Insanity of Motherhood

Motherhood, marriage, and midlife.

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Role Reversal

Last week I went home to visit/care for my father while my sister was out-of-town.  I stayed at her home, and cared for her cats, and spent my days visiting my dad.  With the move to Italy less than 8 weeks away, visiting my father was something I wanted to do before I leave.

Almost two years ago my father’s health began to decline.  He developed kidney failure. Instead of dealing with the health issue in its early stages, my father waited until his kidneys began to fail completely before seeking medical attention.  Since the onset of kidney failure, my father has slowly transformed into a different person.

My father has always been strong-willed.  He is the oldest of five children.  When he was 20 years old his father (my grandfather) passed away, leaving my dad as the patriarch of his family.  My father, being the responsible person he is, took the role seriously and helped his mother to care for his younger siblings.  Because he had so much responsibility, at such a young age, my father developed a strong sense of independence.  He has always been the kind of person who liked to do things for himself, and  his own way.

When my father’s health began to decline it was a difficult transition for him.  Kidney failure causes a variety of symptoms, but one that affected my father the most was a lack of energy and strength.  My father has always been active, and when he became ill he no longer was able to walk or stand  for any length of time.

At first my father refused to acknowledge his illness.  He was determined to maintain his independence.  I’m sure he knew how serious his illness was for quite a while before my siblings and I became aware of it.   However, by the time we did become aware, his disease had progressed too far.  There was little left to do except start dialysis to do the work his kidneys no long could.

One thing everyone can relate to is having to deal with aging parents.  Not everyone has children, but everyone has parents.  My mother passed away over 20 years ago suddenly. There was no time for lengthy goodbyes, or closure.  Her death was abrupt and painful. Yet, watching a parent slowly age is also difficult.  To see the person who once guided you with strength, no longer be able to walk or have difficulty eating is also painful.  The tasks your parents once did for you as a young child become the tasks you now do for them as an adult.  In essence, your roles become reversed.

To watch my father’s health, both physically and mentally, decline has been trans-formative for me in many ways.  Although it makes me sad at times, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend with him.  Over time, he has lessened his strong stance on issues, and is kind and gracious.  When I would arrive each day to visit him I would do care taking things. Sometimes I would clean his room or help his with his meals.  They were the kind of things I do for my boys.

Leaving my father at the end of my trip was hard.  Because I will be leaving soon, and moving so far away, there is a chance I won’t see him again.  I told him about my upcoming move with the family, but the next day he had forgotten all about it.  I leave my father in the hands of my loving, devoted sister, who tirelessly oversees his care.  A mix of sadness, and guilt overcomes me when I think about not seeing him again.

On the day of my final visit my father, his wife and I shared a meal in their apartment.  We had planned to go to the dining hall, but my father wasn’t feeling well after dialysis, so decided to eat at home.  During our meal, there were a couple of times his glasses slipped down his nose, and I gently pushed them back up.  I remember thinking how my father would have never allowed my to do something like push his glasses up as  child. He would have pushed my hand away claiming he could do it himself.  But, my father let me help him.  He allowed me the chance to show him love in a way he used to do for me as a child. Our role reversal was okay for him and for me…and we were both grateful.





It Was Bound to Happen Sometime

Conversation between a mother and father of two teenage boys.

Mother is standing in kitchen staring at the distance.  Father walks in the front door.

“Hi Honey.  What are you doing?” – Father

“Wondering what to do.” – Mother

“Wondering about what?” – Father

“Well, I went into one of the boys backpack to get their lunch bag and found this.” – Mother

Mother points to book on kitchen counter. Father looks at book.

What is that book about?” – Father

“Apparently it’s a sex advice book for girls…I think.  There are photos and various things about sex, girls and other stuff.” – Mother

“Oh boy.  Sorry you found that.  I’m not sure what to say.  Geez.  How long have you been standing here?” – Father

“A while.  I’m in a state of shock.” – Mother

“Have you spoke to anyone yet?” – Father

No.  This is my worst nightmare.  I don’t want to talk about a sex book with my boy.  I’m sure he doesn’t want to talk with me either.  I mean, what am I supposed to say?  I always thought I find a porno magazine under the bed, but not a book in the school backpack.  This means the book has been at school and all the school buddies are reading it together.” – Mother (groan)

“Honey, I know this is hard for you.  But something like this was bound to happen sometime.  The boys are teenagers now and sex is on their mind all the time.” – Father

“Did you have a book like this when you were young?  Did your mom ever find out about it?”- Mother

“No way.  I would have died if my mom found a sex book in my room.  She would have died too.” – Father

“I haven’t died, but this sucks.  I want my babies back.” – Mother

“Tell you what, I will talk to the boy…okay?  I will find out where the book came from and will tell him we don’t want it in our home.  We have a six-year-old living in the house and the last thing we need is him finding the book by accident.” – Father.

You will?  Oh, thank you.  I’m out of wine and don’t think I could do the conversation sober.  Please do the ‘sex’ talk again while you’re at it.  You know sex in a loving, committed relationship hopefully married talk.  Throw in stuff about safe sex, respect for women and above all keep sex books out of the house.  You are the best husband and father.” – Mother

“Yes I am.  Before I do the talk can I ask you one question?”- Father

“Sure.” – Mother

“Does the book have any good advice?”- Father


Wednesday Words of Wisdom – Cats in the Cradle

The other day I was driving listening to the radio.  A song played that I haven’t heard in a long time.  It was called, Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapman.  I remember hearing this song all the time growing up.  I know all the words to the song, but that day I paid close attention to the lyrics.  The lyrics talk about a man who becomes a father and how he doesn’t slow down his busy life to enjoy his son.

What made me listen closely to the lyrics was a conversation my husband and I had recently.  My husband expressed how if he had been more aggressive at work early on he would be farther ahead career wise.  Now in his mid forties he was finding it hard to make big career advancements.  We talked about it and I explained how his choice to be home every night for dinner and do little travel was a good one.  Although he could be in a career making more money, money could not replace the amount of time he spends with his boys.  My husband is home every night to play with Little Boy.  He helps with math with Tall Boy and takes Old Boy out to practice driving.  His contributions to our family are invaluable.  I could not imagine doing the job of parenting without him.

My husband and I have worked hard to keep our life simple.  We focus on caring for our boys in hopes one day they will choose to do the same for us.  We role model what we believe is truly the most important thing about being a parent…being there.

Today I thought I would share the lyrics for the song Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapman

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son? I don’t know when,
but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Here is musical link to the song if you have never heard it before.

The lyrics give a reminder of what can happen if we lose sight of enjoying time with our children.


The Grinder

Antique coffee grinder by Zassenhaus Deutsch: ...

A conversation between a mother and two teenage boys.

“Mom, the ‘grinder’ called for you. She left a message on the machine.” – Old Boy.

“What?! The ‘grinder’…what does that mean?” – Mom.

“Dad says it’s your friend who keeps ‘grinding and grinding’ until finally you give in to her.” – Tall Boy.

“Dad really said THAT?!!” – Mom.

“Mom, Dad says a lot of things when you are not around.”- Old Boy

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Being Right

“If  the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right.” – Bill Cosby

My husband and I make a good team.  He is disciplined and I am flexible.  He is brave and I am comforting.  He is pragmatic and I am spontaneous.  He is right and I am wrong.

Admitting I am wrong about something, especially relating to the children, is not easy for me.  My years of experience working with kids, sometimes makes me feel like an expert.

Prior to having children, my husband spent little time around kids.  As a matter of fact, he had never been around a baby or changed a diaper.  This is probably true for most new fathers.  During the early years of parenting, I took the lead and provided guidance for my husband.  I explained how babies do not sleep through the night, taught how to change a diaper and modeled staying calm during a two-year old temper tantrum.

Hubby was a quick study. He soon picked up all sorts of skills  to care for the boys.  I, of course, felt quite smug teaching someone who knew nothing about children.  People would compliment my husband for his amazing parenting skills.  I beamed with pride, knowing I had some part of my husband’s amazing parenting.

However, my elevated status of parent extraordinaire would not last forever.  As the boys headed toward teenage hood, I realized I did not know what I was doing.  And the fact my kids are boys, did not help matters.  Admitting I did not know how to handle the boys, was not easy for me.  Ego got in the way.  I was supposed to be the ‘expert’.

My husband, who had little or no formal training in parenting teenagers seemed to know what to do better than I.  When the boys were preteens, my husband and I a conversation.  It was about household chores.

“I think we should hire a gardener.  Bertha (fake name) says we can hire a her gardener for only $40.00 per month.  What do you think of that?” – Me

“No.  I  want the boys to mow the law when they get older.  They have to see their parents do job, so they will know it’s value.  Taking pride in your home is learned.” – Husband

“Jeez.  Mowing the lawn is a lot of work.  Look at the size of our yard.  Don’t you ever get tired of taking care of the yard, week after week?  We could hire someone for a while, until the boys get old enough to do it themselves.” – Me

“If they see someone else hired to mow the lawn, they will expect to  have that person continue to be hired when they get older.  No, trust me.  Someday, you will thank me for making sure we do the yard work ourselves.” – Husband.

I suppose I was being a bit lazy or maybe I just did not want to mow the lawn.  Mowing the lawn was a job both my husband and I did.  I reluctantly agreed to my husband’s plan.  But I did not see the value of what he was trying to do.  Hiring someone to do something, that I did not want to do, seemed like a good idea to me.

Well, someday arrived.  My husband was right.  My boys mow the lawn.  I cannot tell you the glee I feel when they do it.  It makes me so happy.  Not only do they mow the lawn, they empty the dishwasher, wash the car, vacuüm the carpets, change their sheets and water the plants.  My husband’s idea to role model how to care for  a home, worked.

What does it feel like to admit my husband was right?  Well, surprising pretty darn good.  It relieves me of pressure to always be right and keeps my ego in check.  And besides, I no longer mow the lawn.  The plan worked.  Sometimes being wrong can turn out to be a good thing.

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Life Without Fathers

Women may soon be able to have babies without men, fertility experts said yesterday. Scientists have used a cocktail of chemicals to trick a mouse egg into forming an embryo without sperm. They say similar ‘artificial sperm’ could be used to fertilise human eggs.

In sexual reproduction, a woman’s eggs provide only half the number of chromosomes needed to form an embryo. The other half is provided by the man’s sperm. The new method makes an egg duplicate its own chromosomes – resulting in a female embryo genetically identical to its mother.

Known as parthenogenesis – literally, virgin birth – experts believe the process could be used to help women whose partners are infertile or who want to have a baby without a sperm donor.

Scientists at the US Society of Reproductive Medicine in Florida created several mouse embryos which were transferred to mouse ‘foster’ mothers. They grew successfully before being destroyed after 13 days. Dr. Michael Soules, the society’s president, said: ‘If this works with human eggs, there could be tremendous opportunities for clinical applications. I think everyone is going to find this very exciting.’

But the breakthrough is controversial as it is similar to human cloning, which is currently banned in Britain.  Medical ethics campaigners last night described the        research as ‘very disturbing’. Paul Tully, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said : ‘This could mean that, theoretically, it would be possible to eradicate men.’

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which grants licences for reproductive research, said: ‘ If this was a sort of cloning there would be  serious misgivings.’

I came across this article while trying to reasearch something else.  I was trying to find an article about Alexis Stewart, Martha Stewart’s daughter, and the birth of her first child.  The reason I wanted to locate it is because of something I read in People magazine.  My friend gave me a copy of the magazine, but I must have thrown it away.

As I read about Alexis Stewart’s new baby, I could not get something she said out of my mind.  I wish I could quote her exactly, but won’t be able to.  Alexis’s daughter, Jude,  was born via surrogate after a long attempt to have a baby on her own.  When the article author asked Alexis about the fact the child will not have a father, she mentioned it was not necessary.  She said even if her child had a father, it could end up to be a terrible one like her dad.

The article above talks about how current research can  create an embryo, without the use of sperm, using a cocktail of chemicals.  The testing is currently being done on mice, but the implications are  it will be soon be able to assist humans.  Women are already able to have children alone with just a sperm donor, but the fact a male representative would be completely absent is something new.

Without getting into the ethical questions of creating life without any sperm or the possible genetic problems this could create, I think what bothers me most is the absence of a father in child’s life.  I realize having a sperm donor for a child does not mean the child has a father, but the child still knows somewhere out in the world a man contributed to their creation.

Maybe I am old fashioned  in thinking, but I believe having a father is a really good thing for  a child.  To me, fathers are a very important part of a child’s life.  If ever you ask a child who does not have a father, they will most likely tell you they wish they did.  This does not mean that a single woman or two women cannot successfully raise a wonderful child.  What it may mean is that children, if given a choice, want to have both male and female people contributing to their life.

My boys love their father.  I am very fortunate that my husband has made fatherhood a top priority.  Not all men are this way.   My relationship with my father is not close and yet I am grateful to have him.  To eliminate a man, from assisting to create a child’s life completely,  is a very hard concept for me to grasp.

Because my parents were divorced, I did not have the opportunity to have my dad live with me for most of my childhood.  I did not grow up seeing the day-to-day interactions of what a father’s role is in the family.  Raising my own children, with my husband, has given me that chance.  I can only say, it has been wonderful.  Watching the daily interactions between the boys and their dad, has made realize how much an influence a father can have on a child.  A positive influence.

So this Father’s day I salute all the great fathers in the world, especially my husband.  I know first hand what a difference having a fabulous father can have in a child’s life.  As for the newest technology for creating life without male sperm, I think we should shelve the idea for a while.  So many children already do not have the joy of a father in their life, let’s concentrate on assisting them.  If a wonderful father is not available to all children, let’s be sure an amazing male role model is.

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Life of an Insane Dad

This is another note I wrote for Facebook.  We were heading on our way home after a long weekend away.   As you can tell, moms are not the only ones  who can go a bit insane.

 Car door slams.  “Well, that is it.  We are packed and ready to go.  Good grief that took a long time,” says Dad.  “Thank you Dear for getting everything packed while the boys and I goofed around on the computer and watched TV.  You are the best,” says Mom.  “Yea, thanks Dad!” three boys chime in.  “Let’s head on home now everyone.  Thanks for doing so well at the wedding boys,” says Dad.

Car drives away from hotel.  Everyone is quiet.  Ten minutes later…”I’m hungry,” says Tall Boy.  “What do you mean?  We just pulled away from the hotel.  It is only 10:30am.  You can wait till we get home,” says Dad.  “I’m kind of hungry too,” says Old Boy.  “Me too!” says Little Boy.  “Come on dear, do you want to hear ‘I’m hungry’, for the next two hours?  Let’s find a place to get them something to eat and besides I’d like to get an ice tea,” says Mom.  “What happened to the entire snack we had?   I think everyone can get a small snack until we get home,” says Dad.  “Snack is gone.  He ate it all,” says Old Boy.  Old Boy points to Tall Boy.  “I did not!” says Tall Boy.  “Oh, forget it.  I think there is an In-N-Out burger place just up the freeway,” says Dad.

Dad pulls off freeway.  “Wow, look at the drive thru line to In-N-Out.  It is long, way too long.  Look there is a Carl’s Jr. right over there.  Let’s go there, “says Mom.  “No, you said In-N-Out burger.  I hate Carl’s Jr.,” says Tall Boy.  “A burger is a burger and we need to get home.  If you want to eat, you will eat at Carl’s Jr. or nothing at all,” says Dad.  Dad pulls into drive thru.  “Hello, may I help you?” says cashier.  “Um, just a minute please.  Alright, what does everyone want? “ says Dad.  Everyone begins talking at once, “I want a plain burger with french fries”, “I want a lemonade”, “You know dear, I think I will have a chicken sandwich with a Diet coke”,” I want a bacon chicken sandwich”,” I want a burger too,” and so on.  “Sir, are you ready yet?” says the Cashier.  “Um, I think so…well, okay,” says Dad.  Dad proceeds to place order.  More requests come from the family, “I want a Breakfast Jack”,” I want fries, “No cheese on my chicken sandwich”,” I want onion rings”,” I need ketchup for my fries”, “ I want a lemonade” and so on.  Frustrated Dad tries to place order.  “Sir, this is Carl’s Jr., not Jack in the Box.  We do not serve a Breakfast Jack,” says cashier.  “Oh, I forgot we are at Carl’s Jr.  Okay, we will have a breakfast egg sandwich instead,” says Dad.  “Sir, it is after 10:30am, we no longer serve breakfast,” says cashier.  “Okay, how about a hamburger kids meal?” says Dad.  “I want a Breakfast Jack, not a happy meal!” says Little Boy.  Little boys start to cry.  “It is okay Sweetie, I will make an egg sandwich when we get home,” says Mom. 

“Anything else, sir?” says Cashier.  “I certainly hope not,” says Dad.  Dad pulls around to next window to pay for food.  “That will be $28.00 sir,” says cashier.  “What?!  That seems like a lot of money for burgers,” says very frustrated Dad.  “Dear, we need to get home.  Please pay and let’s go,” says Mom.  Dad reluctantly pays cashier.  Cashier hands order to Dad.  “Would you like any shakes with your order today sir.  We have a special ‘buy one shake and get one free’.  It is kind of cold now, but it will warm up later,” says cashier.  “I want a shake,” says Tall Boy.  “So do I!” says Old Boy.  “Me too!” says Little Boy.  “NO!!  Everyone needs to eat their food and I do not want a peep out any of you the whole ride home!” says Dad.  Dad pulls out of drive thru driveway.  Everyone eats food VERY quietly.  Another day in the life of an insane dad.