I’m Over It, DCL

I am having huge child care issues this week. First off, I lined up a babysitter a month ago so DearDR and I could attend the wedding of our dear friend Erin on Saturday. This babysitter has been remarkably flexible and reliable — up until Tuesday when she bailed on me because she has a lifeguarding job.

She has been scrambling to find me a replacement, and I give her props for that. But we’re talking two days from now, girls I haven’t met and who have met my children, and an all-day gig. Wedding’s at 2 p.m., and reception is from 4 to 10 p.m. My MIL is otherwise engaged.

Second off (?): I am about to go ’round with DCL again. And this time I’m closer than ever to pulling the plug for good.

It all started when Bun got molluscum contagiosum on her bum. She clearly got it from her sister and because I bathed them together (which I no longer do). DCL freaked out a little bit: what if she got it? what if another child in her care got it? Bun was not going to be allowed to swim with the other kids. We had to Do Something.

I spoke with Dr. Bro, the dermatologist, about the situation. To paraphrase his take: Molluscum contagiosum is a very common childhood virus. If a child is susceptible to the virus, then he/she is going to get it, if not at DCL’s then someplace else. The kids at DCL’s have already been exposed through Monkey (who had it on her face; it cleared up beautifully this year after she had had it for nearly 24 months). The recommended treatment in children is to DO NOTHING. The virus clears up on its own, albeit it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. He is writing a letter to this effect for me.

DearDR and I laid out the above to DCL, also letting her know that if she wasn’t comfortable with our decision to do nothing, then we would understand. I know it’s a bit of CYA on her part — if another child in her care does get molluscum and she has an irate parent on her hands, she is in a tough situation. But her daughter had molluscum as a child, too, and her adult son (who lives there) HAS IT NOW. Monkey came down with it when she returned to DCL’s care after Bun was born.

Where ever does she think the virus is coming from?

Then, she asks me what I would like to do for the summer. Will the girls both be full time? If not, when will they be coming?

I tell her I would like Monkey to come Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I will have her down at her day school Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Those are the days she will be going in the fall in any case.

Turns out that DCL would rather Monkey not come on Thursdays or Fridays because she ‘has too many kids those days’. Huh. Really. And now she is going to start charging for lunch because people are not donating food.

For the record, since my girls are vegetarians, I send stuff like not dogs and garden burgers so DCL has a protein to feed them.

So I told DCL that I will probably just pack Monkey and Bun lunches.

Her response, “Oh, I don’t think that’s going to work.”

I’m sorry, I think the proper response is, “That’s fine, RPM. Whatever you would like to do.”

I mean, I pay this woman a lot of money to render me a service. Shouldn’t she render it to MY convenience, not hers? Am I off my rocker here?

I haven’t talked this over with DearDR yet, and I am not at my most diplomatic right now. But I am tired of running all over the place in the evenings to pick up my children, and I am tired of being dictated to by a woman to whom I give a lot of money every week. Monkey’s day school will gladly take both girls full-time. On the other hand, I don’t want to burn any bridges — I may need DCL for back up during Christmas week for example — and my girls are used to DCL.

I’m just not sure the pros outweigh the cons right now.

Wishful Thinking

Monkey, much like the girl in the song from Knocked Up“Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III — wants every thing she sees.

“I wish I had this baby cat, Mama.”
“I wish I had that book, Mama.”
“I wish I had that dog, Mama.”
“I wish I had that toy, Mama.”
“I wish I had that slide in my yard, Mama.”

This, obviously, is an extension of the materialism that started when she discovered The Littlest Pet Shop pets.

Although I started that chart for her in order for her to learn about earning things, I must admit I have completely forgotten about it over the last… oh, two months (mom of the year, right here). No tracking, no magnets, no money.

I mean to do it, I do. Especially when she goes off wishing for stuff. It isone more thing, one more blessed thing, and I feel that I cannot do onemorething. I feel like Monkey should remind me to do her chart after dinner and before bath time. Every night. I want my 4-year-old to remind me to do something that I started — and mean to continue — with lofty, sincere intentions.

I toy with the idea of just giving her a dollar every week. She is a good girl; she (mostly) does the stuff on the chart: clearing the table, sharing with Bun (when she wants). But I’m not sure just handing over money would be teaching her quite the same thing as earning money for specific things.

I feel maxed out as it is, and I feel awful for feeling maxed out. When things are added to my day-to-day list of things to do, it makes me want to go to sleep. I have a dining room that needs a serious cleaning before Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday; it won’t be done Saturday because I’m a little busy; I have three loads of laundry that need to be folded (Lost night is also Fold Laundry night); I have a husband who needs me to have a healthy meal ready for him when he gets home at 8:30 p.m. — and I want to help him with this; the dirty laundry that lurks in my basement is intimidating (still left over from Cook Forest weekend); and, and, and… bills, daily cleaning, children needing to be loved and fed and washed. And a full-time job. And stuff I want to do for me. And weekends full of family and friend obligations.

Am I doing something wrong? Is this the common state of motherhood when the children are young and the husband works 80 hours a week? Am I just destined to lose my mind?

Parenting 101

Before I get labeled a hypocrite — which, granted, it may be too late — I want to make one thing absolutely and completely clear: I have no issues, problems, judgements, or bad things to say about the way that phdinparenting (PHDIP) chooses to parent, raise, school, feed, diaper/potty train, and/or otherwise bring up her children. She has opinions and positions that I do not share, but I don’t have a problem with that. I know many people — even many people whom I love dearly — who don’t share my opinions and/or positions — parenting, politically, spiritually, laundry- and otherwise.

I’m hardly a radical.

I did get a bit snappish and territorial over the rather lengthy comment she left on my Down with the Mommy Wars post, leaving me in a quite ironic position, of course. I’ll put the question out there: was the length of her comment out-of-bounds? A bit long for usual blog etiquette? Or am I talking out of my ear? I did, it is true, ask her the questions, in a private email response to her original comment.

She deems her reply not suitable for her own blog. *Ahem.* So she left it here.

Phdinparenting, as she terms herself online, has a rather interesting blog. I’ve looked around a bit. She seems to have a good following of like-minded parents too. It’s also quite well-written, which coming from me as a professional writer, may (or may not) be a big compliment.

I am curious about something, though, and I’ve been mulling it over. Have I ever!

It’s the idea that parenting is a science, or that one can parent scientifically. For the record, PHDIP also talks about it being an art. Please, please, please, for her whole take on the parenting gig, go visit her site (you can get there via the comments on the Down with Mommy Wars post). I am not providing a summary of her ideas here — I’m not telling both sides of the story. I am writing about my feelings, opinions, and positions. These ruminations are in response to reading some of PHDIP’s stuff.

This, combined with that Atlantic article by Hanna Rosin, have gotten me … stewing. Thinking. Mulling. Bubbling. And then some.

I used the term squishy science in my emails with PHDIP. There is, of course, non-squishy science out there too. The “Back to Sleep” campaign and carseats are the two that immediately come to mind. The Back to Sleep campaign was started in 1992, so it’s 17 years old. Before Back to Sleep, putting infants on their backs to sleep was considered dangerous. Seventeen years ago, the science changed. Carseats for children and infants can only be some 35 to 40 years old. I was not put in a carseat as an infant or toddler; nor was DearDR. (Were you?) I guess we got lucky. In the meantime, there’s no arguing that infant mortality rates from car accidents dropped dramatically.

I’m not about to undertake a point-by-point “scientific” smackdown, though. If you have questions and want to do research, well, that’s why Google was invented. (That’s a joke, son.) (Kind of.)

My point is that I never thought about or adopted a certain philosophy about raising my children. I mean, I thought about having kids, of course, I just never thought that hard about it. And I certainly didn’t set out to raise them based on any certain something — philosophy, science, chemistry, whatever.

I guess one exception is that I do want to raise them in the Catholic faith. But that’s not, in my view, a parenting philosophy.

Oh, I read the books: What to Expect…, Your Pregnancy/Baby Week by Week, some Dr. Sears, Dr. Spock. I talked to people; I listened to people. I went to midwives; I wanted to have a natural childbirth; I wanted to (and did) breastfeed. But I never sat down and said, “Well, I’m basing my parenting decisions on XYZ.” I felt that the reading and listening I did was more a matter of information gathering to know my options — more like guidelines than any hard or fast rules. And I certainly never thought to myself, “Well, I’ll do this scientifically.” I never would have thought that was an option.

All that science out there now, it’s not really that old. Humans have been parenting for tens of thousands of years. The first edition of What to Expect… came out in 1984; the venerable Dr. Spock started publishing in 1946; Dr. Sears’ first book, The Baby Book, was published in 1993.

Once the girls got here, I followed my guts, used what my instincts told me were right. I checked sources, read more, talked to my pediatricians. Discovered what the range of normal was, if my girls fell or fall into it, constantly checked in with myself about what and how I was doing. Cried on the phone to my mom. You know, the usual.

The way my mom probably parented. Was my mom perfect? Yes of course! (Hi, mom. Look away now, please.) Seriously, depending on who you ask, she did a bang-up job or utterly screwed me up (it’s okay, mom, that’s probably dad’s fault. It depends on who’s reading this). Perfect? Probably not. For example, she didn’t buy organic; she didn’t raise me a vegetarian; she spanked me (but she spanked my brother more!). (Actually, my dad probably spanked us.)

Now-a-days, you can look at all those resources above, plus popular magazines and on-line communities and resources, and so on, and you can exclaim, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

And we have. But I’m not 100% sure that the current onslaught of information can be considered hard science, in any sense of the word. Science itself is a squishy word — as DearDR puts it, “What does science mean as a way of knowledge? Why isn’t science the best way to approach Mozart’s 40th symphony or Starry Starry Night?” Why does science, why should science, take priority?

What do you think? Do you have a parenting philosophy? Did you decide before you had children what kind of parent(s) you were going to be? Has that changed since actually having children? How?

My philosophy, if I had to put a name to it? Fly-by-the-Seat-of-my-Pants Parenting. I’m-making-this-up-as-I-go-along-How-am-I-doing-so-far Parenting. Somedays: Really?-I’m-a-Parent? Parenting. I have a lot of those.

As always, I warmly welcome comments — say, between 300 and 500 words long. 😉

Miss Misery, and Down With the Mommy Wars

Bun has been sick since November.

She has had repeated ear infections, two visits to an ENT (a third is upcoming — this time, I’ll be advocating for tubes and/or removal of the adenoids), and I think she has picked up every virus that has come down the pike this winter. She’s had colds galore (hence, the ear infections), the puking version of the flu, constipation, hives, and now another cold or flu virus that has come complete with snot, coughing (no chest congestion, thank goodness), a fever over 100 degrees, and another ear infection.

I stayed home with her yesterday, and we had a difficult day. I don’t know why I do it to myself, but if I end up at home with a sick child, I actually think I will accomplish something: cleaning my room, for example, or doing laundry, or swapping out the girls’ clothes.

Bun would have none of it. Her usual 3-hour nap was only 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I spent the whole of it driving to and from Target to get her prescription filled (and do a little shopping, of course. On a completely unrelated side-note, I just want to say that I only bought the items on my shopping list — a mean feat in Target, as everyone knows — and that I spent under $100! Okay, so it took three coupons and a $10 gift card to come in under $100, but I did it.) When she wasn’t napping, she was sitting on my lap demanding to be read to, or sitting on my lap demanding to watch TV, or demanding food that she had no intention of actually eating, or straining pathetically to produce some poop.

Constipation is the worst in a toddler. She’s been suffering for about two weeks. I thought it was the last antibiotic she was on, but that’s a week behind her now. We have a pretty high-fiber diet (being vegetarians and all), and she’s good at taking in plenty of liquids, but I upped everything anyway, and cut back a bit on stuff like cheese. Now she’s on Augmentin, so her constipation will switch to the other end of the spectrum, and her diaper area will be inflicted in Biblical-plague proportions. My little girl cannot catch a break.

Part of my frustration, of course, is having a sick child, worrying about the continued use of antibiotics, losing time at work, etc., etc. Part of the frustration comes from the fact that I breastfed Bun and Monkey, and it hasn’t done jack to protect either of them from (at the least) ear infections. I have been reading a lot of articles this week about breastfeeding, and they’ve sparked some discussions on forums other than this blog, and I just couldn’t let them go unremarked.

First off, is this wonderful piece from the Atlantic by Hanna Rosin, a woman who also writes for Slate.com. (The title, I think, is misleading. Summary: All the science that “proves” breast is best may be more of a bill of goods than hard data. That said, breastfeeding does have immeasurable benefits.)

Then there’s this article from Slate.com, regarding the brain boost breastfeeding may or may not give to children. (Summary: There is a gene involved, and if your child doesn’t have it, it doesn’t matter how much boob milk he/she gets. That said, most children seem to have it.)

Then there is the lovely, intelligent discussion on Slate’s XX Factor blog regarding both these articles.

And lastly, here’s a viewpoint from someone I briefly tweeted with regarding that first article. This post is not about that article, although it is on the topic of BF’ing (pro, of course).

If you are inclined to read any or all of that — and it’s all good, thought-provoking stuff — then maybe you’ll read further. I’ve been ruminating on this all since Wednesday, so I apologize if I seem to be going on a bit. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Let me say first: I am pro-breastfeeding, and I did (as I said) nurse both of my girls. I also pumped and supplemented with formula. I did it all, baby! And this as a W/SAHM. If I do have another baby (never say never), I would do my best to breastfeed and/or provide him or her with breastmilk, too.

Did I make that choice because all the “science” that promotes BF’ing? Maybe that influenced my decision. I certainly derived a lot of information and support from external sources (from books and magazine articles to my mother and SILs). I feel extremely lucky that BF’ing was not a struggle for me. I put both my girls to my breast within an hour after they were born, and they pretty much took it from there.

Did I love the intangibles about BF’ing? To wit: the skin-on-skin contact. The rush of warmth and pride that I could do this, that I could nourish my baby with my body. The bone-deep feeling that what I was doing was natural. Yes, yes I did.

Was it always comfortable and convenient? Hell, no. Was I a sleep-deprived zombie mommy for six, eight, twelve weeks? Hell, yes. Did I in a desperate bid for sleep or freedom give my babies a couple ounces of formula to get them the heck off my boob already? Hell, yes! Do I feel bad about that? Hell, no.

Would I ever let another woman make me feel bad about that? Again: Hell, no.

And here’s the crux of all this rambling: Would I ever let another woman — mother or not — make me feel bad about any decision I made regarding my child? No. Would I ever, on purpose, make another woman question or feel bad for any decision she made regarding her child? No. Not if the end result was a healthy and thriving baby, and a happy and healthy mother. (Please note: Ain’t nobody happy if Mama ain’t happy.)

I hate Mommy Wars. Passionately. I hate the stay-at-home moms who insist that their decision is the best decision period. I hate work-outside-the-home moms who think SAHMs are a big waste of brains. I hate moms who make decisions for their children based on what their peers will think of them instead of making decisions based on what is best for their children. I hate the whole BF Brigade and the lactivists who insist that “breast is best” in such a way that it makes moms who turned to or chose formula feeding feel like bad moms. I hate mothers who insist that motherhood is the end-all-be-all of womanhood. I hate child-free women and couples who act like kids are such a drag and/or devastating to the environment, and women should be ashamed for even longing to perpetuate the species. I hate people who look cross-eyed at women BF’ing in public and get all offended. I hate lactivists who wave their BF’ing boobs around and say, “It’s natural! Suck it!” (Pun intended.)

All of these are deeply personal choices that women, that mothers have to make. From the private, personal decision to become a mother or not in the first place. What right do I have to stand in another woman’s shoes and tell her that she made the wrong choice? And what nerve!

If a soon-to-be mom asked me about breastfeeding, I would wholly and enthusiastically encourage her. If a new mom was struggling after two weeks, I would encourage her to continue to try. But at some point where mom’s health and mental stability were bumping up against the need of her child to be fed — whether it be five weeks or six months — I think a mom has to be left alone to make her own decision.

If a mom decided from the get-go that she was going to formula feed, I would be surprised, but I certainly wouldn’t presume to judge her. It’s not my decision.

It’s not my decision.

It was my decision to become a mother. It was my decision to breast feed. It was my decision to supplement with formula. It was my decision to go back to work full time. It was my decision to raise my girls as vegetarians. The only other person who gets to weigh in on my decisions regarding my children is my husband, DearDR. And even with his input, it is still, in the end, my decision as the primary caregiver in the family. (Things like joining a soccer team or a dance class and schooling are much more a team effort.)

Opinions are like bellybuttons: everybody has one. (I know the adult version of that, too, but this strives to be a family-friendly site.) If you cannot offer your opinion without insulting anyone, please keep it to yourself. If you cannot express your opinion without making another party feel shame or guilt, it has no place here.

Thanks for your time.

Could someone help me down off this soapbox, please?

And Now for Something Completely Different

So I guess some people got to talking, and it was decided that there would be a big, giant Bitchin’ Bitchfest on the weekend of the Labor Day (for those in the United States it was Labor Day, that is). Here are the details. The upshot is we all need to bitch every now and again, and sometimes we can’t do it in our own space because people we know and love visit. So why not go elsewhere — like a bar to which you’ve never been — and bitch there?

I am hosting Maria from Zanti.

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Dear Birthmom–

I want to like you, I really do. I want to not worry that you will be bad for my son. Oh God, do I want to be able to say my son without using a tone that suggests ownership. When I first met Larry, this boy that we share so intimately, he was 7weeks old and still on a regular dose of Morphine. He was a zombie of a baby because you couldn’t be bothered to put him first. I hate that about you–I hate that, in your mind, everyone is a player in the “A” show. This wasn’t your first baby, you saw what your addiction did to your daughter. You were clean when you found out you were pregnant but you chose to go back to using because that’s what felt good to you. Well now we have a little boy, you and I, who is sick a lot of the time. Because his immune system was under attack in your womb he suffers from maddening allergies. They are so bad that before we could pinpoint the allergens we thought he might have cystic fibrosis, he body was so full of mucous that he spent most days crying and every day being pumped full of antibiotics to help ease the infections. He and I have struggle though learning to speak and learning to walk and learning how to keep himself safe. His little body, in your belly, was so wracked with narcotics that he has to fight every day just to function like an average kid.

But I know that underneath of that addiction must lay some sort of illness or trauma that you mask with drugs. I can’t believe that you chose to poison yourself and my son simply because your are selfish.

I gets to me how you have treated me. My skin crawls when I think about your repeated assertions that you are the right person to be raising this little boy. I did not steal your son from you, I fought for two years to make sure that you and birthdad were given every, single chance to get him home with you. I invited birth family to every party we threw, I was available at the drop of a hat for visits (many of which no one could be bothered to attend except for me and a confused little boy). I wanted it to work for you but you couldn’t be bothered.

The only time you managed to get it together enough to show up for one of Larry’s events was his adoption day. HIS BIG DAY. HIS FAMILY’S BIG DAY. You had the audacity to turn the one day that was designed to be about my family and Larry, joining as one, into another act in the “A” show. Ho dare you show up to court and say you don’t approve of his adoption? How dare you take that day away from us? What good did that do you? He was officially part of my family by late the next day and all you managed to do was to hurt me. But that’s what you wanted, I’m sure, one last jab at my heart.

I cry a lot when I think that one day he will really want, and maybe need, to meet you. Because as much as I want to like you, I am having a really hard time. I want him to see you that way that I do, to know that you will lie to him and manipulate him the way you do everyone in your life.

But let me tell you something, Birthmom, I will never tell him anything but that you loved him. I will tell him that you were sick and loved him so much that you chose to let me be his Mommy. I will lie–for you and for him.

Zanti

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Thanks for reading. I’ll forward Maria any comments.