We’ve all experienced it at one time or another: The Mommy Drive-By. When a someone — a relative, another mom, a total stranger — takes it upon herself to question your judgment or criticize your parenting.
Single moms get flak about their social lives. Step moms are looked down upon for not being “a real parent.” Breast-feeding mamas get hit when they nurse their child in public; formula-feeding mothers get the evil eye when they whip out a bottle instead of a breast. Mothers from all walks of life are questioned for decisions large and small. And working mothers, well, they get a little bit of “all of the above.”
I’m positive that I thought I knew more about parenting before I became a parent, so I can kind of see why non-parents feel compelled to tell parents what they should do differently, whether are qualified to say anything or not. But when the drive-by comes from another mom, I’m baffled… why do we do this to one another?
One mom told me that I’m much too lenient with my kids, but “you can’t help it, you don’t get to see them much because you’re always working.” Another once told our older kids that she loved her kids enough to stay home, leaving my big kids to question my commitment to them. When my husband and I worked different shifts to cover childcare, I was criticized for “tag-team parenting” and being “too busy to be a good mother.”
Drive-byes don’t always happen in person, either. I got hit by a drive-by online last week by someone who has never met me before. My post about my preschooler and how her “Mama Drama” slays me sparked this lovely comment: “Wouldn’t it be easier to stay with your toddler and give her compassion and love from her mom, rather than drop her off with a stranger? Try being a Stay at Home Mom.”
The daycare question always triggers interesting drive-byes, with plenty of shrapnel to tweeze out of your flesh days and even weeks later. Yesterday, I was taken to task for saying that my youngest two kids go to preschool instead of just calling it daycare.
Never mind that my preschooler is actually in, well, preschool, and my toddler is in the daycare portion of that same facility. This person told me that she thinks I call it a school because it makes me feel and look better about what I’m “doing to” my kids.
I thought I’d be furious, but I wasn’t. I was surprised by the source of the drive-by, but mostly I was just tired. I pointed out that different solutions work for different people and suggested that, until she was faced with having to make the decision herself, it would make sense for her to stop criticizing me for mine. Then I changed the subject.
These drive-byes don’t make my question my judgment. But I sure am tired of being asked to defend it.
Have you been hit by a mommy drive-by? How did you handle it?
Thursday, July 31, 2008
With five kids, two parents who work full-time, a 75-pound black lab who sheds hair like he's desperately trying to clone himself, no housekeeper, and my tendency to clutter, I don't need to tell you that my house isn't pristine. It's not filthy -- in terms of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization's Clutter Hoarding Scale, we're not more than a 1, the lowest score. But still, I wouldn't happily eat off of the floor or anything. (My toddler is far less discriminating.)Amy at Equally Shared Parenting has a very interesting take on the post; check it out here (thanks, Amy!). Do you feel bad when you can't do it all, or are you over it?
The other day, my husband went on a cleaning tantrum. He started with the kitchen, moving things off the counter tops and scrubbing the stove and swabbing the backsplash with powerful detergents. He tossed the newspapers I'd left languishing in a pile on a chair and wiped down every surface he could find while I worked in the next room.
I was grateful. I was also mortified. I appreciated the fact that he recognized I was overloaded and couldn't get to the cleaning myself, but still... it made me feel like I'd failed, somehow.
In spite of everything I do, I can't shake the feeling that I should be able to do more. Is this the Achilles Heel of the modern working mom? Shouldn't I be able to keep my house spotless and clutter-free, decorated tastefully yet stunningly? Have all the clothes cleaned and folded and put away properly instead of heaped in clean or dirty piles in the hallway near the laundry room? Pack five exciting, delicious, nutritionally balanced lunches for the kids, preferably the night before, all while while working full time, supporting my family, freelancing on the side, socking at least 10 percent of my income away, and climbing the corporate ladder in 3-inch heels?
I know, I know... I just wrote about how, sometimes, working moms do it all by not doing it all. But I want to be good at everything, even if I don't have the time or the wherewithal to do so. And, really, I suck at housekeeping.
My husband has moved on to the dining room, and I think I should move on, too. Instead of being upset that I can't do it all, I'm going to try to be grateful that my husband is doing this. Maybe, together we can get it all done, if we take turns. And, if that doesn't work, I'll take solace in the fact that our house is still a few clutter-levels away from utter chaos.
July 27, 2008
By Lylah M. Alphonse
Every time I think my 3-year-old is ready to sleep without a guard rail, I find her curled up at the edge of her bed the next morning, flat against the rail's mesh screen. Sleeping somewhere else requires careful planning and a stash of strategically placed pillows on the floor. Bed Bugz, Toddler Coddler's inflatable bolsters, make sleeping safely easy. They attach to any type of bed and don't require a box spring to stay in place, which makes them perfect for travel. Deflated, they take up as much room in the suitcase as a pair of shoes. They cost about $30 at Wild Child (395 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington; 781-483-3566) and $39.95 online at sparebed.com. [More]
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Women aren’t one-size-fits-all when it comes to fashion, and we’re not that way when it comes to our interests, either. So, what do working moms really want, in a website, at least? Here are my top five:
1.) An online community that’s engaging and supportive instead of snarky. I want to be able to connect with women who have been in my high heels, who understand where I’m coming from and know where I’m going (and can help me get there). I’m a working mother who is juggling a career and a family. I don’t need a new BFF, I need an ally. ... [More]
One commenter writes, "Wouldn't it be easier to stay with your toddler and give her compassion and love from her mom, rather than drop her off with a stranger? Try being a Stay at Home Mom."
While it's interesting to note from her own blog that she a.) works outside the home and b.) is not a parent and says she never wants to have children and c.) is a teacher herself, her comment did make me wonder... if dropping your child "off with a stranger" for her education is such a bad thing, why aren't more stay-at-home-moms homeschooling their kids? Why is formal education (taught by well-qualified, certified, experienced "strangers") acceptable for a 5-year-old in Kindergarten but not a 4-year-old in preschool?
So, at what age is it OK for a child to go to school? And when does "Mama Drama" stop being considered indicitive of something the mother is doing wrong and start being something the a person -- the mother or the child -- just has to manage?
What do you think?
After I finished my (stellar, off-key) solo, helping our band Killasaurus Something-or-other earn about $20 and 230 new fans, I scrapped my original post and wrote this:
I've just finished twisting our 12-year-old's curls into about eleventy-billion tiny, two-strand twists, and my hands are still slick with conditioner. The little two are tucked in bed, stuffed animals clutched in their sweaty little hands. The other big kids are playing "Rock Band" with my husband, just a couple of feet away from me in the family room. It's past bedtime, and bits of conversation (like "We should be concentrating our efforts on Killasaurus," and "Daddy! We should play San Francisco now!" and "That's such a sweet song and then they hit you with the 'f' word...") grasp the edges of my concentration as I try to write.
I could -- should, really -- go to another room so I can get my work done. I mean, the work has to get done. But I'm loathe to leave. Even when my husband hands me the mic and asks me to sing "Maps" -- an obvious sign that I'm not going to get much done if I'm also expected to sing lead -- I don't go.
Sometimes, the thing that really gets in the way when I'm trying to juggle work and family is myself.
Friday, July 18, 2008
While I see the benefit to protecting kids from infectious diseases, and I really see the benefit of reducing the number of sick days taken and the amount of school missed because kids keep getting sick, I have a big problem with making this particular immunization manditory. Here's why:
It's not the "Big Brother" aspect of it, per se, or the fact that the influenza vaccine isn't really that effective (it works on less than 15 percent of the people who exhbit flu-like symptoms). It's the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu shot is one of the few vaccines that still contain thimerosal, a preservative made up of approximately 49-percent ethyl mercury that has been linked anecdotally to autism. ... [More]
Read the rest of the article at Work It, Mom! and weigh in at the end of the piece. Do you vaccinate your kids? Why or why not?
I often said that the thing that made returning to work after my first maternity leave most manageable, for me, was the knowledge that my baby was spending the day with her dad instead of with someone I didn’t already know and trust.
And, goodness knows, there have been times when my husband has wholeheartedly given the kids permission to do something that I definitely would have vetoed (like playing “Rock Band” until 1 a.m. or watching Predator on cable). But, during the year and a half that our now-preschooler was home with my husband during the day, it never, ever occurred to me to micromanage his parenting.
Maybe it was because he was already a parent when we met — since he’d done the baby thing three times already, why would I have to tell him what to do with his fourth child? Maybe it was because I assumed that a nearly 6-month-old baby who loved to nap (three hours at a stretch! I miss those days) would be a piece of cake. Or maybe I was so worried about earning enough money to support our expanded family that it was a relief not to have to worry about who was taking care of her while I was at the office — even if it meant my husband and I were like ships passing in the dead of night for a while.
What about you? Do you feel the need to micromanage when your child is alone with his or her dad?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I keep running lists of things I never thought I’d say as a parent. You know, things like “Don’t lick the microwave” and “Pennies are not for eating” and “No, you can’t ride the dog.” The other day, as I flaked dried applesauce off of the sleeve of my favorite black blazer, I looked at the “Dora the Explorer” bandage on my cut finger and decided to start another list: My top 10 signs you’re a working Mom.
1.) You put things you’ve already done on your to-do list, just so you have something to cross off immediately. ... [More]
Have any signs to add to my list? Tell me at The 36-Hour Day!
Monday, July 14, 2008
July 13, 2008
Just Clip and Slop
By Lylah M. Alphonse
Was it Ben Franklin who said "A bib in time saves nine pieces of laundry?" No? Someone at the Oregon-based company Kipiis (kip-EEZ) is thinking along those lines with its special clips that let you make anything into a bib: a restaurant napkin, a paper towel in the car, a kitchen towel at home. Just clip the fasteners on two of the corners, adjust the back, and let your tot dive into the yogurt. The Bib Clips cost about $13 at Kiddly Winks in Longmeadow (413-567-0688), Magic Beans in Brookline (617-264-2326), Mulberry Road in Boston (617-859-5861), Right Start in Natick (508-650-1271), and online at kipiis.com. [More]
The first answer: It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t know you can’t do it. That’s pretty much my mantra. It got me through college, when I worked two jobs while carrying a larger-than-full-time course load, and it gets me through life as a working mom with a larger-than-full-time life load.... [More]
When I was a kid, my New Year’s Resolutions were all about the things I thought I was supposed to be doing — practicing my violin every day, getting As in school, being nice to my brothers, etc. As I grew older, the resolutions changed, but the idea behind them didn’t; they were still about the things I thought I was supposed to be doing. Each year, I’d vow to lose weight (why did I want to do this? I had a killer body back then, and no idea what to do with it), ace my performance reviews at work (the same as getting As at school, really), learn how to be less of a control freak (about 10 years ago I decided that you can’t be a control freak if you can’t control yourself, and I set to work on that instead). ... [More]
What to know what I've resolved to do as a Working Mom? Read the rest at The 36-Hour Day, and share your resolutions in the comments!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
“The first time I kept a time log, I only finished 15 hours worth of real work in a week where I spent about 60 hours in my office,” Steve Pavlina writes on his website. “Even though I was technically about twice as productive as the average office worker, I was still disturbed by the results. Where did those other 45 hours go?”
Using his time log, he could see that he was spending too much time checking email, doing tasks that didn’t need to be done, lingering over meals during the workday, and catching up on the news, among other things.
Sound familiar? It did to me. ... [More]
So now I have a plan of action -- sort of. Read more at The 36-Hour Day, and check out the discussions and articles about organization and productivity over at Work It, Mom!
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Honestly, this part of the day is kind of a blur. ... I know I did four loads of laundry. I know I put away the groceries. I know I distributed ice pops and fed everyone lunch. I know I put the toddler down for an all-too-short nap, and that I refereed a few fights (including one that broke out after one of the big kids started lecturing the other two big kids about their previous fight) and ordered all three big kids to read in separate parts of the house because I was certain that they were going to kill one another if they stayed in the same room. I looked at my to-do list and realized that there was no way any of the freelance work on it was going to
get done. ... After dinner, there were baths and bed and cleanup and laundry. And, in spite of all of this, I still feel like I didn’t get anything done. And I’m trying to understand why. [More]
Wipe Those Hands
Lylah M. Alphonse
With the FAA's restrictions on liquids and gels, many of the things parents tote around for their tots - hand sanitizer, bug spray, and sunscreen - cannot be carried on planes. Luckily, many of these come in nonliquid form. Sani-Hands antimicrobial wipes cost about $3 for 24 individually wrapped packets. Insect repellent with DEET (by Cutter, 20 for $4.49) and without (by Bite Blocker, 20 for $8.19) are available in wipes as well. And towelettes premoistened with SPF 30 sunscreen by Shady Day ($13.99 for a pack of 15) are waterproof and sweatproof. They are available at drugstore.com, amazon.com and at many grocery and drug stores. [More]
Ever use your voice to fool your friends or confuse a telemarketer?Read the rest online at Boston.com/magazine, or click on the images below!
That is one of my favorite things to do. Nothing like telling them the call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes in my "voice." It just makes me happy. I do it to friends sometimes, too. I like to tell them their account is overdue. [More]
We almost always stay home for the summer. I say "almost" because there have been two exceptions: In 2003 we drove to Niagara Falls because the kids were complaining that they'd never been to another country (hello, Canada!), and last week I had to research a couple of family travel stories and so we went to an old-fashioned amusement park and careened down a snow-less ski slope on a bobsled and spent a night in a tree house. It was way cool. The kids loved it. My husband and I did, too, but I think that, while the kids came home re-energized after our little adventure, us parents were more exhausted after our "vacation" than we had been when we left.