THIS WEEK IN PARENTAL OUTRAGE...
Writer, columnist (former mommmy-blogger
) Ayelet Waldman
was on Oprah last Wed
, responding to a minor shit storm she's caused with a recent essay
excerpted from an upcoming book on motherhood.
The gist of Waldman's argument is that too many new mothers transfer their romantic passions from their partners and instead, onto their children. For Waldman, this is a concern because it explains bed death between new parents and more profoundly, in her own words, results in a situation, "where once her husband was the center of her passionate universe, there is now a new sun in whose orbit she revolves. Libido, as she once knew it, is gone, and in its place is all-consuming maternal desire."
Understand - I don't actually disagree with Waldman's central points especially since she's not stating anything particularly original. Fathers the world over, since time immemorial, have already figured out that more baby = less sex and that parenthood can (but doesn't always will) empty the sexual energy between a couple and redirect their attention onto the children. Moreover, I'll defend Waldman against all those outraged parents who'll try to call her a bad mom for speaking her mind on this topic.
All this said, Waldman's essay annoys the hell out of me.
First of all, while I appreciate the core of her argument, everything surrounding it is, at times, laughably overstated. The most obvious example is her "God Forbid" scenario where she weighs two scenarios, i.e. "God forbid one of my children ever die" vs. "God forbid my husband should die." Waldman declares that while the first would be devestating, the latter would be even worse, thereby confirming, to Waldman, that she does indeed love her husband more than her kids.
Pardon my french, but c'mon...gimme a fucking break. How can anyone accurately predict the qualitative difference in grief they would feel between the death of a spouse vs. child? Asking me whether Sam or L's premature death would affect me more is like asking if I'd rather lose an arm or a leg. I can't make that call and thankfully, I don't have to. More to the point, for most parents, I would have to think that they don't have a hierarchy of love between spouse and children, but rather, it's degrees of difference. I love Sam and L fiercely but I don't confuse the sexual/romantic affections I have for Sam with the parental adoration I feel towards L. I don't know why Waldman couldn't just state that point simpler without having to raise this ridiculous "God forbid" scenario.
Second of all, Waldman really needs to dial back the sanctimonious tone she uses throughout her essay. One of the most egregious moments comes early on, when Waldman writes,
"I am the only woman in Mommy and Me who seems to be, well, getting any. This could fill me with smug well-being. I could sit in the room and gloat over my wonderful marriage. I could think about how our sex life—always vital, even torrid—is more exciting and imaginative now than it was when we first met. I could check my watch to see if I have time to stop at Good Vibrations to see if they have any exciting new toys. I could even gaze pityingly at the other mothers in the group, wishing that they too could experience a love as deep as my own.
But I don't. I am far too busy worrying about what's wrong with me. Why, of all the women in the room, am I the only one who has not made the erotic transition a good mother is supposed to make? Why am I the only one incapable of placing her children at the center of her passionate universe?
Um...saying that "I could gloat about how glorious my life is...but I won't" is gloating
, ok? Casually mentioning that you and Michael Chabon are currently enjoying Nina Hartley's Guide to Spanking
is rubbing everyone's nose in your "torrid" sex life and this, i.e. "I am far too busy worry about what's with me," is such an obviously transparent attempt at false modesty.
Most of all, I think Waldman overstates her point unnecessarily. As I noted before, I think most parents can understand and appreciate her basic argument but rather than focus on the simple observation that spousal and parental love is and should be different, Waldman keeps repeating herself with a string of increasingly outrageous statements and rhetorical flourishes. She practically seems to taunt her own kids at the end by repeatedly stating (for the umpteenth time) that she loves her husband more than them. Ok, we got the point three pages ago
, why are you still harping on this? The merits of Waldman's arguments aside, it's just bad writing.
This seems so reflective of the parental advice industry - a bunch of egomaniacs running around shoveling sanctimonious bullshit. Believe me, blogging isn't that much better either, but at least I'm not admitting, "I browbeat the fine editors of [Salon] into letting me have a column," which translates to me as, "no one thought I should be given a platform for my views until I nagged them into giving me one."
The shame of this is that Waldman, as I've stressed throughout, has some important points to make, especially in explaining some of the roots of parental bed death (something that I'm all too keenly aware of right now). In thinking about how Sam and I have drastically curtailed our love life with one another, there are many obvious culprits and you've heard it all before: we're both tired, we don't have time, the baby shares our bedroom so we don't have privacy, etc. One additional thought came to the mind though: I think one of the things we enjoyed about sex B.C. (before child) was the relative lack of concern over unintended consequences. Sex was about intimacy, pleasure, all the good things.
Then we got pregnant with L. Surprise!
I wonder if both Sam and I are subconsciously wary of resuming our sex life because we now are reminded that sex also equals procreation which, while rewarding in its own way, douses the enjoyment of "sex without concern" with a shower of chilly water. Of course, it hasn't even been three months yet so maybe this is just a momentary blip - I'm not trying to obsesss about it. At least it beats being married in Japan
, where apparently, bed death isn't caused by kids...it's caused by marriage
Posted by P.L. at 8:15 AM
CLOSE TO THE EDGE
It's been a minute, mostly because I've been out of town and busy with other things. This is the main reason why I wanted to avoid daddy-blogging - there's this pressure to provide content more regularly but sometimes you don't have time and other times, you just don't have the inspiration. Much as I'd like to say that my head is boiling over with topics on an hourly basis, the truth is that my experience with parenthood has been more like a continuous loop. There are some new things to report along the way - first smile, first crawl, first tantrum, etc. - but most days things just resemble the day before...or what I might predict for tomorrow.
Right now, I'm at the nadir of this current loop. Far from becoming more tempered to L's fussiness and crying, I feel like my fuse is even shorter than ever. That's not her fault - I self-reflect that frustration inwards at my inability to comprehend just what is going wrong and how to address it. It's gotten bad enough that I've taken to posting to Craigslist's Parenting forum
for advice. However, that only further proves the adage that "every baby is different" since you'll get myriad suggestions, few of which are in actual agreement with one another.
So far, the only things I've found to absolutely work is taking her out for a walk...and that'd be fine if I had the stamina to walk 10 hours straight to wait for Sam to go to work and come back. Note: L is almost never as fussy when her mom is around which leads me to speculate that either she doesn't feed as well with me, and therefore, she's fussy because she's hungry or else Sam just has some secret maternal calming hormone. Bottle that and you'd make billions...
Part of my frustration/despondancy comes from the feeling that I'm just not cut out for SAHD status and being the stubborn refuse-to-admit-defeat kind of guy I am, this creates much internal conflict. After all, as I frequently tell myself, billions of women and men do this daily and it's hardly as if L is a real problem child by any objective standard. Hiring a nanny, or putting L in day care, just seem like admissions that I'm a lousy caretaker. If I was working full time, sure it'd make sense, but right now, I have the time. What's lacking is the stamina/patience.
Ironically (or maybe not), this all seems very distant when she's in a good mood. It's like a light switch: her happiness suddenly dissipates the emotional darkness and it's hard to remember what the bad stuff feels like. But the moment the crying starts, you instantly recall just how bad it can be. There's something very bipolar about this which I'm sure isn't particularly healthy. On that note, my therapist more or less hits it on the nose when she points out that I've always been ambivalent around taking care of women (formerly, my mom, then girlfriends) insofar as I both feel duty-bound to look after their happiness but I carry with that a kernal of resentment. Just my luck that I have a daughter, *laugh* though truthfully, both Sam and I really wanted a girl and I doubt my situation with L would be any improved if she were a boy instead.
All I really want to know right now are ways to keep her calm and uncrying without having to resort to either taking her out for long walks every hour or else carrying her about the house in the koala hold 9-5. We went to see the doctor today and he opined that her 5 O' Clock Fussies (as they've come to be known) are possibly a reaction to over-stimulation but trying to put her to bed in a quiet, darkened room does very little. I can't quite figure it out but there's something about laying down on her back that she really hates when she gets like this (being on her tummy isn't so hot either so scratch that easy solution).
In any case, I hope there are happier times ahead to report on - I'm sure there will be but it's as an acquaintance told me this past weekend: the months go by fast but the days last forever
. Very true.
Posted by P.L. at 5:12 PM
First off - I survived Week 1 of SAHD status. It wasn't easy, especially the first two days. I was literally counting down the minutes until Sam came from from work so I could hand L off to her mom. I was just exhausted from dealing with this uber-fussy baby who hated the bottle and hence, was starving herself into discomfort. By mid-week though, L was better and now, she takes to the bottle as easily as could be hoped and that's made her a much happier baby. A thankful dad rejoices.
And I admit...it's fun to take her out so much. If I'm not too tired, I skip the stroller and strap her into either the sling or Bjorn. L's now strong enough to hold her neck up so I face her forward to greet the world and yeah, I'm doing it as much for my benefit as her own. I like flossin' around town with a cute baby hanging off my chest (it's like Baby Bling). I still need to figure out how to occupy both her and I for so much time per day. I don't want to resort to using the TV as a babysitter but sometimes, it's damn attractive.
Anyways, I've learned an important lesson from all this time with L in her fussed-out mode: it makes you appreciate people who put some actual thought into how to design baby clothes with both baby and parent in mind. There is nothing
worse than trying to clothe a screaming baby and not being able to figure out how how the hell her buttons are arranged. Actually, I don't understand why so many baby clothes have buttons on them at all - are zippers gauche now? My favorite outfits for L are ones where there's one zipper that runs from her neckline down to one of her feet - zip in, zip out, super-duper easy.
On the other hand, this is a crazy cute kimono-style jumper that Sam and I love having L wear:
However, as elegant as it looks, it has about two dozen buttons (not really, but it feels like it), many of which don't intuitively snap in where you expect them too. I mean, I'm an educated dude - I shouldn't need a mechanical engineering background just to dress my daughter, you know?
Don't get me wrong...I appreciate how onesies and some jumpers have easy-to-open bottoms for quick diaper access...but on the other side of the spectrum, you have sweaters with actual buttons (i.e. with button holes) which is a nice old school touch, but have you ever tried to button someone when they're squirming around like a tadpole?
Sam doesn't seem to mind though - she's more a slave to fashoin than me. If I could dress L in mumus all the time, I probably would, just for the convenience.
Posted by P.L. at 12:20 AM
A MOMENT OF LEVITY
Day two is just kicking off...won't know if we'll have the same fireworks as yesterday. In the meantime...
For years now, I've been inundated with this constant chirping about how "hapa babies are the cutest." (For the unaware, hapa = person of mixed Asian/other heritage. Technically, it's Asian/white but the term was grown to encompass any mixture involving an Asian heritage).
This isn't to say that hapa babies aren't cute. Like most babies, some are, and some - I'm afraid - absolutely are NOT. But as someone who grew up full Asian, and who's daughter is of mixed intra-Asian heritage (Chinese/Japanese), I get rather eye-rolly at the idea that being white/Asian is supposed to increase your cute quotient above and beyond what one might have been as "just Asian." Our babies are cute on their own, thank you very much.
Moreover, I also find it a bit annoying that most of the people on the "hapa babies are the cutest" train tend to be Asians themsevles. It sounds as if it's not good enough for our own yeller people to be "full" Asian...it's only by mixing out that a next level of cuteness is attained. Please understand: this isn't remotely a screed against inter-marriage or mixed babies but I'm just lobbying for those of us with non-hapa babies to get some respect.
In any case, someone sent me a link to this site: Hapa Kids Club
(an offshoot of the *gag* Haole Hubby Site) and you can decide for yourself. There are definitely some cute babies in the mix there, especially these two
. There are also some not-so cute ones but I won't be rude and pluck out their pics.
One photo is almost identical to one of my daughter though so I can offer a hapa vs. full Asian cuteness test I suppose:
I also came upon this site today: Real Kidz
- biracial dolls! They include a hapa doll named "Quincy"
. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Quincy's father was Asian and mom is white though I can't remember if any Asian parent I've ever known would have thought to name their child - a daughter no less - "Quincy."
Posted by P.L. at 11:25 AM
THE DAY IS (CRASHING) UPON US
Sam returns to work in about 10 hours, meaning my first day as a SAHD is about to begin. Time to get those fingers crossed...and blog ready.
Also, Poppa Large is turning into Poppas Large - I'm inviting a few other dads to join in to post. Stay tuned.
(Call me Daddy-O from now on).
Ok, so...so far, it's been a minor disaster.
L and I drove Sam to her first day of work - everything was great. L slept for the ride down, during the visit to Sam's workplace and all the way on the ride back, plus an additional 30 minutes. At around the 3 hour mark since her last feeding, she started to wake up and fuss so I changed her diaper, had the bottle all ready to go and...
It's like someone set off a Fuss Bomb. L was as unhappy as I've ever known her to be. She started crying the moment she woke up and from that point onward, didn't stop. This went on for at least 40 minutes. She hated the bottle, hated being picked up and held, hated being put down, hated having her diaper changed...you get the point.
The only thing she didn't hate was our swing, which is compelling me to send large donations to Graco for their godly creation. I, of course, feel shitty about this because I shouldn't have to use a machine soothe her when I'm right here, three feet away, but her crying was so persistent and loud, I was seriously hearing ringing in my right ear.
My guess - and this is only a guess since, hey, I don't really know what the fuck is going on - is that L's hungry but wants boobie. Boobie, alas, is about six hours away. L usually doesn't have that much trouble taking the bottle - she usually has a meal from the bottle every day or so - but I can appreciate that she's used to breast. If I thought it would have helped, I would have offered her myown but I don't think I can offer a reasonable fascimile to Sam's glandular grandeur. (I guess I could give a call over to BALCO and get some 'roid help with that though).
This is the grand irony, the flipside to my post Mammary Madness
: after stressing to high heaven about the baby only taking the bottle and not taking the breast, we've suddenly had the tables turned. L nurses off the breast dreamily but try to ease the bottle into the picture and L's cocking her eyebrow, pouting her lips and giving me a "whatchu' talkin' about Willis?" stare (this about two seconds before she opens her mouth and starts firing with her Luger Lungs.)
Right now, she's sleeping in the swing and I'm plotting my next course of action until she wakes up again. Hopefully, I can whip up some kind of McGuyver-like solution...something involving a burp cloth, diaper snappy and breast pump tubing.
We'll see what happens later. Mommy needs to come home, stat!
(I'm such a wuss right now).
Last update of the day: altogether, today was a journey into my private concentric circle of hell. L-Boogie had two long napping periods which were dreamy for me...but once she awoke, she was inconsolable. I didn't help things by accidentally pinching her when I was trying to take a diaper snappy off. It's like when she gets a shot at the doctor's - she's eerily quiet for a split second as her primitive brain processes what's just happened...Hmm...what was that?
That was different.
I...I...I think it hurts.
Oh yeah, it hurts really bad!
I think, at one point, I had to scream myself (into a pillow) out of frustration, as well as rough the bed up a bit, just to expel some pent up ickiness. Sam says I was probably far, far more tramatized by today's events than L was but of course, being a PIP, I assume that I managed to squander whatever trust I've built with L over the last two months of attachment parenting. (Remember - the "P" in "PIP" stands for "paranoid").
Ah, tomorrow's another day though. Woo woo.
Posted by P.L. at 11:22 PM