11 posts categorized "Relationships"

Marry a Family, Divorce a Family?

May 29, 2013

DSC_0650Somehow, through my extremely long and messy divorce, I have managed to stay somewhat close with my in-laws. My ex-husband's dad and step mom have been committed to my girls and me from the very beginning. This is not to say that they're not in a difficult position, but they are very diplomatic and still consider me family. We go on long weekend trips to the coast and they sweetly remind me that if I ever move on to a new relationship and decide to grow my family, those new additions will be welcomed into their open arms. This relationship has been so comforting and I'm incredibly grateful. I recognize how lucky I am and how unusual this probably is for most ex-daughters-in-laws.

So here we are, almost 3 years since the separation and I still adore my in-laws and they seem to find value in our relationship as well. Sometimes I think that my father-in-law tolerates me, my homemade life and my choice to homeschool my youngest daughter, but I know that I can quickly bring him back around when I cook or bake for him. My mother-in-law is the most comfortable of the two and probably one of my closest friends. In spite of the circumstances of the last few years, we have been able to talk with utter transparency which is sometimes really hard and other times it's really healing. I'm starting to think everything is going to change though.

My ex has a serious girlfriend. He's had many girlfriends in the last few years, but nothing so serious. This girlfriend has a child and seems to be on the prowl for a stable relationship. My ex is either serious about her or he is just playing along- I can't tell yet and we are not able to talk about much, let alone our relationships.

It's funny because I don't care that he's moved on (although I used to). I don't want to know too much and I don't really like hearing my kids prattle on about what they do when they're visiting their dad and his girlfriend. I get mad when they tell me that they spend so much time with her when really all they want is to be with their dad, but when it comes to my ex moving on to something more serious, I don't care... except that I really love my in-laws.

It's already getting complicated too. My mother-in-law feels torn between me, who she loves, and her stepson and his new interest. She knows that at some point she is going to have to meet this new girlfriend (sooner than later) and it will get even more complicated because she will probably like her. This will be the first thing that we won't be able to talk about. In the history of our 12 year relationship, this has never happened. She's not going to want to hurt my feelings and frankly, I'm not going to want to know too much. I expect that I'll feel jealous of their time together and of their new relationship and as childish as it might seem, I worry that I will be pushed out.

I have been lucky to count my mother-in-law as one of my best friends and it's devastating to be sensing this shift coming into our relationship and realizing that there's really nothing I can do about it. I just have to stand back and let it unfold. It really has become one of those situations that keeps me awake at night as I search my brain for ideas that would keep us close, and yet I continue to come up blank.

I'm really going to miss her, that I know for sure.

Volunteering at Schools: Cliques happen

February 25, 2013

Hard to believe, but it has almost been ten years since my first experience volunteering at school.  We were planning for a (pre-)school auction, and we had a required number of volunteer hours to fulfill.  I figured: Might as well get them all done with an auction activity.

Our leader for the auction that year - I will never forget her.  She was a mama to two and she was amazingly gifted at being welcoming, empowering.  She was a strong leader without being overly directing or bossy.  She delegated well and elegantly.  I crawled out my shell and took on a big role organizing all the "easel parties", the sign-up events where attendeeds would typically pay-per-person to participate.  It was a great first experience with a school auction, a great first experience with volunteering at school.

The following year, we had a different leader for the big event.  She was domineering.  She had a vision, and it felt like no one else's ideas could compare to hers.  I tried to volunteer for the same job, but all my products and ideas were met with criticism and were denied.  I cringed, but I got the job done.  I felt like my efforts were all for nothing, but at least I fulfilled those doggone required volunteer hours.

Continue reading "Volunteering at Schools: Cliques happen" »

Caught Off-Guard: Date Night Tonight

November 04, 2011

"We're going out tonight" read the text message from my husband.  We've been talking and talking for a while about how to squeeze in a little time together without the kids, but life has been busier than ever for us.  It all came to a head this week when I confessed feeling so distant, given the various commitments, our respective work/school needs, domestic chores.

Wtih the generousity of nearby family, we suddenly have a couple of hours away tonight.  But: what to do?  Go to a cafe and talk?  Maybe take a walk?  Go see some art or spoken word and get inspired?  Go to a bar and ...  hang out?  Find some live music?  Feeling indecisive, I am inclined to just stay home and catch up on sleep.

If you had a couple of hours, just you and your partner, what would you do?

Mama vs. Papa: How our standards differ on volunteerism

September 27, 2011

I had already decided what to do when I posted my (I hoped) thought-provoking piece on "neglecting" my children to coach cross country -- for free! I've been volunteer coaching for several years, and even though my husband has just left for his second tour overseas, I spend all of my waking and sleeping hours with the boys save about 10 a week for cross country and Thursday night writer's group. I am comfortable with my decision; though some commenters pointed out that, with only one parent on the ground, I was depriving my boys, I have to disagree. The boys enjoy time with their babysitters, who frankly have lots more focus to give than I do. I struggle with being on duty 24/7; I end up so, so tired by Sunday evening that I can rarely stay up long enough to finish packing school lunch; the time away from the boys is life-giving. After a few charged discussions about it and chatting with some of the officers with whom he deployed, my husband agreed that my cross country time and babysitting expense was something we could afford.

OK: so that's my personal story. Let's chat about the universal. Today, a commenter chimed in about her experiences feeling resentful when her husband volunteered for basketball coaching. Another commenter said she, too, had felt frustrated at other dads doing similar things -- those that benefited other people's kids. While no one said quite this, the message is very much that dads don't have the time to spare. Any free time, the sentiment seems to be (and I can think of times I've thought this, from an outsider's perspective and not in my own family): dads need to give all available free time to their own children. Why should moms get a break?

I wonder if this sentiment stems from those 80's-sitcom-style family makeup: dad working 60-hour weeks, mom doing lots of volunteering at school and keeping the home spic-and-span and oven full of casseroles. This dad should not be leaving work early to coach middle school sports across town when he has grade schoolers watching He-man, neglected, at home.

I know a bunch of dads who volunteer, but I know way more moms and childless uncles who keep the youth sports machine churning and staff the fundraisers and political phone banks and non-profit events. Do we not give dads a break to follow their volunteer passions because we see them -- collectively -- as already spending enough time away from home? Is this a classic Freudian issue; those of us whose own dads were absent are the quickest to judge? Or is this just "the truth": dads should not, no how no way, be spending precious hours coaching or coding websites or organizing conferences or building bikes unless their own kids are being directly benefited? What do you think? Are dads and moms judged alike in their use/abuse of me time? Should they be?

Benign 'Neglect' of Our Children?

September 19, 2011

Urbanmamas_chs_trackteam
For six years now, I've been volunteering as a high school coach at Cleveland High School. For the first two years, the head track coach coordinated some sort of honorarium for me -- a lot less than the salaried assistant coaches make (somewhere around $1,000 a month for roughly 20 hours a week of work, plus more for some weekend meets), but it was something! In the past few years, I've been coaching cross country, and the booster club hasn't seen it in their mission to bestow funds upon we running volunteers. I don't go every day -- last year it was only two or three days a week, because I was parenting my three boys solo and often didn't get home from school pickup until it was almost too late to catch the kids before they were off on their run.

My husband just left again last week for more overseas Army duty, and I have somehow wangled a great babysitter who can watch the boys for me -- I'll be able to go almost every day and meets too, and since the season only has six weeks left in it, I estimate it will cost me $500 or $600 in child care. Yes, to volunteer, for no pay whatsoever.

This has been a big point of contention for my husband. He has never been very supportive of my coaching; as an abstract thing, it seems great, but in reality he sees it as "ignoring my family" "for strangers." If I have to pay for the privilege? All the worse! We're locked in an unwinnable battle of wills. The way I see it: I'm giving back to the community that brought me into the running world (I ran track for Cleveland in the early 90s, and was nurtured by a wonderful woman, a mother herself, who even bought shoes for me when my cheerleading shoes gave me shin splints -- her son is a lead designer for Nike, so it was a bargain, but still!). I'm doing something I love -- working with high schoolers -- that I don't have the patience to do for a career (I would have gone into teaching if investment banking hadn't come along and stolen me; I have little patience, though, with school bureaucracy, and would likely have lasted this long as a public school teacher). I get to run four or five days a week; something I never do without the support of daily practice, and makes me happy, fit, and healthy. Most of all, I feel that I'm making a difference for these kids. Most of the coaches are men, and it's a co-ed sport; the girls tell me often that they appreciate my support and my conversation. It feels like the right thing to do and I always come home from practice and meets in a glow.

That glow does not extend to my husband's point of view on the matter: in his perspective, I'm leaving my children with a babysitter, spending family money unwisely, and neglecting my duty as their primary caregiver to do something that's benefiting other people's kids. Of course, I'm the parent on the ground, to use a militarism, and I get my way. But leaving aside the personal details of our argument, how do you negotiate this sort of balancing act? Is it ok (in your opinion and situation) to "neglect" your children if you're doing good work for the community -- volunteering for the neighborhood organization, the PTA, a blog that supports a needy community that perhaps doesn't directly help your children? How about support groups and church outreach? Political causes and extremely low-paid non-profit work? Co-operative projects and buying clubs and knitting circles? When you're doing something that doesn't directly, immediately benefit your own children, how do you suss out the justification for this benign "neglect"?

When you need help, please find it

September 17, 2010

As I was walking in the neighborhood the other day, I passed a car, with windows open.  A man and woman sat inside, stopped at the light.  I walked in front of their car as I crossed the street, and I could hear the rage coming from within.  I don't know the nature of the fight, but it was a fight.  The man, in the drivers seat, was yelling at the woman, he pounded on the steering wheel and yelled at her "I'm gonna let you have it when we get home!"

My heart skipped beats.  I felt scared.  I felt scared for the woman.  I knew nothing of their situation, of their relationship, and I hate to draw conclusions, but it didn't sound good.

I was in a scary relationship before.  I have been fearful of my own health and wellness, feeling that my fate was in the hands, literally, of another.  I have feared my own partner.  We did not live together, but somehow I felt that he was always there, watching and keeping an eye on me.  Once, he was.  I woke up and saw his face peering at me through my bedroom window, my bed right next to that thin glass. Another time, he used that same window to come into my space, to come into my place.  To violate my space, to violate my place.  I have furniture thrown at me, chairs striking me, tables flipped over onto me feet.  I have been pushed, shoved the ground.  I have been cornered.  I have been hit, in public and in private.

Continue reading "When you need help, please find it" »

Confessions of a Horny Mama

November 11, 2008

OK. I confess.  I took on the moniker ‘nude mama’ last Valentine’s Day when I shared how I took naked photos of myself to give as a love gift to my significant other.  Now, I confess.  I’m a horny mama.  But, I tell ya, it’s hard to keep the lust going when that constant juggle wears me down.  How do we keep that energy going, amidst worrying about bill payments, birthday parties, family schedules, school functions, and swim class?  How do we keep that love flowing when there ain’t nothin’ dirty in the house but laundry and dishes? 

Well, mamas, I have some thoughts.  I have some ideas on how you can maybe keep that love alive with your life partner or the person you happen to be seeing at the moment.  There are some things that have worked for me.  Mamas, I bring to you: the confessions of a horny mama:

  • Go multi-media: Text, email, IM/chat.  Send naughty messages on IM or text.  It’s fanciful and fun.
  • Visuals are powerful.  Take pictures of self and send form your phone.  It works wonders.
  • Drop hints at all times of the day.  Especially if I know he’s in a meeting, I employ tactic (a) or (b).
  • Show affection, even in front of the kids.  We aren’t shy with our French kisses in our household.  No, siree.  When we kiss and we find one of our girls watching us with a smirk, we kiss again and make sure she’s watching.  We want the children to know that we love each other.
  • Sunday night movies: choose a ‘chick flick’.  ‘nuff said.
  • Sleep naked.  Just think: less laundry with less clothing.
  • Be open.  If we’re talking about our *life* partners here, we have many, many, many years together.  I can’t imagine doing it the same way, every time.  It’s fun to try new things, spice it up, experiment with time of day, location, position, extra-added items.

Let's talk about sex, mamas, again.  What are your success stories for you to get it on?  What are barriers to entry?

Tit for Tat: your night out, my night out

September 30, 2008

Life in the partnered relationship can pose challenges when we each want time away from the family to pursue non-kid activities: sports, nights out with friends, theater, art, photography, or other hobbies.

The other day, I was chatting with another mama about getting our families together.  When I suggested Wednesday, she admitted it'd be a tough evening because it was her spouse's night out: "Wednesday is his night, and Friday is my night."  It hadn't been the first time I'd heard of "his night" and "her night".  Other friends of mine have Tuesday nights, while the spouse gets Mondays.

My partnership doesn't have a "my night" and a "your night."  I guess we just work it all out as it comes.  If I want to have drinks with another mama tonight, then it'll be my night.  If you happen to have some freebie tickets to the pre-season game next Wednesday night, then it'll be your night. 

So, do you have a "night" to your own?  A weekly night, a monthly night, a bi-weekly night?  I'd love to hear how other mamas and papas juggle the need to have nights out on their own.

Where can you find family BFFs?

July 18, 2008

We all know, mamas: raising a family takes a village.  The support around us can really help us get through the tough moments: when we are sick, working late, or just plain ol' tired.   Many of have moved here from afar with very little support in place.  All of us are parents, and we had to start somewhere when we - as new parents - started making other friends who were also new parents.  After five years of "family dating" and meeting new families, we know there are at least a couple of families out there who we can call on to watch our kids in a pinch or to hang out with late into the night (kids playing while parents banter).  We like to think we could ask them almost anything to help our family in a time of need.

When we think about how we met these families and when we think about how close we've gotten with some of these families:

  • One family, we met on craigslist.  We were looking for a nanny-share four years ago, and they posted an ad.  We invited their family over for a playdate, and the rest was history.  We ended up sharing the nanny that summer, but we've also shared many a memory since then.
  • One family, we met on a yahoo-group.  The mamas met first, for a run.  After connection was made, the mamas planned another activity: papas and kids meet for coffee playdate while mamas go for a bike ride.  Now, the papas call one another more than the mamas.
  • One family, we met through school.  About a week into first grade at our new school last year, we had an impromptu dinner on a Friday night at our house.  Kids played and we talked until probably 10-11pm.  Now, if we're up at their house that late, we opt to spend the night so we can watch movies & make breakfast together.
  • One family, we met through email.  They were moving here to Portland and we had just moved a year before.  We shared thoughts on daycare.  Now, we share thoughts on relationships and home improvement contractors.

We all need the support from other families as we move onward with the challenges of rearing our little lovelies.  Do you have a family that you'd consider your family's "Best Friend(s) Forever"?  How'd you find them?

Happy Heart Day, Mamas!

February 14, 2008

Back in the day, I think I hated Valentine's Day.  A day for Hallmark to capitalize on all of America!  A day for overpriced chocolate and roses!  A day that had been bastardized as time had gone by, symbolized by this completely symmetrical figure that had little resemblance to a real human heart.  Did anyone tell Hallmark that a human heart wasn't symmetrical?

That was then, this is now.  My husband and I now have two little people who symbolize our love for one another.  We love to celebrate this holiday of love.

We know that not all of us will be celebrating anything special today.  But, if you are -- We urbanMamas want to know how you are hearting all those loved ones around you.  What does your day entail today?

Friendships: The Dynamics Between Mamas

January 23, 2008

We all know that so much changes when we have kids. We've talked plenty about our relationships with our spouse / partners, siblings, with other children, but how about our relationships with our mama-friends?  Lori has an interesting question for the urbanMama community.  She writes:

I hung out with some friends the other night without my toddler.  During the evening, a good friend of mine who has two kids under three thanked me for the support I had given her over the last year.  She was being sincere but I realized that that I really had not given her that much support.  Yes, we have play dates and we talk on the phone at least once a week, but prior to having kids my female friendships were much different.  I now find that I do not have the time to listen like I used to or demonstrate to my friends how much they mean to me.  Luckily, most of them have kids also and are pretty understanding. How do you balance the needs of your family and the needs of your good friends?