Thursday, February 28, 2013

"No woman should have to explain her childlessness. It is, quite simply, nobody else’s damn business."

She is HOT.
I love Helen Mirren. She is a treasure. I'm so glad her interview in Vogue prompted this article: Helen Mirren Confronts the Final Female Taboo

Please forgive me, this post is going to be more scattered than usual. This article touched a rawness in me that I haven't explored in a long while. Prior to becoming a mother, I felt (or thought or maybe imagined) a pressure from society to marry and have children. By 'society', I may mean my family. Some of their pressure was loving, some just came from a place of ignorance (or even meanness).  I also felt a kind of stigma from my peers as the unwed, non-mother, not-in-a-long-term-relationship, haven't-been-in-a-long-term-relationship-in-years. Or maybe it was pity?

I'm not trying to be unkind to my family or my friends. I realize I could have misconstrued their concern as judgement. 

Still, I didn't feel any less alone in my childlessness and aloneness as I approached my mid-30s.

So I'm still very sensitive to the Helen Mirrens of the world.  Women who, for whatever reason - a reason they don't need to explain to me - are not mothers, a choice that we should support, accept, and move beyond.

Interestingly, the author of this article as well as Helen Mirren, have been quite kind to other women, saying that they never get pressure from other women. Really? REALLY? As a new mom, I know I have fallen into that awful stereotype of bullying my friends (wed or not) to have children. My reason was selfish: I felt lonely in the beginning of motherhood, being one of the only people in my friend group to have baby. I was charting unknown territory and I desperately wanted someone to be on that ship with me.

I hate that I immediately became one of the people who I didn't like, a person who made someone feel bad or isolated in their life choices. It's as bad as if a feminist told me that being a mother makes me less of a feminist. If someone said that to me, I would be furious. "Why does being a mother preclude me from being a feminist? Isn't it about choice?!"

Have we whittled down women into one of two roles: the mother and the not mother? Is that all women can aspire to be?

I don't think so, and I look forward to the day when there is no stigma attached to deciding not to have children. I'm happy being a mother and I want my friends and family members to also be happy in whatever way the choose.

I enjoy writing about my experiences as a mother. I love hearing about other women's experiences with it as well. There is an abundance of literature on motherhood, the article is correct in stating that parenting is an industry. Businesses have learned that parenting sells. What a dreary world it would be if business ONLY catered to parents.

There is a restaurant in my neighborhood that my husband and I adore which refuses to serve children. It is strictly 21 and up, no exception ever. I love this. It would be lovely to go there randomly on a Saturday afternoon with my family but I like that this is at least one place where I can go and not feel guilty about being out enjoying me time without my son (while he is home with a sitter). I don't have to watch what I see or eat or drink and I don't have to look at any other children and feel pangs of "oh he should be here" guilt. Nope. Not there. There it is okay to be a child-free adult.

While I do love writing or reading about motherhood, it is not all I want my life to be, not the only thing I want to be defined as. The same as the amazing Dame Helen Mirren doesn't want to be defined as the not-mom (though I'm pretty sure she will be remember for so, so much more).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Resurrecting Edward Furlong

I have no idea if Eddie is still working. I hope so! I hope he is doing well! We need more T2s in our lives.

Oh, little Eddie! Photo courtesy of US Magazine.
I'm not just reminiscing about Edward Furlong, this is a follow-up to yesterday's post. I want to be clear that divorce does not create or cause Terminators or the end of days.

Unless you break up with Skynet... 
Rather, I felt the point of the post was the future is uncertain. There could be Terminators. We simply don't know.

Though yesterday's post discussed the fear or worry associated with divorce, we didn't touch on how ending a relationship can be healing, healthy, or in some circumstances, necessary (safety, etc.). The end of one thing - childhood, a relationship, a job - can be the beginning of quite another great thing.

Look? He left Terminator and modeled for Calvin Klein!
At P&P, we are simply reflecting on change inherent to the human experience. Divorce is part of that experience. (And woo boy, have we had some changes! Where do I begin with my body? Let's call it lumpy. But we'll talk about that in a later post.)

How do we talk about change with our children? There are big changes they'll have to confront at different ages. Take for example Natalie's daughter. How do you explain divorce to a 4-year old? What about death, say of a relative, a friend, or a pet? What about more minor changes but ones that are still quite impactful: loss of a job, changing schools, moving, or a new teacher?

In the previous post, we wondered aloud how to confront a moment like this as an adult. Now, how do we as parents confront these moments with our children? There is the first step, steeling ourselves and saying "It's going to be okay." But where do we go with step 2.

Well, according to people who know these things (family counselors), the next step is simple honesty in terms they would understand. A 4-year old doesn't know what the word (or perhaps has never even heard the word) 'divorce' means, so you wouldn't start there. A 8- or 9-year old would have heard the word and may understand what it means. In either case, present the information slowly, don't overload them all at once. Next, listen. They may have questions or concerns. Hear them.

Finally, and I think this is really important, allow yourself and your children to be around caring friends (whether this is family, or a playgroup, a team, or a faith-based group).

"Look, in the next movie I'll be blond. Then, Christian Bale." Photo: The Daily Beast

I've found that friends keep me grounded and prevent me from sliding too far into darkness. Friendship isn't just good for sharing laughs or shoulders to cry on, it can actually make you happier. (See here, here, and here.)

And that's what I love about this blog. Friends sharing their experiences as parents. P&P is thankful for that!

"No fate but you make." Kyle Reese AKA Michael Biehn AKA my first boyfriend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Divorce Causes Terminators

Below is a guest post from P&P's dear friend and contributor, Natalie. What I love about this post is how she is willing to be open and raw for us. So often as parents (or at least me) we want to shield our children, which may include shielding the truth from them or shielding our emotions, but she reminds us that honesty is okay, is important, because we don't need to know the answers since we don't know the future. 

This week at P&P we're going to focus on openess and letting go, being aware that we cannot control every detail of our lives. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did! - SRW

Because the future has Terminators.

I am 30. I am also married with a young child. I am your average middle class working mom. That is just a little background so you know where I am coming from. 

I have to consider myself an adult at this point: I have the child, the husband, the mortgage, the job that pays for the health insurance. That is about as adult-ish as you get; I even drive a station wagon with stickers on the back window and change in the glove compartment for parking meters. Yet it wasn’t until recently that two contradictory feelings popped up in me: 1. I started to feel like an adult (or maybe feel my age is more accurate) and;  2. I began to realize that no one is truly ever "grown up".

What caused these opposite emotions? My first adult divorce. Not mine, but a friend's. I met my husband at my co-worker's wedding. My husband was the brother of the bride (my co-worker), we hit it off and began dating. Within a year we were living together and engaged. My co-worker eventually became my sister-in-law, and she and her husband were the best of both worlds -- my friends and my family. They were the kind of couple that everyone thought would be together forever: easy-going, fun-loving and most importantly, happy. But within the last year they encountered personal problems and things began to unravel. Two months ago we were told they were separating, by Christmas we heard the final decision. Divorce.

This divorce has me reeling because, yes, I too thought they would be together forever and because I love them both. But also…well…we don’t ever grow up do we? I watched my aunt’s marriage disintegrate over lies and pain, I watched friend’s parents divorce, always comfortable that my parents would never do that. Until my Dad left my Mom (for his knocked up girlfriend who was half his age,  cough cough…you don’t hear any lingering resentment, do you?) when I was in high school. All of those relationship endings were what adults were doing. They obviously had it figured out and were making decisions and being adults about it. I was mostly a kid looking in on a world that I didn’t understand, and somewhere along the way I grew up but never really looked back with a new perspective, I still viewed those moments the way my child or teenage self did.

This divorce is different. We are adults. We were supposed to make it work, do what our parents couldn’t manage. We feel like adults. And yet… we aren’t, are we? We are still those same scared kids who don’t really understand what we are feeling or why. Sometimes we are just stabbing blindly in the dark and we don’t know how things will turn out. And that is what gets me…all those years ago I assumed the adults in my life had a clue about what they were doing and now I realize, much like myself, they didn’t. When my mom would hug me and tell me it was going to be ok, like I do with my daughter, she wasn’t really saying that she was sure it was going to be okay but rather that  she was going to try to make it okay.

This divorce is frightening because it is a mirror. I can see my own relationship struggles in it more clearly than I ever could looking back through the lens of my parent’s marriage.  Suddenly, days after my 30th birthday and facing another new year, I feel more like my mother and less like me, more like an adult and less like the wild teenager I left behind. More afraid of divorce because it is in my lexicon as a present tense and not just a past tense. It's okay, because like my mother, I will make it okay. 

Also, I am pretty sure I am going to rock the senior living house like I am Blanche from the Golden Girls, so I have something to look forward to!