Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mommy Track not Mommy Brain

Women increase in intelligence after becoming mothers. That old adage about mommy brain or baby brain is bunk. It’s been written about and studied. Katherine Ellison wrote a popular book about it in 2006, The Mommy Brain.  This does not explain why, during the last weeks of pregnancy with my first boy and for months after giving birth to him, I went to the grocery store, leaving the front door wide open for several hours. Or, the afternoon I came home, went into the house, correctly locking the front door but leaving the car door wide open for the entire day. Or, the time I poured milk into my mug and filled the baby bottle with coffee.  Leaving those aside for the moment, research says I’m smarter. Check out this article by Erin Crawford in the Des Moines Register, 2006 about Katherine Ellison’s book.

Ellison says my perception improves. I’m more clued in to sounds of need and distress in my babies. This is true. I can hear my little guy (now almost 3) yelling in the living room while the older one does Power Ranger karate moves on him; Or, the older guy yelling because the little guy has retaliated by pulling his hair. Sometimes I wish I could tune these signs of distress out. They occur often.

Smart mommies are good at
childrearing and jobs, too!
photo by healingdream
She also says I’m more efficient. Supposedly I’m better at prioritizing and more focused and quicker at finishing work. This is absolutely true. I don’t know how I do it, but I get my work done in the 45 minutes I have to do it, instead of the 3 hours it used to take. I read stuff I have to read while standing at the stove or waiting in the car park for school to let out.
I started prioritizing the day I got home from the hospital with Zach. After he’d fall asleep I knew I had only minutes before he woke again for more time on the breast. I learned to prioritise immediately. Thoughts at the time:
1 Toilet – has to be done
2 Shower – dying for one. There’s breast milk all over my torso. 3 minutes, max, no hair washing.
3 Dress – can’t leave the house without clothes
4 makeup – if he wakes while I’m on step 3, I can skip this
5 eat – I can do this while breastfeeding, so will multi-task it
6 sleep – God, I wish I could put this at number 1, but will try and snooze while he feeds
My ability to prioritize has been improving ever since. I’m such a master at mommy multi-tasking now, I don’t understand why my husband only does one thing at a time.  I can simultaneously wipe a nose, send a text message, turn off the oven, start the dishwasher, answer Zach’s question about unicorns and begin the grocery list on a sheet of paper. Concentrating on one thing at a time makes me feel constrained and boxed in. I can’t ONLY do ONE thing at time. That is totally underutilizing my capacity.
Anyway, look, I’m re-opening this debate because despite the evidence, and the supposed status of women as having equal rights, working mothers get “mommy tracked”. There’s no denying it – check out this article about a GoldmanSachs working mother who claims she got put on the mommy track and is now suing. I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve experienced it. Why does this happen if we’re smarter, more empathetic (as per Ellison), can prioritise better, manage better, and get the same amount of work done in half the time? Trust me, if we leave the job ON TIME to go collect our kids from day care, we will still meet the deadlines set, come in on the weekends around trips to soccer matches, and generally outperform the guy sitting across from us who can stay until 7 pm, dials in on his laptop Sunday mornings and goes to after-work drinks with the lads. He’s spinning his wheels. I’m working.
Limiting the workplace to single people and men is not diversity, and it isn’t healthy. Would businesses advocate limiting the workplace to white people or males? How about limiting it to brunettes? They’d be losing out on valuable input from people who, due to the release of massive amount of hormones, are now smarter, calmer, happier, more empathetic, more perceptive and better able to prioritise and multi-task. Some may be blonde. We do, however, want to go home on time to collect our children; need to take our legally, duly-earned vacation days for time off with the kids; and will, on occasion, have bits of oatmeal or baby formula on our lapels. These can be cleaned with baby wipes, which we carry in our large handbags, since we are so organised.  
And, by the way, if you don’t have kids or are not a woman, I’m not saying you’re at a disadvantage or not as smart as me. Sleep deprivation (for me) evens us out. I’m just saying: we’re equal.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Break

School has let out for two weeks. The cousins were down over the weekend and we all had a blast, but now that those kids are gone, it’s me and my two for 13 more days. What will we do with ourselves? My kids and I have differing opinions.

Things my children (2 and 5 years old) would like to do over the two-week Easter Break:
photo by Jeroen van Oostrom
  • Stay in pyjamas all day, eat chocolate for breakfast, ice cream for lunch and ham straight out of the packet for dinner
  • Go to the local soft play centre, daily (at 14 bucks each time) 
  • Be driven two hours to the zoo, in another city
  • Sail a boat (the five year old insists he can because he knows how to say, “Man overboard.” He’s never been on a boat)
  • Visit the Great Wall of China 
  • Drive my car to the shop
  • Get a pet dinosaur
  • Battle an evil transformer
  • Meet the Queen.

Things my children will actually do over Easter Break:
  • Be let outside to play.

They better get used to it, because it’s pretty much what they’ll be doing for the summer holidays, too.

Happy Easter and/or Passover!

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Survive a Shopping Trip with Your Kids

Oh, dear: the fruit bowl is getting empty. Max and I finished the last of the bananas this morning. Also, we’re out of bread. I need more frozen strawberries – I keep them around for making fruit smoothies with Max in the mornings. All this we can survive, but I’m also down to three diapers and 1 roll of toilet paper – currently in use. I HAVE to go to the grocery store, and I’m not alone. I have to take the kids.
photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

There’s little I like less than shopping with the kids. Well, maybe root canal. Shopping with them is such a hassle. It turns an activity that should be fairly straightforward into a marathon of “No – put it down – we’re not buying it – it’s not good for you – don’t bite the bag – don’t throw the food – please help, go find a bag of carrots – no – no – no – that’s cheap garbage, no – no, it’s full of sugar – why not? Because no – I love you, I won’t buy that for you it’s garbage - no...no...”
I don’t have the budget for the amount of garbage they want, and even if I did, I wouldn’t buy it for them.  My two sons would like to switch the family to an all sugar-fat-salt-character branded diet, but I’m resisting.  

The kids also tend to run around and do wild stuff in the shop. I have, in the past, abandoned the trolley and walked them out to the car, cutting the shopping trip short because I’d warned them multiple times and couldn’t take it anymore. Sometimes, I try to keep them focused with little tasks like, “Got find the bagels!” or “Two broccoli heads, please.” But they get distracted along the way or afterwards, and, let’s face it, they are young and poor at picking out the nicest vegetables or handling milk containers with care.

How will I make it through today’s shopping trip? I need the food and other items. Following are some options:
  • Go in the morning with Max only, before Zach get’s out of school: Definitely. This cuts the begging by 50% or more.
  • Sedatives: For them and me – probably not the best way to be productive the rest of the afternoon, though
  • Leave Max in the car: dangerous and hot
  • Leave Max at home: With whom? No one’s here. My friends are busy or at work. Husband has a job. Perhaps cows in the field can keep an eye on him? He always wants to run away and live with them. What about the electrified fence? Hmmm...maybe not.
  • Get one of the workers at Supervalu to look after him for 15 minutes: Meantime, I can run around the shop throwing things into the trolley...They have good customer service, but I don’t think it extends to childminding.
OK, I'm out of ideas. I'm going to have to take a boy shopping today. Mothes, pray for me.

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