Tag Archives: preference for bio-mom

Running Away

imgres-1When someone pisses me off, it is my natural inclination to gather as much space between us and to not talk to them until I am not angry anymore.  Being in a relationship of 16+ years, I learned along the way to sometimes make allowances, especially if your partner gets clingy when you are mad at her.  Still, I like to run away and hide.

Since M was born, I have fought against that part of my nature.  I want to be able to show M that you can talk about your feelings and that you don’t have to run away from a confrontation.  Tonight, however, really tested me.  M told me he doesn’t love me. He followed that up with telling me I should go live in another house.  It wasn’t just once, but several times over the period of an hour.  I told him he was hurting my feelings and that it wasn’t nice to say that to me.  He didn’t care.  He decided he loves Ima and not me.

I understand that he is a kid with very little reasoning ability, but the stay-at-home mom part of me was pretty furious about this statement.  If it wasn’t for me, my kid would be naked and so full of carbs (S can make toast and cereal) and his sheets would never be changed.  This is not ragging on S.  She does lots of things to make our family work, but she doesn’t do those things.

I think it is really only when you become a parent that you truly appreciate the people who raised you.  They didn’t always get it right, as we won’t.  We will probably tell our kids they can’t go to a concert or date that guy or ride a bike without a helmet.  There will be days when our kids can’t stand us and we, them.  But when the day comes that they are able to truly appreciate all that we have done for them, that will be a marvelous day.

Until then, I will continue to bathe and feed and clothe my child, regardless of where he tells me I should live.  I will try to not run away and will try to understand his developmental stage.  But when he goes to bed, like tonight, I might take some of the sting of his comments away with a big glass of wine or some chocolate, even if I have to run to the store to get it.

-Betsy

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The Nanny

Sometimes, I feel like the nanny.  After S returned from being out of town for a few days, M can’t get enough of her.  He wants to nurse and snuggle on her to no end.  Right now, he is sick.  He came down with an instant cold after playing in the rain for an hour yesterday.  All he wants is S.  He woke up from his nap every twenty minutes today, sobbing for Ima. He would flail his arms about and squeak out through the ears, “No Mama.  Go away.  Ima!  Ima!”  He knew full well that she was at work.  He just knew he wanted her more than me.

This is the part of being a non-gestational parent that is tough.  He gets something from her that he can never get from me and I can’t help but think that came from being in her womb.  He gets a lot from me.  I know that.  But there are just some intangibles that I can’t replicate.  It is hardest when he is sick or hurts himself and wants her and not me.  In those moments, it doesn’t matter that I am home with him day after day, wiping his butt, making him food, teaching him fun things.  He just wants her.

When I think about the important people in my life, I know that I get things from each of them that the others might not be able to give me.  I love them all just the same.  I am hoping this is what goes on with M.  He loves me deeply, but sometimes he just wants her.  I get it.  And it still hurts.

-Betsy

“Mama. Talk NO more.”

My son and I are great friends. We spend most of our time together and have very few problems, save a missed nap here and there that leads to cranky-pants. My son and I are great friends, except when his other mother is around too much. That sounds terrible. I know. To explain, S had five days off for Thanksgiving. We traveled to Atlanta to see her family. From the minute M knew she was home “all day” (as he likes to say), he was mean to me. He told me to go away. He didn’t want me to play with him. He didn’t want me, his primary caregiver, to help him use the potty or eat or go to sleep. He flat-out rejected me and I spent 5 days feeling crushed and heartbroken. He was on S’s boobs much of the time, nursing more than any 2 year old really needs to while somehow managing to keep me far away. I rationalized his behavior, telling myself that he misses S and gets to see me all the time. While I can understand where he is coming from, I still felt unloved. I am used to this type of behavior in the middle of the night. When he is half asleep, he only wants her. He will cry and cry for her, ignoring my soothing and asking me to leave the room. But this is not normal for the daylight hours. Not even on the weekends when S is home all day.

We returned home Saturday evening and I was excited to get things back to normal beginning with Sunday. Normally, M and I wake early and make pancakes together while S sleeps in. I love the early morning time with him, his cheeks still rosy from the night’s dreaming. This past Sunday, however, he wanted nothing to with me and I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore. As I dressed to go for a run, I was sobbing. Both S and I had been telling him that he needs to be nice to me and that the way he was talking to me hurts my feelings. But he is two and is not rational. So, I sat on the bed half-dressed and cried. After much coaxing, he came and sat with me. No hugs or kisses, but his eyes filled with tears as I told him that I was feeling sad. Nothing. He went to S and nuzzled into her neck, refusing physical contact with me.

When I talked to my dad about how hard my weekend away had been, he asked if we had considered weaning M totally. People keep saying that weaning him will be the great equalizer. Then everyone will have “no nanas”, as he calls my empty breasts. But, I am just not convinced that is the answer. What I am learning is that sometimes, we just need different things from different people. I know this to be true in my own life, so I just need to sit back and listen to my boy, who misses his Ima, tell me he needs her for a few days.

Everything got back to normal today. S went back to work. M and I took great adventures and had a blast. I got lots of kisses and hugs and those sweet giggles that make my heart melt. And when S came home from work, I still got attention from him. We did somersaults on the couch and played in the tub. I got to put him down for sleep tonight. We read books and sang songs and he didn’t ask for his other mother one time. Seems he loves me afterall.

-Betsy

Parent Win

When we first launched the blog in mid-July I wrote my initial post about my experience of being rejected repeatedly by our two-year-old daughter who strongly preferred her other mother, my dear spouse who carried and birthed her.  I had moments of feeling like I could ride through that experience with humor and grace, but more often I felt like a child myself- sullen and frustrated by these relentless acts of rejection from a toddler who I wanted to be close to, especially as a full-time working mom.  I had been dealing with that unpleasant situation since the prior September and I was emotionally exhausted from it.

I run a peer-led support and discussion group for queer, non-gestational parents and it was around this time in July that I went to one of those groups and shared how I was at my wits end with this situation… how long would I have endure this?  Of course no one could say for sure, but some amongst the group had even older children and they were still dealing with this issue, while others assured me that it would pass… it was just a phase.  Somehow both ends of the spectrum were both validating and slightly maddening (1: ok, I’m not alone… oh crap! you mean this could go on for another year or more?!  2: whew! a phase, be patient… you don’t get it! it doesn’t feel like a phase… it’s been nearly a year! A YEAR!).  But regardless of the well-intentioned, kind thoughts that people offered, no one could actually change this situation for me.  It felt like one of many experiences as a parent where something involving your child is in many ways out of your control… or was it?  What did I know, I was a rookie at this parenthood thing.

Two seasoned moms of multiple children, several of which are elementary school aged, and another mom who has fostered a long list of children over the years listened and asked if I wanted some suggestions.  Why the heck not? I was up for trying anything at that point.  One of the sage mamas insisted, “you have got to be diligent about rotating who does bedtime with your daughter or just you should do until it gets better.”  The other seasoned mom nodded in agreement.  Absolutely.  The mom who had fostered children in the past agreed: yes, you need to make intentional acts of bonding literally a “to do” over the next few months.  Make it a priority.  None of them were saying this would necessarily erase all traces of this rejection business, or even would shift the dial at all, but it was worth a try.  They stressed how important bedtime rituals were- that it was a time when children are both looking for nurturing and when trust is built.  I hadn’t been wholly absent with the bedtime routine, but we also hadn’t been intentional about splitting it or having me do more.  Probably, if I really thought about it, more of the time I was the one to clean up the dishes, sitting with my daughter and spouse for a book or two, before my spouse continued the routine and I got back to the sink.  I was purely thinking about being efficient with our time and energy since we were so overwhelmed with both working and parenting and trying to have a speck of existence beyond that.  Add to that that my spouse nursed our daughter to sleep for the first 13 months of her life, which I think is great, but it was a chance for the two of them to have a very regular bonding ritual, while I didn’t have anything like that.

So we followed these wise mamas’ advice and started rotating which of us led bedtime. Neither my spouse nor I felt comfortable with me purely doing this ritual, because as two working parents we both already have so much less time than we want with our daughter during the work week.  I started saying no to evening invitations to hang out with friends to make sure I was available for this time with my daughter.  The first month or so had it’s ups and downs and we eventually followed another piece of advice that ended up being critical: my spouse had to leave when I was doing bedtime.  My daughter would get too distraught and would sob and insist on my spouse doing it and it wasn’t working for any of us.  But if my spouse wasn’t around… if she literally wasn’t an option for bedtime, my daughter usually was ok with me taking the lead.  As time went on my daughter got the jist of this new plan.  She now asks, “is it Mama’s night to put me to bed? Is tomorrow Mummy’s night to put me to bed?”  I truly believe that she’s not asking this because she has a preference, she just likes to know what’s happening.  Three months later, I can report that we’re in a much better place with my daughter fairly equally preferring each of us.  She protests here and there, but most of the time, she’s fine with either one of us doing the daily things that just months ago she would have insisted on her Mama (my spouse) doing.  And in some small way, that feels like a parent win.  I’ll take it.*

– Charlotte

* Let me say that I also totally acknowledge that this could change again… if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 2.5 years of parenthood, it’s that you can’t get attached to anything staying consistent (for better or for worse).  Also, I think it’s super important to acknowledge (while I’m doing my acknowledgments here) that many non-gestational parents try every trick in the book- including doing bedtime regularly with their child- and they still have this painful issue to deal with… it’s not foolproof and I can bet those are awesome parents.  Just saying.

The (Un-) Zen of Non-Gestational Parenthood

“I don’t want to hold Mummy’s hand!!! I want to hold Mama’s hand.”  I am sick of coaxing, trying to get her to pick me first, trying to get her to pick me at all.  Forget it.  “Fine. You know what?  Mummy is not going to join you on the walk.  Go have fun with Mama.”  I walk away stoically, bitter and sulking all the way across the wet, long-grassed lawn, cursing that it hasn’t been mowed sooner and that it’s rained for ten days in a row now.  My spouse is calling out to my back, asking me nicely to return; they want me to join them.  Please come back.

I eventually do, we go on the walk, strolling through the beautiful, wide-mouthed park that flanks the road near our home, and our daughter even holds my hand.  Somehow it doesn’t have the sweet joy that holding a small, warm hand in yours usually does because in my mind she’s only holding it because I guilt-tripped her into it, not because she really wants to.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  Exhibit A of one of my less than finer parenting moments.

I am all too aware that spinning on my heels like that is exactly what not to do if you want to assure your child that you love them unconditionally, even when they are treating you like a pariah and raking you through the coals with a drawn out phase that feels like the toddler version of the teenage years. But I can’t help it; I’m human and when I’m having a parenting low phase myself and have heard what feels like the 100th rejection in a day, I turn into a child myself. My feelings get hurt by this small person. The parent educator and writer Alfie Kohn eloquently wrote, “Parenthood is not for wimps.”  Yeah, about that.

I am reading a book now on mindful parenting in hopes of realizing, repeatedly, that these regular slights have little to do with me and a lot to do with my daughter being two. Really, that’s all it is.  I know this in my heart.  I know she loves me.  She actually exhibits it rather regularly.  And she can be sweeter than any person I’ve ever known.  Toddlers are emotions fully exposed- raw, radiant, and brash. I am trying to hold that up in the face of all this emotional riff-raff and be the rationale adult in the room.  My actions and internal response is more in my control than her adolescent behavior.  I need to maintain my compassion- towards my daughter, my spouse (who is a tender, nearby target that I can easily throw emotional arrows at), and perhaps most of all, towards myself.  I am doing the best I can.

Talking about it helps; realizing you’re not alone and that this is exceptionally common amongst queer, non-gestational parents. So does muttering, “Mummy doesn’t like you either right now” under my breath as I pivot into another room un-heard (or at least for a split second my ego feels like it’s had a teenage triumph of the wills).  In my experience running a support group for queer, non-gestational parents this is one of the most common issues that arises for folks- being second fiddle outside of, as a friend calls it, “the golden, inner circle.”  It takes continual patience and reminding yourself that it’s nothing personal.  Really.  It’s not.  This is not to say there aren’t practical things you and the gestational parent (or other caregivers) can do to help ease the third wheel phenomenon that’s orbiting your familial universe*, but I’m realizing that perhaps even more importantly,  it takes inner, self work to survive this phase.  In their book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn state, “The very fact that we are a parent is continually asking us to find and express what is most nourishing, most loving, most wise and caring in ourselves, to be, as much as we can, our best selves.” In my better moments I can see with clarity that it’s a great opportunity to get over myself and practice true unconditional love.  To be my best self.

Parenthood is a spiritual (and often maddening) path. I have learned some of my greatest lessons around issues such as non-attachment (yes! she’s sleeping through the night! Oh wait… or even more: I cannot fully control what happens to her…).

Tonight, my daughter did not want to give me a kiss when I arrived home from work or when she was going down for bed.  She usually gives me a big, mouthy, wet one directly on the lips before she rolls over with a cushy rumple sound of her diaper.  I asked her, as I always do, “Can Mummy have a hug and kiss good night? Can I give you a kiss sweet girl?”  To this she sassily replied, “Mmmm… NO.”  I was hurt and annoyed, I’ll admit that (no kiss?), but I took a deep breath and said, “ok, good night.”  Then I walked out the door.  As the door was gently shutting behind me I realized that the one thing I wish I had done differently was to let her know that I love her, because I do, even when she doesn’t want to give her Mummy a kiss.

~ Charlotte

*For suggestions on how to deal with a child’s preference for one parent or rejection of one parent, check out the following books and resources: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser; the Berkeley Parents Network at http://parents.berkeley.edu/; and What to Expect The First Year by Heidi Murkoff, Sandee Hathaway, and Arlene Eisnberg