February 06, 2005


. . . is just like planning a wedding. Someone (generally the woman, if one's available) works her ass off, forfeits sleep, spends evey penny she owns, and sacrifices endlessly so a bunch of other people can have a good time.

But all the while, the woman is supposed to pretend that this is all really fun, and that there's nothing grander than busting one's ass for other people. "Hi, I've been up all night. Isn't it GLORIOUS?"

The saying, of course, with respect to weddings, is "the wedding is for your friends and relatives. The marriage is for you." Well, you know: half of it, anyway.

To be fair, I had almost no help when I got married. I understand that often the bridesmaids help out with various tasks. My bridesmaids could barely be bothered to show up for the fitting of the dresses they complained about endlessly, but didn't help to pick out.

Naturally, I'm frightened about the child or children: I know this will be a life-changing experience. I know it will be a lot of hard work. I just don't know if I'll end up feeling used, or taken for granted. I just don't want it to be like all the other projects I've worked hard on for essentially no payoff. (The assumption out there being that women simply like to work really hard to make other people happy, so the act itself is its own reward.)

What they tell me is that kids are so wonderful that it's terrific to have them around (once you're past babyhood and the terrible twos). They say it's different. They say the work is grueling, but at the end of the day you don't really mind.

Can I get some of that in writing?

UPDATE: Attila the Hub takes me to brunch and mentions that he's read my blog. ("Why are you reading my blog," I want to ask. "That's my secret diary, where I file away things that I only want the entire universe to know." I think better of it.)

"Are you angry?" he asks.

"Of course not," I respond, souding like a six-year old, only a bit less mature. And, of course, the six-year-old would have the wit to explain that it's only her imaginary friend, Binky, who had periodically resented the division of labor in the household. I'm fine, but Binky is concerned that she doesn't get stuck making dinner every single night, because it's hard to cook when you're an invisible person.

On the way home I come clean and discuss my fears about the responsibilities of childraising, and we have a good discussion.

But honestly. Can you imagine trying to live with me? He has the patience of a saint.

Posted by Attila at February 6, 2005 03:10 AM

My mother calls the rewards "Parents Paydays". Here's One.

Posted by: Ironcross11 at February 6, 2005 07:35 AM

The reason I'm the last person who should say a word here is that I just never wanted to have kids, myself.

The reason I'm saying something anyway is, I saw my mom do exactly what you're talking about. She was "Perfect Wife." She dished it all up, perfectly, and did it smiling.

Here's only one example: When I think of all the time and effort she put in to making three nutritious, tasty meals for five each day - that also didn't bust the budget - and how often we said, "but I don't WANT that for dinner tonight!" - I cringe. Now I try to let her know how much I appreciate what she did. I say things like, I don't understand HOW you did that. Or, You must have been crazy!

What I would like to change if I only could, and how you can do it different, is to make sure all your support net type adults verify to your kids the value of what you're doing for them. Excellent mothering doesn't have to be taken for granted any more.

I wish someone had really talked to us about how hard it was for my mom to do that, how we should truly appreciate it, how hurtful it was of us to criticise in the rude way we did. I mean, my dad would yell at us here and there, but that's not at all the same. That just upset us. It didn't make us really understand. It didn't teach us day after day until our behavior changed.

For your own part? Don't let it happen that way any more. Stop the play if it goes in that direction. Have a wedding without bridesmaids. And demand help from those around you if you need it. Such things are really supposed to be a group effort anyway.

It's not right to let yourself be hurt that way. It's not fair to you. It's not fair to your spouse; then they have to deal with your hurts because they love you. It's not fair to your daughters and sons. It teaches that it's okay to let people take advantage of you.

And when that happens too many times, it takes all the joy out of Christmas or whatever, and all the givingness out of your spirit. Experiences like that, in the end, can just plain use you up.

Better to take the villification of those few jerks who will still object if you don't serve them in that Perfect Wife way.

You really can learn to do it different. Love, courtesy, and nurturing, don't have to include pulling all-nighters, going broke on ingredients, and being exhausted by the time the Event actually Arrives. You're an important part of it too, right?

I got infected with Perfect Wife syndrome too. It's almost eradicated, thank God, but I still do battle with it.

One thing that really helped was practicing Smart Mouth techniques. Like, "When's dinner gonna be ready again?" can be answered with "Soon, dear" (frantically ramp up cooking speed) or, "As soon as you get back from Lotus Chinese Kitchen. I'm too tired to finish. This now goes in the fridge. You can heat it up tomorrow, it's really good. Do you know how to work the microwave? I can teach you real quick." This can get you some rest for the night, and a very different experience next time around.

So practice new ways on dinner guests and you'll be ready when those kids turn up hungry.


Posted by: k at February 6, 2005 08:04 PM

You say you want it in writing? Okie-dokie: http://www.baggage-and-blathering.com/archives/2005/01/17/286/

Bottom line, it's the worst-paying, highest stress job in the world, but it *is* the most rewarding. Really.

Posted by: Kathleen at February 7, 2005 04:32 PM

Ok, so I am guessing here that you are expecting? If so, congratulations!

What can I say that doesn't sound mushy? I can't. Having a child is simply experiencing the most love you will ever feel your entire life. It is heart bursting out of your mind love. Your shocked at your feelings. Really.

There are hard days and there are perfect days, but nothing on this earth is more fulfilling or frustrating.

My only advice is time old. Cherish every single moment. It flys by and when they are older, you would give anything to have them little once again.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at February 7, 2005 08:04 PM

Laugh all you want.

As long as I can talk you into watching Supernanny.

Aquiring a kid would terrify me. If I watched Supernanny carefully and diligently first, I would feel MUCH better.

The brats on the show are your worst nightmare. She turns them around and teaches the family how to have a happy family life again. This means:

-the fear of the unknown is resolved - it's made known how really HORRIBLE they can be
-over and over, it gets resolved. The worst of the worst become WONDERFUL, sweet, loving, interested kids.

It's all about mutual respect. She teaches them all HOW not to let those kids TAKE ADVANTAGE of their parents.

It's great. It really is.

Posted by: k at February 7, 2005 08:44 PM

I saw one episode; although she had to camp it up a bit for the camera, it appeared that she had some sound techniques for managing children.

We're still thinking 1-2. "Never three," I tell my husband. "Then we'd be outnumbered."

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 8, 2005 12:38 AM

Attila Girl,

I don't think any of us has any idea what we are getting ourselves into.

It kicks my ass almost everyday. I have learned more patience and self-control than I ever thought possible of myself. There are times when I want to scream at the top of my lungs; when I want to kick R for his presumptions; I want to smack little ole ladies for smiling at me and telling me to "slow down;" when I want to run away and indulge in my secret-single-behaviors for weeks at a time; when if one person asks me what is for any meal, I will throw the food on the floor and tell them to have at it.

It is and will be the most annoying, frustrating, exhausting work that will ever be required of you. There will be times when you will truly think yourself absolutely crazy for having decided to do this.

You will come to realize, however, that in the rearing of this human soul, you have more influence than through anything else you will ever attempt. It will be daunting. The first years are the easiest in some respects because they seem to love you so very much, and are so direct in their desire for your love and attention. As they become older, we have to rethink our strategy. It can be very hard to let them grow-up; to loosen our control over their every decision. That is when we must trust that the foundation we laid while they were still suckling at our breast, or on our laps for books, or snuggling with us during a movie is solid and firm. The coach-friend mode is challenging to our parental logistics.

Your body will never look the same, but you will come terms with it, and perhaps may even find some tiny bit of acceptance with the stretch marks on your stomach and breasts. Like so many other scars, they represent hard work, effort, and perhaps, even love.

All that said, AG, it is true, that while I have moments of thinking "What the f*** have I gotten myself into?" and moments when I want to pull all of my hair out, they really are small and few (though powerful, I cannot deny). They seem so large because, for me, recognizing that I was still a good mother despite these feelings of inadequacy and anger took a very long time. They won't appreciate completely what you have given to them until they are adults. Remember, the view from greater heights allows better perspective.

Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat, because that is (well, and you-know-what ;) ) all it took to get them here, and it took millions more to make it happen.

Congratulations :D

(P.S. If you want to read what the real pregnancy and first years are like, go read Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. You'll laugh your arse off, cry, and realize, you're not the only one, and feel better and inspired.)

(P.P.S. I told my husband when we had our third child, "we're in the zone now, no more man-to-man.")

(P.P.P.S. Supernanny seems to be mostly reminding the parents that they are the parents. Be firm when they are young, and they will still be demanding, but it will be easier for you to say "No!" mean it and mean it, have them listen, and for you all to have fun.)

Posted by: Rae at February 8, 2005 09:37 AM

Yes! Supernanny kicks ass. Those parents seem afraid of discipline, like:

-any discipline at all is inappropriate or "mean"
-the kids will stop loving me
-people will call me a bad parent

Miss JoJo never raises her voice at naughty kids, or causes them physical pain. Not even a hard grasp as she holds a struggling screaming kid's arm. Yet her disciplining is fair and extremely effective.

I love her explicit instruction plans for "repairs." She's a superb problem solver.

I also recommend Good Dog U on Animal Planet. You'll see the importance of clarifying relationships among the pack: ie, parents are parents, kids are kids. Good Dog U is all about educating people even more than dogs.

An untrained dog is not a happy dog. They're wired to need to know proper behavior so the whole pack functions smoothly and happily. If they don't know it, they're confused and upset and disruptive. Us too.

I'm not just talking about kids here. Good Dog U teaches proper adult-adult behaviors, and things like Identify Bad Guy. Boundaries. Rights and responsibilities. Good Dog U can help a lot with bridesmaids issues.

[You'd never guess I want to punch those bridesmaids in the nose. No good dog would dream of behaving like that.]


Posted by: k at February 8, 2005 08:24 PM

In fairness, one was in med school, and the other was working on her doctorate (as well as being painfully shy). Another, suggested by my husband, just informed me three months or so in advance that she wouldn't be able to participate. The remaining one is the husband's sister. She showed up for the "bridal luncheon" 15 minutes before the restaurant closed for the afternoon, after a day of shopping with a friend.

So the "bridal luncheon" was just my med school friend and me.

What a miserable process that was. I've never ordered the pictures from it, either: I have the proof book, but I just can't bear to look at them, much less order the final album. Ugh.

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 10, 2005 11:44 AM

Yikes! Do you mean the pics from the bridal luncheon, or the wedding itself?

Posted by: k at February 11, 2005 03:06 AM

The wedding. I have the proof book, and I guess that feels like enough.

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 11, 2005 09:45 AM

Your exquisite wedding picture - the one I nagged you so long for? - has pride of place in my workstation. It sits there and smiles at me every day.

Posted by: k at February 11, 2005 05:34 PM

I can't remember which one that was. Is it the one in front of the church, or the one where I'm laughing too hard (the "tooth shot"?).

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 11, 2005 06:33 PM

It's in front of a church-type setting but it seems to be inside not outside. You're smiling, but probably only you would think it was too much. There are lots of nice flowers and things around, and some beautiful decorative work, plaster maybe? on the walls, with arches and dentillation and columns. It may be an altar in front of that wall? some table-type thing, very very beautiful.

It's just an incredibly glamorous, gorgeous, happy picture. Everyone who sees it kinds of gasps and says, Who's this?

Posted by: k at February 11, 2005 08:15 PM

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