Harder Than You Thought?

In an Esquire magazine interview this month, CBS Anchor Katie Couric has this to say about her life:

"It's a little harder than I thought it would be. ... I didn't dress up in a blazer and sit at a desk when I was a little girl and read the news, so my life has unfolded in a way that I haven't really had that much control over. ... I had sort of a perfect life until I was forty. Jay used to say I was born on a sunny day -- everything just sort of went right for me. Everything changed when I turned forty."

I love how frank she is -- about her success, about the tragedy of her husband's early death, about being a single working mom. Her candor reminded me of a conversation about becoming a parent I had with my husband awhile back. We were walking down the street behind our house, holding hands during a rare minute away from our three kids. Our life is no Hallmark card but we definitely have it easy as parenting goes -- healthy kids, financial stability, wonderfully boring lives. But even "sunny day" parenting is not for wimps, I know now. Thinking about that day 10 years ago in our tiny New York apartment when we cried together over our first positive pregnancy test, I asked him, "Did you ever think it would be this hard?" He looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Never in my wildest dreams."

So the topic today: What about combining work and parenthood is harder than you thought? What's easier? What's the one thing you never, ever could have been prepared for? If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself -- before you had kids?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 19, 2007; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All , Moms in the News
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First!

Who started this stupid thing anyway?

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 8:11 AM

Darn you, Fred! I was only one minute away from being first!

I have to say that the hardest thing for me (married, no kids, work full-time) is finding time to just hang out with my husband. Not watching TV, not running errands or working in the backyard, but just sitting and talking. It seems like we rarely have time for that anymore except for the five minutes before we pass out at bedtime.

Before we got married, I pictured Sunday mornings doing crossword puzzles with homemade pancakes and eggs. Now we jump out of bed, grab a breakfast bar, and head off to the dog park, or the grocery store, or volunteering. Ever since we bought our first house, it seems like there is always something to do.

I have to remember to take time to pay attention to my husband. I don't know how you guys with kids do it! It's hard to imagine having even less time.

Posted by: Meesh | January 19, 2007 8:17 AM

Leslie,

When your parents escaped the Gestapo by the skin of their teeth, you don't waste time whining about how "hard" it is to combine work and parenthood. You just do it.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 8:18 AM

We are the Experts on Parenting
By Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they
ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and
> the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with
> the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler
> with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.
>
> All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in
> disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three
> almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three
> people who read th! e same books I do and have learned not to be
> afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who
> sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and
> cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to
> keep their doors closed more than I like.
>
> Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and
> move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick
> soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center,
> the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except
> through the unreliable haze of the past.
>
> Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me
> now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on
> sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood
> education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where
> the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I
> suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.
>
> What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the
> playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they
> taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at
> all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test,
> then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize
> that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child
> responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed
> only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained
> at 3, his sibling at 2.
>
> When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed
> on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. B! y the
> time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because
> of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this
> ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.
>
> Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the
> research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of
> Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he
> describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and
> active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old
> who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little
> legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he
> developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last
> year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk
> just fine. He can walk, too.
>
> Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me,
> mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, "Remember-
> When- Mom-Did Hall of Fame." The outbursts, the temper tantrums,
> the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the
> bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare
> sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came
> barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and
> I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.)
> The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and
> then drove away without picking it up from the win! dow. (They all
> insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the
> Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?
>
> But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make
> while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is
> particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in
> photographs.
>
> There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on
> a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4
> and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked
> about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept
> that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the
> next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the
> doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.>
> Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, w hat was me
> and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I
> thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd
> done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their trueselves because
> they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.
>
> The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact
> and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I
> wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have
> done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's
> what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn
> from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the
> experts were.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 8:29 AM

'Thinking about that day 10 years ago in our tiny New York apartment when we cried together over our first positive pregnancy test, I asked him, "Did you ever think it would be this hard?'

what? I didn't think doing the pregnancy test was that difficult!

Posted by: experienced mom | January 19, 2007 8:30 AM

Accept imperfection.

There is not enough time in the day for you to tweak everything in your world until it is perfect. Your kids will break things. Your HVAC will fail. Somebody will hit your car.

When you were single you had enough slack time in your life to fix everything without tremendous upheaval. It sucked, but you could do it.

As a parent, your time is so short that if the HVAC breaks it upsets every corner of life's fragile schedule.

Accept it and savor the highs.

Posted by: Random Guy | January 19, 2007 8:37 AM

OK-- STOP it! Whoever posted that Quindlen piece, tell me this -- how am I going to pull myself together and stop crying before my 9 AM meeting? I've read that thing numerous times, and as soon as I get to "the black button eyes" my own eyes are a watery mess! Damn thing gets me every time . . . .

Posted by: Cpaitol Hill Mom | January 19, 2007 8:38 AM

Anna Quindlen, what an awesome author!

Posted by: experienced mom | January 19, 2007 8:39 AM

this will sound strange, but if I could go back in time and tell myself something, I would say don't go into engineering. Engineering, at the time, was all guys. It really still is even though one of the activities I've done in the past 20 years is encourage women into engineering. I had a choice to get a PhD in engineering or MBA. I was accepted into both programs. I chose the PhD. Engineering requires too much life-long learning activities that take away time from family things. Simple as that. I enjoy the life-long learning activities, but not so much that I'd rather do them over family. Plus being around all guys over the years, means I don't have that supportive group of my own gender.

Posted by: dotted | January 19, 2007 8:44 AM

Easier than I expected is patience. Well, some. I figured out early on that the baby wasn't crying to annoy me, she was crying because something was wrong and that's the only way she knew to tell me. So now, when they act up, instead of getting angry or impatient, I usually see it as a puzzle to figure out -- is she whining because she's tired or hungry or one of her friends was mean to her, so does she need a hug or a snack or a firm hand, etc.

Probably hardest is negotiating kid stuff with my husband, because he doesn't have much patience. To him, all crying must cease instantly with application of a snack or nap or bandaid, so when it doesn't, he gets frustrated and snaps. And then I get frustrated, because I don't understand how Mr. Logical Goal-Oriented Engineer can't figure out how that yelling at the kids just gets in the way of the task he is trying to accomplish (when my daughter feels threatened and rejected, she acts up more, not less). So we have these periodic talks, and we agree that we're going to do X and Y, and then a few weeks later he's back to yelling again.

Don't get me wrong, he's a great dad overall. I just never expected this -- he's hardly ever even raised his voice with me, so it's been a surprise to see how easily and quickly he gets frustrated with them. And it leaves me in the position of sometimes having to manage him along with the two kids -- paying attention to his moods, taking the kids away when I see he needs a break, forcing myself to stay calm when I'm frustrated as hell myself, backing him up to present a unified front to the kids while at the same time trying to divert his frustration away from them, etc.

Posted by: Laura | January 19, 2007 8:45 AM

Although I am not a big Katie Couric fan (shocking, I know) I do feel for her that she lost her husband.

The only advise I give to people when they are just starting out - getting married, starting a family, careers, new house, the whole nine yards - is to SLOW down. I haven't found the past 11 years of marriage particurly hard but challenging. So many unexpected situations and new territory. My husband just turned 40 and we were reflecting on his 30th birthday, we had just gotten married a year prior and life was full but simple. Not anymore!

I wish I had taken just a little more time to "enjoy the moments" - they have gone by in the blink of an eye! We have a good life - no complaints - hoping our 40's will be as great as our 30's - just slowerrrrr................

Posted by: cmac | January 19, 2007 8:47 AM

What I meant to write is that I've read the piece numberous times before today. It's impossible for me to read that more than once in a 24 hour period-- the emotion is just too raw.

Oh, the delicious agony of the rememberance of things past.

Posted by: Capitol Hill Mom | January 19, 2007 8:49 AM

Well that Anna Quindlen piece just about wiped me out too. This whole column is really hitting home for me. In short, here's three things I wasn't expecting

1. I thought that having a child would be my entree into some wonderful kind of sorority in which we were all mommies together. Nothing prepared me for the bitterness and resentment which moms can express towards each other or the ways in which having a baby is a competition full of one-upmanship (parenting as bloodsport is how someone once described it). I didn't expect to feel so afraid of failing.

2. I didn't expect to have to fight so hard against vicariously living through my kids. I didn't expect to feel so lousy when my kids didn't get into the gifted program -- or to have to keep convincing myself over and over that this didn't mean I had failed. Didn't expect that none of the parenting books would have prepared me for this.

3. Nothing, but nothing could have prepared me for the fact that my husband would never fully heal from what he experienced in Iraq. Nothing prepared me for domestic violence or how alone I would feel when it occurred. Nothing prepared me for the incredible feat of strength I would have to perform in turning him in to the MP's and getting him the help he needed. Nothing prepared me for the white-hot fury I could feel towards him or the savage brand of love I would feel towards my children as I fought to keep them and myself safe.

Advice for my kids? Date someone for a long time before you marry them. Trust in God every day. Don't have a honeymoon baby even if it seems romantic at the time. Try to fulfill at least some of your dreams before you have kids since that will give a confidence to carry you through the things that follow. Become self-reliant. Don't look to girlfriends, neighbors or colleagues to tell you how to do things or to bail you out of a tough situation. That's all.

Posted by: Anonymous for Today | January 19, 2007 8:54 AM

I don't think it is hard. My life is better than 99% of people who ever lived. I think the hardest thing would be not being able to feed your children. My family is thankfully very far from being in that position.

Posted by: green mtns | January 19, 2007 8:54 AM

That is a very sweet piece.

I have to wonder something, though. She wrote "I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in
photographs"

The moment is gone? So the best thing about having kids is when they're babies, and then it's all downhill after that? I would like to think that you made it through the bad times (up all night screaming, changing diapers, wondering what they're thinking) to get to the point where they are adults. Then you can talk to them, you see their triumphs, you understand their personalities.

My mom always told me that it was worth it to deal with the toddler years because she got to know us as adults. I always thought that that was the best part of having kids.

Posted by: Meesh | January 19, 2007 8:58 AM

I could not have prepared myself for my critically ill infant - nor would I have wanted to. I would have run headlong into this great inferno of love and pain anyway. Our critically ill infant became our chronically ill child, and now is a disabled, loving, wonderful, funny, charming adult.

If I could go back in time I would do it the same way but not waste time feeling guilty for the things I could not control.

Posted by: Older Mom | January 19, 2007 9:00 AM

The hardest thing for us as parents is lack of time for our own activities. All the things we did together, we now have to split the time for, and boy do we wrestle over it. The actual parenting part, at least of an infant, was easy for me. Now that she is a preschooler, having patience becomes much more difficult, because I start to have expectations for her behavior, which causes frustration on both sides.

Posted by: Olney | January 19, 2007 9:01 AM

the hardest part for me is avoiding the patterns that I grew up with and the things I said I'd "never do" when I became a mom... snapping at the kids for no reason because I'm frustrated with my husband is the hardest to deal with right now -- I was "popped" alot as a kid because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to be being annoying (which I was very good at).

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 9:07 AM

The hardest thing is teen years. I know that it is a cliché but it is a cliché for a reason. But it is even more difficult to watch your teenagers to grow into adults carrying over problems that you cannot fix. This is the most difficult thing, your children having problems that you cannot fix.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 9:07 AM

I have said this before and I will say it again. The hardest thing was and still is to continue working in my chosen career that I love (demanding, competitive, and not child friendly) and to be the kind of mother I want to be.

Posted by: another dc working mom | January 19, 2007 9:09 AM

Science, specifically genetics, had not progressed far enough for me to know that I would have been unable to successfully carry a fetus to term.

I should have slept with a lot more men and had a lot more sexual adventures. Regrets--I have many.

Posted by: arleen | January 19, 2007 9:10 AM

Well, I definately never expected to be a single parent, nor I guess does one ever when growing up and playing house. It is really tough, and the need to be many people at once is tough to balance (mom, dad, friend, daugther, employee,etc). It feels like there is nothing much left to be just me.

If I could have done it differently (and since this was a non-planned child I did not exactly pick this time) I would have waited until I was married, a few years older (I was 29), more financially stable, and further along in my career. I would have been nice to stay at home with my child longer and spent fewer nights awake worring about how I would pay the rent.

Posted by: single mom | January 19, 2007 9:18 AM

The Quindlen piece makes me cry... and I've never had kids. I saw my parents go through the serious illness and death of my brother, and saw what can happen to a family...
Now my husband and I are looking forward to buying a house, getting a pet and having a baby in the next few years. At times it seems so stressful with my finishing law school, trying to save money, getting by on very little. But my new year's resolution is to focus on enjoying the moment, because there's no way to know what'll come next. One day when we're balancing kids, and work, and house upkeep, we'll look back at this as the good old days... a simpler time. So every night I try to look at the day and find a moment of happiness from the day and appreciate what we have now. Use a little bit of the rose-colored glasses that get applied to the past and the future, for right now. We'll see if it sticks.

Posted by: Newlywed in MD | January 19, 2007 9:30 AM

That Quindlen piece just about sums it up!

I certainly don't live in the moment enough. I wasn't like this at all when I was a stay at home mom. Now I am just stressed and goal oriented. I snap at her alot more. Definitely need more patience.

What I didn't expect? That I would still be sleep deprived YEARS after the infant stage. That it's always SOMETHING.

I also didn't expect the "terrible 2s" to start at 1 and last until 4!!!

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | January 19, 2007 9:30 AM

The hardest thing for me has been the sleep deprivation! Even after the infant stage. I wouldn't change a thing though. No regrets.

http://lawyermama.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | January 19, 2007 9:33 AM

Many first time parents ask Fredia when they will be able to sleep thru the night again. Fredia smiles but knows the answer, "Never"

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 9:40 AM

Duh!

Posted by: Just Me | January 19, 2007 9:40 AM

I was surprised how difficult it was with a new baby to care for - being the eldest daughter of a large family I guess I thought I knew about babies, but I didn't get how it was to be the one in charge. Made me admire and appreciate my mother more.

In the same vein I was surprised how difficult it was physically after my first was born, how long it took me to feel "normal" again - I had a relatively easy time with the pregnancy and I guess had been led to believe that was the hard time for your body and once the baby was born it was smooth sailing, so it was a shock when I could hardly walk due to a pelvic separation during birth, it was a shock that even though I actually lost weight overall from the pregnancy I piled on weight afterward, etc.

I was surprised somewhat that it was so much harder with two kids than one, it seemed like adding my son to the mix made things more than twice as hard, more than twice the work... but maybe it just seemed that way.

But - I pleasantly found that the teen years were easier and more rewarding than I thought they would be. I had anticipated my kids being really difficult and oppositional, but I never went through the "I hate you" phase with either one. And was pleasantly surprised that, even though I am nowhere near "cool", I got along very well with their friends and liked their company very much. Not that my kids didn't have their problems, they did, but those years went better than I thought.

Posted by: Catherine | January 19, 2007 9:42 AM

I would have chosen a far, far better man to be my husband and the father of my children.

Really, some people should have giant warning labels on their foreheads!!!

Posted by: Liz | January 19, 2007 9:43 AM

You know what they say, two is the new thirteen!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 9:43 AM

I think Katie Couric was right, life post-40 turned out to be a lot harder than I would have thought.

I had some big things happen in my 20s and 30s -marriage, two children, career success I never dreamed of (low expectations fueled that!), life-threatening illness. Somehow until I got to 40 it was not a big deal. Life went on.

I think grownup-ness hits us harder as we get older. It's not all a game, it's for real and you only do it once.

For me it's good it worked that way. If I'd started thinking about all this I never would have done it, and then it would have been too late. You gotta just close your eyes and make that leap....

Posted by: RoseG | January 19, 2007 9:46 AM

The hardest thing for me has been feeling like an economic failure. I wanted my kids to grow up in a decent middle class house, have a sit-down family dinner at night, and piano or ballet lessons if they wanted. Because that's how I grew up. But a series of outrageous medical expenses and a job layoff put us into such a hole that I don't know how we can climb out. Husband is working two jobs to try to catch up, so there goes the family dinners and actually any family time at all. I'm working full time when I wish I could spend more time with my kids. There's no chance of paying for music lessons while we're just trying to pay the rent and keep the creditors at bay. I just wish I could give my kids more time, more new clothes, more enrichment activities and it hurts that we can't do that right now.

Posted by: no name today | January 19, 2007 9:46 AM

Being an unwanted child, I could never figure out why anybody in their right mind would ever want a kid. I read 'The Baby Trap' and chldren have never been on the agenda. BTW, a local newspaper had an obituary this week of a man who had 12 siblings. If you can't deal with 1 or 2, imagine how that mother coped with 13 to raise.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 9:47 AM

The hardest thing for me was also rewarding (normally is, yes?). I work full time as an employee, but from my home. I'm expected to be at my computer 8-5 normal hours. I started this when my daughter hit 6th grade, which was middle school for her. So, I was home every day when she got home from school. We would review homework, I worked with her on prioritization, breaking down big tasks, normal parent things. However, I was also still working. It took her 3 years to get that I couldn't just drive her to the mall, or to her friends, or make cookies with her when she got home. That I was working. "I'm working, you know!" became a mantra. Made it hard - basically 2 full time jobs, but as I said, rewarding. She's a sophmore in high school now, and just starting to drive. She doesn't come home early from school anymore, and sometimes I really miss those moments. :)

Posted by: Single mom | January 19, 2007 9:51 AM

To no name today

Have you read John Dickerson's book? It will give you some idea how little
music lessons and the like mean in the long run to kids. Check it out.

Posted by: Liz | January 19, 2007 9:56 AM

Interesting questions.

While I knew my life would change dramatically, I did not comprehend the complete 180 my life would take. I never thought I would walk away from my "office" job and title and create a new working life for myself as a freelancer. I also never envisioned the issues that would come up for my daughter that would require so much mental energy on my part.

I have realized that, in a way, all kids have their own "special needs" that crop up that you could never anticipate and I've had to learn more how to roll with the punches more than in any job I've ever had.

If I had to go back in time, I'd tell myself earlier, "When you daughter arrives, embrace life as it is day to day with her -- don't mourn the loss of your old life and don't try to get it back. You never will and you'll miss too much of your new life that is good if you spend too much time pining for the past."

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | January 19, 2007 9:57 AM

Actually what you're giving your children is extremely valuable--you're showing them that you can survive (and thrive!), despite adversity. So they won't crumble if life throws them curves down the road.

One thought on the music lessons...I'll bet if you talked to the school music department, there might be scholarships, or free (or very cheap) programs available in your community. Do a little looking...and see what's out there.

Posted by: TO: No Name Today | January 19, 2007 10:09 AM

I never thought I would lose my sex drive so much and for so long! I'm still not back to my "nympho" days (hey, that's what my husband used to call it!) and it's been 4 yrs! Nothing kills a moment like a toddler/preschooler charging into your room at night or crying out for their 100th glass of water...lol..I'm trying to joke about it, but it makes me very sad :(

I miss my sex life!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 10:14 AM

I didn't realize how quickly my priorities would shift. Now I would rather get my son (19 months) a book about trucks than a new shirt for myself. I would rather go on a walk or to the playground than read my new Lucky magazine. Having a child changed my outlook on life (I think for the better.) I've become a lot less selfish and a lot more understanding. Becoming a mother has made me a better person, and for that I am forever grateful.

Posted by: Emmy | January 19, 2007 10:21 AM

The hardest thing for me, in the early years of motherhood, was adjusting to the demands of a baby and toddler, which seemed relentless. My son had colic for about 8 weeks, and I thought I would go crazy from the crying that could not be appeased. But then that passed. Then, when he turned one, he was the most active baby I had ever come across. He did not like to be contained, so we baby-proofed the house, but still had to watch him like hawks all of the time. He got into everything. It was fun, but exhausting as well. I thought I was done at that point. One child was enough. I could not imagine how people handle more than one child at a time. But a few years went by, and the relentlessness of the childraising workload diminished as he grew older. By the time he was five, I thought maybe I could do it again. By the time he was six we were actively trying. Pregnancy number 2 seemed to come easily, but then we miscarried at 11 weeks. Pregnancy 3 came a few months later. We were cautiously optiminstic, but miscarried again at 6 weeks. Pregnancy 4 came along two months later, and again miscarried at 7 weeks. Pregnancy 5 came along quickly enough again, but then miscarried at 9 weeks. It never occoured to me that having another child would be so hard, since our son came so easily and was such an easy pregnancy. It never occurred to me that I would want a second child so badly. It is hard not to become attached to each pregnancy early on, even knowing that it could end abruptly in a few weeks. It is hard not knowing what the future holds. Will we have another child at all? It is hard to feel so powerless over the situation. And at the same time, it is hard to always remember to enjoy the life we have now, which is great.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried for a second child earlier on, when my eggs were younger. And I would not have worried so much about being exhausted the first few years, knowing now that those years go by quickly, even if they do seem intense and unrelenting at the time.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 10:27 AM

"So the topic today: What about combining work and parenthood is harder than you thought? What's easier? What's the one thing you never, ever could have been prepared for? If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself -- before you had kids?"

Is balancing your time at work vs. your time at home really the hardest part of parenting? Really?

If you think scheduling is your biggest problem and you're children are older than toddlers, you might want to consider whether you're really engaged enough with your kids' lives, and whether you're focusing on the right things as a parent.

For teenagers especially, finding the time is the easy part - know what to do and say, and when to do it and say it, is the hard part.

Posted by: Older Dad | January 19, 2007 10:31 AM

Well, I do not have kids, but I still would have told my younger self to slow down and enjoy your 20s and 30s. I never thought I would end up on my own, divorced, in my 40s, and there was a time I thought I never would be happy again. I am glad I was wrong about that!

Posted by: Missicat | January 19, 2007 10:39 AM

"Nothing kills a moment like a toddler/preschooler charging into your room at night"

It is o.k. to lock a bedroom door every once in a while. Toddlers will let you know if they have a real problem, and you can always unlock it (after adjusting your apparel, of course).

Posted by: Older Dad | January 19, 2007 10:39 AM

Older Dad... Different people have different strenghts and weaknesses. For some, talking with kids is intuitive and for others it's more of a challenge. For some, organizing their life to make the balance to make the work/life balance a successful one is intuitive... for others not as much. So, while you may have trouble with one aspect of parenting over another, keep in mind that you are your own unique person with your own strenghts and weaknesses- differnt from other posters here on the board.

I've found today's blog to be right on -- although like other posters it's hard not to become teary from the article, let alone from others' posts.

I've been most surprised by teh fact that I felt much more prepared for the harder parts than I thought I would. I feel like a lot of life experiences really came together to help me become a good parent... from my professional work (multi tasking, organziational skills, constantly re-prioritizing) to my time spent living abroad as a counselor to high school students (expect the unexpected) and even my part time job in high school as a teachers aid. I thought I would be more of mess (and granted some days I am!), but I guess I'm just most suprised by resilience I didn't know I had.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 10:39 AM

I came to parenting in the middle of the game - I married my partner and gained DD as a step daughter when she was 11. Parenting has been weird for me in a lot of ways. I didn't expect that I'd ever get comfortable with the kid sprawling across the couch, laying her head in my lap and watching TV like that (until she became a teenager and stopped wanting to sit and watch TV with her parents when she could be on the phone). I'm now learning to love our Saturday morning routine - I take her to judo, we come home and she showers while I write out the grocery list, and we go to the grocery store for the bi-weekly 'big shop' while my partner is still asleep. I'm also learning to love the fact that she talks to me - sometimes more than my partner, since I'm somehow more neutral (and more prone to girltalk and telling stories about my own childhood). I wouldn't trade it for anything - it's been too short a time, and I'm already cringing that DD starts high school next year.

Totally off topic, but I just found out that I'm going to be the sole income for the foreseeable future - partner lost her job. I'm having some trouble convincing her that it's OK for us to be a one income house, and trying to come up with suggestions for home based stuff she can do to make some money and not feel like she's 'such a loser' (her words). Anyone had to do that? Any advice would be great.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | January 19, 2007 10:40 AM

My daughter was 1 month old yesterday - and as much as we read and talked about, I still feel totally unprepared. That hardest things are the sleep deprivation and the soul sucking feeling I get when she cries for no reason that we can discern. Such a helpless feeling - I can't imagine how it feels when your baby has colic.

Posted by: New Dad | January 19, 2007 10:42 AM

The hardest thing ever? teaching them to drive. Nothing has scared me as badly as sending my 16 year olds onto the beltway. Can I turn back the time to the colic stage, please!

What I wasn't prepared for: the hurt I feel when they are hurt or disappointed. I can't make it all right for them now.

Posted by: Kirsten | January 19, 2007 10:43 AM

I try to give in to the challenges. It seems key to expanding and really registering the good moments. I don't want to skim the surface of any aspect of this experience.

Deep breaths go a long way.

Posted by: adrienne | January 19, 2007 10:44 AM

I try to give in to the challenges. It seems key to expanding and really registering the good moments. I don't want to skim the surface of any aspect of this experience.

Deep breaths go a long way.

Posted by: adrienne | January 19, 2007 10:45 AM

"I never thought I would lose my sex drive so much and for so long! I'm still not back to my "nympho" days (hey, that's what my husband used to call it!) and it's been 4 yrs! Nothing kills a moment like a toddler/preschooler charging into your room at night or crying out for their 100th glass of water...lol..I'm trying to joke about it, but it makes me very sad :(

I miss my sex life!"

Validation, right there!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 10:51 AM

"Different people have different strenghts and weaknesses."

This is true. My point is that parenting is more than putting in enough hours, and more than the logistics that all parents struggle with. In that respect it's similar to any other close relationship, such as a marriage. Spending time with your wife is vital - but finding the time is not the hardest part of living with someone else.

I have an hour and a half commute each way, so I understand that scheduling can be a challenge. But for most of us (myself included) carving out some time is simply a matter of discipline and priorities.

Not losing the spark, staying engaged with each other, staying friends, not letting the normal wear-and-tear of life tear down the relationship - that stuff's the real challenge. Most marriages don't fail because someone was required to put in too many hours at work (though spending too much time at work can be a symptom) - they fail because the relationship broke down.

Posted by: Older Dad | January 19, 2007 10:54 AM

"I try to give in to the challenges. It seems key to expanding and really registering the good moments. I don't want to skim the surface of any aspect of this experience."

Yes, I understand that, and agree with it wholeheartedly. Life is beautiful, even with its challenges and tragedies. In some ways, my most major disappointments have made me realize how much I really love what I have. They have added something like depth to my experience. And I am a little surprised at what I seem to be able to endure, although I am lucky that I have not had any major tragedies in my life. Still, in some ways, I feel very strong. I guess this is what it feels like to grow up.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 10:56 AM

"If you can't deal with 1 or 2, imagine how that mother coped with 13 to raise."

My great-grandmother had 17. She had a lot of rules. A very lot of rules.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 10:56 AM

. . . and I believe the issues are similar with kids. Finding time is important - building a real relationship is vita.

Posted by: Older Dad | January 19, 2007 10:57 AM

Rebecca whatever your partner does, please, please don't start one of those stupid jewelry, skin care, Southern Living, Pampered Chef "businesses" - they are not a job and only serve to annoy and piss off your friends and neighbors.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 10:59 AM

I never thought I would lose my sex drive so much and for so long!


Amen. After a whole day of small people hugging and pulling and tugging and snuggling and climbing over me at the end of the day I don't want ANYONE to touch me, not even my DH. I just want to be left alone for a change. I hope this passes!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:00 AM

Kirsten - my oldest turns 15 (drivers permit age in our state) tomorrow. Ack!!

Hardest thing: working full time, attending graduate school, going through a divorce, and parenting two young children at the same time. Obviously if I'd been told beforehand that I was going to do that, I would have assumed it was going to be hard. It just wasn't something I assumed when I had children that would happen.

Easiest thing: letting go of the "have to do it all at the same time" mentality and spending the last almost 7 years at home with my children. I wouldn't have imagined back when I was graduating from college that I would ever be happy doing this.

Posted by: momof4 | January 19, 2007 11:02 AM

"Amen. After a whole day of small people hugging and pulling and tugging and snuggling and climbing over me at the end of the day I don't want ANYONE to touch me, not even my DH. I just want to be left alone for a change. I hope this passes!"

Yes, I felt that way too, especially when my son was still nursing. I remember my husband complaining sometime in the first year after I gave birth that he never realized that by being a father, he had signed up for the life of a monk. At which time I felt very little sympathy for him.

But I did try harder after that, because I knew how lonely he felt and how he missed the intimacy we had before. And he was pretty patient. After a while, the hormones kicked in again, and we were back in business. But the first year was hard.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 11:06 AM

I also never imagined that working and having a family would be as hard as it is. I too thought there would be more time for things I used to enjoy -- meaningful friendships, leisure/exercise, personal hobbies (art. music), reading books (things that childless singles and DINKs do) and so forth. There is very little of that for the last 14 years I have had children. Things I wish I had known/done differently:
1) Live closer to family (they are 300 miles away)
2) Get away more with my husband (Didn't go away even overnight for the first 8 years of parenthood. No one would take the kids for a weekend. Family expected us to "stick around" the whole time when we visited. We finally had a reliable sitter we could pay for the entire weekend. We have since done this a few more times.)
3) Choose a career (other than the law) with more opportunities for flexibility and balance yet still achieve a certain level of accomplishment commensurate with your education and abilities. Thought that part-time work would be more available than it is. Most of my friends who work part-time are freelance writers or consultants but they don't/can't contribute much money to supporting their families and I need to do that.
4) Live in an area where the cost of living is not so exhorbitant so I wouldn't feel compelled to work and earn at a certain minimum level. We are now in careers that are too "Washington" that we really can't transfer them very easily to another locale. Also, would be tough for kids to leave area and friends at this point.
5) Try to find a house with sufficient space to accomodate an au pair or other live in help. This was a big mistake. We went for a small house close in to DC wher we both work so we would not suffer long commutes but it significantly narrowed our childcare options. Having a live in would have been more cost effective, reliable and flexible (even though it has its drawbacks). Didn't know at the time and too difficult and expensive to move now, 7 years later.

Sure there is more but that's all I can think of now!

Posted by: SuzieQ | January 19, 2007 11:09 AM

Older Dad -

I see your point, kind of. But I do have to say that older children's schedules are *much* harder to handle from a balance pov than younger.

I was catching up a bit after not being on the blog this week, and read the exercise blog from a few days ago. There was a mom who was saying she didn't have time to exercise because she worked 10 hours a day and had an hour plus commute round trip and a nursing baby. I just wanted to tell her to wait until that baby turns into 3 tweens and teens who need to be picked up from swim practice at 7:15 5 days a week, taken to youth groups at 7:00 twice a week, has a band concert from 7:30 until 9:00 on Thursday and a PTA meeting to attend from 6:30 to 8:00 on Tuesday.

Posted by: momof4 | January 19, 2007 11:09 AM

Well, I was already feeling kindof emotional today and this isn't making it better!
I have joked a thousand times that if I could go back in time and talk to my 15-year-old self, who thought that getting pregnant was "no big deal", I would smack her around!! Of course, I wish I would have waited ... but can't change that now. What is actually the hardest for me is dealing with the guilt I have that my child is an only - it seemed completely idiotic and absurd to contemplate having ANOTHER baby in my teenage years as I was already struggling, but there have been many, many times since that I wish I would have. Easiest - crisis situations - I discovered early on that I somehow inherited my mother's sense of calm when it comes to dealing with an emergency situation - I don't feel that I worry as much as some parents about my child getting hurt or sick or kidnapped or worse - hopefully I never have to deal with much of that!

Posted by: TakomaMom | January 19, 2007 11:10 AM

I also never imagined that working and having a family would be as hard as it is. I too thought there would be more time for things I used to enjoy -- meaningful friendships, leisure/exercise, personal hobbies (art. music), reading books (things that childless singles and DINKs do) and so forth. There is very little of that for the last 14 years I have had children. Things I wish I had known/done differently:
1) Live closer to family (they are 300 miles away)
2) Get away more with my husband (Didn't go away even overnight for the first 8 years of parenthood. No one would take the kids for a weekend. Family expected us to "stick around" the whole time when we visited. We finally had a reliable sitter we could pay for the entire weekend. We have since done this a few more times.)
3) Choose a career (other than the law) with more opportunities for flexibility and balance yet still achieve a certain level of accomplishment commensurate with your education and abilities. Thought that part-time work would be more available than it is. Most of my friends who work part-time are freelance writers or consultants but they don't/can't contribute much money to supporting their families and I need to do that.
4) Live in an area where the cost of living is not so exhorbitant so I wouldn't feel compelled to work and earn at a certain minimum level. We are now in careers that are too "Washington" that we really can't transfer them very easily to another locale. Also, would be tough for kids to leave area and friends at this point.
5) Try to find a house with sufficient space to accomodate an au pair or other live in help. This was a big mistake. We went for a small house close in to DC wher we both work so we would not suffer long commutes but it significantly narrowed our childcare options. Having a live in would have been more cost effective, reliable and flexible (even though it has its drawbacks). Didn't know at the time and too difficult and expensive to move now, 7 years later.

Sure there is more but that's all I can think of now!

Posted by: SuzieQ | January 19, 2007 11:14 AM

I don't find combining work and parenthood harder than I thought with my 2.5 and 1 year olds. It's hard, but I thought it would be, and it's doable and I love both my work life and my home life. What I didn't expect was that I would find a job where my co-workers and bosses (both male and female) are as understanding and supportive of my family needs and so clear that family comes before work.

As for parenting in general, I could never have imagined before having kids how bittersweet and painful the love I have for them is. How it physically hurts. How much the pure love is tinged with fear of anything happening to them or anything happening to me so I wouldn't be there to care for and guide them. How their sadnesses and pain is mine. As much as I love and appreciate every moment with my kids (o.k., there are some moments I can do without), I wonder if I'll ever know joy without a touch of pain again.

Posted by: Another Gov't Lawyer | January 19, 2007 11:16 AM

Oh, Gov't Lawyer, I'm with you 100%. I've always been an emotional person, but these emotions are so new and raw. I can just watch my baby sleeping and feel such intense happiness and pride and warmth, mixed with real sadness that like you said, can physically hurt. Wasn't prepared for that.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:25 AM

I wasnt prepared for how tender-hearted I would become - cant watch a movie/read a book where anything bad happens to a child (not that I previously enjoyed those things - you know what I mean.) Tried to re-read Wuthering Heights after my first was born - had to give up- too much child abuse. I cant even watch a show where a child gets his feelings hurt. It's like Old Yeller syndorme - when you get a pet and then cant watch a movie/read a book where anything bad happens to animals.

Posted by: jessker27 | January 19, 2007 11:26 AM

For me the hardest things have been patience and the sleep deprivation. They seem to go hand in hand-the less sleep the fewer patience.

Right now my toughest thing is having a teenager and preschoolers and every age in between. Being the right mom to the right kid is always a challenge. I am playing playdough and reading Good Night Moon while I am talking to my oldest about college applications, dealing with her teenage angst and helping her navigate her first job.

I am not sure what I would do over again. My kids amaze me with their humor, intelligence, questions and willlingness to love and protect each other all the while teasing each other into tears. It is so wonderful to watch them and see them grow physically, mentally and emotionally.

I am trying so hard to enjoy them, to savor each moment, each drawing, each hug because I have learned with the oldest now moments away from leaving the nest that the time goes so fast. I am interested to see the next stages of parenthood and what it will bring.

Posted by: magnificent7mom | January 19, 2007 11:28 AM

Don't marry that guy! Have kids with somebody else!

Posted by: olderwiser | January 19, 2007 11:33 AM

cant watch a movie/read a book where anything bad happens to a child


I know! Child abuse stories on the news positively freak me out now.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:35 AM

mcewen, you're an ass.

Posted by: Proud Papa | January 19, 2007 11:40 AM

mcewen,

Don't you have a "Misogynist Racists Anonymous" meeting you should be attending right now?

Posted by: what a moron! | January 19, 2007 11:40 AM

You're right, mcewan, girls get themselves pregnant all the time. If only they kept their pants on, all would be fixed.

As long as you keep your own pants on, I think the rest of us will be happy.

Posted by: TS | January 19, 2007 11:41 AM

The hardest thing has been raising kids with an alcoholic husband who is, in every other respect, a great dad. I keep trying to determine whether I should have seen this coming, but in light of his values and his then social 3 - 4 days a week, couple of beers drinking for the first 7 years of marriage, the answer is, "no". I couldn't anticipate the steepness of the acceleration in quantity and frequency of his drinking once we had our second child. The additional stress was more than he could handle without seeking assistance, and he didn't seek it. I didn't anticipate that anyone this intelligent,and whose self-esteem is tightly bound to being a great dad, wouldn't take steps to address his addiction. Leaving, or threatening to leave, him is not an option. It's clear to me that, if we lived apart, at some point he'd end up driving intoxicated with the kids in the car. I've no interest in cutting them off from their dad, or denying him time with him as a club to force recovery. I'm not an enabler.

The hardest thing is to love someone with whom you have children, and to have them not address issues that only they can address -- morbid obesity, alcoholism, tobacco use, et al.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:44 AM

PLEASE IGNORE MCEWEN'S COMMENT!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:44 AM

Is this a real topic? Quoting Katie Couric? PLEEEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSEEEE! GIVE ME A BREAK! Oh Katie was it hard with all your money and fame to raise a child? Quote a single mom working at walmart than I will have some respect for the topic. Katie Couric? Katie Couric? UNBELIEVABLE!

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 11:44 AM

Please don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: The troll police | January 19, 2007 11:45 AM

Granted I'm new to this parenting thing, but sleep deprivation has got to be the one thing I wasn't prepared for, and the one thing that there really is no escape from. After six months, I went on a business trip and slept 14 hours straight on the first day. My wife and I are both kind of zombie like at times trying to deal with a few hours here, a few hours there. It really makes things rough

Posted by: Andrew | January 19, 2007 11:45 AM

Oh MCEWEN, you are a babe in the woods making a comment like that here. The hens will eat you for lunch.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 11:47 AM

Thanks, Leslie, for a topic that is presented in a manner that invites the comment of both men and women.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:49 AM

"I see your point, kind of. But I do have to say that older children's schedules are *much* harder to handle from a balance pov than younger."

Well, sure - but scheduling the taxi still isn't as hard as dealing with teen angst, rebellion, developing sexuality, etc.

"There was a mom who was saying she didn't have time to exercise because she worked 10 hours a day and had an hour plus commute round trip and a nursing baby. I just wanted to tell her to wait until that baby turns into 3 tweens and teens who need to be picked up from swim practice at 7:15 5 days a week, taken to youth groups at 7:00 twice a week, has a band concert from 7:30 until 9:00 on Thursday and a PTA meeting to attend from 6:30 to 8:00 on Tuesday."

I do sympathize (all told, I spend three hours a day commuting). What's frustrating is that it is far easier for me to make the decision to spend 8 hours at work rather than ten (and actually "make it so"), than it is for me to convince a teen with a borderline eating disorder to sit down and eat - and that's just one example. I can control my life - I can't control my kids' lives any more.

Posted by: Older Dad | January 19, 2007 11:49 AM

Such great advice -- makes me feel so much better about my own "regrets."

Love Older Mom's advice -- no guilt.

and CMAC's -- slow down.

and Laura's -- patience (if I could buy patience, I would).

especially moved by Anonymous for Today. Thank you.

and Liz, you made me laugh with your brilliant idea that some men (and women) should come with warning labels on their foreheads. there is a great new book out called MR WRONG: REAL LIFE STORIES ABOUT THE MEN WE USED TO LOVE on the same topic.

Posted by: Leslie | January 19, 2007 11:51 AM

pATRICK, mcewen's here almost every day. He doesn't read, he only spews. He's a bitter, bitter man and seems to find commenting on this blog once or twice per day to be part of his therapy, although he didn't use "scream queens" this time, so he's a little off his mark. Like "hens" is for you, "scream queens" is his trademark. Maybe he's seeing a new therapist. Can you guys get together and come up with some new insults? The old ones have lost their punch, if they had any.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:54 AM

mcewen spoke more than a bit intemperately. But there may be some important things here that should be considered:

1) We're all pretty much agreed that parenting is harder than we thought it would be - right?

2) It's harder yet when you're a single parent, haven't completed your education, or don't yet have stable employment - right?

Any woman should take a deep breath before deciding to become a single parent - it's a serious, serious challenge to take on. Any woman should take a deep breath before deciding to have a child before she has completed her education, or before the family has a minimally stable, adequate income.

So yes - in most cases it is a mistake for a single woman, or a woman who has reason to believe her marriage may fail, to run the risk of pregnancy.

Why should this be controversial, or seen as misogynistic?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 11:58 AM

To the woman with an alcoholic husband:

Wow, I am so sorry you are going through this. PLEASE, PLEASE run, do not walk to an al anon meeting. It will help you in ways you didn't even know needed it. I don't care if you have to get a babysitter or take off work, you need to go to an al anon meeting as soon as possible. While you cannot force anyone into recovery, al anon will help you process what is happening to you and help you cope.

Posted by: Emmy | January 19, 2007 11:58 AM

Don't lump me in with him. I know that many of these posters are humorless feminists but I hardly call hens an insult. Perhaps you have been sheltered and your tender ego can not take ANY give and take.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 12:01 PM

"I'm not an enabler."

Yes, you are. Your excuses are bogus.
The number 1 priority of a drug addict is his next fix. Not you and not the kids.
Get him in rehab, kick him out today, or at least join a support group. Let go of the romantic dream of the past, the guy is a drug addict!!!

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!!

Posted by: EJ | January 19, 2007 12:01 PM

Emily - My sister in law went through your exact scenario - she miscarried 5 times total and it took such an emotional and physical toll on her and her husband. They had a daughter and were trying for another - and eventually they had their son. I sympathize with you and hope for the best.

Posted by: cmac | January 19, 2007 12:03 PM

To Anon 11:58 - It's misogynistic because it assumes the responsibility is entirely the woman's. Any of your statements should be equally applied to a prospective father, not just the mothers. Last time I checked, it takes two people to create a pregnancy.

Posted by: TS | January 19, 2007 12:06 PM

Mcewen's 11:32 am comment has been removed. Sorry we didn't get it off faster.

Posted by: Leslie | January 19, 2007 12:09 PM

Mcewen's 11:32 am comment has been removed. Sorry we didn't get it off faster.

Posted by: Leslie | January 19, 2007 12:10 PM

To No Name for Today: My parents worked very hard at blue collar jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. No soccer games, no play groups, no music lessons, no vacations in Europe, no cars when we turned 16, not a chance of getting college paid for. They produced and raised 4 kids. None were in therapy, nobody commited suicide, none were on drugs or in jail. Two went to night school and paid for their own college degrees. All are gainfully employed and have never been on welfare. If you raise them correctly, you should have nothing to worry about when they leave home. However, if you think parenthood is such a daunting job, don't bother having kids in the first place.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 12:10 PM

'So yes - in most cases it is a mistake for a single woman, or a woman who has reason to believe her marriage may fail, to run the risk of pregnancy.

Why should this be controversial, or seen as misogynistic?"

My best spin on your take is that you might never have read one of mcewen's posts before so you're taking it at face value.

perhaps mcewen's comment is controversial because contraception, even responsibly used, still sometimes fails; because it implicitly endorses abortion as a solution, in addition to contraception; because marriages may fail 10 - 15 years from now so how far in the future is her crystal ball intended to view; because women can be impregnated by means of rape or incest; because even married women can be raped; because it is insulting to single women to suggest that they are not capable of assessing their own resources and being responsible for their decisions; or because it ignores the responsibility of men to either prevent procreation, work on their marriages to prevent failure, or otherwise be part of the solution. Select your favorite. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

I'm pro-choice, by the way, but comments like this have far more signiciant ramifications than mere controversy.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 12:11 PM

pATRICK, at least read and comment on today's postings. If you see any humorless feminist comments, identify them for us and deal in the present instead of some imagined harm from the past.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 12:18 PM

To anon at 12:10

You are being a little hard on No Name - she didnt say motherhood was too hard, just that it made her sad to not be able to give her kids music lessons, etc. We like giving our kids learning activities, and doing things that make them happy, and their dissapointment/hurt hurts us. She didnt say it was a major problem, just something that she felt dissapointed she couldnt do.

Posted by: jessker29 | January 19, 2007 12:20 PM

Well, as the saying goes, "You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone," like sleep. My daughter turns two next month and didn't sleep through the night until she was 14 months--that was hard. Even now she still wakes a couple x's/week.

But the hardest part that never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated was feeling inferior to my husband who turned into "Mr. Mom." Don't get me wrong, he's a wonderful husband, but questioning my own ability as a mother has been very difficult. Women are so fragile and emotional after the birth of their children, having someone you love demean you and correct your style of parenting puts you on very shaky ground.

After many conversations (almost two years into being parents) we're both on-track now. After all, you only want what's best for your child. And, God willing, I'm just now mentally prepared to *try* for our second. Wish me luck.

Posted by: NowOrNever | January 19, 2007 12:21 PM

Surprise #1
How awful I could feel after little sleep for months on end.


Surprise #2
As a working Dad with a stay-at-home wife, I underestimated the amount of work that I would still need to do. My wife is absolutely wonderful. But, I don't think I understood exactly how much she would need me to take over for her when I get home.

Posted by: TC | January 19, 2007 12:22 PM

"Mcewen's 11:32 am comment has been removed. Sorry we didn't get it off faster."

Wow, Leslie actually enforced the rules for once! Will wonders never cease! Now how about removing all the unsigned posts?

Posted by: Iluvtrolls | January 19, 2007 12:23 PM

"We are the Experts on Parenting
"By Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

"If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll."

Thanks to whoever posted this. I never thought Anna Quindlen would write anything I could agree with, but this piece changes my mind.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | January 19, 2007 12:23 PM

"To No Name for Today: My parents worked very hard at blue collar jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. No soccer games, no play groups, no music lessons, no vacations in Europe, no cars when we turned 16, not a chance of getting college paid for. They produced and raised 4 kids. None were in therapy, nobody commited suicide, none were on drugs or in jail. Two went to night school and paid for their own college degrees. All are gainfully employed and have never been on welfare. If you raise them correctly, you should have nothing to worry about when they leave home. However, if you think parenthood is such a daunting job, don't bother having kids in the first place.

Posted by: | January 19, 2007 12:10 PM"

No, your parents just got lucky. You obviously do not have children, or if you do, you are a very uninvolved parent. It doesn't matter if you have a vacation to Europe, a new car at 16 or nothing. You don't understand anything about parenting if you think that all you have to do is "raise them correctly" and then you have nothing to worry about. SO NOT TRUE! See, you can do everything "right" and still end up with a high school dropout. Parenting involves risk, and you can't always control every aspect of your child's life. Stuff happens and you deal. That is what parenting is all about.

Posted by: Emmy | January 19, 2007 12:23 PM

"If you raise them correctly, you should have nothing to worry about when they leave home."

anon at 12:12, can we pay $160 to receive this correct raisin' method by mail? or do we need to attend the seminar in Las Vegas?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 12:31 PM

My most unexpected and difficult obstacle since the birth of my child has been utter fatigue. I felt for several years a complete failure because I couldn't seem to handle work and family. That's how I started reading this blog - looking for ideas and commiseration.

Eventually I learned that I have SLE which most likely was brought on by my pregnancy. While I feel better knowing their is a medical reason for my extreme fatigue, it makes me sad to know that it will most likely be chronic and that because of it my child might never have the joy of a sibling. Doesn't seem fair to DH and child to expand the family when mommy's isn't even close to 100 percent more often than not...

Posted by: Anon 4 today | January 19, 2007 12:33 PM

To the woman with the alcoholic husband:

Millions of words have been written to describe how BAD it is to grow up with an alcoholic parent. You are setting your kids up for years and years (possibly a lifetime) of heartache and pain. If you won't do it for yoursef, do it for your kids!! Call the EAP office at work, join a support group, call a good lawyer, whatever, but do something today!!!

If you continue one more day with this guy, yes, you are an enabler. You wouldn't let a drunk stranger around your kids, would you?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 12:35 PM

Don't lump me in with him. I know that many of these posters are humorless feminists but I hardly call hens an insult. Perhaps you have been sheltered and your tender ego can not take ANY give and take.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 12:39 PM

"You wouldn't let a drunk stranger around your kids, would you?"

Please allow me to play devil's advocate with this statement. Doesn't anyone out there have a parent, brother, sister or close friend who's a functioning alcoholic? My word, if I never let a "drunk" person around my kids, we could never attend another family wedding! I can't imagine saying, you cannot attend the Fourth of July celebration at Aunt Katie's because she's an alcoholic.
FOr me, these are -- to use the dreaded phrase -- teachable moments for our kids. "There's an example of why you don't want to get involved with X habit. It turns you into a slurring idiot." Do most of you protect your children to the extent that you bar them from being in the presence of family members who smoke (outside in the backyard), drink (but don't expose your kids to any danger, abuse, or exhibit obviously drunk behavior), or exhibit other addictive behaviors? just asking. seriously. Again, I am talking about situations in which you are fully in charge and your children are at no risk. Thoughts?

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 12:44 PM

Leslie, you should not have removed his post. It was an offensive statement to many but the purpose of a blog is to let people post their ideas and DEFEND them. I am sure that the posters here could have blown holes through his post and discredited him. Now, no one has the chance to crush him because you removed it. Freedom of the press ring a bell?

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 12:45 PM

"We're all pretty much agreed that parenting is harder than we thought it would be - right?"

I'm not sure I agree. I certainly didn't think it was going to be easy - just by watching my own parents raise me and my siblings I had that figured out.

I would agree about extraordinary things like "I didn't realize my child was going to be autistic so it's harder than I expected" or "I didn't know my husband was going to leave me so it's harder than I expected", but I think I had my eyes wide open about the "regular" stuff.

Posted by: momof4 | January 19, 2007 12:49 PM

"You wouldn't let a drunk stranger around your kids, would you?"

This isn't a drunk stranger. It's their father. There's a huge difference.

My FIL is a high-functioning alcoholic. He and my MIL divorced when my husband was 12. The divorce was far more damaging than the alcoholism. An alcoholic father is obviously a much worse option than a non-alcoholic father, but unless this guy is an angry, abusive drunk, he's probably better than no father at all.

"Freedom of the press ring a bell?"

This isn't the press. It's a privately-hosted blog, and washingtonpost.com can delete any post they please. None of us have any intrinsic right to be here.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 12:49 PM

The hardest part of parenting for me was watching a teenager participate in self-destructive behaviors. And blaming yourself deep down inside your heart no matter that your head and family and physicians explain that the problems really have nothing to do with you or the way you raised the child.

Posted by: Anon today | January 19, 2007 12:50 PM

The hardest thing for me is realizing how I've gottenn stuck in various jobs because of the need for health insurance for my family. I'm the provider of that; I can't take the risk of not having it. That fear certainly quashes one's creativity...

I often wonder how much creative talent could be unleashed in this country if health care/insurance were more affordable on the open market. If my circle of friends and acquaintances is any indicator, having that kind of access would enable a lot more people to take creative risks. But at $1100 per month for a family plan, who can do it?

Posted by: Anon XX | January 19, 2007 12:53 PM

LIZZIE, you miss the point. The washington post and other press organizations have a moral responsibility NOT to squelch opinion, because they are in the forefront of the opinion business. By the way, no father at all is better than an alcoholic, chemically addicted people always create wreckage for those around them, it's only a matter of time.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 12:54 PM

To NC Lawyer

The "functioning alcoholic" is a myth. Do you let your kids hang around "functioning heroin addicts"?

Permitting smoking in the backyard does not send a strong message; it's a copout. Let your relatives kill themselves on their own property. Check out the studies on secondhand smoke (even in the backyard).

You may think you are fully in charge and there there is no risk to your kids, but you're exposing them to drug addicts.

These are toxic people; it's a no brainer to chose between your kids and your family, or is it?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 12:57 PM

'The hardest part of parenting for me was watching a teenager participate in self-destructive behaviors. And blaming yourself deep down inside your heart no matter that your head and family and physicians explain that the problems really have nothing to do with you or the way you raised the child.'

I agree. The best parenting in the world sometimes can't stop a teen from choosing self-destructive behavior.

Posted by: experienced mom | January 19, 2007 12:58 PM

I got busted by the Metro Station manager trying to fumble through the turnstyle. He reacted immediately as a man with the same problem as me had been killed just 2 days ago by slipping between the cars and got crushed by the train as it left the platform.

"Where's your cane", the man asked. "You can't use the system unless you got a cane."

They don't sell canes for blind people at the drug store. I called Virginia's Social Services and asked where I could get a cane. The problem was simple, If I didn't have a cane, I couldn't ride the Metro, and if I couldn't ride the Metro, I couldn't get to work. And if I couldn't get to work... the word "Failure" comes to mind.

They brought me a cane that very day.

I've never seen my children. I never will. No book, no college class, no therapist, no parent, nobody could have prepared me for the life that I will enjoy with my kids. Sure, I was asked how I could be a good Father if I couldn't even play catch with my son, or read a book to my daughter. I have no answers.

And I've blundered along the way. I've stepped on sleeping babies, accidently knocked them down when they barely learned to stand, stuffed bottles up their noses, and given them baths in complete darkness.

I also step out in the middle of the street when I hear a speeding car. Before a reckless driver runs over one of my babies, they will have to go through me first.

I've learned patience. It's the personality trait I'm best at. I've stood through hundreds of hours of soccer and football practises and games with nothing more than my imagination to tell me how my kids were doing. Did she score? Did my son sack the quarterback? Sometimes I get play by play from my wife or another parent, but A few excited words at the end of the game from my kid makes it worth it. They are always glad that I'm there.

I cross busy downtown streets every day I go to work and often wonder if my next step will be my last. DC drivers... I have to concentrate on pushing the correct elevator button when I leave for work. There is a construction site to get through, mud puddles,
and now that it's winter, I've got to watch out for ice. Whatever frustration I experience throughout the day, I have to suck it up and leave it behind me before I walk through the door because there are kids waiting for me at home that need my love.

Like yesterday, My pre-schooler wanted me to fold up one of my spare canes so he could bring it in for show n tell. He jumped up and down and up and down until I finished the task. Then he wanted to show me the picture he had drawn. He says "Daddy, I want you to pretend you can see." Then he takes my finger and traces the picture as he describes it to me.

Those words, "I want you to pretend you can see." hurt the most, much more than my scarred and scabbed shins. I spend my life pretending I can see, but somehow, I don't think I can do it good enough for my kids.

Even though I haven't seen the light of day for over 16 years, I have many images and memmories stored in my head of all my kids. I remember the color of my daughters' dresses as I danced with them at my sister's wedding. And the sheer look of disappointment on my son's face when I yelled at him for doing something annoying still haunts me to this very day.

I just figured out why I'm the one who reminds the family to bring the camera when we go on an outing. It's not like I'll ever see a photograph that captures the moment in time, but it's not for me anymore, it's for them.

I admit it. I live vicariously through the eyes of my children. There is nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 19, 2007 12:58 PM

Lizzie, I understand fully the comments about the father. I was taking issue with the particular suggestion I quoted that suggested children should be shielded from certain drunk adults. I am curious about the board's view on what I might characterize as "sheltering" vs. exposing and discussing -- again with zero risk to the kids.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 12:58 PM

For me the most unexpectedly hard part of combining work and parenting, and being a parent, was the experience of failing at being able to work and be the supportive parent that my son needed. My husband and I both are devoted to our professions, but when it became obvious that our son needed one of us to be completely available to help him with his struggles with depression and school, I became the one that stayed home. It was the right thing to do, and our son is doing well now and away at college, but it was a hard choice for me at the time. Now I'm back at school and getting ready to ramp up my career again.

I also realised how lucky our family was that we could afford to have a stay at home parent during this crisis. So few families can really be flexible in their working, parenting arrangements.

Posted by: Sharon Solomon | January 19, 2007 12:59 PM

"The washington post and other press organizations have a moral responsibility NOT to squelch opinion, because they are in the forefront of the opinion business."

The Post is not squelching opinion. You or anyone else can go to blogspot.com and have a platform to voice your thoughts. You just don't have an unfettered right for the Post to underwrite the publication of your opinion. No one has that right.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 12:59 PM

Holy Cow! Lots of bad, bad feelings toward alcoholics today - I do not agree that the term "functioning alcoholic" is a myth, and I most definitely do not believe that no dad at all is better than an alcoholic dad. There are an equal number of stories from children who were raised by wonderful, caring parents who happened to be alcoholics ...
To the original poster - your kids are lucky their dad can be a great dad despite his alcoholism - I am grateful that I had a mom who did not "kick the bum out" when she realized my dad was an alcoholic - though she did push very hard for him to seek treatment. And please please please educate your kids about the condition.

Posted by: TakomaMom | January 19, 2007 1:03 PM

"You wouldn't let a drunk stranger around your kids, would you?"

This isn't a drunk stranger. It's their father. There's a huge difference."

Right, it's better to be killed in drunk driving accident caused by your father than by a stranger.

This is classic big time denial also exhibited by battered spouses. I can't believe someone is defending a drunkard parent!!!!! No wonder there are so many drunks being enabled by their spouses.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:03 PM

NC - I agree with your reasoning on the drunk stranger comment - however the anonymous poster may been trying to make a different point. Namely that exposure to a drunk on a day to day basis can be crippling, regardless if it is a stranger or their father. I may be wrong.

The larger point is that the teachable moment is huge. You can't completely sheild your kids from smoking, drinking, and drugs when they get older. You have to let them see consequences so that they can make the right decisions. The mother of one of the little girls down the street is a smoker - she is great lady - but she has wrinkles all around her mouth. My daughter asked me the other day why Mrs X was so old - I told her Mrs X isn't old - why would you think that? Daughter says - because she is so wrinkly! I told her that Mrs X is my age but she had more wrinkles probably because she smokes. I told her how it makes you look and smell bad, causes cancer, but I was sure to tell her just because someone smokes doesn't make them a bad person. Teachable moment.

Of coure I had to answer 112 questions about cancer, what else causes cancer, is Mrs X going to get cancer, if she stops smoking will the wrinkles go away, etc, etc, - went on for 15 minutes.

Posted by: CMAC | January 19, 2007 1:03 PM

"Lizzie, I understand fully the comments about the father. I was taking issue with the particular suggestion I quoted that suggested children should be shielded from certain drunk adults."

No, I know! I was quoting the same bit from the original post that you quoted, that's all.

And I'm sorry; I think it's incredibly cruel to cut extended family off from children because they smoke or drink. Illegal activity like shooting smack or smoking dope is different (at least for me it is), but honestly, would someone not let their kids form a relationship with their grandma because Grandma smokes? If so, that's not something I'd brag about.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 1:04 PM

well, to anon at 12:57, although it would be easier to respond if you identified yourself in some fashion, I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree that every person in the universe with bad habits is sufficiently toxic that they have no redeeming value. We have a dear aunt who tops 350 pounds. Does her eating behavior make her a toxic person? Another close friend of the family has an eating disorder and is not yet seeking treatment. How about her? I have a brother who declawed his cat, yet lets her out to run around the neighborhood at (in my opinion) great risk to her life. He's also a tax cheat. Is he "toxic"? Where is the line of perfection, and what's the criteria, beyond which your kids are not permitted contact with imperfect grown folks? And when does it feel , but not our own?

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 1:05 PM

"Right, it's better to be killed in drunk driving accident caused by your father than by a stranger."

And she will be in a much better position to keep her kids from being in a car with their father after he's been drinking if she stays married to him.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 1:06 PM

"perhaps mcewen's comment is controversial because contraception, even responsibly used, still sometimes fails; because it implicitly endorses abortion as a solution, in addition to contraception; because marriages may fail 10 - 15 years from now so how far in the future is her crystal ball intended to view; because women can be impregnated by means of rape or incest; because even married women can be raped; because it is insulting to single women to suggest that they are not capable of assessing their own resources and being responsible for their decisions; or because it ignores the responsibility of men to either prevent procreation, work on their marriages to prevent failure, or otherwise be part of the solution. Select your favorite. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list."

Clearly your torqued at mcewen - perhaps justifiably, I really don't know.

On the other hand, how do we say "hey, in a day and age of widely available contraception, we've got more kids being raise by single parents than ever before - is this good?"

1) Sure, contraception can fail - but used as directed, it's actually pretty reliable.

2) I'm pro-life too, and I don't see how saying "think before you get pregnant" implicitly endorses abortion as a solution.

3) Of course rape happens - and we should fight it in all of its forms, anywhere and everywhere it happens. But that wasn't the point, was it? Just what percentage of single moms do you think become such as the result of rape or incest?

4) Of course single women are capable of assessing their resources. That doesn't mean that all of them do. Many of us make imprudent choices - be it about smoking, drinking, drugs, or too much fried food. Sex is no different. If we were afraid of insulting smokers' intellegence, drinkers' intelligence, drug abusers' intelligence, or southern cooks' intelligence we'd never be able to talk about any of these.

5) Of course marriages fail after many years, and you can't always predict it ahead of time. Does that mean you shouldn't say "think about the stability of your marriage before having a child?" Why?

6) Yes, men should be more responsible and involved. That's no reason not to talk about the need for women - in the real world - to be prudent.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:07 PM

LIZZIE, one last time, removing unpopular posts IS squelching opinion. Plain and simple. The post has the legal right to do as they please, morally they should defend the marketplace of ideas. It is exactly this PC police nonsense that is a threat to our overall rights. If someone wants to post a stupid remark, there is an abundance of people here with the smarts to tear them a new one.

Posted by: pEOPLE | January 19, 2007 1:08 PM

"your kids are lucky their dad can be a great dad despite his alcoholism "

No, he's not a great dad if he is an alcoholic. The mother is worried and under a great strain. Why is everyone resisting the truth?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:09 PM

"It's misogynistic because it assumes the responsibility is entirely the woman's. Any of your statements should be equally applied to a prospective father, not just the mothers. Last time I checked, it takes two people to create a pregnancy."

Sure - and I would apply them to men also. Does that make them wrong?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:10 PM

"It is exactly this PC police nonsense that is a threat to our overall rights."

Show me where the First Amendment says that you, pATRICK, have a Constitutional right to use the Washington Post's resources to say whatever you please.

You may think you have a moral right to this platform. Whatever; that's your opinion and I happen to disagree with it. You have no legal right to it, though. As long as you can voice your opinion - although perhaps not on the front page of the Times - your legal rights are not being squelched. You may disagree with the way the Post administers this forum, but that is not the same thing as having your legal right to speech abrogated.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 1:11 PM

The world we live in is not all black and white. Unless you experienced having both no father and an alcholoic father, you can't really say which is better.

And remember that not every alcholic is abusive and destructive.

Posted by: Grey world | January 19, 2007 1:13 PM

They are resisting because they don't have intestinal fortitude to admit that some people are bad and should be avoided. In the PC world of this blog, everyone is good and just needs treatment, sympathy,another chance etc. "He was such a good father until he killed his kids driving drunk". That's the post I hope I never read here.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 1:13 PM

To the poster with the alcoholic husband:

Does his behaviour/mood/personality change when he is drunk - for the worse? Does he get angry? Do the kids notice the change in his behaviour? Do you think they notice it and blame themselves? Has he missed activities/time with them because of his drinking? Has he broken promises to them because of his drinking?
My husbands "social" drinking got worse and worse until the night he hit me. I called the cops. I filed a protection order and he was unable to see us. Only the very real possibility of losing his wife and children made him stop drinking and deal with his temper. For him, his family was more important. Please go to Al-Anon. Leaving is never impossible.

Posted by: jessker 30 | January 19, 2007 1:13 PM

There is quite a big difference with seeing a known alcoholic in public and living with one. In my family, alcoholism masked a serious mental illness that did not always present itself in public but most certainly brought hell in our home. An alcoholic can most certainly live 2 lives--and like Jekyll and Hyde--have a "functioning" public persona and a devastatingly destructive private persona. A "functioning alcoholic" is only half the story...the part you see in public and not in the home.

Posted by: "functioning alcoholic" | January 19, 2007 1:14 PM

"No, he's not a great dad if he is an alcoholic. The mother is worried and under a great strain. Why is everyone resisting the truth?"

because it's not necessarily the truth.

You can be a great dad and be imperfect, seriously flawed, unable to overcome a variety of issues.

My dad committed suicide. He was a great dad. He failed to overcome depression, despite efforts at treatment.

Sometimes great dads have flaws. Do you propose that all married women divorce all flawed men, or is alcoholism the only flaw you recognize as the cardinal flaw which renders men valueless? Get over your all-knowing, label-tossing self.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:15 PM

What did mcwean say that was so offensive? I missed it. You can give a summary.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 1:16 PM

"Unless you experienced having both no father and an alcholoic father, you can't really say which is better."

I don't subscribe to the "unless you've been there you've no right to an opinion" school, but my husband, who has been there, says unequivocally that the alcoholic father was better than no father.

Caveats: His father was high-functioning, held down a good job, supported the family, was not abusive, was not an angry drunk. If Dad can't hold down a job and is smacking around Mom or the kids, the situation is obviously different.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 1:17 PM

How can you not know how hard parenting is before you become a parent? Sounds like a no-brainer to me. I mean, I had that figured out when I was a child. And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have kids. I don't have to have kids to know parenting is hard.

Posted by: Paula | January 19, 2007 1:19 PM

FRED, you will never know because the washington post deemed it inappropriate for you to view. They thought you could not handle it and made the decision for you. Don't you feel better now?

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 1:20 PM

"Unless you experienced having both no father and an alcholoic father, you can't really say which is better"

This thinking is INSANE. These aren't the only choices the wife can make.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:20 PM

Anon 1:10 - No that doesn't make you wrong. But clearly mcewan does not apply them equally to both genders. His comments were aimed soley at women. That's what made them misogynistic. How else could you interpret "Girls, keep your pants on" ?

Posted by: TS | January 19, 2007 1:21 PM

But of course any comment towards men keeping it in their pants would have been greeted by knowing smiles and you go girl statements here. Typical feminist hypocrisy.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 1:23 PM

On the alcoholic parent subject, If alcoholics were not allowed to have children, neither Fredia nor I would be here. Both our fathers were gainfully employed, never physically hurt us or denied our basic needs. They both supported our higher education and our marriage.

Having said that, trust me, this is one trait that neither of us carried forward.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 1:24 PM

I will just give my two cents as the daughter of a "functioning" alcoholic: I often hated it, I was often embarrassed by him, and I often longed for a "normal" dad. He was on rare occasions abusive, but not usually.

On the other hand, I do not for a moment wish my mom had divorced him. (Maybe SHE wishes, but that's not for me to say.) It was better having a dad at home than not, in my case.

I think it depends on your individual situation.

Posted by: my experience | January 19, 2007 1:25 PM

pATRICK, It's far more PC to automaticlly condemn all smokers and alcoholics as toxic.

Men are flawed. Women are flawed. Divorce is not the appropriate response to a flaw in a spouse, unless that flaw exposes children to violence or unsafe behavior. Divorce is a last resort after counseling and al-anon. I'm glad I don't have to make this choice, but I'd rather raise my kids around a passive, peaceful alcoholic, than a sober person with anger management problems.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:26 PM

I have a 3 month old at home who's had a number of problems, the latest of which is colic. I'm pretty fried. I'm a first time Dad at 39 and if I could go back in time to myself at 29, I would tell the younger me to get on with marriage and children sooner. I spent most of my 20s and 30s going to law school and trying to build a career. I thought if I could be secure and successful, I would be a more stable and happier Dad. That's not happened. Things are still uncertain and money's not as good as I hoped. So I'm feeling bitter and less adept at dealing with my son's issues. One consolation is the postings I am reading today from folks who have had it worse or who tell me that things do get better.

Posted by: Bob | January 19, 2007 1:28 PM

To the rude, anonymous person who said "if I think kids are too much trouble, I shouldn't have had any":

Where in my post did I say I regretted having children? My regret is that I can't give them the same economic standard of living that I had growing up.

From that, you interpret that I think kids are too much work and I shouldn't be allowed to have them??? Some people will really stretch to find a reason to be a jerk!

Posted by: No Name Today | January 19, 2007 1:29 PM

Gee, go to the home improvement store and miss the biggest controvery in past months! Oh well, back to our regularly scheduled gang of posters!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 1:30 PM

Father of 4: Have you ever used the services of a local Lions Club? I belong to one and our major goals are helping the blind and deaf. Helen Keller challenged us to be her 'knights' for the blind and deaf. We also have a camp for diabetic children because diabetes can cause blindness. I'm sure you could get a white cane from a Lions Club. We also support the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and the Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan. Get in contact with a local Lions Club for help. They can steer you to organizations that can help. We had a blind 14-year-old who spoke at one of our meetings and that kid literally blew me away! He read his speech from Braille, he's in the Civil Air Patrol, pilots and plane, and skis. I can't even do those things sighted. Good luck, love and hugs.

Posted by: Just Lurkin' for Today | January 19, 2007 1:30 PM

Tell me pATRICK, what makes you assume I am a woman?

And for the record, I would never wink-wink, make "you go girl" comments about men "keeping it in their pants." I find such comments vulgar and I really don't need the mental image of what exactly is in someone else's pants.

Posted by: TS | January 19, 2007 1:35 PM

"It's far more PC to automaticlly condemn all smokers and alcoholics as toxic."

Damn straight! If you can't control your smoking addiction or remain sober around my kids or my pets, you ain't welcome in my house!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:37 PM

"It's far more PC to automaticlly condemn all smokers and alcoholics as toxic."

Damn straight! If you can't control your smoking addiction or remain sober around my kids or my pets, you ain't welcome in my house!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:37 PM

Fred,

mcewen's post wasn't any different in tone than all of his posts, and even less enlightening. I'd synthesize it down to: single women shouldn't ever have kids. Married women shouldn't have kids if they're marriages are in danger of failing. And 90% of African-American women have children out of wedlock. Add the usual venom, insults, and stir.

interesting comment about you and Fredia. I know many folks of a certain age who had dads like that. WWII veteran dads, by chance? I was raised in a teetoatling family, and am not convinced, as you can tell, that morality definitively lies on either side of that divide.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:38 PM

I'm not gonna get into whether an alcoholic father is good or bad, it's way too involved.

The wife of the alcoholic father needs to follow the first advise she got and take herself to Al Anon right now!

It sounds totally trite - you can't change your spouse but you can get help for yourself.

You are enabling if you aren't doing anything. Taking yourself to Al Anon (hope I spelled that right) is doing something.

There are meetings all over, they are free. They have a phone number in the phone book, and a web site. If you can come here you can google and find a meeting and time.

Here's a little joke: A man is laid out in the funeral parlor. His friends come and ask the widow, "what did he die of?" She says, "he drank too much." They say, "Did he go to AA?" The widow says, "no he wasn't that bad."

Posted by: RoseG | January 19, 2007 1:39 PM

"If you can't control your smoking addiction or remain sober around my kids or my pets, you ain't welcome in my house!"

Okay, you know what? No one smokes in our house - no one has ever asked, actually - and we adore our dogs beyond all reason, but it would never ever occur to me to tell people not to drink around them. Why in God's name shouldn't someone drink a glass of Champagne around a dog?

No kids yet, but I can't see not allowing them to be around an adult who's having a glass of Champagne. And since I love Champagne only a little less than I love my dogs, that adult will probably be me.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 1:40 PM

I too am the product of an alcoholic father. He was "functional" and very mild mannered (unless you started talking about democrats). He finally stopped drinking when two of his three kids left home because we didn't want to stay there and watch him kill himself. My mother had already left (not because of his drinking but that is a different story). He also smoked and continued until he was on oxygen for his emphysema.
In some perverse way having a family member who drinks, smokes, is obese - whatever - can be a lesson for children in tolerance, empathy and love. Done the right way it can also be a lesson in why they shouldn't go down the same path as the drinker, smoker, obese person. Of course you don't let the child get in the car with the drunk and try to keep smokers outside but it is very difficult to cut ties completely with family.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 1:42 PM

Father of 4 - you better quit with all that wonderful prose. My boss is going to wonder why I'm sitting here crying.

Thank you for sharing. Really. My sister is godmother to a little girl whose grandmother is deaf. She learned ASL as an infant/toddler to talk to Gramma. Gramma lost her hearing as a teenager, and still loves the music of the era (and will gladly 'listen' to it frequently - she puts her hands on the speakers and can corectly identify the song if it's from her teen years bout 75% of the time, just from the vibrations). I've always wondered what she thinks but doesn't say about having raised a son who is a very talented musician without ever having heard him sing. This gives me some insight.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | January 19, 2007 1:49 PM

To January 19, 2007 01:38 PM

Yes, both our fathers were in the WWII generation. Both were soldiers. Most of my father's contemporaries acted the same way.

I caught some of what mcewen's comments were from people rebutting them but if he were making racist comments, I have no trouble that they were removed. As the old saying goes, freedom of speech doesn't give you the right to say "fire" in a crowded theater.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 1:50 PM

"By the way, no father at all is better than an alcoholic"

I responded to this statement with "Unless you experienced having both no father and an alcholoic father, you can't really say which is better".

Then you wrote "This thinking is INSANE. These aren't the only choices the wife can make."

What were you thinking I said? I didn't mention a wife and her choices at all. I was only trying to point out that some alcoholic fathers in the home may be better than not having a father at all and maybe the only people who can say for sure are those who have been on both sides.

A father can be absent because he died or left on his own, not only because the mother chose to be a single mother or made a bad choice. Did you ever hear of anyone returning from war as a changed man? Maybe he was a great choice of husband and dad until he went to war, or developed a mental disorder, or alcoholism, etc.

Others may think it a myth, but I had an aunt who was a functioning alcoholic. she drank daily, held down a job, raised two children. She was never mean or abusive and never drove while drinking. She recognized that her husband should do the driving and she restricted her drinking to evenings and weekends when he was available. Her drinking drove her to an early grave when her children were in college. Do they wish she hadn't been an alcoholic - absolutely. do they wish she hadn't been in the home - never.

Posted by: to 1:20 pm | January 19, 2007 1:51 PM

"He was "functional" and very mild mannered (unless you started talking about democrats). "

KLB, only you could take such a serious topic and make me laugh - thanks!

I remember my dad, who never drank or smoked and looked down on those who did, popping half a valium every weekday evening for about 5 years during the late 70s. Even at the time, I thought, if you need a crutch every single weekday, that should be an indication that you need to seek out some more substantive form of assistance, counseling, or group therapy. On the other hand, he was married to my mom . . . (just a joke, folks). Oh, and what all of us kids learned was to watch out for that vicious glass house problem.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 1:51 PM

From the Washpo full rules governing commentaries and discusions

"You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence will not be tolerated."

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 1:53 PM

Recognize anyone?

13 characteristics of adult children of one or more alcoholic parents:

Guessing at what normal behavior is.

Having difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

Lying when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

Judging themselves without mercy.

Having difficulty having fun.

Taking themselves very seriously.

Having difficulty with intimate relationships.

Overreacting to changes over which they have no control.

Constantly seeking approval and affirmation.

Usually feeling that they are different from other people.

Extreme responsibility or irresponsibility.

Extreme loyalty, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

Impulsivity - tending to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 1:54 PM

Father of 4's comments made me cry. I don't think anything can be as hard as having your beloved child attempt/hope to help you see by tracing your finger on his drawing.

The hardest/more correctly, the most surprising thing for me about children was my heightened emotional state to all things child. Like the poster above, I can't even listen to baby lullaby tapes without getting all misty eyed.

Posted by: working Mom of Two/VA | January 19, 2007 1:56 PM

Thank you to all the posters who've defended alcoholic fathers - I find it shocking how many people continue to believe that alcoholic = abusive, drunk-driving, and/or offensive/lewd behavior.

Posted by: TakomaMom | January 19, 2007 1:58 PM

NC lawyer, I guess one thing you learn when living with an alcoholic is a sense of humor. One day my dad called the police and said that someone was jumping over the house. When they arrived he had a hubcap on his head and a broom stick in his hand. It wasn't one of his finer moments but he was trying to dry himself out (without success that time) and was most likely having DTs. We didn't know what it was 'cause we were kids.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 2:02 PM

to anon at 1:54, back at ya:

10 characteristics of adult children of divorced parents:

1. Adult children of divorced parents (ACODPs) have a higher divorce rate that children from intact families.

2. ACODPs suffer more from depression and anxiety than children who's parents stayed married to each other.

3. ACODPs struggle more with the ability to trust in relationships.

4. ACODPs have an inordinate amount of fear:
Fear of abandonment
Fear of doom and disaster
Fear that they cannot do relationships successfully, and more.

5. ACODPs suffer from insecurity which can lead to perfectionism and control in relationships.

6. ACODPs have tough time communicating their true feelings.

7. ACODPs have no role models of how relationships should work.

8. ACODPs have fragmented families and weak social structures because of their parent's divorce.

9. ACODPs struggle with forgiveness and need help to be able to do this.

A responsible non-alcoholic parent married to an alcoholic can't use checklists to determine what's best for her kids. If a child is the child of an alcoholic, he remains that Whether or not his parents get divorced,so he's subject to both sets of problematic outcomes, instead of only one. If the parents divorce, that child then also has to deal with the effects of the divorce. Are you convinced that divorce is always in the best interest of the child of an alcoholic? Really?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:02 PM

Fred, this really is in the eye of the beholder. I feel this blog constantly slants toward feminists and liberals. Should there posts be removed? NO, because this is america and people have the right to their opinion. What is exactly degrading? No one can say because it is opinion. If you make comments based on race referencing govt statistics does that degrade? How about muslim terrorists? If MCEWEN had called blacks or women a derogatory name, i could understand. But he didn't, he made an assertion, that should stand or fall on it's merits, not the timidity of the Post's lawyers.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 2:03 PM

"Yes, both our fathers were in the WWII generation. Both were soldiers. Most of my father's contemporaries acted the same way."

Have you ever read "Winds of War" or "War & Remembrance?" They're very good, very interesting novels about WWII, and the thing that strikes me every time I re-read them is how goddamn much people drank back in those days. There's one scene where a woman makes a pitcher of martinis for herself and her husband. Two people! One pitcher of martinis!

There's a lot of drinking in Raymond Chandler novels (written in the 30s/40s/50s), too. It makes me wonder how much the differing expectations and norms of different eras have to do with things like diagnoses of alcoholism.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 2:03 PM

"If you make comments based on race referencing govt statistics does that degrade?"

They weren't government statistics. According to the 2000 U.S. census, 36.1% of African-American women are married - not 10%.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 2:07 PM

Lizzie, exactly!!!! You refuted him with facts, not by having his post yanked. That is the point!!

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 2:09 PM

Fred, sorry that was me at 1:38. CRS.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 2:13 PM

My stepfather is a functioning alcoholic. Has been for the last 30 years. Basically, he put himself to sleep with wine every night. I am sure this was a great burden on my mother when the kids were little, since she had to do all the work when it came to kids and house. But to my memory, he was never abusive to any of us. He sat with us at dinner every night. He went to work every day and still does. I have never seen him make a scene, drive drunk (he drinks only when at home).

I would probably never let him babysit my son by himself at night, because I know that he is out of commission after 9 pm, but I am glad that my son knows him and loves him. They play games together and walk the dog on weekends. My son sees this man as his grandpa and his buddy. I am thankful for the relationship and the love that they share.

Sometimes, you have to love people for who they are, and take the good with the bad. Each situation is different. Expecting everyone to be perfect will only disappoint you in the long run.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 2:13 PM

This blog reminds me of a cartoon I saw years ago. It's a 'Convention of Children of Normal Parents.' Only two people are in attendance.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:14 PM

pATRICK,

OK, as they say, I am not disagreeing with you, only noting the fact that Washpo does own this site and can make up and enforce it rules.

Lizzie,

Have not read those two but I have read others by H. Wouk. Besides the drinking, lots of smoking in novels, films and TV from back then. My father smoked every day until the day he had his first heart attack. Then he quit cold turkey right then. Dad had the strenght of character that I can only begin to have.

BTW, my AF daughter is named Elizabeth.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 2:15 PM

pATRICK, for what it's worth, philosophically, I agree with you - I used to spend a lot of time on a board where no real premium was placed on politeness, and it really helped me sharpen my arguments. However, I think that washingtonpost.com has a perfect right to administer its boards however it sees fit, even if I think it prioritizes consensus and politesse too highly. Like I said earlier, none of us has a right to be here. We're here at their sufferance.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 2:15 PM

"My father smoked every day until the day he had his first heart attack. Then he quit cold turkey right then."

Ha, mine, too - unfiltered Camels. He always says that it was easier to quit because he was in the hospital and all doped up from his meds while he was going through the physical nicotine withdrawal. Hasn't had a smoke since.

"BTW, my AF daughter is named Elizabeth."

Aww. Go, zoomies!

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 2:18 PM

pATRICK, Many of us are not here seeking to sharpen our high school debate skills. We want to glean and, on occasion, comment on issues relating to work/life balance. When insults and racial animus fill the blog, readership drops and the value of the blog drops for most of its intended audience. We read this blog, in part with the hope that its rules will be enforced more often, not less often.

Thanks, WaPo!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:21 PM

This blog reminds me of a cartoon I saw years ago. It's a 'Convention of Children of Normal Parents.' Only two people are in attendance.

Posted by: | January 19, 2007 02:14 PM


That begs the question: are the only normal parents the ones just like you, or is there room at that convention for parents who make different choices and decisions than you? Most parents on this blog are normal. So are the nonparents.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:25 PM

I understand your point, however since you are breaking the rules by NOT signing your name, I must report you. Please remove this post, rules are rules.

Posted by: pATRICK | January 19, 2007 2:27 PM

Mostly it is easier than I thought. My daughter and I have many similarities are
learning to work through our differences.

My biggest problem is my own sister. She thought it was acceptable to bring a child with active pink eye to a family function. When I complained I was labeled "sour" and told to mind my own business.

Sorry to go off topic but I will really needed to vent.

Posted by: shdd | January 19, 2007 2:32 PM

It's harder because I did not expect to be doing this alone following a divorce. But I make sure to count my blessings. I can't say that I would do anything differently because one change to my past would give me a different "now," and I am quite happy with my life.

Posted by: single western mom | January 19, 2007 2:33 PM

If no one else had a problem with the pinkeye, then you had a couple of choices. Back off or leave gracefully. It is not your job to tell your sister what to do.

Posted by: to shdd | January 19, 2007 2:37 PM

shdd, oh my. I can understand rationalizing a sneeze or two, but to bring a child one knows has conjunctivitis to a family function? My only defense of your sister would be if the child's been on appropriate medication for 24 hours so that the conjunctivitis is no longer communicable. In any event though, calling you 'sour' for objecting was bold.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:42 PM

My only begotten daughter is also named Elizabeth. I have loved that name since the 1950's when I saw "The Virgin Queen" (1955)with Bette Davis (aka Ruth Elizabeth Davis) in the title role.

What a Queen!
What a woman!

My daughter has had a lot of nicknames over the years, but she seems to have settled in mostly as Liz. Interesting how the nickname her friends chose stuck.


Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:43 PM

Conjunctivitis is not always contagious. It can be induced by allergies. So it depends on what kind of pink eye the kid had.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:47 PM

I was born right after the BBC series "Elizabeth R" came out. I wonder how many Elizabeths have been named after Elizabeth I.

My parents would never let me have a nickname (college friends sometimes called me Lizzie, though). In retrospect, I'm glad.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 2:49 PM

"If no one else had a problem with the pinkeye, then you had a couple of choices. Back off or leave gracefully. It is not your job to tell your sister what to do.

to shdd, so right and wrong are determined by taking a poll? come on. If shdd didn't want to attend, or bring her child to, a social function also attended by a family member with a highly contagious and potentially very painful/uncomfortable ailment, what difference does it make whether or not anyone else had a problem with it? Have you ever had conjunctivitis? Do you know how old shdd's children are? I'd not ever voluntarily expose an infant or toddler to it. Either way, I'm comfortable enough with my sister to call her on selfish decisions like this. Being a parent makes it "her job" to look out for the welfare of her children.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:49 PM

I am the daughter of a high functioning alcoholic. YES- IT EXISTS!

He never hit me or my brother, ate dinner with us every night, coached my brother's baseball team, and held the same job for more than 15 years.

But he also drank himself to sleep each night and couldn't get through the day without a few. He would also take to ignoring/ or being distant with us (no yelling, but he was emotionally unavailable)

My parents actually divorced once he got sober. They were married for 17 yrs.

I'm VERY proud to say that he has been sober for almost 12 years.

Had my mom or I cut off contact from him then- I wouldn't be close with him now- my daughter wouldn't have an amazing grandfather.

I wish people wouldn't be so narrow in their points of view.

MY DAD was certainly better than NO DAD!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 2:56 PM

Elizabeth was named after her grandmother on my side and the middle name, Anne, comes from the grandmother on the other side. I never call her by any nickname but her little brother calls her Lizard. Her iPod also says Lizard!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 2:58 PM

A few years ago, my daughter had the flu, and my parents were due to visit from out of town. I also have two other kids. I told my parents that they could stay with my brother and his wife if they were worried about catching our flu. They did not seem concerned and chose to stay with us. Two days later, my SIL who lives locally (brother's wife) called me hysterically to insist that I make my parents stay with her because she did not want them to bring our germs into her house when they visited her. I told her that where my parents stayed was totally up to them. So she banned my parents from going to her house (her perogative) but then made a big stink about how I ruined her holiday by exposing my parents to my kids' germs making it impossible for them to see their other grandchild whom they obviously loved less then my kids. How do you win with a person like that?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 3:00 PM

Oh boy! My son was born when Elizabeth R came out in 1971 in the U.S. so how old does that make me?

My daughter was and still is a real spitfire. There wasn't enough time to get out the four syllables of her name when she was naughty. I had to skip the mouthfull name and come up with shorter nicknames to keep that child from running into traffic. She also did the buck naked free show romp around the neighborhood routine.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 3:01 PM

"Elizabeth was named after her grandmother on my side"

So was Elizabeth I - Elizabeth of York was Henry VIII's father.

I've been called Lizard in my time. Also Blizzard. When I was born, my great-uncle said, "She doesn't look like an Elizabeth. She looks like a Bertha!" Hey, thanks, Great-Uncle!

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 3:07 PM

Fred

Didn't name any of my kids after family names. Stella and Adolph don't go over too well in the U.S.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 3:13 PM

Stella works fine in New Orleans. Not so sure about Adolph.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 3:16 PM

Just Lurkin', thanks for the gracious words. I am familiar with the good works of the Lion's club, and as for now as I am in the position, I would rather support them than to accept their charity.

Rebecca in AR, Even though I've always personally considered your living situation as, well, not optional, I find myself wishing you and your family the best. I think you are a wonderful person.

Working Mom of 2, misty eyes, huh? I went to a Martina McBride concert over the holidays, and sure, she was entertaining and professional, but the concert at the High School was just so much better. The kids, so young, beautiful, singing, celebrating, the music was great, the band, orchestra and chorus playing together was absolutely beautiful. And the memmories of me playing viola and guitar on that very stage 25 years ago, though I don't want to admit it because I'm a man, but my eyes stayed wet throughout the whole show.

I would also like to thank those who chimed in for the defense of flawed parents. I'm defenately one of them. Whether it is a handicap, disease, addiction, mental illness, or all the above (as in my case), the goal in life is to overcome adversity to your best ability using your capacity to love one another as yourself.

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 19, 2007 3:24 PM

What's wrong with Stella? My favorite bakery is called Stella's.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 3:24 PM

If we have a daughter, we're naming her Stella. I miss my great-aunt Stella.

Adolph, not so much.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 3:25 PM

One of my favorite bars is called Stella's..

Posted by: Missicat | January 19, 2007 3:30 PM

More family weirdness. Last year, three out of four siblings, spouses and their families trekked to my parents' town to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. My brother initially required his 13 year old step-daughter to wear a mask a la Michael Jackson because she had an intermittent cough and our parents are 83 (no known immune problems or breathing issues). She was new to the family, and her mom didn't stick up for her. The whole mask thing made my parents so uncomfortable, they begged my brother to lighten up and permit her to ditch it. Thankfully, he complied, but only because he was essentially ganged up on by the rest of us. Poor guy. I know he was trying to do the right thing by our parents, but it just seemed so . . . what can I say? neurotic.

anon at 3:00 p.m., you can't win. You can only navigate the waters, maintain some perspective, and vent on a blog on occasion.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 3:30 PM

harder than I thought: Stepping back and letting my kids fight their own battles. When a bigger kid yanks a toy out of my daughter's hand at play group, I just want to jump in and smack him.

It's so painful for me to see them hurt or disappointed or treated unfairly by an adult. I know that's part of life, and I can't shield them from every little negative thing. But inside it really kills me.

Posted by: 2Kids | January 19, 2007 3:37 PM

That reminds me of my stepfather. My son was born in January, and my stepfather was scared to death that a visitor would infect the baby with a cold during the round of baby visitors that ensued at my home after the birth. So he bought those disposable masks that people wear in the operating room, and put them on the table in the foyer, insisting that visitors wear them when holding the baby or breathing near the baby. I did not enforce the mask rule, but one day, he happened to be over when some cousins dropped by, and he made sure the put their masks on. Part of me was embarrassed, and the other part quite amused. We have a few family pictures with our cousins dutifully wearing their masks. Snort.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 3:39 PM

Father of 4, you've given us all alot to think about today. Thank you.

Signed, one flawed parent married to another.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 3:39 PM

NC Lawyer

"Signed, one flawed parent married to another."

Speak for yourself, my caption would read

Signed, one flawed parent married to a flawless one.

I will leave it to you to figure out which is which!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 3:42 PM

I just have to say that my life is not hard. My parents lives and my brothers and sisters and even "young scarry's" life was hard. I know I have it good without all the worries that they had. My brother did give me good advice though one day when we had just switched shifts and I was getting to make the kid's dinner, he said, just be as prepared as possible before you have kids and go to school if you can. He was right about going to school, it opened lots of doors for me and has enabled me to give my daughter a better life than I could if I worked in a factory.


That being said, the hardest part of my not hard life is raising my kids away from all of them.

Posted by: scarry | January 19, 2007 3:44 PM

On the functioning alcoholic topic, my dad is a functioning alcoholic. We had a couple rides in the car when Dad was drunk. We were very lucky. I do not think that he did a great job raising us, but I sure am glad that he was there. He had bad moments, but there were a lot more great moments.

Posted by: Meesh | January 19, 2007 3:46 PM

I quit smoking a year ago - 4 months after my father's funeral. As of today my brother, sister, brother-in-law and mother continue to smoke. It was a real wake up call for me not so much for them. I know they know it is bad but for whatever reason they have been unable to quit. I figure when it is time they will do it - can't force 'em that's for sure.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 3:46 PM

Emily,

You've got me laughing and imagining the Disposable Mask Anniversary all over again. People are stopping in the hallway to stare.

Here's the follow up. We have a new nephew -- born in July. My brother's latest rule is that our nephew can't travel on a plane until he's one year old because he might get an infection. So his 83 year-old grandparents who, as far as I know, aren't guaranteed will live until July '07, haven't gotten to meet their new grandchild. Meanwhile, bless him, my brother is not Monk. Neither his house nor his vehicles are clean or bacteria-free. He must've head a parenting book (TIC).

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 3:46 PM

My sister puts on rubber gloves to play with my dog - she says the toys are slimy.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 3:51 PM

Sorry to disillusion you, paTrick, but my instinct tells me that while opinionated, neither you nor mcewen are the "press" of which the Forefathers wrote. Good call, Leslie.

Posted by: Legal Eagle | January 19, 2007 3:52 PM

Ah, Fred, you've tipped your hand on more than one occasion about Fredia's perfection. I can't decide whether I'd prefer to live with someone flawless. Is it bliss? or does it shine a glaring light on your own flaws? Here's an interesting parenting question for you: do your daughters agree that Fredia is flawless? or will it take them another couple of years to figure that out?

I think I'm glad my husband and I both have a hefty set of baggage we're working on contemporaneously. No one has the moral upper hand of flawlessness in our house. The kids get to see that it's okay not to perfect, but it's not okay to be complacent about things you can improve or fix, and you can't fix everything at once.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 3:54 PM

NC lawyer, What you said is exactly what I was trying to say way above (you said it so much better) - that kids can learn from flawed family.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 3:57 PM

Is Fred's wife's name really Fredia or is that just an inside-the-joke blogging thing?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 3:57 PM

Hey, I am the one who has no porn collection, no infidelities (not implying anything about Fredia here) AND knows how to load a dishwasher!

As the girls get older, they realize that their parents know (or did know) something about what the parents were talking about.

Gotta go pick up the son, I am playing SAHD today.

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 3:59 PM

Is this a misprint?

"But even "sunny day" parenting is not for wimps, I know now. Thinking about that day 10 years ago in our tiny New York apartment when we cried together over our first positive pregnancy test, I asked him, "Did you ever think it would be this hard?" He looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Never in my wildest dreams."

WTF? If you really think taking and receive a positive pregnancy test is "so hard", then obviously you ARE wimps.

Secondly. Katie Couric was talking about her LIFE being a little harder than she thought it would be, not parenting specifically. I can't believe you are comparing a positive pregnancy test, a couple of years of no sleep, and having to change diapers to someone losing their spouse.

Posted by: incredulous | January 19, 2007 3:59 PM

Fredia's given name is not Fredia. But she is a real person!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 4:01 PM

Never mind, I get it now. I misread the paragraph about the pg test.

But I stand by my comment that Ms. Couric wasn't speaking about parenting specifically when she said it was "a little harder", but her life in general.

Posted by: incredulous | January 19, 2007 4:01 PM

NC Lawyer -- When do you do your lawyering? I peruse this blog from time to time, and you seem to be making comments all the time during so-called working hours? Must be a nice gig if you can get it.

Posted by: Anon XX | January 19, 2007 4:01 PM

It's almost bottle time!

That is, if I make it acrossh 2 city streets, 2 trains, 1 bus and a 3 block hike.

emily, do you ride Metro? If you do, watch out for blind people, I accidentally tripped a lady this morning and I don't want it to happen to you.

Have a good weekend everybody!

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 19, 2007 4:03 PM

Incredulous, are you serious? Leslie was asking her husband if he ever imagined that parenting and life after children would be so hard. Not taking the pregnancy test.

Are you always that literal?

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 4:03 PM

incredulous, it may not change your reaction to understand, but I think you misinterpreted Leslie's comment. I think what she was describing was having a conversation today - 10 years later -- with her husband. She and her husband were reminiscing about the moment when they had the positive test results. She asked him whether, at the time he saw the test results ten years before, he imagined that parenting would be as hard as it ultimately turned out to be? does that help?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 4:04 PM

Uh oh NC lawyer, you must have something that offended Anon XX.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 4:04 PM

'WTF? If you really think taking and receive a positive pregnancy test is "so hard", then obviously you ARE wimps. '

Ummm, I think maybe Leslie was saying that she and her husband had difficulty conceiving, not taking and reading the pregnancy test. But maybe I'm misreading the statement.

Posted by: To Incredulous | January 19, 2007 4:05 PM

Incredulous, as with many article and surveys Leslie quotes, the Couric interview was a jumping off point to the discussion. People brought lots of stuff to the table, kid and non-kid related on how life was harder than they thought.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | January 19, 2007 4:06 PM

Sorry incredulous. Did not mean to be snarky. Anyone can misinterpret.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 4:07 PM

It wasn't taking the pregnancy test that was hard. It was taking care of the kid that resulted from the pregnancy test. Duh...

And I think explanation is also warranted for removing Mcewan's 11:28 am post. It wasn't the facts that were inappropriate, it was the tone, which was racist and misogynistic. A subjective call, obviously. But in general, you have to REALLY cross the line in order to get a comment removed from On Balance. In almost a year of over 37,000 comments, we've removed fewer than 50.

Posted by: Leslie | January 19, 2007 4:07 PM

I did not read Leslie's blog to indicate that they had trouble conceiving. I read it to indicate that they were very emotional over the new pregnancy 10 years ago, and that they never in their wildest dreams imagined at the time that parenting would be so difficult.

Posted by: Emily | January 19, 2007 4:09 PM

Anon XX, Thanks for your concern. Like many jobs, mine involves down-time in 2 - 5 minute snippets. Sometimes I am on hold waiting for a call initiated by others, or waiting for a meeting hosted by someone else to commence, or attending an internal meeting where attendance but not participation is expected. It doesn't take long to jot off a couple of sentences. Efficiency is one of the job requirements. If you're good at managing time, it's amazing the number of tasks one can fit in during 24 hours.

KLB - thanks for the compliment. The nice folks here more than make up for the occasional sources of snark.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 19, 2007 4:09 PM

Okay, I read a little farther and saw the two lists (one for children of alcoholics and one for children of divorced parents). Well, my brother and I are children of alcoholic and divorced parents. But I'm not too worried. Those lists are pretty all-encompassing. I bet that if you asked any person if they experieiced those feelings at some point in their lives, he or she would say "yes."

KLB SS MD, I also quit smoking recently. there was no "wake-up call" for me; I just knew it had to be done. My father and brother still smoke. Like you said, though, I can't force them to stop. Like me, they'll quit when they're ready.

Posted by: Meesh | January 19, 2007 4:11 PM

Meesh, My wake up call was watching my father die from emphysema. You have to want to quit, just needing to isn't enough.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 4:14 PM

Meesh, I just re-read what I wrote. It sounds like a criticism but it is actually agreement (just wanted to clear that up).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 19, 2007 4:20 PM

"Sorry to disillusion you, paTrick, but my instinct tells me that while opinionated, neither you nor mcewen are the "press" of which the Forefathers wrote. Good call, Leslie."

How the heck do you know what they meant? How do any of us know?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 4:22 PM

How the heck do you know what they meant? How do any of us know?

Posted by: | January 19, 2007 04:22 PM

Um, because we can read?

Posted by: me | January 19, 2007 4:24 PM

Is Fred's wife's name really Fredia or is that just an inside-the-joke blogging thing?

The "nom de net" is suppose to be Freida but I jsut cannto type two correclty sometimes!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 4:24 PM

Actually, I like Fredia better than Freida..

Posted by: me | January 19, 2007 4:25 PM

"Um, because we can read?"

This makes no sense. Everything is up to interpretation, let alone documents that were written over 200 hundred years ago by a bunch of white slave owners.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 4:27 PM

I think the hardest thing is dealing with the husband when he's whining worse than the kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 4:30 PM

4:27. No. Everything is not up to interpretation based on whatever meaning you want to assign the various phrases in the Bill of Rights. Several of those in attendance at the first Constitutional Convention and subsequent discussions about the Bill of Rights kept diaries and detailed notes of the debates. The slave-holding nature of the writers, while relevant to other constitutional debates, is hardly relevant to determinining their intended meaning with respect to freedom of the press. The Constitution is not an empty vessel which you can twist into whatever shape you might prefer.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 4:36 PM

Go Saints!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 4:41 PM

"The Constitution is not an empty vessel which you can twist into whatever shape you might prefer."

Tell that to the guy in the big white house on Pa Ave.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 4:43 PM

Go Saints!

Posted by: Fred | January 19, 2007 04:41 PM

I second that!!!

Posted by: Missicat | January 19, 2007 4:47 PM

My parents were neither alcoholic nor divorced and I have most of the characteristics listed above. Especially the problems with intimacy, feeling inadequate, severe self-judgment, seeking approval. So what gives? My mother was extremely anti-alcohol. She thinks one beer makes a person an alcoholic. My dad was a WWII veteran, a medic at an air base, and I never saw him drunk. He'd have a bourbon and ginger ale once in a very blue moon. If anyone had an excuse to be an alcoholic, he was certainly it. They were married for 48 before he died of cancer. There's just no explaining how somebody is going to turn out.

Posted by: Just Lurkin' Today | January 19, 2007 4:52 PM

"documents that were written over 200 hundred years ago by a bunch of white slave owners."

You know, the Framers did not hail exclusively from the South. New England was well-represented; slavery was abolished in VT in 1777, in MA in 1780, and in CT, NH, and RI in 1784. Maine was admitted as a free state in 1820. This idea that all the Framers were slaveowners is one I've encountered before, and it drives me nuts.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 19, 2007 4:54 PM

Lizzie: You go, girl!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 5:16 PM

"This makes no sense. Everything is up to interpretation, let alone documents that were written over 200 hundred years ago by a bunch of white slave owners."

But some things are written clearly and simply enough that even a fool can understand them, if he or she is just willing to approach them with open eyes. Start with the simplest examples - a stop sign. Move up - "stay off the grass."

I'd wager you'd have a hissy fit if someone tried to "interpret" away the new D.C. anti-smoking ordinance - of the first amendment.

How come we only try to "interpret" things we don't agree with?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 5:17 PM

"A bunch" certainly doesn't mean all, but many of the ones who didn't personally own slaves unquestionably benefitted from slavery from their own work as merchants. (And of course, the country's economy as a whole was impacted by slavery.)

Also, I think that's a great example of how "flawed" people can still do good. (Yes, yes, different standards different times, but with discussions of smoking and drinking, these vices where not at all looked at in the way they are now when the people being discussed probably picked up their habits.)

And I just want to say "hear, here!" to Fo4's comment about flawed parents. It seems to have put an end to a disturbing, self righteous discussion. The last thing an abused (emotionally, at least) spouse needs is people yelling at her trying to make her feel more guilty than she most likely already does! So thank you to Fo4, such an important sentiment.

Posted by: re: slave owners | January 19, 2007 5:18 PM

"Tell that to the guy in the big white house on Pa Ave."

So what's your point?

A) That you agree with him?

Or

B) That you disagree with him - the constition is not, in fact, "an empty vessel which you can twist into whatever shape you might prefer."

Posted by: Anonymous | January 19, 2007 5:23 PM

my husband who already had 2 children by his first wife warned me when we discussed having kids that i had no idea what i was getting into. he was right. i sometimes think that if i had known beforehand i might not have done it.

you know, there is a real anti-intellectual attitude in this country. you may know everything there is to know about how to raise your child and that's good. why put down somebody who doesn't mind admitting that they could use some help and who reads a parenting book?

Posted by: quark | January 19, 2007 5:42 PM

"you know, there is a real anti-intellectual attitude in this country. you may know everything there is to know about how to raise your child and that's good. why put down somebody who doesn't mind admitting that they could use some help and who reads a parenting book?"

Because we have a strong tradition of practicality. Americans love self-help and how-to books. We don't trust intellectuals who seem to be out of touch with the common man/common woman or with real life.

In many ways this is a strength of our national character. Of course, like anything else, taken too far it can become a very real weakness as well. "Practicality" can become "know-nothingness." But for most Americans, I don't think that's true.

Posted by: Demos | January 19, 2007 5:46 PM

Well, I'm getting in late from Leslie's original posting and the thread has veered in many directions..... While I can find some days hard, I don't lose perspective on what hard really means nor do I forget to be grateful that "this" could be hard. There are so many folks in this city, country, world with far greater challenges, daily tests of strengths than what many, though not all, the folks on this list encounter in finding balance. I find focusing on the upside holds my perspective. BTW, a mom posted early on here about her family's financial struggles and her inability to provide ballet lessons and other things for her children. I had that kind of life as a child and my most salient memories of it are how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked to provide the basics. I learned so much about the pleasures of small things and was never quite able to grasp the ennui of my privileged college classmates, always in search of the new new thing. Try to figure out the rituals that your children can have with your husband, even if it is not a nightly dinner. Nearly twenty years ago I remember telling some NYC friends about something my father had done for me when I was a teen and they were just in awe. These friends had every enrichment class and vacation one could imagine as a child, but they never really had a sense that their parents loved them or had made any sacrifices for them. Yes, I probably would've loved ballet, but when I look back I think that my parents did the best they could and it was a pretty damn good job.

Posted by: bemama | January 19, 2007 9:12 PM

Well, I'm getting in late from Leslie's original posting and the thread has veered in many directions..... While I can find some days hard, I don't lose perspective on what hard really means nor do I forget to be grateful that "this" could be hard. There are so many folks in this city, country, world with far greater challenges, daily tests of strengths than what many, though not all, the folks on this list encounter in finding balance. I find focusing on the upside holds my perspective. BTW, a mom posted early on here about her family's financial struggles and her inability to provide ballet lessons and other things for her children. I had that kind of life as a child and my most salient memories of it are how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked to provide the basics. I learned so much about the pleasures of small things and was never quite able to grasp the ennui of my privileged college classmates, always in search of the new new thing. Try to figure out the rituals that your children can have with your husband, even if it is not a nightly dinner. Nearly twenty years ago I remember telling some NYC friends about something my father had done for me when I was a teen and they were just in awe. These friends had every enrichment class and vacation one could imagine as a child, but they never really had a sense that their parents loved them or had made any sacrifices for them. Yes, I probably would've loved ballet, but when I look back I think that my parents did the best they could and it was a pretty damn good job.

Posted by: bemama | January 19, 2007 9:13 PM

Well, I'm getting in late from Leslie's original posting and the thread has veered in many directions..... While I can find some days hard, I don't lose perspective on what hard really means nor do I forget to be grateful that "this" could be hard. There are so many folks in this city, country, world with far greater challenges, daily tests of strengths than what many, though not all, the folks on this list encounter in finding balance. I find focusing on the upside holds my perspective. BTW, a mom posted early on here about her family's financial struggles and her inability to provide ballet lessons and other things for her children. I had that kind of life as a child and my most salient memories of it are how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked to provide the basics. I learned so much about the pleasures of small things and was never quite able to grasp the ennui of my privileged college classmates, always in search of the new new thing. Try to figure out the rituals that your children can have with your husband, even if it is not a nightly dinner. Nearly twenty years ago I remember telling some NYC friends about something my father had done for me when I was a teen and they were just in awe. These friends had every enrichment class and vacation one could imagine as a child, but they never really had a sense that their parents loved them or had made any sacrifices for them. Yes, I probably would've loved ballet, but when I look back I think that my parents did the best they could and it was a pretty damn good job.

Posted by: bemama | January 19, 2007 9:13 PM

Well, I'm getting in late from Leslie's original posting and the thread has veered in many directions..... While I can find some days hard, I don't lose perspective on what hard really means nor do I forget to be grateful that "this" could be hard. There are so many folks in this city, country, world with far greater challenges, daily tests of strengths than what many, though not all, the folks on this list encounter in finding balance. I find focusing on the upside holds my perspective. BTW, a mom posted early on here about her family's financial struggles and her inability to provide ballet lessons and other things for her children. I had that kind of life as a child and my most salient memories of it are how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked to provide the basics. I learned so much about the pleasures of small things and was never quite able to grasp the ennui of my privileged college classmates, always in search of the new new thing. Try to figure out the rituals that your children can have with your husband, even if it is not a nightly dinner. Nearly twenty years ago I remember telling some NYC friends about something my father had done for me when I was a teen and they were just in awe. These friends had every enrichment class and vacation one could imagine as a child, but they never really had a sense that their parents loved them or had made any sacrifices for them. Yes, I probably would've loved ballet, but when I look back I think that my parents did the best they could and it was a pretty damn good job.

Posted by: bemama | January 19, 2007 9:13 PM

Well, I'm getting in late from Leslie's original posting and the thread has veered in many directions..... While I can find some days hard, I don't lose perspective on what hard really means nor do I forget to be grateful that "this" could be hard. There are so many folks in this city, country, world with far greater challenges, daily tests of strengths than what many, though not all, the folks on this list encounter in finding balance. I find focusing on the upside holds my perspective. BTW, a mom posted early on here about her family's financial struggles and her inability to provide ballet lessons and other things for her children. I had that kind of life as a child and my most salient memories of it are how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked to provide the basics. I learned so much about the pleasures of small things and was never quite able to grasp the ennui of my privileged college classmates, always in search of the new new thing. Try to figure out the rituals that your children can have with your husband, even if it is not a nightly dinner. Nearly twenty years ago I remember telling some NYC friends about something my father had done for me when I was a teen and they were just in awe. These friends had every enrichment class and vacation one could imagine as a child, but they never really had a sense that their parents loved them or had made any sacrifices for them. Yes, I probably would've loved ballet, but when I look back I think that my parents did the best they could and it was a pretty damn good job.

Posted by: bemama | January 19, 2007 9:13 PM

To the mom who was hoping to provide the kids more - music lessons - outside experiences - etc, I would say that these are no indications of success. Right now I struggle as I see that the leaders of our generation, the most admirable people, are not the ones who had a middle-class upbringing and all the finer things in life. They are the people who as children experienced adversity and learned how to success in spite of it. As I raise my own children and look at what I provide for them, I feel at times this is a disservice. Not that I am going to put them on the streets so they can become leaders, but that balance is very hard to deliver. Expecting a nine year old to take out the trash doesn't build character. It may teach him to be responsible, but what do we do to build character in our kids? I would rather raise a child who is going to make a difference in the world, than one who can easily assimilate

Posted by: Former NoVA Mom | January 22, 2007 1:36 PM

The most difficult thing that I didn't see coming was not having any time for myself. I don't mean for lunch out with the girls or for a facial. I mean coming home from work to a quiet house and having 10 minutes look at the paper and drink half a beer. Just a few minutes to unwind before "MOM - where's my..." or "honey, did you see..." Sometimes I just go in the bathroom, lock the door, turn on the fan and sit on the floor to read a magazine for 5 minutes. LOL...whatever it takes.

Posted by: Ellicott City Mom | January 22, 2007 5:08 PM

I might go back and tell myself not to be a lawyer. It is not a good career for somebody who needs to have time with children, because any career where your time is your commodity, and you measure your life in 6 minute increments, is NOT conducive to patience when they won't put on their shoes in the morning, or stop to pick up leaves on the way to the car. Patience and the time clock are not good bedfellows.

I also didn't realize how hard it would be to be treated like poison. Several mothers talked about the competitive parenting circuit, and I am mother to three children of average intelliegence, two of them with neurological issues (one is autistic, one has pretty severe ADD). The way that people treat you when your child isn't 100%, and particularly a problem like autism - I am completely amazed and dismayed on a regular basis. Sometimes I have the strength to be the mother my autistic child deserves, some days I am just so incredibly tired, and so sad to watch him stimming wildly and knowing that I have to stop him because the RULEBOOK says you can't permit that. I have daily doubts about socializing him, when socialization seems to me like a very ambiguous prize. Shall I train him to recognize the way people treat him and look at him?

What is also easier than I thought it would be is how much I love my messed up babies. How they are no less perfect to me just because they can't easily toe the line, and don't represent the kind of main-stream expectations that make some parents glow (at least if I judge by the ridiculous crowing some of them do).

It is very, very hard to balance work and home life in a way that (sure, this is a stereotype) the average dad may never know. All of society expects that stains on the clothes, junkie lunch choices, unmatched socks, no permission slip -- are MY fault. When I get home from a 12 hour day at work being the breadwinner, I get to start the night job of dinner, laundry, homework, and all those other things that have to get done. Some of it is time management, but some of it is energy: there are days when I come home an empty husk of a person, and nothing is left for the serious demands I meet at the door.

I often feel like the person I was has been completely obliterated. Some day I may find her again, but for now, there hasn't been time for the luxury of worrying about me in about six years. My sense of humor and sense of self are casualties of this battle that I am very, very sad to have lost. You have to have those in order to "live in the moment," and my moments are trailing away in the demands of balancing the very different needs of my children and my other roles.

Posted by: badmommy | January 22, 2007 5:15 PM

To Posted by: Father of 4 | January 19, 2007 12:58 PM

Thank you so much for your story and to you all, thanks so much for your stories and words of encouragment. As a father of two, I needed this forum today. Sometimes I feel so fustrated, annoyed, ticked off that it does not make any sense. But reading these post have put things back to perspect. When you are down, sometimes you have to see a movie like "The Pursuit of Happyness" or read something positive to get your joy back. I spend alot of time with my family, but is it the kind that produces fond memories for all, or is it just "time".
In moving forward, and I've had these thoughts for sometime, I need to be more patient and just let go, let loose. I need to get my inner kid back.

Posted by: DC | January 22, 2007 5:51 PM

Badmommy -
I am so sorry you are feeling so low. It does not sound to me like you are a bad mommy. Maybe a run down mommy, but you should not put yourself down like that. I understand that your challenges are very hard, but you need to find a way to take care of yourself. I am no doctor, but wonder if you could benefit from a medical evaluation. It sounds like you might be a tad depressed. In any case, I would suggest that you talk with your physician and see if s/he can offer any advice. You have a lot on your plate, and if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of your family either.

Posted by: Emily | January 23, 2007 10:08 AM

I was not prepared for the guilt! I had no idea that parenting became with so much guilt. Decisions, circumstance out of your control, work life balance, life in general are all analyzed and reviewed when you are a parent. Am I (we) doing the very best for my two kids? I think we survive because the joy of parenting out weighs all the guilt.

Posted by: Happy to be here! | January 24, 2007 12:50 PM

I was not prepared at all for Post Partem Depression to hit after she was 4 months old. I was lucky that it was being talked about a lot on tv- and there was no longer a stigma. I am thankful for my doctor for believing me and helping me the day i went in for treatment- and after a month on Zoloft felt like my normal self.

I was not prepared for the AMOUNT OF TIME it takes into being a GOOD parent. I never realized the massive influence I would have on who this tiny person would turn out to be, and so everything is methodical and good intentions. I did not realize that for those formative years of hers, my husband and I would have to be the back burner for each other, but hope that we reap the benefits of giving her a great (not spoiled) but happy childhood.
I never realized that I could have so much patience-that seemed to come to me in the delivery room. Because I always have a little voice that tells me "she is crying for a reason" "she is not settling down for a reason" "she does not want to feel miserable" and the frustration never took hold or set in.
I never realized how much a stay at home mom does in a day. I work full time but partially from home and those days home, working while with a toddler- can wreak havoc on me.
I never could have been prepared for the sleep deprivation that I had after a year of a baby with colic symptoms that ended up being reflux. It can change who you are. But never once did she feel my fatigue or resentment I had during those months. Hopefully she never remembers my crying my eyes out while I held her.
I could have never prepared for how little time I would have, or how difficult it would be to make a simple trip! Diaper bag, supplies, car seats, binkies, etc. I am sure my right side looks like the Incredible Hulk compared to the left side- carrying bags and a baby and everything else. Who knew grocery shopping would be an ordeal!
In all of this though, I never ever could have prepared myself for the overwhelming love I have for her- I tell her daily I am madly in love with her. When she smiles at me with her jackolantern teeth grin or runs to me if she gets scared or hurt- i turn into this protective mother lion and nothing could stand in my way.
I also never realized I could fall more in love with my husband because now he is also a dad- and her dad. And he is wonderful to her and to me. Every day is a challenge but every day gives us something to be thankful for. I used to wonder -would I do it again- if I could go back in time? When life was easy and spontaneous? No. Never. I cannot imagine not seeing that face every day. I read all these posts and am glad that we all have the down times but more often than not, the up times make up for it threefold.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 3:07 PM

I am almost finished with this parenting journey and preparing to send my youngest to college. I have always worked, but have been underemployed the past decade and am very discouraged about my career prospects at age 50. I think the Mommy track has permanently derailed my career. When the kids were young I had a demanding career and found it impossible to keep up with all of it and had to choose a slower career track. I think you have to be superhuman to pull it off. What aggravates and confuses me to no end is .... why is this dialog always about how Moms have to juggle and Moms have to sacrifice and how Moms struggle to parent and maintain a career. Moms are exhausted. Where are the Dads? Why aren't the male magazines filled with articles about how Dad can be more efficient and keep the right balance? Women are still saddled with 90% of the domestic responsibility. In most cases we have to be breadwinners as a matter of survival, and thankfully opportunities abound, but women are now enslaved 24/7 because very little of the parenting and domestic responsiblity has shifted to the Dads. I personally don't feel very liberated. I am truly baffled that no one else is bothered by this and why it is never discussed. You hear about Dads that are equal partners in the work of raising a family, but I don't see it happening very often... rarely.

Posted by: Baffled | January 24, 2007 3:16 PM

Thank you, Emily. I am rather down these days, and the day that I posted was a particularly rough one. I won't bore you with the details, but still having to watch a six year old for putting stones and leaves and chewed gum from the sidewalk into his mouth - nothing I have done prepared me for some of what I do these days. I don't know if medication for me is the answer - but the unrelenting nature of what I need to accomplish daily sometimes breeds a certain fatalism. ;) It does not help that my autistic son has sleeping problems (many of them do) and continues to wake me most nights. Amazing what long-term sleep deprivation can do.

But I appreciate the very kind words of encouragement. Truly, I am doing the best I can. And I haven't been to the doctor since the last baby was born (six years ago). Perhaps some happy drugs would be good. And I am looking for a support group for autistic parents to share the load.

And I did genuinely mean what I said about the ferocity of how much I love them, and how perfect they are in my eyes. But I worry. And working 60 hour weeks, keeping things clean and safe, balancing the needs of one "normal" child and two Abby Normals - I do, indeed, have days that scrape the bottom.

Posted by: badmommy | January 24, 2007 5:38 PM

For me the hardest thing has been to keep the balance and avoid guilt. Every day there's guilt that I don't spend enough time with my son or with my husband, everyday there's guilt that I don't spend enough time on my work. And guilt that I don't find enough time for myself to be that "SuperMom" all the magazines say I should be.
Every where there's so much pressure on women to be perfect. Perfect mom with kids in 100s of activities, tutored into the right schools or playgroups, etc. To look young & sexy (remember that rant about "mommy jeans"?) for herself and her husband. Pressure to work harder at work to break through the glass ceilings and to gain financial success and security.
I knew it would be hard. I didn't even want kids until my 30s because I knew parenting would be exhausting, dirty work. But I wasn't prepared for the sleepless nights to last for years, the lack of balance and the constant guilt that nothing is as good as it should be.
Negociating just the bear minimum for daily life has been hard. The begging for reassignment of household chores (no honey, I do need you to do dishes one a week, not once a quarter). Neogicating pick up and drop off days for preschool every week to accomate for meetings and projects. Negociating with my son to just eat one more vegetable tonight to make up for the last three nights of pizza, macaroni & cheese because I was too exhausted to cook

Posted by: vinochica | January 24, 2007 7:44 PM

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