And “…every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.
Did you hear the Steve Inskeep story on NPR’s Morning Edition this week, “Does Having Children Make You Happier?”
Here’s an interesting part of his interview with NPR science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam that caught my attention:
VEDANTAM: Lyubomirsky [psychologist who studied happiness and wrote book, The Myths of Happiness] says there’s a difference between happiness measured on a moment-to-moment level and happiness measured at a larger level. Parents report significantly more meaning in their lives than non-parents, even though on a day-to-day basis parenting may be a grind.
INSKEEP: Maybe we should just avoid the word happiness because it seems to confuse people.
VEDANTAM: Yeah. No, one of the things Lyubomirsky is actually saying is that we may have been too simplistic and asking questions – are parents happy or are parents non-happier? She says we need to start asking more nuanced questions. Which parents are we talking about? Are we talking about men or are we talking about women? Are we talking about older parents or younger parents? There’s research showing that older parents tend to be happier than younger parents. Parents with jobs – not surprisingly – are happier than parents who are struggling economically. Parents who have biological or adopted children turn out to be happier in general than parents who have stepchildren. And Lyubomirsky said perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is that parents’ happiness is not one static thing that basically stays a constant throughout the life of a child. It varies, especially with the age of the child.
LYUBOMIRSKY: When you have children under five and when your children are teenagers, that’s when you have the most kind of negative emotions and negative experiences with them. When they’re in between those years and when they’re older, there may be many, many positive, you know, interactions. So when we think about parenting we shouldn’t just think about, you know, having a baby or having a 14-year-old.
At the end of the story, Inskee quoted Tolstoy with his own clever twist: “Happy families are all alike; unhappy families have kids under five or teenagers.”
With my current job, I work on a team in which most of us have children under five, and most of us listen to NPR on the commute to work in the morning. We also have a few younger guys on the team, one single and one married without kids. The morning this story on having children and happiness ran and we chatted about it at our desks, we teased the guys about our superior level of happiness as parents.
“We are happier because we focus on the big picture fulfillment of having children instead of the day-to-day grind. Ready to drop your night life and join us?”
While the sarcasm was thick, we have all also agreed on separate occasions that our lives are significantly more meaningful than they were before we had children and we often come to work bragging about something sweet or adorable or silly that our kids said or did.
I will tell anyone that the year I had two under the age of five AND a teenager was one of the most difficult years of my life.
And four years later, our marriage thankfully still in tact and life relatively easier on multiple fronts — there are any number of moments in time now that I fall into the temporarily unhappy category and say out loud to my children and/or my husband things like:
“I’m just not up for this today.”
“Whining has to stop.”
“Really tired. No patience.”
“GO TO BED NOW.”
And as you can imagine, my announcing my state of being and need for perfect angel compliance always results in an immediate cease and desist on any type of annoying behavior. (Not.)
Today I had a moment of unhappiness that had nothing to do with my children who were behaving perfectly fine. Unfortunately, they were witness to my impulsive act of irritation. I was driving the girls to a dentist appointment anticipating a ridiculous amount of time in the car between getting to the dentist’s office on south end of town, getting them to school up north, and then driving another twenty minutes west to get to my office. Traffic was heinous and we were bound to be late. I was coming onto the highway from the on-ramp and some jack-ass woman on her cell phone driving a red sporty car couldn’t be bothered to slow down or change lanes to let me in.
I edged in anyway so as not to be forced on to the next exit. Coming in at a slower pace in my oh-so-sexy Prius, I was predictably too close in front of her.
She laid on the horn.
I threw up my arm and flipped her off.
Honestly, not something I do. Not sure what inspired the need to give someone the bird on the highway. I was instantly reminded of my innocent audience.
“Mommy, why did you just put your arm up like that?”
“Oh just stretching.”
Ultimately, I’ve done enough work on myself over the last several years to know the Big Truth that every response and every emotion is a choice.
We all know in the heat of the moment, it’s not easy to take pause to completely own the situation and your place in it and ask yourself, ”Is this worth being unhappy about?” But when you do take that extra few seconds to breathe and ask yourself the question, you can redirect your thoughts, your feelings and your actions in the moment for the benefit of everyone around you and your own well-being.
Thankfully, every day — every next moment in time really — we are graced with a do-ever.
For all Mamas — and especially those of us raising girls — enjoy. Wishing everyone the happiest Mother’s Day!
A Mother’s Prayer for Its Child By Tina Fey
“First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches. May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.
When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.
Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.
May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.
Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.
O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.
And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.
Thanks to my dear friend Libby for passing this along to me this weekend. Tina Fey – you are the best.
Over the last month, Attachment Mama has been hacked 3 times. Each evening I had some free time for personal writing and logged on, I would discover a new hack and had to spend the time to go through every single post and remove all the hackitude, change my passwords, blah-ditty-blah. Not sure who all saw it — but the last hack went beyond just inserting annoying text into all my posts and actually replaced my entire site with one page that had a scary Gothy face and the message “You’ve been hacked!”
What a weird, wired world this is where people that don’t even know you feel inspired to *$%^ with your innocent Mommy site.
Looking at this creepy face on my site and trying to breathe through it, find the humor in it (never got there) or discover the bigger message for me at hand — (has my focus on my children and how best to mother them been hacked by my 50 hour-week job?) — I went down memory lane to a chapter in my life with uglier metaphors that I can now laugh about.
It may be hard to imagine the currently health-focused me relishing a cigarette, but there was a time in my life when I found them extraordinarily enjoyable and didn’t give a hoot about long term consequences. In fact, I loved them so much that I referred to them as my “smokey treats.”
Ahhhhhh. Blessed addiction.
The last time I smoked was the winter and spring before I moved from Boulder to Austin eight years ago. In a matter of a few months I had transitioned from well paid international PR manager at a high tech firm, marathon runner and singer for a 10-piece R&B band with charming boyfriend to unemployed (tech crash lay-offs), single (fully dumped), living alone (housemate moved to Denver) and soon-to-be band-less.
Did I turn to longer runs or yoga to work through it all? No.
Did I pound green juice to lift my spirits and strengthen my health? Not so much.
Nah. I decided instead to pick up an old nasty habit that I had quit six years prior.
It was December, with plenty of snow on the ground. I would bundle up, go out on my back porch with my dog, and attempt to exhale life’s problems with an American Spirit while she took a dump in the yard. And then we’d both sit and stare at each other and the smoke fading into the sky while I rubbed her ears with my free hand.
Occasionally I would get inspired to pick up the dog shit in the snow and would shovel it up — often together with some snow — and toss into a trash bag I kept around the corner from the porch. I liked to dump my ash trays in there too.
Well, one morning following a sunny day when most of the snow had melted off, I sat mentally revisiting all that had gone wrong with smokey treat and coffee and heard the sound of our local garbage truck. I remembered the bag of poo sitting around the corner and rushed to grab it and add it to the trash can on the curb.
And as I grabbed the top edges of said trash bag, the snow (now water), shit and ash cocktail came pouring out all over my hands.
I really can’t tell you just how heinous this was. I think I scrubbed my hands with every soap and sanitizer in the house for 20 minutes.
Now you’re going to think I’m making up this next part for the metaphorical trifecta impact — but I promise you, I am not.
Following the manic hand wash, I sat down to call my new crush who happened to also be a smoker not happy about the habit to tell him about this craziness and how I could bottle up the shit-ash mix and we could both use it to quit. It was hands down the sure-fire aroma therapy way to quit smoking for good.
And while I was sitting on my dinky plastic patio chair talking to my friend, a bird flew by and shat on my head.
So that was then. I felt like my life was in the shitter and the universe reflected back my thinking.
This is now. Thankfully my commitment to health and wellness has kept me from going down the smokey treat path through this stressful year of balancing an intense job with mothering two little ones. When I forget that the universe responds to specificity — specifically the energy, the intention, and the thoughts that I project out into the world — life happens to me (or so I think) and I find myself in a pin-ball machine of response, reaction and survival. Hackitude.
When I choose to consciously express gratitude for all the blessings in my life and be very specific about the life I choose to experience every day and what I will gratefully experience in the future — new metaphors, possibilities and beautiful synchronicity unfold to reflect that reality.
Breathe. Believe. Receive.
Thanks for sticking with me with the hack sabbatical.
Is anyone still there besides my Mom?
Yes, it happened. On November 4, I crossed the threshold into a new decade. The one most often referred to as “over the hill.”
The days leading up to the Big Transition out of the 30s, I admit I was a bit melancholy — not feeling overly excited to be this age. I fell into an old, lame pattern of focusing my mind on where I lack and not where I am blessed. I looked at the gray hairs, the age spots, and the deepening crows feet instead of the twinkle, the smirk, or the wiggling right ear that is as present today as it was twenty years ago.
I started the nasty “should” game. At 40, I should have made more of my life. I should look better. I lamented my 20-something, early 30-something body, wondering if I will ever find the same discipline I used to have with exercise again.
But it’s all silly. I know from experience that anything you set your mind to, can manifest with purpose, intention and action. I will make exercise a priority in my life again. And I will get that body back. Or something damn close that is feasible after having two children!
I said to my husband a month or so ago that I would love to ring in 40 years with a trip of some kind with our family and a celebration with friends in Austin. And I said that spending money on travel this year was out of the question so maybe we could ring in my 40th year when I’m 42 instead. And I’ll openly confess I said it with a fair amount of boo-hoo-ness in my voice too.
And then BAM. A week before my birthday, a dear, sweet client of my husband was in town from New York with his wife and took us to dinner. Mark is designing a vacation home for them. They are fabulous people with the priceless character trait of being both interesting and interested and we both really enjoy their company. I asked when they were coming to Austin again in November and said we’d have to go out for drinks for my birthday. He said, “When’s your birthday?” I told him it was Thursday, the 4th.
And he said, “Monica, I think you should come to New York for your birthday”. I said it sounded like fun, but wasn’t possible.
“Monica, I insist. You must come to New York for your 40th birthday!” And he proceeded to say he’d like to gift us the trip to come stay with them at their apartment on Central Park.
Yes. And after some back and forth on whether this was really feasible, did he really mean it, and what about the girls, could we bring them along…..two days later, we had tickets for the whole family to go to New York City together for three days– departing on the morning of my birthday. We were treated to every meal, to Broadway shows at night, and to a babysitter for our girls for our evenings out who came 2 hours early the first night so we could all get to know her…..
We saw a beautiful staging of “A Little Night Music” with Bernadette Peters on Broadway. God I love her. Fifth row back, in the center of the theater. She was absolutely amazing. And when we went out to dinner afterwards, guess who sat down at the table next to us??
Bernadette Peters!! And she was with Martin Short, my favorite comedian of all time!!
I’m still in a state of shock. And awe. And complete and utter gratitude.
Truly, truly, truly — anything is possible in this life.
So what’s next? Who do I want to be in my forties? I will write it as if it is already so……(a lovely little trick for manifestation!)
I am a woman who expresses love to her husband in a way that feeds his body, his soul, and his success.
I am a mother that loves and cherishes my children in a way that builds their self-esteem and ability to think and act wisely for themselves while feeling and expressing compassion for themselves and others.
I am a woman who stands up for what she believes in — even if it makes other people uncomfortable.
I tried this mode of being out last week as a Soccer Mom. I wrote an email to the mothers on the team in response to one that was announcing bringing donut munchkins to the next game. I said it was important to me to minimize my daughters’ intake of refined sugar and processed foods and that I hoped the parents might come together and agree to bring nutritious snacks for the games — possibly something as simple as orange or apple slices. And holy moly – did I offend. And you know what? I’m OK with it.
I foster the Development of a Zen Family. We embrace daily practices that support our mental, emotional and physical wellness and the well-being of the family unit and day-to-day life together.
Together with my husband, I successfully acquire financial security and experience a deep, peaceful knowing that our future and the futures of our children are well taken care of. The ability to fund the kind of education that we seek for our girls, to travel the world together as a family, to affect positive change in the world with charitable giving, to host weddings and to grow old in comfort. We will do the work, grow the businesses, save as much as we can, and create this reality. Amen!!
What?! Attachment Mama wants to wean? INCONCEIVABLE!
Hey — it is what it is. Some women highly committed to Attachment Parenting will breastfeed until their child chooses to wean and I applaud this choice.
And despite fully appreciating how honoring this is of the child’s emotional needs and my own strong desire to maintain whatever level of secure attachment I can while being away from my children so much now that I’m working full-time, over the last few weeks I’ve been hearing myself thinking and even occasionally saying out loud, “I want my boob back.”
Yes, it’s singular. One boob. Both my girls rejected my left side within the first six months of nursing. Or maybe I was more comfortable with them positioned on the right side and the rejection evolved from me unconsciously putting them there more often. Either way, they both eventually refused the left side and I’ve been lopsided ever since.
For the last three and 1/2 years I’ve looked in the mirror to see a Picasso painting version of my former self. So that I didn’t get too angst-ridden about my post-motherhood body which includes lumpy ass, permanently pregnant looking belly, and lopsided chest, I wrote a little ditty to add some levity to my situation. This is three years old now and many of my friends have already heard it. Many of you have not.
I will share it here now and hope not to lose some of you with my foul language which — outside of my Home VBAC story, I’ve been careful to omit from this blog.
My little song is called My Left Tit and you sing it to the tune of Three Blind Mice.
Ready? Here we go:
My left tit.
My left tit.
Oh what a sight.
So much smaller than the right.
My baby stopped nursing it months ago.
It shrunk like a dick in a cold water you know.
Now I feel like a walking Picasso.
My left tit.
There you have it.
The irony is that my shrunken side is likely to ultimately be the better looking side — because when the day finally comes for me to actually say “sorry honey, no more” my Mighty Righty may turn into a little shriveled-up tea bag.
AND NOW — let’s talk about Friday’s Breastfeeding Party in Austin!!!
Friday, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm at City Hall (301 W. 2nd Street)
Hosted by Central Texas Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition and City of Austin WIC, the “Austin Hero of Breastfeeding” award will be presented in the council chambers at 12:30 pm.
I am going on my lunch break — sadly sans my babies because it will be too difficult to coordinate with preschool. Hanging with my fellow AP peeps, I may be inspired to extend my current plan to wean my Littlest nugget when she turns 2 (first week in October!). We’ll see…..
Regardless of how long I personally choose to continue, I will forever be an advocate of breastfeeding and do my best to support programs and efforts that help to educate and inform our community and beyond — all with the goal of normalizing it.
Hope to see some of you there!
You are currently browsing the archives for the Mama Self Expression category.