Wife, Mother, Me: How I Made Room For All Three in My Marriage

Life As Mom Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back when he was the man I married and not the father of our son, I used to greet my husband with deep kisses and long hugs as he stepped through our door. Now, nearly 10 years together, it takes real energy for me to muster anything more than an honest smile and brow raise.

What changed? We became parents five-and-half years ago. And, more specifically, I became someone’s mother.

Family of Three | Ms. Mary Mack

I still love this man with everything I have. I like him as much, too. It’s just that something shifted once this tiny person entered the picture, forcing me to splinter off into other beings: mother, wife, me. It’s a challenge moving through these different selves, trying to preserve them as whole and real. Too often, one version of me absorbs everything — all the time, all the attention, all the dedication, love and tenderness — while the others sit at low simmer on the backburner, dwindling.

The first year of motherhood, I was completely consumed by trying to do my best for this child. I was pressed for time all the time, juggling everything and putting the Mom part of me at the top of the list. Through it all, I kept hearing assurances by many (doctors, elders, other mom friends) that this was completely normal and to be expected. My husband and I became more like teammates, tackling this overwhelming thing called new parenthood, and less like crazy-in-love idealists determined to straighten out this tilted world. We laughed and learned and poured love all over our new family of three. Still, something felt off, something was missing. My husband and I stayed very close, but not in the way we used to be, not like those kid-free days. Although my husband was ever thoughtful and kind, there seemed to be sorrow there as well. He was pining for his wife. Truth told, I missed The Wife too. But I didn’t know how to bring that part of me to the forefront. Trying to find my way back to how it once was — husband and wife vs. everyone else — required a level of energy that most days I simply didn’t have.

 

It’s just that something shifted once this tiny person entered the picture, forcing me to splinter off into other beings: mother, wife, me.

 

I started talking about this drift apart, about this internal struggle — Mom vs. Wife — with other women. Instead of assurances that it’s normal and to be expected, I was met with deep nods, “Amens” and sometimes tears. These other women, some who were five, six, nine years into motherhood, were in the midst of the same battle. They, too, understood the importance of shining some of that dedicated focus on raising healthy, happy kids onto the other vital relationship in the house: the one with their spouse. And they were looking, in earnest, for ways to turn things around.

For me, being aware means taking action, making changes to help us move from being two ships passing into sailing together on the Love Boat. It starts small, but it’s sure and must be steady to be effective. So now, when this man I chose to marry steps through the front door, I’m making every effort to pause from building LEGOs, look up from my laptop and into his eyes to say, “hello.”

Originally posted on Mom.me.

{mom.me} Why Don’t Toy Gun Bans Extend Beyond Halloween?

Life As Mom Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The message was clear. It was bold and underlined and in no uncertain terms: Toy weapons of any kind would not be permitted at the elementary school’s annual Halloween parade. This means the non-battery operated light saber for my son’s Darth Vader costume would have to stay at home Friday. I explained this to him, as did his teachers, and he was fine about it. Now, if only there was a way to keep that “no toy weapons” message running through the other days of the year.

Toy Guns | Getty Image | Ms. Mary Mack

The thing is, I’m firmly anti-gun. I don’t believe the average citizen should have them in their homes. I grew up in Canada where gun control laws are strict and meaningful, and there’s no debate or contention around any of it. However, living in the U.S. and raising a family here, I pay very close attention to this country’s gun sense or, moreover, the lack thereof. I don’t want my child around guns. Period. This firearm ban includes the toy versions too.

Over the last five years, I’ve been able to maintain this no-guns policy without issue. Even my son can tell you my stance regarding these killing machines. “Mom, that LEGO guy has something in his hand that you really don’t like,” he’ll say, when we’re flipping through a catalog or zipping by (because moseying is a mistake, friends!) the toy aisle at Target.

But over the last five months, things have begun to tilt a little. It started with a blue water pistol given to him in the loot bag from a summer birthday party. He was more into the other cheap trinkets than the gun, so I was able to slip the plastic thing into a cabinet in the mudroom. Then one day, as if to taunt me, that damn squirt gun fell out of the cabinet and landed by his feet. He asked if he could fill it up and play with it in the yard. I said yes, but only for a short while. I told him he wasn’t allowed to point it directly at anyone. He still had fun spraying the water at flowers, the grass and into the air.

He’s a kid — there’s always fun to be discovered.

A few weeks later, he went to a buddy’s house for a playdate. Of course they ended up playing with the boy’s toy laser guns. “But just for a little bit of time, Mom.”

 

I figured this moment would come, the one where I need to recognize and reconcile the fact that my reach as a parent and guide has a limit.

 

And then Kindergarten happened. Everyday this kid would come home talking about some new character or superhero or ninja that a schoolmate was talking about at recess, nearly all of them in fighting mode, all carrying a weapon of some sort. My son has never once watched a show or seen a movie featuring any of these characters. (Even his latest interest in Star Wars sprang forth from LEGO.) But there he was explaining all the details of the Ninja Turtles and Batman.

I figured this moment would come, the one where I need to recognize and reconcile the fact that my reach as a parent and guide has a limit. I can’t (and don’t want to) hover over my son at every playdate, trying to dissuade him from picking up a toy gun. I can only hope that my thought-through opinions about the real dangers of guns and gunplay will take root with his young mind and instill a sensibility that he can continue to develop as he grows.

Maybe it’s one that makes him pause and wonder: “Hmm. What would Mom do?” Listen, I don’t have the bubble. Let me have a little slither of wishful thinking.

Photograph by: Getty Images
Original post on Mom.me.

Do We Need a ‘Dear White Parent’ Movie Next?

Parental Intel Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I’m not racist, but …

The minute you hear a person start off with that phrase, you pretty much know that the rest of their sentence indeed will be offensive — at best. You practically can set your watch to it.

But then there are those times when a person says that offensive/racist thing, and you want to gently shove a sock in their mouth while you school them on why they should never repeat what they just said. For me, those moments usually involve a well-meaning (albeit ignorant) parent, and they are talking about something that pertains to their child. Because, like Wu-Tang, MMM is for the children.

Dear White People movie | Ms. Mary Mack

Example: White woman pregnant with her first baby approaches a welcoming, kindhearted group of new moms with a question. She starts with the red-flag phrase: I’m not racist, but … her boyfriend and baby’s father is black, but “he’s not, like, super black” and she wants to know what color her baby — due in two months — will be. Oh, and she’s also rather preoccupied with the baby’s hair.

Now, there’s a lot to unpack here. And I have questions.

What does she mean by super black? Are we talking literal skin color, the hue of the man, or is this a cultural assessment that she’s making about his internal blackness? And why are there a preemptive worries about the baby’s hair texture and skin color? Are those really top-priority concerns for your newborn?

Lady, you’re about to have a mixed race child in a nation that is slowly choking on the fiction that is “Post-racial America.” Our black boys seem to be born with a bull’s-eye on their backs. Our girls have their hair scrutinized, pet like an animal, discounted, and even deemed against regulation. These same girls — our girls — often grow up not seeing a physical manifestation of themselves on TV, in films and magazines, and too often told that they are not classically beautiful or simply “angry, black women.” Our young women and men of color are erased, devalued and, as a collective, continually robbed of the “privilege of being treated like human beings.”

This doesn’t even scratch at the other part of the iceberg, the part that delves into the all-important notion of identity, self-awareness and self-acceptance in the face of racial microaggressions that peck away at us like ducks. All of it daily work for all of us, us with our brown skin — from barely bronze to super black.

So to hear about this white mom forming her lips to ask her silly, “not racist but …” question about the skin tone and hair texture of her child — actually hoping for very light and curly, respectively —  I want to tell her to stop talking about that. I want to strongly advise her to get educated, get prepared, and get more comfortable talking about race, because she is about to have a mixed race baby, and she will be that child’s trusted guide through this matted web of racism and all its twisted assumption, warped perception, scrambled theories, and truth-lite. She will be that child’s beacon through the bumpy roads ahead. And there is no room in any of this for the weak or the wack.

In short: Be that child’s mother, and don’t start anything with, “I’m not racist, but …” ever.

{mom.me} Five Favorite Fall TV Moms

Life As Mom Monday, October 27, 2014

My admiration for Clair Huxtable runs deep and, and with “The Cosby Show” recently celebrating its 30th anniversary, I’d say it’s pretty long-lasting, too. Clair was a brilliant combination of all good things: smarts, sass, beauty, grace and grit. The woman even walked the work-life balance beam with superlative style and aplomb. She remains my standard against which all other TV moms are measured. But that doesn’t mean that the other Queen Bees of the small screen need to pack up and go home. In fact, there are plenty of World’s Best Mom mugs to go around.Here are five other TV mamas who we think deserve some shine as well:

Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife

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Photograph by CBS

She’s known (usually snidely) as Saint Alicia, because despite being humiliated by her state’s attorney husband’s sex scandal, she nobly stood by him — at first, then in name only — and she never let her detractors see her broken. No matter what arrows come flying at her, Alicia always makes sure that her two children Zach and Grace are protected. Through the show’s five seasons, Alicia has settled into her skin and started calling her own shots, making choices that aligned with who she really is and her true wants and wishes (Exhibit A: Her steaming hot affair with her then boss Will Gardner), and let the optics be damned.

 

Kristina Braverman, Parenthood

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Photograph by NBC

She married into the large, messy, crying, cross-taking, loving family but Kristina has managed to become a centerpiece of the Braverman crew. She’s constantly juggling all the family drama — and there is plenty with this lot — while being a mom to three kids, including Max, who has Asperger’s. She’s battled breast cancer and won; ran for mayor of Berkeley and lost; and this season she built a charter school called Chambers Academy. Yes, there’s a lot on this woman’s plate and things often get a little hectic, but Kristina’s priorities are clear: family, family, family.

 

Rainbow Johnson, black-ish

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Photograph by ABC

She’s an anesthesiologist, her husband’s an ad exec and they have four kids, including 6-year-old twins named Jack and Diane. Come on. A Mellencamp shout-out? That gets her some instant points. The show, about an upper middle-class African-American family living in the suburbs, has a Cosby-esque vibe to it and brings some much-needed diversity to TV Land. It’s still so brand new, debuting three weeks ago to booming ratings, but from the episodes I’ve seen, Rainbow is goofy, sweet, loving and present for her family. It all makes me think Dr. Rainbow is angling for a place in my C-Hux shrine.

 

Claire Dunphy, Modern Family

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Photograph by ABC

Yes, she can be a tad hyper. Some call her nagging, pushy and overbearing, but Claire’s working with a lot over there in the middle of that nutty Dunphy-Pritchett clan. We’re talking: three very different kids; a goofball, but hilarious, sweet husband; an ever-cynical father; a same-age, hot-as-hell step-mom; an uptight brother with a lovable, but sometimes dramatic husband. And then there’s that niece of hers — Lily. Don’t even get me started that one. Truth told, most of us would opt for a wine I.V. if we had to walk (stomp around? jk. Don’t kick me, Claire!) in her stressed-out shoes for a month. But Claire loves those people and wouldn’t trade them in for anything. Well, maybe that niece. Bring back Baby Lily!

 

Frances “Frankie” Heck, The Middle

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Photograph by ABC

Although I don’t watch the show, it does get lots of praise, especially around this flustered mom of three kids (lazy teen son, awkward tween daughter and a weird youngest named Brick) living a working-class life in the Midwest. Her tall husband is short on emotion and excitement. We’ll call him plainspoken. It reads like a Roseanne meets Malcolm in the Middle hybrid show, and Frankie acts as our guide, providing the narration. While she would rather bring home sandwiches for dinner than cook and the house is on perma-mess mode, Frankie makes sure that she’s there for her family, and they love her for it. She’s not perfect, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s pretty damn refreshing.

Did I miss anyone? Who are some of your favorite moms on TV this season?

Originally posted on Mom.me.

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