Living the single-mom life: Take Two

My husband is out-of-town all week for work.

Nearly three years ago, when I was still a newbie mom, I started a blog entry with that same sentence. I went on to relay the trials and tribulations I was experiencing living the “single-mom life” for a week. I lamented trying to feed the pets while balancing my daughter on my hip, fretting if she’d be OK while I ran outside for a minute to get the mail.

A reader named Lisa reamed me out in a comment on the blog. She said she was embarrassed for me that I found this week-long separation difficult.

Re-reading the blog today as a mother of two whose husband is again gone for a week, I’m a little embarrassed, too. I sounded whiny. My ”trials and tribulations” were barely inconveniences. But I know that every word I wrote then was true, and still would be for many other new moms in that situation.

I stand by New Mom Sherri’s feelings. She had a right to them. Still, I’m proud of Two-Time Mom Sherri, and how far she’s come.

This is the first time since our second child was born three months ago that my husband has been gone for a full week. Once again I’m feeding the pets with an infant on my hip, but with a preschool helper. I’m again running out to get the mail, but without the fretting. I knew to schedule a couple gym daycare appointments to give myself a break. I preplanned our meals to remove the dinnertime chaos. I miss my hubby, and will be glad when he gets home, but we’re managing all right.

I’m still in awe of single moms, and don’t know how they do it 24/7, but I’m more confident in my mothering.

I’d like to think Lisa would be proud, too. Or, at least, that she wouldn’t ream me out.

Parenting Perspectives: Can we ‘have it all’?

Here’s my Jan. 25 Parenting Perspectives column … You can chat about it on the Topics blog.

For most of my motherhood, I’ve worked part time. In many ways, the limited workweek has provided me the best of both worlds: Adult interaction, career fulfillment, contributions to the household income, and plenty of full days spent with my daughter.

But in some ways it’s the worst of both worlds as I allow myself to feel a constant tug between the two. I remember one warm Tuesday morning when I was jealously eyeing a mom pushing a stroller as I drove to the office. I wondered, “Why can’t that be me?” And then I remembered it was, the day before. But the day before, I was probably thinking about my to-do list at work.

I have a feeling this is something a lot of women struggle with, regardless of how many hours they punch in to a time clock. As a whole, my generation was raised with the belief that we can do it all. The women of previous generations paved the way to this mantra, breaking glass ceilings and taking their seats in the boardroom. While our gender no longer makes us question whether we can achieve our career goals, we’re now left with a new nagging doubt: At what cost?

“We’ve hit the new glass ceiling, one that keeps women who want a life outside of work from getting ahead and doesn’t allow women who are getting ahead to have a life outside the office,” wrote Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin in “Midlife Crisis at 30,” a book I read this summer as my big 3-0 rolled around. Women across the country are collectively but silently experiencing this individual identity crisis, Macko and Rubin say. Statistics show 75 percent of women ages 25 to 37 say their jobs interfere with their personal lives. Those who choose to focus on their families often deal with the guilt that they “should” be able to do it all. The authors say we need to redefine what “having it all” means.

I agree. I’ve come to believe we can’t do it all

From crazy in love to just plain crazy

Eve, 2, just spent three days at her Papa and Grandma Jane’s farm. I missed her like crazy.

Within two hours of her homecoming today, I really wondered why.

She hadn’t gotten much of a nap, so she was whiny and tempermental. She threw a couple fits and wouldn’t listen when I asked her to come to the dinner table. I suddenly longed for another child-free day.

My husband and I had made the most of our couple time. We went to a movie, watched a Twins game while sitting in the restaurant bar, and even slept in one day. I got a lot of work done. But the whole time, from the moment she got into Papa’s car, our hearts also ached. When I gave Eve a goodbye hug, she actually said, “You go home and cry now.” It was sooo funny, a from-the-mouths-of-babes quote. I have no idea where she came up with it, but it was pretty darn close to the truth.

We called her once each day she was gone. And oh, how my heart swelled when she reached out for me once she was back  home. She snuggled close and we giggled, both so happy to see each other. I asked her all about her time at the farm. She really liked my new fuzzy slippers.

That same afternoon, she threw her glasses across the room and told me to leave her alone.

How is it these little ones can stir so much love and so much frustration in us nearly simultaneously? How can I miss her like crazy one moment, and be driven crazy by her the next?

Nothing baffles me more than this parenting contracdiction.

Toddler glasses open mom’s eyes to parenting techniques

My Parenting Perspectives column for Dec. 1 …

It was the best news the ophthalmologist could have given us.

My husband and I knew our daughter’s crossed eyes weren’t perfectly straight six weeks after surgery. But little Eve wouldn’t need another operation, the doctor said. She just needed eyeglasses.

I was thrilled. Until I realized she was going to have to wear glasses.

And I was going to have to be the person to make sure she’d wear them.

My mother repeatedly wondered aloud how a toddler like Eve would ever keep glasses on. The first ophthalmologist we visited told us he wouldn’t put a child under age 2 into glasses for that reason.

But I knew this was the best option for her and the health of her eyes.

I was encouraged when we picked out the wire-rimmed frames that she didn’t immediately pull off. She giggled when she saw herself in the mirror.

After an adjustment to the nose pads, she’ll usually keep the specs on for several hours at a time. “Eve glasses,” she’ll say when she passes a reflective surface. They make her look so grown-up, like a mini-teenager, her day care provider said.

The problem is trying to put them on her once they’re off. She deflects my attempts with as much skill as Curly blocking Larry’s eye pokes in “The Three Stooges.”

This daily battle has forced me to fine-tune my parenting strategies, something I’m sure all moms and dads have to do as their toddlers become ever so independent.

I praise her for wearing them, clapping and cheering when she lets me put them on her without a fight. I tell her how important it is to wear her glasses. We talk about how Mommy and Daddy have glasses. And Uncle Carl and her friend Hayden and Papa and Grandma and anyone else I can think of. And I will give her a minute-long timeout when she continues to defy me.

But the best tactic has seemed to be simply explaining a new set of rules. She has to wear her glasses when we read a book. She has to put her glasses on before we watch a video. And, of course, glasses are required attire for drinking apple juice.

It’s worked well, though I do worry I’m tip-toeing awfully close to bribery, a parental no-no.

I’m not giving her apple juice for putting her glasses on. I’m saying she can’t have any until she wears them. But does she understand the difference? I’m not sure.

For now, I just have to hope she’s not learning to expect a reward for doing something that’s expected of her.

And I have to keep doing what’s expected of me: to be a loving mom, consistent in discipline and positive reinforcement, even if I don’t always know the best way to do that.

Eve’s glasses have brought another challenge into our home, as well. I never imagined how smudged or filthy they could get.

I asked the woman who adjusted the nose piece if she had any suggestions for keeping them clean.

She gave me four bottles of lens cleaner and wished me luck.

I guess the answers to parental dilemmas are never crystal clear.

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Sherri Richards is mother of a 20-month-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com

Mothers too often go on an unnecessary guilt trip

My latest Parenting Perspectives Column, from Aug. 11.

When women begin the journey into motherhood, we inevitably book a concurrent voyage: the guilt trip.

Mommy guilt is a special brand of self-reproach and a universal experience, evidenced by an abundance of books, blogs and articles offering tips to overcome it.

It’s the nagging feeling that clouds the work-life decisions we make, found in stay-at-home and working moms alike.

It’s the remorse we feel when we just don’t want to read “Goodnight Moon” for the 12th time or play Barbies for an hour, again.

And it’s the shame that comes from the faulty thinking that somehow we’re not enough – for our spouse, our child, our employer and everyone else who relies on us.

For me, it’s the emotion that pierces my heart when, despite my best intentions, harm comes to the child I’m charged to protect.

I feel it at bath time when soap slips into my daughter’s eyes. It hit hard when I helplessly watched her tumble down the stairs. It’s the wave that crashes down when, in some way, I feel I fail her.

The mommy guilt got me especially hard last week. I’ve written about my daughter’s crossed eyes, how I came to terms with my child’s imperfections and struggled to decide on the best treatment.

We’ve continued to visit the ophthalmologist after a corrective procedure in April, and have been delighted by improvements, until last Monday.

The doctor decided Eve has a congenital condition that caused her eyes to cross and still prevents her left eye from looking outward. It’s called Duane syndrome.

Crestfallen, I researched it online, and recognized its characteristics in my daughter. Then, I read about its causes.

It’s a birth defect. A nerve in her brain failed to develop around the sixth week of pregnancy. It could be hereditary, environmental or both.

My heart hurt. I wondered if something in my genetics is the root of her problems. Or, worse, if something I did a month before realizing I was pregnant caused this “mis-wiring” of her brain.

I wondered if I truly had made the best decision for treatment, given this new information. I beat myself up for not noticing this particular problem earlier.

Then, like I always try to do when I feel the weight of mommy guilt, I remembered the words a kind pediatrician told me several months ago.

We were at the walk-in clinic, having Eve’s ears looked at. I hadn’t realized she had an ear infection until my own ears started to ache.

Tearing up, I asked him how bad it was, how much damage I had caused by not bringing her in sooner.

“Whoa,” he said. “Unpack your suitcase.”

He didn’t want me to go on that guilt trip. It’s difficult enough being a mother without all that baggage.

She was fine then. And she will be fine now because I have the best intentions for her well-being.

Now I just need to read some of those books, blogs and articles to figure out how to change my guilt trip itinerary, and check that suitcase once and for all.

Sherri Richards is mother of a 17-month-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com

Confessions of a First-Time Mom

Sometimes I give my daughter her pacifier off the floor without washing it first.

I worry that I don’t bathe her thoroughly enough and one day I’ll find a patch of skin that has never been washed.

I agonize over which orange vegetable to serve her for lunch.

I let her chew on the corner of the area rug.

I forget to give her her vitamins almost every day.

I think she’s cuter than any other baby I know.

I’m glad she says “mamamamama” more than she says “dadadadada” even if she doesn’t know what it means.

I live for her smile.

I didn’t know I could love her this much.