11.03.2010

Does This Motherhood Look Good On Me?

A few years ago, I wrote a story pitch to Mothering Magazine on how to stay connected to your child and continue attachment parenting when you work outside of the home. It was received positively, and I was encouraged to write and submit my piece. But I didn’t do it.

Within a month of my submission, I found out I was pregnant again. And then I had a miscarriage. And then I was pregnant again. And then my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And three years later, the piece still isn’t written.

A little while ago, I started thinking about it again, and about how my piece has changed since I first wrote the outline. The piece has changed because life has changed – I now have two children, not just one toddler; I have additional responsibilities outside of work hours and while my perspective and patience may have increased, the hours I have in a day certainly haven’t.

I thought I could write a piece on being a working attachment parent because I had one child, cared for at home by a nanny. My daughter’s days were simple and mainly dictated by a schedule that I had set in place, so staying involved and informed was not that difficult. I knew that the way we spent our hours together made up for the hours that we spent apart.

But now I have two children. One is in school and they are watched by a babysitter. We don’t have a nanny anymore, and the truth is, their days have little to do with a schedule that I have set for them. Staying on top of what happens during their day is macro-easy – I can ask the babysitter or the teacher how the day went and she will tell me, and if I have any concerns we will work them out. But on a micro level, I am often in the dark. My daughters now interact with many people during the day, and I miss out on the minutiae of their interactions. They have influences that range beyond their parents or nanny, and those influences spark ideas I am not always cool with. I am no longer their filter or their protector, in person or by proxy, during a large portion of the day.

And then I was reading a piece on Mothering.com yesterday, and I felt a little betrayed. And I felt like a fraud. How could I possibly be an attachment parent? How could I possibly be a nurturing parent? Yes, my children are vaccinated on a delayed schedule and almost always end up in my bed by morning. But for the first time, I felt like I could not possibly have a voice in that community. It was not a specific article that left me feeling hollow, just a sad realization all of a sudden, like, I don’t belong here.

We feel things that like throughout the evolution of our parenthood. We lose our place in the parenting continuum constantly, but it is always replaced by a spot, a belonging, elsewhere. Our infants gradually become toddlers; we trade commiseration over breastfeeding and cribs and diapers for commiseration over cooking and big girl beds and toilet training; our children enter school and we trade strollers for scooters. Every step of the way in parenting is an exchange of experiences.

But it’s like I have just walked into a store carrying a philosophy, the posted rules of which no longer feel comfortable; no longer fit and in fact, are beginning to cut off my circulation. And I can look around; I can scan the racks and the shelves and I can peer at the things that the other customers are putting on, but there doesn’t seem to be anything here for me.

I thought this was my favourite store, but this season, nothing here looks good on me. I’m getting the message that I should no longer be here. I’m beginning to feel bad here. I’m going to stop looking for things that suit me here.

Things change.

I no longer have only one child and control over her hours, just like I no longer have a nanny and I no longer spend money on diapers. Things change. Life changes.

I have two children now; two funny, happy, beautiful children. They still spend most of their day together, and they still want to sit on my lap at night while I read them stories and they still want to squish into bed with us and sleep with their tiny arms around my neck. And I still make the choices I do with them first and foremost in my mind, and I hope that they know that now and will understand it later and be kind to me in their teenage years.

I might not be the kind of mother I had hoped I was. I might not be the kind of mother I used to think I was. But I’m not worried that motherhood doesn’t look good on me; I’m just kind of sad that the store I used to shop in doesn’t seem to have anything that fits anymore.

So I guess it’s a good thing that I’m learning how to sew.

***

9 comments:

  1. I can so relate. Or, rather, I was in the exact same place as you when my two oldest (who are now 11 and almost-13) were little and I returned to work. Suddenly I no longer seemed to fit into the little AP cocoon I had built for myself. My parenting beliefs hadn't changed dramatically--I still breastfed and co-slept and homebirthed and all that stuff--but I had begun to change as a person. I became more accepting of other viewpoints, of other approaches. I was less hard on myself and began to see motherhood as a long process during which I would have lots of chances to get it right--not a checklist of things I had to adhere to in order to get it "right." I began to see labels and laundry lists as something that just had no place in my life.

    There are a lot of us out here, Karen! It's just not easy to find us because we're too busy living and let-living. :)

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  2. The evolution of Motherhood is quite the thing, isn't it? You've captured it quite well here with you words.

    And you know, I really can't shop at Old Navy anymore so I totally get what you mean with the store analogy... ;P

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  3. I stay at home and I work at home. The continuum you describe: I feel like every morning when I wake up I'm in a different place. Its a challenging place to exist. I feel like I have strong beliefs and values about parenting but at the same time each day I shift places.

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  4. I'll just fall back on one of my old faves and say this is the hardest thing I have ever done.
    I am not sure where I fit on the parenting spectrum anymore, bc quite frankly I don't care.
    I think that means I have arrived.

    You are a great mom K.

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  5. This post really spoke to me. Not that I relate point by point, as my parenting evolution is quite different (almost opposite) from yours. But the way parenting evolves is always remarkable to me. I have friends with children who are younger, and I'm constantly in awe of how quickly we pass from one stage to the next, and how we once identified ourselves (nursing mom, sahm, whatever) quickly becomes obsolete.

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  6. I often feel like there's no place that I totally 'fit'. On the one hand, I'm a LLL leader, hello crunchy-granola-AP. On the other hand, I send my kid to regular public school, have used daycare and vaccinate fully and on schedule.

    I think, maybe, that the fact that I don't fit perfectly into any one 'camp' is a sign that I'm doing something right. I'm doing things in a way that works for me and my kids, as best I can. If that means you can't fit me into a neat and tidy slot, well, who wants to be in a slot anyway?

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  7. I totally understand that feeling, but I will also say I know only a few people as committed to being connected as you. I think you're a great mom. I would totally choose you as my mom.

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  8. Such a great analogy! The wardrobe in our closets have changed over the years as we have, why shouldn't our parenting styles change as our kid do? I am no more suited to wearing the ripped fishnets of days gone by hiding in the back of my drawer than my parenting style of years ago suits my ever more independent children.

    The attached parent becomes the involved parent - just like the baby becomes a kid.
    Thanks K for touching on something we all go through.

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  9. I laugh at myself whenever I use the labels. Somethings I do are drastically different than the mainstream and warrant a title of satisfaction and others are exactly what any other parent would do. I guess it's just about whether we are being the best parents for our kids, regardless of the title one could place upon it. At least that's what I tell myself to not feel bad about not keeping up.

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