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Tag Archives: Staying home with baby

My Machine Wash Life

John Paul Gaultier quote

Wise words from a fashion guru

Help me: I’m in a closet-induced funk.

The quaint little walk-in closet was the first room I painted when we moved into this house and my husband kindly granted me the space unshared. I coated the walls in an airy shade of blue and hung a little shelf with framed quotes by Coco Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier. It’s the girliest place in my entire house and I love being in there.

Or I used to, anyway.

Nowadays, my closet is a reminder of the life I no longer have; of the uselessness of dry-clean-only clothes and platform heels.

I’m immensely thankful for the opportunity to care for my son. But, after doing the stay-at-home mom thing for 14 months, I have days when I feel like I’m losing touch with who I used to be.

On those days, my closet sings to me like a siren. The strappy heels, the silk blouses, the chic little dresses: they make me sigh and long for an occasion to wear them. And, on a day like today, they make me unsure of what to do.

A few times a year, I go through my closet and rotate my clothes based on the current season, packing away the summer clothes at the beginning of autumn and stowing the winter items at the first hint of spring. During this time, I purge my closet of clothes and shoes I can do without, and I usually feel lighter and freer after having doing so. But this year, I’m in a crisis over it.

I’ve already been through my closet several times since the birth of my son. Each time, I confidently passed over my suits and business woman heels, thinking I’ll wear these things again someday. But today, I find myself wondering if I should just cut a swath through my little blue room and give these clothes to someone who may actually wear them.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I talked with another mom about how changed we feel since the birth of our kids. We both laughed about how it no longer seems appropriate to wear slinky dresses and revealing tops, and that it’s not just the fact that our stomachs aren’t as firm as they used to be. It’s as if I believe I have the word, “MOM” tattooed on my forehead. I guess I think people see me as a mother before they see me as a woman.

In actuality, I feel more womanly than ever after having borne a child. But sexy? Young? Vibrant? Not so much.

I know I’m feeling this way mostly because my son and I have both been sick for the past few days — again  — and the walls are starting to close in on me. I haven’t followed my own advice about getting out of the house, and I’m paying the price for it. But still, my clothes remain strewn all over the bed, abandoned after my crisis over what to do with them.

Perhaps for today, I’ll simply put them back on their hangers and save the organizing for another, better day. I’ll read the framed quotes on my shelf and remember why I love my little blue room. And I’ll ponder the wise words of John Paul Gaultier:

“Elegance is a question of personality, more than one’s clothing.”

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It’s a Beautiful Life Sentence

Coffee Break

As I move the knob up to “brew,” I sigh to myself. For some reason, brewing a second batch of coffee for the day feels like some form of failure.

When it occurs to me I’m feeling this way, I have to ask, why? When I was working, I wouldn’t think twice about needing an afternoon caffeine boost. So, why, when I’m brewing the coffee myself instead of purchasing it in a crisp, white paper cup, do I feel like I’ve failed?

Countless times lately, I’ve looked at my new life as a stay-at-home mom (for now, as I’m always compelled to say), and felt more than a little deficient. This is a much bigger transition than I ever thought it would be.

In many ways, all is wonderful. My baby is happy, healthy — positively cherubic. His rosy cheeks widen every time he looks at me, and my heart melts every time I look at him. I love — love — being able to be with him every day.

But many Friday afternoons, I find myself drained and I breathe that pre-weekend sigh of relief. Then I remember: there are no days off for the stay-at-home mom.

This is a job I treasure — granted, it’s also the hardest job I’ve ever had. But it’s a job I feel very, very lucky to have. So I had to probe a little deeper to find out why I frequently feel like I’m not the employee of the year.

Why was I always so much quicker to forgive myself when I worked for someone else than I am now, when I essentially work for myself?

(Maybe it’s because my boss is actually a 16-pound comedian who blows raspberries in my face when I bend over to wipe his ass.)

I think it must be because this is the most important job I’ve ever held. No matter how well I’m doing, I never feel like I’m doing well enough. There is always more laundry to be done; the dogs could always use more exercise; the floors of my house could be mopped clean of dog slobber and potato chip crumbs, if I were so inclined. Right now I’m using the precious time while my son is asleep to explore my feelings through my tip-tapping fingers instead of taking the shower I (badly) need.

The fact is, the job of a mom — whether staying at home or working outside the home — is never done. I look at my own mom and realize that, while she retired from her career last year, she’ll never be completely off work. She’ll never stop worrying about my sister and me; she’ll never stop calling us on holidays or making sure we’re as happy and healthy as we can be. I’ll bet each August and every June, when my sister and I celebrate our birthdays, she’s not thinking about birthday cake or candles. I’ll bet she still thinks about the day we were born.

I know I’ll do this each October 6 for the rest of my life.

Yes, there are days when this job feels more like a life sentence. Because that’s in fact what it is. A beautiful, heart-wrenching life sentence that started the day my son was born, and will probably (hopefully) not end until the day I die.

And there are days when I need a second batch of coffee just to get through the afternoon.

So be it.

(Is it too early for a glass of wine?)

What the Frump

I’m engaged in a deep existential struggle: To frump, or not to frump.

I’ve always believed wholeheartedly in the value of keeping up one’s appearance. Many times I’ve sworn to myself I would never turn into one of those moms you see schlepping around the grocery store in threadbare sweat pants and a circa-1985 banana clip. Oh, no. I don’t wear sweat pants. I wear yoga pants.

It wasn’t having a baby that threatened my credo on this matter; it was breastfeeding. When you’re breastfeeding, there’s little reason to get dressed at all. If you decide going topless just isn’t for you, you’d better find a shirt that can be stripped off with a crying baby in your arms and no more than two free fingers. Add in that it should be barf-resistant and breathable enough to keep you from melting while a toasty warm baby is pressed up against you, and your options grow smaller.

And so, despite having a closet full of beautiful dry-clean-only garments, I find myself wearing the same two or three things day in, day out. Then, I got a robe.

I’ve never been too big on robes. Reference the Abilify® antidepressant commercial: a robe that’s supposed to symbolize depression but looks more like cookie monster’s ghost stalks a woman who can’t shake her chronic sadness. Apparently we’re supposed to understand that the formerly unhappy woman has left depression behind. To me, the robe seems more like a date rapist, lurking about and then jumping her from behind when she least expects it.

The funniest part of this commercial is when the lady’s doctor shows a movie of himself explaining the drug’s evil side effects. The robe watches the movie and takes notes — as if he’s plotting his strategy for how to fight back.

"You can't beat me ... muah ha ha ..."

This commercial makes me laugh every time I watch it, and pretty well sums up my usual association with robes. But, my parents gave me a very nice robe for Christmas, a plush and luxurious one that’s about as stylish as a robe can be. So, I gave it a try.

Now, I wear my luxurious depression robe every day. Since I’m all toasty warm in it, there’s really no need to change out of the pajamas underneath the robe. Plus, it meets my other criteria: it can be opened with the flick of a finger and — bonus! — is the exact color of baby spit-up!

The only problem is when my husband sees me in the robe. I usually try to have changed out of the robe and jammies by the end of the day, but sometimes he comes home for lunch and finds me strolling around in it. He’s taken to calling me “Hef-etta” when I wear the robe, as if I’m the female version of Hugh Hefner. I consider that a compliment, as I’d rather be Hugh Hefner than the sad lady from the Abilify commercial.

But does this mean I’ve given up? Have I become the banana-clipped mom? Have I abandoned all standards for myself?

As in most things, I think the answer lies in balance. I embrace my depression robe. When the crying baby alarm clock goes off each morning, the robe is a quick and easy solution that allows me to tend to my son quickly and effortlessly. But each day, I try to put on real clothes at some point before dinnertime. And I may not be doing full hair and makeup each day, but I’ve found it’s good for my self-esteem if I spend just a little time on myself. I think it helps me be more confident, more efficient and a better mom.

Balance. That’s the key. I’ll stick with my robe, but it stops there. If you see me trolling about in a Forever Lazy, I give you permission to kick my ass.

A Difficult Choice

Grinning Baby

My Daily Affirmation

I can’t decide what to have for breakfast.

This may sound like a minor issue, but it feels like a bit of a crisis. This morning I’ve been meandering around the kitchen, washing a few dishes, getting things out and then putting them away. I finally decided I could make some coffee, and then, with that decision made, started wandering aimlessly again.

I’m a little lost.

I’ve made the very tough decision to leave a fulfilling job as a writer and online content manager to stay home with my son (for now). And while I’m incredibly thankful to be able to do this — and wouldn’t give this up for anything right now — this major life change has my head spinning.

I had my first summer job at 13, when I helped out at the preschool where my mom worked. After that, I worked at the neighborhood pool’s concession stand, then got a job at the Gap (a very ’90s thing to do), then took some shifts as a hostess at a restaurant after school. I even worked during the school day, volunteering in the main office (okay, this was mainly to get out of tardiness violations), visiting grade schools with the D.A.R.E. program and changing the world (or so I thought) as a member of student council. During college, I worked at the rec center, waited tables and led campus tours, and came home periodically to pick up waitressing shifts in my hometown.

Whether a part-time gig or a demanding grind, work has always been a big part of my life. It’s been a mental challenge, a creative outlet and a daily social encounter — not to mention a big part of my identity. Going to work was often stressful and exhausting (especially while I was pregnant and sporting a belly the size of a small cruise ship), but it provided me with a sense of camaraderie and companionship I’ve really missed.

After my son arrived, choosing between him and spending nearly two hours in the car was pretty simple. But there are still drawbacks to my choice. Some days I can actually feel knowledge leaving my head, and I worry that I might be a better mom if I went to work and came home to Hudson at night. But at some point every day, I know I’ve made the right choice.

Yesterday, that moment came when I used a makeshift luggage scale to weigh my son. In his first month, his weight gain was exceptional. But it was only half of what I hoped it would be at his two-month appointment. Since I’m breastfeeding, I was devastated at this news, and felt like I was failing at my newest — and most important — job.

So I was a little nervous to find out where he stands at three months old. It’s been 34 days since his last weigh-in, so I was hoping for an increase of around 34 ounces. After rigging up the scale, I thought I was having another case of “the dumbs” and that my math couldn’t possibly be right. But after checking it again, I was sure: my son has gained a whopping 58 ounces since his last appointment.

What an amazing feeling of accomplishment. With nothing but my own body, I’ve been able to provide my son with everything he needs and more. Looking at him only confirms this feeling. He is apple-cheeked and chubby, and every time I look at him — every time — he breaks into a slow grin that lights up his entire face. His impossibly blue eyes grow bright, and he often sings out, “nnnnnggoooo” or lets out a little squeal.

Today, I have to start all over again. The batteries in the baby swing are marching toward their death and the song it plays has taken on a maddening warble that just may make me lose my mind. I’ve yet to get dressed and a dust bunny tumbles across the floor, mocking my lamentable housekeeping abilities. I haven’t even been able to decide whether to fix some oatmeal or get out of my pajamas.

And then the coffeemaker sings its five beeps, telling me it has a steaming cup of black coffee ready for me. That’s a start.

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