Friday, September 28, 2012

The Real Judgement-Free Zone.

I was going to write on a totally different topic today, but I decided to change it up because something just occurred to me as I was cleaning up the toys from A's play date this morning. 

Being new to the whole play date world, I have been lucky enough to find another new stay-at-home and first-time Mom with a daughter about the same age as A.  I actually used to work with her in my last job, so its always nice catching up with her on old work stories, as well as navigating this whole new world together.  (I showed up to our first play date with a bag full of toys because, as I admitted to her later, I had no idea if it was like a BYOT kind of party...)

Play dates and other interactions with other young children make me a little nervous.  A is a bit strong-willed, bossy... ok, A is an absolute brutal and unmerciful Dictator at times with her toys.  And by "her toys" I mean any thing within her general vicinity, actual ownership not withstanding.  If another person (child or adult) gets anywhere near a toy or object A has laid claim to, she will let that person know.  Loudly.  And to make matters worse, sometimes when she gets really frustrated, she will show it by hitting.  It horrifies me.  But hitting aside, even her loud "no, no, no" makes me so nervous.  I don't want to have the child that is so bossy, she doesn't get invited back to play;  or is so mean the other children don't like her.  Or worse, the other Moms don't want their children around her.

I know A is a sweet, loving, funny, and happy baby.  I can brush all of her tantrums, hitting, bossiness, and frustrations off on her being 18 months.  She's a BABY!  She thinks it is acceptable to use her yogurt as war paint! We're not talking about a 15 year old.  Of course she's going to act out, hit, yell, cry.  That's what babies do.  So, then why am I so terrified of her doing this around other people?  Why am I so terrified of her doing this around other Moms with children just like her?

(For the purpose of this story, we'll refer to the other little girl as "J" and her Mom as "Jane".)

As the children were playing today, J went over to A's Minnie Mouse Car and started pushing it.  A immediately ran over to it and forcefully yanked it away.  What made matters worse, in my head at least, is that J is a very sweet, calm, and good little girl.  She's always well-behaved, smiling, and peaceful; and at that very moment, A was certainly not peaceful.  Panicked, I firmly said, "A, you have to share" and then sheepishly looked at Jane and said, "A isn't very good at sharing, she's a bit bossy sometimes". 

Do you know what came next?  Disgust?  A disapproving look?  Concern?   Nope!  Jane smiled and said, "Oh, J can be like that too."  You know why?  Because she's a baby, too.  And that's what babies do.

Something similar happened last week when A and I got together with a group of my friends and their young children.  One of the little girls didn't want to get into her stroller, so she started crying and fussing in the exact same way A usually does.  And when I look back on it, I wasn't disgusted or judgmental.  I was understanding, and in fact, I remember feeling a sense of relief that other children act the same way A does.  Because that's what babies do.

So why do I still get so nervous over A's behavior, especially around other parents?  Moms are, or at least should be, the real judgement-free zone.  We've all been there.  And just because one child is acting at that very moment like the picture of perfection, doesn't mean that 20 minutes later they aren't going absolutely nuclear because they dropped a Cheerio.  And for every hissy-fit A has every thrown because she doesn't want to share, there are moments like yesterday when I finished my snack first - a bowl of cut up apples - when upon seeing my empty bowl, A lovingly looked at me and said/signed "more" and filled my bowl up with three more apple slices from her bowl, with a big "I love you, Mama" smile on her face.       


Thursday, September 27, 2012

A few things you should know about me...

Now that I got that first post out of the way, there are a few things you should know about me and this blog.

1. My daughter is 18 months old.  While many of you reading this know her name, I will be referring to her as A. 

2.  Mommy Strong.  I decided to title my blog "Mommy Strong" after the Army's slogan "Army Strong".  You know the commercials - There's Strong.  And then there's Army Strong.  I spent six life-changing years working as an Army Civilian at the Pentagon before transitioning to a stay-at-home Mom.  My time with the Army had one of the most significant impacts on my life.  You will likely see that influence in my posts.  An acronym or two, or even a military term, may slip every once in a while.  I guess you can take the girl out of the Army....

3. Moms need other Moms.  That is kind of my motto/outlook.  No one else fully understands a Mom like another Mom.  We're irrational and emotional, but fiercely committed to our children.  But we are also each others' best advocates.  I am not a fan of bickering amongst woman over whose parenting technique is better.  I will say this once - there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY to be a Mom.  As long as you provide your child/children love, everything else is subjective.  Let's start supporting each other unconditionally as Moms - whether you're a breastfeeding Mom or a formula feeding Mom, an attached parent or a cry-it-out parent, a supporter of vaccines or not - we all want to raise the next generation of good, caring, and productive citizens.

4. I'm not a writer.  In fact, in college, writing was one of my weaker subjects.  My grammar will not be perfect, though I do try.  I tend to write the way I talk, and my sentence structure is not always the best.  Not to mention many of these posts are written during my only free time of the day: the last 5 minutes of A's nap when she is starting to stir (what I like to call beat-the-clock), at 11:30pm when my eyes are crossing, or, like right now, as I shovel handful after handful of Cheerios in front of A while she sits on my lap and tries to type this for me.  What I'm trying to say is that my writing won't be perfect, but I hope you can see that I have a passion for sharing my experiences with others.

5. I want to hear from you!  Please feel free to email me and let me know what you think.  If you have a suggestion or feedback, I want to know.  This is a learning experience for me.

I have run out of Cheerios, so I think I will end this here.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Here goes...

What exactly does one post the first time out?  I've never had a blog before.  I once had a Live Journal account (that shows you how old I am), but I was in my early twenties and had absolutely nothing of substance of which to talk about.

So, why start blogging now?

I wanted to start this blog to document my journey as a stay-at-home Mom.  On August 31, 2012, I left a very, very good job and a very, very good paycheck, closed both eyes and jumped both feet first into a completely new life.

The journey to that point was not easy.  I feared what coworkers would say and what friends would think.  I feared how my family would feel and if I'd find any kind of support.  I was so overcome by fear of others - both those close to me and those that represent that vague term "society" - that I was afraid to even bring up the topic with my husband while I was on maternity leave.  It seemed like such a ridiculous and incomprehensible idea.  People don't leave jobs like mine with the kind of security, stability, salary, and future I had.  You certainly don't leave a job like that to "throw it all away" to stay at home and listen to the Toddler Radio on Pandora all day. 

The amazing thing is that the answer was so glaringly obvious to me.  I knew what I wanted.  I knew it would make me happy.  And yet I spent a year consumed with how it would make everyone else feel. 

I wanted to start this blog because I'm sure there are others out there just like me.  As I considered the switch, I turned to the internet to see what kinds of articles or advice there was for women considering leaving a good job to stay at home.  There was very little.  Most of the articles were centered around the woman leaving her job because it was "economical" - daycare cost what the woman (or man!) was bringing in monthly.

My hope is that this blog will not only be a resource for those that are considering making the change, but also melting pot of ideas, articles, and vignettes as I stumble my way through this new world of play dates and Sesame Street, Gymboree and toddlerhood.  Maybe it will evolve into something more.  Maybe it will turn out to be an entire blog dedicated to nothing.  Maybe no one will read and I will sink away into a place where websites go to die - I think that's where MySpace went.

So there you have it.  My first post.  We'll see how this goes...