Monday, May 17, 2010

Hoss and Me

I finally got around to watching Marley and Me (I'm always so behind on these things! I feel like an inadequate blogger...).

Part of me is flipping out about the prospect of having a baby. A significant portion of that movie was dedicated to the hard parts, with little attention devoted to the good times in those early years.

I think it's all compounded by the fact that I read Cate's amazing birth story yesterday, and I got to the very end when she and her partner are sitting on the couch with their newborn baby. When I read it I realized that I haven't thought much past the pregnancy part.

And then I read a few sentences about Amanda's lonely moments as a new mother.

And all of it is making me flash back to Naomi Wolf's book I read a while ago entitled Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood.

It's going to be hard. And that's okay. There is sweetness after struggle. My reservations and worries are good because they better prepare me for the reality of the situation.

But at the same time, I'm thinking about ways to ease the struggle. I think part of the struggle comes from having children really close together. I haven't talked to a whole lot of parents about this issue (note to self: I need to find more mentors!), but it seems logical that it would be more difficult to bring a new needy infant into the family (hello complete exhaustion) while your other child is still in the chase-the-toddler stage. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! It's hard to get people to open up and speak honestly because they are often more likely to defend their own choices.

I also think our current societal structure makes it more difficult. On the one hand, we have families with two parents who work full-time. That kind of setup creates lots of struggle to find enough time to fit everything in and it contributes to exhaustion and stress.

On the other hand, if one parent stays home, they tend to be isolated within their nuclear family. I can only begin to imagine how lonely I would feel if I stayed home with an infant by myself day in and day out. Play dates and outings to the park would not cut it.

Neither of these options feels right. A more nuanced combination might work better for Matt and me. I don't know if it's each of us working part-time jobs or one of us staying home and the other one working a full-time job at home. Or living within co-housing or an intentional neighborhood so there's more community, connection, and support.

And the trickiest part is that I can't plan any of it. I don't know when or if I'll get pregnant, so it's futile trying to think too hard about what we should do career-wise. It's premature planning.

And yet it's stuff I want to think about now because it's going to be easy to get swept away by a ton of other stuff if we do get pregnant. I don't want to lose my purpose or passions in life. I don't want to feel isolated or lonely for an extended period of time. I don't want to feel so stressed and overwhelmed and exhausted that I can't bask in the amazingness of a child's first few months of life.

A few days ago, I asked Matt to set aside some time to talk about what we want in our lives on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis once we have a child. I want to have a vision and pillars that can keep us grounded and moving in the right direction (or at least something that provides a frame of reference if we decide to go in an entirely different direction). All of this stuff will be good to throw into that discussion!

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LauraC said...

Yes, I do think *part* of the struggle is having young children close together.

BUT, it is just plain hard having kids in general. The way I try to explain it to people who do not have children is that you are no longer on your time when you have a newborn. In college, I slept maybe 3-4 hours a night but I got to choose the hours. With newborns, if they are hungry you have to feed them right NOW. If they need a diaper change, you have to do it NOW. If they are awake, you have to be awake.

And then in general, sleep deprivation can make you crazy.

I had a very full life before children and I had to learn to let some things go, only focus on the things I cared most about. But I can say definitely that my life with children is infinitely better than my life before. It's different but each day brings so much joy and amazement.

Still very hard though.

Lyssabeth's Wedding Officiants said...

I had my daughters 3 1/2 years apart back in the 80s. By the time #2 came along, #1 was out of diapers and in pre-school a couple of mornings week (not to mention, she'd been sleeping through the nights for a couple of years, so I got a chance to regain my sleep equilibrium before the new baby came along).

I didn't plan the births of either of my children--although they were more "surprises" than "accidents"--I've always felt that the age gap between them was perfect (at least, it works for us). They were far enough apart for me to give my oldest the one-on-one attention she needed until she started pre-school, yet close enough in age to play together once the baby was old enough to hold her own.

My daughters are as different as night and day and while they are not best friends as adults (each having compatible people to fill that role), they are mutually supportive and loving toward each other.

The choice of how far apart to space one's children is a personal one--and sometimes the choice is taken out of our hands--but I agree that having them too close together might prove overwhelming for new parents (the financial burden alone would be tough!).

As far as the parenting scenario, there are of course as many ways to raise children as there are families. Much of it is trial and error and can't be planned for. I do recall the relief that I felt when my youngest entered full-time kindergarten--it made the issue of childcare so much easier! Over the course of the child-care years, I was home with the girls, worked full time, worked part time, my husband was home while I worked and I worked from home. Each choice worked in it's time. Sometimes the kids were in day care, at other time periods, I was with them. We kind of pieced it together and it somehow all worked out.

It's a struggle going through it, but looking back in hindsight, I see how each transition all worked out for the best and the girls grew up into quite well-adjusted adults (if I do say so myself).

My bottom line advice? Be as creative with your child-rearing as you were with the wedding. Set up the over values that will govern how you parent and then establish your routines in accordance with them. Be open to the unexpected and don't worry. If you make a mistake, children are quite resilient!

Therese S. said...

Sara, I am following you closely on this. Jess and I think about this aspect, too, but financially, we are so not ready. Hopefully when I get fully certified and everything's stable, maybe then. Go, you!

Stacy Marie said...

My mom had my sister Alli and I only 18 months apart. She said it was hard, and that she wishes she hadn't been so stressed out, but having a built-in playmate has morphed into having the best friend I could possibly imagine, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm loving these posts! All of my friends are the "I was born to be a mom" people and I'm not so sure I want to sign 100% of my life over to a baby...I still want to be me. So I am really enjoying reading how you are processing all of this!

Randa said...

My siblings and I are all four years apart and there's four of us. I know we were planned but I don't know why my parents chose to have four kids who were four years apart. I have to say - it's not the most ideal situation. My oldest sister is turning 24 while my youngest is barely 12! It was great growing up because, aside from the oldest, we all had our own version of the "protector" and it was great financially because four years is a good time to recover from big expensive things - cars, braces, etc.

I'm thinking two and half to three for my kids. You know, in the DISTANT future.


For more inspiration on the before and after, I would look at this blog: It was started before the baby was born and is still going [Emerson is one and a half now, I think]. It really shows the before and after of being a mommy. It's been an interesting perspective on motherhood for me to read about.

Anonymous said...

I am one of 4 siblings and we are all around 2 years apart. The advantage is we are very close to each other - not a given I guess but it worked for us. I always found having siblings who had just been through what I was about to (ie starting high school, choosing uni courses, plus social stuff) was helpful for me. My mum stayed home till the youngest was in preschool so the closer ages reduced that time. I have noticed that friends who only have 1 sibling that is 3 or more years older/younger are not as close as us.

Katie said...

My parents had a hard time conceiving, so they had both my younger brother and me in just over two years. Four years later, my mother had my sister.

From what she's said, both situations were equally hard. On the one hand, I was a crazy toddler when my brother was a sickly infant, which meant little rest for either parent. On the other hand, by the time my sister was born my brother and I could often fend for ourselves, but we were also developing personal lives--play dates, ballet lessons, preschool swim team. In that case my mom had to juggle our schedules with a newborn (in fact, as a toddler, my sister learned how to tell time by figuring out how late we were for my dance classes).

From the kid's perspective, I've found that I'm equally close to both siblings, regardless of age gaps. And while my mother may not have been able to give my siblings the same kind of time she gave me right after birth, having brothers and sisters makes for other kinds of experiences, like watching your toddler give a pacifier to a crying baby or helping your grade schooler hold and bottle feed a newborn. Those have made dear memories for all of us.

Kelly said...

Here's an interesting situation:
My father and mother worked within the same company, him full time, her part. She worked from home, going into the office every Thursday, and on that day he worked from home. As I got older and got two more siblings, he worked from home on Fridays too.

violarulz/ducksandbooks said...

wow, I live in Boulder and have somehow never heard of Cohousing before. Thank you for sharing your personal blog (especially on a link from your wedding blog!). Cohousing sounds like living on a kibbutz, (something I've always wanted to do) only in the states.

Anonymous said...

Just found your wedding blog yesterday, and have read maybe 80% of both your blogs already :) Great stuff. Thanks for your honesty and frankness on your hesitation with the societal framework that we're all handed: dream proposal/engagement, "best-day-of-my-life" wedding, dog, house, kid, another kid or 2, raise kids/work for 20-30 yrs, retire to finally enjoy life. My bf and I struggle with this formula. We like parts of it, obviously, and hate other parts, but we don't want to lose ourselves in somebody else's formula, lose our individuality and authenticity. It's tough. You're clearly someone to whom intentional living is very important, yet you too have adopted many elements of the formula. Have you found that it's not as soul-crushing as you had worried about, because you've made them each your own. Any other follow-up thoughts on this post since you've had Henry? :)Molly

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