Monday, February 11, 2013

On Turning 35

I turned 35 this past Saturday, and two thoughts passed through my mind:
  • "Hey, I'm old enough to run for the presidency!" (even though I would never want that position because I think my quality of life would be terrible)
  • "Hm, I'm half-way to 70." 
The fact that the second thought came and went without causing any sort of consternation struck me as a good sign. I'm content with where I've been in my life, where I am, and where I'm going. I'm trying to make the most of this "one wild and precious life." 

Every year, I try to plan the exact kind of birthday that will satiate my needs at the time. For a couple years in a row, I planned a Random Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt. For my 30th birthday, we went all out and rented a cabin in the mountains for a huge group of our friends (a couple of whom even flew in from different parts of the country!). 

This year, I simply wanted to go to a hotel by myself for an evening. I know it might sound depressing to some or worrisome to others, but it was exactly what I wanted as we come up on this new phase in our life. I feel like the tidal wave that Henry brought into our lives is subsiding (he turns two at the end of this month) and yet we are walking straight into the next one. I know I'm going to be overwhelmed with gratitude and love for our expanding family (I already am), but I am also anticipating that I will struggle with the year of breastfeeding, the baby's struggle with sleep, and the responsibility of needing to take care of another human being every second, minute, and hour of the day.

For this birthday, I simply wanted some sustained, uninterrupted time in a comfortable place. Since we are on a tight budget, I decided to pay for the hotel out of my personal allowance, which is why I opted for Air BNB. I was able to find a bedroom in a quaint little bungalow in East Austin for a total of $56. 

It was exactly what I needed: wood floors, natural light, solitude, quiet, focus, introspection, sleeping and waking on my own schedule, stretching out in bed. 

It wasn't so easy for Matt to support this idea. I broached the subject with him about a month in advance. At first he jokingly asked if this request was "a precursor to divorce." I tried to explain why I needed this time away, and he really seemed to understand. But when I actually booked the room earlier in the week, he started to feel sad and uneasy. 

I tried to explain again that being a mother who aims to breastfeed her baby for at least a year but chooses not to pump means that I will literally be tethered to our baby for at least 365 days straight. With Henry, I didn't have my first night away until he was a year and four months (Matt's parents watched him for us in Indiana and we escaped to Michigan for a weekend). I think it's difficult for Matt to empathize because a) he thinks he would choose to pump if he were a breastfeeding mom, which means he could have time to himself sooner and b) he gets more frequent time away when he travels for work (it's not often, but it's definitely more than I'm away).

The conversation led to a heated disagreement about equity in our relationship. Matt didn't think it was fair that he didn't get what he wanted on his birthday (which was to run 30 miles). I reminded him that he was the one who opted not to run 30 miles because our friends were in town from Florida, and I explained that he should have advocated for himself if he really wanted to do it at a later time (I even offered to let him do it in March, once I've submitted the charter application). 

The disagreement also unearthed other bitterness that Matt feels about having to take on more than his fair share. It's definitely true that he has taken on more lately. I struggled through my first trimester--miscarriage--first trimester period, and now that it's over, I'm consumed by getting the 200-page charter application done and raising $400,000 by February 28th. I was upset that Matt seems to willingly take on extra work but then lets his resentment build. I also try not to let him take on extra work unless I really have to.

We're committed to continuing to talk about these issues until we come to a place that we both feel good about. I have some specific next steps in mind about how to make better use of my free time, so that I can maximize it and not ask Matt for more. I also think things will naturally feel better in March, April, May, and June as the external stress from the charter deadline lifts and we can enjoy our little family of three even more before our sweet addition arrives.

Share |


Colleen said...

Wow. Thank you for this post. First, I COMPLETELY get your desire to "just go to a hotel" for your birthday. That is EXACTLY what I want this year. I want a full night sleep (my 10 mo does not sleep through yet) and sometime to just sit, read a book, and do NOTHING.
Also, thank you for the honesty with which you talk about your disagreement with Matt. It is nice to not feel so alone in the blogsphere :) Sometimes partners disagree....and that is ok.

Annalisa said...

Happy Belated Birthday! I turned 30 this year and felt OLD - I admire anyone who can take a relaxed approach to birthdays. I had my moment and moved on but it was a first for me to not like being the next age.

Anyway, about the BF thing. I have a 22 month old (exclusively BF until 12 1/2 mos) and 12 week old who is exclusively BF. It's much easier and less demanding the 2nd time. The new baby can't have 100% of my attention and I don't get 40 uninterrupted minutes to nurse her - most of the time! For some reason, it just isn't so hard this time. Also, it helps that my 22 mo old loves her sister. We do a lot to curb "bad" behaviors (throwing, hitting, etc) with timeout and we reinforce nice behaviors. We also worked a LOT on patience. It helps that when she's eating in the highchair and wants to get down, she no longer throws tantrums when I say she needs to wait because mom is feeding the baby. I think you will find the transition to not be so hard. It's been extremely easy for us - and I'm shocked my new baby will be 12 weeks tomorrow and we haven't had a single terrible day/night with her. Oh, we also make our oldest feel just as special by not making things just for the baby or telling her not to touch the baby. We're definitely guarded but I never wanted our toddler to feel displaced.

While I'm at it - some activities that help with our toddler are stickers (melissa and doug make a ton of options and are truly the best price), play dough, markers (loves them more than crayons), "i spy" books, new books in general, and we gave her a "new baby toy" of a play kitchen that really entertained her for the first few weeks. I'm also into the ipad supervised. There's a ton of great games and it involves a lot of coordination. We do that for 20-30 minutes while I'm nursing and she's being a grump.

PS - pumping sucks. If you are able to not pump, that's awesome. I think there's no time saving -- pump for 20 minutes for a bottle, clean pump, pump sometime in a 4 hour window (or be with baby), give baby the bottle for 10-15 minutes, clean bottle. I just don't seem the freeing ability. I've pumped a few emergency bottles to go run 2 or 3 hours of errands but honestly, the baby slept in the moby the whole time I was gone so it hasn't been a big need.

Heather said...

I greatly appreciate your honesty on your blog. I wish I had the guts to write about the difficult things that can happen in a relationship. Communication can be so hard, but seems to be even more necessary once kids are brought in. While wonderful, I don't think my husband and I have ever fought so much in our entire relationship has we have this first year of parenting. While my parenting experience has been a little different, I can completely understand wanting to just get away for a night by yourself. I hadn't thought of that, but how relaxing and what a great way to recharge!

Anonymous said...

Just to offer a different perspective--I pumped regularly for almost 9 months and it was pretty easy. My situation was different--I was working outside of the home--but I actually appreciated that pumping was a dedicated time where I just sat, did my thing, and read a book for 15 minutes. We still have a great breastfeeding relationship (kiddo is almost 2). I totally respect the choice not to pump (if you can make that choice), but I wanted to share that in my case the experience wasn't negative and it didn't impact my nursing relationship.

Alissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
karinajean said...

In my partnership, I am the one who takes on more and more until I break and react poorly to any new requirements of my time. I have very high expectations of my ability to do All The Things, and I just can't meet them. Several times I've ended up sobbing to my husband that I can't do everything and I need more help. He is a wonderful and equitable partner, but he relies on me to tell him when I need more from him.

Going through this somewhat painful cycle several times has helped me to feel more supported and to trust that if I express my needs he will meet them. It's helped me to communicate my concerns to him BEFORE I end up a hot mess sobbing over the stove as I make our dinner. Neither of us liked it, but it really aided our communication patterns.

Good luck as you work through this cycle with your husband.

Anonymous said...

Pumping really isn't a big deal and takes less time than feeding a newborn if you have a good pump. My insurance covered the medela pump in style which I recommend. I eventually exclusively pumped because it was easier. I could pump 5-6x/day at 15 min and get >40 oz. I had multiple sets of parts and everything went in the dishwasher in the evening. If I was home I put the milky parts in the ziploc in the fridge and used them later. easy. I built up a freezer stash which allowed me the freedom to skip a pumping session here and there to actually do stuff. As long as I didn't do this daily I didn't notice huge effects on supply. I really think pumping helped me stay sane during the 10 months of nursing and allowed my husband to absorb some of the burden without affecting bonding with my son. I had enough frozen milk to go 1 year AND donate the rest to a milk bank.

Rose said...

I can totally relate to your birthday wish! My son is 20 months old and I have yet to spend a night away (my partner has been away maybe two weekends since Leo was born). I had a chance to go to a conference for work and started salivating at the thought that it might be possible for me to go away for two (!!) nights. After much discussion with my partner, he decided it would be too much for him to take care of everything for two full days and nights (he would also have to change his work schedule so he could both drop off and pick up our son from daycare).

Then, I got sick and could not take Leo to daycare for two days. Although I did get up to get Leo ready to go (before crawling back to bed), that experience made my husband think he could do it after all! So... I get to go! It is not at all depressing or concerning that you would want some time ALL to yourself. I myself am looking forward to two sweet nights of completely uninterrupted sleep for the first time since 2011!

Thanks for sharing this story (and sorry mine went on a little long)!

Suzuki said...

I love your blog, Sara. A Montessori kid myself, so we share a philosophy of parenting that I, too, find difficult sometimes, but feel is important. I get so much from reading your blog. You have a way of being so honest about the fact that everything is not always roses roses while still being hopeful. I just love it--your mission, priorities, honesty...its all very inspiring.
I hope you enjoyed your birthday. I completely understand your desire for some alone time. I am going on 15+ months of breastfeeding and am looking forward to a weekend away in the (somewhat near?) future--especially before there is a second time around in the picture. Love my son and husband more than anything, but we need to take care of ourselves, too. What's that safety reminder? Place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting the child next to you...
Take care and good luck. It will all work out.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thank you all for sharing so much of yourselves!

Our Little Beehive said...

Hi Sara - I think it's a perfectly reasonable birthday gift! My husband is a pilot and is away 50% of the time. When he's home for too long I want him to go on a trip because I like my "me" time. Albeit me time with a baby, but he goes to bed so early that I still consider it me time. And I totally agree that pumping sucks and I hate every second of it!

One thing that did strike me was your saying that you've offered to let him run 30 miles in March. I think that's a bit unfair. If it's something he's quite passionate about, then I think it's important to make space in your hectic schedule to allow him his time for growth and reflection too. Waiting another month because your schedule doesn't allow it seems quite unfair. Of course I have limited knowledge of your situation, but I just urge you to reflect on that decision a little. Put yourself in his shoes. xoxo

Carrie said...

Great birthday gift for yourself, Sara! I would think that in order to run 30 miles that Matt would need to be running a lot almost every day. How much time does he spend running every day? I know it is a passion of his, but it must take up more than an hour (2? 3?) almost every day. Do you get frustrated with that? At least it's a healthy hobby!

And as for the household/kid workload, it will always be necessary to "check in" on this periodically. You and Matt might even want to put a tickler on your calendars so you talk about it at least every few months (and as often as necessary). Balance will shift periodically, but it's good to aim for center-ish. :)

Nici said...

A friend of mine has three young kids and therefore not much time to train for her marathons - so she sometimes runs her 16 mile commute to work instead of taking the bus.

JLlo said...


Thank you for this post -- and congratulations on celebrating your 35th year.

I've been reading Feeding the Soil for years, and I've used your philosophy expressed herein as a touchstone many times.

Thank you for modeling a mindful, intentional life. There isn't enough of that out there in the Blogosphere (at least that I've found). And thank you for being so honest about your relationships with your husband, your son, your community, and your work. So many bloggers cultivate the air of effortless perfection; the messiness of real-life looks dingy in comparison. But you strike this beautiful balance that makes real-life look rich, and meaningful, and hopeful. All of your readers are lucky that you're sharing this outlook with us. Please know that we appreciate you!

Related Posts with Thumbnails