Thanks to online discount codes (40% off and free shipping at Shutterfly!), I got in the holiday spirit a little early this morning with a baby photo shoot. I generally take a ton of pictures in order to get enough keepers. Still, it is a bit embarrassing that I managed to take 335 in just a half hour. And, I could only bring myself to delete 155 of them… That means I liked 180. Proof I am a mom.
Tiny, busy, little hands.
Had to share (a few of) my favorites that did not make the family card:
I have to start this post with a disclaimer. Life is full of too many hazards to obsess about every single product we use. However, I believe it is better to know what we are putting in and on our bodies than to blindly follow the labeling at the grocery store. After all, when a tube of toothpaste is marked as safe to swallow for toddlers, it better actually be safe!
Last night, as I was attempting to keep my eyes open through E’s current sleep regression, (yay for the nightly need to practice standing from 10PM to midnight…), I scrolled past an interesting app on Facebook. While I often wonder whether the products I buy for our family are safe, I usually rely on my own knowledge of ingredients instead of taking the time to research all the ones I know nothing about, (most of them).
Thankfully, the Skin Deep app provides a decent solution. From your smart phone, you can either scan the barcode of the products you use or type in the name of the product if the barcode is not stored in the system. Amazingly, I was able to pull up information on all but one item in our bathroom. The downside, I now have to make sense of what I discovered and decide which products get to stay and which will no longer be on our shopping list.
In the words of Gloria Steinem, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Amen, sister, sometimes the truth sucks. Regardless, I thought this app was too cool not to share. What you do with it is up to you– I get that the world is full of plenty of worries. I just appreciate the opportunity to evaluate the safety of our products with such ease of use. My smart phone will be scanning a lot more bar codes at the supermarket. Just wish I had discovered this while E was still in my belly…
This is not a new question. Everyone has their own approach. Some of my friends share nothing, others share everything. As a blogger, I often get caught in the middle. On the one hand, sharing is part of what I do, on the other, I want to protect the stories of others, the stories that do not belong to me alone.
When it came to pregnancy, my husband and I were cautious about how quickly and how much we shared. Still, as time passed and we became more and more excited, more and more trickled onto the web. Then, when E. was born, I could not help but shout everything from my keyboard, pictures and all.
The reality is we live in a world where a lot of our connections are enhanced by technology. When I share pictures, it is not so the girl who sat four desks behind me in sophomore chemistry can tell so-and-so, “Guess who had a baby?” Instead, I share so my mom, mother-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends can take part in my joy, (and, it is a whole lot easier to post an album to Facebook than to try and email a batch of pictures. Trust me, I have tried).
So, this morning, I deleted more than 100 “friends” from Facebook. I went quickly, so I am sure some stayed who shouldn’t have, and some went who maybe should have stayed, but it felt good. Darn good. I only kept people who I see in real life, who I would love to see if they were closer, or who I have formed an Internet connection with because of similar-aged babies, etc. Everyone else went, including I am sure, some perfectly nice people who I hardly know.
While the Facebook cleanse was liberating, it still did not address the bigger question; how much of my family should I share on the Internet? Here is what I have decided:
1. Facebook: I only plan to share pictures for extended family/close friends. On that same vein, I am only accepting friend requests from people who meet the above criteria. While I get why some people want huge friend lists for networking purposes, I have decided my personal Facebook will be used to share my (somewhat) personal life. This still does not address the issue of how companies use Facebook to data mine for personal tidbits, but I figure if I use it more for pictures than for words, the better.
2. Blog: This is where things get trickier. I want to blog about motherhood but I don’t want to give away my daughter’s story without her permission, (and, let’s get real, she can’t give her permission for another seventeen and a half years…). My decision is to focus my blog more on my experiences as a mom than on her experiences as a child. Along that same vein, she will now be referred to as E. and pictures will be chosen very carefully, especially as she transitions out of babyhood. Eventually I plan to include no pictures of her face.
Phew. That’s a lot to decree and the truth is that I am still figuring it out. My generation is in a unique position as new parents because social media became a big part of our lives before our kids arrived. I completely get wanting to share more or less with this digital world, as I often feel conflicted myself. I would like to hear about your approach to sharing your family on the Internet. Where is your line of comfort? I realized I had been skirting along the edge of mine for months and it was time to take a new approach.
Our house is in escrow. Half-packed boxes are scattered in every room. By all appearances, we are moving. Five years in one house is the longest I have lived anywhere. Ever.
It feels good to go through everything and make piles. Keep and give away. We own so much we never use. Going through it all is a good reflection on what matters.
I like stuff. Dresses, jackets, shoes, woven wraps. But I have more stuff than I use. More stuff than I stop to appreciate. More stuff than matters.
My favorite part of moving is finding the person who could use what we don’t. Baby swings, strollers, clothes. The list goes on. For most everything, there is a person in our life or sphere who will put the item to better use. It is like a puzzle.
I have always admired people who leave behind their worldly belongings to embark on journeys, both inward and outward. The story of Buddha fascinated me as a child. I wrote a novel about a couple that leaves everything behind. Maybe I used to be a gypsy. I admit some things are harder to let go than others.
I debated whether to share this story so publicly. Our decision to live with family for a couple months before reestablishing ourselves somewhere new. It is so counter to what most people in our lives are doing. Instead of expanding our square footage, we are shrinking into two bedrooms and a storage unit. It is the kind of thing people talk about in hushed tones, as though something has gone wrong.
That’s the beauty of it though. Nothing has gone wrong. While a baby and an abandoned job were catalysts for change, we have wanted to live somewhere else for awhile. The missing piece has been where. It was the perfect moment to sell our house but an uncertain one to pick what comes next. Add in a desire for a little more community and the bonus of some serious cash saved and it all felt right.
Something deep inside is also calling me home. It makes me feel like a character in one of my own stories, like some deeper, spiritual journey awaits, like having children does not mean your life has to take a prescribed course. Maybe that is all too romantic and in a couple months we will know exactly where we belong. Until then, I am excited to embrace the unconventional, to live my bohemian writer fantasy, to make the most of resources, to rejoin a family structure congruent with the ages… To be without quite so much concern about what comes next.
And, in this little way, I am inviting you along with me. Because I know at least one of you feels called to a life of less stuff, greater simplicity, and a deeper sense of community. A kindred spirit. And, if not, that’s fine too, we can still be friends as long as you refuse to talk about my adventure in hushed tones. After all, that’s the joy of life, it is not one-size-fits-all.
As I kid, I cringed at the thought of being relegated to the domestic sphere. I thought I needed to be out in the big world to be happy. Success came from external achievements, not from the quiet life of hearth and home. Maybe I will need those things again one day, but for now, I am enjoying a simpler season as a mom and wife.
I throw in the word wife because it is so easy to become wrapped up in motherhood to the point of forgetting I used to prioritize my marriage as my number one family commitment. Now, it is easy to put our relationship on the bottom of the to-do list with the assumption that more than a decade together is enough to keep things stable.
While I am confident we have the foundation to weather a little less attention, I also recognize the importance of continuing to put work into our relationship. Not a day goes by where I am unaware of the sacrifices my husband makes marching off into the world to make sure we have what we need to live. While I get more than enough time with our baby girl, he often does not.
Accordingly, I have consciously sought to lessen my husband’s domestic workload. As a result, the division of labor in our house has taken on a decidedly more gendered tone. The kitchen and indoor tasks are principally my domain. The little girl version of myself would cry sexism, but the adult version recognizes it is a natural division of labor when one parent works outside the home. I don’t do everything, but I do more.
Even so, maintaining our marriage is more than just doing. In the beginning of my time at home, I made the mistake of thinking doing was the secret. I made his breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I stopped asking him to unload the dishwasher. I went out of my way to do whatever I could to make his limited time at home inclusive of more baby interaction. What I lost sight of was the being. In the midst of doing, doing, doing, I forgot to stop and be with my husband.
Thankfully it did not take long to realize what was missing. Now, on those nights I am lucky enough to get Eloise to sleep early enough that I still have energy left, I no longer do anything. Maybe the dishes will be dirty in the morning. Maybe the living room will be scattered with toys. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that my husband and I get to hang out for a bit before going to sleep.
In the last weeks before Eloise was born, I mourned the perceived loss of our early years together as a couple. After more than a decade of uninterrupted attention, I feared we would forget the deep love we had shared alone for all those years. I didn’t worry we would end up not loving each other, I just worried there would not be enough time to appreciate one another in the same way. While I was right about there being less time, there is also something deeper between us.
I will never forget the first time Alex held me in his arms after Eloise was born. I am not talking about sex, this isn’t that kind of blog. I am talking about the most intense intimacy I have ever experienced. Giving birth beat the bejesus out of me. After weeks of the worst sleep deprivation, my body hurt beyond any of my expectations, and I felt the complete opposite of beautiful. Still, I managed to put the baby down and let Alex hold me instead.
Tears streamed down my face as I let him love me, appreciate me. I felt beautiful for the first time in weeks, wanted beyond any feeling I had ever experienced before. We had made it through the craziest adventure of our life, her birth, and now we were bonded by shared flesh, a living, breathing being with each of our genes, asleep in the other room. It was more powerful than the moment we looked at each other in the hospital and realized both our hearts had been removed and put inside that little six-pound person. It was a love my pregnant self could not mourn. I was so relieved.
Still, that moment disappeared into months of nightly screaming, more sleep deprivation, and all the other trials early parenthood brings. It once again became easy to spend those quiet moments quickly cleaning the house or attending to my other needs, like a moment to read my email or write a blog or God knows what else. However, something was missing, and I remembered not to forget my closest friend, my husband.
It is often easier to do than be, but I believe being is the secret to a sustainable, happy marriage. You have to stop, look, listen, touch, even if it means something else is not getting done. I know I will need this reminder again and again in the busy years to come.