Aren’t I Supposed to be Crying?

There’s an endless list of things to feel guilty about as a parent. Here’s one that I’ve been feeling increasingly weird about.

I feel guilty that I actually crave leaving my baby sometimes.

Not in a crazy way. I’m not, like, leaving her alone or with strangers (and never would), but I seem to be a bit ahead of the curve in terms of time away from baby. From day 1 at home, almost every day, I’ve spent 1+ hours doing something that isn’t nursing or rocking Olivia.  Better yet, I’ve spent that time outside of the home – walking my dog, shopping, working out…anything. And on the few days I haven’t, I’ve been much more likely to cry.

So what about this makes me feel guilty? Listening to all of the moms (and I really feel like it’s ALL of them) talk about their months of wearing their kid and distress on the first day of preschool; or moms in tears over having to find and trust a nanny; or stories about not getting to breath for months; makes me kind of feel like maybe I’m not in love enough with my baby. The other day I did a workout and told the instructor my baby was 4 weeks old. She asked what I was doing there. It was so awkward trying to convince her, yes, I have enough support to be here and, yes, I have been cleared by my doctor, and no, I won’t do anything that hurts. And then I go home and take over the couch-sitting baby-duty, because that’s my job now, right?

And 10 episodes of Friends later, I really feel like I’m going to lose my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, most of those 5 hours are amazing. I’m talking to my baby, feeding her, waiting with baited breath for the poop that takes her way too long to pass, marveling at her focus on the stairs. I love being with her. But then I realize that I can’t feel my legs, I have to pee, and I totally missed my opportunity to eat lunch before needing to think about dinner. I also feel like my brain is melting from staring at a screen, but let’s be real, how do you hold a book while nursing a baby?

I try to tell myself that I’m just really lucky that I have a partner who’s around (until he’s not, which is awful) and that it’s important for me to keep myself healthy and happy to be a great mom. I try to tell my self that many of those parents who spend their days attached to their babies either wish they had time or are just very different from me. I try, but that mom guilt earwig gets me. What if I’m not attaching enough to my baby? What if I’m being selfish? How am I already ruining our relationship?

But then I remember that, deep down, I’m still Shelley. I spent my first 3 years in Denver learning how to spend time with myself and the last 3 fostering those hobbies. And that Shelley is/will be a great mom. But she still has to be Shelley.

Mom Guilt

There is no truer mom-phenomenon than the immediate onset of mom guilt.

Here are things I’ve felt guilty for so far:

  • My birth story in general (induction, the duration, epidural…all of it)
  • Our need to supplement with formula
  • Leaving my partner and baby so I can take a walk, or meet a friend, or just exercise
  • Not exercising or eating healthy enough food
  • Rocking and nursing my baby to sleep
  • Leaving my 1 week old for 1.5 hours when my parents were here
  • Only leaving my 2 week old for 1.5 hours when my mother in law was here
  • Waiting too long to change my baby’s diaper
  • Producing so much paper waste with diapers and my own healing needs
  • The fact that so much of this feels easy
  • The fact that I’m not very good at some parts of this (i.e. burping my baby after feeding)
  • The fact that I have a partner I can take advantage of when so many moms don’t
  • Feeling like I’m taking too much advantage of my partner by getting out of the house
  • The sounds my baby makes when she’s strapped into her carseat
  • The fact that I listen to podcasts during late night feedings rather than reading to my baby

I’m sure there’s more, but I feel sufficiently overwhelmed by this list.

To be clear, I know that I shouldn’t actually feel guilty for any of this. I know that this is the psychologic toll of child rearing and the effects of circulating hormones.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t on my mind.

Since one of my therapies is writing, I’m going to work through most of these myself here. Many are a much longer story. Others are just ear wigs that my type-A, new mom brain can’t ignore yet. But all of them are a result of the incredible reality that I am wholly responsible for this tiny person and I have no clue whether I’m doing the right thing.

I’m confident enough to think I’m doing a good enough job – at least above the 51st percentile – but I know it’ll take a bit for me to make that voice louder than all the other little ones. I can’t imagine that’ll happen any time soon, but maybe writing a bit will help…

Becoming Mom

There are about a million pregnancy and mom blogs out there. I know as well as anyone that the last thing the internet needs is another attempt at advising women about their new babies or lamenting their new lives as moms.  But I need to write.

So this is my experience for the sake of documentation. Maybe Olivia will read this in 15 years through her teen angst or when she’s pregnant with my grandchild – wow that’s weird to think about. Or maybe it will just provide me with the opportunity to reflect on how I’m feeling and changing into my new role as mom.

When I first started this blog as a part of my grad school program, I talked about my transition from Ms. Parker to Mrs. Curry. Last year was a big shift from a “me” to an “us”, but now I get to adapt to an entirely new identity. Or hopefully, an entirely new identity adapts to me.

Maybe that sounds harsh. I know becoming a mom is a hugely transformative thing and I won’t actually be able to avoid a little loss of self, but I just recently came into figures out who my self is individually. In the last few years, I’ve found my academic drive, discovered running as my therapy, and become more informed and engaged than ever.

All this brought me to this moment of motherhood with confidence. I’ve reflected on what I want my child to know about herself and the world around her. I’ve thought a lot about how Sean and I can raise a person who is strong both physically and mentally. I’ve worried about the world we are bringing a child into and considered how to arm them against what America has become.

I guess what I’m saying is that the “me” I’ve become has created a much stronger mom for my child. And I don’t want to lose that. In fact, I’ll do whatever I can to not.

In the two weeks since Olivia Michel has been in this world, I’ve gone on 3 runs. I’ve restarted daily(ish) weight routines. I’ve applied for a new teaching job for next year. I’ve become a research assistant for a professor. And now I’m starting to write.

Among all these things, I’ve also been a mom. I’ve woken up three times a night. Indented the couch with my favorite nursing spot. Changed dirty diapers, attended breastfeeding classes, and seen the pediatrician 3 times. Through writing, I hope to navigate the intersection between Shelley, Mrs. Curry, and motherhood. It’s a new place full of early tears and an increased reliance on my partner. It’s passing by quickly while feeling like I’ve been here forever. It’s a place that I’m learning to navigate constantly.

And, as far as I can tell, it’s a place I like.


We read two articles about experiments this week. One awesome, one, not so hot. (the experiments I mean, not the articles.)

Thanks to Lizzie, we were reminded of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. Put simply, they threw some unassuming men into a prison setting and watched them play cops and robbers.  It turned out bad.  Men took on the personas of both inmates and guards in a really negative way.  Marginally related, I heard a podcast on NPR talking about solitary confinement and the psychological changes that a person goes through when separated from other people for so long.  The man interviewed had been in solitary for 26(!) years and never knew exactly why.  Now, he can’t stand to be in rooms with more than 10 people.

Both stories make me think about what happens to a person when they are incarcerated. To what extent do they act like “themselves” once they are labeled with the term “inmate”? And to what extent so they lose the selves that they once were?

Alina’s article was also about transformation, but this one was both positive and effective.  This talked about an experiment in which struggling students were taught literacy through a community service project, which they designed.  The kids’ skills grew dramatically, and all of their practice was relevant to service that they determined was important.

Duh. Of course kids learn more when you stop teaching them. Of course they are more apt to practice reading when they think it’s necessary.  Of course the application of literacy is the key to becoming literate.

I say all of this not because I actually practiced this in my own classroom when I had one. In fact, the class was almost entirely direct instruction which, for better or worse, got some ok results some times.  That’s very different from getting good results eventually.  There’s definitely a time difference between the approaches, but considering that these children will eventually be leaders, the time is probably worth it.

Also, this thought of “Duh, service learning” comes at a time when service learning is under attack by conservatives, calling it “pushing the liberal agenda.”  I call it “pushing kids to be good people.”

If only everyone would read this kind of research…and trust it.