Saturday, February 26, 2011

What they don't tell you in prenantal class

There are a million things people don't talk about when having children. Your deliveries will be beautiful, your birthplan will be adhered to, you'll spend your babymoon nursing in a sunlit room garbed in white, your baby will make your family complete and you'll all live happily ever after.

What they don't say is that you'll likely poop yourself during delivery, your birthplan may be radically altered in a blink of an eye, your babymoon will be filled with delirious highs and crushing lows due to sleep deprivation and your partner and you? Your marriage is likely going to be REALLY tested by this little new arrival.

That is the thing they don't talk about, but they really need to. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to moms who were at their wits end with their partner. Their partner having emotionally distanced themselves, burying themselves in work, games, hobbies or even less healthy activities. I'm not going to be inclusive and talk about partners in terms of men and speak from the womens point of view, because it's really the only one I know. It's like the guys see this new responsibility, which is going to tie your life down considerably and they panic.

I've known women with husbands who've cheated during their pregnancy, post partum, husbands who work like maniacs, get involved with online gaming, pick up several new hobbies, turn into grumpy emotional messes. I've known women who scratching their heads, women who would pin part of their PPD in part to their hubbies wigging out, women teetering on a knifes edge about whether they were going to leave their marriage.

Pregnancy is hard, post partum is brutal, nothing can quite prepare you for the toll it takes. In Canada, most women take the first year off work for maternity leave (yes, envy us Canadians) more often than not, mom stays home as we're the ones with the milk. So in addition to no sleep, wild hormonal swings, a mega dependent baby, we have a partner going through an identity crisis, but we seldom address the mom's needs beyond good nutrition, good lactation support, good post partum support and really, even that support is a joke.

And on the other side of that, what about our loss of identity? Our loss of independence. I've been childfree three times this week. Once for a meeting at church, once for an appointment and once to go grocery shopping. Maybe for a total of 6 hours, out of 168. And I don't count shopping or medical appointments, so 2 hours. I had to threaten to put my head through a badminton racket if I didn't get 20 minutes to write this blog post. I've purchased food, supplies, clothes, underwear, furniture with baby in tow. If I want to take a class, go to the doctor, or do anything for further health or mental development, I have schedule babysitters, drivers, schools and pray that no one gets sick,. My life is no longer my own, it's dictated by the needs of three children and as a SAHM, the buck stops here. If my child is sick, my plans are cancelled. Period! It doesn't matter if I have a date with the Queen, that's how it is, and it's not unique to me.

Our independence and identity has been changed to the nth degree. We are forced to sit still and just be. After being programmed for 30 or so years that we're nothing if we're not out making money or out changing the world, we struggle with the slower pace of life. We're not being the movers and shakers we were pre kids, so needless to say, it's a pretty big adjustment. And while moms do go off the rails, biology is a strong pull to keep us near our babes and exhaustion takes care of the rest and so that offers little opportunity to do much else than shutting down emotionally or being crabs.

So we might feel a little resentful when our significant others go squirrelly at the shock of their new identities when we are struggling with ours. I mean, a big part of me is like WTF? You get to PEE ALONE!!! You get to go to work! You get to have lunch! With people! And have a conversation! You don't have to go food shopping, or buy toilet paper, or clean the house 40 times a day or change 70 diapers a day! So in my less charitable moments, I'm not even the slightest bit inclined to see the other POV and to be honest, I still don't fully understand it, three kids later.

Is there a happy medium? I imagine there is, but I think it's a learning curve. I wish I could say I've figured it out, but three kids in, I haven't. I think time, patience, and understanding for how we're coping is needed. I think sensitivity in how we cope and how it affects our husband/wife is vital. If your inclination is to go to the computer after a hard day, do so after the kids are in bed. Stay up as much as you want, but be prepared kids wake up early and often and you'll have to be game ready. Going out drinking every week and coming home smashed...probably not a great coping mechanism. We need to cope, but we need to cope responsibly!

The marriage is going through a major change and the urge to escape the pressures is only natural, but how, and when and why we do it is key to determining whether this will make or break your marriage. I think even though our reserves are low, we need to dig down deep and pour in extra energy to make things a little more bearable for our partner, within reason of course.

We also need to identify our needs and get them addressed. Whether its swapping some babysitting, hiring someone, getting housecleaning, getting non work/baby time ALONE with some friends or not. We need to figure out our emotional needs, like touching, thoughtful gestures, space and we need to get them addressed. As emotional partners, we need to be prepared to meet our others emotional needs as well. (BTW, this is going for men as well as women, don't think for a minute I'm letting them off the hook).

Really, I think more time and study needs to be given to helping couples get through that first year or two. It's a major shock to the person, let alone the relationship and no one talks about it. It's like a shameful little secret, but the more and more I hear about it, the more I believe it's common, even normal, however it needs to be managed so that the marriage isn't staggering along, but rather evolved into something different, but better and stronger.

Sometimes I waver in what to do with my next life (post SAHM) and given that I've just spewed a bucketload of thoughts on this subject, sometimes family counselling doesn't seem like such an out of place idea. ;) Anyhow, my 20 minutes are up, I have two kids 3 and under melting down, I have laundry, shopping and a house to clean, before 2pm. So I best put away my superblogger cape and get back to my ordinary mom identity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Interracial kids

I'm getting ranty, so grab a drink and hold on to your butts.

One of my friends over three years ago when we were pregnant asked to meet me at a Chapters. It was actually the first time we've ever met in person. She is a white woman who was trying to prepare herself for having an interracial child. I was impressed at someone taking this role so seriously, because I see so many parents just go into it willy nilly without much thought about their children and how they will be viewed as a brown skinned person in this world. They don't take into account the needs of the child, which is one of the things on my 3000000 mile long list of stuff that irks me. I can't claim I know what the experience of a white woman raising an interracial child, but I can certainly comment on what I as an interracial person think that interracial children need. And since my word is gospel, you know I'm right. :)

I see and get comments like how beautiful we are, what a wonderful sign of racial harmony, it's so wonderful that people are having interracial children, one day it will all be interracial people and we'll all be brown in an ebony and ivory song and doves will coo, bunnies will hop and unicorns will return singing My Little Pony songs. Blah blah blah blah blah! Really? While I agree that interracial people are a cut above and more beautiful than anyone else on the planet in my own unbiased opinion, these words are superficial labels spoken by people who clearly haven't put a lot of thought into this. And the scary thing is, half of these types of comments come from the parents of such kids. Now mind you, I am only one person and it's only my opinion, but us interracial folks tend to be able to launch into discussion about identity fairly easily because it isn't always fairy kisses and cuddles to be interracial and often the only people who understand that is us.

A lot of us struggle with identity. Like it or not, despite the coming together of two people cross race and culture, the rest of the world, still very much binary. Racism? Alive and well. Yes! In Canada! Really really! The other side of that of course is that a lot of people of colour are not all too eager to espouse the values or culture that still has a lot of racists. (Now, I swear to God, if anyone comments complaining about reverse racism, I will scream. Because that is NOT the point of this post). So a lot of us are caught in the crossfire and we're fair game. If I were to talk about my Irish heritage white people look at me funny (despite the fact that of all my heritage, white is the largest percentage). If I talk about my black heritage, black people look at me funny. My native heritage, well, I don't even bother. I'm not unique, many of us struggle to find a place to belong and it's only an experience of half belonging for the most part. We're often forced to make a decision as to which part of us to ditch to fit into either crowd. I do it all the time. If I talk about racism with my white friends, most of them do that polite Canadian "Oh shit! Smile and change the subject!!!!" If I am ignorant about various topics (nothing Earth shattering in case you're wondering) with my black friends, I get the stink eye. I don't pass anywhere, but I often pass everywhere. Any given culture/race/nationality where its feasible for someone to have my complexion, people have asked if I belong.

My mother certainly never kept me from discovering about my heritage, but it wasn't an ongoing or active topic of discussion. My dad insisted that I was black and that was the end of that. That left me confused as Hell for years. My hair, oh good grief, I know this is a superficial topic, but it's something many of us interracial kids have a big beef with. Parents with straight hair, if your kid has any chance of having curly hair, learn how to work with it! Go to a salon, online, one of your friends, a lot of parents of my day had a pass since no one really knew how to deal with curls properly, but there is no excuse now! But it's little things like that, the ignorance of how to deal with your kid's hair can leave your kid feeling like a freak of nature because their hair is so messed up, since mom/dad can't deal with it. I was genuinely shocked when I first went to Jonathan Torch and he exclaimed how healthy my hair was. I had thought of it as a wreck, but evidently not. Where you live, your friends, your family associations, how much you embrace different cultures, all impact on a child who has to straddle two races, two cultures. I can't tell you how many people I see who haven't even begun to do any bit of research on the culture/race their child will be of. They stick to platitudes, thinking that so long as they love the child enough things will be okay. And on many levels it will. But being loved and feeling understood, feeling that they have someone safe and educated to rely on to discuss experiences good and bad, research, knowledge are two different things. Personally I think parents should strive for both and not just simply rely on the easy route.

So, it's a pretty hard position to understand, but it's an important one to try and gain some level especially if it involves your children and it's absolutely worth the effort. So instead of using the cliches and assuring your children how beautiful they are the next time they come home upset because they're the only brown kid with curly hair on the playground, learn how to deal with the bigotry, teach them, validate their feelings, educate them, expose them to children and places where they won't be teased, and get out of your safe place, so you can create one for your child.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Single mindedness

If only our world leaders had the same determination to make the world a better place, we'd be living in Nirvana right now.

Dearest: Okay! Time for bed.

Ninja: I want a bath.

Dearest: Not tonight, tomorrow.

Ninja: I want a bath.

Dearest: No, it's bedtime now.

Ninja: I'll only go to bed if I have a bath.

Dearest: This isn't a negotiation, you're going to bed now.

Ninja: I'm only going to bed if I have a bath.

Dearest: Let me tell you. If you don't go to bed, there will be no baths for 400 years. There will be no TV for 400 years. I will dig a hole in the backyard 900 feet deep and bury the TV. There will be no computers. I will take them and strap them to a spaceship and fire them out to space. The iPads and iPhone (Joy butting in here, *my* iPhone), I'll tie to a whale and have them dive to the deepest parts of the ocean. I will take all the chocolate and peanut butter in the world have hire 900 elephants eat it all, so there will be nothing tasty left to eat and that's all going to happen if you don't go to bed.

Ninja: I want a bath!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Musical Instruments or Weapons of Mass Destruction

Today my boys came running up to me wearing their sweetest grins and brightest eyes. I knew immediately. They wanted something. God love them, they've learned early how to try and con their mother. They wanted to bring their new special musical instruments to class to show. The school has a policy about children not bringing their toys in, but as my eldest reasoned, "It's not a toy, it's a didgeridoo" (yes, I had to look up the spelling on that.) Well its not technically a didgeridoo. It started with us going to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington last week. Which is something I really recommend if you're in the area with kids, we did end up having a great time. They have this exhibit on music and natural sounds, and their craft of the day was to have kids make didgeridoos. Great idea right?

Well, on the surface it seems so, you get to paint them, add strips of construction paper, tie strings and beads to them and then try to mimic the sound. How? I have no ideal, but in my guys approximation, it's by putting the instrument to their mouths and making the loudest most growly sound a 3 and 5 year old can muster. Really great thing to wake up to from a sound sleep at 3am. I'm proud that my heart is still beating after that. Anyhow, the instrument itself is a very long, very sturdy, industrial strength cardboard roll, like you'd find in a roll of toilet paper or paper towel, except it's about 10 times as strong and long for that matter.

So after running around playing their didgeridoos, they got bored of playing their songs, so started imagining that they were in the outback communing with Australian wildlife. They decided that they were good walking sticks, so they started hiking around the house with them. Okaaaay, no biggie. Then they decided they were hockey sticks, so I reasoned with them that they had to keep them on the ground. Then stupidly, so very stupidly, I went and did my own thing. I mean, did I really have to take care of the laundry? Or cook dinner? Or deal with the baby? Because as important as those things sound, it was not worth the wrath that came from the didgeridoos. I'm sure you all know where I'm going with this. The boys decided that they were knights, at first they were swinging and thrusting at imaginary dragons and bad guys. I'm a little hard of hearing, so if I'm folding clothes in the laundry room with the machines running, I'm not necessarily hearing the sounds of two big chunks of cardboard hitting each other, or my kids. But I sure as heck did hear it when they decided to wipe out half the contents of the table with those wonderful instruments. Then as they proceeded to blame each other, one of my charming darlings takes a swing at his brother and takes off like a bat out of Hell. His brother in hot pursuit, trying to clock him with his didgeridoo, landing a few strikes, which has his brother squealing in outrage, me yelling at them and the baby at this point decided to add to the madness by crying (yes, he does cry!).  I'm not sure whether he is scared at the mayhem that has broken out, or if he was upset that he wanted to join in. I'm suspecting the latter, he is another boy after all.

So eventually I catch the boys, when the chase turned out into an all out bloody war of cardboard didgeridoos, my 3 and 5 year suddenly possessed by Samurai warriors, screaming and wielding their katanas. I take away their weapons of mass destruction. Needless to say there was much protest and crying. I might have uttered something under my breath about burning them. I make them clean up the former contents of the table.

So back to today, they want to take their didgeridoos into class to show their friends. In the end in a stroke of brilliance I let them. They march proudly up to school and show them off to their preschool teacher who admires them in only a way a preschool teacher can. They show them off to their friends and a dad comments on what a great idea they are. Yeah, to a DAD! When I retrieved them at the end of the day, I noticed the didgeridoos parked behind the chest where the umbrellas are. The teacher who gets them ready is very sweet, but has no bones in telling you what did not go right that day. In only the way a preschool teacher can without making you feel like the worst parent in the world said, "Yes, those need to go home, today!" As I removed them from their parking spot, every kid in the room swarmed me, wanting to see the "lightsabre", "sword", "stick" Not a one was interested in the didgeridoo. So yes, in closing, I really should have known not to take weapons of mass destruction to school, but they conned me. In other news, I spent half the day with my shirt on inside out, maybe it wasn't the brightest day of my life.


This is the beautiful magic that can happen, when I get 1/2 hour to myself and my two helpers. 
"S'more bar" recipe courtesy of Crepes of Wrath.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Suffering in Silence

I had a very long week. It was full of great highs and really crummy lows, but upon reflecting, a few incidents have got me thinking (Everyone step back!). I've had a lot of pain that I've endured alone. I've carried the load by myself for a huge chunk of time and kept my cards close to myself. I've opened up about a few issues, but for the most part, what's going on in my life, stays inside the vault that is Joy. I know it's hard to believe with my glurging here every few days, but you're going to have to take my word on it.

A few months ago, I opened up about my PPD. I thought long and hard about it. I worried if people were going to see me as a basket case, if they were going to get sick of me, if they were going to treat me differently, if they thought I wouldn't be the same person. But I found that writing about it was therapeutic, to actually admit that I'm not alright and I might need some help and TLC was a relief.

Growing up, I learned very quickly from my dad and my peers to keep my problems to myself. Crying was a sign of weakness and not to be sensitive. I am a sensitive person, much as I like to try and hide that, it comes out. I'll say I'm one of those sensitive creative temperamental types because I'm so brilliant at blogging, or not...probably not. Anyhow. If I cried, I was ridiculed, people treated me like a freak because I was sensitive, or because I fell or my feelings were hurt. So by the time I was in grade 8, I hadn't grown a thick skin, but I had learned like crazy how to hide my emotions. I became really good at it. At the high point, I could easily claim that outside of a soppy movie, I hadn't cried in a year. I'm still good at it.

Anyhow, long story short, I was good at hiding things that were painful to me. I'd just suck it up and try to move on, storing it away and never really dealing with it. So thinking about this this week, I was wondering if I was just insanely fucked up, or if I was destined for eventually snapping and going Incredible Hulk on a train station or something. But no, I'm not. I can't tell you how many times, I've talked to women about my problems and they said something like "Oh yeah, I've soooo been there, I was ready to fling myself off a bridge". I then think to myself "Waitaminute! These are my friends, I could have hugged them! And I'm just finding out about this NOW?"

Now I'm not advocating that we start spilling all of our painful memories or secrets for the sake of that, and indeed if you want to keep it to yourself because it's just too private and too raw to share, please do. But ladies, if you're hurting and you need a friend and you have them, you need to call on them. It's scary taking that plunge about whether to tell your friends, or your blog about a big issue affecting your life. Some folks aren't good at supporting, some will freak out, some will start crying, some will treat you badly, some even though well intentioned might just make a mistake in their support. 

So many of these women are moms. What do we moms hope for when our children are feeling scared, hurt, lost, confused, sad, angry? That they'll come talk to us. And of course as teenagers they never do, maybe that says something about our society, maybe we don't talk enough. Rambling on, I think society as a whole respects strength and power. I admire all my friends who have their shit together, but why can't I consider vulnerability or the strength to be vulnerable to be something to respect. There has to be a place for both.

I have good friends, they might muck up, they might piss me off, but when I think of those who have pushed up their sleeves and hauled my crying butt off the ground (figuratively, although someone correct me if it literally happened, it very well could have!) it makes me so glad to have opened up. Those wonderful positive moments of friendships are something to be treasured, but so are those moments when you're down and you see who comes kicking down the door to try and help.

So all you wonderful Mamas and women out there...and men too, in fact especially men (I just don't know if dudes actually read my blog), if you're suffering in silence and you have people you can rely on to help, consider opening up. Consider getting a therapist, talking to your doctor or family or friends. It's scary to take down those walls and I can't promise that it's all going to be rainbow unicorn farts and roses, but you might be surprised at the treasures you will find.