This is what Kate was missing while she was getting that luxurious sleep-in this morning…(tomorrow its my turn)
The Battle of Evermore October 15, 2009
Eliza has this little toy doorbell she can ring that plays 8 bars of the most hideous, 80s version of some annoying kids song. When she pushes it, she turns, looks at me and then starts dancing. Lately I’ve noticed she pushes it more often when I’m trying to play her artists I like, like Desmond Dekker or Serge Gainsbourg. I wonder if this is just the first volley in a life long battle for control of the dial.
Muddie’s Visit and Savory Food October 14, 2009
We were very lucky to receive a visit from Muddie (Eliza’s paternal grandmother) this weekend. Muddie was also lucky as Eliza is at the cutest/funnest/most delightful age.
She giggles. She snuggles. She grabs on to your hair and teeth. She makes eye contact and says ‘mama’ and ‘dad.’ She even took some of her first independent steps.
Eliza has also finally indicated some taste in food. I made this delicious curried lentil soup with coconut milk and chard. She LOVED it. I also made a pot pie which she seems to enjoy. And, like all children everywhere…Eliza loves Muddie bread. Catherine made us several loaves from an old family recipe from Howie’s grandmother (also nee Muddie). Muddie Sr. won people over with her simple bread recipe made with flour, yeast and just a little bit of bacon grease. Mmmmmmmmmmmuddie.
So I think we’ve won Eliza over with the savory foods. Now it’s a battle between us and the ants over the savory bits she drops on the floor.
Bad Mother October 11, 2009
So I haven’t read Ayelet Waldman’s book by this title yet, but I can already identify. From the reviews I’ve read and after hearing Ms. Waldman interviewed by Terry Gross, I’ve gleaned that the book refers to the unending possibilities of screwing up parenting…at least if you are a woman.
For example, here are the times this week I felt like a bad mother:
1. I gave Eliza egg whites…which she handled fine…but upon reading more about it and getting advice from pediatricians…I felt confused and well…like a bad mother.
2. I forgot to pay my nanny on Monday. And on Tuesday.
3. I picked Eliza up late from day care…twice.
4. I watched Eliza put a ant trap in her mouth.
5. I worked.
6. I didn’t play with Eliza enough…or was it well enough.
Now Howie has been present for most of these events…and should be considered co-responsible for these events. Although he’s probably the lieutenant to my captain, he’s definitely the most engaged of fathers. Nevertheless, Howie has never turned to me, eyes full of fear, and asked “Kate, am I a bad father?”
The fact that I spend time questioning my capacity to be a “good” mother to my child demonstrates how incredibly strong the cultural script for motherhood is in the US. Images of “good mothers and bad mothers” are shoved down our throats through advertising and television. But I also think I have picked up these bad habits from other mothers. Mothers I know are constantly obsessing about their ability to do what’s best for their children. And I think it’s rubbing off on me.
I’m ashamed and embarrassed that I’m not immune to the cultural script for motherhood which says I must be perfect and selfless and fully informed at all times. That I should be laid back but hyper-aware. Creative but structured. Clean but accepting of messes. Beautiful but not focused on looks. Working but fully focused on Eliza. Happy with one child…but looking forward to another.
Frankly, I’m pissed off that being a feminist doesn’t make me immune to feeling, at times, like a fat, lazy, unattractive, bad mother. I think it just puts a finer point on things because it shows me the limitations of being socially and politically aware. The script is there for me as much as it is for other women. I even hesitate to post this on the blog…because it invites reassurances from friends and family that I’m a good mother. But these assurances just add to our dichotomous understanding of women as parents. That they are good or bad. No one is in between. No one wants to be just a mother.
It is in this space of irritation and grumbling that I start to make connections between my home life and my work. Women in our culture pay a dear emotional price for their ability to reproduce. In situations where women feel they are ready to become good mothers, many end up feeling like they are incapable of cheerfully meeting the unending set of obligations that would reward them with that label. For women who find they are not ready for “good motherhood” and thus choose abortion or adoption, the label of “bad mother” also applies.
Somewhere in here there is a book called “Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don’t.”
I don’t know if Ms. Waldman’s book offers any insight on how to get out of this cultural bind. But I am eagerly awaiting my copy.
Messes, crawling and containment October 4, 2009
Howie, Eliza and I have been going through some growing pains these last few weeks. Eliza is cruising, crawling and curious. She must be in Freud’s famous “oral” stage because everything goes in the mouth. Rocks in the backyard, dad’s shoes and shoe laces, her own hands and feet, and most disturbingly…poisonous ant traps.
Apparently, Eliza is not the only crawling entity in our house. We have also been invaded by a scourge of never-ending, sweet-eating ants. We’ve tried to be responsible about putting food away and keeping things off of the floor…but it’s hard with a baby who is constantly moving. So we did a combination of putting things away and ant traps on the counters. But then they started forming cues around our refrigerator…and most ickily…around our laundry basket.
The ants must die. Hence the ant traps on the floor. And then…the ant traps in Eliza’s mouth.
Now I don’t think Eliza has actually ever held the ant trap in her mouth for long enough to get much ant poison. It’s more like a slow-motion scene: I’m spraying the garden with water and turn my head to see Eliza heading for the trap…then running slow across the yard…then scooping her up…and prying the trap from her hands. Rinse. Repeat.
Since I was sick last week with the flu, Howie very sweetly bought me 2 quarts of that yummy green Odwalla juice. I swear I just put the cup full of it down on the living room carpet for a second! I think we’ll have to rent a steam cleaner every three months or so during these pre-toddler and toddler years.
Eliza has also had her first bout of Linda Blair-style vomiting this weekend. We took Eliza over the Bay Bridge to a very hip party in San Francisco’s Mission District. The idea was we’d go around her bed time and then put her in the pea pod in our friend’s sound proof room. Yes, our friends do have a sound proof room. On the way poor E had a yogurt which within 10 minutes was up and all over her and the car seat.
It was a very sad and smelly event. Even sadder when we realized we did not have a change of clothes for E. So, in the hippest part of San Francisco on a Friday night…Howie, our friend Karl, Eliza and I were driving around looking for a Mexican dollar store with a pair of infant-sized sweat pants and a tee shirt. We arrived at the party with our amazing host Annie in full on triage-mode. We whisked Eliza into the keg bucket that she’d set up in her shower as an impromptu “baby bath”…and Annie used some towels we’d bought for $1 to mop out the two inches of apple yogurt vomit that was floating in the bottom of Eliza’s car seat.
Eliza was all smiles throughout the whole event. She put on her soccer t-shirt and charmed the party attendees with her crawling moves until falling asleep in the sound-proof room.
Except….she puked again on our way into the house after the party…and again this morning after we went to yard sales looking for baby toys.
All this puking, spilling and ant-trap eating has made us want to develop some better “containment” strategies for our daughter. At least until she can be more discriminating about where she vomits and what she eats. So today we purchased a high chair for our kitchen and a pack and play. Hopefully, there will be less messes in future. But i kind of doubt it.