Sunday, January 22, 2006


When Adam and I walk around the neighborhood, strangers smile and nod meaningfully toward the front of my winter coat. Either they've figured out that I'm pregnant, or they are struck by my resemblance to President Taft.

This post should be called "reset button," as I've been working all weekend to revive the productivity habits initiated a few weeks ago. This time, I'm experimenting with a new system, in which I set only three manageable goals a day. Then give myself fewer hours in which to accomplish all three, because, otherwise, I tend to let the first task on my list expand to fill many more hours than it should. I am juggling SIX discrete academic projects right now, not counting the new duties attached to my new job. By next Monday, I hope to have that list whittled down to four. By Feburary 15th, it should (must!) be further reduced to three. So that will mean just three projects to balance with a new baby. Oy vey.

In the evenings, when my energy is extremely low, I've been working on my domestic to-do list: vacuuming the car, installing the car seat, setting up the baby's room, and washing/ironing/sorting baby clothes. (You can tell this is my mother's first grandchild, as she already has sent him enought clothes to keep him outfitted thorugh the second grade.) All that remains is to write up the birth plan and and attend a breastfeeding class this week. And Adam needs to decide soon if he is, indeed, going to forfeit our security deposit by painting the baby's room a lovely, pale green...

Had I reported this earlier, it would have been a rant: My mother-in-law asked if she could come out for a visit for a week after the birth. I said "of course," not least because I know that any child of Adam's is going to be very important to her. (She has a few other grandchildren but, for complicated reasons, was not really a part of their lives until recently.) Somehow, though, by the time my MIL purchased her airline tickets, the one-week visit had morphed into a TWO-WEEK stay. I said nothing about what felt like a bait-and-switch, even though I dread the thought of her living with us in our tiny house for that long. Adam is not exactly backing me up on this one, insisting that she only means to be helpful and that we definitely won't have to entertain her as we would if this were a regular visit. He also says that I can feel free to speak candidly to her when I need alone-time or just need her to back off a bit and let me do things my own way. Intellectually, I know this is true. My MIL really is a lovely person. But I still can feel my blood pressure start to rise when I think about all that unbroken togetherness. Bleh. Am trying to summon resources to be patient and not to let my inner poutiness about this visit detract from what could be a wonderful bonding opportunity.

At my most paranoid, I worry that my MIL will judge me and my choices. Some judgment is inevitable. She has extremely strong opinions on childrearing and also on choices around diet, popular culture, and anything that smacks of material comfort. (She's a committed ascetic in the latter three categories.) On the other hand, she and I have plenty of values in common. So I should stop worrying. Or, rather, I should just refuse to worry. Inevitably, she won't approve of all of my choices, but agonizing over that is a waste of energy and only serves to make me wary and resentful.

The other impulse I really need to let go is the secret, selfish hope that my family will be more important to the baby. My family is geographically closer (although not by much) and this seems to have made my MIL a little bit jealous of my parents. I need to read this jealousy more generously, and try not to feel put upon when MIL and, God help me, FIL, are already talking about yet another week's stay with us this summer. They really couldn't have known that the week they announced as theirs happens to overlap with the week of my extended family's annual summer reunion. But that's a negotiation for another day...


At 2:15 PM, Blogger ArticulateDad said...

Remember one card in your favor: hormones! Right or not, true or not... pull that card whenever you need to. If you feel you need to blow up (to make a point) do it. Then apologize later and say it was just the hormones. But it gives you some room to be more assertive, even when it's uncomfortable for you. So, use it.

But, also, try to relax enough to leave the baby in your husband's or MIL's care a little bit, to take 45 minutes or an hour for yourself (with early nursing you probably won't be able to take more). Even driving to the grocery store by yourself will seem like a treat.

And, be sure to ask your MIL to help with other things that need doing, like dishes, and laundry. And if she folds things a different, or puts dishes in odd places... at least it's done, and she feels useful.

At 10:04 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

Sorry to hear about the MIL tension. I do think that you'll have perhaps more freedom to speak up and ask for alone time on this visit than any other.

I'm impressed at all that you're doing in the evening when your energy is ostensibly "low."

I love the Taft comment!

At 8:26 AM, Blogger effective nancy said...

It's an opportunity. Only since my FIL has become ill have I finally seen how much I can actually LIKE, not just LOVE, the people who produced my husband. They had put up such a front when he was well, so much artifice, that I thought the facade was the reality. Now that the big C has come into their lives (but they already *had* Jesus!), there's so much more admission of vulnerability and worry that I can truly relate to them as people, as human beings, rather than these brittle, shallow surfaces.

I agree with articulatedad. Use her, make her work for you, let her make this time easier with their presence. You're getting the backup you'll need, so enjoy it. Your in-laws have raised children of their own, and she'll know what to do when your bundle of joy gets to be too much in those first few weeks. She's volunteering with her eyes open.

As for the competition between families, use that too! Let your in-laws lavish attention on the baby. You can't force him to love either family more, or even either family at all. Of course, that's easy to say when I'm getting to move closer to my own parents again, who are even now one hour away, vs. nine hours to get to his. But still.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger YelloCello said...

Thanks for these comments. The key to a good visit will be candor, I'm sure. BTW, Effective Nancy, the big C comment made me laugh. Although I do hope your FIL gets some more good news soon. (Good news that far outstrips any accompanying bad news.) Articulate Dad, I'm tend to be a little wary of the whole "hormones card" thing... but I also can't deny that a couple of really little things have pushed me to tears lately. That's not like me, and I can only imagine how more intense this emotional squishiness might get in the next few weeks.

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