Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sweet 'n' Sour

The minute Charlotte was born - 9:14 a.m. - my life changed.

I'd just gotten used to playing house with my husband.  We were like kids, inclined to sleep late, leaving dirty dinner dishes in the sink 'til morning, going out to eat when the urge struck. Now, not only was it impossible to finish the dishes, but I couldn't fold laundry, go to the bathroom or go anywhere without her crying, without her always needing something else.

One night during that first upside-down week at home with Charlotte, I exploded when my husband came through the door. "If she has a baby when she's like sixteen, I'm not helping her with it!" He looked very puzzled. "After all the years of taking care of her," I sobbed, trying to explain,  "I'll want my life back. I don't like this new one very much."

She's almost sixteen now. She hasn't had a baby but she does have a boyfriend. He came over for dinner last week and they both helped with the dishes afterwards. She's talking about college. Sometime during her fifth grade year, I was stunned to realize that 6,570 days of full-time parenting is all you get: 18 years times 365 days. At that point I was already halfway through my tenure as Charlotte's full-time parent. I cried hard. Now 1,095 is all that is left. How will I adjust to the change when she leaves?

Lisa, Norwich, VT, part-time crepe maker, full-time mom

Monday, April 27, 2009


From the moment he was born, I was infatuated. He emerged with perfectly muscled little arms, and his skin was the color of flame that burns closest to the wick. 

As he grew, he would say amusing things. One summer day when he was three, we strolled through a graveyard and he remarked that the man with an enormous monument must have had a huge head. Yes, a large ego, I replied. He laughed at the funny sound of ego. 

By the time he was five, he was known for his catch phrases – “A world without donuts is madness”, “When you turn TV off, you turn me off”, “White Castle – it’s worth the wait”. Yes, he watches TV, plays video games, and eats junky food, probably more than he should. But I try to surround him with subtle touches of beauty (macaroni and cheese on an antique Japanese porcelain plate) and kindness (never too tired to listen, help, fetch or find). He recognizes these things, and appreciates them. 

He’s now 13, so my terms of endearment like Dandy Lion or Baby Grand are used less and less, but my infatuation hasn’t diminished. I believe that my role, as his mother, is to help him appreciate the beauty in all things, to impart beauty onto all that he touches, and to have a heart full of compassion. So far, I think I’ve done well by him, and that makes me very happy.

Lisa, Columbus, Ohio, maker & seller of designy tschoskies for 20 years

Friday, April 24, 2009


I just can’t get used to the shock of motherhood, the shock of having no sleep, most days no shower, a constant torrent of housework, and the feeling of overly caffeinated exhaustion day in and out. I feel at the end of every day that I’ve run a marathon.

Did our mothers feel this way, too?

I think our generation feels, in a way that our mothers’ did not, that we need to do everything a bit too perfectly so that our children don’t wind up addicted to video games, junk food, Prozac and ADD meds. We read all the books, buy all the latest gear to help bond with our baby, get the toy that will help promote social empathy and gross motor skills, avoid BPA, take DHA, but not the kind that might have mercury in it, and basically do everything within our power to ensure that they don’t grow up like we did: with Tang and fruit-roll-ups in the pantry, parents divorcing loudly in the bedroom at night after we’d gone to bed, and more time with the TV than anyone else.

But really, was it so bad for us? What are we running around like mad for, really? What are we trying to inoculate our children against?

I suppose, if I’m truly honest with myself, it is this – a most frightening prospect: I’m trying to prevent my child from feeling the way about me as I do about my parents.

- Cleo, New York, NY, stay-at-home mom

Monday, April 20, 2009


Spending all day with him used to seem like an endless hell of exhaustion and mania, like an all-nighter with several cups of coffee day after day, but now it’s different. Now I could drink him up with a straw. I get high on just the smell of him. On the way his face lights up and he kicks his legs and arms in sheer joy when he sees my face hovering over the crib after his nap. Now I feel love for him flooding my heart in an unstoppable tsunami wave. Now I can’t get enough of him and it reminds me, curiously, of the first few weeks of being in love with someone new, when an afternoon staring into his eyes and making faces at each other, or just smelling his neck, feels like time well spent.

It didn’t happen suddenly. It took months to build to this, but I’m finally beginning to see what the fuss is all about. I finally get, I think, what it means to love your child in that way mothers always say they do – fiercely, with abandon.

- Alexis, Madrid, Spain, teacher/writer


I’m amazed at the extremes I feel. Some days I feel like a fucking zombie, incapable of understanding how I’ll ever get my life back, how I’ll ever be able to read the newspaper leisurely with a hot cup of tea, how I’ll ever find time to soothe my soul with yoga or meditation or just curling up to a good book. Is that life over? I ask myself sometimes, terrified at discovering the answer. Should I mourn it and just move on? If so, it seems unfair, like I didn’t really know enough about it before having children. I didn’t know. I didn’t enjoy those lingering conversations at the dinner table with my husband, pouring that extra glass of wine just for fun. I didn’t savor the car ride alone, turning up the music and opening the sunroof. I squandered all the long showers, the cooking experiments, the window shopping, the ability to use my body for any kind of exercise I pleased. I wasted all the time going to the bathroom without worrying he was crying in the other room. I wasted the chance to really understand how much I lived for myself and no one else, and how unfuckingbelievably pleasurable that was – no shame in that. It was just lovely.

- Alexis, Madrid, Spain, teacher/writer