Mom Enough?

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Long before I was pregnant, or even had a regular job, I still knew that when I had kids, I would be a working mom. I am a feminist, and while I know that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to work when you have kids, it’s been a motivation for me to be my own person; I don’t want to be solely defined by being a mother. I want to show my kids that there is value in working, and that both mom and dad have an equal role in providing for the household. Plus studies show that mothers who work are generally happier, as they have social interactions outside the home, and aren’t totally bogged down by the stress of raising children full time.

The decks are stacked against women no matter what. Mothers who work, on average, make less than women without children. And we already know women make less than men.  Truly a damned-if-you-do scenario.

This past winter, I had what felt like a pretty solid job, with a solid income, and it lined up perfectly with our plan to start our family. I was 4 months pregnant when they told me at work that the company was putting full time contract workers on a “6 month hiatus” which seemed like fancy speak for “you won’t have a job anymore.” My last day was the day before we left for New Zealand, and since we returned, I’ve had an odd summer of being unemployed but not quite on the job hunt, but in the back of my mind I thought that I would somehow find a job soon and I’d need to negotiate some sort of maternity leave and we’d need to find daycare ASAP.

Daycare, it turns out, is really expensive, and for a good one, the wait list is long. One we were really impressed with had a waiting list for infants up to 12 months out. How do you even plan for that, realistically? Even if we did find care available around February or March of next year, when my “maternity leave” would be over, I don’t even have a job to go back to, and the prospect of job hunting is already stressful enough without a tiny baby in tow. If we got into a daycare and I didn’t have a job, would we just lose our spot for good?

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On the way home from the daycare center that had the organic meals and cloth diapers and Spanish immersion and 12 month waitlist, I came to a difficult conclusion and said to Alan “What if I just stayed at home with the baby for the first year?” And just like that, I’d become a Stay-At-Home-Mom.

I’m not of the mind that one way is better than the other. Whatever is best for the mom and the dad and the baby is what’s best for them. I always thought that working would be the best for us. After all, it meant better vacations! Cool designer clothes and toys for baby! Regular massage appointments for myself! But now, the choice has been taken away from me, and I’m coming to terms with not being a Working Mom.

And why does it bother me so much? I like working, and doing design, and being creative, but I also enjoy waking up and not showering; just getting on with my day. I like spending time in my home office. I like doing errands, and cleaning the house, and cooking dinner. I’m so excited about getting to spend the precious first year with my baby so closely. So why does it feel like such a defeat?

I feel like the problem is America itself. There is a toxic work culture here. 40, 50, 60 hour work weeks, deadlines, overtime, no family leave, poor health care… It seems like our worth in this country is determined by how we make money. And I’ve fallen into that trap time and time again. It seems like so many kickass women are doing the career and kid thing and being totally awesome and empowered by it. The flip side to that is that doing anything less feels to me that I’m just not measuring up to the modern women in this country if I’m not trying to “have it all.”

Then, I look at the Nordic countries, and I’m filled with envy and longing, because they put the family first. In the Nordic countries, it’s a virtue to have kids and take care of them, and it’s also a virtue to work, but it’s not an obsession. Take a look at the list of the best countries for mothers. Joanna Goddard’s series on motherhood around the world has great insight from women in some of these countries as well: Norway, Sweden, Iceland.

I’d love to hear from mothers who put their career aside for an indefinite amount of time to raise babies. Was it difficult, or the easiest decision ever? Did you go back into the workforce or call it quits for good?

Week in the North

CWC2016-2When you photograph a certain place so many times, it begins to feel more of a task and less of a creative outlet. Just a day before embarking on our annual cabin trip this year, I realized I hadn’t thought about what camera gear I would pack. Last year I definitely over prepared by bringing 4 lenses and a slew of other accoutrements. This year I hastily stuffed my 70D, 24-70 2.8 lens already affixed, into my bag, made sure the 128GB card was clean, and just for grins, threw in my macro lens and a few filters. I packed the tripod too, in case I wanted to get into some night time photography, but pregnancy has me out these days at about 10:30.

Suffice to say, it was a very quiet week on the photography front. CWC2016-1CWC2016-3And that’s totally fiiiine. Anything I would’ve tried to do this year would’ve just been trying to recreate my photoset from last year’s trip, which in my mind, really told the story of what our cabin trips are like well. I have nothing new to say about the cabin this year. It was insanely quiet. In our cabin, one daughter had just had a baby, and another was on the verge. Not a lot of wild swimming or runs or volleyball. Just straight chillin. I assume next year with a 10 month baby in tow I will have a new story to tell and/or not have any time to take pictures.CWC2016-9CWC2016-10CWC2016-11CWC2016-12CWC2016-13CWC2016-14CWC2016-28CWC2016-29CWC2016-30CWC2016-37CWC2016-38CWC2016-39CWC2016-40CWC2016-44CWC2016-45CWC2016-46For my cabin read this year I have delved back into the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Man. Reading these things with knowledge of what’s to come… It’s so frustrating. Ned Stark is SO STUPID you guys amirite?CWC2016-47I kept envisioning a cool bump photo of myself in my swimsuit with my lady prominently featured but I had yet to show anyone how to take a picture with my camera, so I took one myself. My suit is from ASOS maternity. Also: Rocking the top knot these days! CWC2016-48CWC2016-49Little Hattie is a little older and a little more delightfulCWC2016-50CWC2016-52CWC2016-53SUMMER EVENINGS, right?CWC2016-56We also had a new little niece this year, seen here being cradled by Uncle Alan. Thanks for the infant prep, sis!CWC2016-58CWC2016-64On the last day Alan and I took a walk and I got him to take some pictures of me. He had the hat turned around and everything, and his composition is not bad. Just have to teach him about aperture now! I find it difficult to pose and smile for pictures, as I think I have a super goofy smile when I’m forcing it. So he told me some jokes to get me going. You know, like you might a child. CWC2016-66Since getting tattoos and becoming pregnant, even though I’m not at my ideal weight, I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and this summer especially I have been loving just showing off my arms and belly and legs with no hesitation. Early on, my midwife said “birth will be easy for you, because you’re tall!” I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it did give me a new lens to look at my body through, which I’ve always had a rough relationship with. I was like, hell yeah, I’m tall, I’m solidly built. I will birth the hell out of this baby and it will RULE. It’s so, so cheesy, but I’ve really embraced womanhood and body positivity with this little (super kicky) baby inside me.CWC2016-67I now feel a little better about handing the camera to Alan more often especially once the baby is born because I am poorly represented in my own photography and this blog. CWC2016-72For this one I handed the camera to my sister! And of all the shots she took I like this one of us being goofs. CWC2016-73CWC2016-77CWC2016-78CWC2016-80And the sun sets on another year at our beloved cabin. It really feels like it went too fast, and yet I’m still filled with a sense of renewed energy, like most years when the summer winds down. Must be all that Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living I read Up North. I get home and I’m ready to hit the ground running. Why, just today, I had a doctor appointment (which was very good BTW), went to the bank and the post office, and IKEA. I got a whole to-do list for the coming months, until baby arrives. Vacation as reset is always so positive.

🌞

Arya Gets Groomed

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Saturday, 07/16/16

We’re on Each Other’s Team.

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RTG, 2013

Today, July 1, is the 6 year anniversary of Alan’s and my first date (AND when we became BF and GF officially, because I was super smitten and super impatient). As far as first dates go, ours was pretty awesome and summery: We played pickup volleyball (!) with a bunch of his coworkers, then went to the CC Club for beers and greasy food. Our first date essentially became one big 5 day weekend as we got together the next night, and then I went camping with him and his friends in Wisconsin for the weekend, a tradition that would continue basically every summer. In fact, I didn’t really like summertime until I met Alan.

We clicked almost immediately. We laughed at the same stuff, we were more or less politically aligned (I was less informed then, and these days I probably identify as more liberal than him), and we could just talk and talk and talk about stuff. The summer of 2010 was heady. We did camping and cabin trips, I helped him set up his new apartment and we were essentially cohabitants from the 3rd month onwards. So many drunken weekends; smoking on the front stoop; watching Battlestar Galactica; getting me into A Song of Ice and Fire… Those were youthful days. Whereas I would say Alan has kind of been the same throughout our relationship – (he’s always known what he was interested in, and has worked at the same place since before we met etc)… I was young when we met and have grown and changed a lot, and Alan supported me. Even when it was hard to do.

I was jobless, then graduated college, got work, we bought our house, I became unemployed for a long time, and since I got hired at Star Tribune in 2013 I’ve had a lot of jobs at different places (Star Trib, General Mills, City Pages, Freelance), and my financial situation has been fluid, but with Alan’s help I’ve been able to build up some pretty dope savings which helped me just this past May when my contract with GM was abruptly put on “hiatus” by the company. It may sound weird, but Alan placed some expectations on me that were difficult to live up to at first (being healthy, saving money), but have empowered me to become a strong and confident woman. In the early days it mostly felt like criticism; I was trying my best, working two days a week and sort of doing the dishes! Now I know what “trying my best” looks and feels like and I am busier, more creative, and more successful than ever. I’m not doing it for him. I’m doing it for myself and the love and support of a Good Man helped me become that way. Basically, I look at my life now and think: Holy Shit!

The people who love us should only ever inspire us to be our best selves. Alan has, and I’m grateful to have found him. I love you Alan! I can’t wait for the next big thing.😘😘😘😘😘

(I just wanna say, I’ve been as good an influence on Alan as well, but I can’t speak for him obvs…)

Tiny dreams

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I always thought that being pregnant would be a 24/7 surreal voyage; that I would be constantly aware of what condition I was in and that would become my whole life. I’m actually relieved to find that’s not really the case at all. I mean, I know I’m pregnant, but I also still have a job, and hobbies, and the last semblance of a social life to maintain. My life’s not over yet.

I heard Simon Pegg describe his rising star as being lowered into a hot bath. If you let yourself in gently, slowly, you gradually become acclimated. That’s kind of like pregnancy too. If suddenly one day you woke up and you were 9 months pregnant that would be jarring. This feels like an especially slow time. In my adult life, where I’m constantly seeing the weeks flip past at a neck break speed, NOW, things can’t come quick enough. It’s like being a kid again. The first trimester felt glacial. For the few weeks in there I had round-the-clock nausea and I just thought “this is my life forever now.”

That there is a baby inside me is still totally abstract. Not even just a baby, but like, a person. A little person that will have a life and thoughts and a personality. Sometimes I get a little too ahead of myself and think “What if they have a hard time getting a job after college?” We don’t even know the sex yet. If it’s a girl, is she going to be super girly and want princesses on everything? Or will she be like I was/am, and be a sports-playing tomboy? If it’s a boy, are he going to be into cars or maybe he’ll be super into playing Magic with his dad.

Some stray hopes I have for this baby.

They get to live a happy and healthy life. Alan and I are so unbelievably lucky to already have much of our shit sorted out. We have a house that we are easily able to make the payments on. We get to go on trips, and can treat ourselves to nice things. As far as I can imagine, our kids will have so many opportunities available to them. I hope that they live fully and have good health and most of all I want them to be happy. As someone who has struggled with lifelong depression, this is my deepest hope.

They get along with the cat. Please. Please.

They love nature. This is important especially. Far too many people exist in this world.. Without really realizing what’s in it, and that it needs to be taken care of. The physical world that my child grows up in will look different than the one I grew up in, and we’ll be not even 30 years apart in age. The winters won’t be as snowy. The arrival of spring won’t be as sweet (especially with how erratic it has been this spring). As long as fall keeps remaining warmer and warmer into November, that won’t be the same. I want my kids to admire and respect nature, because, sorry little dudes, but we sort of messed this up for you, and now we need your help to make it right. Little climate scientists.

They don’t totally hate all the music I play for them. So crucial.

Already this little bub has changed me for the better, insomuch that I can actually get out of bed now as soon as I wake up, and I can make my coffee, and talk to Alan before he goes to work. I can be productive and focused, which is what I’ve always wanted. And I reflected this morning that at least for the next 10 years, this is probably my life now. Time to be the mom.

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