Monday, May 28, 2012

YA Think?

Before I begin, I should confess something:  I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books.  I’ve listened to all of the His Dark Materials trilogy on books on CD.  I’ve tried to read a couple of Lemony Snicket books.  And I’m presently listening to The Hunger Games in my car.  I’ve never read anything to do with Bella Swan, not even a fan fic.

And, I have to say that the Harry Potter series really captured my imagination and I really wanted to know what happened next.  (I also wanted the books to continue to be as well crafted as the first three, but was continually disappointed by what seemed to be a substitution of quantity of words for economy of story-telling.)  I would eagerly await the next book and would devour it in a weekend.

Still . . . .

Why do adults, and mostly adult women, read these YA books?  Why is there craze after craze for these sorts of books, but it’s not just teenagers and prepubescents; it’s their moms too?  Why is that?

This question occurred to me on my Friday morning drive into work as I began listening to The Hunger Games on CD.  The language was simple.  The narrator was ever-so-slightly self-important.  As I listened, I imagined a teen girl staring meaningfully into the middle distance as she spoke with a hollow, distant ring.  It seemed so very perfectly created for the mind of a young person.

But not perfectly crafted for me:  I’m 41.

There's no denying, though, that there are lots like me, me included on occasion, who lap up these sorts of books like sweet cream.  Why?

Why, when there are such meaty novels written for bona fide adult-adults out there to read, do we retreat into the Young Adult section?  I hate to think that the reason is because the YA books are easier to read, and that it’s a symptom of the dumbing down of America.  And, in fact, I know that this can’t be true because the His Dark Materials trilogy is some dense and complicated stuff, and Philip Pullman does not talk down to his readers.

So why?  Why do adult women want to follow the exploits of teenagers?  And, indeed, why do they write their own fictitious versions of what those teens get up to?  Why?

Honestly, there’s what I anticipate to be a fantastic new Hilary Mantel book out, now, Bring Up the Bodies, a sequel to Wolf Hall, her tale of Thomas Cromwell in the Court of Henry VIII that won the Man Booker Prize in 2009.  If you know history, you know that this is a sexy, political, violent, and intriguing story.  It is every bit as engaging as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so why aren’t we grown-ups drinking more deeply from that cup?

For me, I can say that I picked up all of these books – Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Lemony Snicket, and The Hunger Games – out of curiosity.  Because the furor had already risen, and I wanted to know why . . . .  (I was never curious about Twilight – seemed to be your standard damsel in distress tale with an overlay of the paranormal.)  My general feelings were that Harry Potter started out brilliantly and then became turgid, bloated by the fame of its author and editors who could no longer afford to tell her "no."  The His Dark Materials trilogy started out with such an interesting premise (essentially, “what if physics was never divorced from metaphysics and the Church retained all authority?”), and then fell into the trap of trying to send a message, such that the message was swallowed by the effort.  Lemony Snicket bored me from the start; I can't exactly articulate why.  And The Hunger Games has not so far grabbed me in the manner in which I have been informed that I should be grabbed.  (But I’m only one chapter in.  Perhaps it will lasso my imagination yet.)

I don’t think I’m typical in how I've gotten into these books.  Maybe, as The Boy grows and begins reading these books himself, I will find myself on the cutting edge of YA fiction.  But, so far, I have followed along behind the masses, scratching my head and saying, “What’s the big deal here?”

Is it that these YA books allow us to slip back into the simpler times of our youths?  Do they remind us of our teenaged selves?  If it is the pull of the drift back into our innocence, why, then are these pretty violent, dystopian stories the path we take back to our own pure hearts?  (And, do we want our kiddos to be dragging their actually pure little hearts through these dark valleys?  Then again, have you read The Brothers Grimm lately?  Maybe these stories are just the modern outgrowth of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.)

Or perhaps it is that these books seem to more clearly define good and evil than “grown-up” books.  In the Mantel books about Thomas Cromwell, we see that he was a complicated man.  He was a loving father.  He was a horrendous torturer.  He was smart.  He was amoral.  You cannot fully line up behind him (or behind Thomas More) and say, “I am Team Cromwell!”

So I still don’t know exactly, and still don’t understand really, why YA fiction is all the rage with the middle-aged.  But I do imagine that I will read a lot more young person fiction as The Boy matures.  I will want to know what’s going into his head and will want to be conversant enough with it to chat with him about it.

In the meantime, I think, though, that I’m going to make an effort to take my personal reading list chiefly from the Man Booker list (at least until another YA craze piques my curiosity again).

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Crimeny, it's hard to get dinner on the table of a weeknight!

I've been mining Pinterest for weeks for a solution:  meals you prepare ahead and freeze, crockpot meals, crockpot meals you prepare ahead and freeze.  I've tried a couple of crock pot meals.  They're okay.  But mainly, they're not the healthiest things in the world, often high in sodium or very cheesy.  And, honestly, most of them are not all that yummy either.  Maybe I'm just doing it wrong, though.  I've never been good with a crockpot . . . except for Rotel dip.  But how hard can a slow cooker meal be when the instructions are usually "dump all of this stuff into the pot, set it on low, wait six hours."

And frozen meals seem like a good idea, but the thaw time means it takes just as long to get food on the table.

What The Working Family wants are healthy, vegetable rich meals that we can get onto the table in about 30 minutes, tops.

Anyway, in discussing our mealtime woes, The Working Dad and I noticed something about the meals we tend to cook the most.  They tend to involve the same or nearly the same basics:  diced onions, diced bell pepper, diced celery, and (most of the time) diced chicken.  (Those three vegetables -- onion, bell pepper, and celery -- are called "The Trinity" in Cajun cooking, but that's just a coincidence, except for one dish.)  The great thing about onions, bell peppers, and celery is that they can go easily into a pasta sauce, fajitas, Asian stir-fry, and shrimp creole, which are all family faves.

So here's the plan:  every Sunday evening, we're going to dice up onions, peppers, celery and chicken and store it in the fridge ready for a week's use.  We'll plan the week's menu around our standard fare and post it in the kitchen. That way, we always know what's for dinner.  (Finding the right menu posting method has, itself, been quite a Pinterestian odyssey.)

Then all that will need to be done is for the first person to the kitchen to throw the staple ingredients, appropriate spices, and few additional ingredients for whatever's for dinner that night into the pan and get it going.  There should be virtually zero prep time (like opening a bag of frozen broccoli, or a jar of pasta sauce, or a can of beans), so it should be simple, right?  I hope so.  I'll report back after a few weeks to let you know how it's worked out.  (And, ideally, this plan will slot neatly into the as yet un-blogged Mommy Finally Loses The Baby Weight Plan.)

Hey, if it works, maybe I'll take some photos of our meals and post my own Weeknight Meals Made Easy pin onto Pinterest, thus simplifying the lives of harried mommies everywhere!

Happy Sunday, Friends!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gallup-ing to Conclusions

There's a new Gallup poll out that indicates that I'm more mentally healthy than a stay-at-home-mom.  Awesome.  I knew I was better.

Seriously, this poll is already being used around the blogosphere to fuel the Mommy Wars:
So what does this mean to you—members of the professional class? Well, I guess opting out of a demanding profession like law for full-time motherhood—especially if you're married to Mr. Money Bags—is likely to be a much more pleasant experience than that of your lower-income sisters. I can certainly understand the desire to escape the law, if you have other things going on your life.
But I also believe that this issue transcends mere economic differences. From what I've seen, women—really, all people—have better self-esteem, better long-term options, if they maintain an outside identity (yes, I mean, a paying job), even if it means juggling the demands of work and family. Frankly, I've seen one too many women who quit their careers to stay home, only to find themselves in the job market years later, after a divorce or some other sudden shift in their lives. If that seems unromantic, I'm sorry.
Obviously, if you are miserable with what you're doing, you don't have to do it forever. I'd find an alternative. But quit totally to run the school auction? Not a smart idea.

Oh, you knew it would!  But let's look at what the poll really says.

The poll examined women aged 18 to 64 (e.g., before retirement age), and defined "stay at home mom" as "women who are not currently employed and have a child younger than 18 at home."  The margin of error is +/- 1%.

In nearly every metric, the employed moms rated moderately "better" than the stay at home moms.  This comes as very little surprise to me, personally, because, after all, taking care of a kid full time is hard.  And I have discussed before how I feel that working outside the home is good for me, personally and psychologically.  As you can also see, the survey also looked at employed women with no child at home.  Those ladies, on the whole, are doing better than any of us mommies!

So maybe we just shouldn't have kids.  Then we'll all be happier!   Ummmm.

In most cases, the difference between SAHMs and working moms in these ratings is about 5 or 6 percentage points.  The three areas in which the gap between SAHMs and working moms seems to be the greatest are sadness (26% of SHAMs versus 16% of working moms), depression (28% of SHAMs versus 17% of working moms), and thriving (55% of SAHMs versus 63% of working moms).

These three metrics, to me, go together.  If you do not feel like you are thriving, you are more likely to be sad or depressed.  And it also seems easy to me to see why one who spends her day chasing after other people to ensure that they thrive, may find herself feeling less personally actualized.  It's the Problem That Has No Name, that Betty Friedan described in The Feminine Mystique:
"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning [that is, a longing] that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?"
This is a very real problem that persists today, and we shouldn't ignore that taking care of small children full time is difficult, and that doing such to the exclusion of any other vocation is not necessarily the life's dream of every woman and mother.

But you'll notice too that if you flip those poll numbers around, 74% of SAHMs do not report sadness, 72% of SAHMs do not report depression, and 37% of working moms do not feel like they're thriving.  Wow, those are some pretty big, potentially meaningful numbers.

Still, there are a significant number of women working in the home who do not find it completely fulfilling.  And what should we do about that?  We should find ways to let them out.  We should support them and encourage them to work or find productive avocations, or, indeed, vocations.  Why do you think there are so many Mommy Blogs out there?  These moms are trying to find a productive intellectual outlet.

The numbers for worry (41% for SAHMs and 34% for working moms) and anger (19% for SAHMs and 14% for working moms) are interesting too.  These two emotions, when I feel them in my life, tend to emanate from the same locus:  lack of control.  If a woman feels she lacks control over her own existence and future, which I can imagine being the situation of some segment of SAHMs, it is easy to see how she may feel more worried and angry than a woman who works and, therefore, sees a stream of income (and, for instance, a retirement account) that has her name on it.  This problem of a lack of control may be particularly acute if the SAHM is married to a man who views his income as "his" money that he parcels out to her as a kind of allowance that requires an accounting.  That sort of existence could be extremely stressful (50% of SAHMs and 48% of working moms reported feeling stress).

And, of course, many SAHMs are not SAHMs by choice, like my cohort -- the professional, relatively high-income women who choose to stay home, but could easily afford the childcare so that they could go to work if they wanted to.  (Of course, there are also those in my cohort who opt to stay at home because professional advancement is stunted in pernicious and subtle ways by the mere fact of motherhood.)  But many SHAMs are at home because daycare is not as economical as her giving up her job.  And that's really the bottom line of the survey.  Gallup pulled out the numbers relating to women with annual household incomes of less than $36,000.  Here they are:

These women are really struggling.  What should we do for them?  Gallup suggests increasing employer-sponsored childcare of some other subsidized childcare for these women.  That sounds great!  How many employers do you think will voluntarily pay for childcare for their employees?  Big companies, maybe, but what about small businesses?  And subsidized childcare?  More taxes?  Can't you just hear the politicians likening it to welfare, even suggesting that the women should just stay home if they can't afford daycare?  It's the free market, baby.

We require a fundamental shift in attitude that employment for women is just as important as employment for men.  It should not be the case that if a family's income is low, the default answer is that mommy stays at home with the kids.  If it would be better for mommy and for the family for mommy to work, then our country needs to see women not as the last resort childcare option, but as valuable employees who needs just as much support in their work as their valuable employee husbands.  Until we truly see male workers and female worker identically, these polls will continue to show this sort of dissatisfaction among SAHMs, especially low income SAHMs.  Because if being a SAHM is not truly voluntary -- if some economic, professional or social pressure forced the issue to make her a SHAM -- then she will not be happy in it.  Just look at the polls.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good-bye Stay-At-Home-Mom Fridays . . . .

Hello, Work From Home Wednesday!

For about the past 10 months, I have had what is described in my office as a "compressed work schedule."  I work eight nine-hour days and one eight hour day (for a total of 40 hours), and the nI get every other Friday off:  Stay-at-Home-Mom Fridays.  But tomorrow is the last of those days off and, as of Monday, I am back to an eight hour work day.

There has been a lot that I like about SHAM Fridays.  Mainly, I've liked the not-going-to-work part.  In seriousness, those Fridays off have allowed me to have some scheduled time off at a time when I had zero to little leave built up.  I'm not sure I could have maintained my sanity without the time off.  I was able to run errands, schedule appointments, hang out with The Boy and, sometimes, just generally chill out and do my own thing on those Fridays.

But the compressed schedule -- those nine-hour days -- that was the trade-off for the day off had become untenable.  Honestly, nine-hour work days are looooong days, and I frequently come home more tired than I would have imagined one extra hour of work a day would make me.  And that makes the evenings with The Boy and The Working Dad less enjoyable.  It also makes it difficult, if not impossible to get regular exercise in.  I'm still 22 pounds heavier than I was when I got married -- still carrying lots of baby and infertility treatment weight -- and I would like to drop those pounds for myself, my husband, and my child.  I want to be a fit and healthy mom and I'm not.

Too, those nine-hour days, when combined with the daycare's schedule, allowed very little wiggle room.  If I arrived late at the office for some reason or another, I would often have to take an hour or so of leave so that I could be sure to leave the office with time enough to spare to pick The Boy up from School.  With the School's schedule, there is really no option of working late if I get in late.  Similarly, if The Boy is sick and I have to stay home with him, I have to take nine hours of leave, instead of eight, which makes a difference when your leave balance is tiny.  Then there's the fact that the rest of the world continued to transact business on my SAHM Fridays, so the Monday's after, I find myself playing catch up for half the day.

So even though SAHM Friday started out seeming like a great solution to the working mom's constant struggle to be all things to all persons, including herself, it really was not working out personally or professionally.  So I'm giving them up.  In their place, I am taking advantage of another alternate work schedule offered by my employer:  teleworking.  Essentially, one day a week (Wednesdays) I will log into work from my laptop and work from my desk upstairs.  So for one day a week, I save the commute time and I save to morning primp time.  I can just roll out of bed, pull on some yoga pants, grab a cup of coffee, fire up the computer, and I'm on the job.  (P.S.  Yes, The Boy goes to School on Work from Home Wednesdays.)  I am hopeful that this new schedule of regular 8 hour days and teleworking once a week will give me the flexibility to exercise more often.  I also hope that it will make me less tired at the end of work day (most days), and will help me keep on top of my caseload.

I feel really grateful that I have these sorts of flexible work options and am cognizant that many American workers don't.  And even if employers do offer flexible work schedules or part time schedules, they seem farcically cruel.  I was recently told by a fellow mom of a toddler, who is also a lawyer, that her firm lets her work part-time, 80% time.  Her schedule:  8 to 4.  My schedule working full time at my job (with a 30 minute lunch):  8 to 4:30.  What's wrong with this picture?  It's not just a woman thing.  It's a worker thing.  We spend too much time at work and not enough time at play and home.  I think our Puritan work ethic may be killing us.  But that's for another blog post.

For now, I sit on my sofa on a Thursday night, The Boy already in bed, The Working Dad at piano lessons, and I type this post, thinking of all the things I will do tomorrow on my last SAHM Friday.  (Hair cut, pedicure, house organizing . . . .)  I will miss these days off, but I do look forward to my new schedule that, I hope, will give me more "me time" every day, even as I will no longer have my occasional "me days."  I think I may go to the gym after work on Monday, and sign on with a personal trainer and see if I can get someone to help me use a few of those extra one-hours a day to shed these extra pounds . . . .  (Guess I'd better put this bag of Sun Chips I've been munching on back in the pantry, huh?)  Night, friends!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Room Mothers

The Working Dad and I are older than your average first-time parents, with a combined age of 85.  So most of our friends' kids are older, in some cases in college.  We've found it, if not hard, certainly not easy to make friends at School.  It's not for lack of trying, but I guess the reality is that when you're a busy professional trying to get to work stopping off to chat with the fellow parents is not always easy.  And your schedules have to match up just right.  We've made some starts at friendships with a couple of sets of parents, but I guess I was sort of hoping for more of the same.  One dad and daughter made it to The Boy's first birthday party, which was really awesome.

And there's a PTO at The Boy's School, which I joined.  I'm not sure exactly what the point of that was since I've never been given notice of any meetings.  Apparently, the PTO only exists to do things on Teacher Appreciation Week, which is fine, but it would be nice if the PTO would sort of function as a way for parents and teachers to get to know each other.  Isn't that the usual way they function?  I'd suggest that, but we've never had a meeting, as far as I know, at which such a suggestion could be lodged.  Alas.

And I volunteered to be a room mother, but I learned just before Teacher Appreciation Week that another mother was The Boy's room mother.  That's fine, and she's done a great job with the Teacher Appreciation Week stuff for our class.  We have tentative plans to go to lunch soon, so maybe we'll make friends.  (In fact, she's The Dude's mom, so that would be GREAT for The Boy!)

Maybe I had my expectations set too high for making new friends.  I guess I had thought that we'd all bond together in our new parenthood.  But we're all working parents, and thus all very busy and under pressure with our old job demands and new family demands.  That leaves little room for socializing and making new connections.  But maybe slowly those will form.  And I guess even these four paragraphs suggest that they already are.  I just need to be something that I am often not:  patient.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day

Is it Mother's Day, Mothers' Day, or Mothers Day?  I'm never sure.  Anyway, let's talk about this holiday.  Or I'll blather, and you can listen if you want.

Mother's Day.  The day in May when we all say . . . .  Well, I think that people say lots of different things, but I guess that is it variations on the theme of "thanks for being a mom."

You're welcome.

But let me just say . . . I kind of hate this holiday.  It's a confusing holiday to me.  Why separate out this one day for mommies?  (Same for Father's/Fathers/Fathers' Day, by the way.  Ditto, for the grandparents, whenever that day is.)  I mean, the sentiment is nice, I guess, but the day just makes me feel awkward because I'm not sure about how exactly to celebrate this holiday.  Card?  Flowers?  Gift?  Dinner?  It's not as clear cut as, say, Christmas or a birthday.

Mother's/Mothers/Mothers' Day seems to be all over the map according to, what?  Your regard for your mom?  Your net worth?  Your level of sentimentality?  How many florist ads you've seen in the past week?  Whether Hallmark commercials make you cry?

Apparently, Julia Ward Howe created the first American Mother's Day in 1870, calling for all mothers to join in a support of disarmament.  And that makes some since:  in 1870, there were a lot of American Mothers with a lot of dead sons after the Civil War.  It's a far cry from lunch at the Highland Park Cafeteria and a bouquet of flowers, though.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about Mother's/Mothers/Mothers' Day are the mothers who expect a grand production on this amorphous holiday.  I was talking about this yesterday with a friend of mine, and he was sort of agreeing with me about these holidays, but then said, "I guess, though, being a parent can sometimes be a pain in the ass, so I guess that's why we deserve these days."  (He's a dad.)  And my reply was this:  Yeah, but nobody forced me to get pregnant.  In fact, I tried very hard to achieve that goal.  So I feel like I brought all the inconvenience of parenthood on myself.  It's the gig you sign up for when you become a parent:  A little frustration, a little aggravation, a little poop on your sleeve, and lots of hugs and cuddles and giggles.  Those are worth it to me, even without my special "day."

Still, now, I am a mother and this day, which is tomorrow, is "my" day too, now.  And I know that The Working Dad has special plans and presents, and I love that he's into my momness.  (Heck, I've already got Father's/Fathers/Fathers' Day presents for him hidden around the house.)  I guess, in the end, it's nice to be made to feel special for one day.  Just don't get too wrapped up in it.  Love every day you are a mother.  I guess what I'm saying is that every day is Mother's/Mothers/Mothers' Day for me, and my gift is the crinkly smile of that 14 month old I hear in the other room just now, waking up from his nap.  So I guess this is the end of this post.  Time to get some yogurt in my hair.

Happy day tomorrow, fellow Mommies!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Exceptional Motherhood

Every mom, I think, must go through these periods of thinking, "Am I good enough?"  At least, I hope it's not just me who thinks that.  But you want to be great.  You want to be supermom and be the best employee at the office, the best pal, the best wife, and the best mom.  And when you evaluate yourself (when you're me, anyway), you can always find places where you fall short.

And even when you aren't nitpicking yourself, the thought creeps in that you are not giving your all.  For instance, I am sitting cross-legged on my living room sofa right now, The Cat to my left, my iPhone to my right, and my son still at daycare.  Because I got home from work a little early and I decided to have some "me" time before I went to pick The Boy up.  Nothing wrong with that.  Except that the hissy voice of Exceptional Motherhood has been whispering to me from behind my neck, "You should have picked him up.  You are being selfish sitting there on the sofa writing your navel-gazing blog post.  You should be playing with your boy, not thinking about yourself."

There is a drumbeat in the modern mothering culture that, at its root, demands constant self-sacrifice by the mommy.  You must breast feed.  If you don't breastfeed, you are depriving your child of valuable hoosiwhatsits that will protect him from disease.  You must use cloth diapers.  If you don't use cloth diapers, your child will get diaper rash up to his eyeballs and there will be an avalanche of dirty diapers at your local landfill.  You must feed your child organic baby food, preferable lovingly made by your own hands.  If you do not feed your child organic handmade baby food, you are endangering his health.  You must spend your every spare moment playing with, educating, or at least ogling your child.  If you do not do these things, you clearly do not love your child as much as you should.

It may not be stated so starkly, but the sentiments are there in the culture.  As it happens, I did breast feed to the extent I could.  (I never produced enough milk to exclusively breast feed The Boy, unless you count the first six days of his life in which I exclusively "breast fed" him insufficiently so that he was constantly starving and lost too much weight.)  I also use cloth diapers on The Boy when he is at home (but I do not impose them on his daycare).  And he gets a lot of organic food (especially the dairy foods), but it's not all organic.  It's not that I did not/do not do these "good mom" things to one degree or another, or even that I disagree that these are more-or-less good things to do (lest I wouldn't do them at all).  But there is a subtle hiss from the mother-culture that failure to live up to its standards is inadequate mothering is just false.

The time portion of this criteria is particularly wrenching for a working mom.  We really do want to spend as much time as we can with our kids.  We want to work too.  And, mentally, we need a little downtime every now and again.  But the impulse in the culture is to spend all of your spare time on the child and none of it on yourself, which, to me seems good for nobody.

Moreover, I think that working moms can't meet these standard.  Nobody can.  Indeed, I'll go out on a limb, and speak about that which I do not know, and say that it is only the most haggard drudge of a stay at home mom who can be the perfect breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby chef and educator of a mommy.

And yet, we all love our kids.

So why does the culture guilt us about these ideals of motherhood?  And why are they ideals, anyway?  Because they're the way it was done a hundred or a thousand years ago?  Why is that per se the gold standard?

And why should I feel badly about taking an hour for myself to write this post and, literally, remove the chipped nail polish from my toes?

Is it competition?  Because we want to be "the best."  And if someone else shows inadequacies -- "Gasp!  Is that a Huggies disposable diaper on your child's bottom?" -- then the cloth diapering purists can feel secure in their anti-diaper rash and environmental perfection?

But that's not it because, frankly, I don't really know any moms who are really all that judgy about these sorts of things.  And yet, the judges are apparently out there, somewhere.  Whole books are being written about the subject, after all.

For instance, Elisabeth Badinter's new book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women poses that modern women have submitted themselves to something she calls "ecological parenting," which involves things like doulas, breastfeeding, organic food, the non-use of epidurals, the use of cloth diapers, baby wearing, co-sleeping, constant presentation of intellectually enriching experiences etc., etc. Admittedly, I have this information from the reviews of the book.  I've not read it.  I have not had time to read it, nor am I sure that I have the inclination to read it, having fully committed all of my life to either work or family - save for this one hour.  (Plus, I'm not sure I could sustain interest in this subject for more than the approximately 500 to 750 words that I am currently committing to the blogosphere.) But, generally, she is describing a very, very naturalistic and child-centric lifestyle (again, per the reviews).

I happen to like being The-Boy-centric.  He's pretty much the greatest thing I've ever done, so I really like hanging out with him and I find it tremendously fun (except when he's screamy).  And I like cloth diapering.  I like the idea that not as many disposable diapers are going into the landfill.  And the breastfeeding that I was able to do, I enjoyed that too.  But the problem in trying to be a culturally perfect "ecological parent" is that it saps the joy out of being his Mom.  Strive to be perfect and I think you will find yourself perfectly unhappy.

So I am ignoring that little hiss at the back of my neck.  Shoo, be gone!

Rather than worry about whether I'm perfect according to the Exceptional Motherhood Code, I think I'll just be perfectly content to use the rest of this hour to read a New Yorker article about Kraftwerk and then go pick The Boy up at about 6:30 so that we can have a rocking good time until it's bedtime.  That seems perfectly wonderful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Cat

There's an important member of the family that I don't think I've written about yet.  Meet The Cat:

I know what you're thinking:  long hair, pink cat toy . . . .  What I sweet girl right?  Wrong.  The Cat is a dude.  Of course, I named The Cat a girls name after a certain song by The Police thinking that he was a she, but the vet soon set me straight.  (And anyway, with the snip-snip, he's a eunuch now, so . . . .)

The Cat is my third cat as an adult.  The Working Dad is a begrudging cat owner, but they've reached a sort of detente.  If it had been a choice between The Working Dad and The Cat, I would have chosen The Working Dad, but I would have been really sad about it.  I'm glad The Working Dad loved me enough to tolerate the inconvenience of cat hair tumbleweeds and tracked cat litter . . . and the occasional smell of a ripe cat box.  The Working Dad has, even, on rare occasions, declared The Cat to be not like other cats.  And, he's not, really.  He fetches, for instance, when he feels like it.  And he generally has more interest in your attention than your average aloof feline.  He is as doglike as a cat can be.

As luxurious as he looks, he is a mutt.  His mom was colored just like him, only with short hair.  The Cat has long and easily tangled hair, which is why, often, The Cat looks like this:

Yes, I get the cat professionally shaved, especially during warmer months, but I like to get him groomed about three times a year so that he doesn't develop horrible mats, which make him cranky and bitey.  Cranky and bitey are never good traits in a cat, but particularly not in a cat who is the unwitting best friend of a brand new little boy.

Since The Boy was very small, The Cat has been a gentle, curious observer of the little creature.  (To The Cat, we refer to The Boy as "New Cat.")  Now that The Boy is mobile, The Cat is a lot more jumpy.  I'm not sure he fancies being chased, but I know that he still likes The Boy, still wants to be around him.  Every night when we go to put The Boy to bed, The Cat wants to be in the room too.  He'll stay in the room with us until The Boy is asleep.  The Boy is his kitten too, after all.