Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A LLLove Letter

A cornerstone of my early years as a parent was La Leche League International, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping breastfeeding moms and babies all over the world. Not only did LLL sustain me through some lonely times as a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, very attached mom, I met wonderful families; forged friendships with incredibly talented, funny, warm, engaging women, and grew friendships that will last me the rest of my life. I became a LLL leader and continue to help moms and babies work out the mother-baby dance. I love my LLL friends, even though some of us aren’t so much a part of LLL anymore. And what I learned there only validated my passionate feelings about motherhood, feelings that were guiding me then and continue to guide me now in the most important job I’ll ever have.

Quite by accident, I got to spend this Valentine’s evening with the two people I love best, my son and daughter, along with a sweet little friend of theirs. I have a hard time turning down an opportunity to be with my kids because they are awesome, and I love being their mom. Being a mom is not glamorous, or considered by most to be very sexy, and it is most certainly not convenient. People who like convenience should probably avoid becoming parents or getting too tangled up with those of us who are.

About a year ago, my former brother-in-law, despite pining for his own children, stopped just short of suggesting to me that the reason my marriage failed was that once the kids came along, “I was all about them.”

Nice guy, love him, but, WHAT a RETARD.

Now, coming from a person who doesn’t have kids, that comment was odd enough. But this person was well aware of my situation and knew and admitted what I was up against. Yet, evidently, not only was it still considered my job to carry, give birth to, nurse, and clean up after these two babies, it was also my job to sustain the marriage with the oversized child in the house, and continuously inject the relationship and our lives with merriment. After spending the day cleaning up vomit, or vomiting all night myself and then having to take care of kids all day, I was nonetheless expected to Be the Perfect Wife Forever, which evidently meant being the only person responsible for fun and intimacy. When I couldn’t keep up, my ex, who never once made arrangements for a single evening alone for us beyond our honeymoon, turned to other means.

My story isn’t all that unusual. Men generally are pretty inept when it comes to actually completing the transition from Boyfriend Wonder to Dad along with their wives, who become women who are also mothers. They expect to be able to live the life they used to live while expecting us to live that life AND pull double duty meeting their kids’ needs. I learned the hard way that some men just aren’t up to the task of being good partners and dads at the same time.

For those of you who are, or who want badly to exercise that option, I applaud you. You will sustain humanity and set good examples for our sons and daughters. The rest of you either can’t or don’t want to. That stinks.

Some nights, I still dream about being pregnant, or even about nursing a baby; I can actually feel the "let-down" of the milk flowing through my breasts and when I wake up I expect to be covered in milk the way I used to be with my newborns. That milk sustained them through all kinds of things during their first two years of life, and the countless days and nights of nursing them forged between us an incredible, unique bond. I know them and understand their needs in ways no one else ever will. We're nothing fancy. I can't afford to take them to a lot of places like their dad can, but we don’t mind hanging out together, whether it’s watching a movie, playing a game, or enjoying a bluegrass band. I guess I don’t have much romance in my life, but our little family sure has plenty of LLLove.

There's No One Like Mother To Me
Carter Family

Sadly I'm thinking tonight
Thinking of the sweet bye and bye
Memories of childhood so bright
Come back like a dream with a sigh

I've been thinking of friends and of home
In that cottage far over the sea
No matter wherever I roam
There's no one like mother to me

There's no one like mother to me
No matter how poor she may be
I'll go back to that home o'er the sea
There's no one like mother to me

When I left that old home o'er the sea
I kissed them goodbye at the gate
Somebody whispered to me
A loving voice asked me to wait

Her blessing she gave with a smile
And tears on her cheeks I could see
How often that sweet face I've missed
There's no one like mother to me


At February 15, 2006 10:16 PM, Anonymous moms need a life too said...

was surfing bluegrass sites and came across yours - interesting and various stuff, nice! however: sweetie, it is great you are so "in tune" with your kids but you truly do them a disservice by so completely losing yourself in them. YOU still get to be an individual, don't forget. and what is with all the anger towards your ex? how is that healthy for you and especially for your kids?

At February 16, 2006 7:16 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hi Moms,

Thanks for writing! I appreciate your point -- believe me. But, because our arrangement is that they are actually only staying with me every other week (we're divorced now), I get out, enjoy concerts, go to movies,do volunteer work, and a lot of other "me" stuff when they're not around. And even when they are, it's certainly not that there are not other grownups involved. We get out to museums or enjoy the company of my other adult friends.

As for the anger, it may come across as strong to you, but all things considered, I do a fine job of keeping my mouth shut. This blog is one area that, without naming names, I can talk about the things that affect my life and tie it back to why I love the music so much. My ex is an arrogant bully, and it seems to be getting worse all the time. It's a shame. I should never have married someone who had so little interest in me, but when you're young, and someone is bullying you emotionally, things happen. But I did get two great kids out of the deal.

Thanks for stopping by!

At February 17, 2006 1:28 AM, Blogger My Boring Best said...

Well, it is certainly nice to see new people stopping by this blog. Mando is one of the nicest people I have ever come across, and a true friend.

Speaking as somebody who just met Mando in the past year, and has gotten to spend time with her and her children, I can honestly say that she astounds me by just how well she does balance being an individual with being a mom.

Mando is incredibly active with her passions. I think one of the most touching and wonderful things about her is that she does include her children in some of them. They are incredible kids, and her ability to give them a balanced and nurturing childhood really shows.

If anything, I'd say that ol' Mando is one of the only people I have ever met that seems to be really in touch with what she loves as an individual. Instead of caving in to things that might get her down, she'll pick up the mandolin to practice, or catch a concert, or just relax with a good book. I envy her for her ability to follow her heart so thoroughly.

As for her ex and the anger toward him, well, I've gotta say that I just don't see it. I've met him, and while he is a nice guy (at times) he also has a major ego. That Mando can even tolerate it is testament to just how very able she is to get past that anger.

I give her credit for that. Lot's of it.

All in all, Mando is the bomb.

At February 17, 2006 8:17 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...


When I first saw your comment, I really was overwhelmed. Even though I do reference checks as part of my job, and hear all kinds of wonderful things said about other people, I'm just a filter. Simply put, most people are probably not used to hearing such positive things said about them. I'm sure not, and I can't tell you how good it feels. Thanks for making my whole week. And for the record, the kids and I are darn lucky you came along when you did. We were starting to lose our edge, and you reminded us it's ok to have one--especially during a heated round of Pretty Pretty Princess.

At February 17, 2006 8:53 AM, Anonymous Cassandra said...

Great post. I have to say that it's not at all easy to remember to be an "individual" and succeed as well, when you have children. I had my first over 3 years ago and I'm just now learning how to make the "separation" (and as I say that my 17 month old is literally trying to climb me and is screaming at me for taking my attention off of him).
I agree that some men just don't have what it takes to be a husband, a father and a friend. It's unfortunate. I'm glad that I realized that my ex had none of the aforementioned abilities before we had children.
I remember that wonderful feeling of let down... Another thing that I'll miss (we're done). It was a feeling that completely filled me with the most intense feelings of love.
Oh, and Jim always manages to post such wonderful things when you need it the most. I applaud you Jim, for having the ability to be so sensative. You will make someone very lucky someday.

At February 17, 2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

Gee, your ex-brother-in-law must have forgotten his own track record! His first wife was a bat-shit crazy beeyatch. What a stupid thing to say to you. What does he mean, that he wishes your kids had never been born? Yah, right, that works. Blame the innocents. Ugh.

At February 17, 2006 7:39 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Thanks guys. Cass, thanks so much for your comment. Yet again I learn that a woman I admire has started over! Well I remember the days of climbers, nursing and walking, nursing and typing...now the competition is my ever-singing/talking/dancing five-year-old who is singing a nonsense song while I type. You're right about that Jim, too. He's the benchmark.

Andi, LOL! Thanks for THAT flashback! As odd a comment as it was, I know my BIL probably meant to be helpful. I also know how desperately my BIL wanted his own children, and I have no doubt that if he is fortunate to have that experience, he will be a loving devoted dad AND a doting, adoring husband to the new and reportedly wonderful woman in his life. Hopefully.


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