Friday, April 30, 2010

what is the ideal mama?

When speaking with fellow mamas in our small rural college town, I've been struck by how different their ideals for mothering are from the ones held by moms in Norway.

One mama I interviewed, who majored in women's studies and has a Master's in social work, talked to me about how she wants her son to see her as a person of her own, not just a mama the way she grew up seeing her selfless stay-at-home mom. She is also a devout attachment parenter who wants to be present for her child, and so she was home with him for the most part till he was one and has only worked part time after that when either her spouse is home with their son, or when her mom can watch him. When he turned 2, he was in daycare a few hours a week, and when he turned 3, he started at the Montessori pre-school in town. This has opened up some more hours for her to work.

It seemed to me she had attained a perfect balance for herself, based on her feminist and attachment parenting deals. Yet at the end of our interview, she expressed guilt for not living up to the ideal mama; a mama who's always home and present, not sending her son to daycare or pre-school.

In Norway, on the other hand, the ideal mama is a mom who returns to work full time after her paid parental leave (which she can take a full year of or split with her husband). This is the norm for urban middle class moms who set the leading standard for everyone else. This means that most children in Norway are in daycare from they're one, and it's not really questioned.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

fear and playfulness

I'm trying to incorporate some of my toddler's fearlessness in my yoga practice. I've always been afraid of falling on my face in asanas where that could be a possibility. Like in crow, crane, headstand or handstand.

This winter, after more than ten years of practice, I have finally been able to lift up into crow, if just for a little.

Then this past month, I've kicked up into handstand (with the support of my yoga instructor and next to the wall, but still).

And then today, for the first time, I did a free standing handstand (true, my yoga instructor was nearby spotting me, but even so).

It's so much fun! I feel so brave, and so strong.

In fact, I don't think it's just my daughter's fearlessness that inspires me to tackle these asanas; it's the desire to feel strong. I need to be, for her. And for me, but really, ultimately, for her.

It's harder to be fearless about the future. What do we do when the money we currently have runs out, and we're not getting more coming in based on our writing? Or enough?

When my daughter has turned three (which will not be till next summer, June 2011), I'd like her to start pre-school at the Montessori Children's House in town. That'll give me from 8:30 till 11:15, minus driving. What kind of employer would hire me for those hours?

Again it comes down to this society's lack of flexible work hours.

Fear isn't always disabling in an unhealthy way. Sometimes it protects us. And maybe sometimes it can help us strive for positive changes. That's what I'm trying for with this particular fear.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

waiting for birdy

If you enjoyed Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions with its funny, raw, honest portrayal of one woman becoming a mother, you should check out Catherine Newman's Waiting for Birdy about another woman becoming a mother of two. My new friend Shan, a fellow writer and mama over at Mama in Wonderland, recommended it to me, and it's a gem. I found myself laughing out so hard and so frequently when reading it outside in the sun this past week, truly; I think my neighbor must have thought I was drinking vodka straight up, and not just plain water. The book brought tears to my eyes too at times, and it ends on a quite poetic note

Thursday, April 22, 2010

mama body

I am grateful for the work my body's done, really, I am. I just wish that what it has had to endure throughout pregnancy, labor, nursing, carrying, and so on and on, wouldn't leave me feeling like such an old rag falling apart.

I remember last year when my daughter Lilly was close to turning one, thinking I'd never been in better shape. After a year of long daily walks (to break the tedium and to help her sleep), frequent nursing, and about a couple of workouts at the gym a week, I felt great. Strong. Last spring I did crunches, kegel exercises, and push-ups at home everyday for 10-15 minutes or as soon as Lilly'd go down for a nap, and my belly felt sort of together, though not its former flat.

Now I might wake up in the morning and sometimes my belly might resemble something like what it looked like last spring, if I didn't eat too much too close to bedtime. But as soon as I have a glass of water, it pops out. After breakfast I look like I'm three months pregnant; after dinner I'm at five.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

mama notes on "the joys" of mothering

The public schools in town offer Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) classes as a community service. Many of the mamas I talk with refer to these classes, mostly not in a good way. Rather than an opportunity for mamas to come together to share, vent, and support one another, these gatherings thrive on pretense, competition, and judgment.

Personally, I blame the classroom setup with facilitators writing notes about parenting on a blackboard; having the moms discuss questions in small group; and then go around the room to have each mom answer the various questions.

One of the mamas I talked with this morning told me about how the facilitator of her class will have all the mamas begin by sharing this week's joys. This mama looked at me with a dumbfounded look of exasperation in her face; "I had no joys to report last week, none!" What about all the hard days, the challenges, the tedium, the times you snap. What about when what you really feel like, is throwing your baby out of the window? (but you don't, you never would, of course not, but still)

Monday, April 12, 2010


What is home to you? A house, car, yurt, women's shelter? Is there no place like home? What shelters you from the storm? How does a place become a home?

HipMama is soliciting articles that address these questions. That, and the fact that we've made the decision to stay in our home here in the US, has made me think a lot lately about how much home means to me now that I've become a mama.

I was a college student when I came over from Norway and the breathing room I attained by leaving my native country was intoxicating fresh air to me. Whenever friends in Norway would ask, "so are you going to stay then over there?" or "when are you moving back?" I always refused to respond. I refused choosing one, insisting my world felt bigger with a foot in each camp, so to speak, straddling the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

perceptions of a "housewife"

In the feature article ("Mama Wants a Brand-New Job") of the winter issue of Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers, Katy Read reports that "in a 2007 study by psychologists at Northwestrn, Princeton and Lawrence Universities, researchers measuring public perceptions of different groups found that "housewives" were perceived to be approximately as competent as elderly and mentally retarded people" (p. 34). This is the public sentiment (sentence?) I'm in for.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how I've been fretting this winter about where to settle with my little family; what kind of lifestyle I want for us. We've come to a decision: we're going to do our very best to make a living for ourselves here in the US and not move to my native Norway. I'm not going to put my soon-to-be 2 year old child in daycare; I want to continue to attachment parent her, no matter how hard and intense it is. Throughout this year, I'll be able to take turns with my husband writing and being with her while he finishes his thesis. After that, I might have less, and perhaps only her nap times, to write, depending on what my husband ends up doing. As of fall 2011, she'll be in preschool and so even if my husband is away from home all day, I'll at least have from around 8:30 till 11:15 or so to write. Plus nap time, if I'm lucky.

I'll continue to perceive myself as a writer and a mama, but in the eye of the public, I'll most likely be seen as a typical housewife. And now we all know how they're judged.
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