Monday, September 21, 2015

Quitting my job ended up saving my marriage

Three months ago, it all began to change for us. I remember the breath I took as we pulled away from our apartment on June 23rd. I knew with that breath my life would never be the same. The three of us in the car, me forcing everyone to look at the screen of my iPhone to take a "first photo," my husband sighing because it was the first of thousands, our son in the back seat with his penguin hat on being, well, himself. There was no prediction as to what the next couple of months would bring for us. Before this day we knew so much had to change, and the months that lead up to it, so much had already changed. Most of it beyond out of our control. So I gave it all up. The full time job. The money. The title. The security. I left it all for one summer of the unknown to find something that we knew was missing.

As we drove over the bridge out of NYC, we cried. Our son cried because he was already bored and wanted the iPad. We cried because we knew that from that moment on we would start to heal, from so many things. While my initial decision months ago to leave my job started off for creative reasons, we both learned that wasn't just it. It was an opportunity to change for us all. Sometimes a rhythm works, sometimes it doesn't. Our love was always strong but our rhythm never seemed to sync for too long. We were giving up, falling into a new rhythm that worked only to keep our family together.

I get when people say they are marrying their best friend. It's your other half, the one who knows you better than anyone. And while my husband feels like my other half, he wasn't my best friend. We had only known each other five months before we got engaged. A whirlwind of a year later we were married. Ten months later, pregnant. Now we were partners in parenthood and it began to feel like that was it. Because of work, we barely saw each other. Because we're completely opposite people, we began to just do our own things. It worked. I got to experience what I love to do, as did he. We would share our worlds sometimes, but mostly to just support one another. And then we’d raise our beautiful son together.

Even raising a child together we sort of did separately. I was off weekends (sometimes) and he was off during the week. We have completely separate interests that we relate to our child with. While it’s great that our son can grow up passionately about the local baseball team, sharing that with dad, and takes weekend trips hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail with mum, our worlds involving our son are so different. We infrequently share any moments as a family of three. Even though it has worked for us, it began to make me sad that all my husband had of my weekend adventures was picture messages I’d sent him from our destinations.

Then came the affection. We have continuously told each other we love the other, but now it came as “I love you, but…” The moments we would get together, we began to argue more about what the other wasn’t doing at home or with our son, that all of our conversations quickly turned to aggression. We didn’t chose to fight. It just happened. When you get 45 minutes to speak a week about absolutely everything, the subject of why dirty dishes are still in the sink is going to rule that time. It was always me. I never washed the dishes. I was never home. And when I was, why would I want to wash dishes? I never realized how big of a deal this small thing was. I sort of wish I realized it a while ago.

So, after talking for a couple months about it, we decided I should quit my job. Not to stay at home, but more so I could just be home more often. It would also allow me to become creative again, a part of me I thought I was losing and so desperately needed to get back if I was going to be happy. We aren't rich. Ha! We barely make the middle class bracket. But for some reason, we thought it would be smart for me to leave the security of a job and steady pay check. It also gave our son a chance to stay home for the summer with me. He had just completed his first full year of school, and we thought giving him the summer off would be a good idea.

Things I never realized would change from me being home, did. I was happier from not having the stress of my full time job. I felt free. I took the summer to stay home with our son. Those ten weeks of sun, beach, traveling, exploring, were healing to both of our souls. Also, surprisingly, I got tan. Another thing I didn’t expect was the self-confidence I would get from being free and happy. I felt better about myself, opening up so much more for my mind and body. Gained self-confidence can lead to attraction. Now that we had more than 45 minutes a week to talk, we were able to enjoy time and each other more. From simply being able to watch a movie together, or putting the kid to bed early so we could “head to bed” early too (*wink wink*), those extra moments a week made a huge difference.

Dishes didn’t rule our conversations anymore. Even though it might still not be solved, we had time to do chores together, to help the other out. We also were available to give each other alone time. After being home all day with child, my husband would come home, give me chocolate and let me binge watch Netflix in the bedroom while he put our son to sleep. Early in mornings, he would sleep in while I made breakfast and entertained our early riser. These little moments helped each other relax, and completely helped me appreciate the partnership part of parenting even more.

Small simple changes made life-altering differences in both of our lives, apart and together. Our issues began to plateau. There wasn’t a feeling of steady descent anymore. In the past three months, I have felt more present in my marriage and life than I have before. While I’m not suggesting everyone should go out and quit their jobs, that life will be perfect and you marriage will flourish, I am saying it has begun to work for us. There are always complications with any big life change. Bills are eventually going to need to be paid, and hopefully this whole writing dream will also work out for me. But the foundation of family that I will always have to fall back on needs to also be strong. And now we're learning together what that all means. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Parenting 101: Uncensored Sacrasm

Being a parent is f*ing hard, and to be honest, outright a pain in the ass sometimes. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kid. Obviously. But seriously. It’s hard. There are those great moments when they actually ask to hold your hand and walk with you, instead of immediately jetting down the building stairs and out to the sidewalk before you realize their shorts might be on backwards. But most of the time I find myself screaming “RED LIGHT!!!” down the block at my free range kid, in hopes that he will stop. A mom can always hope right?

Speaking of “free range,” there are so many different types of parenting that are constantly debated back and forth every day between all these parents who think they have got their shit together. And maybe they do have their shit together, and I’m the only one who’s a mess. But to be honest, I’m not the one sounding like an asshole saying “I have my three month old sleep trained. I don’t understand why my best friend has such trouble with her four year old boy.” *rolling my eyes so far back in my head they may get stuck* But really there’s helicopter parents and free range parents. Well I’d love to throw another one into the mix. What about “Electric Fence” parenting? It’s kind of like the same thing as the electric fences for dogs. They don’t have any visual restrictions and the false confidence that they are able to roam freely. However, if they get too far for your parental liking *ZAP!*

I’m kidding. Obviously I’m not strapping a collar to my kid. I definitely understand kid leashes a lot more now than I ever did before though.

Then there is the entire subject of food. I have what would be considered a Self-Proclaimed Vegetarian. He refuses any meat even though he’s never tried it. “I can’t like it.” Really? You are a four year old and you can’t like a hotdog? No, you’re just being a pain in the ass because there is nothing else at this restaurant to order you besides a side order of French Fries and you know Mumma and Daddy are starving and will order them because we need to eat.. now. I never in the world thought I would have to argue with a child to take a bite of chicken nuggets! And while I bitch and moan about trying to bribe my healthy child with unhealthy food, most parents would think I’m crazy. Seriously, he will eat raw spinach and broccoli before even thinking about biting into a burger. But when you are out to eat, NO ONE is serving raw veggies on a plate. No one. Believe me. I have asked.

Then there is the whole parrot personality. This we learned happens even before they turn two. I can remember the moment when I took my eighteen month old child around the block to pick up some things in the pharmacy. As he began walking down an isle waddling and holding onto my wallet, I said “No sweetie, follow mumma this way.” He looked me dead in the eye, threw my wallet to the ground and said “Oh shit.” And the parrot phase began. I wish that was the worst of what he said. But then came the day that he was playing with his trains alone in his room and we heard “Choo choo, watch out. The fucking four train is coming through.” NO! Those are bad words! Don’t say that! Well that’s what I would have said, but I knew he heard everything he’s learned from my husband and me so that wasn’t going to work. Instead, I started to say, “No, that’s an adult word. When you are as big as daddy you can use it.” And it TOTALLY worked! Mumma -1, kid – well, he’s obviously still winning.

Also, why can’t kids learn what a hangover is early on, and how to not annoy but help a mumma through it. No? Fetching Tylenol and water isn’t something to teach your preschooler? Ok. Fine. I’ll wait until he’s a bit older then.

UGH! Then there’s the STRANGERS! Not the ones you need to warn your child about. (That is seriously my biggest fear and I cannot even begin to joke about “stranger danger.”) I’m talking about the random people on the sidewalk or in the grocery store who want to give you advice on your screaming child who just smacked you in the face because you wouldn’t buy him Apple Jacks. No, ma’am, I don’t care that you raised five children and that they never did anything like this and maybe he just needs some extra love and attention. I just played 7 hours of a Paw Patrol board game at home via his request. Now we have to do grocery shopping for the week and I’m obviously not putting sugar into my already rambunctious child. Also, HE is a boy. I know he has long hair and I know I didn’t brush it this morning. But to be honest, I didn’t feel like fighting. And I really think the dreads that are forming on the back of his head will make him the cool kid once school starts next week.

All jokes and complete sarcasm aside, parenting is hard. We’re all in it. Some of us deeper than others. I see a kid having a tantrum in the store, and I immediately look at the mother or father. Not to cast judgement, more to telepathically emit my sympathy. We’re all in it together. Some days are better than others. Most days we can’t complain at all. But it’s real. It’s hard. And it’s our lives. And, seriously, I wouldn’t change a minute of it. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Off the grid and on my own

I didn’t realize my strength, and insecurities, as a mother and a women until this week. On Tuesday, I took two bags and my four year old son on a train out of the city to hike and camp for two nights. While I have camped so many times I can’t count, I have never done so with just a backpack. Or a four year old. Or by myself. I carried a tent, two sleeping bags, changes of clothes, bathing suits, canned beans, apples, dried fruit, granola, and various other snacks. Vedder carried the first aid kit (which we already had to use on the train ride up state), more snacks, water bottles, phone charger, bathroom incidentals, bug spray, suntan lotion, and Baby Penguin. And we were off!

We took the train up to Cold Spring, NY and a taxi northeast to Clarence Fahnestock State Park. As we exited the car and strapped on our packs, I could see the campsites. I could also see nothing else. Well, let me rephrase that. I could see nothing else except the vast and amazing world of Mother Nature ready to swallow us up. No buildings, no beeping cars, no lights, no stores. Instead the smell of fires, the sounds of bugs and birds chirping, and the sight of tall green trees filled the clean, crisp air. I know that one sentence is like a sensory overload, but seriously, none of those words even begin to describe it. I texted my husband that we had arrived at the site and would try to call him tomorrow. Then I put my phone on airplane mode, and officially began my trip off-the-grid. (We did at points turn the phone back on to keep my husband updated that we were safe, but that was all.)

My first proud moment came immediately as we stepped on to our primitive camp site. I am doing this! I took the tent out of my pack and pitched it while Vedder played around the site. Then of course I made him take a picture in front of it like he was so proud of me, too. At that point, I was the only one I was trying to impress. And, boy, did I!

It was still early, so after we were all set up, we took a small hike around the grounds. There was a beautiful pond right next to our site with a trail around it. We began exploring. Vedder so badly wanted to go swimming, but the pond didn’t offer it, so he settled for sitting by the water. We sat and talked. I will take that moment, and every moment from this trip, with me every day. That’s the type of moment I will look back on when he’s screaming and crying and throwing an epic tantrum in the middle of the sidewalk because I won’t let him go to the bodega that gives him free lollipops. And while I take a deep breath in my strong stance against what seems to be the entire spirit of the Lollipop guild rolled up into one little boy, I will remember that moment by the pond, where he asked me to sit and talk with him for a bit. I will remember how my little boy just wanted his mumma to listen and answer all his questions of the world around us. That one, beautiful moment.

Soon that moment had left us, and we were back at our site, ready for dinner. This is when I found myself challenged, and losing.. terribly. I had planned beans and apples, yams and crackers for our dinners. I quickly learned something that would hault me from ever really ever being able to survive in the woods alone. I couldn’t start a fire! I tried and tried and tried. Nothing. A hungry and anxious boy calmly cheered me on. “Mumma, you can do it!” I keep telling myself that too. I can do this! No I couldn’t. I quickly cut apple slices and carrots for V to keep his supportive chants coming. And after what felt like an hour but was probably only fifteen more minutes, I gave up. I felt so defeated. But I had enough dry food for us to enjoy for the first night, so I smiled at Vedder, strapped on our head lamps and told him we were going to eat by “headlight.”

After dinner, we settled into our tent. I unzipped both of our sleeping bags so we could cuddle and keep warm. Even though it is 90 all day, when it gets down to 65 at night, it’s a bit chillier than you would think. Thankfully my family is made of avid campers and my brother had warned me of such. So we laid down, took turned telling bedtime stories, and Vedder slowly dozed off.  

One would think, I too would be relaxing and resting up for the next day of hiking and swimming I had planned. It was quite the opposite. OH MY GOD! WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING ALONE IN THE WOODS WITH MY SON?! WHAT IF A BEAR COMES?! WORSE YET! WHAT IF A CRAZY PERSON SAW THIS MOM AND SON ALL BY THEMSELVES?! EASY TARGETS! AHHHHHH! 

Seriously. My crazy brain thought all of this all night long. In between what was maybe 20 minute catnaps, I kept waking up paranoid. This is insane. I need to sleep. THIS IS NOT INSANE! SOMETHING OR SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET US! Why all of a sudden was I doubting myself? I had been waiting for this trip forever. It was our first trip alone without anyone. No husband, no family, no friends. Just me and V. And instead of falling asleep next to the peaceful boy next to me, my brain was freaking out! Well, obviously we survived that night just fine. No bears or random serial killers. Vedder slept 11.5 hours! I slept maybe 2. But like I said, we survived.

Knowing we survived, I felt like I could rule the world our second day. I woke early, got biscuit cookies and apples for breakfast. Tried to start the fire again. Failed again. But not as knocking to my ego as the night before. I woke V and we sat and enjoyed the quiet morning air. A father and son we had met on our hike the day before, came to our site to see if we wanted to join for another. So we did! We hiked the entire lap around the pond, seeing beavers swim and sunbathe on their damn. We stumbled upon miners using pulley and drill tools to test the soil deep below. We found trees downed all over the outside of the pond with teeth marks that we linked to the furry sunbathers. Frogs and other creatures were spotted throughout our morning as well. I felt like I was ten again, when I loved science before it was a subject I repeatedly failed in school. The middle part of the day continued to be filled with adventure of swimming with fish in the lake and taking a rowboat out around the water.

After using our cash at the beach concession stand for hotdogs and grilled cheese (because let’s be honest, a “warm” meal for dinner was not something to bet on with my fire skills), we contemplated trying to hike a little of the AT. There was a path from the lake up to meet the Appalachian Trail, and I had specifically picked this area for it. Vedder and I had hiked a small section earlier in the year at Bear Mountain, and we wanted to add another part of the trail to our list. I was so torn. We were both obviously tired. Hiking, swimming, boating for already at least five hours that day, in 85◦ heat was enough for us. But with Vedder’s unexpected, and possibly misunderstood, declaration of having “one thousand energies,” we started stepping.

It was obvious very early into hiking up the blue trail that he was tired. And so was I. That’s why when I kept us going, it really pulled on me both ways. While part of me hated that I was pushing him (and myself) beyond our limits, the other part of me thought, push harder. I have read tons of sites that say to have the kids lead. And I usually do. I want Vedder to see the trails through his eyes, not just as my back. But this time I pushed. And pushed. There were tears, people. And my heart felt awful, but I didn’t stop us. And it wasn’t until we reached the peak and I lifted him and he gasped, that I finally felt ok with my decision. I stood there holding him. Our heads being able to look over the tops of trees and we both took deep breaths. “Wow, mumma. You can see… everything!”

Looking back at this, I want to cry. Tears and gritted teeth guiding us over rocks, up paths that were the width of my boot, stumbling over roots, and loosing footing over shaky gravel. And as we looked all over the other mountains and lake, stepping on the AT marker, I thought “Wow, I can feel it all too.” This was definitely not the longest hike; it took us maybe 45 minutes. However, it was the most challenging.

And for me, it spoke volumes beyond the actual moment. How often do we push, or not push ourselves, through the tears and skinned knees of parenthood. Sometimes I give in too quickly or don’t pursue something different or difficult because I am afraid of how it will affect me or Vedder. I didn’t this time. And that view, that step to the top, was the most rewarding moment of this whole trip. I can still feel the breath we took at the top deep in my chest.

Needless to say, Vedder and I both slept like babies the second night. No!  I take that back! Babies don’t sleep!! We slept like.. two people who had hiked and swam and boated and hiked and conquered the world in nine short/long hours.

Oh I forgot one thing! We DID have a campfire the second night. No thanks to me being able to light one on my own. However, part of life is sometimes asking for help from others. So that’s what I did. I went to the site next to us and asked for someone to help me light the fire. Their fourteen year old daughter came to our rescue.

After dinner, we “washed up” as well as we could, and fell asleep telling stories.

This morning I woke with a stiffening pain. I have PCOS and Endometriosis. And you can just imagine how amazing I felt after living in the woods for two days and waking up to severe cramps, my period, and knowing I wouldn’t be back in my own home for another 10 to 12 hours. No drugs to help, or anything for that matter, I knew I would just have to deal. Vedder woke up around 8:30, we ate granola for breakfast, tried to “wash up” again the best we could, and began packing our stuff.

F, YEAH! I thought as I folded and packed up the tent. I did this. I did it on my own. And with every challenge that could have sent me home, I didn’t go. I stayed and accomplished everything I could do on my own, and showed my son how strong I am too.

We finished packing back up our two bags, headed back to Cold Spring, ate a nice lunch (and drank hot yummy coffee!), walked around the town, got ice cream, and headed back on the 3:20 train to NYC.

I have no clue if Vedder’s four year old brain will remember this weekend. That’s why I photodocument our entire lives! We will have the photos to look through and remind ourselves of this trip. But I am so thankful for what it all unexpectedly showed me. I honestly feel like this weekend has made me a prouder woman and a stronger mum. And that’s what the photos will remind me of, the time I rocked it off the grid and on my own!