Tags: the greatest generation
My great uncle Harry died earlier this week. He was in his 90s and very, very sick. I am relieved, for his sake, that he is no longer suffering. The last time I saw him was October 2006. We had converged on my mother’s house in New Jersey, where my great aunt Jane (his sister-in-law) was dying in a hospice nearby. He was there with one of his sons; Tim, though we were newly dating, had accompanied me down. That evening, we sat at my mother’s dining room table and Uncle Harry told stories about his childhood, his wartime service in the Navy, his heroics on the football field at Georgia Tech, the Epping family. We all drank a lot of good wine — too much. All the stories he told, as if to make sure we heard them and remembered them, underscored a tacit acknowledgment that he would be next.
My grandmother, Marion Epping, was the eldest of three girls: Marion, Jane, and Eleanor. Harry and Eleanor met in middle school and were sweethearts their entire lives, until my great aunt Eleanor died peacefully in her sleep about 15 years ago. It was a shock to us all — her golf partner (or maybe it was tennis, I can’t remember) came by to pick her up for a match and found her in the family room chair, where she had dozed off the previous night watching television. Harry rebounded eventually. He kept playing tennis at his country club, defending his seniors’ title. He kept coming to our Jersey Shore vacations, where he’d smoke cigars and, as the only Republican in the room, attempted to defend his political views — often so vociferously that we had a long-standing family joke that Harry had to spend five minutes, silently, in the “penalty box.” He had striking blue eyes, a shock of white hair, and always called me, “Kid.” He was like something out of a movie — an old-fashioned hero played by Clint Eastwood or Paul Newman. When my father died, though by this time my parents had been long divorced, Harry came to the funeral to represent that part of the family. Though in his 80s, he traveled from Rochester to Washington to be there for my sisters and me. Talk about class.
His death is the end of an era in my family. He was the last tie to a generation of Epping sisters. Truly, the greatest generation, who had lived through depressions and wars. Two of Harry and Eleanor’s five children died when they were small. Somehow, he lived through that, too. His funeral is tomorrow in Rochester. I wish I were more mobile and could attend. I’m grateful to have known and loved this true gentleman.
Sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees, etc. etc. (and other similar clichés). Sometimes, when we need to hear it the most — such as when we’re wallowing in extreme fatigue, kind of missing work but also kind of wondering how we’ll ever go back — a friend finds a way to help you put your life in perspective. My dear friend Lindsey, who writes the incredible blog A Design So Vast, did that for me today. She sums up the place at which I have landed in words more eloquent than I could ever find to write about myself. I direct you to her post not out of any egotism, of course, but to experience gorgeous writing and an ability to powerfully highlight something that may otherwise have gone unarticulated. Please spend some time visiting the rest of her blog. You won’t be sorry!
Tags: marc weissbluth, sleep training
First smile at 7 weeks
Don’t let these smiling angels fool you. We are not getting a lot of sleep around here. Little Bug has decided that she wants to play the “let’s get out of bed” game for an hour or so each night. It’s absolutely hysterical for her to keep running downstairs only to have us haul her back up. I even try the Supernanny technique of waiting right outside her door to silently drag her back, but she just giggles. And, then, there is the inevitable late-night visit to our room. Because I’ve been up with the baby, Tim usually handles putting her back to bed. Last night, because Tim is away on business, I had to take her back, and she was screaming and sobbing. I know she’s cutting molars, and I do feel bad for her, but it was not fun for either of us. I bribed her to stay in bed with a Dora band-aid and a teaspoon of liquid Motrin.
Other than our nighttime travails, however, she’s been really sweet and funny. For example:
Yesterday morning, upon spotting a basket of folded laundry at the foot of my bed.
Buggy: Oh, are those my sockies?
Me: Yes, I just washed them.
Buggy: Oh, mommy, THANK YOU for cleaning my little sockies!
Little O is starting to sleep a bit longer, but still needs a middle-of-the-night feeding. He goes right back so sleep and so it’s not all that bad — or, it wouldn’t be bad if Little Buggy also would sleep through the night.
I’m rereading Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Starting today everyone is getting on a new schedule. Little O will be put to nap one to two hours after waking and Little Bug is going to have an earlier bedtime.
Oh, wait, did you think this post would be interesting? Check back with me in a few days/weeks — I don’t have a lot of reserve brain capacity right now!
Tags: flooded basement, flooded yard, Nor'easter
This is our backyard this morning. Yikes.
And it’s still raining. There are all sorts of random buckets and balls I’ve never seen before floating our lake-yard, too. The pump in the basement is working hard, and, so far, all is dry down there. But I’m nervous.
Makes me kind of miss my fifth floor rental apartment…
Tags: childcare, HIring a babysitter, maternity leave
I have an unflattering admission: I judge people. Remember how I judged those women sitting around the table at Starbucks? I immediately labeled them stay-at-home moms whiling away their mornings at Pilates and coffee while their kids were at school. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but they made me feel uneasy because while I felt slightly superior that I, a busy and important lawyer, normally had no time for sitting around at coffee* I also really wanted to be one of them. Similarly, when I lived in the city, I’d go to the playground and I’d see nannies chasing after children whose mothers I knew did not work. I can’t believe so-and-so has a full-time nanny, I’d think to myself. Almost like, why have children if you’re not going to work and yet you’re not going to take care of them? But I suspect some of my judgment masked an underlying jealousy.
Judgment isn’t pretty. Ever. And when I judge, I do so because something about the situation makes me uneasy and insecure about my own choices. Perhaps these women had nannies for an extra set of hands, enabling them, as a mother, to focus on one child at a time. Or maybe these mothers knew they were not the most patient of souls, and the nanny helped them be more calm and present. Or perhaps they just spent their days at the gym and shopping, who knows. But I get it now: if you can afford some help with your small children, why not have an extra set of eyes and hands around? An extra lap for reading stories? An extra pair of arms for hugs?
Case in point: Last night, at 6 p.m., I was wrangling Little Bug from the table to the bath, while the baby, who has in general “woken up” and now at five weeks is somewhat colicky at the end of the day, wailed away. I handed the baby to Lisa, our graduate student babysitter, who rocked and bounced him while I washed Buggy’s hair and let her linger in the tub and then got her ready for bed. Lisa then read Buggy a book while I nursed the baby, and then she burped the baby while I read to the toddler. And then it was 6:30, and everyone was relatively calm: I had not snapped at Little Bug nor sent her to time out for restless behavior. I did not spend the earlier part of the day dreading dinner and bathtime. It had been a pretty good day.
And yet, I feel a tinge of guilt. It’s not the expense — I have a very generous maternity leave and am getting paid for several months still, not to mention that the cost of a babysitter a few hours a week is literally a fraction of what we paid our wonderful, full-time nanny. It’s the admission that I can’t do myself without feeling overwhelmed. It’s the realization that I judged so many other women’s choices without knowing their backstories.
Let’s be honest: if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t work and I’d hire a lot of childcare help.
Or would I? As I drove home from Starbucks the other day — solo, because Lisa was at home — I saw a young mother pushing an infant in a stroller and dragging along two other small children, both under 3. I was overcome with guilt and sadness — why wasn’t I out strolling my babies in the spring sun? Was grabbing a chai and writing a few thank-you notes at Starbucks while someone else held my baby the right thing?
I know a lot of people reading this will offer support for hiring babysitting help. Indeed, many of my coworkers were surprised that we were not keeping our nanny through my maternity leave. But I’d also love to hear from others who feel as torn and guilty about hiring help as I do — or who perhaps have not hired (for whatever reason) some help while staying at home with children. I keep thinking: my mother did it without babysitters (she might argue that her sanity suffered?); my mother-in-law hired help only when her twins, my husband and his sister, were born — but I should add here that she already had SIX OTHER CHILDREN, the oldest of who at that point was 8 (she might argue that her sanity suffered as well!)
As I write this, Little Buggy is at preschool. Little O is home for two hours with the sitter. I have edited the resumes of my sister and aunt, signed up to be an alumni mentor at my law school, answered a dozen emails, skimmed the Times, and have written this post. Were I not doing this now, I’d be thinking for the rest of the day of getting these little tasks done. And I wouldn’t have had the chance to write. Arguably, this time will make me more focused and present this afternoon. But do I deserve this? Are the other women at Starbucks judging me?
*This is of course not entirely true because as any regular reader knows, I hit Starbucks with my colleagues all the time.
… thank you to everyone who emailed me, both via the comments and privately, after my “So Lonely” post. I felt both supported and relieved — that my feelings are not unique, that I’m not going crazy, and that, most important, as the weather gets nicer and I get some sleep, things will start to seem more routine. Caring for an infant is inherently isolating — you’re a slave to feeding schedules and diaper changes and, in the winter, the weather. And so on this sunny, lamb-like March day, things seem a little brighter.
Besides, how could this face not cheer you up a bit?
Or this one? (She is saying, “Cheese!” by the way.) Taking the advice of almost everyone, I took the plunge and hired a babysitter. Little Buggy and I thus made it out of the house yesterday for a Starbucks run (of course) and then storytime at the library. Just getting two hours alone with her seemed to make her noticeably less clingy. Plus, we actually had a lot of fun.
And then, as my family always does in difficult times, they showed up. Erin was in town for the weekend, so she and Jennifer stopped by to be doting aunties.
My mother and Henry made an appearance, as well. Here are Little Buggy and my mother, having a tea party. In her sweetest, most non-terrible-two-ish way she asked, “Can you have a tea party with me, Mimi?”
And so I’ll keep trying to enjoy this gorgeous spring weekend before things turn lion-ish again. Which inevitably, they will, but it is inspiring and encouraging to know that so many people reading this blog have paved this path ahead of me. Again, thank you.
Tags: law firm maternity leave
No, of course not, though my last post begs the question. My new baby is amazing, and just today I had to put away onesies that he already has outgrown (and felt weepy!). My toddler needs me right now more than ever, and, despite her terrible two-ness, delights me dozens and dozens of times each day. I certainly do not miss the stress. I do not miss the client-driven deadlines, nor the pressure to bill hours. Nor the guilt I felt every evening when I slunk to the elevators at 5:30 p.m. to race home to meet the nanny and put Buggy to bed, knowing that my peers would be at their desks for another three or four hours. Nor the frantic checking of the Blackberry once I was home during bath time and story time (could the partner hold off until I put the baby to bed for me to get back online?) I d0 not miss the ever-s0-perceptible competition for assignments and partner-favor. I do not miss the pangs of regret I’d feel at times, looking out from my desk over Boston Harbor and Logan Airport, wondering what my child was doing at that moment. Napping? Playing? Did she miss me?
Now, of course, I know what she is doing each and every minute of the day, and sometimes I want to throw her out the window. And so here is what I do miss: my independence. I miss popping down to Starbucks whenever I pleased. I miss the occasional workout I’d sneak in at the gym in the building. I miss sushi lunches with friends. I miss dressing up in the morning, hearing the click of my heels on the driveway, sliding into my warm car and listening to a half-hour news cycle on NPR as I moved through the traffic on the Expressway. I miss feeling productive.
Here is what I really miss, though: my friends at work. I’ve written before how I did not expect that pursuing a law degree would result in a cadre of amazing, lifelong friends (I was too old, I didn’t need nor necessarily want any more friends, right?) I also had no idea that my law degree would result in a number of similarly true friends made at work. Friends I see socially outside of work. Friends who sent me baby gifts and whose children play with mine. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post on loneliness, my friends at work are an integral part of my working life and, as such, my life. They are (for the most part) mothers or mothers-to-be who are brilliant (literally) lawyers but who also wonder if the regrets and confusion they feel when working such long hours are worth their fancy law degrees. I think because we are mothers we aren’t afraid to express our vulnerability or our emotions, nor are we afraid to take multiple coffee breaks to chat about them. We know we need each other and we also know that our children are far, far more important than our careers. Our careers provide financial stability and intellectual challenges, and I think we all more or less like coming to work, but there is no question where our priorities lie. These priorities can seem questionable to others in our firm, I think, and so we come back to each other again and again, for another coffee and another lunch, for reassurance and support.
When I started at my firm, my colleagues with children helped me navigate those frothy waters, and I miss having similar guidance in this new stage in my life. Oh, I know my work peeps are there for me — we email all the time. But they’re not sitting two offices down from me or a floor above me. They can’t meet me for a Starbucks.
So, no, I don’t miss work. I don’t miss working. My newborn may keep me awake at night and my toddler may wear me out, but they do not stress me out. I am beyond appreciative of my six months of maternity leave (though my feminist readers — you know who you are — might argue: you deserve that leave! You worked for it! If society values families, everyone should have such leaves! I know, I know…) But I do miss the camaraderie and the productivity — and the heels.
*Disclaimer: Don’t worry — the title of this post is not meant to be dramatic so much as it is a nod to my once very deep obsession with The Police.
Yesterday I dropped Little Bug off at her new preschool and took Little O with me to Starbucks. We sat at a corner table (he fast asleep in his carseat). I drank my latte and played on my iPhone for a bit. My morning trip to Starbucks has become a new habit; my interactions with the baristas might be the only conversation I have until Tim gets home. I thought about this as I looked over at a group of women who had gathered around tables they had pushed together. They were slightly older than me, dressed in yoga clothes and carrying yoga mats; no doubt they had just arrived, en masse, from a Pilates class at the women’s-only gym next door. Of course, I sized them up (OK, judged): stay-at-home-moms with elementary-aged children. They had all the time in the world to meet at Starbucks and chit chat for an hour post-Pilates.
And I started to cry. Real tears, dripping down my cheeks, and so, embarrassed, I wheeled Little O out of there, tossing my half-drunk latte. You see, this past month hasn’t been easy. Yes, I’m hormonal. And tired. My two-year-old is driving me crazy. But I’m also lonely. We moved to this suburb in September. Little Buggy was home with her nanny, and I was working full-time. On weekends, we barely did anything other than hit Costco or the diner out near the highway. I know some of our neighbors enough to say hello, but we’re not friends, even though a few of them have toddlers and newborns as well. Since I had the baby, the weather has kept us from strolling around. And, anyway, where would I go to meet people? I haven’t really been part of this town’s gymboree/music class set because of my job. I truly know one person in town — a friend from work. But, guess what — she spends her days at work.
Being home alone all day with very small children is difficult. I get that now. When my daughter was born, my appreciation for my mother changed from love and admiration to something much deeper — I finally understood just how much she loved me. With the arrival of my second child, I now understand so much more about her life and the choices she made. Like me, she also moved from the city to the suburbs when I was just two, right before my sister was born. My father worked long hours in the city. His law firm allowed a car home after 10 p.m.; therefore, my mother explained, he was rarely home before 11 p.m. She had no babysitter, no housecleaner. She points out that, unlike me, she didn’t yet have her law degree. There was no job to return to. Her days and, it seemed to her, her life, stretched out long and lonely.
My mother recalls that things changed one day at the playground when she saw another young mother also dragging a two-year-old and strolling an infant. My mother and Ann were living parallel lives: children the same ages, husbands who worked long hours at their New York law firms, and elite educations (Smith and Columbia Teacher’s College; Wellesley and Columbia Journalism) they felt they had sacrificed (with very mixed feelings) for their families. They were immediate soulmates, and my early childhood was spent in the company of Ann and her two girls. My mom and Ann would drink endless cups of tea in the kitchen, no doubt complaining about their husbands’ late nights and asking each other: is this really what we were meant to do? The four children would fall off swingsets and put on plays and slam each other’s fingers in doors while my mom and Ann chatted on and on. When their family moved to Texas a few years later, there were lots of tears, and I realize now that my mother lost her first and most important lifeline. To this day, Ann is my mother’s oldest, dearest friend.
Raising children, whether you work in an office or are at home, is challenging: I know we all agree upon that almost cliched little chestnut. At work, my long days were nevertheless spent with several other attorneys (women, natch) who had toddlers or were pregnant and who thus asked the same questions and had the same challenges. They were my daily lifelines. But now I’m home, without my work and without these lifelines and I think I need some, or at least one. I need to find my Ann, and I hope I find her soon.
Has it really been one month since Little O came along? Of course, we cannot imagine life without him. At the same time, the past four weeks have been far from smooth sailing, mostly because our Little Buggy, in the throws of the terrible twos anyway, does not really love being a big sister. Sometimes she wants to hold, “MY baby,” but mostly when I have him in the Baby Bjorn or am trying to nurse him, she decides she wants to be in my lap. “He wants to go in his swing,” she tells me. We have watched a LOT of movies. Little Bug has had two ear infections (one in each ear). The weather has been cold and gloomy, so we don’t get out much.
But it’s March. Those of us in New England know that it really doesn’t get warm until June, but, each year, March begins with promise. The air is just a tangibly warmer, softer (I think). The Red Sox are down at spring training. Chez Murphy, we now have a double stroller and two potential graduate-student babysitters to help me out a bit and allow me to spend some quality time with the Little Bug. Little O can sleep for five hours at a stretch.
I have a veritable gold mine of topics to write about as I navigate my stint as a stay-at-home-mom. So stay tuned. But, for now, I’ll leave you with some images of the last month…
Friday night + baby + trashy mag
We are still doing a lot of dancing
Lindsey and Grace come for a much-needed visit!
Little Buggy and I hit Starbucks for some quality time (is this self-serving? I refuse to believe it!)
The hat was knit by the insanely talented Sara…
6 p.m. Oh red wine, how I’ve missed you…
I used to mock people with double jogging strollers