Archive for September, 2009

The Tyranny of Mommy Perfection

YANG:

Anyone out there think they are perfect?

Ah come on, admit it, we all believe we’re perfect at something (s).  I for one, make the perfect sticky toffee pudding. I know this; I’ve been told this by many a-pudding-eater. We know perfection when we see it too. For instance, That Mom down the road has the perfect kids and Her With the New Car must have a perfect job.  Don’t even get me started on Mrs Always Perfect Hair across the street.

The ideal of being a Perfect Mommy though is monumental. For one, our moms certainly weren’t perfect because we can point out error after flaw that they made raising us. (Those same errors that we swear we’ll never do or say yet we mysteriously find ourselves sounding just like our moms now and again, don’t we? ).  Secondly, we have to be perfect because we have a little person relying on us for everything, trusting us implicitly and we can’t, just can’t, mess them up. The pressure to be a Perfect Mother is immense.

Perfection is a tricky thing. Once you achieve it, you tend to want more of it. You know as well as I that we can’t be perfect at everything we do nor be perfect all the time. We can’t constantly be perfect moms, wives, homemakers, friends, workers, volunteers, citizens, church-goers, etc. Nor can we always have the perfect clothes, hair, nails, attitude, car or house. We just can’t–it’s impossible. After all, perfection is a goal to work towards but is rarely, if only momentarily, achieved. Yet the ideal lives on, tormenting us to be perfect. So what to do?

Me, I’ve decided to pick and choose my “perfection goals.” Some days it’s to be the perfect mom, which broadly entails having a well-fed, groomed and happy child for the day (good memories of the day for all of us, and no tears/bumps/bruises). Other days it’s to create the perfect meal–not only nutritionally well-balanced and not too costly, but also innovative in taste, color and ingredients (one that everyone eats and begs for seconds). Other days my perfection goals are more easy to attain, such as having the perfect workout (calories instantly shed, little sweat, muscles feeling good) or to give myself the perfect mani/pedi (no rough skin found, no nail polish on the furniture, no smearing).  You’re getting the point, right?

Then there are those days that even the idea of striving to some concoction of perfection wilts me. Stops me dead in my tracks. I can’t stop for long with a toddler at home though. So I take a deep breath, stretch my arms up high, throw my head back and let out a deep, fulfilling sigh. It is then that I acknowledge to my Yang Mommy self that I have indeed achieved some goals enough to be happy, I’ve had my fun (because trying to attain a goal without some facet of fun is never a good idea), and I let go. I just let it all go. Lady Perfection releases her grasp on me and floats away on a breeze of contentment.

She’ll be back soon, I know. In the meantime, I congratulate myself for simply getting through the day with a healthy happy child/having warm food on the table/not snacking on brownies/not breaking a nail. Do I ever attain perfection in these goals? Hardly. A semblance yes, but true, real, raw perfection? Ha…I laugh at the idea because I know it’s can’t be done. And I won’t live under the tyranny.

YIN:

I refuse to try to be perfect. Why? Because I know that I can’t be. I came to that decision long before I had my daughter but perfection has really reared its ugly head since she came to us.

With a full time job that takes a lot of my mental energy, a husband who takes almost as much mental energy and a 15 month old child who thinks she’s a superhero and should lift and throw everything, I don’t have the energy to strive for perfection. Because I have no energy.

What would be perfect is if I could sleep through the night without waking as soon as she coughs or mutters in her sleep. What would be perfect would be if my husband and I could sit with our daughter and watch tv quietly without someone crying for a drink (that would be either my husband or my daughter, take your pick). What would be perfect is if I could go to work and arrive on time, not have someone complain about something (myself included) and if everyone just did what they were supposed to. What would be perfect is to take a family vacation with rushing or worrying about how much we’re spending. What would be perfect – okay you get my drift.

Nothing in life is perfect and no one in life is perfect. I have unfortunately known that perfect couple. They got divorced after my friend found out her husband of almost 20 years was cheating on her with someone she thought was her friend. I’ve unfortunately know the great guy with a great family. His wife was cheating on him with a neighbor. And I’ve unfortunately know the perfect employee. They burnt themselves out and had to take a leave of absence.

For me personally it is not worth mine and my family’s sanity to strive to be perfect. If you do you’re reaching for something that you can’t get and will wear you out in the end. Instead of striving to be perfect, I strive to be the best me that I can be. At least for today.

Getting Quality Time (sans the little one)

YIN:

There are all kinds of tips out there on how to get quality time with your significant other once the baby arrives:

• Make a date night and be sure to keep it!
• Get creative – have lunch together once a week or even just sit and talk to each other about anything other than work or the baby.
• Write each other love notes – keep it spicy!
• Buy tickets to an event. You’re less likely to skip the event if you’ve already paid for the tickets.
• Get a routine.
• And make time for yourself. You can only be a good mommy and wife if you’re relaxed and feel good!

I’m sorry but I can’t help but laugh at all the suggestions I’ve read on various sites or heard on talk shows on how to get quality time and keep your marriage interesting. It’s not that the suggestions I laid out above are stupid. I believe they work for people who are lucky enough to have regular access to a babysitter or who have the extra money to do things as a couple. But in my case, until recently, we didn’t have anyone who lived closer than 25 miles away to watch my daughter, so we saved those requests for extremely special occasions.

I get a 30 minute lunch and my husband sometimes doesn’t get to take one so that leaves that suggestion out. My husband doesn’t like to write. There go the notes. We’re pretty much strapped for cash with the daycare and diapers costs so the concerts or games we attend are few and far between. And I have a routine – once the baby is in bed I start to do laundry, wash dishes or pack lunches.  Or if I’m lucky, I get to read a little bit while my husband goes to bed around 9pm because he has to get up at 5am at least 3 times a week.

So you’re probably wondering how my husband and I spend time together. Honestly it’s hard, but we’re slowly learning how to work things in that are meaningful to us. We eat dinner together if he’s not working a closing shift. We have season tickets to my alma mater’s football team and while we’ll only get to go to two games this year we’ll be going alone without the baby. The other tickets we’ll sell on eBay to get back some of the costs (you’re probably wondering if we’re strapped for cash why we keep them – well one day our daughter will be older and we’ve had the seats for years, so it’s something we don’t want to give up in anticipation for the future). Some Sundays we’ll put the baby in the iBert and go for a bike ride as a family. We attend church together. And we’re both making an effort to be more patient and understanding with each other.

So yes it’s possible to get bits of quality time in. But don’t let the websites and books make you feel like you’re not a good wife or mother because you’re not going on a weekly date to your favorite restaurant or you’re not buying fancy negligees to parade in front of your husband. Do the best you can and make the moments count. One day the kids will be out of the house!

YANG:

Feed the baby, check. Change her diaper, check. Fold the laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer for several days now, check. Schedule quality time with hubby for tonight when we’ll we have an in-depth and tantalizing conversation over dinner, check.

Nothing spells fun like having to schedule “quality time” into an already hectic day. Spontaneity isn’t what it used to be, but this has to be done. And it actually works for us.

I mean really, in today’s hectic world, what has quality time become and what does it aim to be? The ideas Yin Mommy listed above are great and sound like a lot of fun, but in today’s hectic and budget-minded world, what’s truly realistic? Our personal ideas of quality time absolutely run the gamut from a fancy dinner date to playing archery on the Wii. And while we both agree it’s important to ourselves to spend time together sans the little one, more often than not going grocery shopping together counts as our quality time as does watching some television together once the baby is asleep.

I told my husband what this week’s theme is for our blog and jokingly he says, “Are you writing fiction?” Actually, I’m not but I can’t help but laugh at the truth in his comment. Finding time for your spouse once a baby, or two, or three, comes along is hard. And to be honest, it’s not a priority when there are diapers to change, messes to pick up after, food to be made, etc. Not to mention the exhaustion factor that anyone may be experiencing. But making time with, and for, your spouse should be a priority. After all, you’re close friends if not best friends with each other and you both need that 1-1 time without a little one demanding your attention.

As I sit here in our beach house, watching the waves lap against the dock, I’m thinking about this post. Right now, a doting grandparent (who’s vacationing with us) is watching the little one and my husband is reading about his football team’s stats. Surely you would think that we’d seize this chance to go for a walk or throw a line in the water to catch some fish. And we may just do that. But right now, our quality time consists of  us both sitting together at the same table, writing and reading while sharing coffee and our thoughts. Can’t beat that.

Tots and Tantrums

YANG:
“Can you believe that child,” I’ve said to many a friend. “And the mom. Surely she can control her child better! When I have kids, they’ll never behave like that.” That was something I’d say when in the ear-presence of a screaming child. My eyes would roll, my friend would nod in agreement, and we’d hustle to get out of ear shot as soon as we could. Both of us swearing that our children would never exhibit such behaviour.

Never say never, right? It’s funny how outlooks change once you have a child. As my daughter edges closer to the age of two and the “terrible twos,” I realize that I’m in store for some tantrums. Heck, she’s already thrown a few, including one in the  mall where she sat down on the floor, refusing to get up and cried her little heart out. When placed in her stroller, legs kicking of course, she continued to wail. Me, I figured that every other mom or dad in earshot would understand and perhaps feel empathy for my situation. But I knew all those without a little one would be staring at me, rolling their eyes and making snarky comments. All I could do was continue on and laugh quietly at my former self.

The tantrum didn’t last long and when she was done, we hugged and kissed.  After all, a tantrum is one of the few ways a young child expresses their frustration or anger with us until they know the words to do otherwise. They don’t love us any less, nor us them. So I don’t get mad when she gets mad. Rather, I take a deep breath (sometimes it’s a few deep breathes), then see what can ease her frustration, which can be anything from a hug, to a distraction, to letting her be and simply air her emotions.

Besides, I know that the tantrum stage will pass. Before I know it, there will be stomping of feet, arms crossing, a big pouty face and a door shutting loudly. Not slamming of course, not my child, ever. (Mom, stop laughing!)

YIN:
Temper tantrums stink. No ifs, ands, or buts. They’re just starting with my little one. Mostly so far they’re over food – when she’s hungry she wants to eat NOW. No matter that I have to actually mix the rice cereal.

I’ve been lucky that my child hasn’t had the meltdown in public. Yet. Oh I know its coming. It’s inevitable. But how I hope to handle it is to quietly remind her that she shouldn’t be screaming in public and to try to relax. Once that doesn’t work I plan on removing her from the situation, be it outside the store, to the car, etc.

Am I crazy enough to think that’s going to work all the time? No way. Kids get tired, hungry, angry, and frustrated just like the rest of us. But I know from experience that hearing your child scream and cry is one thing, because sometimes we can tune it out. Hearing someone else’s child scream and cry is a whole other story.

My place of employment is one where we get a lot of children. And what gets most of us isn’t the fact that the child is screaming. It’s that the parent is plainly blocking them out and isn’t trying to rectify the situation. I have tons of empathy for the mother who seems worn down and just can’t seem to take anymore. I have zero empathy for the mother who is talking on her cell phone while Johnny is standing in the aisle screaming “I want it, I want it, I want it!!”

Sometimes we push the kids to get all the errands in one shot and what they need is to nap or eat. That’s our fault as adults. We need to make time for the kids to be kids instead of running them all over the place. Some of my most relaxing times, believe it or not, are grocery shopping. That’s because I don’t take my daughter. Not only because I don’t want to deal with her grabbing things off the shelves but also because I know an hour in the shopping cart might just set her over the edge. I also try to time our play dates and other errands around her nap. Sure that means that sometimes I don’t leave the house until 2 hours after I planned on leaving but I also have a calmer, cheerier child. Which makes for a good day.