Category Archives: baby blues

Stay at Home or Work? Every Mom’s Big Decision

As I was trying to shovel applesauce into a screaming toddler’s grimacing mouth the other morning, I saw this news segment on TV that asked: Who’s got it worse, working moms or stay at home moms? According to a University of Washington study, stay-at-home moms are more likely to be depressed. But the caveat is that those working moms who try to be super moms–meaning they have unrealistic expectations of work-life balance–were more depressed. The big takeaway being that any way a mommy slices it, she’s likely to run up against depression at one time or another.

I have thought a lot about this question over the past couple of years, as I struggled to decide whether to stay home full time with my wee one or go back to work. I’ve also seen a lot of mommy-friends come up against the same big question–and come up with different answers. But as I look across the spectrum of full-time moms to full-time professionals with kids on the side, one thing is clear: No one has it easy. Each work-life permutation that I’ve come across has moments that are positively overwhelming and definitely worthy of a whimper or two.

Of course I’m painting with a very broad brush, so bear with me, but most of my stay-at-home mommy-friends’ struggles stem from the fact that they are indeed home all the time. While it’s wonderful that they get to spend every waking moment with their precious wee ones, many of them seem to feel that they’ve lost a little of their shimmer and shake along with their connection to the working world. They’ve got a good grip on all things domestic–their laundry baskets aren’t overflowing and the litter box doesn’t stink–but finding things to do and places to go with the wee ones other than the grocery story and Target isn’t exactly easy. Hooking up with playgroups, classes, and activities can be as much work as dating or interviewing for a new job.

Life for working moms, on the other hand, is seriously programmed. From the moment the alarm rings to moment the last kid is in bed, it’s go-go-go time. In a way that’s good because a day can just fly by,¬† but one small glitch and the wheels are nearly going to fall off. There is absolutely no time for stuff like misplaced keys, runaway dogs, or flat tires. (My mommy meltdown of the week was over a broken back gate.) There’s so little time to take care of the basics that anything that requires extra, special, or immediate attention feels like a way bigger deal than it probably truly is. But having way too much to do in way too little time is the reality.

So, whether its about feeling invisible or inadequate, life for any mom, regardless of employment situation, can be stressful if not downright depressing. This realization begs the question whether there can really ever be a good work-life balance.

One of my brother-in-laws had a very good “dad” response to that question. He said that he knew he was close to striking that point when he felt like he was just doing in his estimation “good”–not fantastic or great but not bad or terrible either. It sounds a little depressing, but I get what he meant. It’s like if he was being a super star at work, he knew he wasn’t being the dad he wanted to be. And if he was being super dad, he probably wasn’t putting in the time or effort at his job that he should. So, when he was doing well enough, that was balance. I guess that makes him the good-enough father before there was the good-enough mother.

While I think that’s a truly honest assessment of the situation most young parents find themselves in, it’s not exactly prescriptive. The best how-to advice I ever heard was unsurprisingly from my best friend. (It’s always funny to me that you never really have to go far for good advice.) As an executive at a well respected, Fortune 1000 company, she’s definitely corporate to the max; however, she’s also a great mom who adores being with her kids, so she knows all too well how delicate that balance between a successful career and home life is. As I was blubbering to her about my decision to work or not to work, she finally told me the way she would have it, if she could: work 3-4 days a week, with the flexibility to work from home, and limited travel. And it dawned on me–isn’t that the way most mommies would have it? You’re home enough, but not too much, you have a little bit of income, and you still stay connected to the world that’s 18 and older.

But sadly, few of us are afforded that luxury of flexibility and those that have it cherish it. A lot of school teachers have a pretty good gig, working the same hours that their kids are in school and then summers off. But I learned recently that most female doctors only work three days a week because of this issue of family, and I instantly regretted my career decision. I certainly could have made a lot more money for the years I spent in school and have as close to a perfect work-life balance as possible. But I’ve got to imagine, or at least hope, that maybe the business world is in the process of changing to accommodate families needs to have moms and breadwinners. Maybe by the time Gen Y decides to have kids, the flex schedule will be more commonplace than it would seem today. Because the reality, at least according to that University of Washington study, is that as a mommy, you’re far from escaping depression at some point, no matter if you’re at home or at work.

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Filed under baby blues, family, moms, stay-at-home moms, working mom

The House That Pooh Built

Right after baby was born I received as a gift from some wonderful people I

know through work the Pooh Library, a four-volume set of the original Winnie the Pooh books. It’s a really lovely set of books, a nursery essential as far as I am concerned. And while the books are wildly inappropriate for baby at this stage of his short life–he’s 11 months old–I’ve been reading the books to him at night before bed anyway.

I remember loving the Pooh books as a child. Who couldn’t love the books’ cuddly main character whose life direction was always decided by his stomach? But reading them as an adult is a completely different experience. Everything I love about the books now is nothing I loved about them then.

The biggest thing is how I feel about the characters. As a child, my absolute favorite character was Eeyore. He not only found the softest part of my heart but buried himself deep into it. I mean, I think it was normal to feel bad for him. But I had a real love for him; I thought of him as so sweet and so unappreciated. I always felt like Christopher Robin unjustly paid too little attention to this lovely, little creature that just wanted to love and be loved.

But now I read the books and I can’t stand Eeyore. I dread any chapter that begins with “In which…” and ends with “Eeyore.” As an adult, I find him absolutely exhausting. He’s no longer an affable character with a confidence problem; instead, he’s irritatingly self centered and ungrateful. I mean, what kind of animal complains that no one comes to visit Pooh and Piglet when they are visiting him?

But it’s not just a thing with Eeyore. I look at Rabbit, Tigger, and Owl differently, too. As a kid, Rabbit was too bossy for me; he almost came across as crabby rather than take charge. Today, I appreciate his ability to organize, as well as his need and desire to keep everyone together as one big family in the Hundred Acre Wood. But even more than that, I never fully appreciated how intelligent Rabbit was. Christ, he could spell better than Owl! (Incidentally, I never realized how ignorant Owl really was. Maybe it was because I couldn’t spell either.)

And Tigger… in my child’s head, Tigger had tons of personality and was likeable even if his bouncing was annoying. But in re-reading the books, he really doesn’t have much personality at all. Sure, he’s bouncy. But outside that, he doesn’t say much to make me feel really one way or another about him.

Even Pooh, I feel differently about. There isn’t much not to love about Pooh, but as a kid, he was never my favorite. I think he wasn’t serious enough for the serious head I had on my shoulders as a child. Too much stuffing, too little brain, as far as I was concerned. But I like him so much more now. I better recognize his self-effacing nature and appreciate that what very little brain he has is indeed a good bit of brain, as he’s much more imaginative than I ever gave him credit for being when I was younger.

About the only thing that hasn’t changed is my feelings for Piglet; I still don’t care for him at all. Too much of a scardy cat, even if he is pretty smart.

But for as much as I’ve focused on character development, I can’t really say enough about A.A. Milne’s writing. What fabulous writing! Likely it was too sophisticated for my own simple child’s brain, but how lucky I am that I can appreciate it now. Every line is saturated with a tanin-like sense of humor, tasteful, dry, and more potent the more you let it roll around on your tongue. And yet there is the subtle, no where near sticky, sweetness that is so incredibly endearing.

But more interesting is that the writing also has a dark streak running through it that surfaces from time to time to remind us as readers that all good things will come to an end. I’ll try to blame it on the hormones, but it’s admittedly getting kind of late to still be using that excuse; but all the same, I found myself getting to the end of The House at Pooh Corner and being very sad. Like so sad, I had a few tears roll down my cheeks as I powered through a few catches in my throat to finish the last few lines:

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m–when–Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.

“Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully.

“Pooh, when I’m–you know–when I’m not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?”

“Just Me?”

“Yes, Pooh.”

“Will you be here too?”

“Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh.”

“That’s good,” said Pooh.

“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Pooh thought for a little.

“How old shall I be then?”

“Ninety-nine.”

Pooh nodded.

“I promise,” he said.

Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I–if I’m not quite–” he stopped and tried again–“Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”

“Understand what?”

“Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!”

“Where?” said Pooh.

“Anywhere,” said Christopher Robin.

Even re-typing that little segment brings tears to my eyes. It’s such a sad and subtle and sweet goodbye that I, as an adult, just find it heartbreaking in a way that I couldn’t recognize as a child. Maybe it’s just that these characters have been too Disney-fied, so their depth of character and the richness of the story have been bleached out for mass media. But I’ve had a really hard time these past few days since I finished the book forgetting about book’s wonderful turns of phrase and extremely profound ending.

So, all this to say that I can’t wait until baby is more of a boy and we read the books again (and again). I wonder what mysteries and enlightenment they will hold those next times around.

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Filed under babies, baby blues, childrens books, infants, reading

Look at the Baby, Look at the Baby

My husband and I never get sick of the movie Old School. We’ve seen it a gazillion times and still get a kick out of all the awesome one-liners. One Vince Vaughn zinger that my husband and I particularly find hilarious has taken on a totally new meaning for us post Baby Aleksi’s arrival.

Watching, Judging

The quote to which I’m referring comes from the wedding scene, where Beanie (Vince Vaughn) tries to talk Frank (Will Farrell) out of getting married.

Frank: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Beanie: “Why don’t you give that six months. You don’t think that’s gonna change. I got a wife, kids. Do I sound like a happy guy to you Frankie? There’s my wife. Now, see that: always smiling, hi honey, judging, watching. Look at the baby, look at the baby!”

(Better yet, listen to the actual movie quote here.)

For me, there’s something insanely hilarious about that last line: “Look at the baby, look at the baby!” Pre baby, my husband and I would whisper that line to each other every time we were around a baby that everyone else was oohing and ahhing over. We always giggled at our little inside joke; “baby” was barely in our vocabulary.

Not only am I now living that quote, but I’m totally one of “those” parents.

Nearly every morning, I spend probably a good 15 minutes just lying in bed, staring at the baby, memorizing every little curve of his face. I’m not really thinking about anything; I’m just looking, looking, looking, as if something in his round, little face could have changed overnight.

And it’s just not me and it’s just not the mornings.

I’ve caught my husband doing the same. He puts his face right up to the baby’s and just stays there until he’s got his fix. Sometimes he even calls me over so I can stare with him. (Ok, I admit it; I do that, too.)

Same thing when I’m having dinner with my parents. The baby moves or makes a peep (or even just sits there), and conversation at the table stalls out and we all just stare at him. I’m half surprised that our mouths don’t drop open and drool starts falling out.

What is it about babies that makes grown people do this?

Babies are definitely cute, but it’s something more and it’s definitely deep and it’s definitely profound. It’s like there’s something in us that recognizes that this is a new, fresh life, one so full of possibility, that forces us into a temporary state of awe.

Or maybe it’s that something in us recognizes that this little person is one of us, that he (or she) belongs to us, with us. So, we get a little glimpse of how big our responsibility is to this wee one. Maybe it’s our sense of how big the job is and how small we are that gives us reason to pause. We need a moment to see how much it’ll be worth it.

Or maybe it’s just that we see ourselves in these round faces and curious eyes. And in seeing our reflections, we feel so much less alone or insignificant in the world. We know this little person is glad to see to see us, will look up to us, will love us and so the longer we look, the better we feel about ourselves.

Then again, maybe it’s none of these things that drive us to linger a little longer on a pair of lovely lashes or bright eyes, a button nose or a pouty mouth. And maybe it really doesn’t matter. Just look at the baby.

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Filed under baby blues, daily life, emotions, hormones, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, post-partum, post-pregnancy

Growing Pains

I’d always thought of growing pains as something that kids experience as their bodies and brains stretch, but I’m starting to think they’re more something that parents go through as they watch the whole process.

This occurred to me the other day when I got a message from a friend who is a mommy-to-be. Turns out that her baby boy is likely to arrive a couple weeks early, so he’s probably going to be a little tinier than she and her husband were expecting and she wanted to take me up on my offer to give her some of the newborn outfits that baby already has outgrown.

A Box Full of Memories

Of course I was thrilled to help, even if it was as simple as throwing a bunch of onesies into a box and mailing them to her. But as I was putting the box together, I found myself getting a little verklempt.

Blame it on the baby blues (damn those hormones once again!), but it was somehow really sad to be packing away these little, itty bitty outfits. I found myself taking extra care in folding them, lingering a little longer on the ones that I thought looked really cute on baby. I ran my fingers one last time over the embroidered designs and pulled some of the snaps together for old times’ sake. I may have even put a couple up to my face and taken a deep breath, as if I was never going to smell baby smell again.

It was almost heartbreaking to think that even though he’s still a wee one, he’s never going to be that small again. In the matter of a few weeks, he’d grown so much. He suddenly had a past.

And then it hit me that I have a lifetime of more moments like this. My baby isn’t always going to be a baby. He’s going to be big, and then bigger, and then really big and then suddenly he’s going to be a man and then an old man. And it feels like it’s going to go by so fast that it might be easy to miss something.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing parents–or at least moms–hysterical all the time over their kids. Of course, I’m sure I saw a parent or two shed a couple of quiet tears on the first day of kindergarten or at high school graduation. But with how I felt folding those oh-so-soft onesies and footie pajamas, I think I might find a reason to get misty every day (or at least every other day).

Every day he’s going to learn something new, develop more personality, become a little more independent, and leave a deeper imprint on the world around him. And for as wonderful as that growth is to watch, I know part of me will be wishing there was a big pause button I could push so I could hold on just a minute longer to the really special moments that I know we’ll have.

No wonder my grandmother always carried a Kleenex in her sleeve. There are tear-worthy moments to be had every day.

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Filed under baby blues, daily life, hormones, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, post-partum, post-pregnancy

To Hell with the Hormones

One of my dearest friends was kind enough to give me a call the other day to find out how I was doing. The hubster had gone back into the field and my mom and other house guests had returned to their homes and normal lives. My house was finally empty and I was alone with baby, so she thought I might be feeling rather down in the dumps.

It was pretty good timing on her part because I had been thinking a lot about the so-called “baby blues” that I had heard so much about during my stay in the hospital. (The nurses had even sent me home with an informational pamphlet.) I was wondering if I was going to get them, what was it going to feel like, and would I recognize that I was in fact enduring my very own blue period.

So, when my friend asked me how I was doing, I really didn’t know how to answer. I mean, did I miss my husband? Of course. It was definitely heartbreaking to see him leave; he only got five days with his newborn son before he had to go back for training. Was I sad to see my mom go home? Absolutely. I can’t hardly put words to how much she did for me and baby during her time with us.

To me, that didn’t really sound like baby blues kind of stuff. That just sounded like life. Who doesn’t miss her mom or her husband when they aren’t near–new baby or otherwise? But even if I wasn’t technically suffering from the big, bad baby blues, I definitely wasn’t feel exactly emotionally stable.

I held a pretty even keel during my pregnancy. I was definitely more emotional every time my husband came home and then had to leave again; it can be sometimes overwhelming to be managing your family’s life–from your career to the house to the finances to the construction work we were having done to the dog–by yourself. Fortunately, I had a plain vanilla type of pregnancy, so I felt good and had few issues, so dealing with all that other stuff on my own was actually possible, even if less than desirable.

But in the days following baby’s arrival, I found myself getting super emotional at random times.

One night I was sitting on my front porch, enjoying a beautiful evening and a nice glass of wine and I totally got weepy just thinking about how amazing the stars were and how much I enjoyed my life.

Guaranteed Tear Jerker

Another evening, I got the waterworks flowing after I stupidly started leafing through the nursery staple, Guess How Much I Love You. (I strongly advise new mommies to hold off on reading that childhood favorite for awhile. I’ve opened the damn book three times and dissolved into soggy mess every time, so I’m thinking I need to wait until the hormones even out before I try that again.)

And then just the other night, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy and one of the doctor’s had to put another doctor’s dog down. I was a total mess watching the episode. I just kept thinking about how sick my own pup had been just a few weeks before–five days in doggy ICU was stressful to say the least–and how scared I had been that we were going to lose him.

So, I start telling my friend that what I was getting emotional about was not really baby-related stuff. I was finding myself getting worked up over bigger, darker thoughts. For example, I kept thinking about the fact that one day I was going to lose my mom. That thought would just pop up unexpectedly in my head and even if I didn’t spend much time entertaining it, it would have me so upset.

I was sort of embarrassed to be saying any of this out loud, even if it was to my best friend, but I felt better¬† when she told me she totally understood. “You’re literally just in awe of the miracle of life,” she said.

I have always hated that term–“miracle of life”–but I think she may have hit on something very real. Suddenly you have this perfect little baby in your arms and your sort of have these feelings of amazement and wonder colliding with a crushing sense of responsibility. And you also realize that your mom felt this way about you and you feel grateful to have her as your mom and guilty that you weren’t less of a pain in the ass. It’s a perfect storm of emotions.

But I think the thing that really “gets” to me is coming to grips with a basic fact of life: Nothing lasts forever. As exciting as it is to watch, anticipate, and enjoy the baby growing and changing, there’s no getting around the reality that every day is one less day we have. We’re all getting older and eventually our time will be up. Our mom’s won’t be with us forever and we’re not going to be with our kids forever, either. That sort of face-to-face with mortality is proving rather hard to digest for this newbie mommy.

“You probably don’t want to hear this,” said my friend. “But that feeling takes awhile to go away.”

Her daughter is two and she says she’s just feeling like she’s getting past that whole we’re-all-going-to-die-someday realization now.

Great. So much to look forward to.

So, knowing that all these feelings are (1) normal and (2) not going anywhere soon, even if their rapid onset and intensity calm down as my hormones get back in line, I’ve decided to ban certain tear-jerking items from my life until my hormones gone on hiatus:

  • Sentimental children’s books. I’ve moved books such as the classic Guess How Much I Love You or Billy Crystal’s I Already Know I Love You to the bottom of the pile of books in my nursery.
  • High drama TV shows. No medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy or House or any of the other rip off shows and no crime or mystery shows, particularly (and sadly) Law and Order SVU.
  • Anything with animals. I basically do everything I can to avoid Animal Planet in general and any shows in particular that showcase authorities removing animals from disgusting homes.
  • Sappy movies. Chick flicks definitely got me through my pregnancy, but I’m not even going near anything with any sad undertones. Topping my list of do-not-sees for fear of flooding are P.S. I Love You, Family Stone, Steel Magnolias, My Sister’s Keeper, My Life, The Notebook… you get the idea.

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Filed under baby blues, birthing, depression, emotions, mommy care, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy