This Week’s Reads (March 3, 2017)

This Mom Got Real About The Struggles Of Modern Motherhood – Refinery29
I read this on a morning when we were up at 5:07am with a massive diaper leak that required 6am laundry, which required planting the toddler in front of Lost and Found for ten minutes so that I could also clean up the kitchen enough to make desperately needed coffee as soon as it was reasonable to run the coffee grinder. I hate, hate, hate planting him in front of the TV, even highly vetted super sweet content, because I have this expectation that I should be able to manage him and all of the other balls that are up in the air. This article was a gentle reminder that it isn’t actually necessary to do all of those things simultaneously all the time – but sometimes it IS necessary, and ten minutes of TV isn’t the end of the world it means that IN ten minutes, I’m able to be more sane and present with my child.

#68 Vampire Rules – Reply All
Reply All is a podcast about the internet, and things related to the internet, and things only tangentially related to the internet. I started listening a couple of weeks ago and am currently working my way backward through the archive. This episode had me laughing on my commute, and then laughing at previous laughs, and then laughing some more. In it, the hosts try to figure out the backstory behind a creepy photo discovered on Tinder, which leads to a conversation about what’s acceptable in other people’s spaces, which leads to yes/yes/no, a feature in which the hosts challenge each others’ understanding of internet culture.

If you want to dip your toe into this podcast, may I also recommend #79 Boy in the Photo, which features the most amazing trolling that isn’t even remotely hateful, unlike most of the other trolling these days.

“We cannot find the bill”: inside the frantic hunt for the GOP Obamacare replacement – Vox
In case you needed another reminder that the leadership of our country is 100% cuckoo bananas.

“Many Fathers Exhaled in Relief”

Dads, Who Are Parents, Do Not Deserve Praise for Parenting While Moms Marched – Slate

Shame on The New York Times for their “coverage” of the difficulties faced by men whose partners participated in the Marches last weekend.

I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have a stay-at-home partner who takes care of our child while I go to work (which, of course, makes it possible for him to be home). I am grateful that his willingness (and inclination) to stay home also makes it possible for me to do things like train for a marathon, travel for my own professional development, and participate in our democracy by attending events like Saturday’s March in Atlanta.

As much as I’ve always wanted children, once I had the opportunity to really have a career – not just a job- I knew that my one-time dream of staying at home didn’t align with my new reality, and not just for financial reasons. Being a stay-at-home parent, particularly of a demanding toddler, is a hard job, and it is not a job that I’m cut out for – another reason that I’m grateful, because my partner’s inclination to stay home meant that starting a family was possible for us.

Families like ours are becoming more common, but they’re still not the norm – as this article from the NYT demonstrates. I want my partner to be praised for his parenting, not because he is a man “stepping up” to take care of his child. I want my partner to be recognized for the hard, dirty work of childcare because it is hard and dirty, not because he dealt with the occasional nasty tantrum or diaper in public.  I want my partner to be respected for the things he uniquely contributes to our child’s life, not because he contributes.

I want this not just because I am grateful for my partner and the arrangements that make our family and our lives work – I want this because we are raising a son who may be a father some day, and who needs to understand that parity in the home goes hand-and-glove with equality in the workplace and in the world.

I want to talk about this first.

I ran my first marathon yesterday. And I want to tell you about it, but I want to talk about this first.

I took this photo because I liked my pre-race layers – the Divvy shirt was going to be tossed before the race started – but when I looked at the photo on my phone, I wasn’t happy with it because I didn’t like how my belly looked.

Let that sink in for a minute. I was an hour away from the start of my first marathon, an accomplishment preceded by months of training and hundreds of miles logged on calloused feet and strong legs, all of which was done while working full time and with a toddler who still nurses nearly as much as he did at 9 months. And in that moment, I was upset at the shape of my belly.

I don’t remember when I first internalized that I was bigger, or that my weight was something I needed to be concerned about. Certainly by the time I was 12-13, I believed it to be true. I don’t know when I started understanding that my body had value, or that the value of my body to some might exceed the value of the heart and mind that it contained. But there were certainly long years where that felt true, and unlearning that truth was costly.

Whenever I run a race and see little girls watching and cheering, I think about how important it is for girls in particular to see women of all shapes and sizes doing hard and amazing things that aren’t limited to the traditional confines of gender. Every time I accept a high five from a little girl on the course, I hope that it’s a meaningful moment for her, that my imperfect body will be added to the many many messages she’ll receive about who and what she can be, that she’ll understand that she doesn’t have to have a perfect body to be amazing.

On Being

Come on, baby. Please turn. 15/#100daystobaby

I found this photo from the late days of my pregnancy this afternoon while looking for something else entirely. I was so big, and so tired, and so ready to be done being pregnant, and so scared about what would happen if all of the ridiculous things we were trying didn’t result in the baby turning around. They didn’t work, and he didn’t turn, and I had a surgery that I didn’t want, but everyone was just fine in the end.

On my way to the gym the other day, I passed a young girl with a huge dangly front tooth, and then I realized that my little son would one day lose his front teeth, and that realization made me want to cry because growing those teeth has been so agonizing – so much pain that he doesn’t understand, so many long feverish nights of tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable because bones are poking their way through his tender new gums. And for what? So that he can lose them all and start over?

And then yesterday, I was in the car in the early morning and so caught the beginning of a rebroadcast interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, where he said:

I could not like to go to a place where there is no suffering. I could not like to send my children to a place where there is no suffering because, in such a place, they have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. And the kingdom of God is a place where there is understanding and compassion, and, therefore, suffering should exist.

And it made me realize, again and again, that these are the pieces of our lives that make us human: the fear of the unknown that turns out to be not so scary, the inexplicable pain (physical and otherwise) that comes from growing, the extraordinary experience of releasing your heart outside your body that helps you understand how to love the world.

Five Minute Review: The Four Month Sleep Regression

People (and books, and the internet) warned us about the four month sleep regression.

At four months, babies’ sleep starts to change in tandem with a big growth spurt. They stop sleeping like, well, babies, and start sleeping more like adults. This is great, right? This means that they’re going to sleep 8 hours (or more?!) like the rest of us civilized people?

No. It actually means the opposite, at least in the short term.

Our son slept through the night* for the first time somewhere between 2-3 months, but has generally been what can generously be described as a reluctant sleeper.

So take our pretty difficult sleeper and add to his schedule the four month sleep regression and you get a baby who wakes up every 45-90 minutes All. Night. Long. For. Weeks. On. End. And you get parents who are so sleep deprived (or sleep interrupted) that they might as well be walking around drunk, except without any of the fun parts of being drunk.

So that is how I feel about the four month sleep regression. Two big thumbs down. Thankfully, four months is otherwise an awfully cute age AND ALSO he will never be four months old again.

*For those who don’t have kids, “sleeping through the night” is defined as sleeping 5 hours** without waking.
**Please note that I fed him at least once during this 5 hour period, so it’s not like I slept for 5 hours. Ever.

This is what is different.

Today is the end of my second week back to work. Now that the holidays are over and everyone is back in the office, I’m being asked regularly how it is to be back, how we’re managing, what life is like as a working mother.

I’ll tell you:

There’s all the normal day-to-day stuff from before: waking up with an alarm, making coffee, hunting for parking, endless meetings, trying to avoid ordering take out at the end of a long day, wanting to watch another episode of something but giving into sleep instead.

Add to that a layer of baby activities: nursing before getting out of bed, changing two diapers in the hour before work, keeping the baby entertained while trying to make coffee so that Nicolas and I are both a little more awake before I leave, rushing home to happy snuggles and more nursing, hoping the baby doesn’t fall asleep for the night an hour after I walk in the door.

Also add the angst of separation. And the weirdness and frustration of needing to fit 2-3 pumping sessions into an already busy work day. And half a dozen photos or video of the cuteness (and crying) happening at home. And the constant calculation of whether anything extra – a doctor’s appointment, stopping for groceries, a workout – is worth the extra time away from the baby.

It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change. I was told this would be the case, but I didn’t understand it until I experienced it.

We’re in an incredibly fortunate situation: I like my job, and my salary is enough that Nicolas can be home – full time and indefinitely. We don’t have to bundle the baby and all of his accouterments off to daycare in the morning. Nicolas is great with the baby and also isn’t subject to the sort of cabin fever that would be killing me right about now. Pumping is easy for me. My employer is supportive of families and has a very flexible leave policy. I get to work from home one day/week.

It’s hard to be back. But it’s also good to be back. And there’s not a damned thing that will get between me and the door at the end of the workday now that there’s a sweet little boy who needs his mama waiting at the other end of my commute.