Saturday, November 10, 2012

the village

I struggle with the balance of a good and busy life. The funny and defensive layers of this hybrid life ebb and flow. Right now I'm in a defensive place (with a side dish of shoulder-shrug).

I read this blog today. A friend posted it on Facebook and many women I admire had already commented. But I never just happen to read a blog. Being a working mom means a few things have to stop before I start anything spontaneous and personal. So I stopped chopping onions for beef stroganoff. I set aside the meeting notes I was simultaneously preparing. (Because, yes.  I do have a meeting with my music director in my living room on a Saturday.) I listened for Jasper's cough on the baby monitor to see if he would fall back asleep or not. And then I read it.

There are a lot of beautiful women in my life pregnant or in the adoption process right now. They're navigating parental leave and childcare and part-time employment options. And, while I'm usually quite chatty and the first to explode with my own personal opinion about their ideas, I zip it while they share.

I had some hurtful things said to me while I was pregnant.  A few people critiqued my plan and my vocations and the way we would go about paying for and arranging childcare for Jasper once he arrived. And that never really goes away. Partly because I still remember the exact words that meant well, but hurt badly. Partly because raising a kid means you will always feel judged - both by what people have to say directly to you and by people who make different choices and then imply that theirs are superior to yours. This is hard on women whose emotional armor consists of:

  1. A fierce commitment to multiple vocations
  2. Self-depricating humor
  3. Chocolate

I still watch Grey's Anatomy. I know. Matt would tell me to deny this fact instead of leaking it on the internet. And if watching the show isn't enough, I cried during the most recent episode. Meredith is a surgeon (an attending) and a proud mama. She's new in her leadership role and not used to the new level of on-call responsibility coupled with her husband traveling more often. She passes her potty training daughter off to friends and interns all day long - torn between mama guilt and the value of her other, also urgent vocation.

Others are happy to oblige, but a mentor pulls her aside at the end and gives her a pep talk. "You're an attending now. You need a deeper bench." She hands Meredith her list of tested babysitters. Treasure. She's about to build a village. That will mean being vulnerable and asking for help and depending on a wider community and missing some really great stuff. It's not right for everybody, but it's right for her. And it will be right for her daughter, too.

Today Jasper is napping in the pack 'n' play in the basement so I can have a meeting upstairs. And he loves it - his basement den. Monday and Tuesday I will have to pry him from my body and leave him at daycare for 8 hours. That hurts, but not for long. I'm the parent who stands outside the toddler room faux-checking my email until he stops crying, then sneaks a peek at her happy little boy who's tears are suddenly gone. Within two minutes, he's moved on. He's playing with fabulous toys and exploring with friends and giving kisses away like candy in a parade. Once I see that resilience, I head outside ready to  do a little ass-kicking myself.

I miss him completely about two nights each week. I'm at meetings or the community dinner or recovery worship. I have to wait until morning to see his eyes - signs of unbound forgiveness and proof that daycare is actually really awesome. That's two nights excluding a social life, so I have trouble choosing time with friends and hair appointments over legos and bath toys.

Grandparents get Wednesdays and Thursdays. They are pushovers who specialize in snacks and field trips and building forts. He is cuddled and read to and they speak his language of grunts and nods. Every week these five people tell me that they are blessed by my child - they love this time with him and love me for making him. Yeah. You're welcome.

We have three clutch babysitters. I won't give their numbers to just anyone. They have saved my life on more than one occasion. They inspire me to put eye shadow and heels on. I want to look fabulous while I spend $12/hour in addition to whatever the heck I'm doing out of the house. I'm just glad I don't have Goldfish in my purse while I do it.

Our village is too massive to name here. There are brothers and sisters and godparents and friends and aunties who make this hectic life possible. Matt and I were both working on Halloween. Three households were willing to watch my Spiderman during the Trick or Treat hours. That's wide grace.

I choose the tears at daycare and the gushing grandparents and my sweet Fridays off with Jasper - just the two of us. I choose a career that means sudden hospital visits and a husband who travels, doing what he loves. That same career invites me to work from home when he is sick and a nursery filled with toys for him during next Tuesday's evening meeting. I choose this little house that bursts with love and fellow villagers seven days a week. I choose all of these things. I am blessed and a blessing. And so is Jasper.

I am still being helped more than I am helping other moms. Sometimes that is the imbalance that discourages me most of all. I am antsy to pass on all the mercy I've received in these first two years of mamahood. But I do believe that the very best help I can give a fellow mom is to be present as she's working out her own choices. I can listen well and I can celebrate the ones that she chooses. No concern. No devil's advocate.  No judgment.

And in a small way, I am becoming part of her village - cheering her on and making room for her to do some ass kicking of her own.

Now if you'll excuse me, my 1:00pm meeting just arrived.


val said...

You know I get it. I could not have raised the family I have without family as community--aunts and grandparents and especially big brothers and sisters who know how to wrangle babies too.

Kirsten and Heidi were trying to get ready for a wedding a couple weeks ago and Abby poured out foundation and skated in it around the bedroom. There were other issues too. Kirsten said, "It's much easier to do hair and make up without a rascally baby to wrangle."

I agree completely.

And I notice the same with my blog. The statistics indicate a surprising number of people check in with that silly mommy/grandma blog, and yet comments are few.

It's okay, odd, but okay.

love you, Girl. But you already know that. Val

AliRose said...

I read and don't comment (Val's daugher-in-law Alicia), but I'm just a little shy like that. :)

Your writing really speaks to me Meta, especially when you talk motherhood. I feel like we could be kindred spirits.

Oh and val above, I'm definitely lucky to have her in my village.

Meta Herrick Carlson said...

I'm a shy commenter, too. :) Glad we're reading each other's crazy and lovely writings. Keep kicking some ass, Alicia. You, too, Val!