Last week I finished reading The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary and ever since have been resisting the urge to write some sort of something about it so as to give myself a little bit of time to let it marinate and digest. This book, award winning and highly rated was even touted by Oprah as one of the “most profound” parenting books she’s read (GrR. What does Oprah know about parenting? In fact, she did have one son who sadly died in his infancy… but I digress). It’s very Eckhart Tolle (another Oprah endorsement) –esk in it’s approach to life in general. I suspect this is a byproduct of both books being culturally based more on eastern philosophy than western.
I don’t read a whole lot of parenting books (to date this is only the second non-pregnancy related), but I managed to snag this one for free with a new Amazon baby registry so I figured what the hell. I did enjoy the book authored by a psychologist despite recognizing early that she’s got little in the way of parenting experience herself (she only mentions one young child throughout her writing). I found myself skimming over many of the anecdotes in her book but also considering how my upbringing has affected the kind of person I was.
Ordinarily, I’d make every effort to disagree with Oprah on this book being profound because I really don’t care for her but even I can’t deny that it was incredibly enlightening. Pretty much ALL of the stories told about parents who visit the doctor in her practice are negative (well I guess they are coming to her for a reason) but she manages to keep the book from becoming too focused on shortcomings in it’s overall theme despite them and even the message of her book.
One of the first major points the writer makes is that when you become a parent, who you are as a person dies and you experience a re-birth with new perspectives on what is important in life (hopefully). Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of people may come to realize this on their own without the concept being thrust upon them. I always kind of shoved off this idea prior to having a child, because well… I didn’t know what was really meant by it. To that point, when I mentioned the thought that “when you become a parent who you are as a person dies” to my young unmarried co-worker recently he laughed and said that just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you have to stop doing things you enjoy. It was clear to me that discussing the topic further would be fruitless.
I think that one of the best parts of becoming a parent is your opportunity when this death occurs to recognize it for what it is (something positive) and to re-create who you are and how you approach life. Besides many of the other gifts our children give us, this to me is one of the greatest. Some may choose to live on vicariously through their children, but this is not what I mean by being given the opportunity to become someone new. In fact, the biggest point that the author makes throughout the whole book is that it is wrong to punish your children for the insecurities of yourself and by the restraints put on you by your parents.
Some of the other advice offered I could take or leave, while it makes sense without having seen the results of people following it I guess you’d just have to take her word for it. Much of the statements made throughout aren’t based on any fact or research and fairly subjective which is a criticism of her reviewers. The way that being a “conscious parent” is described speaks to inherent (I hope) conventional parent wisdom which is that it is very important to constantly work at separating your personal feelings from the situation to help make the best choice you can for your child. I’m reminded of the first time my son covered me from head to waist in projectile formula vomit, and my first thought was to postpone what would have been my normal reaction of pushing him away from me and instead hold him closer to my chest to comfort him because he was ill and scared by what had just happened.
My first years as a new parent remind me a lot of my adolescence and having to re-define pretty much everything I had identified with for the last 30 years. For that matter, I think it’s a good that we spend most of this time sleep deprived and without the time to put much thought into losing ourselves because by the time we realize what has happened we may be better able to start the journey of re-invention.
I’ve written about this subject before but feel it’s worth revisiting… so here goes. Normally I am fairly discerning with the level of information I’d share publicly on such a forum but regarding this point I think it’s important to be real.
My husband and I often joke it would probably be cheaper to move out to the middle of nowhere as opposed to raising our children in a large metro area where the cost of living is likely much higher than what we perceive it would be elsewhere. With our recent news of a new baby on the way, finances has been on the top, middle and bottom of my mind for several weeks now. The daunting estimate of $250k to raise one child looming over my head (doubled with two) I’ve been doing a lot of research on preparing for a second child and am surprised at how little information that is useful is actually out there on the web to new parents or even those expanding their family.
For the last year or so I’ve felt that we are just making it month to month, trying to save for retirement and college, balance our debts and monthly bills with our income. I’ve always been one to budget but to be honest we’ve been just been getting by for the last year or so with no money in savings (aside from retirement and college plans) and about anywhere from $100-180 a week to pay for our incidentals like food and gas. Most extra money we manage to get our hands on outside of these remainder funds has been financing travel to visit family and pay our medical bills. Irresponsible? Maybe.
Fortunately, my husbands work isn’t far from our house and thankfully he doesn’t go through much gas. In any case, as you can imagine aside from a few times we’ve had windfall of a couple thousand for various reasons over this last year or so (which basically just gives us the ability to pay our portion of our medical bills and see family) I’ve been couponing my ass off and looking for creative ways to not spend money. My most recent idea – reusing my plant containers for trash cans around the house!
In doing research about the cost of raising a family today I was surprised, shocked and I guess you could say comforted to realize that even though I feel like we’ve been barely making it we aren’t really in different shoes then the rest of the country with 2 adults and 2 children. In one recent article I found on the Wall Street Journal – the average cost of childcare in my state is actually 120% of what it costs for instate college tuition! Can you believe that??!!
Backtracking to my original thought that it might be cheaper to raise a family elsewhere (which is actually one of the recommendations I found on a parenting website) another article, again from the Wall Street Journal, says that even in the cheapest place to raise a family in this country (Morristown, Tennessee) meeting basic needs will run you $49,114! Now, I’ve always been one skeptical of statistics, but based on my experience I find myself nodding my head to this information in agreement.
At the end of the day, I have decided that being frustrated and despairing about my current financial situation… even having thoughts about greener pastures… just isn’t realistic. Sure there are things we could do differently with our finances to be in a better position and more prepared for disaster, however, based on my research I’m finding that getting caught up in this idea (even if we had less debt) isn’t logical. It’s just expensive to raise a family period. Debt or no debt, even millionaires suffer the same “meeting the needs” costs as the rest of us.
The best we can do is to come to the realization that even with more resources these basic expenses are inevitable and be sympathetic to other young family’s struggles as a society. After all, according to other data I’ve seen the first 4 years of a child’s life are nearly the most expensive – with the only exception being years 18-21. From ages 5-17 the cost is nearly half or less than the other years, a comforting thought shedding a little light on the situation that is my current struggle and hopefully someone else’s too! What do you think? Is having a baby The Ultimate Money Pit? Hah. Ha…
Well it’s been a while hasn’t it?! (My apologies in advance this is going to be a bit of a rant.) I’ve been pretty busy with travel this summer. The Habanero has taken two trips this summer, one in June with the whole family and one in July with just mom. I’ve had a couple of visits this summer as well. It’s a lot of work as you may know if you’ve ever traveled with a tot under 2. Even just being home all the time with a little person, is a bit of work, especially when they want your attention most of the time (I don’t know how you stay at home mom’s keep your sanity!).
For my first post back, I thought I’d write about perceptions. Because, unfortunately I’ve been getting a lot of commentary from my family members lately about how I’ve become “lazy” and I “don’t clean up after myself” during my travels and at home. I’ve also been told that I don’t do much to help out the people I’m visiting. I’m not going to point any fingers or name any names but these are individuals who have never had the experience I’m currently living so it really shouldn’t bother me but it does.
Now, I don’t know about you… but when I go on vacation, even though I’m spending what little vacation time I get every year on seeing family, I still like to at least TRY to pretend I’m on vacation and take a little bit of break from my norm. My norm these days is a 40+ hour work week, at least 1 or 2 doctors appointments and then a weekend of quality time with my little guy, while his dad is sleeping and working. During the week, dad has class two nights a week during which we are also on our own. This amounts to a grand total of 2 evenings a week I get the pleasure of being with my husband for more than an hour or 2.
Suffice to say that with a husband working full time and going to school full time, I spend a lot of time on my own. If you’ve got a High Needs baby yourself you probably are very familiar with the idea that getting anything done when they are conscious in the way of chores or errands is basically mission impossible. My husband has all but given up on even trying to get anything accomplished when he’s home with the little guy (usually when I’m shopping or the Habanero is home from school sick).
What I mean by not being able to get anything done is, if I am trying to load the dishes in the dishwasher the little guy either “helps” by unloading everything I put in there, or if unloading he pushes the drawers in and stands on the door of the dishwasher when I’ve got my back turned, causing it to tip forward. Most parents I think have the problem of not being able to go to the bathroom alone… but if I close the door he sits outside crying and having a tantrum. If I leave the door open he takes off with my toilet paper. If I take him to the store or to a restaurant most the time I’m SOL because not only does he hate being confined to a cart or a high chair, the majority of the belts don’t extend far enough for him and they are too tight to actually buckle (he’s a big kid). So I’m pushing a cart, trying to hold him in it while putting things I need in the cart and trying to stop him from reaching back and throwing what I’ve put in the cart on the floor.
I end up with the kid that won’t sit still and I have to chase and or walk around the restaurant to entertain while dad and I take turns eating. Or, the store as it were. If in the cart, he likes to “shop” and add items to the cart for me when I’m busy which is always fun. Needless to say at this point I really try very hard not to go shopping with him or out to eat, which in the case of shopping means leaving him at home with dad.
For my time at home, my house is a disaster. And it’s not for lack of effort to clean or pick up, it’s because any cabinet that is unlocked or any piece of furniture with anything on it basically looks like it exploded all over the room after the little man gets done with it. I have lost the will to keep picking things up after him – I don’t even try anymore. Pretty much if I’m picking up it’s to clean and that’s because he’s sleeping. He takes every item he can, out of every storage device I own, every cabinet, every drawer. (And most of our stuff has child locks on it with the exception of 2 or 3 in the kitchen.) As you can imagine this is all pretty exhausting. So when I go on a trip and it takes everything I’ve got in me to just get through the airport, you can imagine I rely pretty heavily on whoever I’m visiting to help me out a bit when I arrive so I can get a break.
Apparently there are some people in my family (all my family with the exception of my father) that live out of state who think that me coming to visit means that I expect that everyone will do everything for me and I won’t have to lift a finger. Because most people have family close by to help out with their kids regularly I don’t think as big of a deal is made about it. But because they never see me and they don’t understand what I go through on a daily basis, it’s like an act of god for them to change my kids diaper for me. Despite the fact that I still do a lot when I am on a trip for my child – certain family members associate me visiting with a terrible inconvenience and follow up my trip by shit talking me to either my spouse or other family members about how I don’t do enough.
The irony of the term “Lazy Mom” is that as a parent I don’t believe there is any such thing. Certainly there are parents who are more laid back in their parenting style, there are some parents who are completely useless and make no effort to be part of their children’s lives… but for those of us who are here day in and day out and don’t have the help of family on a frequent basis I don’t think it’s fair to make any such accusation. You can’t be lazy and be an involved, caring, parent. Accusing someone of being a lazy parent in my mind is simply highlighting your insensitivity, inexperience, stupidity and maybe even bigotry.