California native raising babies (and myself) in the south….part 2

Let’s continue, shall we?

Where did I leave off? We had moved to TN. We had hit a relatively low bottom. We were utilizing the resources we had left to get help….and we found out we were pregnant.

Oh yeah, and there wasn’t any family around for hundreds and thousands of miles.

Cut to- little bean is born.

Everyone oooo and aaahhh!

Things started getting easier. Mostly from hard work in our programs, lots of soul searching and personal growth, and tons of desire to change.

As a stay at home mother, I was so fulfilled in so many ways. I had always wanted to be a mother and it was more amazing than I had imagined. It was hard as hell…but also amazing. This is the start of what I will call “The World of Mom’s Mixed Emotions”.

Here’s the deal- Being a stay at home parents is becoming less and less of an option for people and I get it. We live in a world of dual incomes and the cost of living is climbing steadily. I think all my friends in California work while raising children. Most can’t afford not to. I know it’s a huge amazing gift to stay home…but there’s sacrifice too. We don’t live in California any longer, nor did we move back because I did not want to give up being home with my daughter.

Living in TN has been a huge lesson for me. More like a continual stream of lessons…

It was harder to find a like-minded group of friends in TN. I found that most natives kept their friend groups from before children and although TN has some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, they weren’t always inclusive of newbies. There are tons of transplants…and when I say tons I mean thousands. Every day more transplants move here. Which is wonderful. Adds to the diversity and opportunity to meet and make friends. But many of us still feel isolated. I think this is partly the culture shock of moving to somewhere so different but I also think it’s motherhood.

Motherhood (parenthood) can feel isolating. It can feel like a series of naps, meals, household chores, and errands. And when your baby is still taking 3 naps a day….how the heck are you supposed to leave the house?? You get out for 45 min. increments of time….just kidding…you don’t.

Finally when your baby switched to 2 naps a day or even 1, you can go out for baby and me classes or the park. But here’s the deal with that…when you finally leave your house and get out in the real world with other living, breathing adults…you are hella awkward. And desperate AF.

You stare, longingly, at other mothers pushing their babies in swings and you try to think of how to invite yourself to their play date next week. Or you overhear a mother giving her phone number to someone else and you wonder if it would be weird if you just texted her….

Ok, I’m kinda kidding…but not really. Which is the sad, hard, lonely truth. It’s hard to make new friends. Especially when you’re an adult and you’ve kind of outgrown that preschool phase of running up to someone, waving awkwardly, and asking them to play on the slide and be your best friend. Man, I miss those days. Things were easier then.

So you join some meet up group or Facebook group and the first 5 groups you go to are just not quite right. You’re too soggy for the crunchy hippy group and you’re too crunchy for the mainstream groups. You’re way too out of shape for the jogging group and you’re too straight and white for the lesbian black mom group. WHY???!!! *Arms stretched out to the sky in dramatic frustration*

10100566762071260

So you just baby wear your tiny at home and clean your house…again. And wait.

Now…I’m not saying I never had any friends during this time. I did. Some really good ones, actually. I met one mom at our birth class group that became a great friend and we hung out a couple times a month. The two of us met a mom at a La Leche League meeting and she joined us a few times a month. I had a few very dear friends at my 12 step meetings that I would go out with several times a month. I just don’t consider that the village that I so desperately needed, especially in those early days of being a mama.

We eventually stopped renting and wanted to buy a house. This was a big turning point. Buying a house makes a difference when it comes to making friends. It’s also super hard to buy a house when you feel like you live somewhere that stretches you and your views and values on a regular basis. But it was time. B wanted land and space and I needed roots to get over the hump of putting myself out there. It’s really easy to commit 40% to making quality friendships when you’re renting and it just doesn’t feel permanent. It’s a lot harder when you’ve committed to living somewhere 100%.

So we moved. Bought a house in the suburbs of Middle TN. Even more conservative, religious views than Nashville…but again, you sacrifice for what you desire and value more. If we wanted a house we could afford, on land, in a mature neighborhood…on one income…we had to move further out from the city. We found a house we loved. So we bought it.

I joined a new meet up group right away. I was going to commit 110% to making friends and getting out of my isolation. I finall

y found my tribe. A meet up group in my new city with tons of transplants from Chicago, Miami, New York, Colorado, Japan, Canada, San Diego, etc.

 

SPECIAL NOTE TO NEW MOMS LOOKING FOR FRIENDS (ESPECIALLY IN A NEW PLACE)-

Give yourself time. This is a phase. It will pass. Trust me. It’s lonely for everyone. You’re not alone. Even when you reach out to new groups to make friends it’s always awkward. The first several meetings will be awkward. Give it time. You will meet people if you keep putting yourself out there and getting over the hump of being new. It takes patience and commitment. Don’t give up. I’ve been there! You will get through.

to be cont….

California native raising babies (and myself) in the south…part 1

So I’ve been wanting to talk about this topic for a while and I’m still sorting it all out because, obviously, my experience is ongoing. But the single act of living in Tennessee has changed and continues to change me…and honestly, I think for the better.

Super short back story- I was born and raised in southern California. My parents are both from Minnesota and are both from very politically active, liberalish, Catholic families. I say liberalish because they were progressive about certain things and not others. Anyway- I was raised by parents who left Catholicism and moved to the San Diego area. My dad pursued eastern spirituality when I was a child and my mom generally believes in being a good person and doing no harm. My mom is very socially liberal and a firm democrat and my dad used to be a democrat who turned libertarian. He’s very liberal about women’s health and anti-war. He’s very fiscally conservative and believes in a very small government.

I grew up to be very socially and politically liberal and progressive. Maybe it’s because of my childhood attending elementary school in the barrio where I was one of 10% of white kids in a dual language immersion program. Maybe it’s because my cousin is adopted my South Korea. Or my other cousin who has Down syndrome. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a household where I was given the opportunity to learn about many faiths, many different forms of spirituality and exposed to many immigrants and cultures. Maybe being raised in a home that taught healthy sexuality and accepted my sexuality as part of being human and honored my choice to be sexually active without shame had something to do with it. Or my utilization of planned parenthood as a teen. Maybe it’s because I experienced being raped in college and went through the struggle of health screenings, STD testing, and waiting to see if I was pregnant. Maybe because I dated women for 6 years and was engaged to my college sweetheart, Janna. Maybe because I taught English in China and traveled extensively. Maybe because of my parents’ values and what they passed down to me.

Who really knows fully how we form our values, our political views and our beliefs…I think they are formed over time and through experience and they can change!!

I met my husband online. He’s a marine from a rural town in Ohio. His family is very similar to mine and yet they have very different beliefs, politically and socially. They vote very differently from me and my family. My husband and I share many socially progressive views but we don’t agree on many things too- like gun regulations.

I never imagined I would be living or raising kids in Tennessee. We were looking for a change, California is incredibly expensive and my husband missed many of the outdoor activities, space and seasons of Ohio. I was becoming disenchanted with my job as a teacher and I thought I might finish my masters at Vanderbilt. So we visited Nashville…for like a hot second in spring and fell in love.

So we moved!!

I got accepted to Vanderbilt’s coveted special education masters program with a full scholarship and monthly stipend, B got transferred to the Nashville VA and we started our life here in the south.

I think in the back of my mind I always thought this adventure was temporary and when I was done with school and found my way in a new career, we’d move back to California. That’s not what happened.

Both B and I hit rock bottom psychologically, shortly after moving here. I think some old baggage caught up with us and for me, just moving away from my entire safety net, my family and being somewhere so new and different sent me for a tail spin.

I decided not to pursue the masters program at Vanderbilt. HARDEST DECISION OF MY LIFE. I realized I was just chasing a fix to a deeper issue- trying to run towards “greener grass”, which TN has tons of that… not quite the type I was looking for though…

It was a tough and dark time to say the least.

I joined 12 step and B sought help through the VA.

And then…we got pregnant.

To be continued….

It’s not about the nail!

So I was talking with a good friend at the library today after music time. Our kiddos were playing with puzzles and stuffed animals while we got a few moments to chat, vent, connect, and be there for one another.

Her son is 20 months and going through the well known phase of toddlerhood that’s just plain hard!! Boba went through this too from about 15 months till about 2 we dealt with lots of boundary pushing, tantrums, asserting her independence, emotional sensitivity, teething (like big ol’ molar teething), huge leaps and bounds in her development almost on a daily basis, changes in sleep, etc! It’s was a hectic and crazy time for us as a pair.

I remember calling my mom a few times in tears worrying that someone kidnapped my beautiful, sweet, affectionate baby and replaced her with a mean, moody tyrant! I stewed that I was doing something wrong and that maybe I had drastically changed my parenting somehow without realizing it and it was messing her up for life and sending her on a life path towards crime and prison time! My mom assured me that she was right on target for some of the most natural developmental shifts that occur at this time. *Deep sigh*

So my friends’ dear son has been going through the same thing and my friend has been questioning her sanity!! Been there sister! She was talking about the times she gives him exactly what he asks for before he throws an epic tantrum and throws whatever she just gave him at her face with an animalistic growl. Ugh??! Really child? This can be so tough, especially when it’s just happened for the 8th time in one day!! She was asking me why he does this. I told her about a YouTube video I saw that basically sums it up to me.

It’s called, It’s Not About the Nail and it’s hilarious and accurate!

So you can see that it seems obvious that her problem must be the nail in her head but as most of us have felt more often than not, it’s not always the content that’s important but the underlying need to be validated. Yes we may actually have a nail in our head (or we may be a toddler that makes requests over and over and then throws the items at the givers head)! But what the underlying need is might be different and more important than the obvious solution.

In my friends situation, her son is a toddler that is very aware and observant. He sees the other children and adults in his world doing all sorts of things he can’t do yet. He’s literally in pain because of his molars. He’s experiencing such massive jumps in physical and cognitive development that sometimes he can’t quite keep up and can’t find the words he wants or process what he even wants because it’s all a big jumble in his overworked mind. These tiny humans are changing a million times a day and growing so quickly and having to process all that and make sense of so much at the speed of light- sometimes they get way overloaded and lose their shit!

And when they do- it looks like crying fits, a total change of mind and heart, massive confusion, tantrums, aggression, irritability, risky behavior, lashing out, major frustration, throwing items they just asked for, etc. You get the idea!

What do we all need when we’re not feeling our best? When we’re feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed?

Most of us need a combination of things- sometimes we need connection and closeness. We need a safe person that we trust to just be present with us while we feel all our conflicting, complicated emotions. We need that person to offer an ear, a shoulder, a hug, some cuddles, etc.

Sometimes we need space, time, compassion and understanding from our safe people to hold a container for us to release all that pent up energy in a safe way. We need deep breaths, a pillow to scream into, a safe cushioned corner to thrash, a room to go to and yell, a place that unsafe items are removed and we can just tantrum and vent out all those feelings. Then that safe person is a listener and protector until we’re calm, they can then provide hugs and nurturing while we come back to ourselves.

It’s not always about the nail, or the juice box, or the crayons, or the chair, etc. Most times it’s not about any of that. Just like it’s not about the money, the house, the dishes, etc. between adults. It’s usually about needing a safe person to be vulnerable with and to help us process through our feelings. Someone we can connect with. Someone who can validate how we feel.

image