Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Like a record (Baby)...

Even before I started blogging, I have always been pretty much an open book. Not an exhibitionist by any means, but when people ask me questions, I don't spend time strategizing around the answer.

My mother, a shrink, always told me that this was the kiss of death for dating. "Just spin yourself in the best possible light!" she would order, when I would discuss that time around the third date when the past is discussed over low lights, vodka, overpriced sushi and the headiness of new romance. A friend refers to this as the "baggage claim", when you gaze into the eyes of a pseudo stranger and start spilling your secrets on cocktail napkins.

I could never do this. I don't have much to unload, but what I had, I shared. And I lapped up the lives of others, with little judgement, sometimes ignoring the red flags, other times smiling while listening to tales of exgirlfriends, depression, bad childhoods, big regrets and wondering how much of the past had really passed.


Nowadays, the new people I meet are not men but mommies. And "secrets" are shared on message boards, at the playground, at Gymboree. After childbirth, breastfeeding and overall post partum pain, I am even further stripped of any interest or energy in spinning the truth into a pretty package. So I speak with great ease about my intense feelings of fear after Chloe was born, the unimaginable pain of breast engorgement and the often excessive amounts of television my toddler consumes. I serve up heaps of honesty along with goldfish crackers, McNuggets and artificially flavored ice pops. When it comes to mommying, I do the best I can and don't even ask that much from other moms that I meet.

And yet, I am surrounded by spin. A mom sends an email, frantic for a new nanny. "What happened?", I ask. "Oh NOOOTHING", she trills. "Everything is PERFECT....I just want to be sure that I am doing the absolute best for my child!" Later I find out that her nanny has been lying to her for weeks. But she wanted to paint the prettiest possible picture, rather than reveal a crisis. There are just some people who would rather fake perfection than own up to a struggle.

I don't get it. Someone asked recently me what I am a "sanctimommy" about. And frankly, I could not come up with a single thing. Even the random assortent of kid topics that I feel strongly about: breastfeeding, early intervention, healthy sleep habits, sunscreen...I don't expect anyone else to care as much as I do. I do have many opinions -- but they are just based on extensive research and not a doctrine of belief. If someone disagreed, I would assume that they could be just as correct. I am so hard on myself, that I can't even imagine expending the energy to judge another mother. But this does not stop the spinning, and it's hard to keep up a conversation with someone who is working up a sweat in defense of the reasons her child knows all of the characters on Spongebob Squarepants, or is sucking on an pacifier on his way to Kindergarten.

My theory is that behind every closed door, exhausted parents are brokering deals, bribing, and cobbling together less than ideal situations with their kids, just to make it through the day without tantrums and gain a little peace. For all the talk of "Ferberizing", I am pretty sure that we have babies in our beds, feet in our faces, shhh, shhhing when the hours before its dark enough to feel like night but light enough that we can already sense the alarm about to go off. After the 100th carrot is flung on the floor, the only consumption of orange that happens in some homes are in the form of Cheez Its. And in the end, we are own worst critics. So why not share some of the secrets, without excuses or apology or false assertions, so that we all feel a little bit better about just doing the best we can.

9 Comments:

At 7:31 AM PDT, Anonymous gila said...

sing it, sister!

 
At 1:38 PM PDT, Blogger Jill said...

From one open book to another: you go, girl! (Who is Spongebob Squarepants?)

Kidding.

 
At 5:41 AM PDT, Blogger laura said...

This is SO refreshing! When I first had Owen I remember feeling so overwhelmed, tired, lost - and every other new mom I met seemed to say "Don't you just LOOOOOOVE being a mom? Isn't it just the best?" and of course I thought I had to be nuts. It was then I learned about the mom phenomenon to never admit you have no idea what you're doing - but don't we all feel that way sometimes? Life would be so much easier for us if we could admit our confusion and band together. Hopefully with moms like us we'll get there somehow!

Thanks so much for your blog - I linked here from Leigh and now I look forward to reading it all the time...

 
At 5:56 AM PDT, Blogger Amy said...

Welcome Laura!!

 
At 1:38 PM PDT, Anonymous Tracey (a.k.a. Leigh's Cousin) said...

This is quite similar to the academic/intellectual phenomenon of insisting that you hate TV. Now come on, no one absolutely HATES TV. In fact, I work with a fellow who doesn’t own a TV but will happily tell you that he watches TV that he can stream on his computer.

I can’t stand the “sanctimommy” attitude. Now, I admit, I try to do what’s best for my daughter as much as possible. On the other hand, I try not to foist my concept of “what’s best” on others unless asked for my opinion. (Although, I’m the same Mom who let her 5 month old suck on an apple that had accidentally fallen into a glass of sparkling wine last Thanksgiving. She was totally only a little hung-over the next day…Kidding!)

My sister recently had a baby and I, among others, have put a good amount of effort into making sure it is okay to want to escape once in a while. Seriously, is there any single person in your life with whom you want to spend 100% of your time? Certainly, not your significant other. Why would a baby be any different? (I am convinced my daughter often gets bored with me long before I am bored with her.)

Anyway…this was a long comment but after reading Laura’s comment, I just had to chime in.

 
At 1:51 PM PDT, Blogger Amy said...

Tracey - so glad you delurked to make this valuable point. The I Hate TV thing reaches an all time high on the topic of child rearing, but adults also freely dish that one up. My husband actually did not have a TV when I met him until I knocked some sense (and reality TV) into him, but I was able to overlook that glaring flaw. :)

 
At 6:08 PM PDT, Anonymous Leigh said...

Look at all my peeps hanging out! :) I sent a link to Mama Dramas to Kristina - thought she might be another new mom who would enjoy this one.

Love the anti-tv partner heckling too! Steve is uber-into PBS, and mui distainful of Grey's Anatomy, Army Wives, all my faves, but I have turned him on to Law & Order, esp. SVU. That was a big score for me!!

 
At 6:12 PM PDT, Anonymous Leigh said...

In another spin on this tale, Kristina's daughter Celeste screamed more or less for the first 4 weeks. When Kristina finally came up for air at around 5 weeks or so and was talking to Nikki about it, Nikki confessed that her daughter Mer had been a screamer early on too. (Merishel is 6 months older than Celeste). When Kristina asked Nikki why she hadn't ever really mentioned it before, Nikki was like, I didn't want to freak you out, or something to that effect.

 
At 6:04 PM PDT, Anonymous ed's sister said...

another enjoyable entry, amy. sometimes i feel like you are reading my mind. but you probably already knew that. ;-)

 

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