Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mommy in the middle: The lost generation of mothers

I don't meet a lot of other moms in my demographic. Or, any, really. I seem to fall smack-dab in the middle, agewise, of everyone I know who has kids around my kid's age. It's either moms who conceived accidentally when they were still practically kids themselves, or the women who wait until the 401k is secure and the mortgage is stable before charting their ovulation calendars and getting pregnant in the oh-so-in-vogue 28-30 age range. I belong to neither of those groups. I had my son at age 24, after three years of marriage to my best friend. (And I'm not calling my husband my "best friend" in some sort of cheesy way. I mean the guy with whom I still stay up late to watch cartoons, drink beer and eat pizza, and play DDR with, just like we did in college. One of the few people who curses at the tv as much as I do watching sports, and who possesses an even greater love than mine for SNL digital shorts. THAT husband/best friend.)

So, I got a little off-track there. But, yeah, I don't know many moms my age. That's not all so bad though. I tend to get along better with people a little older than me. I've even made some mom-friends at church through "Mommy's Morning Out", and bible studies, and prayer groups and things. But there's still another glaring difference: I work. And not just some little admin job a few days a week to help pay the bills, or substitute teaching. I'm the breadwinner. I have a career, and no intention of leaving it, even if I financially could. In fact, if we could afford, my husband would be a stay-at-home-dad. As much as I love my little monster, the idea of being home every day changing diapers and making snacks, singing along with "Yo Gabba Gabba" (though it is really awesome, for a kid's show), is almost physically painful for me. I only took 3 weeks of maternity leave when my little man was born, and by the end of it I was craving adult interaction so badly, I'm surprised I didn't resort to drastic measure, like ChatRoulette. So, the acronym SAHM does not, and will never, describe me.

And let's not even get into parenting style. Every blog I've ever found on the subject seems so absolute, and divisive. Attachment parenting is well in theory, for example, but I was one of those sad women who simply could not breastfeed (though I did pump for a time), which automatically excludes me from that cool kids' club. Nevermind that my son's health improved on formula, that I struggled through three very painful surgeries by the time he was 8 months old, that he was a month early and suffering from jaundice and a heart murmur. By virtue of subjecting my precious angel to that evil powdered poison, I can't wear the "breast is best" badge.

That, and my kid eats junk food sometimes. (He's a year-and-a-half now.) And he watches a bit of t.v. Actually, he even has been to the movies a few times. (Little guy really loved "Avatar" when it came out. I think he was about a year then?) So, no, I can't hang out with the cool, organic-only, Baby Einstein moms.

On the flip side, I definitely do not fall into the old-school style of parenting theory. Ferberizing, or whatever it's called? Letting the baby cry himself to sleep? Sounds like torture, if not to him, then to me. My son got moved to his own room at 6 months. Prior to that, he slept in a pack-and-play in our room or, if he was having a rough night, he co-slept, in a family bed. (We took every safety precaution required.) Again, for the majority of this time, I was either about to go into, or recovering from, abdominal surgery, so walking downstairs to his room multiple times a night was not going to cut it. If all three of us slept better together, then that's what we did.

And as far as keeping him on a schedule? Forget it. Until just a few months ago, I was working a job that didn't have regular hours, so a very lassez-faire approach was required. And you know what's awesome about that? It gave me a very lassez-faire baby. I can take little man in public, to the movies (as I've mentioned), even once an entire day at the zoo, and I don't have to worry about him having the toddler equivalent of a panic attack because snack or nap isn't occuring at the exact time to which he's become accustomed. So, I think that's pretty cool. And speaking of scheduling, let me get to my final, surely controversial point...

DAYCARE IS AWESOME. Yes, I am one of those self-centered, heartless working women who abandons my precious infant to the vile hands of underpaid workers who couldn't care less about him...Wait, what? Oh, actually, that's not true at all. My son goes to the most amazing church-run daycare/preschool where he's in a very small (5) class with the same teacher all-day, everyday. (Unless she's sick, but I'll cut her some slack there.) As for being underpaid and barely speaking English, the lovely Mrs. B is a very educated woman and well-compensated woman who works teaching preschoolers because she adores children, and the sweet little kids in that class adore her right back. And as far as his development suffering from my heartless abandonment of him? He's flourishing. His preschool does music class, arts and crafts, Bible stories, playground time (every day), etc. His speech and word-recognition have shot through the roof since enrolling, and his social skills are incredible. (How many toddlers actually like to share?) Hubby and I have agreed that even if we won the lottery and never had to work another day in our lives (though we still totally would), we would keep our little man in preschool, at his same preschool.

So, to sum it all up, if I had to describe my parenting style in one word, it would be: sane.

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