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November 27, 2005

4. My Two Moms

'Nice Girls Can Be Naughty': A series of articles, By Erica Miner
Excerpted From Erica's Novel, Travels With My Lovers:

I watched the bustling police activity all around me - a response to my impassioned plea to the Carabinieri, in my hit-and-miss Italian - to help me locate my son. I could barely describe Julian without bursting into tears. I was so flustered, in fact, that I gave the Police Chief my maiden name by mistake, then had to correct myself. I must really be overwrought, I imagined. This was very unlike me. After almost nine years of marriage, I was as wedded to my married name as I was to the robust, hair-curling espressos that Eric made for me every morning.

As the hours dragged on, my sunburned arms felt as if they’d fall off from having to carry ill-tempered little Regina all around the Palazzo Vecchio. (Of course I couldn’t blame her - what kid her age wouldn’t be grumpy, traipsing through the Uffizi Gallery for two hours with her fanatic art-lover mom?) And in the midst of all the confusion, which was all the more so since it was Italian confusione, the poor kid’s nose had started bleeding all over my shoulder and onto the sidewalk, completely annihilating a fledgling street-Michelangelo’s masterpiece-in-progress. I handed him a five thousand lire note to start him off on his next one. He grumbled, “Grazie,” and we fled before the crimson tide engulfed what was left of his artistic endeavor.


Personal Narrative By Erica Miner:

"At this point, I was in a dreamlike fog, divided into two moms: one who was having an almost out-of-body experience watching what was going on around her, and the other, who was panicked beyond control. This dichotomy was a reflection of the defense mechanism we as moms develop in order to cope with crisis situations with out kids. It just would not do to lose my composure, but it was almost impossible not to. Again, I let drop a subtle hint of the nagging doubt in my mind about my husband’s absence. There must have been some ambivalence about him for me to flail about my married name.

Meanwhile, as all of you with more than one child are aware, the non-missing child needed attention as well. This passage brings to mind what my brother-in-law had warned me about after he had his second child. “Two kids are four times as much work as one, not twice as much,” he advised me. Not that it prevented me from having another kid after my son. But it hit home as I tried to handle the grief and panic of searching for my lost child while simultaneously dealing with the needs of the one who clung to my shoulder at the time. I was besieged with guilt: for subjecting a toddler to the intricacies of a renowned art museum in which only I was interested, and even more so for losing her older brother. Why are moms always so torn? Do you think it’s because we’re always multitasking to Herculean proportions, trying to deal with so many things at once?"

November 25, 2005

Instant Mom -- Take One Woman, Add Frustration and Stir

Pseudo Mom, By Lori Hughes

When I first became a Pseudo-mom I was just shy of 30 and dated only sporadically. It was clear that I would likely not have children and I think it was Time Magazine that had just declared I had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist's bullet than finding a husband. Wasn't I supposed to be thrilled to have an opportunity to 'play mommy'? I should explain. I don't 'play at' anything very well. Either I 'do' or I 'don't do'. I could babysit but I couldn't exercise someone else's idea of maternal instincts on my Pseudo-kid. I was not a parental figure. I was a friend, a playmate, a favorite doll with hair to comb, nails to paint and facial expressions to mimic. She could tease me about the way I talked and I'd take it. When I asked her to do something for me it was a favor for a friend. And usually, she did it. Until I became the Pseudo-Mom.

I had often been the preferred baby-sitter for weekends away or an important night out but this required a complete overhaul in my own schedule. Business had to be wrapped up and put away for the day in order for me to arrive 'home' in time for the babysitter to rush off to her own brood. It was nice that dinner was already prepared and my little darling was waiting patiently for me. I would park her at the table, pour her glass of milk... and she would refuse to eat. She had already eaten, she would swear again and again, increasingly adamant in her insistence. She had eaten earlier and was now ready for candy, ice cream, cookies or whatever treat she had happened to spy while waiting for me to arrive. "I had to eat because you weren't here yet!" Did I look like a sucker??!!! Where was her plate? In the dishwasher. Why hadn't the babysitter told me she'd already eaten. She forgot. And, besides, you didn't ask her. And I didn't like it and I don't want to eat it again! And there was the pout. Color rising to her cheeks, beautiful little rosebud lips pursed in a pout... who could resist that? Who would not crumble in the face of such distress? A Pseudo-mom. Well, that's not entirely true. I was unprepared for a full on mealtime ordeal and I was pretty sure that one incomplete meal would not result in malnourishment. I made her eat rice and three bites of chicken and two tiny pieces of brocoli. She choked them down between defiant tears. And then she had cookies. So much for discipline.

November 23, 2005

3. Temporary Insanity

'Nice Girls Can Be Naughty': A series of articles, By Erica Miner
Excerpted From Erica's Novel, Travels With My Lovers:

He’d always seemed to be a mirrored image of his dad – “little Eric,” we sometimes called him – and I’d always thought that his affection for me reflected the genuine admiration and supportiveness that Eric always demonstrated towards me. But lately, my husband had gotten less attentive; and strangely, Julian had filled the gap, vacillating between an annoying clinginess and a fierce, unpredictable independence.

I tried to remember how I had felt at his age and suddenly flashed on the exhilarating freedom I’d felt when I had put my own mother through a similar torment. Too impatient to wait for her, I walked home alone from my urban grade school, crossing a busy, dangerous thoroughfare all by myself. When I reached home I found her, head bowed over the kitchen table, crying bitter tears of worry and grief. It was one of the few times I ever saw my mother cry. Now, I supposed, it was my turn to be fraught with anxiety over my own missing child.


Personal Narrative By Erica Miner:

"For the first time in my life as a mom, thousands of miles and an ocean away from home, I was experiencing the burdens, not only of being solely responsible for my kids’ welfare but the nagging feelings of neglect from my husband. Why is it that moms always suffer the brunt of these types of neglect? It seemed that “little Eric” had taken it upon himself to be grown up far beyond his years in wanting to make up for his father’s lack of attention towards me; but underneath it all, my little boy was still just that – a kid, not mature enough to divest himself of his need for mom’s nurturing. And I was the one who had to make up for any lack from his father’s attention, either towards me or towards my son.

Nonetheless, it seemed to me, as I flailed over the sudden disappearance of my kid, that most mothers seem to experience at least one incident of temporary insanity when a child suddenly goes missing. There is no greater test to one’s mettle as a mom than facing the possibility that something terrible might have happened to our kid; or worse, that we might be at fault. Haven’t we all been through this, at a shopping mall or a theme park or… dare I say it – on some kind of foreign turf?"

November 21, 2005

Everyone should have a Pseudo-mom -- shouldn't they?

Pseudo Mom, By Lori Hughes

By the time my Pseudo-daughter was 5 both parents were very busy professionals who were more often out of town than in. They were doing very important things and making a lot of money at it. I was also a young professional with a busy career but it rarely took me outside the confines of Los Angeles. I was, therefore, handy. And I didn't make a lot of money. I don't know whether that fact figured into the equation or not but I suspect there was some thinking on their part that I, single and not wealthy, living in a tiny apartment should appreciate the opportunity to loll about their roomy, just-remodeled 'family-style' home. Yes their place was bigger than mine, the refrigerator was always full to the point of overflowing and the maid came once a week to straighten the clutter, clean the bathrooms and change the sheets. What luxury!!

There were also 3 cats to feed (and a busy litterbox to attend to). There were lots of other things that didn't really fit into my simpler single-person's schedule... earlier mornings, an actual breakfast to make, shoes to be found (never where you leave them), a trip to school on your way to work, meals to plan and snacks to negotiate. Still, I loved their daughter and, with few obligations to keep me from it, I would have felt selfish in saying, "no" when asked to stay with my Pseudo-child. Four days out of seven. For weeks on end. While mom and dad flew around the country being terribly important. (Not to diminish what they did because they really were important. And still are!)

A Pseudo-Mom might look like a mom
and she might even sound like one (usually when stressed) but we often demonstrate some distinctly non-mom-style behaviors. No, we don't throw parties like some misbehaving teen and we don't drink ourselves into oblivion in front of the tots. But I'm sure that your kids ocassionally let it slip that things did not go smoothly in your absence. They tell you that we ordered pizza on a Tuesday night... and ate it for breakfast on Wedneday morning (surely they whisper as they impart this bit of info because it's a secret which we all fervently promised not to tell). It's what they don't tell you that would interest you most. The things they hardly remember because... well... it wasn't as tasty as pizza for breakfast and it wasn't fun or even interesting.... at least not to them.

Still, one wonders just what effect these unusual experiences will have on our young friends. Oh, it's nothing terrible! But you should remember that when you leave your offspring in someone else's loving arms your kids are being exposed to the quirks and peculiarities of another personality. Yeah, you've known us for years. We're your best friend, maybe your sister, a cousin or a great neighbor. You think you know us well enough to predict what we'll do in any given situation. And you are sooooo kidding yourself.

November 19, 2005

Honoring Your Childs Passage into Adulthood

Celebrating Milestones, By Suzanne Rock

I believe that celebrating your child’s passage into adulthood is one of the most important occasions a parent and child can have. When I looked around to see what kinds of celebrations were out there I only found a few; a Bat Mitzvah, a Quinceanera or a Sweet Sixteen Party. Although I liked elements of all of them, I wanted to create an event that truly honored and celebrated my daughter’s uniqueness. Before I began, I asked her what she wanted and fortunately for me she wanted to have a big party with her friends and family. I decided to keep the details of the event a secret because I wanted to create an element of surprise. So here are the details of the day’s event…

In the morning
I had her come into my master suite filled with flowers and she had her favorite breakfast and took a bubble bath. I then had a few girlfriends come over and gave her a massage, manicure and pedicure, facial, do her makeup and hair, and then they dressed her in a beautiful tailored red dress. Little did she know what was going on outside of closed doors. hehe We had over 75 people who love her creating an atmosphere of beauty with pictures, flowers, quotes, and collages made by her friends.

When Malia came out of the room she was escorted into the living room and surrounded by 8 women who took a huge part in influencing and raising her. They each talked about the difference that Malia has made in their lives. Not a dry eye in the room! Then we walked her out to the backyard where she walked under an archway created by people holding hands above her head. This led her to the center of the yard where people gathered around her in a circle. Many people then spoke to her about the qualities they saw in her that would make her an extraordinary woman. The air was filled with tears, gratitude, and laughter. After that, Malia talked about the kind of woman she wanted to become and as a group we all committed to her that we would support her in reaching her dreams and goals. The day’s event ended with a slideshow of her life, great food and dancing. I don’t think anyone who attended Malia’s Rite of Passage celebration will ever forget it, we all left feeling touched, moved and inspired. What a day!

November 17, 2005

2. Every Mom’s Nightmare

'Nice Girls Can Be Naughty': A series of articles, By Erica Miner
Excerpted From Erica's Novel, Travels With My Lovers:

By mid-afternoon Florence had become, to my overloaded senses, a bewildering maze of crisscrossing streets and piazzas choked with tourists. Then, when the kids and I had finally got our bearings (I was feeling calm and we were on our way to a bar to reward ourselves with some gelati) the unimaginable happened. My son, who had insisted on chasing pigeons through the Piazza della Signoria, disappeared; and suddenly the phrase "sightseeing" took on a whole new - and frightening - meaning.

Julian was only eight - what made him think he could just take off like that, in the middle of an unfamiliar, foreign city? One minute he was alternately pursuing the ubiquitous birds and fidgeting impatiently while five-year-old Regina and I admired the imposing statues in the colonnade; and the next minute he was out of sight. Something was definitely going on with him.


Personal Narrative By Erica Miner:

"This is every mom's nightmare, single or otherwise. To add to my distress and guilt over wanting some much-needed time for myself, now I had to deal with my terror over what might have happened to my son. He had always had a mind of his own (how many of us have recognized this in our own progeny?) But he was my firstborn; and I was impossibly young and didn't have enough mothering experience to know if this kind of behavior was 'normal' for his age or not. I could only speculate that he was either trying to establish his own personality, or that his actions were a sign of something else troubling him. One way or other, the pressure was mounting on this poor beleaguered mom. How many of us can relate to that?"

November 15, 2005

October Leaves

In Search of Child Care, By Mindy Gullen

Lovely October. All the signs of fall have arrived. The leaves turning (in California we just pretend), we start pulling out our favorite soft sweaters, enjoy roaring fires, bake cookies, and kids are back in school, all things cozy and warm seem to begin in October. As a kid, I loved all these cozy, fall things except for that one part about going back to school, what was so great about that? What made it even more offensive was listening to my mother’s happy banter around then to anyone and everyone, “yes the kids are FINALLY back in school”. Once I remember seeing mother actually roll her eyes while yammering on the phone to the neighbor lady…I was repulsed…“what a traitor” scowling to myself wondering how could she be so happy sending us off to purgatory? Well, all it took for me to finally understand was to become a parent, a single mom no less, to see that with school in session comes that familiar routine, new school clothes, figuring out Halloween costumes and mostly having that comforting sense that I knew where my kids were until I picked them up in their after-school daycare. What would I have done without that program, I’ll never know. Even now I appreciate the sweet lady in charge of the day-care program who suffered from, of all things, narcolepsy…always something.

The reality is
that unless you’re a single mom with a trust fund, or have a willing and able family member close by, or an incredibly great ex-husband who pays his child support on time (although that would be an oxymoron), the responsibility of securing the highest quality of daycare for your children, outside of yourself, is one of the most important decisions you’ll be making during their formative years and one that will affect them the rest of their lives.

CoAbode, bless its heart
, is currently expanding the base of information and support services they provide to all its members by listing daycare providers within the communities of it member base. That being said, it is still each mom’s responsibility to check references, conduct background checks on workers (easily done on internet in your pj’s). A few things you can do to ease your mind before you decide on a child care provider is to drop in unannounced to see what a typical day is like in that home or facility, make sure they are trained to do CPR, there are no pools or access to one, they have a safe and reasonable ratio of childcare providers to the number of children, and all this is just for starters.

All of us single mom’s are, in a way, sisters. We recognize each other in the grocery store, at the parks, in the work place and we watch each others children. We understand the pressures, the fears and the loneliness each other goes through from time to time while raising our children alone. Thankfully, we also know the pure joy and pride of being on the front line of our children’s growth and discoveries as they reach for their own stars in life. Overall, our children and we as moms get to learn a few things about living by grace, dignity, and humility, and, at times, mix it all up with a healthy dose of our own genuine moxie. We’re a good bunch. Take care of yourselves, your children and say hello to one another when you’re out and about.


November 13, 2005

What is a Pseudo-Mom, and who would want one anyway?

Pseudo Mom, By Lori Hughes:

Many years ago when I was young and foolish... so were my friends. Though the daughter of my best friend and her husband had a very respectable Godmother (a nun who happened to attend the birth at a Catholic hospital) they later determined that she should also have an unofficial God-Mom as well. One who would know her all her life and make a more active contribution to her upbringing. In other words, they needed a fairly constant babysitter and I was the obvious choice because their little red-headed moppet adored me... and I her.

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child
and at least one single friend who is willing to take time out of her own social life to make sure your tot is always in safe, loving hands. As the designated Pseudo-mom I would take the aforementioned tot shopping for X-mas presents, attend all important scholastic and social events, know her mind and appreciate her each and every accomplishment much like a proud parent. And of course I would be happy to step in at any time and be the parent... equally reliable and similar in my approach to discipline, behavior and common sense values. They were soooo naive.

Safe and loving, yes, we are.
We Pseudo-moms are just as warm and fuzzy as you'd like us to be and most of us are probably as responsible as any parent. Of course you think it's easier for us to deal with your kids than it is for you. We don't have long running disputes over how many times a week one should breakfast on a sugary cereal instead of oatmeal. We don't see our worst selves in the scowl on a 3 year old's face. We don't worry about what the teachers will think when we hear 'naughty words' being fired back at us from that tiny little mouth. We laugh. (At least, I did) Then we worry a little about what you will think of us for having let fly with the expletives in front of your innocent child... until, that is, we realize it's your favorite phrase, too, a nearly unconcious utterance whenever some asshole cuts you off in traffic. Then we laugh again. At you. Behind your back. It's not a mean thing. We love you, too. And we love our Psuedo-kids. But they are, most definitely, your kids, not ours. We do not assume the role of parent. We are something else entirely. And, in some ways, that really does make it easier for us to deal with them than it is for you. But whatever you imagine happens between us while you are not around, however you envision our Pseudo-mom selves replacing you in some sweet scene of domestic bliss... you are dead wrong!

November 11, 2005

Blessing Way for the Mother to Be

Celebrating Milestones, By Suzanne Rock:

The first experience I had of ritual was a blessing way my mother created for me when I was twenty six and pregnant with my first child.

In my late teens and early twenties my mom was in a woman’s group that met twice a month for almost 8 years. She kept inviting me but it never sounded appealing. In fact I thought it sounded like some cult or satanic ritual. She talked about sitting in a circle with other women, celebrating the seasons and each other lives. It sounded weird and I wanted nothing to do with it. When I got pregnant she begged me to let her throw me a “Baby Shower” or a Blessing Way as she called it. I reluctantly agreed.

The day came and she had me stay in my room while she was getting ready. I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience. She led me out of my room through a walkway of candles and flowers into the living room where 12 of my closest women’s friends were waiting for me. They were sitting in a circle around a candle lit center altar. The room was filled with gorgeous flower arrangements and candles everywhere. I’ll never forget how my girlfriend’s eyes were filled with such love. And then it began. My sister started talking about this important transition that I was about to go through, the passage from maiden to motherhood. As she spoke and sang to me and styled my hair. She put flowers in it to symbolize my transformation. My mother then washed my feet in rose petals and warm water as a gesture of love and support. Then each one of my girlfriend’s read a poem or prayer about the blessings of motherhood and why they think I’ll make a good mother. I’ve never felt so seen, loved and cherished. They gave me gifts from the heart. One friend gave me a scarf her mother gave her; another gave me stones from moon beach that she specifically picked out with me in mind. Then they each picked up a tall taper candle and placed it in a sand filled bowl, lit it and offered me qualities that would support me while I was in labor, like, strength, endurance, laughter and ease. When they were all placed in the bowl I blew them out and was asked to light them again when I was in labor. I can honestly say that this was one of the most profound experiences of my life. We then ate, talked and laughed for hours.

I remember looking at my mom after it was all over and said, “This is ritual?” she said, ‘Yes, I’ve been trying to tell you.” And the only thing that came to mind was, “Wow, I’m hooked!”

November 9, 2005

I. Addio, Firenze

'Nice Girls Can Be Naughty': A series of articles, By Erica Miner
Excerpted From Erica's Novel, Travels With My Lovers:

I was beside myself. Admittedly, I was hopeless at maps – this had always been my husband Eric’s job – and suddenly I found myself in my first European city without a clue as to where I was heading. Although I wasn’t a single mom, it certainly felt that way, with my two tykes in tow and a husband bailing out at the last minute to stay in New York. Like a relentless mama sheepdog, I pushed and prodded my precious kids along the cracked cobblestone sidewalks. Where was the shopping cart when you needed it? Or the red wagon, for that matter? I think there comes a time in every mother's life, when you just want to say, what was I thinking?

Don't get me wrong, I loved being a mom. But much as I treasured my two adorable little cohorts, I was beginning to be desperate for some exploration time alone. Julian and Regina, thank God, were not hyper kids; but they were both up for adventure and kept me going, going, going.


Personal Narrative By Erica Miner:

"Although I wasn't a single mom, it certainly felt that way,...
Maybe I was preparing myself psychologically. I was already feeling self-doubt about the reasons why I was going this alone with my kids. My inherently suspicious nature was at war with my desire to be optimistic about my marriage. At this point in my life, I had thought that everything was going great with my hubby and with my kids. But a little voice, which I tried to ignore, was nagging at me. Just why had the kids' dad stayed home and sent me off with them alone?

And I couldn't help thinking, "If this is what it feels like to be a single mom, I don't think I could handle it." We are all familiar with the difficulties of handling kids on our own, whether in a home environment or in a traveling situation. We adore our children, but we all need our 'alone time.' This dichotomy causes many of us to feel guilty, or at least ambivalent, about having these needs. I could definitely count myself as one of this group. And I was really, really stressed-out to say the least. Well, who wouldn't be?”