Another to-do list

To Do. (NB: This week. Seriously, hurry up already.)

1. Reconfigure novel. Move scenes to where they should go. Trim or add to make perfect.

2. Teach toddler to sleep better. Teething is no excuse for waking eight or nine times a night. He’s clearly doing this on purpose.

3. Polish journal article #3; Submit journal article #3.

4. Make pasta from scratch. Freeze.

5. Submit novel.

6. Practice Alexander Technique while awake at 11pm. 1am. And 2am. And 4am. And 5am. You don’t have to fix yourself, though.

7. Speak with sleepless toddler about his bad attitude.

8. Start college fund for kids. See if 529s accept dryer lint as deposit.

9. Write journal article #4. While writing, judge self for not doing this sooner.

10. Update LinkedIn profile and start self promotion blitz.

11. Get lots of contract editing work.

12. Learn to quilt. And cross-stitch.

13. Start etsy for sarcastic handmade stuff.

14. Complete lots of contract editing work.

15. Choose languages to learn for PhD program.

16. Practice bass. (NB: not the fish. Try sleeping, maybe, after perfecting bass. No…as I said, not the fish. Get some caffeine, maybe, while practicing bass. Seriously, what is it with you? Not. the. fish. Why would I list “practice a fish” on a list of things to do? Come on.)

17. Speak with self about bad attitude.

18. Learn two languages. as jump start on PhD requirements.

19. Design and print photo albums for grandparents’ holiday presents.

20. Arrange for sitter next month for Date Morning. Date Night means paying sitter to ignore sleeping kids, which Spouse and I do really well.

21. Write second novel.

22. Sell baby stuff on craigslist.

23. Make microloans.

24. Get part time job with great benefits.

25. Apply for PhD program.

26. Get grad school loan. Sell soul or children to ensure retirement out of debt.

27. Quit job with a year of 401k savings. That should be enough for retirement.

28. Complete PhD program.

29. Write third novel.

30. Floss more often.
Using Alexander Technique.
While composing music.
And doing gluteal exercises.

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Moms gone wired

Clearly, these people who accuse mothers of small children of being “at risk for Internet addiction” and who belittle the habit of switching tabs from Twitter to Facebook to blog to email and back until someone responds are not whip-smart blogging mamas. (Okay, yes, I read the article, and yes, she is exactly that. But she’s a quitter, too, because she dropped her four blogs because they were taking time away from her kids. Um, hello, that’s the point.) And the authors and publishers and contributors and  promoters have it  out for mom blogs. (Forget for a moment the article is written by a mom who spent as many as eight hours online a day while the kids were awake. Lady, do you know how much I could get done if I got to be addicted like that? Why can’t I have that personality instead of the “eighteen projects sitting half done because I can’t bear to ignore my child-rearing job” personality?)

They don’t understand that we have finally,  in blogs and twitter and facebook, found forums in which people who understand us and empathize flock to our feet to hear our pearls of wisdom. At home/work we’re ignored. Yelled at. Shat upon, literally. Online there are others like us, feces-covered and chagrined, wishing someone would hear us and tell us we’re worth a shower. Online we all respect each other. Dote on each other. Celebrate each other.  I think these people at CNN are mamablogga haters. And we don’t allow the word “hate” at our house, do we mamas?

People who bandy about the term “addiction” do so without acknowledging that it’s a relatively new term (twentieth century) that basically applies to any activity that takes you away from the socially mandated priorities of work and family. If we were a culture who valued laughter above all else, alcoholism would only be applied to nasty drunks. Silly drunks would be contributing members of society. Since we are Puritanical believers in work and family, online activities that take you away from work or family for one, two, or nine hours a day allegedly represent problems. (But somehow, work that takes you away from family for twelve hours isn’t a problem. Oh, right. That’s just for men. Work that takes women away from family for one, two, nine hours gets a big ol’ judgemental eye roll, too. Lady, do you know how much work I could get done…oh, wait, I’ve already pulled that in this post.) If we were just a society that valued Twitter (don’t hold your breath, for that would be an even more despicable society than we have, really), maybe then moms who spend one, two, nine hours online would be contributing members of society. You moms who Tweet every freaking thought, stacking seven posts on top of each other (which, for the record, is a blog, not Twitter, so stop it and compose your thoughts into something longer and more coherent) would be the superstars of our society, overpaid and overappreciated for your prolific online contributions.

So let’s be honest. We use/dabble in/devour facebook and Twitter and blogging and online shoping and email because it’s almost like being a whole person and having friends who can actually make it to the dates you’ve had to cancel three times, mutually, for sick kids or sleepless nights or filthy houses or school projects.

As one of my friends (whom I would not know without the glory of the Internet) said, she takes all the facebook quizzes just in case the results will reveal a deep understanding of herself she had never achieved by other means, and will save her in therapy and life coaching fees.

Being at home with a small child (or more, heaven help you ladies and gents ‘cuz I’m barely making it with just one) can be frustrating and anger-provoking and stifling and unwelcoming. Those of us used to doing eighty things in a day, being respected, being listened to, being creative and logical and articulate and productive have a hard time, since the product of our labor will be unpaid for twenty to thirty years. Not until we see who our children become, what they love and whom they love and how they love will we know if our work was done well. Not until our children send a Mother’s Day card like the one my brother just sent my mom, apologizing for every single hour of sleep he ever cost her, does the job pay decent wages.

So if we spend a few extra hours on our blogs, or spend one third of our otherwise billable Saturdays off scheduling seven blog posts to arrive each morning, just as though we were productive members of society (ah, crap, I just gave away the secret of my prolific blogging), maybe you’ll cut us some slack and not call us addicted. As long as we promised the padooter will only go on when the wee ones sleep, who does it hurt that we’re on facebook at midnight?

Ah, hell, what do I care if they call me diseased? As long as you’re reading my blog, I don’t care what they call either of us. Cheers, readers. Hope something on the padooter makes you feel a little less stressed at whatever issues your day brought.

*for the record, the CNN article is actually pretty gentle, even if it’s groossly sponsored by pediatric fiber tablets and full of links to sunshine and buttercup links about how to enjoy parenting.  Treacle. But mocking their gentleness is not as much fun as hyperbolic mamablogga hating.

thinking makes it so…

We spent last Friday  picking strawberries with a great group of families, and one woman said, “On days like these I think my husband got the raw end of this deal.”

She was, of course, correct. There are some days when screaming and tantrums and hitting and  illogic take place in the sun and fresh air, on which there are more cuddles than screams, more engaging interaction than battles. And then, yes, this job outshines others.

And there are days when fluorescent light and cubicles, steady pay and logical co-workers, and the chance to just think a thought through to completion and urinate when necessary, even when faced with terrible work conditions, lack of respect, a cruel boss, and crappy pay sound a whole lot better than this.

So I’ve been thinking of quitting. Or, rather, shifting careers. Before Peanut, when I worked in corporate America, I evaluated jobs with lists of pros and cons, and made decisions based on whether, in the balance a job offered more than it took from me.

So I took a deep breath and did the same evaluation about staying home to raise a child. Because it’s gotten challenging enough for me to spend more days in tears and screaming than not, and I am really, really talented at my previous, grownup jobs.

I think for my temperment, this job may not be a fit. I think I have too many conflicts with management, and I have too many skills that go unused in this role. But I also think that the boss needs me, the future of the company needs me, and the franchise will stand a better chance of making it in the long term if I keep my job.

So I’m starting each day with the attitude that I’m really lucky to be able to do this job. I may not be the best for the role, and this position may not be even close to what is best for me. I don’t even particularly like the job, though I love the company and believe in it. But the role will shift, the job will grow, and I will be able to say I made the right overall decision to stay instead of go, if only because in the balance, in the sun and fresh air of good days, this does beat shilling for multinational corporations, to whom I’m just a cog. Because to this tiny operation, I am the sun and the moon.

Dire consequences and desperate measures

A discussion last weekend at the playground with a creative, lovely, and wicked smart lady yielded the following observation: we’re all desperate to protect and justify our choices. After reading Peggy Orenstein’s Flux and The Atlantic Monthly’s article “The Case Against Breast-feeding,” the glaring truth to me is not that one side of each debate is right or that each side despises the other’s choices, but that we each have a lot at stake in making sure our decisions were at least good, if not the best.

Breast or bottle, nighttime parenting or cry-it-out, stay at home or work and daycare—we all have the same secret fears that the choice we are making is costing us more than it should. Hanna Rosin’s “The Case Against Breastfeeding” really isn’t a case against breastfeeding. It’s a case against the all-or-nothing mentality that has parents segregating into those who chose wisely and those who are ruining their children. And the root of our belief in our own choices and our disdain for any different points of view is the hope that we’re doing what’s best for our families. And if we’ve chosen incorrectly, we risk not only breaking our children, but also having lost all the effort we poured into our choice. Rosin is not arguing that women should not breastfeed. After nursing three children, she’s simply wondering why she felt that was the only choice, why the pedants on each side of the debate swear the others have lost their minds (or feminism or chance at a healthy child). Why the black-and-white thinking? Because we’ve all gone through a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of trouble to do what we’re doing, so it had better be right.

I postponed (at least0 or gave up (at worst) two outstanding careers, one potential career, and a path toward a PhD to stay at home with my son because I thought, given my endless research that confirmed nothing except that I’d eventually have to make a choice, that staying home was most likely to give him what he needed to grow into a delightfully useful member of society. If I’m wrong, and I should have focused more of my daylight hours on myself and my career, then maybe I’ve wasted these years and he will blame his miseries and failures on me. Or, even worse, I will be an empty shell of a person, having subjugated my only self for a person who becomes a serial killer and about whom the history books will only write that I ruined his life and sense of what the world should be and that he stabbed his neighbors.

Conversely, the women I know who work outside the home, who decided that they needed to create a family in which each person’s work is vital, in which attentive, loving care can come from a paid helper as long as it’s consistent and supportive (they hope) made their decision to give their children what they needed to grow into a delightfully useful members of society. If they are wrong, and they should have focused more of their daylight hours on their children, then maybe they’ve missed the most important years, and their children will blame their miseries and failures on parents who worked their children into the margins of their lives. Or, even worse, these parents will be bitter, unfulfilled shells of people, having chosen empty pursuits and subjugated their children’s needs, resulting in a generation who become a serial killers and about whom the history books will only write that their mothers ruined their lives and sense of what the world should be. And that they stabbed their neighbors.

Wait a minute, that’s exactly the same outcome as the other moms! We’re all screwed!

Or we’ll all just fine.

But nobody is going around saying, “I hope I made the right decision so that my children don’t stab their neighbors.” (At least in my neighborhood. But I lead a sheltered life. Maybe your neighbors say it. Maybe about your kids. Wait, which choices did you make? Quick, tell me, so I can judge you.) Instead, we secretly hope that we made the right decision, missing a large chunk of our children’s or our adult selves, counting each mistake, tallying each proud and loving moment, and hoping it’s all enough.

Ah crap, I didn’t nurse long enough. My child will be obese, stupid, and chronically ill.
Ah, crap, I nursed at the exclusion of my own sanity. My every waking moment has been for someone who really didn’t get that much from it.

Ah, crap, I let my child cry it out and now she’ll have insomnia and a sense of abandonment as an adult.
Ah, crap, I lost years of sleep attending to my child at night and now they’ll get to college and cry for me in the dorm every night.

And so on, ad nauseum.

Because if we made the wrong decision, we’ve screwed not only ourselves, but our children, as well.

So we disdain the people who make decisions different than our own, and align ourselves with likeminded people because we need to know that others feel our pain and share our justifications; because, deep down, we suspect it might be okay no matter what we do. And all things being equal, we might like a do-over. Or a medal. Or both.

Well, now, that explains a lot.

Existential crises call for desperate measures. So do two major moves in two months. At naptime today, therefore, I pulled out the Feng Shui book (yay for reclaiming my books and yay for Ohmega Salvage’s awesome collection of recycled craftsman built-in bookcases and yay for sixteen boxes of books unpacked and out of my freaking way) to see if it could fix my life.

Now, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to Feng Shui. Can’t even pronounce it, though I try hard. And I don’t know if it works. But I know it feels, in a desperate “clinging to guns and religion” way, like I have control of the uncontrollable if I have tall rectangles in the east and round metal accents in the west. It’s one of those “can’t hurt, might help, just don’t tell anyone you know or they’ll laugh at you then have you taken off their ‘call when in need of rational and logical help with personal dilemmas’ list” kind of things.

So today’s discoveries put into perspective a few, um, issues in my life. First, we keep finding houses where our money and romance are figuratively in the toilet. This is the third residence in which our bathroom sits squarely in the west, the tiny corner of our universe in which our income and lovin’ ought flow. Instead, there’s a steady stream of waste, dirt, crayons, and nonsense flowing down the drain. Explains mucho about the continued ease with which we lose what little money we have.  [Thanks financial sector a–holes. Like being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t detrimental enough to my future retirement. In 2054 I’m finally gonna have to break our Wal-Mart boycott so I can get a job as a greeter and support myself in the squalor to which I’ve become accustomed.

So my money and my marriage are in the crapper. (Sorry, Spouse. But you saw it coming in the wedding ring fungus, didn’t you? It was nice while it lasted. But the feng shui book says our love’s being flushed down the drain, dude. And you know that if I read it in a book, it’s the law. So plan on having dwindling affection and interest soon…oh, the ring around my finger under the ring around my finger already did that? You’re creeped out by a little rash on my third finger? Well, It’s you’re fault it’s there. Yes it is. Yes, it is. Yes. It is. Are you hearing me? Yes it is. Don’t pull out your logic with me, Mister. Fine, it’s your fault our money and marriage sector is in the bathroom. No I didn’t. No, I didn’t. No. I didn’t. True, but that’s because…I’m done with this. No, the garage isn’t in our marriage sector. Oh, ha ha. Yeah, maybe if you’re in there things WILL get better. Bah.)

Just after that eight direction, nine ki number pronouncement that we’re poor and nasty to each other because of the sewer placement, I found this lovely tidbit:

“Maybe, for example, you find that you are edgy, irritable, and tense quite a lot of the time….It would be wise to avoid spending a great deal of time in [the north-east and south] of your home. If possible, position your bedroom in the west where chi energy is more settled and contented.”

Hmmm. So I should stay out of the living room, dining room, and bedroom, and sleep in the shower? Makes perfect sense. My irritability doesn’t stem from 32 months of interrupted sleep and full daylight hours focus on a wild, strange, and often irrational creature. I’m not cranky because I’m having trouble adjusting to a reality where my life is not my own, my time is not my own, and six of my greatest hopes and dreams are on hold for the honor of raising a loving and caring human being. Nope. It’s ‘cuz I live in a house where the dining room makes me “feel on edge”  and “impatient,” the entryway makes me “tired from lack of rest,” and the bedroom leads to “slow progress in career.”  So I need a house without a north-east, east, south-east, south-west, and west. I’ll bet I can get a good rate on renting a piece of paper, because it’s the only two-dimensional structure I know that will eliminate those issues.

The bigger problem? The placement of my son’s room apparently makes me “overly controlling of others.” Oh, yeah, that‘s the problem. ‘Cuz I’ve existed on that plane since, well, since…oh, yeah. 1972. I don’t think there’s a crystal or mirror remedy for that one, feng shui friends. It would seem that I exist in a vortex where there is only northwest. Mmm. Maybe it’s good we didn’t pick Portland. I might have exploded from the vortex created between my need to control and my relative powerlessness. Or I would have had 17 cats. ‘Cuz they listen, right?

Tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna embrace my inner incomplete task, my perpetual on edge, my tiredness from lack of rest (I’m sorry, how is that not a cause and effect clause all unto itself? Do you really need a room in the wrong quadrant of the compass to be tired from lack of rest? Is there anyone who is revived from lack of rest? If so, will they take over nights at our house, with nightmare-y kid and attachment parenting central, and cats who yowl for people to come to them instead of seeking heat and food themselves? And, while you’re at it and up at 3am anyway, for all the other perfectly normal children in the world who don’t sleep well until they are three or four? ‘Cuz there are a bunch of them, and that one bastard who’s thriving on lack of rest really owes the rest of us.)

So call me, rested person. We need to put you in my bedroom while I sleep off my marital fungus and controlling irritability in the bathroom.

In the midst of flipping through the book to find cheap solutions to increase tree energy and decrease me energy throughout the house, I found a lovely little gem: the chart of prevailing influences for the year and position of my nine ki number. And with a little math I realized that this year’s existential crisis is not due to an inbalance in my needs, nor an extended, yet normal transition mothers experience in which they new and different priorities smash violently into old happiness and self-actualization. No, no. I’m having a tumultuous year because it’s part of a universal cycle. Like the Fourth Turning, only on a personal level. So this is like another Strauss and Howe Crisis season and ancient Chinese centre year. Yeah. See, for people born Feb 5ish through the following Feb 4ish of 1918, 1927, 1936, 1945, 1954, 1963, 1972, 1981, 1990, and 1999, this is a uncomfortablly flux-y year. Like your chi has gas. One of those “put off decisions ‘cuz you’re in for a whirlwind of changes and nothing will be the same next year” kind of years. Oooooh. Yes. I see.

Next year is a year to plan and organize. No point in that now. 2010 is for romance (fungus gone, maybe?). 2011 is for ambition. 2012 is for passion. 2013 is for studying. 2014 is for progress. 2015 is for starting something new. 2016 is for more progress. See? in eight years I’ll be making some progress. Gee. That’s all I needed. To be reassured that it’ll only take a decade. Ah. All better.

Except that I’ll have a teenager in my house. Not sure that bodes well for progress, but we’ll see.

Thanks feng shui. For the new sleeping place and the new outlook. I’ll have several books published, a PhD, a new job, and some sex by 2016. All I needed was a plan mass-produced with absolutely no knowledge of my life other than my birthday. How wonderful to know that, like, 10% of us are having a crappy-ass year but have nine years to go before it happens again. Yay. Feng shui, you’re the best. Remind me to get a crystal to hang over my calendar. ‘Cuz we have another couple of months of Indecision 2008.

New Facebook Phobia

So I’ve always been leery of Facebook, what with the full-disclosure, “work life cross referenced with personal life,” “naked pictures of your kid online for all the pedophiles to find” kind of stuff.

Now I have a new reason to be afraid. (Not very, very afraid. Let’s be real, here. It’s just a Web 2.0 social networking deal-io. It’s not actually Orwellian. But I love me some melodrama. And I try hard to keep myself awake at night worrying about something, so it may as well be this.)

Tonight after Peanut finally crashed, I created my little Facebook world, happy to see friendly faces. Then I made the mistake of searching for old friends, classmates, colleagues. Ugh, what a terrible blow to the old (very, very old) self-esteem staying at home to raise world citizens can be.

The friends I used to admire, but with whom I held my own have impressive resumes and lists of degrees. But they have kids and PhDs. Or kids and careers. Or careers the likes of which I might have achieved if I had stuck with anything. But I’m a gypsy geographically, emotionally, artistically, and academically. I don’t stick with much, and the resulting resume looks impressive but feels thin. You know? And all the other hardcore, drive, self-defined brainiacs have their shit together. Even those who have kids.

So I could blame my lack of personal, professional, and intellectual development on the break I’m taking to raise a fully realized human. Or I can admit that I’m a lazy git who can’t stick with anything long enough to get impressive at it.

Me no likey Facebook. It puts the “what do you do?” shame of parties with full-time adults into my living room, where I strive to keep self-doubt at bay.

Didn’t I, just this week, blog twice about vowing to get productive, to unpack and finish two novels and get more freelance work and get back into shape and publish academic articles and get to work on applications for more grad school? Didn’t I?

Well, I organized my browser bookmark file. Does that count? Hmmmm? Does it, valedictorians and MDs and JDs and well-groomed, perfect people with whom I can’t bear to be Facebook friends because you intimidate me now, even though I only barely admired you considered myself a peer way back when?

Middle aged mamas

So, 20fingersand20toes asked me, aren’t you glad you didn’t have kids at 20?

[Put aside my fascination with her blog lately, spurred by the fact that two people I love dearly are expecting twins. Yay twins!]

Anyway, my internal banter was piqued by the “have kids young or have kids later” debate. When is the best time to throw your life into upheaval to raise little citizens of the planet? Ah, the $64,000 question. (Intentional cultural reference to something women who are 20 won’t get. In fact, some people who are 40 won’t get it, either, for the 64-thousand-dollar question was an E-ticket that Gen Xers may not remember, either. I watched a lot of reruns.)

20t20t had twins ’round about 40, and I had one sweet, quiet, out of control, VERY attached, borderline high needs, amazing Peanut in my mid-thirties. And I often wonder aloud if it’s better later or better sooner.

Because when you’re young you, in general, don’t have much life experience to offer, and might well feel frustrated at the captivity inherent in a decision as permanent and all-encompassing as having kids. (My favorite quote, which my friends are sick of hearing, from a Parents magazine article, is:

“From the parenting expert:
Q. What’s the one thing you wouldn’t say in one of your books?
A. Becoming a parent is like contracting a debilitating disease. Imagine a disease where you couldn’t sleep, you couldn’t have sex, you couldn’t travel, you had aches and pains all the time. Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids. In fact, the more you love them, the harder it is. Nobody tells you what the pull of loving your kids will do to the rest of your life–including your relationship with your spouse. “)

[No, I don’t have a citation for that. It was some time this year in a feature article. There. Happy? Of course not–that was a crappy citation. As an academic researcher I would never quote another author without full documentation. But I’m a barely functioning full time parent who might actually lose her mind within the hour, and I could give a flying fig newton if Parents magazine sues me for improper use of the writing they publish in order to sell ads. Go ahead, Parents magazine, pursue your silly little lawsuit. Then go take a flying leap. You publishers and writers and photographers and lawyers have money and respect and adult interaction, and if you want to make my day you’ll push me into a fight over intellectual property. Go ahead. I need a project. I know all about satirical uses and misuse of copyrighted material for personal gain. Here’s a shocker–I’m not making money from this blog. Read the trackback from blogherald.com. I’m refreshingly not-for-profit. Stick that in your editor’s pipe and smoke it.]

Ah, yes. Older moms versus younger moms.

Seems to me now, that 18 year olds who have no life yet (nasty email replies acknowledged in advance, but it’s basically true) and little education have it easier–they don’t know what they’re missing, they don’t realize the inequity inherent in the process because they haven’t been independent long enough to know what balance is. By 40 you’ve built your successes, learned from your non-successes, decided what is important in your life, been around the block, earned some money and some respect. You know who you are (and you know what you expect parenting and co-parenting to be like). And babies turn all of that on its ear. You have to understand that their every response to you is respect and gratitude, because you’re not going to get performance reviews or critical reviews, performance bonuses, or even cost of living advances. If you choose to stay home you have what I now feel is the hardest job on the planet (job, not life. There are millions of lives harder than mine. But it’s a hard job. I’ve had dozens of jobs in several industries and no jobs harder, when done right, than staying at home to gently and thoughtfully raise a valuable human being.)

Plus, most young parents don’t know enough to know all the “shoulds” of good parenting. It’s easy, when you’re 20, to stick a baby in front of a TV with a plastic toy made in China, and feed it McD*nalds while you check email and talk on the phone. Once you a learn a few things, especially about yourself, having children is soul-wrenching, body-wrenching, and discombobulating.

But at mid-life you appreciate flashes of joy more. (Is it appropriate to call 35 to 45 midlife? Now that we seem to be calling 70 the new 40, what the heck is midlife? Is my midlife crisis overdue or decades away?) Older moms slow down and watch their babies learn, and marvel at the latter’s brilliance. Older moms are more confident in who they are and are willing to stand up for their parenting choices, whatever they are. At mid-life I have more confidence that what I’ve built in my life will be waiting for me, in some form, when babies need less of me. I’m still terrified that I’ve disappeared, eroded by several years of complete intellectual isolation, but I have enough experience to know that, realistically, my resume just needs some creative retuning.

But older mamas are tired. And impatient. And more likely to own things that they rue having to put away for 8 years until we get past the oral, breaking, and ball throwing in the house phases.

Yes, I’m glad I waited. Yes, I’m glad I jumped off that bridge. Most of the time. Yes, I had enough cake to make it through the moments when I sacrifice the last piece to the crazy little person who relishes every crumb. Before he wipes them on the wall and the cat.

I say often to Spouse that I hope Peanut goes to college tomorrow because I can’t take another day of this job. I can’t take it. But I can. And unlike most moms who view each milestone with sadness because their babies are going away, I just beam each time he moves a bit further from the direct, visceral link that bound us to each other for at least two years. No, I don’t want him in college, railing to his friends about how lame his parents are quite yet. But with each achievement, he’s closer to that moment. He puts on his own underpants and shoes, he puts on his own pants and hat. He feeds himself, waters himself, and takes himself to the toilet. And I’m closer to being myself, a new self enriched by what I’ve learned both before him and with him*.

*Flailing, sure. Frustrated, sure. Empty shell of the person I used to be, granted. But grateful and richer. Metaphorically. Not because I was older when I had him, but because I’m paying attention.**

**Note that I said I’m paying attention. If one more person tells me to enjoy this time while I have it, I might body slam them. I enjoy what I can, I loathe what I want, and I blog the rest. So back the f– off and keep your regrets to yourself.

Rescue Remedy by the quart

I’m realizing just how many of my posts are angry, bitter rants. I’m trying not to feel guilty about that, because that’s the stuff I need to get out. I bottle it up all day because I don’t think it’s appropriate to be snippy in front of my son. And lucky for Spouse he’s 400 miles away or he’d take the brunt. So blogging has really helped get the vitriol flowing and out. I store up every ounce of courage I have and project peace and thoughtfulness and patience (mostly) during the day. But I’ve got to let the rants out. Leaving them inside blocks up all my mental pores and gives me angry, bitter, negative acne on my brain and in my heart.

So if you’re put off by my anger, please, scan down the archives. There are some lovely, life-affirming bits in here if you dig.

But I am trying to navigate the parenting roller coaster, and just haven’t find the right balance. When it’s good, it’s so eye-closingly, deep sigh infusingy, happy little sigh eruptingly, perma-smile grantingly good. When it’s hard, it’s so white-knuckle infuriatingly, self-esteem wrenchingly, bad-side revealingly, regret inspiringly, soul-leechingly hard that it takes my breath away. I really do, sometimes, wish I could find Rescue Remedy by the quart. The blister packs haven’t worked for me yet, and, in fact, make me a little less grounded because the solvent is alcohol and it just makes me want a pint of liquor.

Talking to working moms, stay-at-home-moms, stay-at-home-dads, and the childfree, I realize that the biggest issue for me about parenting is that the day’s rhythm is not my own. I don’t own one piece of the day, and I don’t control any of it rhythms. As an academic, I wrote when I percolated ideas, I read when I felt responsive to ideas, I rested when I needed rest, and I exercised when I needed a mental escape valve. As a professional, I went to meetings where everyone was ready to jump into one of a few appropriate energies to talk about a specific thing. When I worked independently I drifted into one of a few appropriate energies to think or write or create. When I needed to pee, I did. When I needed to eat, I usually did. Now the day’s schedules and energies and milestones and needs have nothing to do with what my mind or body needs, and it’s very destabilizing. Isolating. Frustrating. Sad.

Because with a child, my needs are subsumed by his. My rhythm is supplanted by his. When he needs to run around, we have to. Not because I feel children should be the center of the universe. I don’t. Because I live with this child and his needs are valid. I understand this child, and when he makes his physical or emotional needs known, I respect them (within reason). And if he is metaphorically swaddled when he needs to wiggle, or is forced to engage when he needs cuddling, all systems fail. He melts down (I still refuse to call this volitilty terrible twos. He’s not terrible. My life is not terrible. Our family is not terrible. He is struggling to control things and get some independence and he’s terrified and frustrated by his incompetence. But almost every vascillation is understandable, predictable, and reasonable. I wouldn’t do the things he does, but putting myself into his shoes and his experience, I know exactly why he does what he does. I sometimes marvel, sometimes balk, sometimes well up with anger, but I understand. And I can anticipate it when I’ve slept and eaten, both of which are rare, since, did I mention, my day is not my own, my timing is not the primary Blackberry by which we run our day, and my needs are secondary because I can meet them all by myself. He can’t, so his needs come first.)

I’m a tired, hungry, cranky parent. Hence, again, the need to spew nastiness into my blog. And I’m not sorry. I’m coping.