It Never Ends

I got some bad news today, potentially life-altering bad news, the details of which aren’t relevant for now, and it put me into a serious funk. And between being with one or more children from sunrise to bath time to a bedtime which seemed to stretch to geologic timescales I didn’t get an opportunity to exercise. I didn’t exercise yesterday either. One year ago I was only a semi-regular exerciser who wouldn’t have thought anything of skipping a work out two days a row. But in that time I have realized something very important about myself: exercise, specifically hard-sweat inducing-push myself to my limits exercise, is my anti-depressant. It works better for me than any therapy or any drug ever has. I need a good workout more than I need just about anything else save food. So today when crappy news rained down like shitty little turds around me I really just wanted to go for a run.

It took until 10:30 pm for all three children to finally fall asleep. Husband, probably tired of hearing me rant about my dark mood, suggested that I go for a run. I scoffed, “It’s too late, it wouldn’t be safe.” Husband goes on late night runs occasionally. A few weeks ago during an extremely rare late night rain shower he laced up his shoes and went on a four mile joyful run through the cool rain. Oh how I envied him and his freedom. He worried only about the danger from slipping on some wet leaves. He certainly didn’t look at each hedge as he passed, searching for hidden attackers waiting to leap out and accost him. I am sure he didn’t take note of every car, watching to see if it slowed down or circled back around for him. Husband thought it was perfectly safe to run in our neighborhood and told me as such. I wasn’t so sure. Running around at night, even in our relatively quiet residential neighborhood, goes against every fiber of my hyper vigilant female being. I do, however, tend towards the anxious and I wondered if I was being overly concerned. The night air beckoned me. It was gloriously cool outside. After a summer of running through the heat and humidity, the sun beaming down on me, the idea of a night run was irresistibly appealing. I decided I would run only up and down our street, making a tiny track, out of our short (only nine houses along the road) street. Ours and many of our neighbors front doors were also open and I half jokingly told Husband to listen for any screams.

I stepped out cautiously, with my music turned down in my ears so that I could hear any footfalls behind me. I tucked my phone away so that I wouldn’t be distracted by it and could keep an eye on my surroundings. After a quarter mile or so I relaxed into a nice rhythm and decided to be slightly more bold and run on a short section (less than half a mile) of the street just perpendicular to ours. I ran a couple of miles in loops this way. I felt my stress slip away from me for the first time all day. My eyes had adjusted to the night and I found myself no more unsure of my footing than during the day. I picked up speed. I ran up the hill and down, gleeful for the tiny bit of freedom from my life. Suddenly a young man on a bike turned onto the street and approached me. As he rode by me, he slowed and let out a long whistle. There was no mistaking that it was meant for me. And just like that my sense of freedom evaporated. I turned and watched him ride away up the hill; watching until I could see him no more. I was in full red alert mode, wondering if he was going to circle back around and sneak up on me from behind. I turned down my music to barely a whisper in my ears. I turned back onto our short street where I surmised, no longer joking in the least, that my husband or neighbors would be able to hear me if I screamed. I ran another mile or so, but it was a haunted mile. I just kept thinking, “It never ends”. “It” being the constant harassment of being a woman. From pregnancy discrimination, to a man making nasty noises in response to seeing me breastfeed, to jokes about women’s looks, to being hit on every god damned time I go to the grocery store alone after dark, to being whistled at while I ran down the street, it just never ends. I am so sick and tired of it. I could hashtag #yesallwomen, but what good will that really do? I just want to be able to live my life, to go out in the world and not worry about what a man might be thinking about me. I wish there was something I could do to make the world a safe, fair, free place for myself and all women. But as long as I, a relatively privileged woman in the United States, is scared, legitimately so it seems, to take a run down my own street I can’t see how to even begin to fix this problem. I don’t want to be imprisoned by the actions of a few men but I don’t want to risk myself either . All I know is that this is one problem I can’t run away from.

Sex Ed: Nailed It!

The scene: walking along the beach…

Middle: See those tracks in the sand?

Older: No. Where?

Middle: See those. The seagulls made them!

Older: I still don’t see them.

Me: Right there. They look like sort of like “A”s or triangles or forks.

Middle: Or vulvas!

Older: Oh now I see them!

Rounded Edges

I am pretty sure that if you had asked someone to describe me ten or fifteen years ago that “ambitious” and “driven” would have topped my list of descriptors.

In a little over a month I will start working (unpaid) at a hospital two days a week doing clinical rotations as part of the process of becoming an “international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC).  I am looking forward to the clinicals; I have no doubt that they will be interesting and enjoyable.  Along with the clinicals I will be taking classes.  The coursework and clinicals together will make me eligible to take the IBCLC exam in July of 2015 (it is only offered once a year).  Although the exam has a reputation for being challenging, I expect to pass and begin working as an IBCLC, either in private practice or in a hospital or pediatric practice shortly thereafter.  I am going to be a great IBCLC; after my children I probably talk more about human lactation than any other subject.  Husband probably knows a hell of a lot more about breasts and how they work than most women or doctors.  He is a very good sport about my daily breastfeeding rants.

But despite my obvious interest, I have been mulling over the idea putting off the lactation training for a year and spending the next year as a stay at home mom again.  Even though I am absolutely sure want a career beyond my children at some point, I am finding it hard to muster the kind of passionate, driven ambition towards my new endeavors that used to be a hallmark of my personality.  I mostly blame the children for this.    I just can’t imagine ever having anywhere near the same level of passion for a career – even a career that I know I will enjoy and be good at – as I do for them.  I suppose that’s normal, but I am a very all or nothing kind of girl and because of that I wonder if I am making the right choice for now.  Seven and half years into this parenting gig and it is pretty clear to me that I love the baby and toddler phase of parenting.  Maybe I should stay home one more year and eek out the last bits of Baby’s babyness with her?  Until recently I felt an imperative to go back to work as soon as possible.  We couldn’t live on Husband’s salary alone.  Several weeks ago he negotiated a fantastic and well deserved raise at work and now I don’t have to go back to work in the same way that thought I would have to a few months ago.  Sure, we still can’t get out of our two bedroom house, but other than being a bit tight on space (by American standards) out life is pretty close to perfect.  I realize how very fortunate we are and that this is a very first world problem to have but I can’t help but feel a bit unmoored as to what I want to do next year.

Next month, Baby is scheduled to start back at daycare three days a week.  I am not worried about her.  She will arguably be attending the best preschool in town, very developmentally appropriate, with the lowest student to teacher ratio I have ever come across.  When we drop Middle off at school (the same school that Baby will attend), Baby sometimes cries because she’s not staying.  She is ready.  I am not sure that I am.

I have been doing some pro-bono (volunteer) breastfeeding related policy work lately and I enjoy it.  It’s great to occasionally put my high heels and go talk about breastfeeding statistics and how we, as a society, can better support maternal and child health.  I do think that what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of women and children.  I have a PowerPoint presentation to prepare for a couple of events I am speaking at next week.  I am surprised that I am not up late working on it, far in advance.  Instead I am talking long walks with Baby, painting a bathroom, and organizing my house.  I will get the presentation done and I will do a good job of it; no worries there, but I am definitely not throwing myself into it like I might have a decade ago.  Is it simply that I am older and more relaxed about life in general?  Is it because I am never going to find anything that I care about as much as spending time with my kids?  Is it because my children are still relatively young and I am just not ready yet?  Is it because my previous career – that I devoted untold hours of effort and travel and late nights to – ended so spectacularly badly?  Am I afraid to try hard again and perhaps fail?  Have I lost my edge and if so how do I (and do I even want to) get it back?

I keep coming back to the incontrovertible fact that despite my intense passion for my kids and my somewhat lackluster passion for career ambitions at the moment, those kids are only going to get older.  I don’t want to hover over them as they grow up, volunteering for every school function, and being just “Older/Middle/Baby’s Mom” – no matter how good I am at it.  I could wait to do anything career-wise until Baby goes to kindergarten, but the idea of being forty years old with kids in school full time and no career to speak of is utterly depressing.  They are, as they should, growing up and moving on.  I suppose I need to move on too.

A Parent’s Vacation

The house has been quiet today and for once the quiet does not mean that some massive mischief is taking place.

I canned 17 jars of salsa today.

I also painted our back french doors.

I hardly had to spend any time cleaning up toys at all.

No one got pee where it doesn’t belong.

There was no yelling at dinner.

My house has a shocking lack of mud in it.

We went out for ice cream at 8:00 pm.

Bedtime was a calm affair.

Have I finally achieved some sort of stay-at-home mothering nirvana?  Nah, my parents just came and took away Older and Middle for a week and Gran and Papa’s (my parents) house leaving us with Baby as our only child.  It’s hard to believe that I ever thought one child was difficult.  This, my friends, is a vacation – parenting style!

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