There’s a lot of bad stereotypes about men caring for children. The Bumbling Dad is its own pop culture trope, and a quick image search for “when dad is left alone with kids” finds:
The caregiving bar is set pretty low for dads. They’re expected by society at large to be lazy, reckless, selfish, and to just generally not take the job seriously. With our first child, my husband and I shared parental leave. And on the surface, it might have looked like he fulfilled some of those stereotypes:
- Frequently left lunch dishes on the table until they had to be cleared away to make room for our dinner? Check.
- Enjoy whole days where nary a chore or task seemed to cross his mind? Check.
- Take more naps than I did when I was on leave? Check.
- Feed our son more fries and Goldfish crackers than I would have been okay with? Check.
- Take silly, sometimes scary photos/videos to show me at the end of a workday (like the time his friend captured a shot of my 10-month old being thrown so high in the air that Dad’s hands were entirely absent from the picture)? Check.
Yet, despite these things, I’m trying to take more of a ‘paternity’ leave myself with baby #2. Because more important than any of those tangible differences are the bigger picture, truly invaluable things I learned from watching my husband on parental leave:
Whenever I’ve done yoga, no matter the style or instructor, one thing has always been consistent. When it comes to whether a pose is being done ‘right,’ my teachers have always referred to each student’s best judgment and understanding of their own body:
Only go as far as feels right for you.
If it hurts, let yourself ease up a little.
Don’t worry about how anyone else is doing the pose.
These sentiments are important: if I worry about how other people do a pose, and focus on making my practice look like someone else’s from the outside, I run the risk of, at best, separation from the inner focus and peace I could enjoy from the practice, and at worst, really injuring myself.
My prenatal yoga instructor once described parenting as a lot like doing yoga. She said you have to put the “blinders on” and not pay attention to what anyone else is doing, but rather feel what’s right for you and your family. While it’s great advice, it’s not always easy to do this Continue reading
I’ve learned many valuable things about parenting from my own mother. She’s given me tips and tricks for dealing with things like whining/arguments (ie. the ones she used on Shannon and I as children), as well as bigger-picture principles and approaches to motherhood in general. One of the simplest and yet most influential things I’ve learned is the mantra that she says informed all of her parenting:
“Say yes when I can, and no when I have to.”
When she gave me a no, I rarely made a stink about it, because I knew she would have said yes if she felt she could. I fully intend on using this approach with my own kids.
This little mantra has got me thinking about something else, though – not my interactions with my kids, but with my partner, as well as my general approach to life inside our house. While I don’t find myself saying no a lot, I do find myself resisting things, or intervening when it’s not really necessary. This resistance or intervention seems to be my default setting, and it doesn’t feel good. Continue reading
There are two reasons for sharing my birth story in this particular way.
First, online discussions about birth are too often fraught with tension, either focused on quantitative details (length in hours, degrees of tearing, number of interventions, etc.) that can be used to compare/measure us against fellow moms; or devolving into endless debates with battle lines drawn on natural/medicated or vaginal/c-section grounds. Ultimately, though, we are all women who have experienced something at once unbelievably common and, at the same time, incredible: the growth of tiny people inside our bodies who are now real live people in the outside world. So I think we also need space for us to just share how that experience felt for each of us, without comparison or needing to identify our position on some ‘debate’ about motherhood.
Second, my central Scary Unknown the first time around was what labour would actually feel like, and I didn’t feel my childbirth ed class really covered it. Particularly, what might it feel like when the baby actually comes out, the precise moment when something that was the size of a beach ball under my shirt would actually exit my body? A reasonably terrifying prospect, but oddly, a memory which faded within a few months of the experience. I remembered all the quantitative and factual details that get retold endlessly to family, friends, and new fellow parent acquaintances, but I didn’t remember what the contractions or pushing actually felt like. Growing and delivering a child is the most awesome physical feat I have ever accomplished, and I imagine I’m not alone in this sentiment. It seemed a shame that I didn’t have any qualitative memories of what my body actually experienced.
(Heads up: The author knows she has a few friends who are uneasy with a lot of vag-talk, so if this is you and you don’t want to read descriptions of her reproductive parts, maybe skip this one.)
How is this supposed to go again?
So with these two things in mind and my second delivery approaching, I decided to journal about my experience of childbirth – during my labour: Continue reading
I think most parents of young toddlers know the frustration and chaos that is their kid’s toys. They get everywhere, they’re disorganized, and you don’t have time as every new toy is brought into the mix to go back through and carefully choose all of those no longer developmentally-appropriate for redistribution to the Goodwill. So what you may end up with is a giant crap heap of some stuff that your kid is really into, but a lot of things they have zero interest in. Either way, they can’t really find things because it’s all a crap heap that just keeps growing.
And if you Google things like, “how to organize your kids toys,” you’re greeted with beautiful, Pinterest-worthy ideas that will not only have your kid’s toys sensibly organized, but also in lovely containers that match your home decor!
Well, you can probably guess where all those images remained in my life – in the online desert-mirages from whence they came. Continue reading
I woke up this morning already drained, and just knew it was going to be one of those tired days. I hadn’t gotten much sleep, woke up at 5:45 to feed the newborn, and felt a real dilemma once that was done over whether to lay back down for 15 more minutes or have a shower while my partner was still home and could look after the boys (I chose the latter). I was preemptively cranky about how exhausting the day ahead was going to be. I also had a playdate planned for later in the morning; a couple of friends of mine and their kids were going to come over.
I contemplated cancelling, apologizing but saying I just needed to ‘lay low’ and get through the day. I knew they would understand. But I didn’t really want to do that, because I haven’t had that many daytime adult interactions since my son was born a month ago, and frankly, I was craving some company and conversation. Continue reading
Meghann Foye has been getting a lot of attention for her NY Post piece about wanting her own ‘maternity’ leave without having any kids… called a “MEternity leave.” Granted, this is probably just a publicity grab for her new book, which I have no opinion on as I haven’t read it, but this piece alone is getting quite the reaction from parents, who are largely outraged at her insinuations that parental leave is an opportunity to obtain lifestyle flexibility, time for self-reflection, and a renewed sense of self-confidence if you’re burnt out at your workplace.
“Ha. HA. HAH!,” yelled, in unison, all parents who read this ignorant, unicorn pipe dream.
There have been some hilarious and cathartic responses written to Foye’s piece, like this one at Scary Mommy and this one over at Yackler Magazine. Both of these take Foye’s proposed ideas down with wit and acuity. Read them!
I can’t, though, in all honesty, attack Foye myself. Because deep down, I know I was not devoid of similar thoughts about maternity leave… BEFORE I had kids. And I know I’m not the only one who had wildly inaccurate, ridiculous, idiotic notions about what maternity leave would afford me as a new parent: Continue reading