This is what my modern motherhood experience comes down to for me. I consider myself pretty much saved as a new mother who does not have a strong tradition around her for building a healthy happy family. The internet has been my lifeline for so many vitally important issues in my mothering journey.
When I listen to my mother or my MIL talk about how difficult it was to be at home and how lonely it was and crazy making – I know that I have it much easier.
- I have the internet as a a way to connect with other mothers and offer support and be supported in my choices
- I have a husband who sees his role as being there to help when he can and who very much works to be part of DS’s life.
Both these things have made my life at home as a mother much much easier than being stuck with a baby and no support.
I think that I am aspiring to create a rich home life also helps – this brings meaning to otherwise dreary jobs. I do have friends who stay at home who just pop their child in the car and head off for the mall and eat out and live very differnet lives. That would drive me crazy.
The internet is beyond wonderful and absolutely essential to my life. I probably could manage without it – but it would be very very rough 😦
Motherhood right now
Yesterday I had a lovely day at my little local organic cafe with one of the women from the local crunchy mama group. Our boys had a great time playing in the garden and we had a totally delicious meal, with lots of chatting.
This mother is looking at putting her son into Gan (kindy) in the next month (he is 2 days older than DS) and is very excited about giving him this opportunity. She has also had 2 mornings free a week while a nanny cares for her son. I think this has been happening for 6+ months – but I digress.
I just found myself uncertain of myself and the completeness with which I have embraced the role of mother. While I long for another pair of arms to hold my DS if I am cooking, reading a really cool MDC thread or trying to do whatever it is that DS would prefere I weren’t doing – for the most part I am just happy being a mom. And creating a gentle space at home and aiming for those home cooked meals, fresh veggies from the garden, healthy child playing outside in the sun and a home smelling of enticing scents that invite the visitor into my home. These have become the things that bring me meaning in my day. And I feel a certain sense of shame that perhaps these are not worthy goals.
Why do I not yearn for the days I did not have a baby in tow? I was wondering if I am not normal for not wanting to be alone and having my own life badly enough. Enough that I would leave DS in the care of another (in my case stranger).
Much thinking later I am coming to the following conclusion. This is a very short period in my life and I am actually probably the happiest I have ever been. I do not want to give up on what is making me happy and I am not going to go looking for things to do so that I can leave my son in someone elses care. In the matter of a few short years by design my life will be totally different and in a few more short years I will no doubt be right back in a workplace.
For now, for us, this is working.
Last night my DH’s paternal grandmother called me (she is the woman who prepares the most scrumptious Romanin dishes for Saturday family meals).It took me a while to understand just what she was worried about and why she was calling. It had something to do with food, risk, DS being outside and she is worried. It turns out she had read an article in the newspaper about a child choking on Bisli (an Israeli treat – deep fried pasta) and she was worried that I am letting DS play outside and he will put something dangerous in his mouth and choke. I tried to reassure her that I am not worried and ended up just assuring her I would check outside to make sure there is nothing he will put in his mouth. It is too foreign a concept for this grandmother to not worry.
This was in stark contrast to a conversation I had had with my parents about me letting DS play outside and not always be in my sight. I am aware of where he is, what is in his environment and just let him get on with his thing. If he goes quiet, I check on him. But he is left pretty much free to choose what to do and how with me making sure there are no rusty nails lying around and nothing that I would be horrified at finding in his mouth. It is working for us and DS is having a ball from what I can see.
DS helping in the garden
These two phonecalls highlighted such a difference in parenting philosophy. The first phone call (with grandma) highlites the tradition of a baby in a playpen and discouraged from exploring his/her environment with scheduled play times and pretty much a scheduled day – the child is dependant on the adult for something to happen. The second phone call highlited for me the attempt to let DS set his own pace and seek out what he needs in order to learn and make sense of his world. I have no idea if this would work for every child, as DS is a careful child and to date has not done anything that warrants me being worried for his safety. For now it is working for me to not worry about him and his safety, within reason. Our home has been remodelled to allow for his free access to whatever he can reach and outside is his playground (other than my seedlings, which I am trying to protect).
I do not feel comfortable worrying about his safety all the time, and in a way I think it is not healthy for him to have me constantly monitoring his every move and activity. I am comfortable with his independance and comfortable with him still needing me to breastfeed him and be with him to fall asleep. It is working for us.
My flowering sage
I am a bit of a loner. I cherish my individuality and the freedom to make personal choices. I am quite wary of group situations where my individuality might be compromised. To my mind I equate groups with The Lord of the Flies and Piggy. I see groups as essentially dangerous as people can do awful things when in a group – things they would not do if alone. (the present discussion in Israel about what happened in January in Gaza springs to mind)
And yet being part of a group is such an essential experience in daily life. Whether the group is your family, a group of strangers at the park or anything inbetween. There are dynamics that happen as soon as you have a group a people together. In many ways I am trying to master an understanding of these dynamics and what role I play in affecting the group dynamics.
I took DS to the local Gymboree group last Thursday. It was our first time and we didn’t know anyone there. I placed DS at the entrance and went inside myself and called him to join me. I know that he likes to observe before he participates and didn’t want him feeling like he had been plonked in the middle of something unfamiliar. Anyway, he was looking around, taking in this new environment and smiling at other children and parents – and no-one was really taking any notice of him (normally his smiles stop people in the street) – so he turned around and crawled out.
This made quite an impression on me. I do want DS to have positive group experiences – I want him to feel safe and accepted (both things I do not feel). And it tugs on my heart strings that he wasn’t getting any attention.
To put this all in perspective – he is only 13 months and hardly expected to be interacting with other children in a playful way. I am pretty aware that this is my issue – and yet as a parent I do feel it is my responsibility to give my DS the skills to feel like he can handle himself in a group.
To finish – we are still in couples therapy (with DS) and yesterday we spoke about my diffculty in groups. I remembered as a small girl owning a pair of purple shoes. I was so proud of them – I think it was the first brihgtly coloured item of dress that I had owned – with my mum preferring brown and even dying red shoe brown and dressing me in dark colours. These purple shoes just had me over the moon. Until my group leader in the Brownies group (little Girl Guides) that I attended shamed me for wearing purple shoes when the uniform says brown. The joy in finally having something so beautiful in my eyes was destroyed.
It is possible to see the connection between this memory and my dislike of the group – like I cannot be myself in the group.
Helping Aba mow the lawn
This is so much fun
Im so cute
Mowing the lawn will never be the same again. DS wants to be part of it 😀
Just to clarify – the lawnmower was not plugged in and DS was not in danger of having his feet cut off or anything 😉
I guess we have a routine of sorts going now. DS wakes up and looks for my breast and latches on while I try and catch a couple more winks. This continues for some time with DS moving around the bed and playing with the light switch and having a few more sips and me slowly accepting that my day is starting. It is very slow and leisurely, with DS taking his time to fill up on mamamilk and me taking my time to wake up. DH is usually still asleep – although he is enticed by babybreath and squeals of delight at the new day.
The next part invloves DS sliding down off the bed after getting over Aba (dad in Hebrew). And he makes a beeline for the floorlength mirror on our wardrobe. And chirps away patting himself and various objects he finds.
Phase 3 is climbing up the 3 steps and cooing at himself from the top of the step as he turns back and sees himself in the mirror.
Phase 2 and 3 can be repeated some number of time as DS climbs back down the steps and pats himself in the mirror.
And out we go. Mum sits down and checks out MDC to see what has happened while she was sleeping, dad feeds the pets and DS gets on with whatever is his latest craze. At the moment it is sweeping, attaching the leash to the dog and pulling things out of the kitchen drawers/cuphords. Coffee is brewed and the day has started.
I love this routine and the relaxed lazy way about it. I would not change it for the world. I love my son being able to have as much mamamilk as he needs, me having a slow start and DS having time to do the things that are important to him. It would break my heart to be rushing through the morning and not giving DS the time and space he needs to be in control of his own life and learning about himself and his world. Of course I am not complaining that traffic is but a distant memory.
This could all change. And will all change. Either through the arrival of a sibling one day (thinking next year early summer could be a good time) or maybe one day I will go back to work.
DH’s company made a 7% paycut across the board and while it is not exactly fun, we will manage. That is not the reason why I would need to go back to work. But I am reminded of just what a priviledged position I am in.
DS has discovered the phone and is loving picking up and chittering away with all the intonation of a sophisticated conversation. And DH and I have been encouraging him by modeling “hallo” as we hold something to our ear.
It turned into a bit of a farce today when visiting IL’s (funky ones). 4 adults were sitting together encouraging a little boy to play with the phone, and I started to feel a bit uncomfortable with the picture we were creating.
I confess myself somewhat smitten with the idea of a little child not being the entertainment for the adults, but rather the adults modeling behavior for the little child. This makes sense to me on many levels. Mostly, I do not want DS under some sort of pressure to perform or meet an arbitrary expectation. I am hoping to create a reality for my DS where *he* is able to define what is important. Where he is left free to explore and understand the world around him. I cannot possibly know how he is understanding what happens around him. So many things are firsts for him and I want him to make sense with the tools he has – I do not want to impose my ‘sense’ on him….
All of the above is my complicated way of saying that he is a small child and does not relate to the world in the same way that I do as an adult. He is only begining his journey into understanding the world, and if I know anything, it is that the drive to discover for yourself is very strong. It doesn’t help how much others want to help and push their experience and insight – until you have your own experience, it is pretty much meaningless.
So, next time we are visiting the IL’s, DH and I have decided we will not praise DS if he gets something ‘right’. For now he only needs to be. Any value that we put on what he does, does not necesarily reflect the true value of what DS is learning and experiencing. Us adults really do have a hard time breaking out of our linear experience of the world.
And it is magical to watch as DS does start to express himself in more easily recognisable ways – like imitating me on the phone, his face lighting up when he hears the skype ring on my computer and he knows that he will see someone (grandparents) on the screen, or his delight at building towers out of his blocks, swirling water in a bucket or pushing the cat around on a chair. This process of unfolding is truely magical to observe.
I am one in love mama.