Saturday, 17 November 2018

Parenting and marriage are not inherently compatible

I’m single-parenting tonight, and trying to avoid election coverage (scarred from 2016? yes), so thought I might dust the cobwebs off of this old blog and write about something near and dear to my heart: kids + marriage = tailspin?! 

Important to note: my kids are the most important and best things that have ever happened to me, and I regularly kill spiders with my bare hands to protect them. If needed, I would kill crocodiles or carry them across hot coals; the below should not be interpreted as my having any regrets whatsoever at having them.

Now. Oh my god. No one warned me. I mean, there is perhaps no adequate way of warning people what it will be like to have kids – I’m sure it’s different for everyone (if the vast differences between my two kids are any indication). 


An apparently universal problem that women in my general generation seem to have (based on my discussions, with a sample size of around 25ish) is that having a kid is FUCKING HARD ON A MARRIAGE. Nearly everyone I know with kids either did get, or considered getting, divorced the first year after their kid was born. Not one of these women regretted having a kid, but they suddenly wondered: who the freaking hell did I marry? 

My brain: "I can do this, right? Please children do not try to leap out. OMG this is NOT STRESSFUL. I am having SO MUCH FUN. Just keep thinking it."

I say that this appears to be somewhat specific to my generation only because older women I’ve spoken to did not have the same universal “Oh fuck, TOTALLY” reaction as have the younger women, when discussing the sudden feeling that we had been hoodwinked. We got married to someone who loved us for our independence and drive, but then apparently expected us to immediately throw those things out the window once the kids came along and it became abundantly obvious that children require a LOT of attention. 

Sorry, older generation, but I partially blame you. You spent our childhoods encouraging us girls to do anything – we could be doctors, lawyers, astronauts! We could become the CEO of an important company, or sail around the world by ourselves! We could climb Everest and spelunk into caves in the deep jungle. 

But you forgot to tell us that these things are not effortlessly compatible with having children. And likewise, that without having a wife at home with the kids, it would make our partner’s lives difficult to pursue his own ambitions. And wow is it just a great way to ferment bitterness (I’m not sure I’ll ever get over my hubby thinking it is “fair” that he has gotten to go on several boys’ surf trips post-kids while I have “gotten” to go on work trips). 

My particular older-generation relatives have been AMAZINGLY supportive post-kids (to make up for their lack of appropriate warnings that led both my husband and I to run head-long into careers that make it really hard to have kids and not totally freak out from stress?). Our parents have taken weeks and weeks out of their lives to come to our house (in some cases across the country and/or ocean!) to help while one of us was away, and have come with me on work trips to care for the kids. This has allowed us to pursue our not-very-kid-compatible careers. This is wonderful, but not everyone has this kind of support network (which requires both available time and MONEY). 

While telling us girls that we could do anything, y’all also forgot to teach the boys that in order for girls to be able to do anything and everything, they have to STEP IT UP in the parenting department. This doesn’t mean changing a diaper now and then, or wearing your baby on a monthly walk, and then sitting back and receiving praise for being SO involved. Nor does it mean playing with the kids while your wife does the housework. No, this means DOING ALL THE THINGS required to keep the household running while mom is doing non-kid-compatible things like working, going surfing, or getting a massage (maybe take a play out of the Aka tribe’s book?). 

While as a kid the idea of being a pharmacist or an optometrist was not as exciting as my goal to become a marine scientist, those jobs are – as I’ve learned from speaking to ladies in these jobs with grown kids – rather compatible with kids. It’s apparently fine to take time off and/or go back to work part-time without falling behind your colleagues and becoming non-competitive for jobs! What?! Plus, hours are flexible, allowing you to hang out with your kids in the morning when they are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and then maybe start work at nap time and let someone else hang out with them for the witching hour. Gosh, that sounds refreshing. 

Maybe I still wouldn’t have chosen that path, had I known, but hot damn I would have liked to have made more informed decisions about my life trajectory. 
An example of a non-kid-compatible activity that is our preferred way to spend time together: floating down a possibly freshwater-croc infested hot-spring river in the Northern Territory.

So, what do we do?

Here are my suggestions:

1.   Hang in there through the post-baby relationship nose-dive. You guys got married because you liked each other. You probably still do, it’s just really hard and different. But it gets easier as the kids get older and less demanding. I found that the 1stbirthday was a massive turning point for us. 2.    Get help. I hear great things about family therapy to help with #1. I’ve benefited from personal counseling as well, because I’m inherently neurotic and hard to live with, thus making the above harder. J
3.    Know you aren’t alone. Your marriage/parenting struggles are (unfortunately) really common and do not necessarily spell doom.
4.    Talk about it with your partner. It’s shocking to me how many times I’ve made assumptions that were contradicted when I finally clearly articulated how I felt. Example: I felt like I was expected to quit my job and become a stay at home mom, but my husband literally laughed and told me he agreed I would suck at that.
5.    Talk about it with your mom friends. I fucking love complaining. It makes it easier to deal with problems.
6.    Teach your boys to step up. Talk about these issues, and brainstorm ways to make them better. Teach them how to do housework (ahem, note to self).
7.    Let your partner parent. It’s tempting to have one person (usually mom) become the default parent and for them to make the decisions. But it’s not fair. I have had to literally just leave the house to prevent myself from meddling when I think my husband isn’t “doing it right,” but hot damn ladies, if we want our partners to step it up, we have to LET THEM.

This post was finished while on the train to my brother and his fiancĂ©’s baby shower. I admit I am worried for them – they are living in different places right now, and he’s in grad school. These things are already really stressful. But, my brother was also one of the first people I left my first infant with alone – he is amazing and I know he will be a fantastic dad. So, this post is also one gift from me for their baby shower, so they can’t say I didn’t warn them!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

It's the little text messages

Our country is a dumpster fire, and it's been hard not to get swept up in constant anger, embarrassment and fear. But it helps to remind myself that most people are good, and that I know a lot of really amazing, good people who care and who make the world a better place. Today I've decided to share just a small sliver of these folks with you, via text messages. 

When I retired an old phone years ago, I decided to scroll through and write down some of my favorite texts I had received on that phone (from 2007-2010). These are shared here, totally out of context, but in hopes that they might give you a little smile as well. The photos have nothing to do with anything, but I think they are funny. Thanks to all my friends and family who make my life brighter.

“Hey! at saloon and they played red neck woman. r u coming to our bbq?”

“Hay 6 amigos aqui. F also on way.” 
Marine biologists eaten by kelp off Pt Loma

“Save the date…Aug. 25!”

“Mick fanning is world champion”

“Ladies who hike. Depart 3:00 from coast. Do it for jesus.”

“Keep Tahoe Oligotrophic!”

“You plan. I follow. Shoe situation is go. See you round 5 ish!”

“Neighbors, we got needs, plz call if’n can.”

“Yes we can…Bitches.”

“I am done! Woo hooo xoxo”

“It’s a girl! No pink items please!”

“P’s heart looks good! YAY!!!”

“I’m out! But I had a blast!”

“Happy birthday darling! Have a wonderful one!”

“Rock it Jess! Ill see u at 5!”

“Just want to say how much I love you!!!”

“Hey y’all! I passed my state board exam!”

“That it incredibly cool and exciting!!! Now we can have our real “doctor to doctor” chats! (this is a real phrase in my business!) xxoxo”

“Yes, one needs LOTS of reading material to not go insane…”

“Spoon!! (god I am funny)”
Australians are hilarious

“Knoon!!! Fove! I think the health care system could use an overhaul. Don’t you? A new idea?! Should I email our pres with the suggestion?”

“Ah, the famous “c” and “d” words!! Glad someone is looking out for us and protecting us!! Xxo”

“I must have totally misread the schedule because I’m sitting on the only train of the morning! Thanks for taking me early!”

“ladies. coast retirement is no more. en route to brazil, I am unwritten. live your life with arms wide open. ;) love to all.”

“I’m in labor!! P should be arriving today :)”

“4:57 am this morning! She’s so beautiful!! 7 lb 2oz, 20 inches long!”

“Had bebe at 2am, a girl. AJB. 7lb 15oz, 55cm long”

“Oh I love typos!! They are the most fin. Hee hee that was a mistake but I am leaving it. Give the girls huge hugs!!”

“Hey :) Just a heads up that it will just be me at the airport. M booked his flight to sac by accident”

“Death to the turkeys”

“Well at least it’s just turkeys, not Indians…”

“Today I am so thankful to be surrounded by amazing, smart, empathetic, loyal women like you who make my life complete!”

“C and I are engaged :-) Happened yesterday on a hike in big bear”
Photobooth weirdness + kids = joy

“Get behind a real team. Like the 9ers! Love D and A”

“Yea but the 9ers have 5 superbowls. Exactly how many do the Chargers have? I think it’s a number less than 1”

“Wow. I was at SFO at 830PST. I think we should CC each other on every itinerary email from now on! Ridiculous!! :)”

“Going shredding right out front sometime around 5ish.”

“Save me a piece! Love you!”

“Haha wow taking over ucsd one window at a time!”

“Bbq and evening surf north side Scripps at 4-5.”

“Got it all! The best part was when he looked at the order and said “Whoa…” in awe”

Now go send someone a quick message and spread some smiles to crowd out the darkness...and then give someone a hug, too, for good measure. :)

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Best Mac-N-Cheese Ever™

Well hello, there! I just excavated this website out of layers of cobwebs, because I have something very, very important to share with you: the best Mac-N-Cheese recipe, ever. 

Yes, the rumors are true: while I am an amazing scientist, world-class surfer, and perfect mom, I am also an AMAZING cook. My favorite time to cook is at the end of a long day at work, preferably one kicked off by getting up at 4:45 am to hit to gym to maintain (since it’s impossible to improve!) my incredible physique. My favorite people to cook for? My kids, of course! They LOVE my cooking, always. No matter what fantastic new and exciting dish I create, they devour it with delight and thank me for nourishing them with such loving skill. 

[The photo I would have placed here would have demonstrated how amazing I am as a cook/mom/everything, but I didn't want to make anyone super jealous]

Now, dear readers, my gift to you is to share at least some of this radical life-success with you, by letting you in on my Mac-N-Cheese making secrets. Get ready to revolutionize your cooking game by following these 15 easy steps!

1.     Assemble your ingredients and supplies 

Ingredients:                                                                         Supplies:
Mac-N-Cheese box (preferably the orange kind).              Pot
Water                                                                                  Cup
Pat of butter                                                                        Butter knife & spoon
Glug of milk                                                                         Strainer

2.    Pour around 4 cups of water into the pot, and set it to boil.
3.    Open the Mac-N-Cheese box, and remove the Cheese packet.
4.    When the water is boiling, add the pasta to the boiling water (I almost typed “Mac” instead of pasta, but wouldn’t want you to throw your computer in to boil, so I called it “pasta”. Here, “pasta” refers to the “Mac” in “Mac-N-Cheese”, in case that nuance was too confusing).
5.    Now, here’s the important part: empty the packet of Cheese into the cup.
6.    Pour a glug of milk into the cup.
7.    Stir with the butter knife to combine into a nice, thick paste, about the consistency of yogurt. If you added too much milk, that sucks. If you didn’t add enough, glug in a little more and stir.
8.    Wipe the excess reconstituted super amazing Cheese-sauce off the side of the butter knife back into the cup.
Revolutionary step #1
9.    Second important/revolutionary part: Use the butter knife to cut a pat of butter off of your stick or out of your butter-like-substance container, if that’s your bag. Place the knife+butter on the counter near the sink.
Amazing piece of advice #2
10.  Check the pasta for done-ness by fishing out a piece with the spoon, running it under cold water, and tasting it. It’s done when it has absolutely no texture left, whatsoever. Kids are allergic to texture.
11.  When the pasta is sufficiently done, run cold water into your sink so you don’t melt your pipes, and then drain the pasta into a colander adjacent to the stream of water. Don’t rinse the pot or the pasta with the water.
12.  Next, possibly the best advice of this entire blog post: tip the pat of butter off of the waiting butter knife into the empty, but still hot pot. Swirl it around so it melts and coats the bottom of the pot.
Supremely important advice #3
13.  Shake around the pasta in the colander so it’s not too soggy, and then pour it back into the butter-coated pot. 
14.  Place the pot back on the stove now, or some other heat-proof surface where the hot pot won’t fuck up your counter. 
15.  Use the butter knife to scrape the prepared Cheese sauce onto your Mac (the pasta! not your computer!), and then use the same knife or your pasta-doneness spoon to stir it all together until each pasta piece is evenly coated in delicious orange goo.
Do not forget to serve the Mac-N-Cheese in identical dishes, to avoid the fairness fight that is otherwise sure to ensue

The technique I have selflessly shared with you tonight will create beautiful, rich Mac-N-Cheese comprised of well-cooked pasta that is properly favored with reconstituted supple cheese sauce without burnt, dried out pasta, dry clumps of cheese-flavored powder, and naked bits of pasta that invariably result from following the instructions on the Mac-N-Cheese package.  

I hope you enjoy basking in the adoration of your offspring after you present to them the Best Mac-N-Cheese Ever™. I humbly accept your undying gratitude. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

How women experience parenthood differently from men: Part 3 – the other bits.

In parts 1 and 2 of this blog post extravaganza, I discussed the parts of the body that women have for making and feeding babies that men don't. Here, I'll talk about the parts that men DO have, yet don't get traumatized by childbearing in men as they do in women. Remember, because we are women and we are already considered inferior in many jobs, we have to endure these physical pleasantries without complaint for fear of giving a bona-fide reason for men to think we aren't up for the job.
"Yes, of course Gary, I already took care of it."
Ye Olde Urination/Excretion System
The urination system consists of a bag-shaped organ called the bladder that sits under the uterus, and a tube called the urethra that comes out in front of the vagina to let the pee out (and probably other parts, but I'm not that kind of doctor). The excretion system (guts) is a long squishy tube all folded up in a heap above and behind the uterus that comes out the you-know-what.

Did you know that typically the urethra gets bruised while giving birth vaginally, even for women who gave birth without an epidural and associated catheter, such that it is painful for weeks afterward? It’s true! Gosh, women are so lucky to experience such unique and interesting physical events.

While pregnant, the bladder gets seriously abused. The growing baby pushes on it and kicks it, and hormonal changes create the urgency to pee constantly, even before that time as well. During pregnancy and after birth, many women also experience incontinence – whether it be just small leakages of pee associated with laughing and sneezing, or complete lack of bladder control associated with pelvic floor trauma. Imagine the trunk of a person’s body as a can: because women have a hole in the bottom of our can that needs to open up wide enough to let a baby out, the bottom of our can has been completely cut off and covered by muscles that weaken and stretch out during and after pregnancy. This means we can’t hold in our pee as well, and also means that our bladders, uterus, and even our guts can literally fall out of our stretched-out baby hole. This is called a prolapse and it is freaking horrifying.

Can you go for a run or jump on a trampoline with your kids without fear of peeing all over the place and/or checking to make sure you have the proper absorptive items in place to prevent said pee from running down your legs? No? Welcome to the club. 
"I can no longer sit on our white couch without fear of leaking pee onto it, so we all just hang out on the floor as a family now. It's quite pleasant!"

You know how the baby grows in the uterus, and gets pretty gigantic? In that uterus is also a thick layer of blood, like we discussed, and a big jellyfish thing called a placenta. All of these bits take up a lot of space, and as they grow larger, various organs including the bladder and the intestines get very smooshed. As the intestines get all squarshed up, it unsurprisingly messes with a woman’s digestion. We get to experience all sorts of weird poop and farting issues while pregnant, as well as often debilitating heartburn. I won’t go into more detail, but let’s just say it’s unpleasant, like the rest of childbearing.

Ye Olde Ability to Sleep
Ok, this isn’t a particular organ, but more of a whole-body/brain/hormones thing.

Lack of sleep is a famous part of having an infant. But did you know it often starts during pregnancy? It’s super difficult to sleep with a live bowling ball stuffed inside of you, kicking you in the bladder, diaphragm, and cervix while you are trying to sleep through an overactive bladder and heartburn. Once the baby is born, it’s often no longer your own body (or your body’s reaction to the baby kicking you) that wakes you up – it’s the baby crying for something or another. A lucky mother might have a partner willing to sacrifice his or her own sleep to get up and attend to the baby, and let the mother sleep. This was not so much the case for me, since my husband could sleep through an air raid siren and also has a much higher tolerance for crying than I do. My kids now generally only wake up once a night, so I mostly sleep fairly well, but I admit I looked forward to my post-baby hernia surgery simply for the general anesthetic nap.
"I no longer remember how to sleep, so I use the nights to hand-crate the decor for my daughter's nursery while she kicks my diaphragm - it's such wonderful bonding."

Notice here in this series of blog posts, I generally didn’t mention anything about parenting that isn’t directly tied to biology. This is because it is totally possible for a partner who didn’t give birth, isn’t breastfeeding, and whose body didn’t get torn up by these activities to be fully engaged and to share the parenting responsibilities equally.

So why do I think it’s fair that women get a helping hand to succeed in their careers post-baby? Well, aside from the physical difficulties women experience (most of which aren’t dealt with in any equitable way – we don’t get naps at work while pregnant, for instance), we also tend to do more and more annoying childcare, household management, and housework once we have kids – even in families where the dads WANT to be, and THINK they are being egalitarian. It’s kind of a raw deal trying to be a mom and succeeding at the rest of life, so I think we deserve all the help we can get. If that help comes in the form of partners who take on more of the burden to offset the physical and emotional labor that women put into childrearing, that’s all well and good. But until that happens for realsies, a little money for moms to hire someone to help around the house is a great start.

I'm sure I'm forgetting more unpleasantries associated with the biological production of babies, so feel free to add them in the comments!