Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Compromises and Adjustments

I have been thinking about what to post lately, because a lot has been going on the past few months. I don't know that much of it has been noteworthy, except that we're moving in a couple of weeks. So, I decided I'd write a little bit about compromises and adjustments. The kind that come with becoming a parent, and most specifically a single parent.

Making the decision to become a parent later in life, on one's own, is usually a very planned process. Though I made my decision pretty quickly and a bit out of nowhere, from the moment I did, I planned out just about every moment until it happened. And for a lot of single women who choose this path, they've been fairly or very successful financially - have had an active and ambitious career, own their own home, have a substantial savings already, etc. - and can afford having a child on their own with some security. I was not that woman. I've had a patchwork job life, and have never been financially savvy or secure. But I had health insurance and a job, and I did start this with some lofty goals of getting myself (and my shit) together before the baby happened. But honestly the baby happened quite a bit quicker than I'd anticipated AND if really honest, I also hadn't done the work to get on track. Once I started the process, any money I did have flew out the window for all the things that it takes to make, have, and raise a baby. Forward to today, and I'm an embarrassed, closeted debtor with little ability to see how to get on the right track in my current situation. Frankly, it scares the crap out of me. I fear poverty desperately, though having the privilege of supportive family around, am also somewhat enabled by the cushion they'd provide if I really needed it for us. But my reality is becoming somewhat stark and I've been faced with the need to move without the resources to really make it happen in this expensive city. So when offered the opportunity to move in with a friend, I decided it was the best thing to do.

My friend is amazing and generous, has the space for us to live there comfortably without crowding or stepping on one another, and has recently broken up with his partner, so probably could use the company. He's known my son since the day he was born, and they love each other like family. He's stable and kind and an all-around good guy. The move into his home affords me a somewhat reduced rent and honestly, a better suited dwelling for my toddler boy and me. It gives me another adult in the house to somewhat lessen that constant, underlying anxiety of shouldering every bit of every responsibility on my own, for while. And it gives me some space to get my shit actually together this time. It's transitional. It's a gift. And I think a gift for each of us.

I am very, very grateful. But I'm also sad. While I truly believe it takes a village, I also banked (funny choice of words right now...) on being able to do this thing mostly on my own. Balls to the wall, badass and ass-kicking. But having started this parenthood thing already in over my head, digging out of the avalanche that followed has been nearly impossible without help. Maybe I should have waited. Except I was already 40.5 years old when I made the decision. Waiting wasn't actually, necessarily, a viable option. And I believe my son is the perfect example of what is meant to be, will be.

So now, I have to scrape my way back by making some compromises to my living situation, my privacy and personal space, my own little life with my son, my finances, and just how we live our daily life. But I have learned quickly that I'll do anything I can to make a good life for my son. This is just not so much a sacrifice or hardship as it is an adjustment. And a gift.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maintenance & the older mom

Normally, when a woman has a baby, then toddler, she strives for (longs for, maybe?) more ease in her personal daily routine. And if you're also lazy, like me, that means easier hair, flatter shoes, comfier clothes, backpack, less gym rat more a stroller-stroller etc. Anything that lets you be wash and wear, and able to catch a fleeing kid. Less need for upkeep, for at least a little while in the early years while your body recovers from pregnancy, childbirth and perhaps nursing. As time moves on, you add back in the nice handbag and heels if you so desire, or get those nails done - whatever makes you happy with your appearance. I looked forward to this OH SO DAMN MUCH. 

This, therefore, created a hard reality when I had a child at the start of my middle age. Middle age often brings more needed maintenance for a lot of us. More frequent trips for hair color, desperately needed gym time, better facial care, falling apart body issues, blah blah blah. And for those of us who choose or need to work outside the home, it's especially hard if you work in a job where you are expected to not wear torn yoga pants and a baseball hat. 

I was having one of my first girlfriends-only lunches the other day (since having a baby) and she, who had twins at 39, said the same thing. Pregnancy at this age is kind of hell on the body. This whole, "back to your body in 9 months" or the very longest, a year, stuff is total crap when you're our age. At least it has been our experience. She's in 'therapy' with a holistic medicine expert/nutritionist, I'm in therapy with an actual therapist and my hairstylist. And both of us have joint issues from carrying kids on our hips, up and down stairs. We're a mess, desperately trying to manage our daily lives while also trying to feel confident and good about ourselves. It's just so much harder at this age, and it's hard to give ourselves the needed time to maintain, and the necessary breaks to recover from any of it. And as a single, working mom - I'll honestly include that finding childcare and the money to do anything to take care of myself, is just even a bit harder. Add to that, how in the world would a low-income mom have any of the time or money, or just support and encouragement to do it? 

I have no words of wisdom yet, because I'm still trying to figure out how to take care of myself. But I am working on it and will post my progress. Carry on...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Judging the other parents who are likely judging me

My son LOVES to go to the playground, and he is incredibly social and verbal, and has been from a very young age. So when we go to the playground or on walks, he looks for other kids to engage with and often approaches them and says hi. The problem is that most kids his age, so far anyway, haven't been quite like him. They either aren't very verbal yet, or still aren't very social, and they get uncomfortable and he gets upset. It's tough because I understand their level of development and his, and I often am the one who encouraged him to say hi in the first place. So sometimes I try to run interference so he doesn't get his feelings hurt or they don't get freaked out. I talk him through it - out loud, "It's nice to say hello, good job!" "Some babies have other ways to say hello" "That was nice of you, K, now let's go play over here..." And often, the other parent says nothing to me, to my son, or to their kid. Which feels weird and awkward. K will also say hi to adults, or just start talking to them, and many just look at him as though they don't get it or do not care, they won't even smile. If they don't, I guess that's okay. But it's hard for me to watch him feel a little defeated and it actually pisses me off. I'm not asking them to pay for college, but really - would a "hello" kill them? These are people with their own kids, do they not see that it has an effect on a kid when you ignore them outright?

Playground visits nearly kill me. I'm, 99% of  the time, on my own with him and am usually surrounded by partnered families or mom duos or groups. All of which are just fine, but also all of which leave me feeling isolated. I have encountered a few solo moms when the playground is less crowded, and can engage with them sometimes - if they aren't buried in their phone. It's just not easy - and it really should be. Why aren't we totally ready to band together? With access to information 24/7 and a barrage of  different parenting experts at the ready to tell us we are ON IT or are complete FUCK UPS, we are instead set up to be defensive immediately, to compete with one another and distrust one another's styles, and we already feel inadequate on a daily basis being so totally and completely responsible for raising a good citizen of the world. And then there are some who don't care so much about what kind of person they are raising, and aren't paying enough attention - which opens the door to the dreaded bullying. And we have seen the desperation caused by being bullied.

I know not everyone feels this way, just to make my point exactly. We are all different, raising different kids, with some cultural variations, in a commercial society fixated on one-up'ing each other or beating the crap out of each other. Breastfeed vs Formula, Helicopter vs. FreeRange, Vax vs Antivaxxers, Homeschool vs Private vs Public Schools, Stay at Home vs Working outside the home, Thrift store vs Nordstrom, Wholefood home-cooking vs processed store-bought ready-made, and the list goes ON and ON. It's relentless.

I know some can just deflect the looks or not give the criticism a second thought, but I find it really hard - I think especially as a single parent. Because I chose this, the bar feels exceptionally higher for me than it is for other parents. And I worry that my angst over these encounters will be absorbed by my kid.

Monday, February 16, 2015

1,000,000 Daily Decisions

Several things have come up for me in the past few weeks around the structure of parenting and all the decisions - good and bad - that I make in a day. Things happen so instantly with a toddler (except getting out of the house); and emotions are often running high and incredibly close to the surface. With my responses and actions, I can make my boy happy in an instant, or mad, or sad, or tearful, or hyped up, or annoyed. And, so much of this I love and so much of this I hate. Honestly, it's a LOT of pressure to say and do all the right things all the damn time. And I both succeed and fail a million times a day.

I want to set him up to succeed in life, and you know, not get hit by a car before he gets the chance. And both of these require structure and discipline and engagement and lots and lots of love. He already exercises his right to decide his fate FAR more than I'm willing, or is safe, to let him. Because he is, after all, two. But that means I have to be the big scary loud bad guy at least once a day. My kid is smart and communicative, and stubborn. He tests me and my rather tired, short fuse at all the wrong moments. So sometimes, my reactions are that of a big jerk. I should be more patient and recognize his age, and I'm definitely trying to take a deep breath and decide better in the moment what actually needs to happen vs. what my instant reaction is. It's hard, just after those moments, to not feel horrible about myself and so sorry for my kid! Then there are times, like other night in the grocery store parking lot when he got away from me as I was juggling groceries and keys, etc., and almost ran in front of a moving car, when my reaction feels horrible but totally justified. And then the frequency of all these moments happening in the short awake time we have together, makes me often feel defeated.

Solo parenting has a lot to offer, but it's in time like these, when No One is there to take the pressure off being the ONLY decision maker, even a tiny bit, when I get a little envious of my partnered friends and family. Luckily, I have the power to also turn the moment around usually, and fairly quickly (remember the toddler rollercoaster I mentioned earlier?). And I think that there's also a lot to be said for the very clear guidelines made by one parent, in a home where there is no arguing or second guessing between parents. No way is perfect, but if my intentions are always solid and about what is best for my boy - and I find away to stay consistent - I'm hopeful my decisions are the right ones.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Little Update - 2 years, 2 months and 18 days in...

We are 2 years, 2 months and 18 days since the birth of my beautiful boy, and it has been a crazy, wonderful ride so far. I don't know if I'll continue this blog on the regular, but I might. It's hard to know what to write about now - there are a million things to say related to parenting, single parenting, toddlers, boys, etc., but I'm not sure if it's unique or interesting enough to share or if I'll just wind up whining a lot, and sounding like (most) every other blogging parent out there. We'll see. Part of my hesitation is that when sharing truth, it isn't always pretty, perfect or divine, and I don't want to have to qualify every complaint/vent/issue/thought with a statement of my unconditional love for my boy. I chose this without hesitation, and I love and adore him - every single cell of him - unconditionally and forever. If I had it to do over, I would do it again in less than a blink. There. Done. I've said it. So now, when I complain/vent/share, hopefully, I can write feeling a little more guilt-free.

My boy: 
He is such an amazing little guy - full of energetic curiosity about the people and world around him, smart, funny, sweet, ridiculously communicative and exceptionally verbal. He doesn't stop moving when he's awake but, luckily for me, he also goes to sleep well. He is feisty and independent in so many good ways, but sometimes that results in aggressive frustration, (which, admittedly, has been pretty hard for me.) He is healthy and has weathered his vaccinations and teething episodes like a champ, and potty training has begun, slowly, but surely. He's on the slim side, but first, he never stops moving and second, his doctor is cool with it, so I am too. His daycare mom and her family love him to pieces (again, lucky me) - he is learning two alphabets, counts to 12, sings and/or dances all the time, and she puts him on the treadmill to help him run out his energy a little during the days they can't be outside as much. He is my joy, every single day.

I'm tired. Really. Truly. I've never been a sit-around person - I've had a day job and a secondary performing career for the last 20 years. So I'm very used to a busy, full schedule. But the 24/7 nature of being a parent, and especially as a full-time working single mom, has me feeling a kind of tired I didn't realize I could feel. A lot of the tired comes from the learning curve - just as soon as you think you have a smidge of a handle on it all - a new phase, a new development stage, food he likes, diaper size, an injury-free child, the morning and evening routines, naptimes, etc. BAM! it all changes. Overnight. And then you start almost all over again. It's a constant adjustment and it's exhausting. And now adding toddler independence and emotional rollercoaster to the mix just means that I feel constantly behind while trying to think ahead. Clusterf*ck.

There are days when I feel like I've just utterly and altogether failed as a parent, days when I think we've done great only to have bedtime be a disaster and am left feeling like a total dick, mornings when NOTHING goes right and I'm a total bitchy fire-breathing dragon as we pull (finally) out of the driveway, and days when I'm just about totally checked out - just going through the motions in order to get to bedtime. Then there are mornings when he wakes me up with "Mama, Good Morning! I love you so much!", moments when I cough, and he says, "You okay, Mama?", or our long walks and times at the playground are perfectly calm and fun, and days when he sits next to me on the couch, sharing popcorn and watching Star Wars with me and is totally and perfectly settled.  Every day there are brilliant, funny, tickly, and loving moments - interspersed with temper tantrums, spills, scraped knees and crayon all over the floor.

There is a daily balance to be found, I just have to keep looking. There is time to be had for myself, I just have to plan a bit better. And I'll say it again, because it will always bear repeating: I chose this without hesitation, and I love and adore him - every single cell of him - unconditionally and forever. If I had it to do over, I would do it again in less than a blink.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What are you prepared for?

 I was really prepared for so much to change in my life, but I was completely unprepared for how unsettled I'd be. Though I do think some of this is just transitional, because there is really nothing more profound and impactful than bringing a baby into your life. Still, I was under the impression that I'd be adjusting my life to fit my baby, not suddenly feeling like I wanted to totally reinvent myself and my life. That has come as a surprise. There are parts of me now that think a nice little house in a quiet neighborhood wouldn't be awful, and commuting isn't the worst thing I have to do in order to take him to great childcare everyday (don't ask me about it at 730am, however). But then there are parts of me/my life that I'm suddenly desperate to clean up, clear out and change altogether. As though having a baby wasn't big enough? This isn't a new feeling for me, but I really thought I'd get over that constant, nagging, underlying dissatisfaction with where I am and the need to always think about where I'm going. What is clear is that I need to get current - with finances, with my household, with my jobs, and with friends. I feel like perhaps I'm on the cusp of a mega spring (life) cleaning. What is new for me is that for the first time, I really don't have a plan for the changes. It's both uncomfortable and scary, but also, a wee bit exciting to think about what's possible.

And really, this is the face I wake up to every morning. So I should probably just shut up and enjoy every moment with him.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10 months old!

My beautiful boy turned 10 months old today. This last week we have had a few 'notable moments' which are probably more amazing for me to witness than anyone else, but it's okay, I'm the mommy.

  • He took from me the little washcloth I use on him to control his non-stop drooling on everything, and 'washed' my face with it. It was quite sweet, and unexpected. 
  • He pointed to the Squirrel, Owl, and Birds that are on prints above his changing table when I asked, for the first time. 
  • He fell at least 3 times onto his head. Poor baby.
  • He's now eating grown up food with a fervor. And quite obviously many things with Vit A, since he's got a little carotenemia going on - yellowish coloring on his nose. oops.
  • We had our first playdate with 2 other babies close to the same age. That might be more a milestone for me, since I'm not all that comfortable in new social situations. But baby boy thought it was fun, I think. Basically, they all kind of looked at each other and crawled, scooted, cruised to their own corners and grabbed toys to chew on. We'll work on it.
  • He is now cruising around the furniture with serious intention, so so SO busy.
  • He is finally letting me read to him without constantly grabbing the book and chewing on it. Thank goodness. At least most of the time.
  • He looks at me very intently when I'm repeating words to him - I'm pretty sure he's watching how I say it and I feel like I can see his little wheels turning in there. And this morning, he repeated after me when I'd say "yellow". In his own language, but I'm very sure he thinks he was saying yellow, too. SO FASCINATING!