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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Scattered mind, focused heart

Yesterday morning as I was cutting red globe grapes in half and de-seeding them to take with us to the park (yes, I know, that was a stupid move to buy seeded grapes, but they were on sale), I was also posting stuff to sell on eBay, in between getting Annika dressed, helping her eat breakfast, turn on a video watch while I got us ready to embark on the day, and nursing her in between bouts of "mamamamamama."

I've always thought I was a good multi-tasker until I had a toddler. I am beginning to understand my mother a little better.

My mom has a very short attention span and for years I've suspected that she probably has some sort of ADD or ADHD. She thinks so too, although she's never gotten a proper diagnosis. While she may have some sort of attention deficit, I suspect that part of my mom's scattered-ness is just the leftovers of being a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years and who didn't take consistent breaks.

What I mean to say is that yesterday I felt scattered. I feel that way a lot, but yesterday, I realized it later in the day as I was trying to write this post and I couldn't finish it. My brain was feeling like it was being ripped in several little parts and I spent the rest of the day trying to put it back together.

When you have a toddler if they want attention, it is impossible to do anything else for more than a couple of minutes. And they want attention a lot. Especially amongst people who practice attachment parenting.

Then I began thinking about a recent discussion on an online parenting group I'm part of. The topic was whether or not stay-at-home moms should be using a breast pump so they can take a break from their babes.

I am not going to rehash the discussion. But it was basically about whether or not stay-at-home moms need to have long enough breaks from their babies that they would need to pump milk.

This discussion got me thinking about balance and finding middle ground.

Some women who have chosen to be stay-at-home moms say that they never want a break from their kids. I think those women are in the minority in our society, but among my social network they are more likely to be found. I don't hang out with women who put their kids in daycare, confine their babies to playpens, or leave their infants lying the floor while they do housework.

My group of friends believes in giving lots of physical touch to their infants. We hold our babies and sling them up as many years as they want it. We gives lots and lots of hugs. We don't tell our kids to suck it up and be a big girl or big boy when they get hurt. We hold them and let them cry and we tell them how much we love them. We validate feelings. Many of us sleep with our babies and cuddle them all night long. I know Annika can't sleep without a warm body to cuddle with. She has gotten to the point where she will sleep on me if I am talking on the phone, watching TV or reading on my iPod Touch. But if I move away from her, she wakes up. She likes closeness.

I know that women who go to work and put their kids in daycare still have a taxing job being a mom. But in some ways, I think that's the easy way out. There are some days when I think if I don't get a solid chunk of time that doesn't involve Annika that I might go crazy, because my brain needs a break so I can focus on my own needs and yes, my own wants too.

It doesn't mean I don't love her or that I see her as a burden. It especially doesn't mean that I don't want to be with her most of the time. I want to be clear on that. I love being with her all day. I love knowing that I'm not missing out on anything. I love knowing that her dad and I are her primary sources of interaction.

But needing a break, to me, is part of being an aware parent and being there for her. If my brain can't ever focus on what makes me whole, what makes me, well, me, then I have a harder time focusing on her.

So, stay-at-home moms do need a break. We don't need a lot of time. But we need a break to be creative, to write, to paint or draw. Sometimes we just want to get out of the house and go to a movie or get a hair cut.

I know this isn't a topic that has been hashed to death. But here's the thing. Being a stay-at-home mom isn't anything like going to work. It's not really a job. So I think that's where the disconnect lies. You always hear people say that being a parent is the hardest job you'll ever love. But it's not a job. It's better. It's being a parent.

I am lucky in the respect that I haven't been around too many people who give me hell for being a stay-at-home mom. But I have been told a couple of times that I should, "get a job." Or, "you have it easy. I'd like a break."

Let me tell you, the problem with this attitude doesn't lie with me, or other folks' perception of me as a stay-at-home mom. The problem lies with their perceptions of their own lives.

People who aren't happy with their own lives look at stay-at-home moms and say they have it easy because they don't have to "go to work."

Then stay-at-home moms go, "But we DO work."

I don't need some internet calculator to tally up my financial worth by figuring out how many hours a week I take care of a child and do housework and walk the dog and shop and cook.

Here's how I see it. Those people who complain that we have it easy are jealous because they see how rewarding our lives are. They think we have it easy because we make this job look easy.

We LOVE our jobs, that's why it looks easy.

I don't need validation from a boss or a paycheck to tell me that I am doing a good job. All I have to do is look at my beautiful and happy child and I know that I am doing a good job.

So am I scattered? Sure. Plenty. Do I love my job? Yes. Do I need a break sometimes? Hell yeah. And when I've had a break, I come back home to my baby girl and I love her even more because I've missed being away from her. And I can recognize it because my brain is put back together again.

1 comment:

  1. I like this piece :)

    Catherine www.celebrationsstudios.com/blog


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