Monday, March 28, 2011

Mommy: the really useful engine

It was the nicest compliment I’d received in a long time. Not foxy. Not clever. Not kind, even. But really useful. For those of you unfamiliar with Thomas the Tank Engine, allow me to enlighten your poor sheltered lives for a moment. Thomas, based on a series of old books by Rev. W Awdry, tells the tale of a little blue steam engine from a little island remarkably like Britain, only sunny. For some odd reason, Thomas and his ‘steamie’ friends are positively revered by the under-four set. And my two-and-a-bit-year-old is no exception to this enduring trainspotting obsession. He knows every engine by heart according to its colour and number. He asks to watch Misty Island Rescue at least five times a day and, I’m slightly loathe to admit, can recite whole sections of the film verbatim. If you have a girl, count yourself lucky. But then, I guess payback comes with puberty…

Click here to read the full post, as featured at A Mother World.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How deep is your blog?

Just how much information on the WWW is TMI?  (No more acronyms going forward, promise.)  After reading the latest blog horror story -- in which a mom outlandishly admits to the world at large that she prefers her son over her daughter, and then some -- I've been thinking about the big reveal and wondering if honesty really is always the best policy, at least insofar as it relates to the Internet. 

While Twitter and Facebook have arguably tightened the e-community, the social networking twins, no doubt about it, have brought out the narcissist in all of us, from the constant shameless plugs to the most mundane minutia. (Seriously, I know you've all witnessed the cringe worthy I'm Eating This status updates, too.)  I'm as guilty of navel gazing as the next person, possibly even more so.  I've often ran off at the mouth about things I probably shouldn't have, or wouldn't have, in a saner moment. 

Countless times I've opened the closet on my dark materials and talked about just how effing tough motherhood has been for me so far.  I've talked about depression and colic and many more ugly-as-sin topics on LGO.  Mainly, I'm proud to do so because I feel it's not only therapeutic for me to give those demons a good run every now and then, but because it's equally therapeutic for you to read it and occasionally nod that you really do 'get it'. 

But let's face it, some thoughts are just too dark, even for the web.  Some dirty laundry is best left to fester in the basement, or at the least, aired out where it belongs: between the four walls of a psychotherapist's office.  Will I live to regret some of the confessions made in the public domain under this domain name?  Possibly.  No, probably.  Still, I would hope there has never been any doubt about how much I love my son, ever. 

Writing for the web, though, somehow doesn't feel as real as writing for the printed page.  Don't know about you, but paper just feels more indelible and final.  Yet I know I'm kidding myself, and that the Internet may be even more dangerous due to the sheer numbers.  Once those words are released, there is no catching or retracting them.  The end result is instant, occasionally incendiary and nothing short of pandemic -- think Tiger Mom.  Rather than feeling the need to write a follow-up 'justification post', perhaps the aforementioned horror story mom (and any blogger for that matter) would do well asking herself the following questions:  Am I ok with my kids reading this now or in years to come? And my parents? My third-grade teacher? My neighbour from three doors down? before pressing PUBLISH.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why it doesn't make sense to have kids (but we do it anyway)

In fact, all logical arguments point to the fact that having kids in this day and age is positively bonkers.  That's not to say, however, that having kids isn't worthwhile.  It is.

As an interesting, albeit junk study recently indicated, the argument for having kids for emotional kudos is based on pure delusion.  The 'evidence' suggests that if we remained childless, we'd not only be richer as a species, but happier, too.  (Though admittedly, we'd also, after quite a while, be extinct, too, but I digress...) Apparently the greater the perceived sacrifices made in raising children, the greater satisfaction parents report feeling.  Masochist, moi?  Well, the lot of us, it would seem. 

But such studies about parenting are tautological by nature and on a personal note, a real pain in the ass.  Data of the heart isn't readily quantifiable, regardless of how solid your control group.  Sure, parenthood doesn't make fiscal sense.  I mean, duh -- of course it doesn't.  But the emotional payback must range somewhere in the gazillions.  Ok, so some days this home truth isn't exactly apparent, and some days we're tempted to throttle our kids and risk capital punishment.  Some days we secretly lament the loss of freedom and pension fund; we daydream of a parallel, Sliding Doors kind of universe in which we are barren yet fancy free.  But then we blink, and the moment passes...

Besides, how can you put a value on your child's smile or any time he looks you in the eye and says, 'I love you, Mommy'?  That's right; you can't.  What pseudoscience tends to forget is that those moments, though admittedly few and far between, are priceless.  Likewise with marriage.  It's a bitch, and sometimes we want to throttle our spouse and risk aforementioned capital punishment.  But that doesn't put us off searching for a soul mate, and tying the knot again and again and again...  Our desire to bond with other human beings runs deeper than mere primordial urge.  (Well, perhaps excepting Charlie Sheen.)

Before I had children, my mother struggled --and failed-- to articulate the joys of motherhood to me.  It was much like trying to describe sex to a virgin.  'You'll understand once you have one,' she said enigmatically.  But you know what?  She was exactly right. On both counts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How the F-word changed motherhood (or not)

IWD may sound like a disease, but it actually stands for International Women's Day.  A lot has changed since our foremothers were roughing it in the trenches.  Feminism has brought us better cloth diapers, with velcro fastenings, no more 'safety' pin-pricked fingers, thank you very much.  We are now --more or less-- free to work as many (or as few) hours as we want to, wherever we want to.  We are free to have as many (or as few) children as our little hearts desire, thanks to some modern miracles known as contraception and IVF**.  Another pint-sized but no less wondrous invention: tampons. (Don't know about you but the idea of waddling around in bunched-up, Sumo-style fabric isn't my idea of enlightened.)

So we women in the West have our foremothers' sacrifices to thank for our current freedom.  All those brassieres weren't charred in vain.  That said, I'm not sure being a mother these days is any easier than it was in the 'oldendays'.  Certainly we have more conveniences at our fingertips.  However, sometimes the sheer number of options available to us seems limitless.  Choice may be synonymous with freedom, but all that choice can also cause guilt, inertia, even, paradoxically, indecision.  Because we try to wear so many hats at once, and play so many of the roles now open to us, we bear the strains of extra responsibilities and self-imposed metaphorical schizophrenia.  Being superwoman day in, day out inevitably takes its toll.  In the main, we are stressed, sometimes resentful, confused, and chronically exhausted. 

But in spite of all the above, as mothers, are we happier today?  What would our daughters strive to change in our place?  Only time will tell...

** I was going to add that we no longer have to give birth at home with nothing but a Popsicle stick to bite on.  But apparently this isn't so, as my good friend N will attest.  N gave birth, sans Popsicle, to a bouncing 7lbs boy yesterday, mere minutes before the paramedics arrived!