Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Economics of Motherhood

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Before we get too far here, there’s something you must know about me (if you don’t already). I’m a total nerd. I graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and I wrote my Grad School thesis on Securities Fraud. I work in the compliance department….at a life insurance company. I look forward to my morning Ignites e-mail. Nerd, Nerd, NERD.

Okay, now that we’ve got that straight, it’ll make more sense that I want to talk Economics. Specifically, “The Law of Diminishing Returns”.  Basically, it means that at a certain point, if you keep doing more and more of one thing, what you actually get back in return will decrease and have less, if no benefit at all. One thing my nerd-self loves is that economics can be applied to almost all real-life examples:

  • In college, the last drink of the night that you open and don’t really need(…or in rare moments when you’re in your upper 20’s and you for a night ACT like you’re in college, not that I would know…).
  • The second piece of cheesecake.
  • Listening to so many other people’s opinions that you begin to forget you have your own brain.
  • Taking care of others first to the point that you forget to care about yourself.

I’m going to focus on the last point (although if any of you want to come hang out and try #2 with me, I’m game).

I have two distinct versions of myself lately. There’s the version that exists in my head –  the me that walks out the door and heads to work, dressed nice, sipping coffee, breezily heading to my cubicle and putting in a solid day’s work. I return home to my clean house, with my smiling baby, and with him in one arm, cook a delicious meal that magically appears on the table as Papa D walks in the door at night.

Then, I catch a glimpse of my real self in the mirror, and notice I forgot to put on mascara, I thought I was wearing black pants but they’re brown, and subsequently my black shoes look ridiculous. There are circles under my eyes and a stray gray hair that has found its way out of my dark brown hair…looking somewhat like a big ol’ middle finger to my rapidly diminishing youth.

I head back to work and find myself wanting to bang my head on my desk out of sheer exhaustion with the structure, schedule, getting a case off of my desk only to find 2 new ones waiting for me. I get up in the middle of the night to take chicken out of the freezer because I forgot to do it the night before, and I want to make dinner the next day that’s not frozen in the center. I go back to bed only to realize that I forgot to make Baby D’s bottles for the next day, so I get up again. By the time I lay back down, I fall asleep long enough to dream that it’s the weekend, and my alarm clock quickly makes me realize it’s not. Interestingly enough, the “law of diminishing returns” is also referred to as “arrested progress”. Imagine that.

Question: How do you learn to love and not lose yourself?

Answer: I don’t know. At least not yet. But, in true nerd fashion, I have been trying to think in terms of my other favorite economic principal – opportunity cost.

  • Is it worth it for me to forego an extra half hour of sleep at night to sit up and have a glass of wine with my husband? Yes.
  • Is it worth it for me to let the laundry go for another day so I can spend time snuggling with my little baby? Absolutely.
  • Is it worth it for me to take some time away and spend money to go get my hair done? No. It should be….but I’m a work in progress.

I know that the measure of a woman is not what she wears, how she looks, how clean her house is, or how much shit she can clear off of her to-do list. But honestly, I’m struggling with the fact that for once I have no answers – that this is something that can’t be found by using equations or graphs.

So mamas, how do you do it? How do you find your equilibrium?

Rabenmutter

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I read an interesting article the other day (it’s posted below, in case you’re looking for a good read). Basically, it’s an interview with a 67 year old woman, Elisabeth Badinter – one of the richest women in France. She’s the author of a book called Le Conflit: La Femme et La Mère (in English, The Conflict: The Woman and the Mother).  In the book, she talks about the constant state of guilt that modern mothers are in, all over the world. “Guilt about breastfeeding, about smoking, drinking, working, child care; about not doing ‘the best for your child’.”

Her thoughts are nothing that we don’t already know. That the world today is not conducive to becoming your own kind of mother. That ideally, you should be a perfect mother, or not be a mother at all. One thing that stood out to me in her article, though, is her discussion about working moms. In Germany, they actually use the term  “Rabenmutter”, translated to “Raven Mother”, implying a working woman is like a raven, a bird that doesn’t care for her babies.

I flew the nest yesterday.

Baby D woke up for his middle of the night feeding and was stuffed up and coughing. He was acting fine, smiling, eating, and not feverish, but that little cough sent pangs through my heart. I knew that he was okay, but what if he got worse? We are extremely fortunate to have him at someone’s home all day, with someone we consider an extension of our family. I knew he’d be in good hands, and I knew she’d call me if he was really sick, but why did I feel so terrible all of a sudden? I put him back down to sleep and laid back down in bed staring at the monitor. I could hear him sniffling and snorting. The alarm went off 5 minutes later, and I got out of bed, turned on the coffee, and started the shower. But I couldn’t get in. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “You’re a Rabenmutter. Sure, he’s ‘fine’, but he needs nose drops, boogie vacuums, and extra cuddles today. And that’s YOUR job. You’re his mother. You should be here for him”.  Then another voice chimed in. “You can’t stay home, you have a big meeting today. There are people counting on you. If you stay home, will they think less of you as an employee? You need your job, you know. You only have 10 unscheduled days left for the year. Is he sick enough for you to use one?”

And at that time, the answer was no. No, he wasn’t sick enough for me to use one. But I wanted to. I suddenly wanted to have an unlimited amount of days to use for sniffles. I grudgingly put on my work clothes and makeup, grabbed my coat, and threw my heels and (closed, or so I thought) coffee mug in my bag.  Then, I left him with Papa D – my little sniffley man still sleeping in his crib. I cried the first 5 minutes of the drive to work. Not because I couldn’t stay home today, but because it suddenly hit me that this is my life now. I  already missed him roll over, there will never be enough cuddles, and sometimes I won’t be there to suck out his boogies. I might even miss his first word or steps.  That Elisabeth was right – I will live in a state of constant conflict as a woman, as a mother.  A woman, who used to only cry at weddings or funerals (okay, and Forrest Gump), is a blubbering mess because of….the sniffles?

After getting to work and finding out that my important meeting had been cancelled and realizing I flooded my heels with coffee, I thought about the raven. I sat barefoot at my desk and started googling. I wanted to know why they didn’t care for their babies. And then something happened…all the information I found said Ravens are ruthless when defending their young. They’re quite attentive. That they’ve even been observed dropping rocks on potential predators that come too close to their nest. So either there are some twisted ravens in Germany, or maybe terms like “Rabenmutter” are just another source of fueling the mommy-guilt. Or maybe, I really am a Rabenmutter. Because even though I’m not home for every sniffle, tear, or smile, I am still doing what’s best for him and for our family. I’ll still jump out of bed in the middle of the night without flinching when he needs me even though I’m up at the crack of dawn – and you can bet that if any predators get near him, they’ll get worse than falling rocks.

It’s just that sometimes, for some families, really doing “the best for our child” means having to leave the nest.

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/life-style/nutrition-and-wellbeing/the-child-king-20120130-1qoqf.html?rand=1328051655308

Learning to Fly…

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I meant to do this a long time ago.  You see, when my husband and I decided to have a baby, I had no idea what kind of world I was walking into. A world that on the inside of my home feels warm and wonderful, better than any sun-washed lounger on the beach, more satisfying than any satisfaction I’ve ever had. Outside of our home, this new world is scary, guilt-ridden, intense, and exhausting. It’s like constantly trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, hoping and praying that some day it will just click.

To explain, I need to back up a little. Back up to the very beginning, even. I was adopted at the age of 3 months by two people that deserved to be parents but couldn’t make it happen the “natural” way.  They became parents by the grace of God and a birthmother that could, and did, just too early in life. I had a great only-child-childhood, and despite being labeled by society as supposedly spoiled and lonely, I escaped relatively unaffected. Stereotypes aside, I grew up independent and happy, intelligent and laid-back. I’ve got my faults, like any others, judging by the fact that I’m told I’m “feisty”  by those that love me (or just have to work with me), and “stubborn” by the one man that loves me most and knows me best.

Because of this, I never had the attachment to being pregnant that my friends did. To me, giving birth didn’t automatically make you a mother. Being a mother was something you earned. Being a mother was teaching me to read, making French toast (with extra sugar on it), and putting soap in my mouth when I said the “mother of all curse words” at the bank when the gumball machine was empty.  Being a mother meant sleeping on the couch until I made it home at curfew, watching swim meets and softball games (even ones in different states), and reminding me to take an umbrella because there’s rain in the forecast…even when I’m 28.  

So why, then, when I was fortunate enough to become pregnant, did society pressure me to feel instant love for the tiny baby apple seed growing inside me? I mean after all, I hadn’t really done anything for him or her yet, other than eat pasta with parmesan cheese and lemonade for the first 8 weeks. To be honest, my husband and I called the baby Delroy before we knew the gender, at least when I wasn’t joking about him or her being a parasite…what kind of parents that love their child do that? I had a hard time pretending that I liked being pregnant and was met with many dropped jaws and eye rolls when I said I just wasn’t that in love yet, and pregnancy was creepy. Should I have lied? After all, we were being blessed with a gift that many people try for a long time for, some unsuccessfully. I had my own idea of motherhood, and because it didn’t match everyone elses, was it wrong? Was it wrong that I dragged my feet through all 40 weeks  and 3 days of pregnancy instead of dancing? That I didn’t even envision him to look like me, because no one in my life does? That really, I wanted him to just get here already so I could get on with becoming a mother to him? Would everyone feel differently if they knew my story?

That’s why I’m here. Because I know that somewhere out there, there’s someone else like me. There’s someone that feels pressured to conform to society’s idea of motherhood because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s easier. It started with pregnancy and it hasn’t ended. My little baby apple seed is now the size of a small dog and starting to roll over, and I swear all I did was blink. Yet somehow, many of the things that resonate with me from these first few months are the digs taken at new mothers, sometimes before their little loves are born, but even after. So if you don’t agree with what I write, that’s okay, because I’m not trying to change your mind. I know that your own journey is just as important and beautiful as mine.

To my sweet baby Delroy, your mama IS feisty, and a little stubborn, but she isn’t afraid to cut through the bullshit to make sure that she does the absolute best she can do for you…..the best she knows how. Because now that we’ve met, I love you a whole lot. So much it makes my heart feel like it might explode.

 But don’t you dare say bullshit, or you’ll get the soap.