Monday, January 18, 2010

On Not Trying for Perfection

I've been having difficulty writing my posts these days. It's hard to find the time to sit down and write some coherent thoughts. And when you've spent the day singing nursery rhymes and making googly faces, it's difficult to switch gears. When I sit down to write, I find my mind becoming vacant. I've tried to write in the past few days, and I write out a sentence or two and then peeter off. I've been thinking about this, and I am starting to wonder if it is partly because I find it difficult to write honestly without playing into some stereotyped role of motherhood.

As a new mom, I've had a lot of complicated and confused thoughts about the changes we've been experiencing since our little guy's arrival. I absolutely adore our little guy and feel so grateful that he's here with us. But with the bliss comes a host of changes, some of which I anticipated and others that I didn't -- and I find myself reacting to some of them with a lot of intense emotions and anxiety that seem to bubble up from a well I hadn't drawn from in years.

Writing about all of those, however, doesn't seem so easy. When I start writing about any of these topics, I feel compelled to start out with disclaimers about how much I love our little baby. Perhaps to fend off any criticism that I'm complaining, especially when we had been waiting for our little guy with such anticipation. Instead of writing, I've been mulling over these issues in my head, which tends to create a never-ending spiral of aimless thoughts that lead to loose associations that lead to more aimless thoughts. When I try to talk about it, I feel a little guilty, as if I'm failing to measure up. And I scrutinize the listener to try to measure whether she understands.

I'm now starting to understand how much social pressure women have as moms. To be loving. To be devoted. To be motherly. To live up to an image of motherhood that I can't seem to meet.

I'm realizing that being a mom is complicated business. Hormones have taken over my body, and I can't seem to shake them. Then there are all those other issues, running the gamut from life decisions to the mundane. Like whether I'd rather stay at home or work, how to be ok with being a slave to housework, how to stimulate the little guy just enough to help him with his development, but not too much as to overstimulate him and push him over the edge, how to schedule my days so that I don't feel overly disconnected from the world but still manage to get things done around the house, how to find some time for myself and still do all that I need to do for the baby, how not to feel guilty about everything, and a host of other concerns that I can't seem to keep track of in my head.

Just in the last few days, I discovered the general parenting forum on the Golden Gate Mom's Group's website, and I've been pouring over some of the topics. I had browsed other websites before, but they were mostly for topics related to the baby's well-being, like how often should he be pooping, how do you ensure he is napping enough, etc. Those topics are on this website too, but I'm also finding threads of conversations between moms about being women and mothers. And they are a godsend.

Thank goddness for the women who are honest on that site, even if they do it anonymously. When I read that some other mom worries about being selfish because she is thinking about going back to work or that another mom no longer feels like her confident self after having a baby, I want to call her up and ask her to meet up for lunch. To these posts, I write in my comments with effusive words of empathy. I want to give them a hug because we need each other.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Showing Off

Can't believe how much our little guy has grown in the past 3+ months!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Looking in the Mirror

I've never been happy with my looks. Throughout most of my life, whenever I looked in the mirror, I scrutinized the person in the mirror with the critical eyes of a disapproving mother-in-law. And through those set of eyes, I saw a flat face, drooping cheeks, froggy eyes, and clumsy lips -- features unbecoming to any potential suitor. As for my body, it was never good enough. Except for one brief stretch in my early teens when I grew faster vertically than horizontally, I always seemed to be 10 pounds overweight. And too big-boned.

Despite my efforts over the years, I never quite managed to live up to my image of myself. You know, that person I thought I could be if only I could lose all the weight I wanted, if I could discipline myself to work out regularly with weights, if I remembered to cleanse and lather my face with face cream every night, if only I learned how to apply make-up properly for once, and if I only worked my jaw muscles regularly enough to develop cheek bones. It wasn't that I needed to be glamorous or sexy or stunning. I just wanted to be a better version of myself.

I've wondered where this comes from, this poor self-image. I can blame the media and the elongated models who flaunt their emaciated frames. But if I took the time to psychoanalyze myself on this topic, I'm sure there were enough incidents in my life to germinate this attitude.

For example, as a child, I grew very quickly. Faster than most other kids. When we lived in Korea, I was always the tallest kid in my class -- where teachers lined us up by height before pairing us off for school trips. My mom remembers me running home in tears, crying that I was again left without a partner. Fast forward to 6th grade. A picture of me, with thick glasses and a pony-tail, slow dancing with a boy who came up to my chest. His arms taut across to my waist, my arms draped over his skinny shoulders, and my back hunched in an effort to make myself shorter. Even to this day, I shrink when I see that photo.

As we were growing up, looks were never emphasized in my family. Perhaps for that reason, we were given bowl hair cuts, so typical of the 70s and so downright unattractive. For a long time, I worried that I looked like a boy and was often mistaken for one. One time, when I was about 6 or so, I remember going to the public bath with my mother (as we did in Korea), and an elderly lady criticized my mother for not sending me to the men's section as I was clearly old enough to bathe on my own.

As I grew older, I couldn't believe that anyone would be attracted to me. When boys flirted with me, I dismissed them. I assumed they weren't really flirting -- perhaps only practicing for the real flirting they would be doing with the pretty girl. Or maybe something was wrong with them for pursuing me -- perhaps they couldn't get anyone else or had poor self-esteem themselves.

Such thoughts used to preoccupy me in my late teens and 20s. And then I entered my 30s, and I slowly shed my self-absorption over my looks. I remember reaching a point where I thought, well, there are plenty of uglier people in the world and they don't seem to let their looks get in the way of their happiness. I still don't dawdle in front of the mirror, but nowadays, I care a little less. Perhaps because I'm happily married and besides, who has the time to worry about looks anyway.

So imagine my surprise that I should be so enamored of my features on my little guy. Every time I look at him, I think, how did a little guy of ours turn out to be so handsome! Of course, Jeff is strikingly handsome, and the little guy looks a lot like Jeff (or at least as Jeff did as a baby). But the funny thing is that he has my eyes and nose, and I find them to be the most adorable little eyes and nose.

These days, I sometimes stand in front of the mirror and look at myself a little differently. I twist my lips, raise my brows, open my mouth, and move my jaws just as I saw my little guy do. And when I look carefully, I see myself and the little guy smiling back at me.

Loving the little guy helps me love myself a little more.