The Reality of Mom Life


This blog post has been two days in the making.  Actually longer than that because I came down with the stomach bug from HELL this weekend & am just today feeling more or less like a normal human being again.  I would seriously take pneumonia or the real flu (you know, the respiratory one) over the stomach bug ANY day of the week.  I know some people say “But the flu lasts a week; the stomach bug is just 24-48 hrs.”  HA!  Maybe for some folks but for me it’s always taken 3-4 days minimum to truly recover from a stomach bug, & it was MUCH harder this time because I was breastfeeding & caring for a 12 week old baby the entire time.  Thank goodness for my husband for helping to care for me & Rachel & for my parents for coming down on Monday to help me when my husband had to go back to work.  It’s been my nightmare ever since Rachel was born that I would come down with a stomach bug.  Well, it happened.  And it sucked.  Royally.  But I lived to tell the story.  Which brings me to the point of this post.Lavendar hanging from an old vintage door, room for copy space

Motherhood is a lot of things.  At moments it is the most glorious, wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.  At other times it’s so incredibly hard that I wonder what I was thinking getting into this.  The good news is, as the weeks have passed, the former moments far outweigh the latter moments.  And I’ve learned that I am SO MUCH STRONGER than I ever thought possible.  So in honor of that I thought I’d post some of the realities of being a mom, at least for me, many of which are really quite humorous.  If you’re a mom I think you’ll find yourself smiling & nodding along.  If you’re not, hopefully this post will make you want to join the club.  Or not; that’s a totally acceptable choice as well!motherhood-quote

(FYI, I used feminine pronouns throughout this post simply because my baby is a girl so it was just easier for me that way . . . Also, this post is most applicable to moms with infants.  As I only have one child myself, who is just 12 weeks old, I obviously can’t yet speak to motherhood beyond this point.)

Being a mom means . . .

  • Learning to do almost anything & everything one-handed.  This includes cooking, cleaning, using the bathroom, signing for pizza delivery, texting, typing, etc, etc.  The list could go on forever!
  • As soon as you finish laundry for the day the baby will have a poop-splosion (i.e. an explosion of poop) that soils her entire outfit & possibly yours as well.  So then you have to decide if you want to hand-wash everything or run the washing machine for just a handful of items.  Usually I go with the former & figure I’m getting a taste of what motherhood must have been like for my great-grandmothers in the days before washing machines.
  • As soon as you take the burp rag away thinking for sure the baby won’t spit up on you, that is the exact moment the baby will spit up on you.motherhood not for sissies
  • As soon as you change the baby’s diaper, get her outfit on her, & put her down for a nap or to play in her bouncy seat, that is exactly when she will have yet another poop.  Babies are not economical or efficient.  But they are born with a sarcastic streak, I swear!  I know mine has one . . . But then again, how could she not with parents like me & my husband?
  • Googling everything under the sun at all hours of night & day, scouring the interwebs for any sign that whatever “strange” or annoying thing your baby is doing is normal . . . or for how in the world to make her STOP CRYING?!
  • And eventually figuring out that, despite all of your doubts, you really are the expert on your own child.  After a while you recognize patterns & pick up on cues that in the early days were all just a mysterious blur.  And when you realize how far you’ve come you feel like a TOTAL ROCK STAR.  And you are!!motherhood grocery store
  • Never eating a full meal in one sitting (or at least very rarely) because the baby always needs something as soon as you sit down to eat.  You soon get used to either eating cold food or reheating things a bunch of times.
  • Taking the fastest showers of your life because you’re scared to death the baby will explode while she’s out of your sight . . . until you realize she actually won’t & you WILL hear her crying over the sound of the water . . . So then you start taking longer & longer showers just to have some time to yourself.
  • Making up excuses to drive places just because the baby loves her carseat & takes some of her best naps while you’re in the car.
  • Loving & appreciating your own mom more than ever because you realize just how amazing she truly is.daughter quote
  • Feeling a sudden, however slight, connection to every mom you meet just because you know you share so many of the same daily struggles & delights.
  • Being willing to make career changes you never considered before becoming a mom.  For some this means becoming a stay at home mom.  For others it means changing careers completely or going part time.  For me it has meant leaving hospital nursing to pursue part time clinic work. (I was originally planning to go back to the hospital part time but decided the schedule as well as the hectic, often stressful shifts there just didn’t fit with my priorities anymore.  That’s a whole other blog post that I’ll get around to writing eventually.)
  • Experiencing a love like you’ve never experienced before.  It really is indescribable.birth-of-mother
  • Loving (& often missing) sleep more than ever.  I’ve almost always been wise enough to choose sleep over housework or any other task when I know I really need sleep . . . And I know I’m saner for it.  Trust me, if you have any doubt, the best choice is always sleep.  Husbands, moms, dads, & friends can all help with housework or caring for the baby.  But none of them can sleep for you.
  • Learning to love your body for what it can DO as well as how it looks.  It means learning to embrace your “flaws” & knowing that even if your stomach is never quite as flat again (Who am I kidding?  Mine was never super flat anyway.) & even if the stretch marks never fully fade away, you’d still choose your precious child over your old body a thousand times over.
  • Learning to give yourself a lot of grace.  I learned very fast that there were certain things I just wasn’t going to be able to do as a mom, at least as a new mom.  For example, using cloth diapers is just not going to happen any time soon.  I need my sanity, & there is no way I could handle all the work that comes with cloth diapering & stay sane right now.  It also means learning to forgive yourself when you find yourself getting frustrated & angry with your own child sometimes.  We have to learn that none of us is perfect & we all have our less than stellar moments, but it’s all just part of the journey.children-work-quote
  • You can’t watch/read the news without feeling like your heart is going to break.  Every tragedy in the world is suddenly magnified a thousand times because you realize that was someone’s BABY who was hurt/killed.  So, if you’re like me, you decide to filter most news through your husband & friends & otherwise be the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
  • Every time you start to think about having another baby in the future, something happens & you’re convinced there is no way you could ever handle more than one child.  At least not for another 3 or 4 years.  But then you worry that if you separate your kids that much they won’t be “close.”  But then you remember that having them close together in no way guarantees that they will be close to each other, just as having them further apart in no way guarantees they WON’T be.  Basically when it comes to having kids there are no guarantees.  Ever.  Which brings me to my final point . . .
  • Being a mom means learning to laugh at the chaos, to “roll with the punches,” to take whatever life throws at you & find a way to not only survive but thrive.  As I said at the beginning, being a mom means learning that no matter how hard things get, you somehow find the strength to keep on trucking because you are SO MUCH STRONGER than you ever thought possible.

    'Hey, half my chromosomes are YOURS, you know.'

    Considering my husband is a geneticist by trade, our daughter may very well say this to us someday.  Ha!

Reflections of a New Mother


Six weeks ago today baby Rachel entered this world!  So much has happened in those six weeks, so in a way it seems like a long time, yet in another way it seems like no time at all.  I know all new parents say this but it really is hard to imagine my life without Rachel now that she is here.

The last two days have been pretty rough (although the past two nights have been great), so I thought it would be therapeutic to share some of my reflections on motherhood thus far.me-and-rachel-penguin

  1. Being a mom is incredibly hard.  I always knew it would be; I was never naive enough to think this would be a walk in the park or all fun & joy.  Of course not.  But you just can’t understand how truly difficult it is until you do it.
  2. Motherhood is full of extreme emotions.  On any given day I cycle between extreme love, joy, devotion, fear, anxiety, frustration, & a whole gamut of other emotions.  This is all totally normal of course but it is exhausting at times to feel like an emotional yo-yo.
  3. That being said, the extreme joy & love truly do make up for all the more “negative” emotions.  I always worried that moms said that just because they felt they had to but it really is true.  Trust me, I’ve had moments when I’ve wondered if I made a mistake in becoming a mom.  And I’m sure I’ll have more of those moments for the rest of my life.  But the point is those are just moments.  They don’t last forever.  me-and-rachel-fire
  4. Taking care of yourself is absolutely imperative to surviving motherhood.  This is just one of many reasons that being a single mom (or dad) is clearly not how parenthood was designed.  I’ve quickly learned that it’s essential that I eat a reasonably healthy diet, drink plenty of water, spend some time outside, listen to music, take a shower, read a little here & there, & generally do all the things that help keep me sane.  My mantra these days is “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”  In other words, Rachel needs a healthy, sane mommy & that means I need to take care of myself every bit as much as I’m taking care of her.  Which feeds right into my next point.
  5. Being able to take care of myself is largely dependent on my husband’s support.  I know every mom says this but once again it is so true: I’ve never loved my husband more than when I see him with our daughter.  When he changes her diapers, pushes her stroller, wears her in the baby carrier on his chest, & cuddles & kisses her my heart truly melts.  Furthermore, when he does the dishes or the laundry or cooks me dinner I want to kiss his feet.  Parenthood is definitely meant to be a two person job.  I never doubted that but now that I’m living it I can attest that it is 100% true.daughter quote
  6. Moms are the most giving people in the world.  I can’t say thank you enough to all the wonderful ladies who have reached out to me for encouragement & support over the past six weeks.  Y’all know who you are & you’re all amazing.  I hope someday I can encourage other new moms the way so many of you have done for me.  Seriously, THANK YOU!
  7. Breastfeeding is hard.  Like woahhhh.  To be honest, it’s actually not been physically painful the way I feared it would be.  However, it is still very demanding, both mentally & physically.  While I was pregnant I set two breastfeeding goals.  My ultimate goal was/is to make it a full year, but I will be perfectly satisfied if I make it to six months.  My minimum goal was to make it to six weeks, & I’m happy to say that as of today I’ve fulfilled that goal.  Woohoo!  I haven’t made it this far without a TON of support & encouragement though.  It’s truly been a team effort in so many ways!  There have been so many days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel & I’m sure there will be more of them, but knowing I’ve already made it this far will hopefully continue to encourage me on the difficult days.breastfeeding-cartoon
  8. Being a mom with anxiety & OCD tendencies is hard.  Thank goodness for a fantastic husband, a great mom, some dear friends, a wonderful therapist, & Zoloft.  And music.  (I switched from Prozac to Zoloft about 3 weeks ago at the suggestion of Rachel’s pediatrician because Zoloft is considered better for breastfeeding.)  Even if you don’t have a history of anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue, don’t be afraid to seek help as a new mom.  I think EVERYONE could benefit from a few sessions with a good therapist & no one more so than us frazzled, sleep-deprived new mommies.
  9. As much as I love Rachel now & am enjoying many things about the newborn/baby stage, I still very much look forward to her being a little older.  I know most moms say they miss the baby stage & often yearn for those days, but I seriously doubt that will ever be me (at least not often).  I’ve always said I prefer older kids & teens, & I still think that is true for me.  Trust me, I am not rushing anything.  I am enjoying (most) of where we are right now.  But there is a part of me that still can’t wait for the day when I can have real conversations with her, even about the hard stuff like death, sex, war, etc.  Yes, I’m crazy, I know, but I really do look forward to that day.  I also can’t wait to take her on hikes & to concerts & share the joy of all of those things with her.  It might make me weird, but I don’t think it makes me a bad mom to say that I will probably love being a mom even more as she gets older.motherhood-quote
  10. There is absolutely no room for comparison in motherhood.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: motherhood is not a competition.  Some moms breastfeed, some use formula, some do both.  Some moms make beautiful baby books, some don’t.  Some moms decorate a perfect nursery, some don’t.  Some moms co-sleep, some don’t.  Some moms wear their babies, some don’t.  And some babies will sleep through the night or learn to walk/talk faster than others.  The point is none of these things makes one mom better than another.  We are not competing against anyone.  Some moms seem like they have it all together while others of us are just happy we took a shower & did a load of laundry today.  As for me, I’m never going to be the mom who pretends she has it all figured out.  I think the world could benefit from more candidness.  The truth is my house is frequently a little messy (& it was like that long before I became a mom; I just have a better excuse now), I’ve shaved my legs a grand total of twice since I gave birth, & sometimes I hate breastfeeding.  I’m not “perfect” but I’m doing the best I can, & that’s all any of us can do.  At the end of the day if mom & baby are healthy & happy that’s all that matters.  Everything else is just details.
  11. Being a mom really is the best thing I’ve ever done.  End of story.  🙂

I’m not sure this song totally fits with the post but I discovered it last week & I’m in love with everything about it so I’m going to share it anyway.  (Yes, I’m still listening to “heavy” music.  Thankfully Rachel seems to like it!)  Check out the lyrics below:

I’ve always been a fan of the night life
‘Cause it’s the only life I had
Expressing my mind with paper & a pen playing my guitar
‘Till my fingers bled on the carpet
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
It wasn’t easy being rejected by the thing I wanted so bad
To be accepted, to be wanted
To wake up & say this is gonna be a good day
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
More than your word
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born just a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
I got sick of it
I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it

I Am Not Superwoman


I’m not sure how to begin this post, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to write for months now, so I guess I’ll just dive right into it.  Ever since I shared my pregnancy news, people have (naturally) been asking me if I plan to return to work full time once the baby is born.  It surprises me how many people, both men & women, seem truly shocked when I tell them I’m only coming back to work part time, hopefully one night a week.  (For those who don’t know, I’m a night shift nurse.)superwoman

There are a multitude of reasons why I’ve chosen not to return to work full time, but they all basically boil down to this one simple fact: I am not superwoman.  I realize it is the norm nowadays for women to work full time while raising young children, but I have never thought this made a lot of sense, either biologically or psychologically.  It just doesn’t seem logical to me that I would spend nine months growing & nurturing a baby only to wind up allowing a daycare (or anyone other than me & my husband) to essentially raise her.

stay at home mom daycare

Hey, there is a lot of truth in this . . .

To be fair, I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am extremely lucky to have a career & finances that allow me to work part time, but I also think our society has forgotten that so many things we think of as necessities nowadays are really options.  Part of the reason my husband & I will be financially able to live off of only one full time salary once the baby is born is because we have always been so frugal & responsible with our money.  Maybe that makes us boring, but I couldn’t possibly care less at this point in our lives.

frugality

Amen.  Being frugal has allowed us to have options which means freedom!

Trust me, over the years we have learned that some things are worth spending a little extra money to get a true quality product, especially if it’s something that could affect your health (like good shoes for the gym/hiking or work).  But at the same time we’ve found ways to cut monthly expenses by skipping out on cable TV & expensive restaurants/bars, etc.  I’m also not the type of woman who gets monthly pedicures, haircuts, or other such things.  The most I’ve ever spent on a purse is $40, & aside from gym/work shoes, I’ve never spent more than about $30 on a pair of shoes.  Nor have I ever spent more than $30 on a pair of jeans.  I buy used books & the Kroger brand of almost everything at the grocery store.  I suppose I can thank my mom for teaching me to be so frugal.  I’ve been called cheap before, but it doesn’t bother me one bit because the people who say that almost certainly have a lot less money to their name than I do.  So who’s really the cheap one?piggy bank

Anyway, I’ve wandered from the point, so let me return to explaining what I mean when I say I am not superwoman.  I work with & know plenty of women who do work full time while also raising young children, & I am continually amazed at how they manage to “do it all.”  At the same time I’m fully aware that most, if not all of them, are constantly under a great deal of stress & suffer from a fair amount of guilt over the time they are missing with their children due to work.  If nothing else, I know they suffer from a massive sleep debt & lack of any “me time,” neither of which is physically or psychologically healthy.  I’m not saying being a stay at home mom is a walk in the park.  But I’ve certainly never met a stay at home mom who regretted her choice to spend those first few years of her children’s lives at home with them.  On the other hand I meet working moms all the time who say they wish they could/had been able to be stay at home moms or to work part time while their children are/were young.  The point is maybe other women are ok living with that level of stress but I’m not.  Life is way too short to be stretched that thin.

When I was in nursing school I was confident I would be the first (or one of the first) among my class to go back to school.  I was certain I wouldn’t work more than five years as a bedside nurse before I’d be in NP school because being an NP was always my ultimate goal.  As it turns out I’ve now been a bedside nurse for just over five years, & I’m now far less certain that being an NP is my long term goal, or in any case, I’m in no hurry to reach that goal.  I used to think I’d be so jealous if I saw friends or classmates of mine returning to school before I did, but the truth is I’m not jealous at all.  I’m sure there will come a time in my life when I do wish to become an NP or to further my education in some way, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that time is not now.  If for no other reason, there is no biological timeline for higher education, but there most certainly is a biological timeline for having children, no matter how much we modern women do not like to admit it.biological clock

Just to be clear, this post is not meant to disparage women who do work full time while raising young children.  Once again, I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to even have the choice of working part time once our baby is born.  And if there is anything I’ve learned in life it is that there is not one right path for everyone.  We are obviously all different people so it is only logical that what works for one person or family won’t work for another.  anxiety

I just know that for me, especially with my anxiety issues & OCD tendencies, to try to work full time while also raising young children would be a nightmare.  As much as I do enjoy nursing, at the end of my life, whether that be at 35, 55, or 85, I know that my career will not be most important to me.  Is it hard for me to think about possibly losing traction in my career?  Sure. But not nearly as hard as thinking about missing out on those early formative years with my children.  (I say children because I do hope to have one more after this one.)  My mom always said if you got the first few years right, the rest would be easy, & I truly think she was correct about that.  To be honest, it isn’t the teenage years that scare me, it’s the toddler years.  I know most moms are sad as their kids grow up & aren’t “little” anymore, but I don’t anticipate that being a serious problem for me.  I’ve always enjoyed older kids & teenagers more, but even so, I can’t stand the thought of a daycare (or anyone else) spending more time with my children than me in the first few years of their lives.  The way I see it is both nursing & motherhood are far, far too important to do halfway, & at least for me, to try to do both full time would be to allow both to suffer.  And that is not acceptable to me.

We-Can-Do-It

Modern women have certainly proven that we can do it all, but at what cost?

So, in conclusion, yes, I have chosen to only work part time once the baby is born.  I used to think that would be a hard decision to make, but it’s actually been surprisingly easy.  I know modern society teaches women that we can “do & have it all,” & while I have no desire to return to the 1940s or 50s when women were expected to be stay at home moms (hell, even stay at home wives), I am fully aware of my own limitations.  That is why I’ll be the first to admit that I am not superwoman, & I have never been so at peace with the knowledge that I cannot do or have it all.

On Gender Roles in the Modern Era


When it comes to gender roles, whether in relationships or society in general, I often find myself in a bit of quandary.  Despite the many negative connotations that the word tends to bring these days, I do still consider myself a feminist, mainly because there are countries & societies in our world in which women still have very few, if any, rights (e.g. Saudi Arabia).  However, much more importantly I consider myself a humanist because I see value in all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other such factor, & I truly believe in our ability to better ourselves as individuals & the human species as a whole (although I’ll admit we are woefully bad at this much of the time, but that’s a topic for another day).  I also have no difficulty recognizing & no problem admitting that men face their own unique challenges in this world in which we inhabit, particularly perhaps in modern America (& other similar societies).  I’ve touched on that subject before on this blog & will certainly revisit it again someday, hopefully in the not too distant future.gender scales

Anyway, one of my greatest strengths (& weaknesses, at times) in life is that I’m a great analyzer.  I’m constantly observing the world around me & the people in it.  Even as a kid, I quickly realized that I was considerably more analytical than the average person.  In any case, one of the many things I find fascinating to observe is how other couples handle gender roles in relationshipsgender role

For context, I grew up with parents who on the surface held fairly traditional gender roles in that my mom did most of the traditionally feminine housework like cooking & laundry while my dad did most of the traditionally masculine chores like mowing the yard & taking out the trash.  However, one of the things I’ve always admired about my parents is the flexibility they modeled in their relationship.  For example, my parents almost always did the dishes together every night (bizarrely, they to this day do not have an automatic dishwasher).  Furthermore, in some cases my mom actually took on a more traditionally masculine role; for example, she was more of the disciplinarian between the two of them, while my dad was the softer-spoken one who in some ways could be considered more nurturing, which is of course generally considered a more feminine trait.gender-marriage-couples

The other couple whose gender roles I observed a lot as a child/teen was of course my grandparents.  In their case, they had much more strictly defined gender roles, & even as a child I couldn’t help but notice that this seemed (to me) to create some friction between them at times.  I’m in no way questioning their love for each other; I’m just saying that like almost anything else in life, a lack of flexibility often leads to resentment & a lack of understanding between parties.  Hell, you can even observe this in old TV shows like I Love Lucy (a show I watched religiously growing up) in which the characters have very strict gender roles.I love Lucy

As it turns out, I intentionally married a man who has a very different personality than my dad (& is perhaps more similar to my grandfather, now that I stop & think about it) while still maintaining a strong work ethic & commitment to our relationship, like my dad has towards my mom.  This is not meant as any offense to my dad; I just knew even at a young age that I needed someone with a much “stronger” (for lack of a better word at the moment) personality than my dad.  I was a pretty damn insightful teenager, let me tell you that!

Now that I’ve tooted my own horn a bit, I can get down to the real point of this post, which is this:

When it comes to gender roles, particularly in romantic relationships, the best advice I can give anyone is just do what comes naturally to you.  If in 90% of relationships this means the woman does more of the cooking & laundry & the man does more of the yard-work & car maintenance, so be it. teamwork marriage

The point is that you work together as a TEAM to get the needed work done & that you have a flexible attitude so that no one ever says “I can’t do that.  That’s YOUR job.”  Yes, I do more dishes & laundry than my husband, while he mows the yard & handles the taxes, but the point is that none of this stuff is set in stone.  If I’m working three nights in a row (those are 12-hr shifts, mind you) & my husband sees that the dishes & laundry are piling up, he’ll start them without even being asked.  And you better believe I love & appreciate him so much for that, just as he appreciates when I take out the trash or pitch in with some of the other chores that he typically handles when he’s busy at work or out of town.dishes cartoon

When it comes to raising kids, I’m probably going to be a lot more traditionally feminine than perhaps I want to admit.  There is a part of me that cringes at the idea of being a stay at home mom, yet there is a larger part of me that cringes at the idea of trying to raise babies & toddlers while also working full time.  (I’m thinking working part time is the best solution to this dilemma.)  I just can’t wrap my brain around trying to stretch myself that thin, especially since our family is in another state.  Plus there is a huge part of me that feels like if I’m going to invest so much of myself into being pregnant & going through labor, then why the hell would I let a daycare raise that child?  To be even more blunt, why would I bring life into this world & then not spend as much time with it as humanly possible?

Hey, there is a lot of truth in this . . .

Hey, there is a lot of truth in this . . .

Believe me, I understand that most families cannot afford to have a stay at home mom (or dad).  And I fully anticipate that I will end up working part time when we do start a family because, if for no other reason, I don’t want to lose my nursing skills by leaving the workforce entirely, even just for a few years.  I also think all adults need a certain amount of adult interaction to maintain their sanity . . . Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that while I’ve only in the past year or two really embraced the idea of motherhood, I’ve quickly found myself anticipating a more traditional mom role than perhaps I’d have predicted in years past.

And the greater point is that while many, if not most, women will agree with me on this subject, some may not, & that’s ok.  On the same token, most men will not want to be stay at home dads, no matter how much they love their kids.  But some may.  And that’s ok too.labels

The final point here is that while we can make generalities about both genders & the roles each tends to fulfill & the personalities each tends to model, at the end of the day we are all human beings & as such our commonalities are much greater than our differences.  Furthermore each person, regardless of gender, should be evaluated on his or her own merits & not forced to fit any particular mold, whatever that may be.  I’m a bit of a rebel myself in some ways so there is a part of me that always loves those who buck trends & say “screw you” to stereotypes, but I’m also smart enough to realize that there is nothing wrong with fulfilling traditional gender roles, as long as you’re doing so out of your own natural desire & inclination.

Lzzy Hale is definitely a role model for me in some ways. She's gorgeous & feminine in some ways but also a total badass.

Lzzy Hale is definitely a role model for me as a modern woman. She’s gorgeous & feminine in some ways but also a total badass.

In conclusion, I’ll never be the girl who wears a lot of pink, frilly dresses, stilettos, or tons of makeup.  Hell, at 26 I still can’t even put on eyeliner competently.  I swear too much & talk too loud to be lady-like, & I listen to lots of heavy music that could definitely be considered masculine.  When it comes to exercise, I hate running, yet I love lifting weights.  But I also play the flute & piano, perhaps the two most quintessentially feminine instruments on Earth, & I chose to become a nurse, one of the most quintessentially feminine careers on the planet.  Even as an adult I collect stuffed animals, & if/when I become a mom someday I sincerely hope I’ll always place my children above my career.  The point is I like to think I embody a fair amount of both traditionally feminine & traditionally masculine ideals, & I also like to think I’m better off because of it. gender bird

And the greater point is that regardless of our gender it shouldn’t define us or enslave us.  If we choose to embrace the more traditional roles of our given gender, that’s fine.  And if we choose to do the opposite, that’s fine too.  Neither choice is right or wrong, only different.  When it comes to gender roles & relationships, each couple just needs to figure out what works for them & make the best of it.  As I’ve stated many times before, there is no one prescription for success in life.  If someone else’s journey looks different than yours, that doesn’t mean theirs is wrong & yours is right or vice versa.  Dalai lama quote

As my final conclusion, if there’s anything I hope to convey in this post today, it’s this:

Be real.  Be human.  Be you. 

And walk away from anyone who can’t handle any or all of the above.

The Great Mommy Dilemma


Why, hello, 3:00 a.m., I never thought we should be so well acquainted.  I worked the past three nights & apparently my body is still stuck on night-shift mode which happens occasionally.  Honestly, I’m not sure why most of the world so resents being awake at 3:00 a.m.  It’s really a very nice time of night, though I suppose less so if you’re stuck in the dreaded 9-5 world.

Anyway, tonight I woke up just before 1:00 a.m. & haven’t been able to go back to sleep since then.  Naturally my mind is whirling with questions about life because that’s basically what my brain does any time it’s awake, regardless of what time the clock reads.  Tonight’s topic was inspired by a recent conversation at work in which a new coworker asked me if I had kids.  My response of course was no & I’m not sure if/when I ever want them.  This of course was met with the typical raised eyebrows & quizzical glances which it always inspires, particularly from other women.  I’m used to the reaction but it still bothers me a bit.  In the twenty-first century, is it really still so odd to imagine that a woman could have a uterus, yet have no real intention or desire to use it?  I know, I know, everyone says I’ll change my mind someday.  And I very well may.  But supposing I don’t . . . Is there really something WRONG with me for not wanting to have children? 

childless-by-choice-260x182

From a biological perspective, I suppose it IS a rather odd choice.  After all you don’t see very many childless females in the animal kingdom.  (I’m sure there are some obscure examples, but for the most part females in the animal kingdom, mammals anyway, are rarely childless.)  The biological imperative is to procreate to ensure the propagation of the species.  And yet I seem to have been born without a particular urge to do so.  As a woman, the world views this with a certain amount of suspicion.  Perhaps they are justified in doing so.  But I must say it’s rather unpleasant to be on the receiving end of this suspicion sometimes.

Trust me, I don’t fear having children because I don’t want to give up partying & drinking at all hours of the night.  I’ve never been one to participate in such “pleasures.”  It’s giving up my freedom to write blog posts at 3:00 a.m. & work 40 hours a week without having to come home to anyone who needs to me to take care of them 24/7 that I don’t want to give up.

I came from where

Regarding parenting challenges, it’s not the difficult conversations about death or sex or the essence of morality that scare me.  To all of that, I say bring it on.  I can’t wait to teach my children to be critical thinkers & skeptics like me!  It’s the tedious processes of breastfeeding & toilet-training & other such endeavors that scare me senseless.  Everyone says (& there is probably research to back this up) that the first few years of a child’s life are absolutely essential in bonding with the parent & forming a relationship that will last a lifetime.  Well, since I don’t particularly like children under about age five, if I have any kids I worry they’ll be screwed for life . . . And I already value any children I may have far too highly to risk scarring them so badly . . . Why can’t kids pop out at age five or six, toilet-trained, eating solid food, & ready to take on the world?  You may laugh, but I am serious!

Even on the days when I do feel more inclined to be a mom, I’m met with the veritable dilemma over how to balance children & career.  I was raised in the generation of women who were told we could “have it all.”  But many of us are finding that the world isn’t so utopian as all that.  When I look at the world around me, I’m presented with plenty of evidence that trying to juggle raising a family (young children anyway) & a full-time job is about as easy & as fun as facing a lion, a tiger, a bear, a wolf, & a shark, all at the same time, without any sort of weapon at all.  In other words, it’s hell.

modern motherhood

Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think there are legitimate reasons why many women leave behind even the best careers to be “stay-at-home” moms.  First of all, maternity leave in America is a joke.  And second of all childcare is expensive, even for the more well-to-do among us.  Additionally there are the emotional rewards of raising your own children on a day-to-day basis . . . something that’s clearly impossible to quantify but also impossible to ignore.  How many times do I see women facing the agony of leaving their new baby behind after just six precious weeks at home?  It’s not easy to watch.

And yet I know I’m not the only woman who finds the prospect of staying at home all day feeding, bathing, & soothing a crying baby or entertaining a whining toddler far from appetizing.  In fact, it sounds downright miserable to me.  I know, I know, this probably makes me a horrible person, but I can’t be the only woman who doesn’t find babies & toddlers as ridiculously adorable as everyone else does.  Trust me, there are days when I see my friends’ pictures of their children on Facebook & my heart melts & I dream of the day when I too will share that scared title of mother.  But then reality sets in & I remember that most of the actual work of being a mom is far from glamorous.  I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve read lately from women who say “No one told me parenting would be this hard!”  I on the other hand can’t stop thinking about how hard it sounds & wondering if the rewards could possibly make all the stress worth it for me.  Trust me, I sincerely believe that most people truly do find parenting rewarding.  And I sincerely hope that someday I too will find the strength to believe the same will be true for me. 

motherhood grocery store

I often find myself wishing companies were more friendly to mothers (& fathers) of young children, & yet the logical part of me isn’t sure how practical that is.  After all, if every employee had a plethora of children, there is no way companies could afford to provide insurance for all of them.  (Of course not having our health insurance tied to our jobs would be a great start, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.)  And as much as I wish maternity leave were FAR longer, I also realize that expecting a company to pay a woman (or even just hold her job) for three to six months or more while she is NOT actually working for them is perhaps a bit much to ask.  Particularly if a woman has multiple children within a few years of each other.  Not to mention her fellow employees have to take on the burden of fulfilling her roles without any additional pay or benefits.  However, I also think it’s ludicrous to suggest that six weeks is enough time to fully recover, both physically & mentally, from having a baby, much less to actually get a firm grip on balancing the demands of said child.  Basically I see both sides of the coin & neither of them is very pretty.

motherhood not for sissiesTrust me, I am glad I live in a day & age & a society in which I have the choice to have a career or be a mom or try to do both.  Not having those choices would be a far greater torture.  I don’t really know what I hope to accomplish by writing all of this because I know there are no solid answers to the questions I’m asking.  If there are any good answers, they are certainly different for every woman.  I just wonder if anyone else is thinking about all of these things.  Very few of my college friends have kids so far, but at least half, if not three-quarters, of my high school graduating class are parents.  And most people in my family were parents at or well before 25 (my current age).  Did any of these people think about all of these things?  If not, were they better off because of it?  To all those who say I should just stop thinking about all of this so much, you might as well tell me to stop breathing.  If I had been a man in Ancient Greece, I would have been a philosopher.  For better or worse, it’s just who I am, the very essence of my being.

In the end I can’t imagine having children & sending them to daycare, at least not at a very young age.  But I also can’t imagine staying at home with them all day & giving up my career.  I suppose the answer lies somewhere in between, but gambling on trying to find the perfect balance is a risk I’m not sure I’m willing to take.

At least not yet.

 

What Feminism Got Wrong


Since its very inception (or shall we say modern inception), the Feminist movement has focused almost exclusively on equality for women in the workforce.  Equal pay for equal work is a phrase we’ve all heard countless times.  I have no problem with this idea of course, but the more I ponder the state of modern women I’m coming to realize that perhaps feminism lost a great deal of its purpose by focusing itself far too narrowly.  Should not the greater goal of feminism be that women be viewed & treated as the intellectual equals of men in all aspects of society?  Notice that I said INTELLECTUAL equals.  I’m not one of these disillusioned idiots who tries to argue that men & women are physically equivalent.  Duh, of course we’re not.  (If we were, that would be pretty boring!)  But it’s like comparing apples & oranges; both are fruits but they are physically & biologically quite different.  Yet neither of them could realistically be argued to be better or worse.  Same goes for men & women.  Physically we are quite different but life isn’t a competition & neither gender is inherently better or worse.  Now that we’ve covered the most basic premise, let us carry on to greater ideas.

feminism

A theme I read & hear about frequently nowadays is the trend of well-educated women, often with high-powered careers, opting out of the workforce in favor of staying home with their children (or even occasionally without any children).  Old-school feminists often view this as a severe failure & bemoan how modern women could make such “selfish” choices after all they did to pave the way for opportunities for women today.  And yet if one is to be logical, one cannot help but realize that these women have legitimate reasons for leaving behind even successful, rewarding careers to raise their children full-time.

What I’m trying to argue here is that the greater goal of feminism ought to be making it acceptable for women to choose any path in life.  A woman shouldn’t feel the need to justify her choices, no matter what they are, every time someone asks “What do you do?”  If one woman wants to be a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO of a powerful company, great.  But if another woman wants to be “just” a stay-at-home mom, that’s great too.  The point is that we have that CHOICE.  It’s all about having the power to DECIDE what we want to do.  And having the humility to realize that there isn’t one “right” path for all women to follow.  Indeed there are many equally valid paths in life that we may choose, & what’s even greater is that throughout our lives we can choose to walk various ones at various times.  For example, right now I’m focusing on my nursing career.  I love my job but I also know it’s not going to be the center of my life forever.  In fact my therapist recently challenged me to consider whether having a career as the “center” of my life is ever a healthy idea.  She stated that regardless of age or gender, a career really shouldn’t be the main focus of anyone’s life.  And I’m inclined to think she’s right.  Having a career you love is wonderful & truly enriches the quality of your life.  But it shouldn’t be everything.  It shouldn’t be THE THING that defines you.

I’m straying from my point, but what I am trying to say is that right now I am more career-focused.  But somewhere in the next three to ten years I very much believe I will become more family-focused.  I already know that I don’t want to work full-time, if at all possible, when I have young children.  I know some women can handle that & that’s great.  But I know that my mentality couldn’t handle it, & I feel that being a nurse & being a mom are both far too important to potentially screw up by stretching myself too thin.  Thus, when I have young children I hope to work only part-time if at all possible.  If you should ask why I would choose my children over my career, it’s because I know that I have the rest of my life to work.  Excluding major health problems, there is no limit on how long I can be a nurse or when I can go to grad school to advance my career.  However, there is a very limited window in which my children will be young & very much in need of my care & guidance.  And even though the prospect of raising children is something I still cannot imagine I am up to, I know I would never forgive myself for missing that window of time with them.  Later when my children are a little older, there is no reason to believe I wouldn’t be able to work full-time again & even go back to school to advance my career.  Again, the point is that at various points in our lives we can choose various paths that serve us best.

While traditional feminists often resent the fact that more women choose to stay at home with their children than men, I see no problem with this.  Stay-at-home dads are great, but the fact of the matter is that no matter how “enlightened” we are, most men just aren’t going to want to do that, while plenty of women would jump at the chance to raise their children full-time without the demands of another career.  I see no problem with this at all.  It’s just biology, folks.

I read a great blog post (raisingkidswithoutreligion.net/2014/02/03/what-women-do) recently that questioned whether staying at home with children while they’re young sends boys (& girls) the message that women are inferior.  It was a great question but the conclusion the author came to was that the lessons she was able to teach her sons while at home with them & the example she & her husband set for them in their own relationship actually taught them quite the opposite: that women are very much intellectually equal to men & that making career sacrifices for the sake of family in no way reduces a woman’s intelligence or intellectual capacity.  After all, even if we may achieve “less” in our careers we have not achieved less in LIFE.  As previously stated, your life isn’t (or shouldn’t be) defined by your career, regardless of your gender.

I’m in no way trying to argue that all women should be stay-at-home moms.  And to be clear it makes me sick to think of the times when women were viewed as child-like creatures who could never think rationally or independently.  Hell, no.  Indeed, from my experiences thus far in life, I continually come to the conclusion that men & women have far more commonalities than we have differences.

What I am saying is that maybe feminism should focus less on belittling men & achieving 50/50 ratios in government & other traditionally male-dominated fields.  After all, no one seems to be arguing that traditionally female-dominated fields such as nursing or teaching should be 50/50, though I certainly think greater balance in all fields would be a good thing.  Instead perhaps we should focus on empowering women to realize the full realm of options we now have.  And to understand that any of those options are valid as long as they lead to a rewarding, enriching life.  And that, greatest of all, we can choose different paths at different times in our lives.

Regardless of your gender, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

6 Reasons Why I’m Proud of My Generation


It seems that lately I’ve heard a lot of criticism of my generation.  It usually goes something like this: We’re lazy.  We’re entitled.  (Or we think we’re entitled.)  We have no patience.  We can’t get our hands off of our smart phones.  We’re too sexually promiscuous.  We don’t know how to dress appropriately.  And the list goes on and on.  Frankly, I’m tired of it.  May I be so bold as to say that such criticisms offend me on two levels: on a personal level because I know these criticisms cannot be fairly applied to me & on a more general level because I know that these criticisms also cannot be fairly applied to the majority of my generation?  In light of that, perhaps I should just shrug off this negativity & forget it.  And usually that is what I do.  But this is a subject that’s been brewing in my mind for quite some time now.  I don’t know that I’ve really thought of it explicitly as a potential blog topic, but it’s just an idea that’s been running through my head for a while now.  As I was driving to my flute group practice today, I started composing this blog post in my mind.  I got to practice & all I could think about was “I’ve got to get home & start writing before I forget this!”  If you’re a fellow writer, I’m sure you know exactly how this feels.  So here we go.  Here’s my response to all those nay-sayers who say my generation is going to hell in a hand-basket or running the world into the ground or whatever else.

millenials

I’m proud of my generation.  To be fair, I’m not sure exactly how to define the term “my generation” but generally I think of anyone who is now about 20-30 as within my generation (that’s anyone within five years older than me & five years younger than me).  To me we are the last generation to grow up without computers as a mainstay of our lives from birth, yet we are one of the first generations to be well versed in computers, ipods, & other such technology as teenagers & young adults.  I see my generation, especially those of us from rural areas where high-speed internet access is still far from universal, as straddling the gap between those who had to learn computers & other such technology as adults & those who grew up with it from day one.  Now on to the meat of the piece: the reasons why I’m proud of my generation.

1. I’m proud of my generation because of our acceptance of those who are different from us.  A great example of this is how common interracial relationships & marriages are in our generation.  Especially in a multi-cultural city like Raleigh, it’s very common for me to see couples at the mall or other public places who are composed of everything from a white man and a black woman to an Asian woman and a white man to any other combination you can think of.  And most of them are from my generation.  As much as I often rail against the mainstream media, take a glance at modern-day ads or TV (much of which is aimed at my generation) & you’ll quickly see that mixed race models & actors are all the rage (& fairly so, for many of them are drop-dead gorgeous.)  [Think Jennifer Lopez, Shemar Moore, etc.]  While older generations still can’t seem to grasp this concept, my generation has realized that all relationships are made up of people with different backgrounds & points of view & thus an interracial or inter-cultural relationship really isn’t that different than any other relationship.  To put this in simple terms consider that I as a white American female probably have more in common with your average black American male than with a white man from another culture, say Eastern Europe.  And yet I know there are plenty of folks from older generations who would much prefer to see me dating a white Eastern European guy than a black American guy . . . If you think that people aren’t capable of overcoming cultural differences to establish & maintain a relationship, then you have far too low an opinion of humanity.  Consider that perhaps the greatest challenge for those in inter-racial relationships is actually dealing with the REACTIONS of those around them, rather than some inherent challenge found in dating someone of another race.  Hmmm . . .

To follow in the same vein, I am proud of my generation for how many of us support equal rights, including marriage, for gays and lesbians.  Not everyone of my generation agrees with this obviously, but I daresay a greater percentage of people from our generation are in favor of gay rights/marriage than from any other generation.  This isn’t meant to be a post about gay rights, but it does warm my heart to see how even those of us from conservative religious backgrounds (such as myself) are questioning some of the things we were taught growing up & realizing that gay rights are a cause we can’t help but support.

2. I’m also proud of my generation for being adept at using technology & handling change.  As a generation who grew up with massive change in technology both at home & in school, we are thus adept at handling new technology in the workplace, even though we’re often fully aware that whatever technology we’re now embracing will probably soon be replaced by something newer & better.  Consider that just between elementary & high school we went from using floppy discs to flashdrives, from cassette tapes to CDs, & from VHS to DVDs.  Thus, we are both swift to learn how to use technology and how to teach others to use it.  Instead of fearing change, we are often the employees who push for change because we are able to see how it can benefit us.  Is it true that some of us spend entirely too much time on our smart phones & seem barely capable of holding a real conversation?  Yes, but I truly believe this isn’t the norm.  I have tons of friends & coworkers of my generation who are fully capable of carrying on in-depth conversations with people of our own & other generations.  But we also know how to use our smart phones to help us navigate a new city or find the closest WalMart or CVS.  Really, how can you say that’s such a bad thing?

3. Yet another reason I’m proud of my generation is for our critical thinking skills.  Gone are the days when people believe anything someone says just because they said it.  No, we are the generation raised on science & because of that you can’t just expect us to follow you hook, line, & sinker without a lot of good facts to back up whatever is you’re trying to “sell” us.  These are the days of Google & you better believe that when we’re shopping for a new car, we’ve already looked up the Kelly Bluebook value online, not to mention user reviews from previous buyers.   Basically, it’s a lot harder to “snow” us.  If we’re interested in religion or philosophy, you better believe we won’t be satisfied with simple answers to complicated questions.  And you better believe we will never stop asking questions & we’ll have no problem leaving behind anyone who tells us our questions are inappropriate or unnecessary.

4. I’m proud of my generation for working hard often with little reward.  We are the generation who were raised to be believe we could be anything & that any college degree, no matter how obscure, would land us a well-paying job for the rest of our lives.  The more insightful of us realized this was always a bit of a fallacy, but many of us believed it because for prior generations it was largely true.  However, right around the time we were graduating from college is when the economy crashed & suddenly many of us were left with mountains of debt & useless degrees.  Suddenly we are competing for the same jobs as our counterparts with “mere” high school diplomas.  Because of our school loans, many of us are having to live at home with our parents or put off marriage & family plans.  Many of us are waking up to the sad reality that we may never be as well-off as our parents.  And that Social Security won’t exist for our generation (because the program is already financially teetering on the edge of disaster) even though we will pay into it for the rest of our lives.  (While much of this is not true for me as a nurse, I do see it all around me in my generation.)  Despite all of these obstacles, I see many folks of my generation creating successful careers whether they be in healthcare, teaching, advertising, network marketing, photography, etc.  For example three of my favorite photography blogs are run by women who are all under 30.  In fact I’m quite sure the eldest of them is 27 or 28 & they are all very successful.  Even though we’re facing obstacles we may not have realized would exist, we are rising to the challenge & eventually employers are going to realize what a valuable resource we are.

5. I’m proud of my generation for leaving gender stereotypes in the dust.  I’m proud of us for realizing that men & women can share the housework, that not everything has to be written in stone as “the woman’s job” or “the man’s job.”  Yet I’m also proud of us for realizing that being a stay-at-home mom is just as legitimate & rewarding of a choice as having a high-powered career.  And that stay-at-home dads are a legitimate choice too.  Women can be doctors & lawyers, men can be nurses & teachers.  Basically we can do all whatever we want.

I could go on & on but for the sake of brevity (HAHA, I know I am pretty much incapable of ever writing anything brief!), I’ll end with this.

6. Perhaps more than anything, I’m proud of my generation for realizing the one thing that I think older generations largely could not grasp: that what’s right for some of us isn’t right for others of us, that there is no ONE right path for everyone, & that the greatest thing we can achieve in life is just to be happy & chase our dreams.

I realize this post would be “better” if I had addressed each of the criticisms I listed at the beginning, but I wanted to list the reasons for which I’m most proud of my generation, not just provide arguments against vague criticisms, some of which are a bit superficial anyway.

Before you say that this post is trashing older generations let me be clear & say that I have nothing but respect for older generations.  (For example, I’m one of those nurses who LOVES working with older people.)  Obviously older generations taught us a great deal & laid down the groundwork for where we are today.  For example, inter-racial marriage wouldn’t even be legal if not for the work of civil rights workers in the 1950’s & 60’s.  I’m fully aware that every generation thinks those that come after it are going to hell.  It’s just the way the world works.  So I will go ahead & ask in advance that when I’m 40 or 50 or 70 or whatever & start railing against my children or grandchildren’s generation, somebody send me the link to this blog post & remind me of how much I hated being criticized when I was young.  Please & thank you.  😉