Monday, May 6, 2013

Little surprises



My maternity leave has yielded some interesting surprises.  Number one, I'm surprised at how much I'm dreading going back to work.  I recognize that it is NOT feasible for me to stay home.  We need the income but the idea of leaving Little One in the care of someone else does not sit well with me, particularly because of how well I know the Early Childhood industry and I know what's available in my neck of the woods (not a hell of a lot).  I find myself having wrestling with the same internal drama that many working mothers before me have felt.  I know I need to work and, I love my work I might add, BUT, I feel completely guilty for returning to work.

The second little surprise that has come my way is how I have felt about (a) unsolicited advice and (b) other's need to comment on (a) the fact that I am now a "real" mom  and (b) the fact that "parenting isn't how it is in the books."  I expected these types of comments because of the tendency for folks view step parents as less than.

First, let me address the unsolicited advice thing:  feel free to keep giving it to me, but don't be surprised if I don't follow your advice.  Here's why:  all children develop differently and if I want child development information I will seek out information from the sources I choose.  If I have questions about something or want advice, I'll ask.  Otherwise, please keep your parenting advice to yourself.  So, why did this surprise me?  Well, because it is my JOB to give parenting advice.  Child development is my field of work and I give unsolicited advice all the time! I have always proceeded with caution when it came to giving advice because I suspected it would not be welcomed, but I was certainly surprised to discover how much I did NOT welcome it!  I also find it odd that I am getting all sorts of unsolicited advice now but no one seemed to have any advice when I became a bonus mom (which, in my opinion, is WAY more complicated and WAY more challenging than being a birth mom).

Next, let me address the need for others to comment how I feel about becoming a "real" mom and how I will soon see that parenting isn't how things are in the books.  

So, let's dive into those comments about me learning what "real" parenting is all about and how things don't go like they do in the books.  To me, this is one of those comments that means, "You think you know everything because of your education--well you don't."  Let me be very forward about something, my education had taught me a few really important things regarding child development and parenting.  First, all children are different.  Second, everyone has an opinion about what's best for young children and there is a lot of research to support all sorts of views (including my own and those views which oppose my own).

Second, here's how I feel about being a "real" mom:  (#1)  I have been a "real" mom since my husband and I got married.  While it is true that I did NOT deliver my bonus boy and bonus girl and I have no intention to try to replace their own mother (that would (a) be inappropriate and (b) just crazy), I have been "mothering them." I wipe tears, attend parent/teacher conferences, attend open house events, talk with them, discipline them, wash their clothes, cook their meals, etc.  (#2) One would certainly not say to a person who adopted they were not a "real" parent and I certainly don't appreciate being told that I have not been a "real" parent either.  I believe people make this comment meaning to really ask, "how does it feel now that you and your husband have a child together?"  Which is an entirely different question, in my opinion.  So to those of you who feel the need to ask me these things:  STOP.  Don't do it.  I do not like to differentiate between my Bonus children and Little One. All three of them are my children.  I care for them all.  I will wipe all their noses and wipe all their tears.  I have hopes and dreams for each of them and want only the best for them.  If you want to know what's different how that Little One has come into our lives, here's what I can tell you:  (a)  We all sleep a little less, (b) we all marvel at how Little One looks like her brother and her sister in different light, as well as how much she looks like her father and I, (c) we are learning how to balance our lives a little differently--Bonus Boy and Bonus Girl are with us a couple days at a time, Little One is with us always.  We have to figure out how to balance giving everyone enough attention and love--something that would happen no matter what kind of a mom I am.