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Incident report

For some time I’ve been harboring a suspicion that Bun Bun is more of a jerk with my husband than she is with me. I’ve been fighting it off because I know that a) it’s quite possibly related to my general grumpiness towards my husband, which has little to do with him and a lot to do with me being hormonal and just generally a bitch and perhaps a smidgen of the fact that our marriage has mild ups and downs and this is a DOWN and b) our silly little minds are designed to trick us in these areas, like when my husband fails it’s because he’s not a good parent while when I fail it’s because Bun Bun is particularly horrible–see the fundamental attribution error. On the other hand, I KNOW there are some things she and I don’t have conflict over while they DO. Like getting in the stroller. And I almost prefer bedtime when he’s not home because with just me and the babies it’s a lot of work, but usually smooth, and with him there’s all this refusing and shrieking and running around. I also try to keep in mind that I don’t know what it’s like when I’m not there–perhaps it’s not HIM or ME but two parents versus one parent. There’s also the fact that he takes care of both kids every Friday, but for the past three weeks there’s been some reason why he couldn’t (Oh, I’m so overworked, I need to get the nanny to come in! Never mind the fact that I took three hours off yesterday for myself! Look at me sneaking some bitching in… It doesn’t affect me in ANY way, yet I resent him for it. Blech!), so he may be out of practice.

And of COURSE I think that my parenting style is more effective at times. Surely every co-parent thinks that. I’m not afraid of conflict with her and that seems to result in certain things not happening. (Like she’s fond of ripping his glasses off and flinging them on the ground, which I must say does not happen with mine. It has nothing to do with the fact that I only wear glasses in the morning and at night.)

Anyway, I try to be just, and I try to maintain perspective, but it’s hard. So I’ve concluded the solution is mental incident reports. The best way to get an accurate fix on how much whining happens on my watch is to actually pay attention to it.

It has been 5 HOURS since last incident.*

Incident 1
Time: 7:15 am.
Cause: Disagreement about lemur diaper vs. Bun Bun diaper. After consultation with Toddler, operator initiated Lemur diaper THEN Bun Bun diaper routine. Lemur diaper successful, but attempt at Bun Bun diaper resulted in whining incident of 15 seconds duration.
Resolution: Operator reminded Toddler of previous consultation, then initiated Ignore routine. Toddler compliance restored and diaper routine completed within 2 minutes.

Incident 2
Time: 7:22 am
Cause: Disagreement about cozy pants vs. soft pants. Operator initiated application of pants routine with do it yourself subroutine. Whining incident of 30 seconds duration. Precise cause unknown because operator did not know what the fuck toddler was yowling about, but something about soft pants suspected.
Resolution: Operator initiated Ignore routine immediately, citing lack of sleep due to randomly-shrieking-in-the-middle-of-the-night-several-times-toddler. Operator claims that had sleep quality been better, attempt to ascertain nature and location of so-called soft pants would have been undertaken. Toddler compliance restored and pants routine completed within 30 seconds, though further whining incident of 2 sec duration when Toddler could not get pants on alone. Help requested and provided.

Let’s see what tonight brings…

****

A parenting question. Because Bun Bun no longer eats at dinner, she finishes first and wants to get down. Not a problem. We’ve been telling her she can read a book at her designated area (5 feet away) but has to leave us alone until we finish. That worked great for a while and still does if she’s in the right mood, but lately she’s been coming over and trying to climb up on the bench or on Mr. Bunny’s lap, etc. I don’t want to rush through my dinner just to keep her entertained. There’s no way I can keep up with her, plus modeling a family meal is important to me, plus Bunlet needs someone to help him eat his mango. Options we’ve discussed. Giving her a book at the table. Not keen on that, though not sure why. Not sure it will work if what she wants is to get down. Putting her in the playroom, which is gated, and not visible from the kitchen. Not keen on that. Seems too punitive. Suggestions?

*But only because I went to work. HA!

FUCKING DEPRESSED with ALL the babies

Scene: Bunlet is screaming and has been for some time. (Let me attempt to represent that part…)  WAH I’ve tried WAH the WAH carrier, WAH the WAH swing,WAH the WAH holding, the WAH everything, but I WAH also had to give WAH Bun Bun WAH breakfast, so there was only WAH WAH WAH so much WAH I could WAH do. She, WAH meanwhile, WAH has WAH decided WAH to remove WAH her diaper, the WAH latest in her WAH bag of annoy WAH the fuck out WAH of me WAH tricks. As WAH I’m wrestling WAH it back in WAH place and WAH trying WAH to get WAH her pants WAH on, she WAH grabs a WAH goodly handful WAH WAH WAH of my WAH hair and yanks. WAH I shout WAH something WAH at her, WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAH WAAAAAH WAAAAAH I have no idea what, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH but I do know that I WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH wanted to upset her, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH because I was so upset WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, and that felt WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH really bad, and then I WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH pushed her roughly off WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH me and that felt even worse and then I began to weep WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

These episodes do not make up the majority of my time or anything, but oof, they keep happening. No matter how resolved I am at the beginning of the day not to lose my temper, BAM, thar she blows. I know part of it is just the reality of taking care of two irrational creatures, but part of it is definitely the FUCKING DEPRESSED. (For those of you not familiar with this technical term, recall that the DSM-IV distinguishes FUCKING DEPRESSED from postpartum depression, which is its own incredibly evil, cruel, heartless phenomenon, and SWEET JESUS does my heart go out to the women who are faced with it.) For me, the FUCKING DEPRESSED has its own special pattern. Everything’s fine, and then I’m a sobbing mess, castigating myself for being an utterly hopeless, useless, abusive, shit-tastic mother and person. And, even as all that is going through my head, on some magical parallel plane I’m thinking, Everything is actually totally fine. I just need to remember to put her pants back on as soon as each meal is over, and to put my hair UP. Having babies is hard, and this is a hard part, but soon it will be a nice part again.

And soon enough it is. Like, for example, the fact that when Bun Bun sees a rabbit in a book, she says MAMA. I have no idea why. I mean, m and b are both bilabials, and m and n are both nasals, but there’s no explanation for the a / u thing, so it’s a mystery, but a very charming one.

Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve been a slave to hormones for a thousand years, and boy am I sick of it, and boy is my husband sick of it. The state of our marriage is a story for another time. And starting tomorrow, I will be FUCKING DEPRESSED with a nanny. I have NO doubt that those of you who suggested I’d be super grateful for her return are correct.  But right now I’m thinking about feeling all self conscious about how I look and how loud my baby is screaming and how few outings I can manage to come up with and how much milk is spraying out of me and all sorts of other silly, sad things. And in addition, I feel defeated. I couldn’t pull it off. I couldn’t keep the children from crying, I couldn’t take good care of them. I suck. FUCKING DEPRESSED.

60%

In grad school I remember attending a talk where the speaker said:

1. When asked what percentage of the household work one does, BOTH members of a couple tend to say they do about 60%.
2. Marriages in which partners don’t keep score tend to be more successful.

Over the years, I’ve reminded myself of these two things when feeling aggrieved. They have helped me to maintain perspective. They help me remember that my husband does lots of things I don’t see, and that I’m probably overestimating my workload, and that anyway, constantly monitoring our relative contributions is more likely to lead to resentment than harmony.

But then I started thinking, where did these claims come from? Am I even recalling them correctly? And are these happy marriages also egalitarian marriages, and marriages where both partners have careers?

I tried to track down the original claims, but failed, mainly because the world of research on division of household labor is just so FREAKY. It’s incredibly easy to get distracted. By things, for example, like this web article on the amount of housework male and female scientists do, which sports the following alarming figure.

Good thing I’m a social scientist. I’m sure our stats look NOTHING like that.

The literature is all about hetero married people, which happens to fit my situation, and one generalization keeps emerging. Men tend to overestimate their contributions. Partly because men are more likely to do things like car stuff and yard stuff, both of which take far less time (because they’re occasional as opposed to constant time sucks). Women don’t. We tend to be nice and accurate about how much work we do.

While I was home with Bun Bun, I did the daily housework, because it seemed fair. Mr Bunny and I still did our monthly complete house cleaning together, and I’d wait till he got home and took Bun Bun before making dinner, but I did the laundry and the dishes and the tidying and whatever else.

My brief stint in this role taught me two things.

One: I am not capable of doing everything. I know there are women who manage it–care for the baby, deal with the house, probably manage to look purty at the end of the day… I gots mad respect, because I can’t fucking imagine it. I feel like I would have died if I’d had to squeeze vacuuming and dusting and baking an apple pie into Bun Bun’s nap slots. And she even naps. Not all babies are so generous. And then there’s the awesomeness of nobody, not even your partner, appreciating how much work it is. I got a tiny taste of that… It was a little peep into what mothers in those TV ads are complaining about–the ones where they are constantly vacuuming even as their troupe of asshole kids track mud all over…

Two: If I don’t keep score, I’m begging to do more than my share. I’ll probably end up doing more than my share regardless, but I think being a resentful nag is going to work out better than being all la di dah. Because Mr. Bunny tended not to notice as my share crept every higher. He’s a helpful, egalitarian, thoughtful guy, but I think my share could get pretty close to 90% before he’d notice.

I HATE YOU, BOOK!

A couple of women to whom I vented about the Post-Baby Marriage mentioned a book* dealing with the subject. I finally got around to checking it out of the library, and OH, HOW I HATE IT!

Tragically though, it makes some good points. We’ll deal with those next time. This time, let’s discuss the reasons I hate it.

First, the authors use concepts from evolutionary psychology to explain our behavior. Mr. Bunny calls these On the Veldt arguments, as in on the veldt, our ancestors had to flee from predators, that’s why men like sports. Okay, that was a mean parody, but in books like this, the argument always takes the form men do x becauseand women do y because… While I think evolutionary psychology has a lot of explanatory power, in the hands of the authors of this book the presentation is so simplistic as to be insulting, and the message is you can’t fight against your biological inheritance.** So basically, any time the phrase hardwired is used, I get my back up, because somehow hardwired always means men don’t have to do the dishes.

Second, perhaps because of the above reasons, the picture painted of both men and women is extremely unflattering. Women are irrational shrews, men are selfish louts. Men want only sex and to play golf, women want only to talk about their feelings and to suffocate and control men.

Third, there’s a whole chapter on sex, which is not surprising, but the presumption is that women won’t put out because they’re just too tired, because men won’t do the dishes. And maybe I’m an extreme case, but I know I’m not alone, because you told me so, but I was blown away by the strength of my anti-libido. I was repulsed and horrified by the idea of sex. People told me I wouldn’t be interested, but they didn’t tell me just HOW un-interested I’d be. And my husband even does the dishes. I think glossing over the power of hormones in this domain does everyone a real disservice.

Fourth, the book assumes all women stay at home and formula feed. Now, I know better than to pass judgment on any woman who formula feeds or stays at home. Seriously, I really do. But the presumption that all women do those things alienated me and also made me feel the book was out of step with the times. Breastfeeding is mentioned once that I noticed, and all that is said is it hurts.

Fifth, the book assumes all parents subscribe to something I am only now learning has a name, extreme parenting, where parents attempt to schedule every moment of a child’s life with activities that will give him or her a competitive edge. This is a whole other topic, so for the moment the point is that the book assumes your entire existence is nothing but ferrying your children to and from activities. Not everyone lives that way, man.

In short, the book paints a very bleak picture of men, women, children, Life, the Universe and Everything.

And I wish I could just leave it there. But sadly, I find myself feeling less grumpy towards my husband since reading it. So I guess I have a moral obligation to talk about that, too. SIGH.

*I’m not giving the title in case it’s someone’s favorite book in the whole world.
**Despite the fact that a) we can only speculate about what our biological inheritance is, and b) we have culture, which is why I personally ascribe to Dual Inheritance Theory.

Like a virgin

Dear Diary,
OMG it finally happened! Last night MB and I DID IT. I guess I’m a woman now. It was totally not like in the movies. It hurt, like, a LOT, at first. After that it was okay. I don’t really get what everyone’s so excited about, though. Maybe I’m just not very good at it yet? Anyways, I guess now I have to do it again. 

He said he loves me. I hope he really does. But he hasn’t called or texted me…

Probably because we live in the same house. So yeah. The long (exactly five months!) hiatus is over. Mr. Bunny was clear that now we’re back in the game, he’s not going to be so patient in the future. Fuck. I should have held out for a few more months.

Okay, I’m not entirely serious. It wasn’t awful or anything, and I do believe the physical connection is important and blah blah blah marriage good blah blah, but I hope at some point it doesn’t feel like a fucking obligation.

Get it? A FUCKING OBLIGATION?

The venting circle

My older brother is visiting next week to see Bun Bun. He and I are pretty close. He tormented me an appropriate amount when we were children, but it never stopped me from idolizing him, and since we were about 12 and 14, he has treated me like an equal, even actually hanging out with me when we were in high school. We’ve talked about some intimate things, and I feel like I can be open with him about most matters. Not that I always choose to.

I know I’m going to want to talk to him about the effect parenthood has had on my marriage. He warned me to expect that it would be hard, and I want someone older and wiser to tell me it will all be okay.

But should I? I’ve been thinking about loyalty to one’s partner, and who is allowed within the venting circle. To whom can you complain about your partner without it being an act of disloyalty?

Total strangers on the internet, of course. (Though I do make an effort not to complain qua complain. It’s just that the effort sometimes…fails.)

Friends, of course, at least if they’re partnered themselves, and I think it has to be understood that friends are not allowed to say rude things about one’s partner. They can echo the things you say, but are not allowed to say new ones. For example, Oh, he sounds so frustrating! But not, Wow, your husband is a lazy-ass slacker, huh?

Parents? For me, parents are not within the circle. I know this is not universal, but I would never complain about my spouse to my mother or father. I’m not sure why. Well, I mean, my dad’s dead, so what would be the point. Anyway, I’m sure there are whole books written on this subject…

It’s not even that I want to complain, just discuss. See if he has any wisdom. I guess I have to figure out whether my brother counts as friend or family. But maybe the fact that I’m even considering whether it’s a good idea means it’s NOT.

So tell me, who falls within your circle?

Ignorance is…confusing

For some reason, I refuse to read books about parenting. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m afraid of thwarting whatever natural instincts I’ve got. (And hell, I’ve kept a baby alive for ALMOST FOUR MONTHS! Therefore I am THE SHIT! QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM! Do you like being yelled at IN LATIN?) Or maybe it’s that I know there’s a ton of conflicting information out there and I don’t want to get involved. Or maybe I just spend so much of my life reading and assessing and learning that I just want to fucking BE IGNORANT.

It’s worked fine so far. But this is simply because I have the world’s easiest baby. (Want to see my certificate from the Baby Grading Department?) Suddenly, however, my baby is presenting parenting challenges that need to be solved. So I could read books, or look at The Internet. Or ask you. I’m going to ask you.

The question I’m currently facing is the transition from family bed to crib.

I chose co-sleeping because it just seemed natural to me, not because I have a strong commitment to a particular parenting style. It’s been lovely. However, something has to change about our current sleep set up.

First, Mr. Bunny has been kicked out of bed. The problem is that he’s a prodigiously loud snorer. It’s like sleeping with a wolverine. (Everyone knows wolverines snore, right?) In the past I just dealt, but with Bun Bun in the bed, I’m sleeping more lightly. I’d often find myself lying wide awake next to a peacefully sleeping baby–you know, sleeping so quietly that I’d check for signs of life–and a monstrously loud husband. I realize this does not compare to having a screaming baby who has to be soothed back to sleep every hour, but how unfair to have a good sleeper and not be able to take advantage of it! So now some nights he sleeps in the guest room, some nights I sleep there and just drop in for her middle of the night feeding (so that he gets some time with her). The important feature is that he and I don’t sleep in the same bed at the same time. And while I’m remembering how much I LOVE sleeping alone…apparently my marriage is important or something? So I think my goal should be to sleep in the same bed as my husband eventually.

Second, Bun Bun has begun to get a ton more active and is fighting the swaddle more and more. Lately she’s super into grabbing her feet, and will wiggle out of any swaddle for the delicious pleasure of grabbing those toes. So I’m sleeping less well.

The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

So maybe now is the time to transition to the crib? I know through osmosis (since I refuse to read) that around the four month mark is a typical time to think about deswaddling/ moving to a crib. But somehow I’ve been unable to pull the trigger. During the day, I keep saying, yeah, I’m ready! But then when night rolls around, I somehow find myself unable to deal with the idea of leaving her all alone in another room. Or something? I’m honestly not sure what the issue is.

If you have any advice, please share. Or if you just want to tell me how stupid I am for refusing to educate myself, go for it.  

Envying, bragging, guilt, and support

We have a book on the care and feeding of newborns*, and it says in a number of places If X is going really well, don’t tell your friends with new babies, as they’ll be envious. And it’s so true. I’ve read a number of posts from other new mothers and felt envious. Sometimes of the most pathetic things. For instance, Trinity mentioned that her beets are flourishing, and I was like WAAAH! I haven’t had time to thin my beets, plus they’re doing that thing where they never turn into beeeeets! SOB! Which is, uh, ridiculous.

And in general, I’ve got no real cause for envy. I’d elaborate on the ways in which things are going well, but then you’d want to stab ME in the face. Because somehow it often sounds like bragging, even if it’s just a statement of fact.

And then there’s the fact that I have a baby and some of you don’t, which makes me sad.

So I was thinking: Perhaps I need to broaden my horizons and start reading the weblogs of women who did not have trouble conceiving, but with whom I have other common ground. Perhaps get into conversations with people who have different experiences. So I found a weblog that looked interesting, and started reading through the archive to get to know the woman. And then I came upon the post wherein she announced her pregnancy. It took all the air out of my lungs in a way that was quite unexpected. I realized I’d actually never read such a thing before–a pregnancy announcement from someone who didn’t realize how miraculous and tenuous that little life was. (Yeah, I’m not a big reader of weblogs in general–I just read yours.) I was astonished to find myself feeling all the despair and loneliness I used to feel every month, just as though nothing had changed. Weird, y’all. Apparently I’m highly conditioned. And then I didn’t want to read any more.

So I don’t know what to read (other than the things I’m already reading, of course).

And I don’t know what to write.

I want to write about the way my husband’s constant presence gets on my nerves, but I have a husband who works from home, which means I can shower every day. Would you like to read a post about how my husband’s excessive helpfulness is annoying?

I want to write about the ways that our financial stability makes me anxious–how much growing up poor is part of my identity, how I worry that Bun Bun will lack creativity, resourcefulness, respect? Would you like to read a post about how I am TOO RICH?

I want to write about my fear that I can never go back to my job, how answering e-mails from my research assistants about the studies currently running in my lab makes me FUCKING DEPRESSED. Would you like to read a post about how I’m considering throwing away a tenured** position at a perfectly reasonable institution, something thousands of women struggle to achieve?

I want people to sympathize with my problems and offer support, though I’m not sure even I can sympathize with them. 

I should just get over myself, and stop obsessing over how others might react. Because I can’t predict it, and anyway, it’s not like these qualms kept me from calling everyone in Bionic‘s whole family a jackass.

I think this is all part of a larger realignment of identity that’s going on right now, as I figure out who this Bunny-as-mother person is, as I contemplate the rest of my career, the rest of my marriage, the Rest of My Life.

*I really like it.

**Because I’ll either be tenured soon after I return to work full time, or I won’t, in which case I bet I’ll be really sorry I ever thought I might not want this job.

Our calendar

Every year, Mr. Bunny and I produce a letterpress calendar. It’s a nice Christmas gift that doesn’t take up much space during the year, and can be recycled at the end of it. Designing and producing the calendar is a pleasant part of our December, too. I do drawings (which are then turned into letterpress plates via..uh…magic, by the people at Box.ca.r P.ress) and Mr. Bunny does the layout of the dates and stuff and all the printing, on a five thousand ton proof press that lives in our third-floor studio. It requires a lot of collaboration (so it’s always like going to marriage camp–can we get through this without fighting?), but is very satisfying. Last year the calendar featured pop-ups (pop up animals and stuff). This year, it features little doors, advent calendar style. One is opened each month, and behind each door will be found a recipe for a seasonally appropriate cocktail. (Because I want a fucking drink.) It’s always a bit crude and funky, but that’s part of the charm, we think. And while we do it mainly for the fun of it, I regularly get e-mails from people when they turn to the next page, so it provides this sweet link to loved ones over the course of the year. ANYWAY, during the design phase, we were talking about what to do with May, the month that Bun Bun will theoretically arrive. Did we want to do something baby-related? For example, some balloons or flowers at the door to signify the new arrival? A baby in a basket? We stroked our chins. HELL NO, we decided. Because if something goes wrong, that would be extremely fucking sad. We’d have to send everyone a big black X to paste over that month. But in the end, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass entirely, because I can’t think of May without thinking of Bun Bun. So here’s the May door, modeled after my very own front door.

No-one but us will think anything of it: May is, after all, a season when one starts to see tons of bunnies if one lives in an area with bunnies. Or they’ll be like, Bunnies, whatever, and rip it open to get at the liquor. But for us…hopeful anticipation.

News Flash: Men have feelings

Last night Mr. Bunny asked me how I felt about our return to the conception mines next month. (I’ve decided that’s the metaphor I’m going with–it really does feel like descending into a dark place and chipping away at something immovable, with an ever-present threat of a cave-in… Oh, and there’s the black lung…) We agreed that we are not overly psyched about it, but hey, it’s got to be done. Then I asked him something I’ve been wondering about, to wit, how does it feel for him to be around BFB’s baby. He said it was hard at first, but is getting easier because babies are so boring. And that BFB is really annoying with her constant yammering about her baby’s development, and her foolish belief that her child is precocious. But mainly he just doesn’t want to be around her because he’s pissed at her for all the suffering she’s caused me. I was like, dude, what? I mean, yes, there has been much suffering, but it’s not exactly her fault, and what was she supposed to do? Not have children? He said it’s an irrational anger, but he feels it anyway. I was kinda charmed by the idea of him being all protective! And it’s kinda nice having someone who can be pissed at her so that I don’t have to. Marriage is all about division of labor, no?

I met Mr. Bunny through BFB (at her wedding), and I know that their friendship has suffered since I came on the scene. He’s obligated to take my side in any dispute and has gotten to listen to all kinds of me complaining about her, because many aspects of her personality are super fucking annoying. (I can say this because I am well aware the same is true of my personality.) But it does seem that our infertility is putting some extra pressure on their friendship, so it will be interesting to see if they can figure it out. I suppose it might depend entirely upon whether we hit that vein of baby, or whether we end up buried alive under tons of rock.