After spending one too many evenings sitting in Boston traffic, Chrisanne is now a stay at home mom to two boys, ages 2 and 5. While on corporate-life hiatus, she's taken on new and exciting roles such as taxi driver, janitor, short order cook, and play date coordinator. She's most recently started documenting her days in Life As I Know It.
Give her a big welcoming hand, folks (and check out her blog--it's fab)! And when you've done that, head on over to her place where you can read about my atrocious misinterpretation of Tom Petty.
4:35 pm: Out the door. Headed home. Thank God my boss let me have a flexible workday so I can blow out of work early, hit the road and pick up Tommy at daycare by 5. Life is good. I pity those poor suckers who have to stay at the office until 6pm and sit in Boston traffic for hours on end. Yahooooo for me.
4:38 pm: I love my car. Even though that "new car" smell is starting to fade, it still feels like a novelty. I love the leather seats and the seat wamers (especially wonderful after childbirth). I love the upgraded stereo system. I love the speeds this car can reach on an open highway.
4:40 pm: Pulled out of the office park complex and about to merge onto Route 3. Tonight I might even have time to put some chicken in the oven instead of some nuggets in the microwave.
4:41 pm: Oh crap. A bit of a backup getting onto the highway. Well, no worries. It's usually just a few idiotic drivers who don't understand what should be the seamless weaving motion of merging. Duh.
4:44 pm: Yikes, more idiots than I thought who don't know how to merge.
4:47 pm: Finally. On the move. Moving at a slow, but steady speed. Cranking up the tunes and rolling down the windows. A little behind schedule but should be at daycare by 5:10. 5:15 at the latest.
4:49 pm: Dead stop. Not moving. Blinded by a sea of brake lights.
4:51 pm: Have rolled a total of 6 inches.
4:55 pm: Had several blissful, hopeful moments of shifting into 2nd gear.
4:57 pm: I miss 2nd gear.
5:00 pm: Still not moving. Rolling up the windows. It's getting cold. And dark.
5:07 pm: Why do people want to change lanes when traffic is at a standstill?
5:11 pm: I have found 37 cheerios on the floor, 2 sippy cups filled with curdled milk now resembling feta cheese, 5 (??) maps of the Franklin Park Zoo, and a pair of scissors (huh?).
5:17 pm: Holy Mother of God, could it be? Am I really travelling at 36 miles per hour. Yahoooo.
5:23 pm: Merging onto 495. Only 6 more miles. I can still make it to daycare and home by 5:45 and have a few minutes to start dinner before Tommy starts his low blood sugar melt down.
5:24 pm: Construction next 5 miles.
5:25 pm: Head hurts. Must stop banging it against steering wheel.
5:31 pm: Why am I doing this? Why do I go to work to sit in an office to stare at excel spreadsheets to sit in traffic to be late picking up my kid to have someone else watch him during the best hours of the day? Why?
5:33 pm: I don't even like my job.
5:35 pm: And I hate this #@!#@*! car.
5:37 pm: Should have saved the money spent on stupid car and used it to start Stay At Home Mom Fund.
5:42 pm: Picked up Tommy. Apologized to daycare for being late. Again.
5:46 pm: Fed Tommy the floor-bound cheerios to stop the hunger induced whining. Was careful to pick out the linty ones.
5:50 pm: Have managed to hit every red light on a 2 mile stretch of road. Yay me.
5:54 pm: Tommy has scarfed down the remaining cheerios and is starting his full blown hunger induced whinefest. Or is that me? Can no longer distinguish between the voice in my head and the one in the backseat.
6:01 pm: Home. Finally. Chicken nuggets for dinner. Again.
Must leave earlier tomorrow.
He tittered dutifully before looking me square in the eye:
"It's still tits though."
"HAHAHAHAHAHA" I said, as I hurriedly did the snaps back up.
I finally get a luverly pair of coconuts, all firm and round and standing to attention, and they are the least sexual objects I could imagine. (and I am sorry if this violates some kind of La Leche League ethic--but I just can't embrace my inner sexual lactator as fully as I would like). To my husband, sweet reaffirmer of my desirability that he is, they are still tits.
[EDITED HERE TO ADD--Here, in this room "it's still tits though" is a deeply reassuring and even tender thing to say. It says "you are still very much the object of my erotic attention, and don't-you-forget-it-my-lady-love." Now I understand I am dealing with a primitive mind here, but I really do appreciate these gestures.]
It's one thing for this conversation to take place between two consenting adults, who have had "relations" (in fact it's quite nice) but quite another when the "it's still tits" factor is used as a fucked up means to control women in public spaces.
When I had my first son, I did not think twice about breastfeeding in public. Applebee's booth or friend's party, I'd whip 'em out and plug 'em in. While other friends of mine would excuse themselves to feed their infants, I'd hold court in the corner and not particularly care if someone got an eyeful. Because, it's just tits.
Something this time around has changed for me, though. This time I am not so fearless about performing the act in public. I don't know if I am more lucid and in tune with the world with #2, but I feel that suddenly I am confronted by even more stories about how breastfeeding women are being shat on by society. Whether it's the nursing mother removed from a plane, the removal of a "sexually suggestive" image of breastfeeding from MySpace, or the daycare that charges more for breastfed infants, it's pissing me off royally. And it's also making me self-conscious. Which pisses me off all the more.
Around Christmas my mother and I went out for breakfast, taking my then one-month old with us. We went to a family style diner, which, at 11am on a week day was pretty empty. We squeezed into a booth and both enjoyed our pancakes while the baby slept. As we were finishing, he began to make noises, and it was feeding time. So I put a blanket over both of us and stuck him on the boob. Easy. I even had my mum there to make sure I was not flashing anyone (not that it should matter).
The male manager who had seated us suddenly became very preoccupied with cleaning the booths (all empty) around us. He stalked up and down beside where we sat, always keeping us in the corner of his eye. It was creepy, and at first I though he was getting some kind of perverse thrill. But then I realized that he was actually getting agitated, and I was almost willing him to say something. But instead he just hovered, and there I sat in an empty restaurant, tit out, swathed in "protective" blanket, and clutching my tiny boy. I felt increasingly uncomfortable and exposed. Thank God my Mother was there, who started speaking very loudly in her best clipped British accent, I DO so hate it when people STARE, don't you?
I'll confess, the concept of "Lactivism" has not always sat well with me. Not that I do not see the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding (obviously) or that society is not always kind to nursing mothers. But as a new mother desperately grasping her Womanly Art and tearfully trying to feed my son on a non-existent supply of milk, a few years ago I felt like a huge failure when I consistently had to supplement with formula.
There's at times a zealotry about breastfeeding advocacy that concerns me--I am a breastfeeding advocate, I firmly support women's rights to breastfeed, and I believe that society does not always support breastfeeding and this is a problem. But I also support a woman's right to not breastfeed, and I believe she should not feel like a pariah for making that choice. I know quite a few women who really did give it their best shot, and who are almost shameful when recounting how they had to "give up in the end." As far as I am concerned, there is nothing shameful about that whatsoever--and it is piss poor that they have been made to feel that way. (and I know not all b.f. advocates are like this by any means, but I also don't see a page in Womanly Art where my own (supplementary) breastfeeding story would be sanctioned, let alone celebrated).
But it is sad that women might make that choice because society tells us that breastfeeding is somehow dirty, taboo, and only to be done behind closed doors. And as I head out for a family restaurant with my clan, and I pack a bottle of formula to take-along, I am struck by how much I have actually internalized those feelings by beginning to hide, even if its just a little bit. And that really pisses me off. And I realize a little (or a LOT) of zealotry and fervor is what we need right now to make any real changes in this department and counter the apparently growing tide of anti-breastfeeding policy that is beginning to develop. Hell. I'm even willing to get my tits out in public at a massive nurse in, if it will do any good. I'll even become my super-alter-ego, The Lactator, and take down that daycare owner with my Boob Spray (It's OK, ma'am, it's safe to nurse again).
And so I am thinking I need to begin to embrace my inner Lactivist just a little more. I might start by wearing this T-Shirt (which I notice, thankfully does not have flaps) Because, in the end, they are tits. And they deserve to be magnificent.
Note: I want to thank Oh The Joys for giving me a Thinking Blogger Award. I tried to do some thinking in this post, just for you! I'll be back with my own awards ceremony anon!
From: Me, Joy
To: Me, Joy
I know you're going to think this is dead weird but also dead "brill" but this is your 35 year old self writing to you. From the future. Like in that film you just saw. Or are about to see. (I don't know). I can't explain to you how I am doing this, and I also can't give too much away for fear of violating some sort of space-time-continuum (except to say that in a few years you'll be watching a lot of Star Trek Next Generation. I know I know. The very contemplation of that right now will about make you want to run screaming for the hills, but trust me, you'll get totally into it and still not be a complete sad square. Well not sad anyway.)
So, you'll be back at school now after that interminable summer holiday of being stuck at home surrounded with fields and no shops, no car, no real friends. Just a cowfield and a few contraband fags (your first) with the rough kids from down the road. (and so no, this answers your main fear, you did not contract cancer and die from those first puffs, but try not to get too attached because they will take their toll in their own way).
You love school. "Luv luv luv" it. It's escape. It's friends. It's fun! You still don't quite get it when people moan about school. For you a whole summer or even a weekend at home makes you mope about. Don't worry, I think Mum and Dad start giving you a bit more freedom about now. But it still won't be enough. And you still need to get them to drive you anywhere you want to go. You hate them for this right now (hatehatehate 'em) but trust me, now I am a mother myself I get it. And let's face it, if you were given that extra mile you're craving right now you'd probably get yourself into all sorts of trouble. You think they don't know you go to pubs with your friends and drink pernod and black and flirt with (gasp) eighteen year olds. They do. They actually have a pretty good clue about most of the stuff you're getting up to. Even the groping and tongue things. (and yes, I know you about want to die right now, but it's ok. Really).
And yes you did read that correctly. You are a mother. And yes. I know you are jumping up and down squealing right now because this also means your latent fear of always-being-a-virgin-because-you-can't-even-get-a-tampon-to-work-were unfounded. That is about where you are at right now in terms of what-is-important-to-you. I can confirm that you do manage to "do it" one of these days. I cannot promise that it will rock your world. Orgasms will come later and you'll be figuring those out on your own. Even though at certain stages you'll have convinced yourself you've had one, trust me, you haven't. (And stop saying "I'm going to Vom." You've read enough Judy Blume by now to have started to get a handle on those matters. Seriously. Get busy.)
You're a good mother. You have two children right now. And a husband. I'll not give you any more details but can say you are happy. And if I tried to explain to you what makes you happy at 35 you won't believe me, or worse, think I am faking and get all pissed off. I will say this. You make profiteroles and pavlova and Sunday roast just like Mum now, and this makes you happy. You also know how to knit and to sew. And you have a career, which you enjoy. But not as much as the Sunday lunch thing sometimes. Your husband is hilarious and a good cook. He never makes you feel insecure in his love, even when you're not wearing any makeup. These end up being the qualities you look for, believe it or not. (Oh. BTW--George Michael is totally gay. Sorry.)
You've not realized you're a feminist yet, and right now you "fancy" a series of idiotic boys with cheap perms who are only interested in getting in your (and all your mate's) knickers. And you're pretty happy to let them (despite the "there's something wrong with me" fear--or probably because of it). I'm not here to tell you to clean up your act, but make sure you are actually enjoying yourself and not letting yourself get mauled because you desperately want to be liked. And yes, your tits do get bigger, but not overly so. And I can tell you that by the time they do you couldn't really give a toss.
That wanting to be liked, wanting to please thing is going to end up getting you into trouble one of these days. Try and watch that will you? It's all fine to be likable and popular, but it's another to only see yourself through the eyes of others. And the popularity thing. It's not all it's cracked out to be. Right now you are ignoring some girls in your class who are much much more interesting than you are right now. You know. The ones who do their homework or who pay attention during chemistry.
At this moment you are getting through by the skin of your teeth. School that is. This is going to come as a shock because you're not used to failing, but it's about now that you'll find it's not enough to be able to think on your feet during class when called on. You need to actually do some work. Stop writing secret notes to your gang and start paying attention. You've completely written off all science and maths, but you'll regret this I can promise. You like English, but just being able to say something about a poem once in a while is not going to cut it. You're going to fail. Everything. Badly. When it really matters. And it's going to be shit. You'll be OK, but it's going to be shit for a while there.
I'm hesitant to tell you that last part because in some ways I need you to fail. It brought you to where you are now, so maybe I shouldn't even be telling you about this. But at least start thinking about who your real friends are and start paying half a mind to the periodic table. I know school is an escape, but try and get more from it. Please.
Listen. I know home is a bit shit right now. You can't speak to anyone about it because it feels disloyal, and somehow shameful. The atmosphere is suffocating. Except when she suddenly smiles or makes a joke and the fog lifts and you all cling on delirious and giggling for dear life savoring the moment when things feel normal. Not oppressive. She's happy, she's happy... But then the moment disappears and the rage comes back. Or worse, the sound of the vacuum cleaner for hours and hours and nothing else.
It does get better. Home that is. Long after you have left and moved further away than you could ever have imagined. (And if you've noticed the funny spellings in this letter, it's your only clue). Your brother says that the distance you've put between her and yourself is not accidental. And this still plagues you.
But you do have a real conversations now, you and she. Conversations where you swear and she giggles and you both get tipsy. You love her. You like her. She likes you. You've always known she loves you, but she really seems to like you and not resent you now. Her mood still seeps into you when it moves to black, and you resent her for that at times, but you are learning to cope with it. Because you see another side. And you see where she might have been when you were 15 and she was... 34. Just 34. It still takes my breath away to think about how young she was. (Because, yes, that is young). And how at that age, how completely trapped and meaningless she might have felt at times. It doesn't excuse everything, but still... You get it a little better now. How, if you don't find yourself before you end up devoting yourself to family and children, how you can probably feel a bit dead a lot of the time.
I was about to tell you to go easy on her. To try and talk to her. But you and I both know that it won't work right now. You can't fix her. You're going to end up spending the next few years of your life desperately trying to please her, and you don't ever quite grow out of this. But what you do learn is that you both have much more in common than you can imagine. And you will end up talking. I promise. She wants to please to.
Someone you could lighten up a bit on is your brother. Believe it or not, but you and he will end up becoming solid friends in a decade or so. You will realize that your brother is one of the funniest and cleverest people you have ever known. You'll actually be going to him for advice and comfort, and he'll give it. Shocker, I know. Right now he is the pimply, quiet little bugger who you can't believe you're related to, and you could not show your distaste for him more openly if you tried. (I think now that it might have been a way to divert the attention, but still...) Do us a favor and let him watch The A-Team without all the dramatics for once in a while, will you? It's hard for him there too sometimes you know.
Let me see. In a few years time you'll be moving to that far off place I told you about. Do us another favor and take a much warmer coat. You have no concept of cold right now. None whatsoever.
Lots of Love,
p.s. Also, no less than three times when you are living in a flat during your college years (yes, you do make it to college, but that's no excuse to shirk now) you will leave the place and lock yourself out. And you'll have the cooker on inside. Which means you'll be calling the fire brigade. Three times in as many years. Trust me, it's dead embarrassing. They send at least 4 engines each time.
If nothing else, remember to put the key on your pocket. Put the key in your pocket. Put the key in your pocket. Put the key in your pocket.....
And there's no daycare tomorrow. Happy President's Day, Bane of Working Parents Everywhere!!!! Hoorah!
And, yes, I am evilbadmummy who dreams of her desk. And that private toilet stool. And lunch hour. A whole hour.
Actually. I don't know if there's much more heartbreaking than a three-month old with a nasty hacking cough. So I feel doubly evil. Doubly doubly.
And now I am sitting here snot-nosed and sneezing at my no-doubt bacteria-riddled laptop. I am mawing down any and all junkfood I can get a hold of (My husband has been informed procure for my ailments: Chocolate, Dots, sour cream and onion chips, white bread, smoked salmon, Puffs and cough drops). Starve a fever, feed a cold!
There has been a slow and steady decline of the women at Chez Ginga. By women I am referring to me and the Dog. Both of us are shunting about the house milling for food and crashing out slack jawed and drooling in front of the television. Me with
"Well. That's nice. Can I come to the wedding?"
"No. Because you will be dead."
Alicia, in turn, has apparently informed her parents that when she marries Jack, they should feel free to up and die because she won't be needing them any more.
This incident in and of itself is pretty amusing, and it's nice to know that he is connecting death with the replacement of life and the fact that one day, when we're dead, he will have a baby boy too.
But then there are moments when he asks and there is a hint of anxiety. "Mommy. Are you going to die?" Or "Grandma. You're old. Are you going to die soon?" And just once he's said "I don't want to die, Momma." Which just kills me...
It's times like this that I wish I had more to fall back on than switching into hyper-cheery mode and singsong "Yes, but not for a longlonglonglonglonglong time." I wish I could go the "we're all going to Heaven" route.
Husband and I grew up with Heaven. In England--where there is no separation of Church and State, but where, ironically, gay marriage is now fucking legal--I attended Church of England schools until I was 18. This was where I got my religion--school assembly each morning with happy-clappy sing songs "Give me ooooil in my lamp, keep it burnin', Keep it burnin' til the break of day!" Nice stories about the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and then finishing up ("hands together, children. let's pray...") with a dutifully monotone Lord's Prayer. Church attendance in my family was limited to christenings and weddings (including my own). Oh, and vaguely pissed Christmas Eve evenings ("because it don't feel like Christmas if you don't 'ave a bit of carol singing"). Apart from this, religion did not feature heavily in my household, except for the fact that Christmas was as much about singing "Away in A Manger" as "Frosty the Snowman," and when you died you went to heaven. Just try and be nice to others.
My husband's religious upbringing was decidedly more hardcore. Catholic. Nuns and priests. And rulers to smack your hand with. While I was blithely clapping along to guitar renditions of "Kumbaya," he and his classmates sang in dirge-like chorus to the much more graphic "Eat his Body, Drink His Blood!" and "Were you theeeere, when they crucifiiiiied my Lord? Were you theeeeere when they nailed him to the Tree?" Last night he told me about a sibilant Bishop who came to their school to tell them all that on arrival at Heaven's Gate, God would produce a videotape of one's life and replay it, and pause on "all the parts with all your sinssss." In contrast to me, his family regularly attended church and said grace before dinner, and he even attended mass routinely until shortly before I met him (and completely corrupted him with my demonic ways).
So there we are. A Recovering Catholic and an "I'm agnostic. No I'm an atheist, No. I'm an agnostic" who can't commit. We've both been trained to deconstruct life's grand meta-narratives, and so it's made this religion part a bit difficult for us to pull off at home. It's not that either of us are devoid of spirituality (Well. I think I'm not devoid. If I believe in the spirit that is. I think I do believe in the spirit. No I don't) it's just that once you bring in Heaven then you bring in God. And Angels. And possibly Jesus. Unlike with Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, with Heaven you get a bigassed Ideology to contend with. And yes, we could go the "we're all one energy" route and just talk about a place we go that's on a higher plane and leave Jesus out of it, but quite frankly I'd rather deal with God than New Age shite any day of the week.
But I grew up with a Heaven. And I know it was comforting. Especially in those days as a nine-year old trying to process that her baby sister had just died, and that, no no no no, she was not in that black-plastic bag you saw mummy sob over. That was just her clothes from the hospital. Sister was in Heaven.
Does a life without Heaven--especially a child's life--mean a life without that sense of comfort or hope? Is there a way to talk about death where it's still meaningful but stripped of the parts that I can't quite bring myself to teach to my child for fear of being a hypocrite? I really am clueless, but right now as I watch my boy confront mortality I become more and more tempted to give him Heaven. At least until he can become deeply cynical and old enough to reject it, resenting us for inculcating him in the process.
UPDATED TO ADD: Any and all insights, shared experiences, advice welcome. As long as you don't think I'm going to burn in hell or anything.
Here you go, Jenni:
1. I have translucent eyelashes. If this season's look was "Powder with a red wig" I'd be drop dead. As it is, I have had a psychotic attachment to my mascara wand since the mid 80s (when it was then "Electric Blue" and for a short while "Hot Pink" the latter of which is not a good look for a teenage girl with peachy bleached out hair. Nothing says "I am riddled with conjunctivitis. And acne. Will you be my friend?" better.) If you ever meet me--whatever time of day--it is highly unlikely you will see the naked truth of my soft-boiled egg eyes. Instead, it will be softboiled egg eyes with a nice spiky frame of max-factored lashes. Even at a 9am "cardio buffet" class--because, seriously, 3-ways mirrors.
2. I have a Wrinkly Flesh Apron. This is not weird in and of itself (especially for an 11 week postpartum lady like m'self). But yesterday, as I bounced around the fully-mirrored room with the fine ladies of my kickboxing class and watching that thing flap around like my own personal hula-hula skirt, I felt weird.3. I have a big fat brown birthmark on my left bum-cheek. It is trés erotique. Recently my son asked me if that was "poo-poo on my booty-butt."
4. There's a monster under my bed. Well. There isn't. But for some unfathomable reason, I cannot let my hand or foot dangle down when lying in bed. If I do this accidentally, my heart actually races and I snatch it back before whatever is under there can yank me by the foot and drag me into its monstrous lair.
5. I can take a man down at 100 feet with the force of my boob-spray right now. If I was a superhero, I'd be The Lactactor.
6. I don't puke. Not since I was 11 years old. I actually developed a pathological fear of puking which meant that any time I felt I was going to chuck-up I would "talk myself down." This was all fine and good until the College Years when a night on a toxic medley of beer, hard cider, and you-name-it-I'll-drink-it-slash-snort-it would have me just begging my body to let it go. Nope. Those were some hangovers. You'd think that contracting salmonella some years later would have broken the stalwart. But nope. Now I often dream of the relief of a good yak.
And now for the evil tagging....
Her Bad Mother. There must be something weird about her she's not told us.
Mom-101. Oh yes I did. Uh Huh.
Motherhood Uncensored. What? You think having an infant and a billion small business ventures to run exempts you?
The Mike Stand. For old time's sake, buddy. For old time's sake....
Me: OK. Look. No wine in the week, ok? No drinking at all. OK?
Me: Because we just don't need the extra calories... And it's not healthy.
Him: Nope. No. You're right. We don't. Definitely not.
Me: Not to mention the expense.
Him: (Nods) Absolutely.
Me: We would save money. We need to save money
Him: (More vigorous nodding..)
Yes. These are the lies we tell ourselves.
Now. I need someone to buy me the t-shirt (hint hint--nothing says "I need to drink to exist with you in this house on this very special valentine's day, and I know you feel the same way" better. Right, my love, right?)