Sunday, September 30, 2007
Then came my science experiment: attempting to, becoming and then unbecoming pregnant.
Now, for my next trick, I'm going to embark on my workout experiment and bust my butt into shape. My initiation into the workout experiment was setting an attainable goal. For me, that was to train and possibly complete the Chicago Triathlon next summer.
Because I have 11 months until the race, I'm taking these early months and setting personal fitness benchmarks; along the way, I'm also embarking on several activities that should help me tone up and train.
What does a size 16 suburban stepmom do to rev up her engines?
enroll in a pole dancing class. Okay, now stop judging. I took an intro class last Saturday and fell in love with how sexy I felt. For the past week, I've sashayed to the shower, hip-swung in front of my husband and have just felt all around sexy; in 90 minutes I boosted my self confidence at least 20 points. I also got an ab and leg workout to the likes I've never felt before. Pole dancing is like pilates on Viagra.
commit to a race and do it. For me, knowing I'm trying to do a 1 mile swim; 13 mile bike ride and a 5K in 11 months has given me a lot of time to train. For now, I'm starting out slow. I'm getting my muscles attuned to running (or at least walking fast) and will shift into swimming and biking when the weather turns cold and I have to take my workout indoors.
Do a 5K in early fall to set yourself a fitness benchmark. Similar to a business strategy, I saw triathlon training as something I needed to set benchmarks for. I also knew I had to get my arse on a course to really kick myself into gear. A few weeks ago I decided to register for the Plainfield Harvest 5K walk/run and this morning, I completed it....in 50 minutes. Hardly marathon-quality but at least it's a start. I did my first mile in 15 minutes which is one of my best times ever; my second n 16 and, well you can do the math. My third mile wasn't very encouraging. But...I did it. My aching lower back and gluteal muscles are telling me that my lower back and hamstrings need some serious strength training; my racing heart told me that I needed to kick up my endurance.
So now I move into Phase 2 of Erin's workout experiment: the Winter Workout. I'm enrolled for 8 weeks of pole dancing which should help work my core and am going to start charting my training for biking, swimming and running.
I'll keep you posted on my progress and will try to write about the rigors of training an out-of-shape body.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
"Stepmom, I know it's probably not going to happen because you and Dad would probably never do this, but do you think for Christmas I could get a Dooney & Bourke bag?"
My gut, and immediately vocal, reaction is "No" after which I spent the next couple of hours explaining and rationalizing with her.
A few of my reactions:
- "Stepmom is 31 doesn't even own one" -- this one is something my parents would have used on me and the more I thought about it the more I hated the logic I tried to use
- "Why?" -- apparently one of her best friends at school just bought one with her birthday money and has shown it off around school -- complete with the price tag still in the little zipped pocket.
- "If it is that important to you, then use your own money to buy one" -- Here I am, teaching a money lesson to my stepdaughter. Her response: "But I don't want to spend my money, that's almost all of my savings" -- um, yeah, hence why stepmom doesn't use her hard-earned money to lay down $110 on a purse either.
- "How about if we go to the mall and get a knock-off; no one will know the difference" -- Again, the "but...but..." A bird could have perched on her extended lower lip.
- "How about we go upstairs and you can peruse Stepmom's purse closet" -- It's not a purse closet per se, it's the closet in the office/4th bedroom that I've relegated my purses to. I've got a few knock-offs myself and a few J Crew bags that she didn't know about. This option seemed the most pleasing in the interim. It was also about the time her mom called. You'd think I had just told Ana I was giving her a million dollars. She was ecstatically telling her mom about the purse closet, particularly about the Prada fake I picked up in Rome....
- "If you'd like to have a $110 purse, you'll need to show Dad and I that you can treat your currently owned items better" -- I say this after having seen her room with clothes strewn amid the floor, desk with clutter, a book bag, purse and gym bag emptied on the entryway bench...I'm a stickler for tidiness and don't buy into the idea that "anyone under the age of 12 doesn't know how to or shouldn't be required to clean a room." If you can make the mess, you can clean it up.
So, with all of the these explanations and rationalizations on the table, she begrudgingly accepts that she's not going to get a D&B bag anytime before Christmas. As far as I'm concerned, I'd prefer she not have one at all. I've seen what's happened to her portable Nintendos, her cell phone, her bags, etc. It doesn't instill a lot of confidence.
I'm not sure how to parent this type of behavior. Sure, I did it when I was younger, too but my mom lucked out a little and I would get my brand name fix whenever I'd go down to visit my dad in Peoria. In our situation, my husband and I are the parents with the money and we work hard to earn it and work even harder to save it for early retirement.
How do you respond when your 11 year old stepdaughter wants such a big-ticket-for-a-young-girl item?
Thursday, September 27, 2007
That was until about a week and a half ago. Call it hormones fading or endorphins surging, I started to feel good again; actually, in my personal life, I felt great. I surrendered my heart to the pregnancy gods and rediscovered a few passions, one of which was my husband, the other being a return to exercise. I've not only committed to training for a triathlon next summer, I also enrolled in a pole dancing class in Naperville. (more on that in a future post)
While I might not ever feel on top of the world (I don't know if I ever did), I'm feeling pretty good about my personal life. It's now my professional life where I'm feeling a little lost and disappointed. Like the miscarriage, I'm not exactly sure what to do and where to go from here.
This week I've been part of a conference the magazine I work for puts on. It's a conference meant for networking and motivation. We've had speakers come in and talk about how to innovate, lead, and sell your brand. The speakers have been quite effective; so effective in fact that by the last one today I kept thinking the only thing I learned at my own magazine's conference is that I think I'm ready for something different in my career.
Currently, I'm an editor and while that's fulfilling work, it just doesn't get me excited they way it used to. What gets my fires burning is talking about rss feeds and search engine optimization and how companies (and people) can use it to their advantage. My current job is giving me such burn out I leave a trail of smoke when I walk.
So here I am with my personal life feeling great and back on a good trajectory and my professional life feels like something is missing. Do I try to branch out on my own and consult; do I keep working my 9-5 job and consult on the side; do I not do anything and go the safe route because that's what brings the insurance, the 401k and the definite paycheck?
I don't know. What I do know is that I wish the same positive mental attitude that got me out of my post-miscarriage funk would pole dance its way over to my professional life.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thank you for heeding my call the other night.
I was sad about the state of affairs in my life and wished for some peace in my life and along with a muzzle to quiet the rage.
In the past 24 hours, I feel as though the cloud has lifted and I don’t feel as sad and angry any more. In fact, the only thing I’m disappointed about right now, other than my backbreaking workload, is that my husband and I won’t see each other for a week because of our travel schedules.
My stepkids and I had had some endearing conversations last night while their dad was at an event. My stepdaughter is discovering the perils of liking boys; my stepson is an eager learner of all things science. In fact, he’s declared he wants to be a scientist when he grows up (in addition to a builder, a doctor, a dad and a fireman).
With my husband out of town this weekend, I have the house to myself and am able to accomplish those “me time” type activities like watching Golden Girls DVDs in our bedroom or taking a long hot bath with Enya on the CD player. Even more fun will be the night out in the city with some girlfriends tonight; pole dancing class tomorrow afternoon and another night with friends tomorrow night.
I’m even looking forward to finally starting my triathlon training and sorting through all my healthy diet recipes.
Yes, dear blogging gods, I think the grief is fading. I’m in a happier place now; I think I can look at pregnant women and not feel bitter, I’m back to being madly in love with my husband; I can more easily shrug off the out-of-the-mouths-of-babes comments my 6-year old stepson makes.
Thank you blogging gods. Thank you.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Her most recent Stepmom, Susan, had a piece of stepmother advice that got me thinking:
"Remember you are on the bleachers!! The game being played is between the birth parents and the children.”Reading this piece of advice really hit home this week. My stepdaughter cheers for a local football league and this past weekend the opposing team was hosting its parent appreciation day. As my husband and I sat in the bleachers watching the parents file on to the field I commented to him that I was a little disappointed that as a stepmother, I’d probably never be invited to go down on the field.
Sure, my husband’s ex may change her mind about how she feels about my involvement in the kids’ lives, but it’s doubtful.
The whole scenario reminded me of my senior year in high school. I was a stat girl for the football team and on parent night my mom was pregnant with twins and on bedrest. My stepdad had to work that night so I was on my own at the game that night.
I was one of the first to go out on the field – alone. My sadness was palpable. Until, almost like a scene from a movie, my former guidance counselor walked beside me as I walked to the field. Just a like a parent, he put his arm around my shoulder as all of my fellow classmates and their parents huddled for a group picture.
I remember feeling sad that my own parents couldn’t be there; but relieved that someone made sure I didn’t have to walk alone. Someone was looking out for me. Someone cared.
That evening proved to me that the act of being there is sometimes more important than who was there. That evening also captures my feelings about stepparenting in general: We should embrace and praise those that opt to step into a parenting role in an already-established family.
Stepparenting is just that: opting in. You've made the choice to be a part of the pre-established family's life. You didn't take a pregnancy test to become a stepparent, you made a choice.
As for Susan's advice, I like it and am going to try to remember it when I feel left out of the decisions that affect my life, too. Because after all, I'm just the stepmom.....
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Halle's doing it.
Nicole's doing it.
My entire journalism association board is doing it.
Heck, even my husband's buddy's wife who was practically divorced from her husband last year is doing it --
WHY CAN'T I BE PREGNANT?
It was hard enough to lose the pregnancy, but to now hear about everyone else who is pregnant is becoming almost too hard to bear.
I think what makes me feel more sad is that my husband and I have decided to hold off on even thinking about trying again until we can find peace within ourselves. Unlike those couples who start right away again after the miscarriage, we've come to the determination that if we can't find peace, we can't even begin to think about trying. My head knows this is the right choice; I just wish my heart would listen.
My husband made a great observation about my former pregnancy; something I wish I could intellectually wrap my head around more: I don't miss the embryo that wasn't even a fetus yet, I miss the idea of being pregnant and what it represented. I miss the new beginning that the pregnancy represented; the hope of a new experience.
I wish I could be happy for these people. Deep down I really am and wish them all the best, but for now, I just wish I could wrap myself up in protective bubble wrap so I don't have to see a pregnant woman, hear about a pregnant woman or see a small baby or child. They all remind me of what my husband and I lost and that makes me sad. Incredibly sad.
I wish I knew when this sadness would lift. Some days I feel like I'm doing better, some days I feel like I need Prozac. Every day I realize it's just me handling the grief and the hormones that are still surging throughout my body. I look forward to quieting the sadness that rages from my insides.
Right now, I just wish for peace; peace and quiet.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I can say with pride that I wore flannel when it was trendy; I understood the angst of Reality Bites; I owned a Soup Dragons CD…
Like today’s echo-booming millennials, my generation was loathed for its lazy nature and sense of entitlement. Somehow, we’ve managed to outgrow our distinctive lazy trait and are now considered the work/life generation.
Yes, we’ve managed to reshape the workforce, demanding hours and jobs that let us see our families as much as we see our coworkers. Despite those efforts, there still exists a mommy war; an ‘us versus them’ argument between working moms and stay-at-home moms.
The mommy wars have become so heated that hundreds of books and articles have been devoted to the debate.
What you won’t see in any books and in few articles is a different “war” amid parents: the stepparent wars. The stepparent wars are an ‘us versus them’ argument of a different variety, namely that being a stepparent does not make you inferior to a biological parent.
Where stay-at-home moms have the “I’m a better mom because I’ve stayed home to raise my child” argument; biological parents have “I gave birth/attended the birth therefore I’m a better parent.” Similar to the working moms, stepparents have a similar approach with children: “I may not have given birth/stay home with the kids, but that doesn’t make me less of a parent.”
I often wonder if women really listen to what they’re saying when they fight about who is a better parent: a working mom versus one that stays at home; a biological mom versus a stepmom. Isn’t it the universal parental motto to “do what’s best for the children?”
Why, then, do biological mothers get so enraged when another woman has as much love for her child as she does? Why must she insist that the stepmother not be a part of traditional parental activities or require that any and all issues relating to feelings be directed only to mom?
Why can’t we all just get along?
Pregnancy and maternity being what they are, most bosses – regardless of gender – have a bottom line to protect. A close kin to a succession plan, a maternity plan can kick the mom-to-be back to square one if she’s not careful. Even if she’s a hard-worker, being out of the office for 4-8 weeks proves you’re dispensable (as if you didn’t already know).
The thing about the mommy track is you’re expected to be expecting. Assuming you’ve told the boss about your pregnancy – for me, I told mine when I was 6 weeks because of the number projects we had deploying before, during and after my planned maternity leave – you’ve already surrendered your future promotionability.
But what happens when there’s a miscarriage – a mommy track derailment if you will? Your boss already knows you’re capable of being pregnant and for that matter were trying in some way, shape or form. Most women, especially after only one miscarriage, go on to try to conceive again.
But conception after miscarriage can take months or years. Do you resign yourself as being the one in the corner with the scarlet “M” on her chest or do you just resign and look for a job with a boss that doesn’t know your fertility history?
You can read about the Mommy Wars ad naseaum, but amid the Mommy War battles, you never read about this sort of thing. Miscarriages are so often kept under wraps that you don’t realize how many people have had one until you reveal your own.
It’s difficult to figure out how to deal with losing a child while also reclaiming your upwardly mobile identity at work.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
You spend most of early preteen years waiting for it to arrive and once it does you spend the next 10 years complaining about its existence.
In your 20s, you split into one of two groups: those that loathe their periods because of cramps or messiness and those that look to their periods as if they were a message from The Goddess herself saying "I have saved you from another month of servitude my child. Go forth and have fun."
Then, as if by ironic twist of fate, you hit that stage in your life where you're a) hoping to God your period doesn't show up because (yey) you're pregnant or b) hoping your period does show up because you've just had a miscarriage and you can't start trying to conceive again until you've had a good cycle or two under you belt. Either way, your period becomes your best friend or your worst enemy.
Me? I'm hoping. No, make that praying to the almighty Aunty Flo in the sky, that mine arrives soon, stays for a few days; leaves and comes back again in a month. The hormones have leveled out and I'm somewhat back to a calmer state. I'm eager to get back on the baby train and hopeful that all the statistics I've been reading (special thanks to my friend the Internet for all the assistance) are true and that I'll have an 80 percent chance of carrying to full term.
But for now I'll just sit and wait for things to happen.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Me: Matt, time to go to bed
Matt: but it's not 8:30 yet
Me: But it's a school night
Matt: But I was good today
Me: It's a school night. 8 is your bed time at our house on school nights.
Me: Matt. Who's the adult here?
Matt: You're an adult Stepmom but you're not a parent.
Me: What am I then?
Matt: You're just a stepparent
Mind you this conversation took place after this evening's dinner where he announced to the table he wanted dad and mom to live together again.
God I love this job
I've decided to start training for the Accenture Chicago Triathlon.
Part of my decision was based on inspiration; my friend Sara just completed the sprint distance despite a list of agonizing ailments. She was in pain and she was apprehensive, but she did it and didn't look back.
The other part of my decision was based the fact that I need a tangible goal: an event I can either do or not do. Pregnancy may never be in the cards for me again, but completing or not completing a triathlon is within my grasp.
On the positive side, training will make me healthier and it will give me an opportunity to do something strictly for myself and no one else, which is rare.
I'll try to post my progress on the blog and will certainly appreciate any triathlon training advice you all have.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
My feeling lost has to do with with my place in life. Before I'd gotten pregnant I was strictly Stepmom. I would stress out about the kids' mom not liking me or approving of the kinds of snacks I put in their lunch. If she thought my parenting was overkill, she'd tell my husband, I'd retreat a little and then step back up to the plate when she needed me to be the organized, detail-oriented one with the checkbook. It was slightly dysfunctional but it worked.
The second the stick turned positive, however, I made a vow to myself to turn my attention toward me; to not stress about the stupid little things like peanut butter snacks; and to become the vision of perfect pregnancy health. I was doing pretty well until last Tuesday. Then that part of my world came crashing down.
I was no longer carrier-of-soon-to-be-child/stepmother to two adorable kids. I was the lady you felt sorry for at Labor Day barbecues. Strong in my resolve to bounce back quickly, I planned to keep on my standard parenting track: be there through thick and thin and lend time, money or gas to accomplish all things relating to the kids.
Just as I'd started to put my bricks back in place, they came crashing down again. This time, it had to do with a matter relating to school. My husband and his ex had to make a tough decision about which school the kids should go to. The decision was made in April; I found out about it on Monday. I don't disagree with the decision; however, the result of it effectively pushes me out of the picture for the entire school year. This pleases the ex a great deal because any involvement I may have wanted to have would have screwed everything up for the kids and she knows I wouldn't do that.
I'm lost because I'm no longer the stepmom I was last school year; no longer a biological mom. I'm having a hard time making sense of everything that's happened. My not being able to find a comfortable place while we wait to get pregnant again has left me feeling angry. And I'm angry at the world.
My husband, thankfully, has been relatively patient and understanding although I'm sure he'll soon start to plead for me to return to my pre-miscarriage mental state. I don't know how to find my way back to that place though. I think it may be under construction or closed for good. I do know that I need to find a new place to mentally park myself until the next phase of life begins. I just hope it's a quick off ramp.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
A too involved stepparent? In this day and age, too much parenting hardly seems like a crime; in fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any mother or father that would have a problem with a family member providing too much love, support or nurturing.
Unfortunately, there are some parents out there that take stepparent involvement as a personal attack on their own parenting skills. My husband's ex is one of those parents.
I have the fortunate curse of being loving, accommodating, detail-oriented and organized. In full-force mode, I can be counted on to schedule two birthday parties, buy presents, a cake, take-home packs; buy school supplies; help with a homework project; follow up on party RSVPs, wash gym uniforms, make lunches and wake up at 3 a.m. to aid in a midnight puking session.
I do these things with a sense of parental pride. I may not ever bear my own child, but gosh darn I'll be the best darn parent I can possibly be to the children that live with me.
Being a good mother, regardless of it you are biological or not, should never be frowned upon, yet there are biological mothers that seem to feel that no one except them is qualified to parent. I can understand that when a stepparent, particularly a stepmom, starts acting like a biological parent (staying home from work for illnesses, school functions, using stepparent's money to pay for stepchildren's things), feelings can get trampled on. But if we really are all looking out for the kids' best interest, shouldn't we embrace those that give unconditional love instead of ask them to calm it down?
My husband's ex has told him -- not me -- that I'm too involved in the kids' lives. She's said it on a few occasions but typically forgets about it when she and my husband need a hand with the kids. I have essentially become a parent of convenience.
I love being parent, but I'm unsure how to handle the seemingly erratic requests of when I should and shouldn't step in and step up.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I’ve always been a fan of songs, speeches and soliloquies that tout the virtue of wisdom. In a vain similar to the likes of Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen . I hereby bequeath my own advice to those willing to read it
Fall in love with yourself first
Don’t let people walk all over you
Recognize a lost cause
Getting pregnant isn’t as easy as they lead you to believe in high school
You can’t use logic with illogical people
Be grateful for good friendships; you never know when you're going to need a good friend around
No one ever really knows what it’s like to be you
Develop good eating habits when you’re young. It’s a lot harder to learn to like salmon and broccoli when you’re 31
Marry for life; don’t get married if there’s one iota of doubt you won’t last
Get a passport
Go to Italy at least once
Fly first class as often as you can
Volunteer and give back to the community
Don’t look down on those with more or less money than you; you never know if the couple next door are millionaires
Laugh at yourself
Life will throw you a million different curve balls. Learn to dodge them with grace and humor.
See the Wizard of Oz at least once a year; watch South Park at least once in your lifetime
Write a blog even if you are the only one who reads it. You never know who might be looking for an book pitch or sitcom idea
Your knees and teeth will not last forever. Treat them kindly
Train for a marathon or a triathlon at least once.
Realize that difficult people and difficult situations build character.
You are stronger than you imagine. You’ve made it this far in life without turning back; you can and will continue to persevere
Your mate is not responsible for your happiness
Develop a thirst for water. It’s healthy and free (for the most part)
Know how to live frugally
Buy something from Tiffany at least once in your lifetime.
Kiss your loved ones good-bye every time you depart. You never know if it will be the last time
Pray, even if it’s to yourself.
Don’t avoid conflict. Set boundaries with those you’ve opened your heart to
Love. Do it with your whole heart; be the first to say I love you and don’t worry if it’s not reciprocated immediately.