Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

The reason I haven’t been blogging

It’s true that being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job. I work from from 6am until 10pm and I rarely get unsupervised bathroom breaks or a chance to collect my thoughts. Things that I used to take for granted, like showering or shaving my legs, have become special treats, which often occur late at night. But in general, I’m ok with that. Yes, I am tired all the time. And yes, having two strong-willed girls ages 4 years and 2 years (25 months apart), is very challenging. But after reading so many negative blog articles about parenting, I started to worry that my blog was turning into a public bitch session, which I don’t want. I don’t feel the need to constantly bitch about every little thing but after reading other articles I started to feel negative about my our parenting journey. Of course there are times that I call my best friend, my sister or my mom and vent, but all-in-all, I am pretty happy with my life and my decision to stay home.

After reading so many things I wondered why so many parents feel like victims of the parenting process. Did they ever babysit or care for small children before they decided to have children? Did they think it was going to be all rainbows, ponies and Pinterest-inspired parties? Surely they had some idea that raising another human being was not going to be a cakewalk right?

We all get it. Parenting is hard. We all do it everyday. Fostering the cognitive and emotional development of a child takes work. No one ever said that parenting was easy but they probably never told you exactly how hard it is either. There are just some things that you have to experience to know. There are days when I count down the hours until bedtime and days that by noon, I have had it! When I hear things like “Our parents had it easier raising us because they didn’t have to use carseats” or other similar comments I want to smack these people with the reality stick. Really, just because your mom was able to let you “roll around in the back of the station wagon” doesn’t mean her parenting experience was any less challenging than yours. Each generation of parents has their own struggles to cope with. Get over yourself, put your big girl panties on and deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy reading other blogs. Some of them make me feel like I’m not alone in whatever challenge I am  currently facing. I get a sense of peace knowing that someone else out there feels the same way I do, but if you feel the need to publicly vent over and over again, maybe you need a more supportive and healing type of outlet. There are professionals out there who can assist with stress relief, anger management and help those who are constantly struggling to raise their children. It is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard either. There is no shame in needing help to get through the tough times or to learn new ways of coping.

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Reflections on the first year

Well it has officially been one year since we embarked on this journey. I would like to tell you that it has been a wonderful decision. I want to say that it has been everything I hoped for, but honestly it has been hard. Emotionally I feel like I have been extremely stressed and depressed. The first six months were probably the hardest six months of my life. Even the experience of being a new mother with Post-Partum Depression did not prepare me for the feelings of isolation and frustration I felt adjusting to the new life here.

I remember being in the temporary housing and crying every day. I tried not to tell my husband how bad it was because he was working and had struggles and adjustments of his own. I didn’t want to burden him with my issues which only made me feel more lonely. We had the dream life. We lived less than 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean and watched vacationers and surfers from all over the world come to our town to get a taste of the good life. I walked on the boardwalk everyday with the sun on my face and the ocean breeze in my hair. Why oh why would I voluntarily give that up?

It was not an easy decision. We went back and forth for a very long time, weighing all the Pros and Cons. As I laid in bed crying myself to sleep overnight for the first month, mourning the loss of my dream life, it was hard to remember the reasons why we actually pulled the trigger on the plan. Living without our household furniture and other items for almost 4 months was another snag in the plan that seemed to be a never ending cause of stress. The weather sucked. It was cold and rainy and I could not communicate the way I wanted to. It felt like everyone I saw was perfect and was judging me and my parenting skills.

When our container finally arrived, I felt a sense of normalcy for the first time. We had clothing and shoes other than the few items we packed into our suitcases. We were reunited with our kitchen tools and cookware! Yay! Our oldest stated Kindergarten and things were looking up. I felt a bit better. Summer came and we enjoyed long warm days. We met some neighbors and spent our summer vacation in Bavaria and Italy. I was starting to feel more comfortable speaking German again. After 6 months, we were finally settled in our home and I was finished building the Ikea catalogue!

The holidays away from home were hard. I missed our regular family traditions and trying to get the ingredients needed to put on a Thanksgiving Feast was nearly impossible. I started to get home sick. I thought of all the things I miss about America. I miss customer service, people smiling when they see you on the street, common courtesy, stores being open past 7pm, the variety, the endless options of mundane items like kitchen handtowels. I miss ethnic food. I miss black beans and Adobo.

But what I don’t miss is hearing about mass shootings. Or parents being reported to CPS every time they allow their children to roam more than 10 feet from them. I don’t miss all the vigilantly justice, people breaking out car windows because someone left their dog in the car for 5 minutes or calling the police because they saw a kid sitting in a parked car.  I don’t miss the hypocrisy of the USA at all.

After feeling the way I did for too long, I realized that I needed to do something to improve my state of mind. I enrolled in a sewing class with a friend and spent Tuesday evenings being ME. I enrolled our youngest in child care a few times a week, so she could play with other kids and I could have some time to do things for myself. It has been wonderful. My husband even remarked about how he has noticed a difference. I think it is important to remember that we are the creators of our own happiness. It is not always easy to recognize the signs when we are faltering and it is not easy to pull ourselves out of the hole of depression. But we must. We must take control of our lives and create the light when all we see is darkness.

I am feeling more positive about our decision as we move into “Year 2” of this adventure. I know there will be bumps in the road but I am ready.

 

 

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Raising a Nation of Spoiled Brats

Undoubtedly there are many benefits to waiting until your 30s or 40s to start your family. Being more mature gives us a different perspective on life than younger parents. For me, having had more time to enjoy my freedom and youth allows me to be more present and focused on my children’s needs rather than daydreaming about that summer backpacking tour through Europe or South America that I never got to experience. In fact, I did that, as well as many other things on my bucket list before deciding to start a family.

Another benefit is that when you are more established in your career, you are typically more financially secure and can afford to buy your children things and give them experiences that many children will never have the luxury of knowing. But even having enough disposable income to make their wildest dreams come true, does not mean that we have to give in to every wish and desire.

We all know that parent who just cannot say “no”. Their children have more toys than the average indoor play place, their birthday parties looks like they are pulled straight from Pinterest and their kids are spoiled brats. That’s right. I said it. They are spoiled. While it seems to solve an immediate issue or prevents an uncomfortable situation now, I can assure you that in 10 years, your lax parenting style is going to come back with a vengeance. You have to look at the big picture and ask yourself “What is this going to teach my child?”. If it is going to teach them to whine and cry and pitch a fit until they get their way, and this is not a behavior that you want to reinforce, then do not give in.

Also, it’s ok to discipline your kids and to say “no”. I give you permission to set limits and follow through with consequences. Maybe it is a fear of looking too strict to the other diners in a restaurant, or the other moms in the mommy group but it seems like people are too afraid to actually “parent” nowadays. And I understand why. There is a fear that some passerby will think you are too harsh and threaten to call Child Protective Services or maybe you have sworn to yourself that you will not make the same mistakes your parents made raising you. But do yourself and the rest of society a favor and teach your kids that life is not always fair. Teach them that they are not going to get everything and anything their heart desires and that’s ok. Teach them how to appropriately cope with feelings of disappointment.Teach them about delayed gratification and how earning something means more than getting it “just because”. These lessons will help them later in life.

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5 reasons why going to work is easier than staying home

We’ve all heard it. The comment that being a stay-at-home-mom is not a job. And when I  heard it come out of the mouth of a very good, long time friend of mine, I was livid.  It was right around the time that a mutual friend of ours had announced that she was going to quit her j-o-b to be a full-time mom. After knowing her for more than 10 years I had a pretty good idea what kind of mother she was going to be and I was very happy for her. I knew that she would fill her children’s lives with love and invaluable experiences. Her children will grow up polite and cultured, and I am sure that they too will become caring, thoughtful adults just as their parents are.

Our friend, who has chosen not to have children, had a different reaction. His comment really struck a chord with me and rather than argue about it and ruin our friendship, I bit my tongue and artfully changed the topic to a more neutral one.

How could he say that motherhood is not a job? Did he not know how much work goes into raising children and managing a household? Clearly he did not.

I must admit that I have replayed this conversation in my head more than I would like to admit. If you consider a job as being something that you do to earn an income, then I suppose there is some truth to this statement. However there is no doubt that mother’s do an insurmountable amount of work. So I started thinking, what makes my job of being a stay-at-home-mom different from my paid profession as a social worker. What I am doing now is not earning an income, but in all honesty, since resigning from my position, our lives really haven’t changed that much financially speaking. I came up with the following list of reasons why being at home full-time is harder than going to work:

 

1. Set hours. Working a regular 8-5 is predictable. When the shift is done it’s done. You can leave work at work. When you stay home, you are on 24/7. A typical day for me starts at 6:30am and does not end until 8:00pm when the kids are in bed and I am on-call all night.

2. You get breaks. By law here in California we get two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute (albeit unpaid)  lunch. At home there is no break, you are “on” all the time and I rarely get to use the bathroom without one of two kids watching me.

3. Someone else cooks your lunch and cleans it up. I worked in  a hospital so we had a cafeteria which had surprisingly good food and a very well stocked salad bar. I loved that! Even if you don’t work at a place with a cafeteria, you go out to lunch so there is no planning or clean up. Now I have to dream up delicious, nutritious lunches for myself and my kids each day and clean it up at some point. While this doesn’t seem like it would be difficult, trust me, it can be pretty daunting day after day.

4. You can take a sick day. When you are a stay at home parent, no one cares if you don’t feel good. There is no back up person to call, you just have to suck it up and get through the day.

5. If you get overwhelmed you can ask a coworker for help. At home, you’re alone. There is no one to assist with your workload, you just do the best you can.

Despite all of these things, I still feel that being home with my girls is the best “job” in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Of course, I would love to be able to squeeze in some “me time” every now and again but right now I am trying to drink in every last moment of their innocence and enjoy each stage as I know that it will all be over way too soon.

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Keeping Up in North County

I live in what is considered North County San Diego. It is a beautiful collection of quintessential beach towns stretching up the Pacific Coast from La Jolla to Oceanside. It is a wonderful place to live and raise children. The weather is perfect and the scenery is gorgeous. For the most part, people here are pretty laid back. There is a strong surf culture, and the area is also a big vacation destination. I actually credit the move here with helping us conceive our oldest since we struggled with infertility for four years prior to moving here. Despite all the wonderful things about this area, we still have our fair share of judgmental assholes. I encountered one just the other day at a local Rubio’s. I was there with the two girls when my youngest was about six weeks old. Ms. Judgey Eyes, as I like to call her, was there with her husband, daughter and son. I was looking at her son’s hat because it was from one of the schools that I was researching for my oldest. After ordering and settling down at a table, I noticed that Ms. Judgey Eyes was staring at me from across the restaurant. I took a quick inventory: nope, everything seemed to be in order. My oldest was safely strapped into her high chair. My youngest was sleeping peacefully in her car seat/Snap-n-go contraption and all my clothing was zipped, tucked and covering all the right places. I wondered to myself, “What in the world is she staring at?” Being a social worker, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s a little something we learn in school called Strengths Based Perspective. We look for a strength to focus on rather than looking for a weakness or some kind of pathology.

Judging by the clothing that the Judgey Eyes children were wearing, and the fact that they attend this very elite school, I am guessing they are pretty well off. Now I like to think that my husband and I earn a pretty good living but I am also quite frugal. Especially when it comes to buying baby items or clothing that our children will use for a short time. I don’t buy $50 shoes for my toddler and I am always looking for ways to save a few bucks by shopping sales and using coupons. I want my kids to look good but cannot justify the overinflated cost of designer clothes that my kiddos will outgrow by the time the credit card bill comes. If Ms. Judgey Eyes wants to buy overpriced items for her children, that’s her prerogative. Maybe she has more disposable income, owns a children’s clothing boutique or has a passion for fashion. Whatever the reason, I was uncomfortable with the way she was looking down at me.

This experience got me thinking about the pressure to “keep up appearances” in today’s parenting world.  Whether it is having the hippest clothes, fancy stroller or attending the newest trendy preschool, there are a lot of things that can make a new mother feel like she is not doing enough for her kids even though none of this really matters. Let’s face it, children don’t know if you bought their clothes at Juicy or Goodwill. They don’t care if the stroller you bought was $75 on Craigslist or the new Bob with the $600 price tag. What they will remember is the love and time you spent playing with them. Why is it that moms feel the need to judge one another? Can’t we just support one another? It always seems strange to me since we all belong to the same “club” and we all know how hard it is to be a mother. I really wanted to go up to Ms. Judgey Eyes and call her out on her snooty-ness, but I didn’t. I bit my tongue and forgave her. After all, she did look pretty unhappy as her husband as his guzzled his beer at 11am

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Advice for first time moms

When you are a new mom, people feel like it’s their responsibility to give you advice. Whether it’s their opinion on your plan to do natural birth, cloth diapering, work vs. stay at home, or any other topic they so desire. It’s almost as if they think that you haven’t done any research on your own because obviously you have no idea what you’re talking about. Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. Once your little budge of joy arrives, people are even more forth coming with their opinions about how you should be parenting.

After the first few months, I developed a way of coping with this unsolicited advice. The majority of the time I say something like “Oh yes, thank you so much” or “We’re fine, thank you.” and politely go about my business. However, every once in a while I can’t hold it in so this is when I unleash my own very strong, well researched opinion on them, just as lovingly as they have decided to tell me that they don’t they don’t agree with what I’m doing. Guess what nosey lady at the grocery store, yes, I do realize that my baby is crying and that she is most likely hungry but no, I do not need your help nor am I going to abandon my cart full of a week’s worth of groceries to run out to my car to feed her this instant because her crying makes you uncomfortable. I am certain that my baby will not die from hunger or from crying for 10 minutes while I finish up at the deli and check out. Now, could I have said “Oh you’re right. She might be hungry.”? Of course I could have! But after the second time she sought me out to tell me that I wasn’t parenting right, I’d had it.

My advice to new mom’s is simple. Listen to what others want to tell you, thank them, and then forget 90% of what they say.

My advice to those who want to give unsolicited advice: Bite your tongue and say something complimentary instead. This new mama needs you to tell her what she’s doing right because she’s already too self-critical as it is.

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