Archives for posts with tag: motherhood

Let’s face it, motherhood is a wild ride. Personally speaking, it’s taken me a while to find my groove. So many developmental stages. So much to consider — when to discipline, when to let your imps fly free. Which battles to fight and which to let go? There are countless books and “experts” touting the “right” way to parent  – Be a Tiger Mother! No, that’s wrong! Attach to your kids like a plastic suction cup! No, that’s helicopter parenting! — that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused.

When my nearly six-year-old son was first born, I joined a new mother’s group, hoping to meet women going through the similarly exhilarating and terrifying experience of raising a child. I will never forget what the group leader said — a mother who’d raised two children of her own. She said “If there was only one way to raise a child, they would have written only one book.”

That stuck with me. The fact that there are countless many ways to raise a child, and in the end, it has to feel right to you. 

I’ve sought wisdom from older mothers  – real women, who have done the hard work of raising their children into adulthood, and who have emerged from the trenches with rich perspectives to share. Women like my Aunt Lydia, my mother and my mother’s friends.

It’s their stories and their experiences that can serve as a guide or a mirror, to help us find our own way as mothers.

And it’s their stories and perspectives that I’ll be sharing in these pages, over the coming months.

Stay tuned.

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As many of you know, I have now been a stay-at-home mother for two years.

And while it’s been amazing to  witness the evolution of my two-year-old daughter’s bubbly personality and be privy to my son’s daily musings on snot and superheroes, it’s time to make a change. Before the authorities deposit me, straitjacketed, into the nearest Betty Ford clinic. Because yes, there are mornings, many mornings, when in the midst of pouring bowls of honey nut cheerios for my offspring, I open the freezer door and ask myself “Is it too early for a glass of Limoncello?”

I never knew I’d miss work so much. Nor that my ability to keep my temper in check would fly out the window. My earth mother fantasies — barefoot, stirring a giant pot of gruel, laughing while my children gently tug at my flowing skirts — are no more. I know better now than to pretend to be someone that I’m not.

Though I do hope to improve. Relax more. Tolerate chaos better. Let things roll off my back a bit more easily.

The other day, I completely lost it after my son, the darling boychild, started complaining about the delicious braised chicken legs I made for dinner, straight out of the Alice Waters cookbook.

“But what are these bits, in it, Mama?” he whined, honing in on the strands of perfectly translucent, caramelized onions in his bowl. “I can’t eat this, Mama.”

Temper rising — after all, was I serving my little emperor mushy peas and liver?  — I took a deep breath and cycled through suggestions:

“Pick them out!”

“OK, don’t eat!”

“Come on, just try it!”

I’ve often joked that negotiating with the boychild is akin to negotiating with a terrorist. A lose/lose situation. This moment was no exception, as his emotions started to escalate. Losing my patience, and desperate for a way to avoid a further power struggle, I sent him to his room.

Later that evening, as I was bathing the two little devils, the boychild asked “Do you even like us, Mama?”– as innocently as if he’d posed the question “What shall we have for breakfast tomorrow?”

I gasped.

Had I become that bad of a mother? Or was this just the boychild’s way of grabbing me by my invisible cojones and twisting them to get the desired effect, which was in my case, an overwhelming GUILTY feeling that I am a horrible mother who has no business raising children?

And then, in a moment, I realized that it didn’t really matter if he ate the damned chicken or not. What mattered was me.  I needed to make a change. I needed to work on my patience, step back from my life, and reconnect with the simple sense of feeling alive.

I’ve studied Buddhist meditation before, and decided that if I could find a good meditation class, I might hopefully wind up responding to my children’s prods more like this:

As opposed to this:

So last week, I told hubby I was taking Wednesday evening off. I had found a nearby meditation center, and I was going for it.

The minute I walked in the door, I felt like I had come home. I think it was the smell of the incense, which was somehow a visceral reminder of the self I was more in touch with before kids — not the freewheeling, dancing-on-tables partier that I sometimes long for — but the younger woman who struggled more and was actively searching for meaning, for spiritual sustenance. The woman who traveled alone to Asia, befriended young monks, sat watching the sunrise on mountaintops and studied Buddhism in incense-filled rooms.

As I stood there, observing the others who were also gathered here for meditation, I felt relief — not just that I might eventually, with practice, become a more patient, less flustered mother — but also relief in knowing that motherhood hadn’t numbed me completely to myself.  That the younger woman inside me who sought greater personal clarity still exists.

Of course, we won’t dwell on the fact that I showed up ever so slightly tipsy, having taken myself to Matt Murphy’s, the cozy pub across the street for a pre-meditation cocktail and to finish the biography of Steve Jobs.

I don’t think anyone could really tell. Apart from the woman I met in the lobby who was also there for the first time, and who endured quite a bit of babbling from yours truly about how excited I was to be there.

Then again, who says the Buddha was always calm? And never had a swig of rice wine before sitting under the Bodhi tree?

Was this guy sober?

I think not.

I almost wasn’t going to write about my first bloggy brainfart episode, it’s so excruciatingly indicative of my declining IQ.

But (deep breath) here goes.

Last week, at the boychild’s school, I’m in the lobby with some other mothers and nannies, patiently waiting for our little darlings to emerge from their after-school acting class.

[Aside: My son definitely has the entertainer gene. He is constantly directing our entire family to act out dramatic scenes. “OK, you be Spiderman, I’m the bad guy, you catch me in your web and put me in jail.” Subtle it’s not, but I love his confidence at the helm of the director’s wheel. I’m secretly hoping he’ll become the next Martin Scorsese and take me to the Oscars. Then I’ll finally be able to walk the red carpet.]

But back to the school lobby. Idling, I start chatting to a lovely woman  – another mother – who’s waiting for her daughter. Our kids are in different classrooms in school, but taking the same after-school acting class.

So we get to chatting about this and that – how we like the school, what our children like to eat – you know the drill – and then she tells me that her daughter is a twin. Her other child, the other half of the twin set, if you will, a boy, goes to another school.

I express my awe at mothering twins. Though I know we humans have the ability to adapt to almost anything, I do think that having twins, especially in the early days, must take brass balls.

And then I ask her: “Are they identical or fraternal?”

Identical or fraternal? Yes, folks, we are talking about a boy and a girl here.

“Um, fraternal” she replies, very politely masking an expression which seems to say “Is this woman a complete moron?” and then kindly explaining as she slowly backs away from me:  “Yes, um, they really can’t be identical, um, because….”

“Oh yes, of course!” I interject, saving this poor woman from having to explain the obvious, snorting out an embarrassed excuse: “You know how it is when you have children, you really have nooooo brain any more…hahahaha.”

Ha bloody ha.

The only blessing in all this? The conversation ended swiftly. Had the conversation taken place in another part of Brooklyn that shall remain nameless, my comment might have sparked all kinds of nuanced controversy reminiscent of a rather big brouhaha several years ago. We might have entered into a painful discussion of gender politics, as in how come they couldn’t be identical in spirit because girls are equal to boys and vice versa, and just because one has a penis doesn’t mean he’s a boy…he could really be a girl inside that penised body…and so on and so forth.

Gotta count your brain fart blessings somehow.

We are finally past the two week ordeal of germs that plagued us over the holidays. Though the boychild is still coughing and little B is sniffling, we are over the worst (fingers crossed.) And I no longer have to feel helpless (because it’s all about me, right?) while the boychild tosses and turns in a feverish sweat all night, after being unable to convince him to take Tylenol. No amount of cajoling, comforting or strong-arming worked.  Amazing how headstrong the little bugger can be, even in the throes of delirium.

I think he’s going to be a trial lawyer. Or a terrorist.

Amidst our viral vortex however, I did manage to escape with a friend to see Black Swan, the film I’d been obsessing about for weeks.

Why have I been so obsessed with this movie?  Maybe it’s because Swan Lake was one of the very first pieces of classical music I fell in love with.  As a wee young thing, I used to listen to the tape over and over in my bedroom.  Or maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by the underside of creativity – and the grueling, sometimes painful work that goes into making something beautiful.

But then I realized that the film is full of hot tips for how to become a much cooler mommy – a “Black Swan Mom” if you will.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, you can read a basic summary here. And if you don’t mind watching the trailer below,  it will provide a key backdrop to the three “Black Swan Mom” hot tips I plan to adopt (drum roll please):

1. Relax!

Lily has coaxed Nina out to a hip restaurant and bar. After asking her if she’s “hot for teacher,” Nina freezes up, whereby Lily replies, “You really need to relax.”

BINGO! This message is for moi. Look, I’m not going to pop a pill and go out clubbing all night (I wish.) No, I interpret Lily’s message this way: No more compulsive vacuuming. No more constant cleaning crumbs off counters and sweeping up bits of goldfish and dried up peas off the kitchen floor. No more daily laundry or nightly baths for the kids. Instead, I shall relax. Drink wine, paint my nails and let hubby see how easily things can turn into frat house central without my housewifely cleaning habits on display.

2. Feel it!

Vincent Cassel plays Thomas Leroy, Nina and Lily’s exacting teacher. During a rehearsal with Nina, he says, “Feel my touch” as he caresses the back of her thigh, lifting her into the air.

I’m not about to go running off with a prima ballerina, but perhaps I should vow to remember that I am a sensual being, not just a formerly lactating woman known as “Mommy.”  I shall toss out every pair of greying, frayed underwear and replace them with only the laciest, silkiest delicacies available at figleaves.com. And I shall give in to hubby’s kiss when I am stirring beef stew, instead of forcing him off me when the oven timer beeps.

3. Attack it!

Nina auditions for the part of the black swan with a series of fouettés en tournant (kind of like pirouettes on the spot.) Teacher thinks she’s too restrained, and urges “Attack it! Attack it!”

Might this be a veiled instruction to karate chop my way through dinner/bath/bed time rather than stumble through like someone attempting to corral an army of elephants into a rabbit hole? Shall I take this as encouragement to approach the crucial two hour period between five and seven o’ clock more like General Patton and less like Hugh Grant?

After all…the only person standing in my way is me.