Meagan is an attorney, turned stay at home mom with two daughters, 3 and 1. She read a piece I recently wrote with another mother and emailed me to talk about her perspectives on pregnancy and motherhood. I asked her if she would be willing to share her thoughts and she happily agreed.
Here is a bit of her story.
I thought an interesting comment you made in your email was, ‘One of the difficult parts [of parenting] is either being too focused on the moment or not focused enough on the moment. It is hard to find the balance.’ What did you mean by that?
You can’t focus on the little things. Like, our house looks like shit, Linda. I am looking at my couch. When we bought it, it was a month’s salary. Now there are milk stains all over it from my 1-year old that walks around with her milk cup and likes to wipe her wet lips on the microfiber. There are spit drawings all over the couch. I have stopped trying to clean it. If I do, an hour later there will be more milk hieroglyphs on it. You can’t focus on the little teeny tiny things because then you do not have time to focus on the more important things. You really need to be present. I see parents at the park and they have their smart phones and their kids are doing these amazing things or their kid is attacking another kid and they are on Facebook or TMZ.
Was it a learning process to get to that point?
Yes. It was much harder with the first kid.
You loved being pregnant?
It felt very life affirming to feel all of these changes in my body and to attribute those changes to the baby growing in me. We actually found out the sex of the baby even though we had not planned on it because I was developing this amazing relationship with the child. I was telling my husband, ‘It is definitely a girl.’ I felt sexy. It did awesome things to our sex life. I wanted to have sex all the time. I think for my husband it was kind of like having sex with someone who was not his wife. It was like a way for him to have sex with someone else, but be totally faithful. It was exciting for me that he was so excited and that was true for both pregnancies.
Did you expect to love pregnancy?
Not really. There are really mixed stereotypes of pregnancy out there so you don’t really know. I think I always thought I would be one of those beautiful Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie that doesn’t gain any weight except on their stomach and they just sort of glow. I always thought I would be one of those people and I wasn’t. I was the person that gained a ton of weight and retained a bunch of water and broke out and I wasn’t the gorgeous Hollywood star, but I still loved it. The nice parts were so nice. They made the sciatic nerve pain and the numbness in my feet kind of minor.
Do you have advice for someone who is less fond of pregnancy?
I would go to the doctor and bitch about the sciatic nerve pain and she would say, ‘Well you could get acupuncture, but what I can tell you is that it will be over in 9 months,’ and that is just kind of the answer. It will be over in 9 months. What can’t you deal with for 9 months?
I believe there is a silence out there in the parenting world.
I think there is an added layer of silence when you are a stay at home mom. I think it is because stay at home moms chose this so they don’t want to bitch about something they have chosen. This is their job. This is what they do full time and if you bitch about it you are bitching about the one thing you do. There are really difficult times and days and parents do not talk about those things.
With kids who are totally dependent on you, you look like an asshole when you complain when society is telling you every child is a blessing and that kind of bullshit. You are worried you are going to sound ungrateful if you start complaining about it when you have been given this ‘blessing’. I think people worry about that. I complain with my friends, but we don’t necessarily need to air it. But what to complain about is small in relation to the grander scheme of things.
There are stressful times and periods. The first year of a baby’s life is a stressful time. They are so helpless and you are so new at it, it can feel really overwhelming. You add to that the isolation of being home perhaps for the first time in your life all day everyday and that can be really stressful. I think that is a first time parent thing. I had those moments. But, with the second kid they are much more fleeting. I had a lot more confidence that I gained through parenting the first kid.
How did you plan for the logistics of having a baby?
You can plan the logistics, but they will not necessarily play out as you hoped. There has to be an element of flexibility and rolling with it if you are going to enjoy having kids. The people I see who are not enjoying having kids are people who are super rigid. The planners who like to have control over everything. That is fine and good and you can control most things, but you can’t control babies and you can’t control kids. You don’t know what you are going to get. It is a bit of a wildcard and you have to be willing to accept that when you go into to having kids, otherwise you are really going to struggle.
How do parents learn how to ‘just go with it’?
You have to do what makes sense to you. I have a girlfriend that just had a baby and she was really unhappy being home. She went back to work and she is a totally different person. She is super happy being away all day and seeing her kid at night. It is finding what works for you. There is not one answer to that.
You said having kids was is the best decision you have ever made.
It has been really fulfilling. I have good days and I have great days of ecstasy and total euphoria in watching my kids. The only thing I can kind of compare the feeling to is in high school driving in someone’s car with windows down and the music is super loud and nothing matters but that moment. I have those moments in parenting on almost a daily basis. Where else can you create that on a daily basis?
Why did you decide to breastfeed?
It seemed really natural to me. All of the research points to breastfeeding as the best thing for baby and mom. It helps the baby’s eyes, allergies, asthma, IQ, risk of obesity and mom’s risk of breast cancer. I think most people find it either difficult or extremely difficult and then it is just a matter of whether or not they are going to stick to it. It was not super easy. I definitely had to work on it. It wasn’t just breastfeeding. It was nursing, which was more of a relationship. It was something special we did together. It was these quiet, really special moments. I loved nursing and the bond we had. I would recommend it to anyone.
It was a cool experience. Our bodies can withstand a lot and they can really get pushed to the limit and that is amazing. It hurt like fuck. It was crazy how painful it was, but at the end of it you have a baby. They hand you this baby and you look down and it is this perfect baby that you made. It is this feeling that seriously can only be rivaled by doing serious amounts of drugs. If you haven’t had a baby or done a lot of drugs you would never understand and I have done both.
Was being a parent harder than you expected?
It was a shock. We really liked being just a couple. We made good money. We went out all the time. We had nice things for our house. I had a personal trainer and then all of those things go away and that is really shocking and hard, but worth it especially since I know someday I will get those things back. I know that someday there will not be kids in the house and I will be able to go out for dinner and a movie – which would be awesome.
How has having kids affected you and your husband’s relationship?
For the most part it has made us stronger. We survived the first year of having a baby – two times. I think he feels some of the same joy that I do. We do not get as much alone time together. You have to work super hard to get that time and we do, but there are definitely times where we get on each other more than we would if we didn’t have kids. The situations can be, not even higher stress, but they just move faster when you have 2 kids running around. The volume around here can be really loud. My husband and I can get short or snappy with each other.
What are the hard things about parenting?
The middle of the night. The last couple of years have gone by really, really fast. The fastest by far of all the years of my life, but the minutes in the middle of the night when you are up with a baby that is crying and you don’t know why they are crying and you are watching the minutes on the digital clock flip – it is the slowest thing in the whole world. Time literally stands still in those moments. Those moments are really hard. The years are going by really fast, but those minutes in the middle of the night – whoa are they slow and whoa are they hard. There are times when I think, ‘I need to get out of here. I need to do something on my own without my kids.’ In those moments it is hard because before kids you could just go do those things.
And then you throw in not sleeping. They use sleep deprivation as a form of torture. Unless you are a mother or have been tortured you are not going to understand how torturous not sleeping is. Minor decisions become difficult. Do I put blankets in the crib? The bumper in the crib? Decisions like that become tough when you are that sleep deprived. You get nuts, kooky.
A very good friend of mine says parenting is all attitude. Would you agree?
You can have a ton of fun with a herd of kids if you have the right attitude about it. Things that are funny to me are so awful to some moms. For example, the other day I was getting dressed in front of my daughter because my husband and I were going out and I was putting on a pair of jeans and I thought, ‘I am going to wear a thong tonight.’ I never do, why would you as a stay at home mom? My daughter looks at me and says in total seriousness, ‘Mom, your butt is eating your underwear. Why is your butt eating your undies?’ It was one of the funniest things I ever heard. I told my neighbor the next morning and her reaction was not, that is the funniest thing ever. Her reaction was more along the lines of, ‘Maybe you should find more time to work out,’ or maybe you should not be wearing a thong in front of your kid.
I think being a parent is great. There are no re-do’s on the parenting thing. It is not one of those things you should try because you want to try but with the right attitude it can be a great thing. I firmly believe I am happy wherever I am. I can make my own happiness. I always know wherever we go we can make our own happiness and surround ourselves with people we like. If you have a positive attitude and can roll with things – even the blips where you are able to think, ‘This too will pass,’ the little things are not so huge.
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