Monthly Archives: November 2008

Fish out of water

I am sure I have alluded to the difficulties with my IL’s, particularly one set of them. FIL and his wife, and particularly the wife.

It’s not going away.

Step MIL (SMIL) does not approve of any choice that I have made as a mother/parent. From the birth through to where DS sleeps, vaccinations and what and when he eats is all met with the most scornful and biting disapproval and not so passive aggressive jibes. In my mind she has come to embody the *anti-mother*. She is highly distressed and offended by breastfeeding, convinced babies need to be left to CIO and not manipulate their parents, and that infants require a diet of meat, white flour products, sugar and dairy products. And let me point out that this is a woman who is a MD who works with diabetic patients. Our relationship has become strained to say the least. I react in the moment of conflict with her with silence, and then let loose at DH with a long list of words describing my sense of frustration, hurt, dislike of this woman: bully, disgusting, revolting, despicable, slimy, underhanded, unctuous, arrogant, ….. the words that flowed so freely today are now missing…. Yep, I do not really like her and for some reason that keeps tripping me up she gets under my skin each and every time.

And then I try and conjure some sympathy and the people around me just do not get it. I think she has some real problems with my choices as they threaten her and her choices. For someone who is so anti sleep sharing, I find it hilarious that her large dog crawls into her bed each and every night…. and it’s also a bit sad. Babies are supposed to be trained to sleep alone and dogs are allowed in bed… whatever. To me it is f*cked up.

And I am just having a crappy time with IL’s in general. MIL and her husband, while being emotionally very much there for us, think I am totally barmy for wanting to eat organic whole foods and beleive that it is a ‘personal taste’ choice that I am making. In their world,  I should be prepared to compromise on food. Somehow, in their reality, when you choose to drink OJ or apple juice, so you make the same decision if you choose organic or pesticides… it’s a matter of personal taste. And this frustrates the hell out of me. I get branded as this extreme individual who doesn’t like to compromise, and the people branding me just have no clue. It makes me hopping mad it does.

Gosh, how I wish I could find more people who didn’t freak out at the term ‘organic’ or ‘wholefood’ or ‘complementary medicine’ or ‘environmental’. I am really really tired of having to do what I know is best for my family while the people around me snicker behind their hands and feel oh so comfy on their high perches looking down on me and my choices. Inform yourself people. Ya’ll don’t even know what ya’ll are talking about.

I’m off to look for a comfy pond.

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Honestly

I have the coolest relationship with my DH, or I think so anyway. We are still in couples therapy and while we have felt like maybe it has run its course, today was one of those sessions where you walk out beaming and in love and so sure that all will be OK…. it’s great to have sessions like that 🙂

We got into couples therapy after repeatedly banging our heads on the metaphorical wall of ‘The Family’. Essentially his family. And their problem with respecting our choices (which often boil down to my choices) and them not understanding their role. Being our Elders, I guess they felt we had to do what they think is best, which would have sent us down the road of vaccines on schedule, CIO (cry it out), paracetamol for every fever, sleep training, introducing solids as early as possible, TV for infants, diet soda…. and of course copious amount of second hand smoke. I have a step mother in law who is sick to her stomach that DS is breastfed. She is also deeply disturbed that he is as yet unvaccinated and takes every opportunity to remind us how catastrophic this decision is. I have learnt to dislike this woman and essentially tune her out unless she tries to get chocolate mousse (raw eggs, sugar and cream amongst other things) into DS’s mouth – in which case boundaries that are very clear have to be drawn.

Boundaries that DH is uncomfortable setting, well  *was* uncomfortable setting. Hence the success of our therapy process together.

What I had been wanting to write about before I got sidetracked by my issues with my IL’s (I have 2 sets), was how we were talking today about DH being more convinced by things I say that come from my emotionally honest place. When we think about going out the two of us for a romantic dinner and show, I get all stressed out thinking about DS in the care of IL’s and freeze. At least this is my experience. And I go on a tirade about how DS cannot be in second hand smoke and I don’t want him left to CIO and what if he is fed some mousse? When what I maybe really aught to be saying is: “I am not ready”. This seems so simple, and yet it is so hard for me. I immediately go to places where I feel I have to justify myself, I do not feel that it is enough that I am not ready – I have to have lots of reasons that ‘cannot be refuted’ in order to feel OK with myself…. The irony is that my emotional reality is probably the only thing that cannot be refuted. But I do not want my emotional reality to be up for discussion and inspection by anyone other than myself. I do not want there to be an opening for anyone to tell me that my reality is the ‘wrong one’. So I guard it tenaciously, and amour myself with lots of reasons (irrefutable ones if possible 😉 ). Hmmmm, perhaps this is something that requires some more thought….

So, I am not ready to leave my child with anyone other than DH. I have yet to find someone that I trust with our parenting philosophy. It’s as simple as that.

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Good Enough Mother

So much is on my mind and I have no idea how to bring it all together. I am hearing more and more about shaken baby syndrome (SBS) or shaken baby syndrome – scurvy and it is scaring me.  I read about it in forums and even my parents are wanting to send me an article about it. I am confused.

I read about vaccine reactions being the cause of SBS and I wonder how a vaccine can cause fractures. The closest I had thought that vaccines could come to causing SBS was a baby being found not breathing and the parent shakes him/her to try and get him/her breathing again. And that the not breathing was somehow related to the recent vaccination. I know there are people far more knowledgeable than me on this issue and I am sure I am missing important information. I was just surprised to have my parents tell me they want to send me an article about SBS for me to share with others . They are totally convinced that there are people who shake their babies and that there needs to be more awareness so that people do not do this. Then I found myself thinking that maybe there are people who do shake their babies. I remember all too clearly the complete desperation when DS was a couple of weeks old and would not stop crying and I had no idea why. In such moments maybe I was vulnerable to shaking my baby? I have also read about uncontrollable crying after vaccinations and maybe parents just do not know what to do with their child and it does not even cross their minds to think of vaccinations. Maybe parents are very stressed out with the new responsibility and often the work pressures that come with trying to balance work and family…. and a crying baby is the straw that broke the camels back so to speak, when it comes to keeping your cool. I just do not understand. I do think there is an unrealistic expectation for parents to be bringing up their young children so very alone and unsupported… but my thoughts are wandering. SBS sounds awful, whatever the reasons – all possibilities are just too awful to contemplate. I hold DS a little tighter and hope that I will never need to know the pain of admitting my infant to ER and on top of that be suspected of abusing my child. It sends shudders down my spine.

In all of my pondering this issue, I was reminded of the phrase “A good enough mother” by Donald Winnicott. There is no such thing as the perfect mother, despite our aspirations, we cannot be perfect. We cannot protect out children from every danger, large and small. It is simply not possible. We can do our best, we can inform ourselves and make the best decisions that we can. I can put rubber corners on all the low furniture corners, but that does not mean DS will not pull himself up in the sofa, loose his balance and get a bump on his head. I can put all cleaning products 2 metres up, but not think to look under the desk where DS found a small coin to put in his mouth. I know that I need to be careful and create a safe environment for my DS, but I also cannot beat myself up when mistakes happen. That is life. (my heart clenches as I write this. How can I as a mum admit that I cannot control everything and ensure that my child will be safe in every possible way? Every fibre of my being wants to ensure that DS will never need to know suffering. Oy, I guess I need to read up some more on Buddhism. Suffering is part of life – no escaping it. But how do you tell yourself that when your own child suffers?)

I often find myself thinking that sociologists will one day look back on this era in the Western World and marvel that people continued to bear children despite the awful circumstances around being a parent (and child for that matter). In Hebrew you say “hafuch al hafuch” – upside down on upside down. Everything is just totally mixed up and confused.

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What to do?

I was not born Jewish. I chose to be Jewish in a way that I guess is very familiar to those who have taken this path. I met and fell in love with a man who is Jewish (that he considers himself more Israeli than Jewish was something that took me a while to understand). And I chose to move my life to Israel, at least for a 3 year period – as I learnt the language. If I remember correctly I had a notion that if we did not start our lives in Israel, I would never be able to do it at a later date with children. It would just be too difficult. Anyway, 4+ years later I am still here, and am likely to be here for some time.

Some background information. I had always been drawn to Judaism as a child. I really liked visiting my friends who celebrated Shabbat and loved the deep roots for the celebrations of Pesach and Rosh haShana. I like the mezzuzot on the doors. It was something that felt very comforting to me. I guess I also really liked my friends who were Jewish.

My first inkling of how hard it is to be a woman who is in love with a Jewish man came as an adolescent when I fell in love with my best friends brother. My experience with their mum was so strange. She was not at all happy about me being with her son. Now I am not so sure it was about me being Jewish or not, but the notion that I was not an appropriate choice if I was not Jewish became a notion in my mind. A notion that I have also learned is not universally held by all Jewish families, well both sets of my IL’s could not care less. And I had to overcome considerable resistance to go through with the conversion.

DH and I had a civil wedding in Cape Town, South Africa with close friends and family and I moved to Israel to start my married life, and a process that often had me in tears with frustration, deeply hurt by the system that did not want me. The Israeli Interior Ministry proved to be a place where we even got friendly with the clerke who renewed my visa each year, but the bottom line was that if you are not Jewish, you are not too welcome. Of course it is illegal to say an outright ‘no’, the High court gave my husband the right to marry a non Jewish person and have his marriage recognized in Israel. But, the overall feeling is not one of ‘yes, we want you here’.

Throughout this process I was in a deep conflict. One the one hand I wanted very much to convert to Judaism and ensure that our children would be unquestionably Jewish and on the other hand I did not want to bow to the ‘pressure’ to conform. I winced every time someone at work said something derogatory about non Jewish women and their offspring. I was very taken aback at the level of complacency in the Israeli society that said that it is OK to judge someone for not being Jewish. I was very very angry to be honest. I did not understand how a people who for so many generations have been subjected to such discrimination, I did not understand how this same people could be so comfortable discriminating against others themselves. The would not be the first conundrum I had with Israeli’s.

I found a path that felt right for me and started to convert in the Reform Movement. I was familiar with the Reform Judaism from my childhood and felt like it was more in line with my values than the Orthodox  Judaism that I was getting to know in Israel. The only problem was that the Reform Movement is not recognized by the state of Israel. For all things bureaucratic, Orthodox Judaism is the only accepted religion. In a way this suited me. I could convert to a Judaism that I felt matched my values, provide a community for my family and not bow to the state pressure to be Jewish.

My actual conversion was a wonderful experience of getting to know Judaism and becoming familiar with Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat itself, Havdalah, the festivals, the food, the traditions. And meeting Rabbi’s. A particular rabbi from the US totally captured the essense of why I chose the Reform movement instead of the Orthodox. The Reform Jews are inspired by the Torah and the Othodox Jews beleive that the Torah was revealved to them by G-d. I can work with being inspired. I am not comfortable believing any sacred text came from G-d.

So, back to my present situation. I have converted. I have my Jewish name and 18 months later I became a mother. The State of Israel has classified my son as ‘other’ when it comes to nationality and religion as I have yet to process my conversion for acceptance by the Interior Ministry. Another ruling by the High Court that requires the Interior Ministry to register me as Jewish in my ID if I provide a certificate of conversion from the Reform Movement. (my children just will not be able to marry in Israel and myself and my children will not be able to be buried in a state cemetary). Do I want my son to grow up as ‘other’? I am not sure. At home he will grow up as Jewish. He of course will know that my parents are not Jewish, but our home life reflects a Jewish way of life. So, how can I justify not giving him the security of being formally Jewish, when this is what his home environment will be?

I just do not know. Maybe I am just lazy and do not want to deal with the lawyers. But the issue remains, that I am not sure I want DS growing up thinking he is something that the state will tell him is not true. Gosh, I often come back to this. At loggerheads with the state. Overall I have a good life here and I am finding ways to make peace with the highly unlikely reality that I would live in Israel.  What should I care whether the state will call my son Jewish or not? Does it really matter? I keep coming back to how wrong it is that religion is so entwined with state and this goes to really really hard places. Places I have no answers for.

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little things

ARRRRGH! One of those days. Every little thing is just getting me down.

It started with our trip to the clinic. DH and I have been meaning to do our blood work for quite some time now and I also am supposed to be checking DS’s iron levels. And due to the public health system being what it is, I am registered at two clinics. One for me and DH (we like the Family Doctor) and one for DS (we like the nurse and really really dislike the nurse and ped at the clinic where we are registered). Anyway, it turns out that different clinics take babies blood at different stations and it just turned into a mess. The nurse and doctor I am avoiding turned out to be the team who take baby blood. The very people who I will never let touch my baby (very long story as to why). So, no test for DS today. We will have to schedule for another clinic….. anyway, this started my day. The same day that I have no hot water as my geyser is not working and both the gas bottles have run out so I can’t make my morning coffee and the bathroom drain is blocked and and and. A long list of little things that I am just not coping with. And DS will not go to sleep and the dog is whining…. I hate these kinds of days.

I curse myself for being so disorganised and procrastinating so much that things get into this situation at all. The fact that there are crumbs in my cutlery draw and that I have neglected to clean them out for a week now, the fact that our garden is overgrown and has dog pooh for about a month in it, the fact that the shelves that are being built are still not finished and furniture is being stored in DS’s room to be and that the house is just so not the relaxing haven that I aspire to.

The fridge shelves have sunflower seeds on them from a package that spilled….. I could go on and on.

I fantasise about that regular day where I know that today I will do the washing and tomorrow I will clean the fridge and the next day I will change the bedding. But this is so far from my reality. I live such an add hock life, kinda putting out fires instead of managing a healthy rhythm. And I so would love to have this rhythm, that my morning will look like ‘this’ and then my day progresses and my week has a regular turnover of activities to do. But at the same time my being goes “no, do not make it all so predictable, do not tie me down and choke my spontaneity”. And I argue back that it’s not a matter of being spontaneous. If I can keep things more organised and have a more relaxing home environment, I will still have time to do fun stuff. It’s the constant longing to only be doing fun stuff and the little things in life getting in my way. I keep trying to change my way of thinking so that the little things become worthy things – something that I do not inwardly cringe at doing. And then, after months or weeks of ignoring these little things, I have a melt down day and I charge into action and fight the battle of The Mess…. and I know it would be so much easier if I just did it every day little by little. 😦 ARgH! Why is it so hard?

DS is finally sleeping – as evidence that I am writing. Someone came to fix the geyser. DH is unblocking the drain, I am chucking things away and am about to clean out the crumbs from the cutlery tray and maybe even get rid of the spilled sun flower seeds…. but I fear that this will not be the last of it! I have to get this organized if I am going to make a success of being at home full time. Otherwise I will surely loose my mind from time to time.

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Was I too sure of myself?

It happened rather unexpectedly. The manager of the Occupational Therapy Services at the hospital where I work called today. She assumed that while I am not coming back to work before my one year is up, I would be back on the 18th of February 2009. Crikey. I tried to find a nice way to say that this not a foregone conclusion. Now I am doing my own head in as I try to rationalize why I am making this choice to say that I am taking more than one year.

I know that I am not going back. I am just in a bit of a mess as I contemplate saying it in a unequivocal way, a way that will leave me without a guaranteed job and essentially unemployed.

What does that say about me? I immediately started to think of study options and making this time count. But why can’t it count that I am being a mother? I know better than to tie myself up in knots at wasting my life and getting trapped into a situation where I loose my work skills and kiss my career good bye. I know this is not true. It does not have to be true.

I have been thinking about my values and how I know I would suffer leaving my child in the care of a paid someone. I would be worrying all the time that his needs are not being met. And I feel like a bit of a sissy for worrying. But DS doesn’t even speak – how the hell would I know if something were not OK? I feel like I am being made into some sort of freak for being OK with being at home with my child…. I am asked to think of offering even 2 -3 days a week instead of the full 5 day week. Something, anything. And I can’t.

This I think is the bottom line. I can not. There is just no way that I could put my child in the care of a stranger, however warmly recommended. I rationalize this by saying that no one else will take the time to cook DS organic fresh food. No one else will be bothered to use cloth diapers. No one else will ensure that he is not eating deep fried peanuts and chocolate millk (firm favorites for infants where I live). No one else will snuggle up to him when that is what he wants. No one else will take the time to accompany him on his journey of discovery of the world – there is far too much pushing the world onto little children in the hope that they will catch on faster. And I specifically do not want this. I feel myself (rightly or wrongly) the guardian of my child’s childhood.

I am getting messages, even from my parents, that I need to let go. I cannot protect my son from everything (this was in response to me saying that I am not sure I want to use teething gel with sweeteners in it). But when he is so little and there is so much going on in his body as it grows and develops, I do want to protect him. I have in my hands (and in my heart) the beginnings of a whole human life. How can I be flippant with that? How can I not take that seriously?

My common sense tells me that I will have to let go at some point. But I am not sure now is the time. Just like I have chosen to take my cue from my child as when to feed, sleep and cuddle, I would like to be able to take my cue from him as to when he will be comfortable without me near his side. I do not see the merits of stressing either of us out. I am hoping that the world will be kind and not punish me for taking the time to care for my child in is infancy.

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Is there a better or worse way to be a parent?

This is bothering me.

Why am I so convinced that I am making a good decision to stay at home with my child (and children to come)? What bothers me is that by feeling like I am making a good decision, by implication the decision to put my child in care and go back to work is a poor decision. And I am not comfortable thinking that parents who put their children in care are essentially poor parents. I know it is not true from observation. Not easy, but not true. So why have I made my decision to stay at home?

1. I was not wildly happy in my previous job. I was working long and very intense hours in hand rehabilitation for a very poor salary and lets say a less than supportive work environment (not getting time to go to the loo happened regularly, as did not having time to eat – there are complicated reasons). I love the professional challenge of treating patients along side some very talented hand surgeons. I loved making a difference in the lives of patients committed to rehabilitation. I loved finding a niche where I could make a real difference in the lives of the people I treated. I enjoyed the status of working in a prestigious hospital. I *hated* sitting in traffic 1 hour each way and being out of my home for 10-13 hours  day for a wage that barely covered our mortgage repayments. I hated not having the time or energy to look after myself or make a nurturing home…. I hated living off fast (healthy) food and coffee.

2. Not having a huge motivation to go back to work I allowed myself the fantasy of staying at home. My position was being kept for a year, so I decided to take it as it comes.

3. I read and read and read and kept coming back to the idea that children thrive at home at least until the age of 1 1/2, and 3 being an age I kept getting to.  Could I allow myself the priviledge of 3 years at home with my child? Was that not WAY too indulgent?

The word ‘thrive’ became important to me. It also guided me in my choice to sleep share with DS. But does that mean that parents who are in a position where they have to choose between being at home and going back to work, mean that they aren’t allowing their children to thrive? I am not comfortbale with the answer no.

I remember just after graduating from university I was talking with a cousin who grew up with a SAHM all her childhood. Both her and her mum were getting a bit snotty with me about a woman’s place being at home and this cousin’s aspirations being to have a home cooked meal on the table every day. This seemed so confining to me, not to mention demeaning. I was firmly defending a woman’s right to go back to work. I saw it that if I was going to be miserable at home I would not be a very good mother and my child would be better off in care while I go out and work and then come home with the renewed passion to be a mother. I still think like this – but for the most part in my present situation I see going back to work as being a serious trigger to *not coping*.

This question became more pressing in my mind today as I explored the possibility of becoming a La Leche League leader. In order to do so I am required to agree with the philosophy – part of which is that the mother is the preferred care provider

In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.

And while this is my experience, I am hesitant to apply this to all babies and all mothers. I am inclined to think that a baby requires a sensitive and nurturing care provider at all times and that the mother is defeinitly a most natural choice as she is breastfeeding. But other people can also meet the babies needs without mum being 100% the port of call. It is so much pressure on a mum to be 100% there for her child (children) and feel like only she can offer the required care. I do not think this is the way children are meant to be brought up. It is crazy making. And yet women (myself included for now) are making this choice. In my optimal world I would able to be with my child or at least in their vicinity while I got on with the tasks of daily living. I would have friends and family around who shared my values and who were an affirming part of my experience as a mother. My children would know me as mother and have many adults and other children as part of their growing up experience.

This sadly is very far from my reality. DH is my support, and my LLL meetings. I have just recently said good bye to the one friend I had who shared the parenting values that I do….. I am a bit sad.

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