Check out the post on Medium.
Confession of the day: I am notorious at almost finishing articles. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. You browse the ‘net and you see an interesting article that you want to read. But as many parents face this all-too-common dilemma, time doesn’t allow you to finish. Rather, your kids don’t allow you to finish.
So what do you do? In my case, I leave the article(s) open on my phone’s Safari browser. That browser gets inundated with more open web sites than it knows what to do with. The other night, as I’m making an effort to clear out my baggage, I came upon this article about parental fear. The points made in this article is relatable–that parents, especially new ones, have this innate fear of their child getting hurt and it reminded me about the time that it happened to me…and my husband. It made me wonder–why the hell didn’t anyone tell me about this?!?!
It was perhaps fall of 2013, when Lily was about five or six months. She had reached the semi-mobile stage where she could roll over and lift her head up sturdily. One day while I was at work, I got a call from my husband. He sounded frantic on the phone as he explained what had just happened to our daughter, making it sound like she was almost near death.
“Oh my god! Lily just fell off the bed.” Ahh, those magic words. I was immediately alarmed.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I just left the room for maybe a minute, or two tops, and then I hear this screaming. I left her on the bed so I can go grab something…and next thing I know, she’s off the bed!”
“Oh. My. God. That’s terrible!” I exclaimed. “Is she okay?”
“She’s freaked out, crying. And then your mom came rushing into the room and starting rubbing tiger balm on her. What the fuck.”
[disclosure: this is probably not the exact words spoken by us, but it was pretty darn close].
At this particular point in time, I faced a personal dilemma. One side of me said, “Tell him that it’s not the first time she’s fallen off the bed. Tell him that it happened to you too.”
But the other side (the devil side) said, “Hell no! You’re crazy if you tell him that! You gotta make yourself look like the good parent by NOT disclosing your bad decisions.”
The good side of me responded with, “Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy. You tell him that it already happened, at least you’ll feel a bond, a connection because you understand what he’s going through right now.”
The devil side retorted with, “That’s just baloney, and you know it.”
Do I tell him? Do I tell him? I was being pulled in two different directions by two separate forces.
Guess which side won? The devil side.
I decided to keep my mouth shut and uttered my condolences to my husband, who reacted like any new parent would–with feelings of horror and guilt, that they’re the worst parent ever, that their kid might possibly be heading towards a brain injury.
It’s exactly the same kind of feeling that I felt when it happened to me. Just a short period of time (perhaps a month or so) before it happened to my husband, I was at home by myself with Lily. With the naivete of a new parent who didn’t think their kid was capable of rolling any further than two inches, I put her in the middle of the bed. Mind you, it was at least two inches inward from the edge. Our bed was about three feet off the ground and rested on top of hardwood floors. Yikes. If we had carpet, the fall wouldn’t have been so bad, but we had hardwood floors and there was no rug underneath or anywhere near the bed. Just a clear landing for my little girl.
I needed to grab a diaper for her, so I went into the other room, where we kept our diapering supplies to get one. I thought she was safe where she was, but within a minute I hear this awful scream. My heart had palpitations as I walked into the room and discovered that she had fallen off the bed.
How the heck did that happen?? I asked myself. After all, I wasn’t gone that long. How did she manage to get that far?
Luckily, her landing was perfect, just like the landing on the moon. She was inches away from hitting the foot of the crib, spared from brain injury. She landed on the floor with a quick thud, and a shocked expression, but that’s about it. She cried and cried and cried, and I picked her up and consoled her for what felt like forever. The whole time I’m holding her, I thought to myself, “Man, I am the WORST parent ever. How did I let this happen? And how on earth could she have rolled that far? What the hell!”
Guilt and indignation followed me the rest of the day. So, when my husband called me to confess right after it happened, I was faced with the dilemma and even more shame, because I didn’t tell him right away. I kept it zipped up, because you know, she was fine. We were both fine several hours later. No harm, right? Besides, I didn’t want to make myself look like the bad parent.
I told myself that if I ever have another kid, I would make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I was wrong. It happened to James after he started rolling over too.
It’s an inevitable truth that one day, your child will hurt themselves and you won’t be there to prevent it. And it happens sooner than you think. It happens when they’re little. Life does that to you, just to test your morals. It’s like the devil saying, “How do you like them apples?”
Now that I’ve been a parent for five years, with two kids who’ve managed to roll off the bed under my watch, I can say that it’s one of those things that affects parents way more than it affects the kids. What no one tells you before you become a parent is that kids are more resilient than you think. We’re all made to believe that babies are fragile–and yes, some of them really are–but in general healthy, normal babies will do things that are normal in their development, but terrifying to the parents who raise them. They roll off the bed, fall into things, touch things that are dangerous, so on and so forth. As a parent, we feel the need to protect our kids from all harm’s way, and while that’s good in theory, it’s impossible to do. After all, one day your baby will no longer be a baby–he/she will grow up and go out into the world, and they’re going to get hurt, no matter what they do, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Just like how there’s no way to preventing falls, or bruises, cuts, etc. there’s no way to prevent hurt. And it’s not the fact that it happens, it’s what you do afterwards that matters. I may have felt terrible for “allowing” my daughter to fall off the bed, or my son to do the same, but then again, I was there to console them afterwards. I checked to make sure they didn’t have any signs of physical trauma, and then held them for awhile after it happened. I think that is really the best thing that you can do as a parent.
Last year, I was talking to an old coworker of mine and she mentioned how terrified she was of her daughter beginning to roll over. I chuckled…quietly, of course. As the devil would have it, I didn’t tell her that her daughter will probably roll off the bed at some point, or do something to get hurt, because I didn’t want to scare her. She was a new parent. It’s not something I’m proud of doing, but I can remedy that by telling all new parents–if you are one of them–that it’s going to be okay. Things will happen, but kids are not china dishes. They’re strong, resilient, and they will survive, but their survival depends on you. You are the force that can help them get back up.
How the work landscape has changed in the past few decades
It’s an obvious path — you finish high school, go to college, finish college and then start working. Then you work for a certain amount of years before you get married and have children. Once the children come, what happens next?
I’ll admit, I never gave much thought to the decision on how or who should be responsible for the upbringing of my kids once I have them. Because my path was so typical (as mentioned above) it wasn’t until I had my first child that the thought of going back to work was incredibly difficult for me. The thought of being away from my child for many hours in a day was terrifying, but the thought of not having enough income was also daunting, now that I have another mouth to feed.
At that time, I had the help of my mother. Thankfully, she came to my rescue. She watched my daughter for eight hours a day while I went back to work full time, even though she was still working herself — she did the graveyard shift four days a week at a food production company and came home in the early hours of the morning, babysat my child and slept whenever the baby slept. This was incredibly difficult for her as she was nearing her mid-sixties and almost at retirement age. Luckily, she did retire several months later.
Whereas I feel like I had a choice to back to work or not, my mom has been working her whole life. For more than thirty years, she braved a variety of manual labor jobs, from being a food vendor, carrying all her pre-made food in two large baskets straddled between her shoulders, to working in a freezing cold environment preparing meals for airlines, she has done the hard work, the kind of work that I simply cannot imagine doing for more than a year. And that is simply because educational opportunities weren’t readily available for her during her youth (we lived in a third world country); hence, when one doesn’t have the education to obtain office or administrative jobs, one ends up doing manual labor that is a test on their physical self.
But for many women like my mom, who chose to go to work, the choice to go to work isn’t so much of a choice — it’s a necessity that is detrimental to their personal life. In a recently published HBR article, written by a professor at ESSEC Business School France, it identified four different perspectives on work-life balance — a hot topic in today’s world.
The author states that our perceptions on work & life are impacted by what you saw your parents do while growing up. Based on what people experienced, they typically fall into one of four categories.
A) Intentionally adopt their parents model completely
B) Intentionally reject their parents model completely
C) Unintentionally adopt their parents model
D) Unintentionally reject their parents model
While I do agree with the findings of the author, I also think that is quite skewed in the scheme of studies. She only studied 78 parents and conducted 148 interviews to people who work in two specific industries — law and accounting (ahem, only people who are middle or upper middle class) and between the ages of 30 to 50 years old. This study clearly does not take into consideration people like my mom, who fell into the “lower income” category for many years and did not have an appropriate educational level to be qualified to work in law or accounting.
Now, it doesn’t take a college degree or research to tell you that the results are clearly and blatantly obvious. While I don’t believe that I fall directly into one of the categories, I do believe that I have had mixed perceptions about work and life balance. Several years ago, when my first child was born, I would’ve fallen into the “Unintentionally reject their parents model” scheme of things. My perception of my parents’ choices to generate income was skewed in the fact that I had more time with one parent versus the other, and I equated that with their level of love for me.
You see, because my mother worked a lot, more than ten hours a day, six days a week (because we were so poor), I saw my father a lot more. He was always around, but there was always a sense of disdain coming from my mom because my dad was what you would call “a starving artist.” He was a poet, a writer, and a comedian (not a professional one though). He could make everyone laugh, write fantastic poems & stories, and be the life of the party, but when it came to making money, he wasn’t so good at keeping jobs. Needless to say, my mom was the more reliable person who could keep on going with her job. It’s the type of tenacity that took me awhile to appreciate.
When I was young, I felt a sense of resentment towards my mom because she was never around. This feeling lasted all the way through early adulthood. It wasn’t until I became a working mom myself that I understood the need for her to work — because my dad wasn’t the main breadwinner in our family, she had to be. She was forced to be in a position that wasn’t so typical in our society back then. I don’t think she wanted to be a working mom at all. I think she wanted to be like all the other mothers, her sisters and sisters-in-law, who relied on their husbands to make the money so they could stay home and take care of their children.
So, yes, my perception of work-life balance is truly impacted by what I saw growing up. I knew that I didn’t want to be away from my kids all the time, but at the same time, I enjoyed going to work. I still do. It took me awhile to realize that going to work and being away from my kids is actually a beneficial thing for me and for them, for it allows me the opportunity to provide for them — you need money to pay bills and provide food & shelter, after all — plus, as the cliché mentions “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” I’ve found that I truly miss them and want nothing more than to be with them at the end of the day.
But back to the study — while there were valid points made, I also think there needs to be more studies done to broaden the horizon for work life balance perception from all aspects of life. To only ask a person who makes $80,000 a year whether or not it’s a challenge for them to work all the time is frankly, not great data to rely on, especially for those who only completed high school and are struggling to get by with a small income and a family to raise. To speak only to the privileged is to do a disservice to the underprivileged.
Let’s face it – not all babies are cute. Except for mine.
No really, I may be biased, but like thousands and thousands of parents out there, I do feel like MY children are the prettiest, most photogenic children out there…so much that they can be baby models if I want them to be. I call my son “The Mixed Gerber Baby” because he’s half white, half Asian, although he looks more white to me. (Both of my kids took after their dad’s side, physically speaking).
But let’s be real here – I am not going to be one of those pricks who always claims that their child is the cutest or the best of anything, because I’ve learned in the four years that I’ve been a parent that EVERY.SINGLE.PARENT feels the same way about their child. But does that mean that every parent is biased?
|“Here, Mom. My love for you.” *by yours truly*|
Once upon a time, before you had children and an active Facebook account, you were spammed with baby pictures of your friend’s babies – from the time they were born (those “first moment” photos from the hospital usually gets the most likes, despite their dark, bleary, sterile environment) to their first birthday parties to outings at the park, playdates with other children, etc… you see them all! And you like ’em, right? Or so it seems. But since you don’t have any children of your own, you start wishing that you had children so you can spam YOUR friends with cute baby pictures. Over time, you start developing a sense of jealousy, a certain level of resentment, because it seems like their kids and your friends (the parents) are having fun – everyone’s smiling for the camera, even on those blurry photos. And suddenly, you’re in a zealous pursuit of a child yourself.
Little do you know that all those smiles are the “good” days, masked by the cries, screams and freak-outs on most days. The good days and good moments may be small, but they are worth their weight in gold, because what the parents want you to see is the happy moments of parenting. It makes you want to be a parent yourself.
Then, when it FINALLY happens, you start spamming your friends with your baby pictures, exclaiming how cute they are, and how wonderful they are. That usually happens within the first few hours of them being born. When you finally get home from the hospital, you discover that the first few nights are a killer. The first few weeks are a killer, filled with a multitude of wake-up calls every few hours, cries more piercing than anything that you could’ve imagined, including a mountain of dirty diapers and more stained clothing than you’ve ever experienced in your whole life.
The sleep deprivation sets in and that is when you go online and start Googling “How to…” questions.. such as, “How to feed my baby in a football position,” “How to burp a baby” and “How to tell whether or not my baby is eating enough,” or “How to sleep after you have a baby.” But of course, you don’t share these with your Facebook/Instagram friends right?
That’s what I mean, my friends. In a technology-driven world that we live in today, we are inundated with images of what parenting should be, not what it actually is. I remember seeing a million pictures of a kid whose parent I went to high school with every single day. From the time that he woke up to the time that he went to sleep, it seemed as if his parent took pictures of him at every moment in time. And she shared them a lot. It was okay at first, but after awhile I started getting annoyed… mainly because this kid was just kind of ugly. I thought to myself, “If I wanted to look at an ugly creature, I would just go to the zoo and look at some orangutans.” He was no Gerber baby, that’s for sure.
When I finally had Lily, I also started spamming people with pictures of her. I wouldn’t be surprised if those “friends” of mine secretly hated me and blocked out images of my daughter every time she appeared on their feed. I don’t blame them. I was so incredibly obsessed with my firstborn, and how beautiful she is that I started posting a bazillion pictures of her.
Of course, I still think she’s beautiful these days, but at the age of four, I’ve learned a thing or two about parenting on social media. I learned that there is a time and a place for such sharing. I’ve learned that there’s a limit on how much you should share, and that you should not give a shit about what other people think of your children, but you should be mindful of what your children might think of you. Sometimes, when I’m taking pictures of Lily, she would say after awhile, “Okay, that’s enough.”
And I’d stop.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that once you have a kid, you live your life through your kid. Because why else would you feel resentment and possibly hatred for those who spammed you with images of their children but at the same time you do the exact same thing when you have kids of your own? Also, because once you have a kid, your social life is pretty much nonexistent..or over, for that matter.
But back to my own kids – within the past year or two, I’ve become more aware of how I share pictures of my kids through social media. I decided to put myself in their shoes and asked, “What would they think if they were to see these pictures in the future? How would they feel about me posting all of these photos? Would they be comfortable with it or would they be seriously annoyed with me?” These are important questions to ask yourself, I realized. Not every child wants to be advertised on their parents social media accounts every single day.
These days, I still post images of my kids on my Instagram account, but I’ve slowed down a little. When I was pregnant with James, I definitely slowed down a lot. There were perhaps two pictures related to him – one announcing that I was pregnant, and one right after he was born. I felt that this was plenty. While you yourself may be inclined to post images of every single month of pregnancy (to track your baby bump), I don’t personally believe in doing so, because all my kids need to know is that I did indeed carry them to full term in my belly, hence that is the reason why they are alive in the first place.
Do I think that it’s wrong to share pictures of your kids and your life? No, absolutely not. In fact, I follow a lot of mamas on Instagram, and find them quite lovely. But at the same time, I also feel a pang of jealousy because damn, the fact that they can actually do this on a regular basis means that they either have A) a lot of time on their hands, AKA they’re a stay-at-home mom, thus their husband makes enough money to live on, or B) they’re doing it to make money while being at home with their kids, hence a commercial inspiration, such as product sponsorship.
As for myself, I have the luxury of my husband being able to stay at home with the kids on the days that I work (we have opposite days off) and he’s not a big sharer, because he’s not obsessed with photography like me, and that is perfectly okay. Secondly, I don’t believe in using your kids to make money on Instagram or any other social media platform for that matter. I won’t judge you if you do, but I also believe that if the kids want to make money with their looks then it is their choice, not mine. If my kids ever choose to be a model, then I would be okay with it, as long as they’re not modeling naked.
In the meantime, I do think that it’s our job as parents to be mindful of how our children will perceive us in the future. I want my kids to know that I took the effort to preserve their childhood through pictures, and I’m a big fan of photo books (especially the ones from Artifact Uprising – NOT an ad here! They didn’t pay me to say that!), and I want them to see what our lives were like when they were little, but I also want to keep it mainly in our family. I don’t want them to think that I overshared (“Mom I wish you hadn’t shared that!”) Because the world wide web is what it is – a giant web of information and sharing, who knows where your stuff will end up? Many images are shared across multiple platforms and a lot of times you’d lose credit for it, and it can get altered by whoever gets their hands on the image.
Think about that the next time you share a picture of your baby.
Before I became a parent, I made some pretty tough choices…involving where to go hiking, camping, what neighborhood to live in, and what to major in college. I thought I was the shit for knowing how to make those choices. It wasn’t until I became a mom that tough choices becomes really tough, so tough that you think you’re going to be screwed either way.
With that said, I thought I’d share a quiz that I created simply based on personal experience answering to these tough choices. This is especially helpful if you are expecting your first child.
LIFE’S TOUCH CHOICES QUIZ
Grab a pen or pencil and seriously look through the choices and think carefully, because once you become a parent you will not have the pleasure of reading for more than 2 minutes before you get interrupted by a cry or a scream of some kind. Somebody needs you, and it makes you wonder why that somebody doesn’t care that YOU need help.
2) True or False: It takes you and your spouse 3 nights to finish a 1 1/2 hour movie.