose anyone who is feeling unappreciated and unhappy with what they are doing has it harder than the person who feels appreciated and happy with what they are doing.

One more thought. Venting. We all need to vent. Some of what I see is some people think, "How dare she vent about her situation? She has it so much easier than I do, and I am not complaining!" Perhaps it is the presumption that they have it easier, so they have no right to complain. I wonder, "Who is it that gets to be the judge of who has it easier?"

My favorite comment out of all comments I read was the following from 'dl': (I edited it just a little for grammar.)

"I'm past this age in my life: been there and done that, both SAHM and WOHM (I only read this article because it popped up in my Facebook). Here's what I can tell all you mothers, no matter where you're working: Stop arguing with each other over who has it harder and who's doing things right or wrong. Chances are, at some time in your 20+ years of parenting, you're going to be doing both SAHM and WOHM. And when those parenting years are over, you're hardly going to remember because it will have gone by so fast. So give it up. It's a boring argument. Accept the fact that no one understands life different than their own, no matter what it is. If someone doesn't understand your stress, so what. Know that you're also not understanding theirs. That said, this was a funny article!"

Thank you, 'dl', for the answer to the question!

So who has it harder?

Who cares? Give it up. It's a boring argument.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bye bye facebook

Dear readers and sponsors,

I have gotten to the point where I need to remove myself from the social media scene. I am borrowing an idea from a friend of mine and I am going to ask my husband to change my facebook password for awhile so that I can no longer get on it as often. I am not worried so much about how much time I spend on it, which isn't all that much, but I worry about how I am starting to feel after spending time on facebook.

When I first had my daughter I was absolutely overcome with happy feelings with her birth. It was fantastic. I felt so empowered. I was impressed with myself for accomplishing what I did. I had such love and appreciation for my body for the first time in my life for the work it was able to do in growing and birthing my baby. I felt beautiful. Stretch marks, saggy skin and excess weight didn't stop me from feeling beautiful. I was on top of the world.

After the celebration stage started to die down and my husband returned to work, I started to feel a little isolated and lonely. Because my husband is a teacher and our baby was born right at the end of the school year, we had a good two months together as a new family. It was wonderful! Even so, after two months I still had a very needy baby. I spent most of my time cuddled with her nursing. I needed something to do while nursing that I could do in short spurts. In comes the iPhone and facebook groups to the rescue. I started joining birth and parenting pages. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with people who were like me, even if it wasn't face to face. Women were supporting one another and helping new moms like me with all the questions they had with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

Then something started to change. The drama started to happen. The moderator of one of my favorite birth pages was very good about deleting the drama and rudeness before I ever had a chance to see it, but it couldn't last forever. At some point I was bound to see it. I could handle it at first because it wasn't directed at me or anyone like me. Then I started noticing that people were talking about people JUST like me with contempt, disgust and disrespect. That really started to hurt my feelings. I started to doubt my accomplishments and I started to doubt my ability to be a good mom to my baby. I started to doubt my self-worth.

I am a very sensitive person. I have always been that way and I have a feeling, no matter how hard I try to thicken my skin, I will just be this way. In order to preserve my sanity and self-worth I need to remove myself from the situation that is making me feel like this. I love to be around people and when I can't, facebook seems to fill a void. But facebook has become a problem. I would go so far as to say I have become addicted to facebook, and that just won't do. Though being addicted to something silly like facebook seems relatively harmless, I have never allowed ANYTHING or ANYONE to remain in my life that made me start to doubt my self-worth. Because, you see, I have very high self-worth. I know who I am and I have too much respect for myself to allow this to continue. I have always struggled with self-esteem. I lack confidence in things I try. I worry that I won't do a good job. I need lots of encouragement. But I won't allow anyone to tamper with my self-worth.

So I am going to take a break from facebook. I NEED to take a break from facebook. I really want to say thank you to my sponsors who took a chance on me as I was trying to enter the world of product reviews/giveaways. I've had such a great time doing that, but I need to find other things to do that require me to be away from the computer, iPhone and especially facebook. I'll still be around, but nowhere near as much. I'll still give shoutouts when I get the chance, but you've probably noticed that I am nowhere near as good at this whole endeavor as I hoped I would be. It's hard! I had no idea what hard work it would be, so I really and truly thank you for being willing to take a chance on a newbie like me. Wish me luck!



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

11 months of breastfeeding

Before Lily was born I made up my mind to breastfeed for at least one year. I was more than determined to do this. I was downright stubborn about it. I set a goal, and I wanted to meet it. Little did I know what a challenge it would be! 

June 4, 2010: 
The journey begins. Lily was born at 2:41 am and within minutes I had her latched onto my breast for her first meal outside of the womb. As far as I could tell, she was doing a great job and it was painless!

Breastfeeding is HARD. At least for me! At some point while I was at the hospital I had a visit from a not-so-great lactation consultant that shook my confidence so badly that it took at least six months to recover. I thought we were doing great. Lily had plenty of output, so according to my brain, she must have been getting plenty of input. I was doing a decent job keeping her awake for feedings and she was nursing on demand. Everyone else, and I mean, EVERYONE ELSE, said our latch was fine. Perfect was even thrown around a few times. My midwives, the nurses, my hospital pediatrician, other lactation consultants, my husband, my mom and even a dear LLL leader said the latch was fine. All it took was one confusing and negative encounter for me to latch on to and shake my confidence. Yes, pun intended. I'm silly that way. Because I was worried about her latch so much, I worried about her weight gain. It wasn't enough that she gained her birth weight back and then some at her two week checkup. I was also hurting pretty badly by the time I got home and even suffered a bout of mastitis.

Is she getting enough to eat? I could not stop worrying if my baby was getting enough to eat. I constantly worried about her weigh gain. I worried about if I was nursing her the right way. I was SURE I was supposed to nurse on demand but I was not sure if I was supposed to nurse her on one side until she was done and then switch or if I should nurse for a certain amount of time and switch. I read everything I could get my hands on, but there was so much conflicting information! I did not know which sites to trust. I decided that I would just continue letting her nurse until she was done and then offer the other side.

I heart prolactin! I started to feel more comfortable with nursing and I enjoyed the natural relaxation that came from the hormones flowing through my body. One of the perks of breastfeeding and bonding with your baby are the wonderful hormones called prolactin and oxytocin. LOVE that wonderful cocktail of lovey-ness. I began to really think about how much I loved my baby. The stress of trying to breastfeed "right" began to subside and I was able to start enjoying being with my baby as she suckled and cuddled in my arms. I began to realize I needed to cherish these moments because they will pass too quickly.

I love this! I believe this was the month that I was able to get my iphone. I am only sharing this information because I would write blog posts on my notes app in order to share on my blog. I started calling my middle of the night posts my "prolactin ponderings." I continued to fall in love with my dear, sweet little angel and grew more confident and comfortable in my breastfeeding endeavors.

All for the sake of breastfeeding: As you may notice from the name of the blog, I play the flute. I periodically perform with the Rapides Symphony Orchestra in Alexandria, LA which is roughly five hours from my home. These concerts typically consist of a weekend of rehearsals and a concert. Because I did not feel comfortable going several days without nursing my daughter, I decided I should take her with me on these trips. How in the world was THAT supposed to work? I asked my mom to help me out. I would travel home, which is also five hours from here, stay for a day and drive with my mom to Alexandria, which was two hours from my mom's house. She would watch Lily while I was in rehearsals and I could nurse when we were out of rehearsal. As luck would have it, an added perk to spending such one-on-one time with her grandbaby, was that her own mother, sister, and other family live in Alexandria. So these trips turned into family reunions with beautiful music. Quite the challenge, but oh so worth it.

Solids! I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for her first six months of life. However, I decided that Thanksgiving was pretty much close enough to six months and I would let my baby have her first little nibble of solid food on Thanksgiving day. We talked about it for weeks and wanted to make it special for her. I even asked at a La Leche League meeting if it had to be EXACTLY six months to the day or if I could do it a week early. I think they must have thought I was silly for being so strict about it, but hey, I felt supported anyway. As it turned out, she loved sweet potatoes! My mom and mawmaw were a little too enthusiastic about my decision to start solids, so I pretty much had to fight them off. They wanted to give her an entire Thanksgiving meal as her first experience. Um. No. JUST sweet potato please.

Seven months of breastfeeding: I was pretty excited to make it this far, and I decided to reflect on our progress.

Why don't YOU go eat in the bathroom? Although I was pretty lucky to never encounter any nursing in public problems, I started to get tired of seeing other moms go through it. I'll confess-I was pretty self conscious about doing it, even with a cover, when my husband wasn't around. Okay. I'll tell the truth. I was self conscious even when he was around, but he gave me strength to do it by being there with me. When I was alone, I tried really hard not to make eye contact with anyone. Thankfully, the only encounters I had were positive ones. People actually came up to me to congratulate me and tell me what a wonderful job I was doing. Now THAT was a boost to my confidence!

Thank you for supporting me! Whether or not they want to admit it, women need lots of support to breastfeed. Women and men need lots of support in parenthood, period. But breastfeeding is hard. Sorry. But it is. There was always something. I am not sure when the biting started, but as some point, Lily decided to try biting me a few times. All it takes is ONE bite to make a sore that takes FOR-E-VER to heal. A bobo won't close if it's being reopened at every feeding. Ouch. Never mind the engorgement and recurrent clogged milk ducts that I experienced all the time. If it wasn't so common, there wouldn't be so much written about it. Women go through this when breastfeeding, and they need support so they don't quit. Yes, there ARE other options out there, but if a woman really REALLY wants to breastfeed, why not encourage her when she might get a little discouraged? Why not say, "You can do it!" when she's going through excruciating pain to try to provide her best for her baby? Why does that hurt? Oh wait. It doesn't! It never hurts to share a kind word with someone.

The "W" word. My baby was only nine months old when someone asked me when I was planning to wean. This was not even in response to a breastfeeding conversation. This was a question that someone asked me when we were talking about Lily's relationship with her dad. Around this time other people started to make comments about the fact that I was "still" breastfeeding. Maybe I am being naive, but the comments seemed to be positive and complimentary. You know what? I'll just take it that way. No room for cynicism here!

I'm getting tired. This month I started to get tired. Really tired. Nighttime feedings were finally starting to take their toll on me. I even considered trying Cry It Out methods to try to get our baby to sleep. I started envying those that used them. We even tried it one night. Just. One. Night. It was terrible. I thought it has been longer that that, but we began using the No-Cry Sleep Solution and it has been wonderful for us. Lily still wakes at night but maybe twice a night. I think once we are able to night wean her, she'll do great. And when we finally move her to her own room. Sigh. We really need to get her bedroom fixed up.

Wrapping it up. For the past month or so, I have had to open gashes on my you-know-what's. Every nursing session is excruciating and there is not much I can do about it. Remember when I said all it takes is ONE bite? Or one pull off where she "forgets" to let go? Yeah. Ouch. So this month has been a challenge more than a joy. Reminds me of the last few weeks of pregnancy.

I've decided that on Lily's birthday I'll finally be able to "breathe." I am not going to just stop nursing her cold turkey, but I am going to start the "don't offer, don't deny" approach to weaning. I suppose we have been doing that for a little while anyway, but I will 'officially' quit worrying about maintaining my milk supply. I am just going to relax and see what happens. She can lead the way.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My secret vanity

"But it is nice to be praised and admired, and I can't help saying I like it." -Meg from Little Women

I can't help but say that I like it too. Only I do not receive praise and admiration in the way that I secretly wish. For example, I have visited with women from church who would proceed to praise another woman from church during our conversation. "Oh, she's such a sweet spirit! Oh, she's such a good mother. She's such a good cook. I just LOVE her." My immediate thought is, "How come nobody says anything like that about ME?" Then I have to quickly quench those thoughts and reply with admiration of that person as well, while secretly combatting the jealousy that wants to rear its ugly head. 

I've confessed these feelings to my husband who asks, "How do you know nobody says anything like that about you?" I reply, "I just do." Honestly, how could I possibly know if that is true if I am not around to hear it? I am just assuming that no one praises and admires me behind my back because I think, "How could they possibly do that? They must be able to see right through me. They must know that I just really want to be praised and admired and that makes me a fake and unlikable person. How selfish I am!"

But I can only imagine that it must feel SO good when someone tells you out of the blue, "You are so pretty! I really admire your work. I love reading your blog. You are such a sweetheart." I see it happen to other people. I would love it to happen to me. I really want to be one of those "pretty girls" but I don't wear makeup, get my hair and nails done and wear nice clothes. I wouldn't even know where to begin. When I see "pretty girls" getting praised and admired I feel jealous. "Why do people like such superficial things as hair and makeup?" I especially get jealous when people whose blogging niche is topics such as hair, makeup, clothes, recipes, etc. are really successful. How? Why are people so interested in hair? I suppose I forget how much I love cloth diapers! Totally superficial. But I also love to write about birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Totally NOT superficial. 

Oh but it feels SO good, at least in my imagination, to have people like you and to hang on to your every word. I get jealous of those people who can make a completely random status update on facebook such as, "What are you eating for dinner?" and get 50 responses while I can say, "Hey, I just had a baby," and get just a handful. What is it about those people? 

And don't get me started on shoes! Why in the world are shoes so interesting? But you know what? If I had the opportunity, I would totally go on a shoe shopping spree. 

Back to Meg. If you recall, all four March girls had certain vices they were striving to overcome throughout the book. One of Meg's vices was vanity. I believe this may be one of mine as well, though from looking at me, it may not be obvious. I may be giving the impression that I never receive praise and admiration. This is decidedly NOT TRUE. My husband constantly praises and admires me. So much so that he claims that his compliments have "lost their effect" and he should not give them anymore. He feels as if I do not appreciate what he tells me. He is the dearest, sweetest man I have ever known, and his praise and admiration is such nourishment to my heart and soul. I regret that I do not show appreciation for his kind words enough. My little bundle of cuteness that takes the form of my 11 month old daughter admires me more than I ever thought any little person could! She loves me like crazy and I love her more than I ever thought possible. She doesn't care about my imperfections. She doesn't care about my hair, makeup, nails, clothes, shoes, blogging ability, flute performing ability, cooking or cleaning skills, or any of those other superficial qualities that I secretly, or not-so-secretly, admire and/or wish I possessed. All she cares about is I am her mommy and that she gets her love, warmth, hugs, kisses and, well, food, from me. And I have a mother who has been so proud of me beyond my understanding and loved me unconditionally my entire life. This is enduring and lasting praise and admiration. 

This is, simply put, love.