The Kind of Mom I Want to Be

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, especially over the last couple of days about the kind of mother I don’t want to be.

I spent a lot of my dating life looking for my other half and within him, making sure that he was going to be a good father who loved me and his children and most importantly was someone who wanted to be involved in the life we built together. That was always extremely important to me and I know that I had found that in my husband. Phil is with me without being asked to every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound. He only has ever missed one appointment and that was because he had class, but he sat there texting me the entire time and got teary eyed when I played him the video of our baby’s heart beat.

Now, I want to make sure that I am the kind of mother that I want my children to have. I think most importantly is that I don’t want to be the kind of mother that manipulates and plays games with her children. I don’t want my love to come with contingencies. I also want to be present in my children’s life and I want them to always know that they could come to me with anything and not have to go through their lives alone. That’s the biggest one for me, I think, because I have always felt I was going through life alone which I think made me the sort of driven person that I am, but at the same time it would have been nice to feel like I had that kind of support where I could have gone to someone without judgement and contingencies had I really needed to, especially with the big stuff.

I have also become really fixated on the idea of buying a new house and selling our townhouse. I would like to find something that is our forever house and becomes something that we can eventually hand down to our kids. I always have liked the idea of a house that is shared among generations of the same family. I guess I can no longer deny how much of an old soul I really am…oops.

Anyway, as I stress over all of this like I do with anything in my life, my husband looked at me as I was hand painting the name plate that we picked out and out together in AC Moore for our son, and told me that I was the most loving person he had ever met and how many people would sit there knitting baby blankets and hand painting name plates for a baby that wasn’t even born yet? Not many, I guess. He reminded me that if I love our kids and am present for our kids, our kids are most likely not only going to be okay and successful in their lives, but also will love me back just as much and have solid relationships with me. I mean, I know they will be total monsters during their teen years, but once the hormones of adolescence calm down and they become normal people again, I would love very much to be close to all of my kids.

I’d like to be the kind of mom that makes her kids Halloween costumes and birthday cakes. Whose kids have memories of baking cookies every Christmas and watching A Christmas Story on repeat. And when life got hard or uncertain that they had a mom (and dad) that they went to and who made things better for them.

And it all starts this summer with our first born, Logan Philip. I’m slowly getting ready for you, my little love. I am in love with your name and am relieved that your dad and I finally agreed upon a name and it’s a really good name too:

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The Week That Was: Oh Baby & Doctoral Comps

My week started off with a trip to the ultrasound place. We both were looking forward to it for a week because we would have gotten the envelope that had the sex of our baby in it.

Only, baby had other plans. The moment that she put the wand on to my stomach, we looked up and saw that our baby is very much, in fact, a boy. Phil’s heart had been set on a gender reveal party next weekend, but after that, we pretty much called and told everyone our news.

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I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant. Sometime in my late teens/early 20’s I had a dream that I was in a room with all of these babies. They all looked too small to even walk, so I was shocked to see them running around. I followed them up a flight of stairs until one fell backward and into my arms. I was amazed by how beautiful he was with his soft blond hair and huge blue eyes. A voice from behind me told me that his name was Dylan and that he “wasn’t ready for me yet.” Then I woke up.

I knew I had met my future son, and I knew eventually he would be ready for me. I just knew that this was him when my 5 pregnancy tests all turned positive. Only, Dylan never really fit him and for the longest time, I wanted to name my son John Dylan, John for my grandfather and Dylan for the dream. Phil is on this Phil the third thing, but I really feel that it’s too much to put on a kid and kids need their own names and their own identities.

We’ve been kicking around John Philip which I really love because it honors both grandfathers who are no longer with us and it gives our son his own identity. We have time to decide, but I’m really rooting for the latter choice. I was very close to my grandfather when he was alive and I know that I was his favorite. I took his death really hard in high school and in a lot of ways, I think losing him really put me on the path I took as an adult. He would be nearly 100 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all of this and how he must be up there smiling thinking about becoming a great-grandfather.

I thought this was going to be my big news for the week, but it seems that life also had other plans. Yesterday as I checked my phone for the time, I saw a gmail notification from my university. I didn’t breath the entire time the e-mail loaded. Coming in a whole FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to receive my results, it was the email containing my pass/fail notice on my doctoral comprehensive exam.

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And…I PASSED!!! I am officially a doctoral candidate and am now only waiting for my university to assign my doctoral mentor and committee before I plunge into dissertation. If I follow my plan, I will be done in a year and a half. I really can’t wait. I even hope I get there sooner because I am ready to be done and moving on with my life and career.

Pretty crazy week, eh?

Martian Child

It’s icky and cold here in New Jersey today. It was very hard to get up with that 6AM alarm. By me, it was just beginning to rain, but by the time I got into the capital city to teach today, the roads were slick and the rain had become the ever so lovely mix of snow and freezing rain.

It is definitely one of those days where you wish you could just stay home with your animals and watch Netflix.

BUT! I was just sick and I have a team to coach and a college class to teach tonight, so that wasn’t going to be in the cards today.

I did lay in bed thinking about it for a good 5 minutes. I am just so tired….all the time. It’s got me to think about what I’m going to do once our baby is here. It’s scary to even be thinking about deciding to stay home and cut down on work. I worked so hard to get here. Within 10 years, I completed a double bachelor’s degree, a double post-bac certificate, a master’s degree and almost a PhD. I always thought I would just work forever, but lately, my body doesn’t go like it used to. I can’t work 7 days a week anymore and my nights physically end for me around 9pm, and that’s after my after-dinner nap around 5PM.

I know this is pregnancy tired, but I worry about baby tired too. Will I really be able to come back to work in September/October like I plan? If I can, will I feel guilty leaving my baby even though he or she will have days with her dad since we work opposite schedules right now?

 

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Douglas College graduation at Rutgers University, May 2008

 

I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This pregnancy has gotten very real recently, with the belly that has sprung up. It feels like it happened overnight. I went from this little bump to a stomach that you can’t deny has a baby growing in it. And while I have not felt a real kick yet, I do feel, especially when I am standing or walking, these fluttering movements that feel like I have an alien living in my stomach.

in some ways, it is an alien if you think about it. A baby starts to grow in your belly with its own little heart and soul, coming from seemingly nowhere and then you have the baby and you need to teach him or her everything because they have no knowledge of where they just came out into after you push them out of your hoo-ha.

Having kids is weird and stressful, but so worth it. I do love feeling my little baby fluttering around. I also love when I’m working at my desk and I get to rub my growing belly. I’m enjoying every moment of it, but, I’m just wondering how long I will be able to work and how emotionally prepared I’ll be to come back to work. Or if this is one of life’s forks in the road: do I continue on like I have been since I graduated from Rutgers or, is this the time where I choose something more than work and see where a new adventure takes me?

What if we’re all just a little bit Peggy?

Anyone else love the show Mad Men? I have watched it in its entirety at least twice. I loved the clothes, the attitudes, the smoking even in doctor’s offices and of course, just how broken Don Draper is and how he affected everyone around him. And then, of course, there was my lady love, Peggy. I always felt like I was Peggy.

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One of my favorite Don moments was when he visits Peggy in the hospital after she gives birth to her surprise baby. She’s beaten and broken, but then Don gives her the best kind of advice when he says:

“Get out of here and move forward,” Don says. “This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”

The first time I saw that scene, it hit me right to my core because it made me remember that time in my life where I employed the same kind of logic. I was in my early 20’s and fresh out of college. I had my first “real-world” boyfriend and was hopelessly infatuated with him. I was also ridiculously responsible the majority of the time, but with him, I found it easy to let go a little bit and explore life…and love.

So, on a weekend away together things got a little crazy and it also didn’t go the way of responsibility, even though we both very much were. I didn’t know it then, but in making those choices, I came to a fork in the road. One of those decisions that you don’t know at the time, but will, either way, lead you down a different path.

I could have made the choice to take a huge risk and find myself in an unplanned pregnancy and kiss my graduate school acceptance and life in New York City goodbye, or I could take a pill and pretend like nothing ever happened.

I took the pill.

It surprised me how easy it was to do it. I thought to myself, I will never know so why think about this anymore? After that, I didn’t.

For years. It was the easiest thing to just forget. I never thought about it. It just slipped into the vast nothingness of my subconscious and there it stayed, for years.

Until one rainy April day after I broke up with my next “real-world” boyfriend who I pretty much only dated because he reminded me of the first real-world boyfriend. I never said that I made very healthy choices in my 20’s, now did I? It brought up a lot of unresolved issues I needed to work through and in that moment of seeing this, this became one of them. The guilt didn’t hit yet though, and it wouldn’t for some time.

Not until, the months leading up to my wedding which was the biggest transition and commitment of my life, I began to think about so many things that had led me to the man of my dreams and the new life that lay before me. We had discussed starting a family and since we are both over 30, that it was time to do it sooner rather than later. Just like that my overwhelming desire to be a mom kicked into hyperdrive. It was overwhelming, very close to the time a couple years ago where I became obsessed with the idea of being a foster mom until I realized how hopelessly screwed up our child protective system actually is. However, this was different. This was a desire to be a mom that almost burned.

And so did that long buried decision I made at 22 years old and all the guilt that came with it. How could I now want something that before I was so quick to dismiss because the timing wasn’t right? And how easy that choice was and how easy it was to ignore for so many years?

I was reminded of Peggy again when she tells Pete the truth about where she went in the earlier season and says:

“I could have had you in my life forever if I wanted to,” she says almost dreamily. “I could have had you. I could have shamed you into being with me. But I didn’t want to… I wanted other things.”

Yes, I knew it was my choice because I wanted other things. I wanted to make something of myself and see the world and write books and study art. I didn’t want to be burdened with a man that I, though very into, wasn’t really committed to and who lived 6 hours from me.

I wanted other things.

Until I met my husband and then, I really did want those things with him. And so, I prayed. A lot. I prayed for forgiveness for possibly destroying another life, for the callousness of being 22 and thinking it was just something that never happened and was so easy to be shocked by how it never happened. To God for breaking all kinds of rules and not being considerate of myself or anyone else.

I had a long list.

Within a month, I was…at last…very much pregnant.

Seasons of Your Life

Women are different then men. We think differently, we respond to the world differently, we approach life differently and more even more noticeably, we age differently.

For men, I think life is a long continuous line of experiences and outcomes. They are born, they grow, they become old and they pass on. Women, of course, do the same, but it’s so much different for a woman.

Women age in seasons.

And each season is compartmentalized with old wants and desires, dreams and achievements that you know you will only have a chance to hit at certain points in your life. Women are much more aware of the limits of time and how time takes all. 

Looking back at my own life, which I have been doing a lot lately as I prepare to become a wife, I can categorize big chunks of time. There was of course my childhood, my adolescence, my first real boyfriend, college…

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My first real love.

Not that I didn’t love my first boyfriend, but there the first time you fall in real love as an adult it is very different from the high school/college boyfriend that was probably most if not all of your firsts.

There’s the inevitable heart break from that first real love.

Then there’s your wine-fueled 20’s where you are working on your career, but not really settled and since you’re not over your first real love, you’re just dating idiot after idiot because the only time they can ever really hurt you is when they do something that reminds you of that great big let down that was your first real love.

Out of nowhere your life will begin to settle. You’ll finish graduate school maybe. You’ll find a stable job, you’ll eventually get to ditch the room mates and take on a cat or two. You’ll get so busy with your own life that the drama of your 20’s seems to die down and you’re no longer spending Thursdays at the bar with your girlfriends drinking too much wine and going to dark scary places of thoughts borrowed from TV shows.

You’re so busy in fact that you don’t even see the real, big love coming. You’re not really dating jerks anymore or any really because your life has become your job and the life you’re building for yourself. You kind of like it that way too, it’s easier to just worry about yourself and your fur-babies.

Then it happens, the blind date that you reluctantly agree to go on because your new work friend is just so excited to be introducing you to her friend. You had talked to him for a little bit on Facebook and it flowed well enough, he seemed to like your jokes and had some of his own. Before you know it though, there’s that instant spark and without either of you really planning it, you’re together from that moment forward.

He’s the only guy that will bring flowers to your mom when he meets her for the first time. And as he’s courting you he brings flowers to you whenever he’s thinking of you which is often. He holds doors for you and since it’s the winter when you meet he starts carrying a blanket around in his car because he knows how cold you get, you find it absolutely endearing when he tucks you into your seat each time even if it’s only a 5 minute car ride. It’s easy to love him and it’s even easier to be yourself, the good and the bad around him.

You blink again and suddenly you’re a tenure teacher and becoming a leader in your field. You buy a house and for the first and only time in your life, you agree to live with someone and it’s the best decision that you ever made because you slowly watched as your love for each other grew and changed until he asked you to marry him and you accept without hesitation.

You plan a beautiful wedding at the venue you fell in love with long before you ever met him. You enjoy your year long engagement but before you know it, you’ve blinked again and it’s fall, the season of your wedding.

Your shower comes and goes, you’ve cleaned your house out of most of the old stuff that came from apartments and past lives, making way for an entirely new life with your husband. Suddenly, you’re home from your best friend’s house where you held her baby all day and you’re cleaning out your guest room for wedding guests, eagerly selling and throwing out artifacts of former dreams and suddenly a new one really begins to take hold…

When your guest room starts to look empty and you label a few more pieces of apartment furniture for Facebook marketplace and begin to think about your best friend’s baby and how suddenly ready you are to turn your guest room into a baby’s room.

And just like that, you’re into your 30’s, ready to become a wife and mother, and for the first time in many years, that sounds just exactly like what you want to do even if it means you have to slow down in other parts of your life and not work 80 hour weeks.

Away We Go: Where Life Puts You Down

There’s this Ben Okri quote in The Famished Road, a really great book that I read from the optional reading list when I took Art of West Africa as an undergraduate student at Rutgers. It say, “This is what you must be like. Grow wherever life puts you down.” As a clueless 20-something at the time, I appreciated the sentiment, but it has only been recently that I have really gotten it.

For most of my life, I had a plan for myself and though it changed and diverted in places I am reaching the end stages of that early adult life plan: become a teacher who writes books and travel, get married to someone you love with your whole heart, and finish your PhD. Of course, at the time I thought it would be a PhD in art history and that I would be an art history professor, but the way it has turned out has made me happier than I would have been had I followed the original path. Life had other plans and I grew into them because it’s where I was put down.

 

Again the tides are starting to change and with them, I am beginning to feel the feelings that signal change and uncertainty. In 2015, I took a huge leap of faith and commitment. I left my apartment in Bordentown and bought a house at the Jersey shore where I would move to with my boyfriend. I have never lived with a boyfriend and really never thought I would, but that’s the path life was taking me and instead of second guessing everything like I always do, I went with it and in doing so, I made one of the best decisions of my life: I began my own family with the man of my dreams and in 5 months, we’re going to be husband and wife.

Which has led us to a whole new set of adventures and life questions. After this year, we’ll be married and God willing, my PhD will be completed which means I will begin to look for administration positions as well as full-time university positions. We’ve begun to discuss many things, but the biggest one is: How committed are we to a life in New Jersey? And, where do we want to live?

We’ve outgrown our tiny seaside house with just us and the tiny zoo. Both of our dogs are full grown now and they would be so much happier with a lot of space to run around in. With the concern over honeymooning in Ireland, which, I think is also fed into by when we were in France/England in 2014 and were existing via Calais to Dover to Heathrow and they put the terror alert to red as we walked through lines of migrants, riot police and a crazy airport, it was all very unnerving. The world has only gotten crazier. With all the talk of what to do for a honeymoon and what our plan is for the next steps in our lives, I started to suggest maybe a road trip? What if we just drove around to all the states we always wanted to see and experienced them for a little bit? We could be like John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph in Away We Go, and maybe figure out the next place that we want to venture to or at least try to, before life puts us down again.

Let’s Skip the Honeymoon

Is a honeymoon mandatory? I would think not, but as I began to plan my wedding, I realized how quickly people were willing to give you both solicited, but really mainly their unsolicited advice and opinions on what you should do on your day.

We had been dating for 2 1/2 years when Phil had asked me to marry him. We had talked about marriage often and about starting a family as well as all of the other things we wanted in life. We had done so probably since the third or fourth month of dating. My mom always told me that when you meet the right person, it was all going to happen quick and effortless. Looking back, I would have to say my mom was pretty right about that.

Within a few days we already knew what date we wanted to be married on and where. Planning started quickly and by spring of this year, our wedding was pretty much together. We just had to pay for everything. We wanted to honeymoon in Ireland.

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I have always wanted to go there and Phil, being the gigantic fantasy nerd that he is was all for the castles and the history. It’s really the perfect spot. However 2017 is turning out to not be a very kind year politically and I really feel like the world is spiraling out of control. I am almost scared to bring kids into this world, because I do not think that it’s going to get better any time soon and for it to get better, it’s definitely going to get much worse.

Suffice it to say, we will not be going to Ireland on our honeymoon. After this latest attack in Manchester, I believe that Europe and us will be separated for some time which is a hard realization to reach since I love Europe and could spend so much time there happily.

We kicked around cruises, Hawaii and even weekend trips like Maine. However, as cool as Hawaii and Maine sounds, it wasn’t Ireland. And cruises? I never understood them. You spend days just hanging on this boat spending money and only a few days in the place that you’re sailing to. It’s been a big discussion.

Until today when Phil texted me and said, “Wanna just spend the days together after getting married and not do anything but relax and be married?”

I couldn’t type yes fast enough. This year has been one of big changes and working really hard to pay this wedding in full and in cash.

After this marathon we’ve been on since Christmas, there’s nothing I’d like more than to just be home, and be married with my husband and our tiny zoo.

Dallas & the Seasons of My Life

I’ve spent the last week decompressing from being in Dallas, Texas for much of last week. I was there for my final doctoral residency. Once I got out of the Dallas Fort Worth airport, I was immediately reminded of what I hated about Texas the most: the heat and humidity.

The last time I had been in Texas was when I went to La Porte, Texas to visit one of my little sisters from my sorority. I loved the openness and the relaxation that it brought. It was so different from NJ.

This time though, the residency was at the airport hotel and I didn’t get to see much of Dallas which was disappointing because I had never been and they have a pretty cool art scene. The point of this final residency was to, by Sunday night, have an approved DRP plan to submit for SMR and IRB approvals. Mine got approved the first day of “classes” which was Friday and it happened early in the morning. I then had to sit there for the next three days and work on my presentation and a paper for another class. I was so bored, but since these are considered to be “seat hours” I literally had to stay, in my seat….for hours.

Sitting around not doing a whole lot, to me, is more exhausting then even my most trying days as a teacher. By the end, I was extremely happy to go home to NJ to Phil and our tiny zoo. I am officially set to enter comps (doctoral comprehensive exam) in January. I probably could do it this next term, but with the wedding I just don’t think it would be a good idea. Better to let us settle into married life before I go crazy with another exam.

This spring was all about taking the School Leadership Series exam. ETS charges…are you ready for this? $425 PER TRY! How crazy is that??? I was so thankful when on the day, I got in the day before the 16th anniversary of losing my very cherished and much loved grandfather and was put on computer 16. I definitely felt like he was there with me that day and I finished with an hour to spare. It was a long 16 BUSINESS days of waiting, but when it came back that I passed I ran around our bedroom dancing.

In my personal diary, I talk a lot about seasons of my life. I firmly believe that women age in seasons, each one not like the one that came before it. A couple years ago, my more carefree season of my 20’s ended when I made a larger commit to my boyfriend at the time and we bought our first house. I remember how sad and excited I was to be leaving my life in Bordentown with my small apartment and my three cats. Even looking back professionally I was just a middle school teacher then with some publishing credits to my name.

Then I moved and I had finally made it to my life at the Jersey Shore, only 10 minutes outside of Point Pleasant where I had always dreamed of living. Then I started my PhD program and worked really hard to become a college professor. Then we got engaged and now, we’re going to be married in 5 months. I just don’t know where that time has gone, and lately, I have begun to have that feeling again…the one you get at the end of seasons as the new one starts intermingling. 2017/2018 is going to be a year of a lot of change: I will have tenure, I will be completing my doctorate and we might even be starting a family. All of those things, will push me into a new season of my life one where I will be settled, grounded and making huge leaps in my career.

And that’s just the stuff I know about, there’s still all the surprises that have yet to come and the very real idea that we could very well be leaving our little house at the shore to start a family life in my hometown. When I was just out of college and moved home to figure out my next move, my friends and I who were all in similar circumstance at the time, would joke…”All roads lead back to East Brunswick. Every last one, eventually we all come back.”

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Love is, actually all around.

I make no grand illusions towards my 20’s and dating. Point blank: they sucked. I was often lost, broke and dating some wannabe. That was the majority of my 20’s until I wised up and held true to my standards.

I read a lot during that period in my life. In college, I was obsessed with Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife because I largely envisioned Colin Firth and all of the hot things that occur throughout that insanely long novel. More importantly though, it was the sort of relationship I envisioned for myself when I found the right man to have it with. It was passionate, loyal and brave with such a dedication to the other person that throughout the pages, many dramatic and daring things occurred to keep Lizzy and Darcy together. Though, Phil and I aren’t having dagger fights with scummy period men and riding horses bareback…or really riding horses at all, the sentiment is still there within our relationship.

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Mr. Darcy a la “Lost in Austen.”

When we became engaged, I had no doubt in my mind that yes was the answer and that this is the man I would stay with until death. Having that realization though, made me think back to my past and I became nostalgic for things, people and places that were no longer a part of my life. I also would get sad over some pretty stupid stuff like when my toaster oven from my apartment finally went. It was cheap and we use it a lot, but I was sad that that was another piece of my life before now that was gone. I know, it’s a toaster, get over it, but I did have a couple minutes of mourning over the toaster.

I picked up Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and thumbed through it. Out fell papers from my first teaching job where I somehow became a french teacher. I laughed, and turned to the front, eager to re-read and picture my new Mr. Darcy courtesy of Lost in Austen. That’s when I saw it. The dedication page. I had never realized it before, because why would I ever have a need to? The author had dedicated it “to Phil.” Years before, I even knew Phil it seems that I was waiting for him.

I made note of it and put the book down, thinking it was just too weird of a coincidence. Fast forward to the weekend where we’re sitting at our church with our priest, formalizing all of the initial paperwork for our marriage. We’re getting married in the Byzantine church so Phil had to have all of this documentation from his Roman catholic church including his confirmation papers. I was half listening because it wasn’t my turn to speak when Phil got to the point of his confirmation name.

“Matthew,” he says to the priest. All of a sudden, I was listening again and laughing to myself.

Of course it would be. I spent so much of my early to mid-20’s subconsciously dating idiots because I had loved someone named Matthew. I told Phil about it later, over lunch. And just like Phil will always do, he took my hand and told me,

“You were just waiting for me like I was waiting for you. See, you knew it would be a Matthew, you were just wrong about which one. ”

Living the life and the love I have now, just makes me realize how much of us was actually already all around me until the universe knew the timing to finally let us meet.