At least once a week, I get asked this question: “When are you having a second baby?”
Most people do not even bother to ask, “Are you going to have a second baby?” They instantly assume I am going to strive for the American dream of 2.2 children frolicking behind a white picket fence and just whack me with a “when…?”
I want to jab my eyes out every time I hear it.
Because now I have to go through this whole process of explaining why I don’t want more kids and the other person tries really hard to change my mind and it ends with me changing the subject or needing to end it with a “Oh, we’ll see…” so that I can move on with my life. It’s a very predictable, boring and terrible conversation.
But I’ve thought long and hard about this and decided that there is actually one way that the question would be well-received. The other person only needs to follow it up with this statement:
“Before you answer that question, I want you to know that I have several things to offer you. The first is a lump sum of $300,000 to help support the upbringing and education of your second child.
“Also, I have long held a secret magic that will set into motion the reversal of climate change, implementation of nuclear disarmament, and eradication of hate and ignorance. Once you decide to have a second child, I will unleash this magic so that your child and her offspring will be guaranteed a long, fulfilling, and peaceful life on a healthy planet.
“And lastly, here is a pill. Once you take it, your body will only need half the amount of sleep that it normally needs. This way, you will have an extra 4 hours in your day to engage in self-care and other activities that create enjoyment in your life.”
If you cannot offer me these three gifts, please do not ask me this question.
But if the question inadvertently slips from your mouth and I respond with, “No, I don’t want another child. I’m happy with one,” please don’t say:
“But she needs someone to play with.” She can play with me or her dad, two of the silliest adults you’ll ever meet. She can play with friends. A cat. A dog. A neighbor. Roomba, our vacuum. This is not a concern of mine. Next please.
“She will get spoiled.” I don’t make a million dollars. She is not going to get a sports car for her 16th birthday. But if taking a week long trip to Hawaii before she is 18—which is something I’ve still yet to do—means that she is spoiled, I can live with that.
“She won’t know what it’s like to bond with a sibling.” The sibling connection is special—I know that from experience. But I also know many people who do not have a close relationship with their sibling. And I know a good handful of people who will have nothing to do with their siblings. Having a sibling doesn’t automatically guarantee closeness. This is not enough of a factor to convince me. Sorry.
You know how nowadays it’s rude now to ask women why they don’t have children? Well, guess what…it’s similarly rude to ask mothers when they are going to have more children.
We are not dairy cows. Some of us don’t want children. Some of us are happy with a pet. Some of us are happy with one child while others are happy with 6. Some of us—namely me—are just trying to make an impact in this world before an angry Asian guy and raging egomaniac blows it up.
Stop setting expectations for how we should live our lives. We get enough of it from the rest of the world. We don’t need it from our friends and families.
So, if you’re having trouble making conversation with a one-child mother, here are more meaningful discussion topics you can try instead:
“What do you like most about being a mother?”
“What’s the hardest thing about being a mother?”
“What’s your relationship with your partner like now that you’re parents?”
“What’s it like being a working mother or a stay at home mother?”
“How has being a mother changed you?”
“Do you want to add to your family?”
“You’re doing an amazing job.”
But the best thing you can say to any mother is: “I am going to wash your dishes.”
I’ve recently discovered a female comedian who I love more than Tina Fey (…sorry, Tina). Her name is Ali Wong, a half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese hippie first-time mom. It’s accurate to say that she’s a louder, smarter and more sexually vulgar version of me.
(If you haven’t watched her comedy special “Baby Cobra“, you need to drop what you’re doing and watch it right now! If you just gave birth, stick on a sanitary napkin because you might tinkle from laughing so hard. Here’s a clip below.)
In “Baby Cobra”, she says many outrageous things about culture and feminism that I would never be brave enough to say out loud. I particularly love her commentary on her dream of being a housewife. She says exactly how I feel about the intersection between my career and motherhood right now:
“I’ve been reading that book by Cheryl Sandberg…she wrote that book that got women all riled up about their careers, talking about how we as women should challenge ourselves, to sit at the table and rise to the top. And her book is called ‘Lean In’….well, I don’t want to lean in, okay? I wanna lie down. I want to lie the fuck down!”
When I heard that line, my inside voice quietly shrieked,”YES! Someone understands how I feel!”
It’s true. My idea of a really good day is one where I’m able to plop down on my ashy gray carpet, stare up at the ceiling like a dead corpse, and have nothing waiting for me to do, even if it’s only for ten minutes. No milk to pump out of my body, no baby cries that need soothing, no dishes to be washed, no toys to pick up, no career milestone to work towards, no exercise to be exercised, no one to call back or text.
Did I mention that my all-time favorite activity is sleeping? Oh, and my second favorite is dreaming.
As for my career, I am in a line of work that provides great fulfillment and self-growth. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else, I really wouldn’t. But I just don’t have any aspirations to be “the best” like I did during my overachieving school-age years. I don’t have dreams of being a rising star in my field or to gain prestige in my work. I don’t want to work towards being a best-selling author or being invited to speak on Dr. Phil. I simply want to go to work, do what is expected, get paid and be able to forget about work when I am home.
I didn’t used to be this unambitious. From ages fifteen to twenty two, I had been president of four organizations, worked at notable jobs and for notable people, studied abroad, won a leadership award and was sent on a trip to Brazil, volunteered at many non-profits, and was actively working on my life goal of “saving the world”.
Perhaps the selfless toil of that life stage did me in, or motherhood sucked out all desire in me other than to sleep and to keep my child fed and alive, but the truth is that I don’t have lofty life goals anymore. I just want to have a job that I don’t hate and, most importantly, I want to spend the majority of my time with my family or by myself doing nothing.
Exactly a year ago, I ended my three month maternity leave and returned to my full-time job. In the weeks leading up to this, anxiety was seeping through my skin. In my heart, I felt that it was too early for me to return to work. My baby could barely hold her neck up and I was barely adjusted to being around grown-ups again. I knew I was not going to be able to handle working full-time while tending to a household of my baby, husband, dog and mother who was living with me at that time. But I wanted to attempt it to prove to myself and my husband that I could become one of those “how does she do it?” mother.
You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about one of those SuperMoms who work 40-60 hours a week while raising multiple kids, cook three course organic meals every night and is able to train for a triathlon while functioning on 4 hours of sleep every night. All this, without any coffee or stimulants of any kind.
You may very well be one of those mothers. Don’t worry, I have no resentment towards you, only envy.
I surprised myself during my first week back at work. I was actually feeling optimistic about this whole work-all-day-and-mother-all-night routine. I enjoyed seeing my colleagues again. I didn’t cry every morning when I left my baby like I imagined I would.
But then the second week came, and the shit hit the fan. The fatigue that collected over many nights of interrupted sleep took over my brain like a white fog. I had trouble concentrating. I had trouble making coherent sentences or talking without the awkward, “Uhh, give me a minute…what is that called again? Hold on…oh yeah, a ______!”
And on top of that, I was actually expected to start working at my job–I couldn’t just spend the whole day talking to my co-workers about my baby–damn it! The three times a day pumping schedule was very stressful because my job required me to travel to different sites. It was hard to know if I would have a private place to pump or if I had to resort to pumping in my car or a bathroom. During my first few weeks, I had the experience of pumping in the bathroom of a police station and while driving…I know, exciting right?
I began to feel very sad not spending the day with my baby. My head filled with thoughts of, “I can’t believe I’m missing so many important moments with my baby. I’ll never have these moments again…” My family life was becoming tense and stressful. And as if you couldn’t add more rubble onto a crumbling foundation, my Siberian Husky, Julius, became very sick. Any free time that I had left were spent taking Julius to the vet, cooking a special diet for him, and shoving his medicine down his throat even thought he would spit it up every time.
I’m not sure I knew it at the time, but I believe I experienced postpartum anxiety after I returned to work. Anxiety is no stranger to me, but I’ve never felt it as intensely as I did during this time. I had chronic thoughts of worry about work when I was home with my baby and chronic thoughts of worry about baby when I was at work. I worried about my performance at my job and as a mother. I worried about how my husband was adjusting to all of the changes. I worried that my dog was about to die. The chain of worry thoughts slithered through my head and had no end.
I remember a distinct morning when I was sitting at my desk at work, and my body started getting hot just thinking about an extremely minor thing, like whether I put someone’s paperwork in the right envelope. I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack.
That day, I fully accepted that I was not going to make it as a “how does she do it?” mom. I couldn’t live up to the expectation of other people wanted me to be, a full-time working mother who could maintain her sanity and a double-income household.
I had no qualms about bringing up my personal difficulties to my supervisor. As a mother herself, she was extremely supportive of my needs. She provided me the option of working three days a week at a position that required no traveling.
The hardest part was bringing this up to my husband. I didn’t want to disappoint him. I felt weak for not holding it together. Maintaining our current income was very important to him and I felt like I was holding us back in our financial goals. But with everything going on, I knew that there was no other choice for me. Despite my worries, my husband was supportive of the idea of my going down to working three days a week. We also decided to put our baby in daycare for part of the week which would increase our financial costs but it ultimately was for the best.
It took me a while to get my workload down so that I could officially work 3 days a week but once it happened, I felt like I could breathe again. I was able to practice being present again–no more worrying about work at home and home at work. I was able to savor every moment with my baby and soak in the joy of my baby’s every new word, gesture, or facial expression.
I still have those moments where I feel I have to prove my worth to myself and my husband. As archaic as this sounds, I hold the idea that because I’m not a full-time working SuperMom, I am of less value. I have to make up for that gap in value by the amount of housework that I do and number of homemade meals. I’m completely aware that it’s because I’ve internalized modern-day social ideas that shame stay-at-home moms. How ironic is that mothers who stay home to take care of their kids all day–which is often more exhausting than just going to work–have to prove their worth to society! I tell myself this all the time and yet, I haven’t quite figured out how to throw this belief out the window.
Thankfully these beliefs do not rule my life. I am grateful every day that I’m able to have balance in my life and have the option of working part-time. I am not a work horse and don’t have the physical or mental stamina right now to work full-time. Neither would I be able to make it as a full-time stay-at-home mom. Frankly my baby thrives from the diversity of caretakers throughout the week, and I enjoy still having my foot in the professional world.
Because of my reduced work load and the costs of having a baby (daycare, diapers, replacing socks that disappear into thin air, etc.), we have a very simple life. We don’t have a lot of material things, we don’t eat out often, and our weekend activities usually comprise of library visits, parks and long walks. But our life is full of joyful moments, together moments, and, now I occasionally have those lying-down-with-nothing-to-do moments.
It has been over three months since I last wrote a blog post.
Nearly every night for the past month, I made an attempt to sit my butt down with my laptop fully charged and type something so thought provoking, it would blow the mind of parents and non-parents alike. But alas, those late night writing attempts were hijacked by my baby prematurely waking up for her next feeding, my husband sucking me into watching another Netflix series, the arduous nightly tasks of cleaning up post-dinner and getting my work items and baby’s daycare items ready for the next day, or plain old fatigue dragging me into bed at 9:00 p.m.
One thing I can say I am proud of is that I’ve been able to journal more often, sometimes several nights a week, which is pretty good compared to my previous once-a-month scribbles. Journaling–which is usually my ranting about the mundane parts of my day in nonsensical, run-on sentences–is different than blogging. I’m not one of those people who feels confident letting the world read nonsensical, run-on sentences about my daily grind. For one, I don’t think my daily grind is all that captivating to begin with.
Who really wants to read about how I spent half an hour making a batch of pureed baby food that my baby only ended up eating two tablespoons of? Or how I almost killed my husband by putting a foam roller right by the playpen, which caused him to trip and bounce off of the coffee table while holding the baby? (Do not be alarmed, everyone is safe and only slightly bruised).
My life was never that interesting to begin with. I’ve always been a homebody, hermit-type, your typical sixty-year-old-trapped-in-a-twenty-nine-year-old-body that-I-swear-looks-like-a-fifteen-year-old. The statement that rolls out of my mouth about five times a day is “I’m so tired.” Since I was a college student, the idea of not being able to be in bed by 10pm made me highly anxious. I prefer to spend time with people I know and go to places I’ve been to I’m familiar with. I don’t really like traveling. I am a thrill. Just ask my husband.
Since my baby came into my life, things have gotten more interesting and more mundane at the same time. I am learning how to do things I’ve obviously never had to do before as a motherless woman, like looking for reliable daycare, get myself and a baby dressed and out the door in 30 minutes (really difficult, I tell you), and scrap poop off of a cloth diaper. In one day, I get to go to a grocery store with an infant–which is actually really fun and entertaining–and spend two hours of that same day walking around the house back and forth, trying to convince an overly happy baby to shut her eyes. Interesting, yet mundane. Do you see what I mean now?
I’ve been writing for 20 minutes now and I can tell you that my time is almost up. Pretty soon, I will have a baby open her eyes from a deep slumber, cry, roll over on her belly, crawl over to the bars of the crib, pull herself up, and scream bloody murder because her mother is not next to her. It’s the best and worst thing in the world. And the sick thing is that, deep down, the biological, maternal instinct in me anticipates it, yearns for it, and absolutely loves it.
It’s been over three months since I last wrote a blog post. World, this is the best that I’ve got. Ciao–see you in another three months! 😛
Starting maternity leave early and wondering how to pass your pre-baby days without losing your mind? I’ve compiled a list of my favorite things to do while you, hippie mama, are waiting for your precious angel to make its way out of WombLand onto this terrestrial planet.
In case you don’t already know, the baby is not in a rush at all to get outta there. I mean, who would trade floating inside a warm ball of yummy juices and no obligations with an earthly existence of crying and having to figure out how to use your own lungs only to breathe in unfiltered city smog? Seriously. The baby does not care if you are tired of spending beautiful, sunny days inside your cold house, on the couch, eating ice cream straight out of the container, anticipating her birth. The baby does not care that the furniture and clothes in her room are collecting dust. She will come out when she is ready. In the meantime, she is happily enjoying bruising your organs and gradually depriving you of your ability to walk.
So the best thing you can do right now is sit back, relax, and pick a few things on this list to do on top of your usual wake up, eat, nap, eat, eat, eat, sleep cycle.
1. Spend your most productive hours of the day on YouTube and watch the vast collection of videos of stay-at-home mothers teach you everything–I mean, everything–you ever wanted to know about cloth diapers. Topics include but are not limited to: velcro vs. snaps, rinsing out breastfed poo vs. solid food poo, diapers for skinny leg babies vs. average leg babies vs. chubby leg babies, washing your diapers in a top loader vs. high-efficiency top loader vs. high efficiency front loader, detergents to use for soft water vs. hard water…okay, you get the point. You have time–use it to become an expert on cloth diapering, your obligatory must-do as a hippie mom.
2. Freak out when you learn that almost every baby product is tainted with toxic chemicals. And then try to figure out what you’re going to do with the closet full of Kirkland Baby Wipes that people bought for your baby shower. (Petrochemicals and cancer-causing agents in baby wipes?! What is wrong with this world?)
3. Get your hopes up each time you feel any sort of sensation in your abdomen. No, it’s not a contraction–more likely than not, it’s the baby jabbing your bladder or you are constipated.
4. Offer endless thanks to your husband who volunteers to cook dinner every night for you after he comes home from work. Even though he’s been seeing patients all day long in his hospital job and you’ve only moved from the couch to pee a couple times, somehow you’re still too tired to cook a real meal.
5. Judiciously select all of the items to pack in your hospital bag. After reading all of the recommended things to bring, you wonder why everyone calls it “hospital bag” when they actually suggest enough items to fit into two large suitcases for a 1-2 night hospital stay.
6. Figure out how to drink 2-3 cups of raspberry leaf tea and eat at least 6 dates a day to help strengthen uterus and ripen the cervix. How does that work exactly? I have no idea–just do it!
7. Anticipate how much you’re going to cry when you have to go back to work and leave your baby with a caretaker. That is months away and there is no reason to think about it now. But you do because you are a worrier. Just like your mother.
8. Read about all the common sicknesses that infants suffer from and face the reality that you and your partner will soon be in charge of a little human that cannot respond to “Honey, what’s wrong?”
9. Try to explain to your dog that the reason for the very short walks and lack of trips to the dog park are due to your physical limitations as an extremely pregnant woman and hope that he actually understands what you are saying. To lessen the guilt, try to teach your dog new tricks–even if it proves to be extremely challenging because the dog is having trouble understanding that he has to actually DO SOMETHING to earn a treat.
10. Wash the baby’s clothes, dust the house, mop the floors, and do an overall tidying of the house in hopes that the baby will come in time to a clean house. Try to forget about the possibility that the baby may come weeks later than you expected and you may have to go through the cycle of cleaning all over again. NOOO!
11. Go back and forth on whether you will make an attempt to run errands that day or stay home JUST IN CASE the baby decides to come that day. Usually, staying at home is the road most taken and the baby has already decided that her birthday is definitely NOT going to be that day.
12. When there is absolutely nothing to do, put on your eye mask, turn on your birthing playlist, and practice your hypnobirthing/relaxation techniques. Fall asleep in the process.
Those are my personal favorites so far, and I’m only two weeks into my maternity leave! There is even the possibility that I could have two MORE weeks of waiting for the minutes whiz by…but let’s not jinx myself.