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.

{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.

October is September, Which is Basically January (Let Me Explain)

Life As Mom Tuesday, September 30, 2014

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you already know how I feel about the month of September. It’s a fresh start, a clean page, and I always look forward to it. This year, let’s just say September was not the freshest. It was kind of loaded and hectic around work and life in general, and I was tangled up in a lot of deadlines and To Dos. Plus, The Youngster started Kindergarten, and that was its own bag of stuff. Lots of change. Lots of adjustment.

Red Candy -- Nicole Blades| Ms. Mary Mack

And now here we are, getting ready to start October. So I’ve decided to hit the reset button on all of this. Tomorrow kicks off the third year (whuuuut) of #30WriteNow. Definitely hope you join us for that.

I’m also planning to get back on the meditation wagon. I feel off of it last month, and of course tried to beat myself up about it. But then I read something  in the NYTimes this morning. It was a chat between Kobe Bryant and Arianna Huffington, and they touched on meditation and sleep. Arianna said something that felt like she was speaking directly to me:

I try not to judge myself if I miss a meditation. Judgment creates the vicious cycle.”

Indeed, lady. So no more of that, Blades! It’s just about getting back up and trying again. That’s a cycle I can support.

On a Roll -- Nicole Blades | Ms. Mary Mack

I’m also returning to my #readmore goal that I set for myself earlier this year. I plan to attack the stack of books on my nightstand, adding nothing new until what is there is gone. To do this, I aim to read for one hour every day. No magazines, no links, just books.

Feeling good about this. Feeling good about all of it.

If you want to join me in any of these “projects,” drop me a line in the comments below, on MMM’s FB page, on Twitter or via email get[dot]msmack[at]gmail[dot]com.

All right, friends. Fingers on the reset button!

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