Every Party Has A Pooper and This Time It’s….Me

Every year, my company requires it’s associates to step away from the day to day grind of our various business objectives and come together for a HOORAH leadership conference to celebrate prior year successes, discuss upcoming initiatives and reignite our collective business focused drive.

Unfortunately, that time of year is fast approaching.

We will convene and be encouraged to network and socialize and become enlightened and reenergized in our own careers through participation in various breakout sessions and team building exercises where we will be forced to do things like play games of telephone that are meant to illustrate the ease at which communication can break down…..again.

Draw pictures of ourselves at work and at home and then describe our self-portraits in “Getting to Know You” safe circles.

Participate in three-legged races and scavenger hunts that prompt some of our more senior associates to begin rubbing hips and knees and inquiring about Advil….while simulataneously hoping someone with an ounce of sense will notice their unease and excuse them from the torture.

For some of the associates who attend, sharing a hotel room with a co-worker is also part of the gig; a prospect I find to be completely horrifying.  Especially the years they are deliberately paired up with someone they don’t know.  What better way to break the ice than by throwing two strangers into a hotel room together and forcing them to share the same bathroom for three days, am I right?

Thankfully, my department isn’t among those, because I’m fairly certain I would have quit after my first trip.

Overall, as an HR professional, you would think I’d buy into all the team building hype; that I would dive into these activities with gusto, but no.  Not really.  In fact, every year, I try to get out of going altogether.

I over-exaggerate work concerns and pressing deadlines as excuses for why I should be left behind and I have offered to sacrifice my attendance in order to “hold down the fort” at the office, but it never works.

It’s not that I don’t like my co-workers, but I spend enough time with them and we have already established varying degrees of mutually defined and agreed upon relationships and their boundaries.

Also, I don’t require a rejuvenation and even if I did, a few nights in a slightly better than average hotel, buffet style meals and a few open bars, isn’t likely to get my ass in motion.  When it comes to work, I’m motivated by two things only….money and more vacation time.

My real problem with attending though, is not so much because the speeches are often boring and drawn out and delivered by presenters trying desperately to be hip for the millennials….or because of all the chest thumping, back patting, rally cries….or because I really don’t feel like standing on top of yet another platform and free-falling into the hands of my trusty co-workers….but because I really hate the social hours.

Our post meeting social events are meant to be an opportunity to let loose a little and party with our co-workers.  We are invited to enjoy some adult beverages, maybe sing some karaoke, bowl a few rounds, play some pool, or just mingle.

Geez, that doesn’t sound so bad, you might be thinking….and if that’s what you’re thinking, then you probably don’t work in Human Resources.  Because if you did, you would know that at these events, you are the turd in the punch bowl.

You are the fart in a crowded elevator.

You are a boil on the butt of the party.

Allow me to explain….

I’m the Equivalent of an Old Man Driving a Conversion Van through an Elementary School Zone 

When I approach a group of my fellow associates, mingling together over cocktails and copious amounts of laughter….this is apparently how I roll up.

free-candy-van

Immediately, the laughter stops and not-so-subtle expressions of unease are exchanged as they greet me with suspicion and I know what they are thinking….Why is she here?  What is her motive and when will she be leaving?

 I’m the Cock Block of Fun

While my co-workers are taking full advantage of the open bar, I saunter up on the sly and order as follows:

“I’ll have a water with a shot of cranberry juice and a lime….but in a cocktail glass.”  

In general, I’m not much of a drinker….though I do really enjoy the occasional glass of wine, an ice cold beer in the summer and a margarita now and then….I just never enjoy them at work functions….but I pretend like I do.

Generally, as the evening wears on, guards begin to drop like flies and suddenly, I look a little less like a policy wielding, code of conduct quoting spy and a little more like one of the gang.

Inevitably, people will begin to slur compliments my way….

“You are awshome!

“I leeerv you, guuurl!!”

While conspiratorially pulling me aside to inquire if I plan to tell their managers that someone just threw up in the trash can and that someone else has passed out in one of the booths.

I know they don’t really love me, but in the moment, it’s kind of nice not to be the random hair in the soup….but I know I’ll never really be one of them.

It’s not that I can’t be.  There is really no expectation that I refrain from the fun.  I just don’t trust myself not to let slip….in a buzzed lapse of judgement….that Joe told me he didn’t want to share a room with Ben because he wears tightie-whities….or that Suzanne told me she thinks Karen used her deodorant…..or that Christina reported that Monica farts in her sleep.

So, I stick to my faux cocktail, but always, always, always, I get caught….someone takes a sniff or sip of my drink and realizes I’ve been faking all along.  Then, it’s time for me to retreat to my room amid renewed suspicions….heightened by massive amounts of alcohol….and I’m no longer AWWWSHOME.

Buzz Killington

I’m the Cindy Brady of the Corporate World 

It’s at these post-meeting social gatherings where the rumor mill kicks up a notch and the gossip flows freely and without abandon.

You are supposed to find out who is secretly dating who….which manager was caught in a suspicious looking “meeting” with his admin….who is suspected of stealing items out of unlocked offices and the assignment and origins of all the office nicknames like DISC (Douche in Sheep’s Clothing), which is the only nickname I know….because a friend and I made it up for our old boss.

However, thanks to my association with Human Resources, which is basically like walking around with a giant sign on your back that says, “I’m paid to tattle,” I get to hear none of it first hand.

Typically….the same dirt will come out weeks later, when the parties have sobered up and suddenly have feelings and a sense of obligation and a work ethic no longer compromised by booze.  But by then….it’s just work again and no longer any fun.

AARDVARK!!! 

You may be asking yourself, “Um, where did that come from?” and “How does this fit into the overall theme here?”

Exactly.

You see, I also dislike these events because even in the best of circumstances, I completely lack the ability to properly mingle.

I’m not the type of person with 875 Facebook friends….I’ve never been to any of my high school or college reunions and the first time I attended a neighborhood Pampered Chef party, was the last time I was invited.

I’m pretty sure it was because as I stood in my neighbor’s beautiful kitchen engaging in a conversation about home decor, I made mention of my profound distaste for black lacquer….then found myself asking for a coaster to protect the black lacquer coffee table in her living room.

I am awkward.  I say stupid things at inopportune times and once the ball starts rolling, I can’t make it stop.

Toss me into a room with a large group of people and ask me to present a business objective or train a new set of associates….no problem!  I will whip out the charm, add a good pinch of wit and never break a sweat.

Hand me a cocktail glass with a faux drink and a room full of semi-strangers and ask me to socialize however and I will inevitably manage to steer the conversation toward something like….my incredibly ridiculous fear of being murdered and how I have suspected, pretty much everyone I know, of plotting to kill me at one time or another.

Or….when someone excuses themselves from the group conversation to use the restroom, I will shout, “You should use the first stall….it’s always the cleanest!”   

Then, while a little voice in my head yells, “Stop talking, you should really stop talking now, STOP TALKING!”

I’ll ignore it and say something like, “I really hope the crab stuffed mushrooms on the buffet tonight weren’t made from canned mushrooms.  Did you know the FDA allows so many maggots per can?  I don’t know about you, but I’m not really down with eating maggots.”

Speaking of awkward….I never know how to end my blog posts.

So….did you know you can’t hum while holding your nose?  Try it….

Who’s Your Daddy….

In the years following my parent’s divorce, most of the men my mother dated, or married, either wound up in rehab….again…. or they suffered some sort of mental breakdown, cardiac event, or both.

The first victim to suffer a relapse and flunk out of the program was Neil, who my mother met at an AA meeting.

My mother committed herself to AA in her years of strict sobriety with the same veracity she had devoted to bar hopping during her years of intoxication. All of her friends came from the program.  She participated in a number of committee’s organizing social events like group picnics and dances (not the same without a fully stocked bar if you ask me), so naturally, all of her dates would come from her affiliation with the program.

Apparently, nothing says “romantic encounter,” quite like a room full of recovering alcoholics sharing their woes of personal destruction under a perpetual cloud of cigarette smoke and vats of coffee.  Not to mention the near constant presence of my mothers baggage running around, also known as my brother and I.

My brother and I loved attending AA meetings. They were typically held in a church or a school auditorium, which meant that we had complete access to the interiors of these otherwise empty buildings. We would race up and down the dark hallways, play hide and seek and occasionally offer to run errands for cash.

“Hey, need a cup of coffee? I’m happy to get it for you for a dollar.” 

“How about a donut, only fifty-cents!”

“Would you like me to light that cigarette for you? Let me grab my Zippo. That’ll be twenty-five cents.”

“Oh, you need to bum a cig? No problem, for a dollar-fifty I’ll ask around!”

“Um, no, I cannot go pick up a 40 of Old English for you. Someone get this guy’s sponsor!”

When my mother first introduced my brother and me to Neil, I was not impressed.  He had long, dishwater-blonde hair that he sometimes wore in a braid and he drove an old pick-up truck that was always dirty and packed with tools.  However, he also had a light yellow Monte Carlo he drove from time to time that I loved.  It was a huge boat of a vehicle and I found comfort in the fact that we could live in it if we ever got evicted.

There was no easing into relationships for my mother. If she clicked with someone, we were all in and Neil was no different. Before we knew it, we were spending afternoons at backyard barbecues surrounded by Neil’s family and friends. We were soon counted among the nieces and nephews and Neil’s mother, Ruby, considered my brother and I her grandchildren.

Ruby was a sweet woman who was devoutly catholic, a fact that was reflected in her choice of religious inspired lawn ornaments and home décor.  It wasn’t exactly my style and I didn’t really understand the religious significance of her Virgin Mary statue poised in front of what appeared to be an erect blue bathtub guarding her Gardenia’s….and the bleeding Jesus head she had hanging on the wall in her living room with its thorn crown and down turned eyes that seemed to follow me wherever I went, gave me the creeps, but otherwise, I didn’t mind spending afternoon’s at her home.

One day, Ruby babysat my brother who was too ill to go to school. She had agreed to baby-sit only if my brother was well enough to attend an afternoon Mass. While the jeans and t-shirt he’d worn over were not appropriate for such an event, there was not need to worry. Luckily, Ruby just happened to have an extra pair of lovely tweed knickers, complete with a giant hole in the ass and a butterfly collar dress shirt circa 1972 that fit my brother perfectly. When he arrived home later that afternoon, reeking of moth balls and striking an uncanny resemblance to Pinocchio, I fell into fits of laughter while he cried.

One Friday night, Neil took us all ice-skating at the local rink, a favorite activity for my brother and me. Although I was happy to go, I suspected this particular trip was Neil’s attempt at peace making.

A few days prior, my brother and I were in our attic with Neil watching him assemble a toy we had been given for Christmas. As the project neared completion, we began to bicker over who would get first dibs.

“I called it first, on Christmas day!” my brother bellowed.

“I never heard you say that, so it doesn’t count!” I shouted back.

“Yes, it does! Plus, I’ve been helping this whole time and you haven’t done anything!”

“Oh, shut-up, you whining little brat!”

Before I knew what was happening, Neil was standing over me. He grabbed my arm, yanked me to my feet and spanked me. As I struggled to free my arm from his grip, I scrapped my toe against the unfinished wood floor and it began to bleed. I burst into immediate tears of fury.

The spanking and the bloody toe weren’t particularly painful. I had been whacked by a belt, backhanded and kicked enough times to know what real pain felt like, but this attack pissed me off.

Regardless of who started the fight, I did’t think this man should be physically assaulting me.  Convinced my mother would see this my way and dump him immediately or, at the very least, scream at him and explain that boyfriends do not have spanking authority, I stormed from the room to report him.

“Neil hit me!” I wailed as I teetered into the living room to show my mother the proof of Neil’s abuse.

“Well, did you deserve it?” she asked without the slightest bit of the fury I expected in her tone.

I looked at her flabbergasted.

Why yes, mother. As a matter of fact, I did deserve it and even though we have only known this man for 10 seconds, I realize I should accept that whomever you drag in off the street has the right to discipline me in any way he sees fit. Sorry for bothering you, you can go back to sitting on your ass and being a lousy freaking mother now!

“Go to the bathroom and clean-up your foot before you get blood on the carpet. Then, go to your room,” was her final response.

Later that night, my mother came into my bedroom and discussed how important it was to remember that things that happened at her house, should stay at her house and should not be discussed with my dad.  Odd, since it was apparently perfectly acceptable behavior.

So, even though I was still furious about the incident, I was willing to be temporarily swayed by an evening of ice-skating. After making a few laps around the rink together, my brother and I spotted some friends from school and quickly ditched the adults to whiz around with our chums.

“Is that your dad?” My friend Beth asked as we slowly skated past my mom and Neil, stopping to say a quick hello.

“Nah,” I replied. “That’s my mom’s boyfriend, Neil.”

Later that evening when we had returned home and were getting ready for bed, my mother pulled me aside and stared at me expectantly for what seemed like an eternity.

Uh, oh. Was this going to be one of those exchanges where she would say to me, “I know what you did and I’m giving you this one opportunity to come clean. If you do, the punishment will be light. If you don’t, the punishment will be much worse.”

“I didn’t do anything!” I would say while rapidly tried to determine exactly what she had busted me for.

“Ok, go get the belt. I gave you an opportunity to be honest and you have chosen to lie.”

“Wait!” I would shriek.

Panic stricken, I would then confess every rotten thing I had ever done only to find out afterwards, that she really didn’t know anything.

I would take the ass beating that followed feeling like a total idiot and extremely guilty, because my confessions typically sold out my brother as well. Sadly, we would both fall for this trick repeatedly throughout the years.

“Neil is very upset. His feelings are very hurt,” she said quietly.

“Oh” I said confused. “Why is he sad?”

“Well, you told that girl at the ice skating rink that Neil was not your father.”

I looked at her, totally not following the logic that would lead me to understand why this conversation had upset Neil. Rather than fall into a potential trap, I just stared at her and waited for the trap to reveal itself.

“Well, why did you say that?”

Damn, this was not enough information. Where was she going with this?

“Answer me!”

“Um, because she asked me if Neil was my dad. I was just telling her the truth. He’s not my father, he’s your boyfriend,” I answered cautiously.

“I think that man has been more than just my boyfriend to you. He’s like a second father.”

Uh, really? I don’t think so lady! Not only did I officially hate him for spanking me, but also, I had only known him for a few months!

Furthermore, what I did know, I didn’t particularly like and if I was ever going to have a second father figure, this grubby guy wasn’t it. Not to mention, the stability of their relationship changed by the hour.

“What am I supposed to call him then?”   

“You could call him dad, or how about something special, just for him, you pick.”

I looked at her for a moment trying to gauge how serious this exchange was meant to be.

Uh, oh, was that Sybil I sensed lurking just below the calm demeanor my mother was presenting?

Yup, I could see her.  Oh my God, she was actually serious. I knew I needed to respond carefully and in a way that gave her what she wanted or else.

Dad was out of the question. This man was nowhere near dad status. I debated suggesting shit-head as an appropriate moniker, but I knew it would be met with a nice, swift, back-handed slap across the face, so I drew from my “Little House On The Prairie” knowledge and suggested “Pa.”

“Ok, I guess I like Pa” I said, holding my breath and hoping that would suffice. “Maybe he can refer to me as Half-Pint, I mumbled under my breath.

“Great!” my mother exclaimed, hopping up and clapping her hands, a large smile spreading across her face as she tucked me in and headed out the door.

As time went by, referring to Neil as “Pa” became like second nature to me. Although in my mind, it was never a term of endearment, just a battle I had to lose in order to keep my mother at bay. Of course, anytime my mother was pissed at him, like every other day, she would demand that we commence calling him Neil again.

“He’s not worthy enough to be a father or a husband! He’s a piece of shit!” She would scream.  See….shit-head would have been more than appropriate!

Alas, “Pa” and my mother never married. In one final blaze of fury over who knows what, my mother threw him out for good. As she was tossing his belongings onto the front lawn and screaming obscenities, I watched from the attic window.

I cringed a little when she whipped out the baseball bat and went to town on his pick-up as he tried to hurriedly collect his belongings and get the hell out of dodge. As she chased him down the driveway screaming, I opened up the attic window and yelled a final goodbye.

“See ya later Pa and good luck!”

A few years later, I asked my mother if she’d ever heard what happened to him.

“Oh yeah, total loser” she said. “Right after we broke up, he fell off the wagon and became a complete mess. He couldn’t hold a job, had to move back in with his mother, wound up in rehab again. Ugh. Loser.”

I sighed and looked at my mother, searching for any sense of guilt or responsibility. I saw nothing. “Right after you broke up, huh?”

“Yup, almost immediately.”

“You don’t say.”

Moral of the story….My step-kids just call me by my first name.  Best not to complicate these things….

I’m an Instinctive Straddler….

If you happened upon this blog post while looking for something dirty….I sincerely apologize for what I am sure you will find to be a very disappointing read.

If you happened upon this blog post while looking for something related to motherhood….CONGRATS!  However, I insincerely apologize if you read something here you don’t like.

So, I was recently asked by a woman I work with, a new mom with a six-month-old son, “What kind of Mom are you?”  I was a bit taken aback at first.  My initial reaction was to assume an offensive stance.  As a woman and a mom, I’ve grown accustomed to fighting in the trenches of the Great Boob War.

However, I managed to practice my HR preachings, “slowed the knee jerk reaction” and simply said, “Why, whatever do you mean?” in that precise way women have of warning others to tread lightly….   

Her question wasn’t at all a dig on my parenting abilities.  She was interested in knowing about my personal parenting style….She wanted to know if I labeled myself an Authoritative Parent, a Permissive Parent, a Helicopter Parent, a Tiger Mom and so on.

I thought about it for a moment, not exactly sure how to answer the question.  To be honest, I never researched parenting styles before choosing to become one or even after the fact.  I knew what I didn’t want to do and who I didn’t want to be, but otherwise I assumed I would just know how to be a mom when the time came.

“I guess I would say I’m an instinctive parent?  I told her….not at all sure if “Instinctive Parenting” was an actual recognized parenting style or if I had just coined the next “Conscious Uncoupling” type term.

She looked at me as though I had just said I subscribed to the Jungle Book method of parenting….and that my son was, at that very moment, galavanting through the woods with a pack of wolves and a singing bear.  When I asked about her parenting style, I learned she was, as yet, undecided, but researching her choices.

As soon as she left my office, I turned to Google to quickly research my possibly made up term and to my surprise, “Instinctive Parenting” is a recognized parenting style….though it doesn’t seem to be among the most popular….more a catchall for those of us who haven’t joined one of the other, more poplular sororities….to put it simply, Instinctive Parenting is a “go with your gut” approach; a very personal style of parenting where your own upbringing largely influences your approach.  I also saw it referred to as the “old school method.”

It seemed a reasonable enough style to adopt.   Women have been birthing and raising babies all over the world for centuries and to this day, manage to do it in parts of the globe where modern medicine and modern conveniences aren’t readily available. On some level I have to assume that instincts play a part.  If not, how then have millions of women managed to raise children without the benefit of Google, self-proclaimed parenting expert bloggers and clearly defined and outlined parenting styles to lead the way?

Apparently, it’s not so reasonable a conclusion….as the countless number of blogs and commentary devoted to bashing the idea….while simultaneously advocating for some other parenting style everyone on the planet is remiss if not adopting….desperately attempts to make clear.

One such blog post, written two years ago, states that sometimes we should follow our instincts and sometimes we shouldn’t.  That instincts can be:

“violent, aggressive, manipulative, and neglectful just as readily as they can be loving, caring, protective, and respectful.”  (Gullible New Parent)  

Well, no shit.  Certainly, thousands of women suffer from the baby blues, postpartum depression and in extreme cases, postpartum psychosis, in the aftermath of child birth. I also believe other factors have a tendency to influence parenting behaviors….like repeating cycles of abuse from one generation to the next,….divorce, remarriage and the introduction of step-parents and step/half siblings….I’m sure there are others.

When these factors don’t apply and/or when they are managed through treatment/support systems, I think we can ultimately learn to adjust and still instinctively raise happy, healthy children.

Of course, some women simply adjust to motherhood more easily than others, but shouldn’t that be the time when we can reach out to our counterparts in motherhood for support and encouragement….without the need to declare ourselves a disciple of a particular style, without being recruited to abide by a particular style of parenting and without being made to feel we are colossal failures when we don’t?

As an example, the title of one of the blog posts I came across while researching this subject was entitled:

“Why I hate ‘instinctive’ parenting.”  

Hate?  Really?  Isn’t that a tad extreme?  Score another for women supporting other women!

Another post I read, also published some time ago, seemed to take the the word “instinct” as it relates to parenting, a bit too literal.  Actually, most of the posts I read seemed to go that route.  This particular post quoted the following from Wikipedia:

“The book Instinct (1961) established a number of criteria which distinguish instinctual from other kinds of behavior. To be considered instinctual, a behavior must: a) be automatic, b) be irresistible, c) occur at some point in development, d) be triggered by some event in the environment, e) occur in every member of the species, f) be unmodifiable, and g) govern behavior for which the organism needs no training (although the organism may profit from experience and to that degree the behavior is modifiable).

The author wrote that if parenting is:

meant to be something innate, universal to ALL human beings, then why do we have a multi billion-dollar industry around babies?  Why are we all doing things so differently?  Surely if it was instinctive, irresistible as it were, we would all be doing it the same way?”  (Evolutionary Parenting)

I don’t believe it’s quite that primal.  For one, the “multi billion-dollar industry around babies” the author references, is more a “first world” creation than a global movement.

Parenting differs significantly all over the world.  Consider that in Norway, kids are left to nap outside….even in subzero temperatures.  In Denmark, moms leave their children curbside while they shop and dine out and Vietnamese moms train their babies to pee on command.

It’s not likely that I would ever consider doing any of these things….not because I think I’m a better, more evolved mom, but because it would never occur to me do it….I have no relatable frames of reference in this regard that would lead me in any of these directions.

Since I had already invested a fair amount of time considering this subject, I decided to see what else the internet had to say, specifically with regard to formula vs. breastfeeding moms and working vs. stay-at-home moms, since these seem to be our biggest battles.

In the last few days, as I scanned through articles, (most proclaiming not to judge, but oozing judgement) and their accompanying comments, it became glaringly obvious that when it comes to motherhood, there is no such thing as unity or even respect among women.

The Mommy War is alive and thriving with considerable reach and I have to wonder how we can expect to be good parents and raise children who are compassionate and respectful of others, if we can’t even extend that courtesy to each other.

Breast is Best

YOU WIN!  YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ON!  YOU WIN, YOU WIN, YOU WIN!

Long before I had even begun seriously planning / preparing for motherhood, I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  I didn’t even consider it a choice among options, just the natural course of things.

When I discovered I was pregnant, no coaxing was necessary by my obstetrician to convince me that breastfeeding was the way to go. I was all in.

Then, at 22 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma and a lot of things changed.  Once the dust had settled a bit and my treatment plan was established, I discussed the possibility of breastfeeding with the high risk OB who would see me through the remainder of my pregnancy.

Had I been able to carry my son all the way to term, enough time would have passed between my last chemo cycle and his birth for the trace amounts of chemo cocktail at risk of filtering into my milk supply to have left my body.  However, things didn’t go as planned and my son was born six weeks early and exactly one week before my final chemo cycle.

Still determined to make it happen and with a supportive and encouraging team of doctors and nurses cheering me on, we agreed to start with formula and I would “pump and dump” for my son’s first eight weeks of life.  After that, we could revert to breastfeeding without the risk of exposing my son to what is essentially….poison.

However, despite my best efforts, I was never able to produce more than a few millimeters of breast milk.  I did everything I was instructed to do by the various lactation experts I consulted with to stimulate production.

In addition, I researched the topic obsessively, turning to the internet for tips and tricks. I reached out to other mother’s on pro-breast feeding sites and though I did receive a fair amount of encouragement, I was shocked and deeply disappointed by the number of women who responded with things like:

“Can’t your treatment wait? You will only get this opportunity to properly feed your baby once.”

(Yes, I suppose it could wait, but who is going to feed my baby when I die?)

“How can the doctor’s be sure your breast milk is contaminated? They aren’t always right and they have their own agenda’s.”

(Oh yeah, you really have to watch out for those crafty doctor bastards….I bet they do have some ulterior motive here….maybe they own stock in Enfamil).

“You never should have started your baby on formula. There are breast milk donation programs all over the country you should have considered first. Breast milk could have prevented your own child from getting Lymphoma one day.  

(Is that so? My own mother exclusively breast-fed and I still got Lymphoma….put that in your self-righteous pipe and smoke it).

It was the last time I turned to a women’s support network for advice.

Finally, after weeks of obsessing and worrying about the supposed damage I was doing to my son through formula feeding, I sat again with my high risk OB and feeling defeated and exhausted and ashamed I told her I was giving up.

True to the person she had been throughout my whole ordeal, she was compassionate and kind.  She reminded me of how much my son and I had been through and how, despite it all, he was thriving….even on formula.

None of the standard preemie complications they had expected to treat when my son was born came to fruition.  In fact, they were so amazed by how well and easily he transitioned from womb to world, they went back to review my prenatal records and ultrasound reports to be sure a mistake hadn’t been made regarding his due date.

When he came home from the NICU, I transitioned him to an organic pre-made formula I had researched and discussed with his pediatrician.  At each of his many follow-up’s in his first year, (a critical growth and development period for a preemie), he met and/or exceeded each of his developmental milestones.

When the time came to introduce solids, I made 100% of his baby food from organic vegetables, fruits and proteins. I spent hours researching “super foods” and the best ways to incorporate them into his diet.  We’ve continued to avoid processed and prepackaged foods in favor of organic, fresh fruits, vegetables and home cooked meals as a family….this as much a product of my own cancer journey as a desire to stuff my son with as much good, clean food as I can.

In his three years of life, he has had two sick visits to his pediatrician and at each of his regular exams, he continues to meet and/or exceed his developmental milestones.  At his most recent assessment, his pediatrician advised his language and comprehension were actually advanced for his age and that his skill set was already at a Kindergarten level.

I’m not saying any of these things make me the better mother and I’m not at all attempting to advocate for my way of doing things and/or against breastfeeding….I still think it’s the absolute best food on earth….I’m simply suggesting it’s still possible to raise a happy, healthy, successful child even if you cannot or choose not to breastfeed.  It doesn’t make you any less a committed or loving mother.

Another website I visited included an post entitled, “How to Win Any Breast Feeding Argument” posted on “The Alphaparent.”

Why there is even a need for formula feeding mothers to be on the defensive and breastfeeding mothers to put us in our place, is pathetic and petty.

Among the many potential arguments and rebuttals the author was so helpful in providing the appropriate dialogue for, were the following:

Argument: “Most of our generation were formula-fed and we are all healthy”.

Comeback: This is untrue. The long-term effects of not being breastfed are only beginning to be understood. Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, obesity, allergies, diabetes and academic performance are all starting to be linked with how we were fed as babies. We have more vision problems, intestinal problems, colds and flu, dental problems, heart problems, and cancer than we need to; And we’re a few IQ points lower than we would have been if we had been breastfed.

First of all, who has really made that argument?

Secondly, a study published in February, 2014 by an Ohio State researcher indicates this is perhaps a bit too lofty an argument.

The report can be found here: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/sibbreast.htm

Third, I find it comical and incredibly ridiculous that this “comeback” lays the blame for these medical problems squarely on the shoulders of formula feeding parents.  What about the role fast food, TV dinners, pesticides and other chemicals in our food, not to mention pollution and too much time spent on the couch have played?  Or, are we to believe that breast milk somehow makes us immune to their effects?

One more slam dunk for the breastfeeding arsenal….

Argument: “My formula-fed kid turned out just fine and went to college and university”.

Comeback: Numerous studies have shown that breastfeeding is associated with significantly higher scores for cognitive development than formula feeding (see for example Horwood LJ and Fergusson DM). A difference of at least 3.16 points has been measurable through 15 years. It is important to realise that a child with a genetic potential for an IQ of 150 will probably not notice a 3.4 point deficit. A child with a potential for an IQ of 100 would benefit from 3.4 points. In other words, breastfeeding allows an infant to reach his/her full potential.

Numerous studies have also shown that there are many other factors that impact both positively and negatively, a child’s cognitive development.  There are also many ways to positively promote cognitive development in children; reading, singing, offering choices, asking questions, visiting interesting places, the list goes on and on.

Furthermore, while an IQ score may be a good basic indicator of a person’s reasoning and problem-solving skills, it has no bearing on how curious a person is about the world or how well a person understands and deals with emotions and it doesn’t measure practical abilities or talents.  A person may have an average IQ score, but be a musical virtuoso or gifted artist.

Since the majority of us aren’t geniuses anyway and tend to fall somewhere within the rather large average range, it’s not likely that whether a child was breast or formula fed is the deciding factor between genius and learning disabled.

Sure, having a high IQ might give a person an edge in many areas of life, but it’s no guarantee of life success.  Other factors like hard work, tenacity, resilience and overall attitude play a significant role as well.  Not to mention social, community and family support.  But hey, if you choose to limit your child’s “full potential” to his/her IQ score….then you got me.  Your kid is indeed smarter….congrats!

I Probably Have Vomit on My Shirt Too

Who hasn’t seen one of these passive aggressive digs posted to a Facebook page or on Pinterest at one time or another?  Please ladies, can we give it a rest already!?

SAH Working Mom

Those of you who follow my blog (thank you) and those of you who might stumble upon it and read through prior posts of mine, (also thank you) will know that I have a job outside of the home.  I work for a multibillion dollar, global business.  It’s demanding and competitive and comes with a giant spotlight on every move and decision I make.  One flub of a word or misinterpretation of something I say or write or the way I handle a particularly sensitive situation, could cost my company millions.  However, I’m not afraid to admit that being a mom is ten times harder.

So, I mess up at work and my company loses a few million, they’ll make more.  I mess up my kid and he could become a serial killer.

Being a parent, not just a mom, but any kind of parental figure, is really hard work and an enormous responsibility.  In no other job is a person tasked with molding and shaping and guiding and loving another human from birth.  It’s not a role I take at all lightly….and yet, I also work outside my home.

So….who is the better, harder working mom?  From what I gather, the working moms are selfish, ball busters who pawn off the raising of their children to strangers in order to pursue the all mighty dollar.

Stay-at-home moms are uneducated, lack ambition, wear yoga pants and spend all day complaining about being under-appreciated, stay-at-home moms.

This is all true if you believe everything you read on the internet.

When I meet other moms at parks or my son’s extracurricular activities and the conversation leads to “work,” I always refer to myself as a Straddler; one foot tentatively planted in my career and the other firmly planted at home.  Essentially, I don’t fit in with either camp and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Most weeks, my son spends approximately 20 hours with a nanny who comes to our home.  For 10 of those hours….he’s sleeping.  I still work a 40 hour work week….sometimes more.  If it sounds complicated or impossible, that’s because it’s definitely complicated and borderline impossible.

It’s not an easy balance to keep.  No part of my actual work load has been shifted or modified to accommodate me.  I still have just as much work and just as many responsibilities as I’ve had in the past….I just juggle them differently.  I’m fortunate enough to have the flexibility and the support of my spouse to make it work and yes….I know it’s not even close to being the norm for most women.

So, why do I work?  Apparently, we working moms….no matter the size of our houses and bank accounts….are assumed to always have a choice in this matter and must do it for reasons other than, “we have to.”

So, OK, why do I work?

  1. It’s important to me that I make a financial contribution to my family.
  2. I don’t want my husband to have to carry the responsibility alone.
  3. My salary will allow us to contribute a little more when our kids go to college and when/if they get married….or if we have to bail them out of jail someday….because of all that formula.
  4. My salary helps buy some of the “extra’s” we are fortunate to enjoy as a family.
  5. I have really amazing retirement benefits and my husband and I want to retire young.
  6. My husband has an ex-wife who does not work, despite having a masters degree, two adolescent children in school full time and no known disabilities….other than perhaps, entitlement, (and a claim that she’s allergic to the cold and has night blindness), that would preclude her from supporting herself….vaginamony and child support are her paychecks.  My salary helps recoup that loss of income.
  7. I have to.

As a “Straddler” I think I can also offer some perspective on behalf of the stay-at-home mom’s as well.  When my son was born, I essentially pitched a tent along my career ascent path and settled in.  I’ve neither slipped nor risen.  While my co-workers seem to be speed-walking by on those moving sidewalks you see in airports, I’m the one strolling along beside it, whistling and in no particular rush.  I’m neither “Leaning In” or “Leaning Out,” just sort of trying to stay upright.

So, why am I not “Leaning In” and working harder as my generation of women has been encouraged to do?  As any strong willed, independent, ambitious career woman would?

  1. Because you can’t take it with you.  I earn a very nice salary.  It’s enough to help get us where we want to be.  Anything on top of that, is inheritance and my kids can earn their own stuff.
  2. Cancer reshaped my perspective and I’ve come to realize I never NEEDED to give as much as I personally gave in order to be successful.
  3. Because I want to spend quality time (not quantity, QUALITY), time with my son every day.
  4. I want the flexibility to attend his doctor’s appointments and other important events.
  5. I want to be home to make dinner for my family at least 95% of the nights.
  6. I want to see my son every morning and be the one who tucks him in every night.
  7. My son will be the only biological child I will have and I don’t want to miss a thing.
  8. Because I don’t want to.

These reasons are MY reasons only.  The way I’ve chosen to slow my career climb and realign my priorities, is what works for me.  I know how fortunate I am to have these choices and what I’ve said is not not all meant to suggest that the women who choose to “Lean In” aren’t interested in quality time with their children or home cooked meals or flexibility.

I’ve just been asked these two questions, “Why do you work?” and “Why aren’t you working harder?” many, many times and I never understand why my reasons matter to anyone else, I’m just generally almost always prepared to tick them off when I engage with other women.

At the end of the day, I genuinely believe that with very few extreme exceptions, all mothers love and want the absolute best for their children.  We just do it differently, define it differently and have different emotional and mental needs….not better….just different.

There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of studies, all over the world, focused on the long term effects of children with working mom’s vs. stay-at-home mom’s.  Weeding through the dozens of articles posted, there seemed to be two primary constants:

  1. Each approach comes with it’s own set of pro’s and con’s….not just for the children, but for the entire family.  The con’s are not earth shattering and the pro’s are all positives, so why is it necessary to debate which of those positives is more positive than the other?
  2. It’s perhaps not WHO is participating in the childcare process that matters, but more the QUALITY of the caregivers involved.  Studies showed that children who attended better quality daycares, faired just as well as those who stayed home.  Children who spent time with grandparents or a consistent nanny, also faired just as well as those whose mother’s were the primary caregivers.  Finally, children whose fathers took on the role of being the primary caregiver, faired just as well as those who were raised by stay at home moms.

I was raised by a train-wreck and generally left to fend for myself….I survived and have done quite well for myself….it’s really not so black and white.

So, why is it necessary for one of us to be declared better than the other?  Why is it so hard to cut each other a little slack?  Who benefits from the drama of it all?  Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Out of curiosity, I Googled “Daddy Wars” to see what might come up and while it appears some men have attempted to stage a battle, most don’t seem to be buying in.

I asked a male co-worker today if he ever felt the effects of the “Daddy Wars” and he said, “What do you mean?  Like fighting with another dad at hockey or something?”  

I said, “No, I mean, like, if Greg were to question your commitment as a dad because you didn’t make it home for dinner every night, or because your kid goes to day care and his kids have an au pair?”

His response, “Why would he do that?”  

Why, indeed….

I’m the World’s Best Mom!

At least I am according to my son and my husband and those are the only two votes I need.

I’m planning to be the only mom my son will ever know.  Our reality, whatever it is now and whatever it looks like down the road, will be our normal….so I’m hopeful he’ll grow up blissfully unaware of all the damage my formula feeding, instinctive, straddling parenting methods have done to him.  I’ll think he’ll be alright, but what do I know….I’m just his mother.

It would be nice though, somewhere along this parenting journey, to find some other mom’s to rally with every now and then….without having to defend my choices or pick a side, because I think we need each more than we realize.

The working, breastfeeding mom’s lobbying for better, more comfortable places for pumping at work….would probably benefit from a few more female co-workers in their corner….even if they are the formula feeding mom’s.

Likewise, working mom’s lobbying for better maternity leave policies, flexible work schedules, quality and affordable childcare and so on, would benefit from the support of their stay-at-home counterparts.

It’s really not that hard ladies….to believe the best in each other and our intentions.  I have a modicum of faith we can get there.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my son is playing in the toilet….

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