Monday, March 5, 2012

Facebook Follow-up

Recently I posted on Facebook the following statement:

In just seven very short days Mr. starts his parental leave. Part of me excited; but the part of me that realizes that this amazing time with PJ  is coming to an end in just five weeks is very sad.

First thing: wow, I really need to reread my status updates for grammar in the future. Ouchie.

Second thing: I thought I was doing that Facebook thing of sharing what was going on in my head and moving on. But then private messages started finding their way into my Facebook and email inbox. I realized that I had also wandered into that strange world of parenting advice; the role of men and women at home; and the whole stay-at-home vs. career mom debate. Thankfully I'm Facebook "friends" with primarily rational, caring people and the messages never ventured into the aggressive, insulting, black-and-white realm one usually finds on the Internet. Instead they were full of mostly kind, supportive messages...that didn't really relate to what I was trying to express in very poor grammar. Instead they seemed to represent to me so many misunderstandings that pop up in conversations about parenting. 

Therefore, I decided to not just answer those personal messages but to also write a blog post in the hope that maybe I can help influence the overall conversation. Not that I'm asking too much of my little corner of the web.

Wink. Wink.

Please note: none of these quotes are real and have been created to represent those misunderstandings in a broad way.

To the misunderstandings:

1. "Yeah it really stinks when men try to get involved. They don't have the skills and just get in the way. But no worries! The four hours every day will pass quickly and your husband can't kill PJ that quickly." "Write down how to do everything, add a daily list of things to remember, and then call to make sure everything is going the way it should."

I am excited that the Mr. is coming home to be with us. Excited. And not just because he does stuff like laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning the kitchen. I'm excited because I enjoy being with my husband and PJ loves being with his da-da. I'm excited because I live in a time and place which makes extended leave during the first year of a baby's life possible for the mom and the dad. Both of us. The parents. That is awesome.

Know what else is awesome? That my husband, PJ's daddy not only steps up with joy to spend five months of his life to be with his little man but that he is excited to be a hands-on, getting-dirty-and-rocking-the-house stay-at-home daddy for a while of his own free will.

Seriously. Stop laughing. Once I realized how awesome being with little man is, I offered to stay longer ... lets just say the words "No" and "way" were part of the Mr's answer (with a nice big F-word inbetween).

So I am excited!

But to the point about trusting the Mr. with PJ alone...let's be really clear: I don't trust you with my kid. I know, I know, I have become one of those moms. But, hand on the bible, I trust my husband. Yes, the Mr. will do many things differently. He will forget a lot. He will make mistakes. Will that always make me smile? No. Do I doubt his ability and his desire to be the best daddy ever? No. Will he do some things better than me? Oh hell, yes.

So, I won't make him lists of "how to take care of PJ" - nor will I call him every hour just to make sure that he is doing what is on those lists. I may call every 20 minutes to hear what PJ is doing, saying, eating, etc but that because I need to hear it, not because I think the Mr. can't hack it.
The problem - if you can call it that - is me. Not the Mr. Me.

(And, yes, I'll work on that whole trusting you with my kid thing. Sorry about that.)

2. "Since you hate your job, don't go back."

I am sad that my dedicated time with PJ is coming to an end but I am not sad that I am returning to my career. I'm sad about what I'm leaving behind - not what I am moving towards. I am and will always be his mommy. No one can take my place. He is my child. We will have wonderful times together and there are joys that I haven't even thought of yet, but there is a huge lists of won't be able tos:
  • I won't have hours and hours every day for play dates with other kids.
  • I won't always be the person to see all of his firsts. (And, yes, if I told you that you saw something before me - with the exception of rolling - I lied. Sorry about that. But you were so excited and, well, I'm a push over sometimes.)
  • I won't have what seems to be endless time to lay around with him after his naps while he slowly wakes up, casually nursing and playing with his hair, my hair, his nose, my nose.
  • I won't be able to read Chirpy Chick five times in a row every time he wants me too.
  • I won't be able to goof around on the changing table, trying to make each diaper change less of a fight (or wrestling match) and more of a game, for endless periods of time.
...because sometimes I will need to get to work, or an appointment, or whatever.

But who said I hated my job? Not me, cause I don't.

3. "You should have enjoyed your time at home more." "You should be more thankful."
This glorious, blessed, amazing period of life is coming to an end and, yes, I grieve for it. I grieve for it and grieve in part for it because of how much I have treasured it while it was taking place. All good things come to an end. Yes. But being sad about it is natural and human and real. I could not have enjoyed it more and I could not be more thankful for this blessing.

So, since I seem to lack a mature way to deal with this one, a picture in response:

3. "A real mom feels the way you feel - a mom should be at home!" "Being a working mom is the only way to raise successful, independent kids!" "Don't make the mistake of staying home / going to work!"

If I've learned one thing from my career development: know your weakness, know your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and set up your job and your life to build upon your strengths. An easy way to know what your weakness and strengths are is to put yourself into a specific situation, watch a pro at whatever job or life situation you are considering, and then note what you feel. If your response is, "I really admire this professional. Wow." and nothing else ... move on. You've just identified something you can appreciate but you are not interested in.

For example, my new stay-at-home mom friend. She is awesome. I admire her. She is poised, flexible, strict, funny, adaptable, clear, honest, and just damn likable while she balances two extremely different, equally outrageous and wonderful boys; a lovable, energetic puppy; a gregarious husband doing an hour commute each way; a regular exercise routine; a leading role in a local mom's group; a healthy and vibrant group of friends...there is probably more I don't know about yet ...all in a foreign country. Right now, as I type this, she has two extra adults and three extra kids in her house. And she is genuinely happy. I watch her with admiration and think, "I really admire this professional. Wow." ...and nothing else.

So, like race car driving and stock trading, I may be totally impressed but I'm not interested in learning how to do it myself.

However, if you are in that specific situation, watching an expert, and your think, "I really admire this pro and I need to know how she does it." ...stay. You've just identified something you are not only interested in but you are ready to put the work into to become good at it. 

For example, my working mom friend. She is also awesome. I admire her. Over the past seven years, I have slowly grown closer to her. She balances two intelligent and immensely entertaining girls; a key role (including creating and founding) the wonderful Heidelberg International Professional Women's Forum; a lovely and supportive husband; a vibrant group of friends all over the world; a nearly full-time job (the last time I checked)...and more that I don't know about...all in a foreign country and then throughout an international move. And she is also genuinely happy. I watch her with admiration and I want to know how she does it, practice it, morph it into what works for us, and then role model it for others.

So that's what I am going to be doing: becoming a working mom. Is it easier than being a stay-at-home mom? No. Is it harder? No, I don't think that is true either.

My choice to return to work is a choice that goes beyond me. It is a choice, a decision that the Mr. and I have made as individuals, as spouses, as parents, and as a family have made based on what we believe is right for us, for our family. It may change, it may not. Our choice is not a statement or a judgement about your family. Do what is right in your family and for your family. And, please, understand and respect - maybe even accept - that I will be doing the same for mine.

So, now allow me to revamp my original statement:

In just two days the Mr. starts his parental leave. Part of me is excited; but part of me also realizes that this amazing time with PJ is coming to an end in just four weeks and is very sad.



starryfright said...

And clearly these are all reasons I love you so much. Honestly, I can't understand how anyone who's met you, or reads your blogs every week, can misunderstand what you meant. I get some hidden and not-so-hidden insults from friends and family about my choice to leave my job and stay home with Emily. And I'll stay home with the new baby too, probably until they start Kindergarten. I do miss being a professional, and more grown up conversations from time to time, but I also love this time with my girl. I know you're going to be fantastic.

Also, I still don't trust people with my child. I trust my husband, but not anyone else, related or non. I have been learning to cope with it though. Emily even had an overnight at Grandma's. I survived.

Jill said...

We are in a very similar situation. My husband is currently enjoying 10 whole days of paternity leave :) I'm finding myself trying to savory every second with her more than I ever did with my boys. Or maybe it's just me being older than I was with my 1st guy.

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