Monday, July 27, 2015

Extract Foot, Insert Humble Pie

This has been a long time coming.

I grew up with two parents who worked* and whether intentionally or not, they instilled in me a disdain for mothers who opted to stay at home.  When I was younger, I would use derogatory terms for them, like Suzy Homemaker and swear I'd never be one. I needed more from my life.

When my sister had her first, and became a stay at home mom, I was shocked by how messy her house always was, how she could spend days playing video games instead of doing fun activities with her daughter, how sometimes dinner didn't get on the table until 8:00pm.  Taking care of her house and child was all she had to do, after all.

Frankly, I didn't know what the fuck I was talking about - and neither does anyone else who's never been a stay at home parent.

It's hard to put into words the sheer emotional drain that's caused by being needed every second of every day, of waking up one morning and realizing that you're actually looking forward to taking a poo that afternoon, because it is the only time you'll get to yourself.  Of knowing that, no matter how drained you are, how little sleep you've had in the past week (or, let's be realistic, year), no matter how much you just want to curl into a ball and do nothing for, like, ten seconds, you need to buck up, suck it up and bring your A Game, Princess. Of knowing that this is your life, now and forever, no backsies.

Not that I want to take it back.  I love my son, and I'm so, so glad that I get to witness his milestones as they happen, and cherish those quiet moments that are completely insignificant to everyone outside of my family, rather than having them disappear into history unobserved.  Right now, my monster is asleep in my lap, 99% calm, 1% sensing my agitation, but comfortable, content, and loved.  My Dr. Pepper is getting flat and warm out of reach, and there's stuff I need to do around the house, but I'm the luckiest Mum alive, and I know it.

Today, Mr. Wolfman let me nap while he cleaned the kitchen.  A gold star moment, one would think. I got up and told him thank you for the glorious nap.  He told me he doesn't know what I'm doing all day, the baby was paying quietly and he managed to get the whole kitchen clean. He can't even understand where the mess on the counter came from**.  It felt like I got punched in the gut. May as well tattoo inadequate on my forehead right now.

Yes, I'm mad at him. Yes, I've told him.  But I can't work up the red hot ire that's become part of my day-to-day the past few months, for a couple of reasons. 1) I don't have the energy and 2) He doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. Oh, the baby was good for you for a whole hour and you got the kitchen clean? La-dee-frickin'-da. Now try not having a full night's sleep in over a year, spending months not being able to walk properly, give up half-your caloric intake to someone else and while you're at it, scrape some teeth across your tender nipples like ten times a day, and then clean the fucking kitchen.

Pity partying and ranting aside, it got me to thinking about how judgmental and ridiculous I was before having the monster and how completely ignorant I was about stay at home parenting. So I'd like to take a moment to sincerely apologize to every stay-at-home parent who I secretly judged, thinking that they had it easy, thinking that I had it harder as a working singleton.  Please forgive me; I knew not what I did.

Honestly, I feel like being a working parent would be easier in a lot of ways, but in no way can you quote me on that; I'm done with making assumptions and talking out my ass.

*My mom was and has always been a huge workaholic, my dad has always worked long shifts to make ends meet.

**Um, that would be from cooking pasta sauce from scratch at your request, only to have you order takeout, decide to eat it later, then not eat it later, as well as cooking a separate batch for the monster without salt or onions, only to have him throw it all over the floor the second it was placed in front of him, thankyouverymuch.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Special Snowflakes

You ever notice that people who accuse other parents of viewing their kids as special snowflakes when it comes to milestones are actually the most conceited, special snowflakers out there regarding their own kids?

I mean, they're basically saying, MY kid didn't do that at that age; there's no way yours did.  Like their kid is the benchmark of the-most-advanced-a-child-could-possibly-be-ever.

I've been accused of lying about the monster rolling over at 5 days old. Why would a person lie about something like that? Is there some status that comes along with having your kid roll over that young that I don't know about? Because honestly, it was a pain in the ass.  We had to stop using his swaddle blankets. He was too small for his sleep sack, so we had to keep the temperature in the house uncomfortably warm at night.  Yay for my special snowflake, right?

Or, and this one pisses me off to no end - when people say babies at 6/7 months old can't be saying Mum & Dad, they're just babbling and making sounds.  No.  Parents who take the time to get to know their babies know the difference.  So yeah, sometimes my monster babbled mumumumum, and sometimes, he clearly was referring to me. There is nothing wrong with a young baby who "just" babbles and there is nothing particularly impressive about the parents of one who says a couple of words.  But just because one baby only babbles, that doesn't mean all babies that age are only capable of babbling.

There are a few women on my birth board whose 10 month olds have been walking for a while, say more words than my monster, whatever.  I'll admit to feeling a... pang of something bordering on disappointment that my monster doesn't seem to be as hugely ahead of the curve as he was - but it wouldn't occur to me to accuse these women of lying about their babies.

Ok, that's my mini rant for today.  Not much else going on, except that I'm trying to put off housework.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure my snowflake can say his name.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Gender Marketing, Whee!

I recently started a Twitter account, and quickly started following @LetToysBeToys, which is a great campaign aimed at getting toy manufacturers to stop segregating the genders and make toys for kids as opposed to boys and girls.

We also recently found out some friends of ours are pregnant.  Don't know the gender, but I wanted to get knitting ASAP because I usually procrastinate, and then I agonized over whether I should go with gender neutral colours or wait until we find out.

It's got me to thinking, though, that the toy manufacturers aren't the problem.  At least they're not the whole problem, and I'm inclined to think that their part is smaller than we're often inclined to believe.

Maybe my perspective is coloured by the fact that we don't own a TV, so my family and I aren't bombarded with shows and marketing clearly aimed exclusively at boys or girls - maybe it's because, at 10 months, the little monster is too young to care who a toy is supposed to be for.  But this is what I think:

Toy (and movie and clothing and cereal and lunchbox) manufacturers are going to keep making things for boys and different things for girls.  Why? because it's in their best financial interest to convince us (and our children) that it's necessary to purchase multiple versions of essentially the same toy.  I don't think there are marketing teams sitting around saying "Let's do one in pink with flowers because we believe that girls are inherently pretty and delicate." They're saying, "Let's do one in pink and one in blue and people will feel compelled to buy both." Which isn't to say that gendered toys don't enforce stereotyping.  They do. But I think it's more a matter of toy companies using an outdated cultural narrative to their advantage than that they actually care about maintaining a dichotomy of gender on a societal scale.

But whether I'm right or wrong about their reasons, I'd say the chances of everyone realizing their mistakes and taking initiative to fix them are fairly low. It's up to parents to explain to our kids, in age appropriate terms, exactly how and why advertisers are trying to manipulate them, while at the same time letting them know that they can be whoever they are.

For example:

"Mum, that one's for girls."
"What makes you think it's for girls?"
"There box is pink and there's a girl on it."
"That's because the toy makers want to trick you into thinking is's just for girls."
"Because then people with a boy and a girl will feel like they have to buy two, so the toy company gets more money."

Depending on the age of this hypothetical child, I'd also ask why a pink box with girls on it means it's just for girls.  "That girl on the box has brown hair.  Does that mean it's only for brown-haired girls?"

I think a similar conversation would work fine for clothes.  Asking the kid questions like, what makes something for boys or for girls? Who decided what colours are for boys and girls? Also, referring to the boys' and girls' clothing section as "The kids' section".

Of course, my monster is still little, so none of this has come up for us yet.  He has a few "girl" things, a pink polka dot plush toy, a couple of butterfly toys, a pair of embroidered Capri pants*. As he gets older, he'll be allowed to play with and wear what he wants**. Right now, I dress him mostly in "boy" or gender neutral clothes because, while I really don't care whether strangers can easily identify his gender (which is the only real reason for gendered clothes, when you think about it), I'm trying to be careful not to make him into a walking(!) billboard for my philosophies and beliefs about gender politics.  So if I see an adorable dress, and think to myself that there's logically no reason why he can't have it, I ask myself if it would be for me or for him - and since he could happily leave the house naked and not care as long as it was warm enough, the answer is pretty clear.  That, and while I have free reign over his fashion choices, turning him into a little Dad clone is just too adorable to pass up.

What I'm getting at with all of this is, yes, absolutely keep hounding the toy companies to change their ways.  They will, if they get enough consumer pressure.  Actually financial pressure from consumers is likely the only thing that will make them change, so if you don't like the options a toy company is giving, don't settle, boycott.

But more than that, parents need to say fuck it and just buy our kids what they want regardless of which gender it's "supposed" to be for.  I think it's particularly incumbent on parents of boys to do this, because while it's now socially acceptable in many circles for girls to be tomboys (another useless label), boys who want to wear/play with/ do girl things are mocked, because our society still views boys and boy things as somehow better.

So this is getting long, and could easily get longer, but I think I'll call it a day for now.  I'll undoubtedly revisit this subject (over and over) as the monster gets older and has more exposure to advertising and the expectations of society.

*I actually nearly removed the candy embroidery from them, to, I don't know, de-girl them, until Mr. Wolfman asked me why, and then I realized that there was zero reason, other than that I've been brainwashed by society to think there's something wrong with my son having lollipops on his pants.

**Within reason; I'm not a huge fan of electronic toys and clothes that cost 10 x as much because they have a certain logo.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mr. Steps

So, the little monster has officially taken his first (proper) steps.  He can mostly walk across the living room now, which is amazing.  And, admittedly, terrifying.  He is growing up waaaay too fast, and it's kind of bumming be out.

I'm so excited for him to be walking and talking and everything, but I'm also wishing he could stay little just a little bit longer.  I imagine that all parents feel this way.

We've been trying to get a video to show the grandparents, but every time we get the camera out, he'd rather crawl.  Way of the world, I guess.

That's it for me for now.  I don't know if I mentioned in my last post that Crystal is away until August 4th. No idea what I'm going to do until then.  Nothing good on that front - PPD is eating my brain (there should be a PPRUA - postpartum raging un-explainable anger). Anyway.  Happy post.

Oh!  Also!  His first non-mum/dad word: Duh duh - which means Duck.

Monday, July 13, 2015

That about sums it up

So, I saw this yesterday evening, when I really needed to see it. It gives me hope, but it also drives home that I need help.  I can't get out of this on my own.

I don't believe I have chronic depression, but the way he describes the loud room, and all you can do is deal with how loud it is - that pretty much sums up how I've felt since getting back from the hospital. Actually, no.  How I've felt since my parents' visit.  I was tired as fuck, but I was coping pretty well before they came.*

There have definitely been moments of pure joy, but mostly I am just overwhelmed.  The monster is truly amazing, but I get hung up on his neediness and it's all I can do to just get through the day.

I don't know if I need medication, but I definitely need to go back to therapy.  I haven't been back since my last post - everything is just getting on top of me.  I was going to call today, and instead ended up scrubbing diarrhea out of my carpet.  So there's that.  Now I have to clean the kitchen and cook dinner and throw myself off the balcony.

OK, not that last part, but damn.  I need something.

Mr. Wolfman only has 1 more 16 hour day, then tomorrow is an 8 hour, then one day off.  But he's already said he's spending tomorrow afternoon sleeping, so I guess I don't get a break?

This was supposed to be a relatively upbeat post because of how much that video helped me last night, but now I'm just pissed off at the situation I'm in.  Mostly because I feel like I should just be able to snap out of it, but partially because I feel like I shouldn't have to.  I mean, if I had two jobs, but only needed one and Mr. Wolfman was telling me daily that he was struggling, not coping, drowning, needed help - I'd fucking quit one of my jobs. Or at the very least, call in sick for one day and try to work through it - or something.  I sure as shit wouldn't be signing up to take on extra hours in the fall.

I get that he just wants to provide for the family, and I get that with me not working, that must be a lot of stress on him.  But fuck.  I don't know how to get him to understand that I'm just not handling it well. I'm not cut out to be a stay at home mum generally and/or I have postpartum depression.  And, even though I know this likely isn't the case, I feel like a bath (alone, and without a crying baby on the other side of the door) and 8 hours of sleep could easily solve everything.

That's a pipe dream, of course.  It isn't going to happen.

Right.  Cooking and cleaning.  Time for myself is just a silly idea, and I should put it out of my head.

*Not saying my parents gave me PPD, but their visit was ill-timed and certainly didn't help matters. And I do think that all their baby-hogging and all of my Dad's weird, passive aggressive comments and shit did a number on my brain.