Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More thoughts on becoming a parent

Here are some thoughts/edited journal entries about what came before mothering:

My son was born a week late, but early in our lives. I was morning the loss of my young brother, who took his life at age 19. I had left college during my final year, unable to focus on statistics and German language conjugations, wanting instead to go home, sleep in my old bed and write poetry in my journals. But a man, a man I knew as a boy, returned after two years in Africa, returned from teaching biology in the Peace Corps, returned with the dozens of love letters I sent. We were giddy in love, silly and smitten, maybe foolish, but what did it matter? We were married and soon became a mother and a father to a beautiful baby boy with a shock of black hair atop his tiny pink head. We were young, the first of our peers to have a child, unemployed and underemployed with no health insurance, no clue what parenting would be like. And we jumped in...

I remember and relive this each year around Juj's birthday. He was our first child, the one who taught us how to be parents, the one who witnessed the early stresses of our marriage, my struggles with a new identify, our evolution as a family and the entire 9 years of John's medical training. I found early parenting to be isolating and stressful, with a startling lack of support. We worked opposite shifts and felt the weight of the world, as if we were the first and only humans on earth to try to raise a child, pursue our career interests, develop our relationship and stay sane. Balance, solutions, support and knowledge all come from experience and we were sorely lacking in that twelve years ago.

Maybe all families go through a similar transformation, maybe that is what makes a marriage and family unique. Still, there are so many things I wish were different: a more child-centered society, careers that respect parenting and family life, affordable, quality childcare, more cohesive communities that nurture the mother in her new role, longer maternity leaves, workplace accommodation for breastfeeding and an end to the stigma for a mother who seeks help, wheather in the form of food, energy assistance or health care. And a little empathy in the grocery stores during toddler meltdowns, would help too!
What do you wish?

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