Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Working Mom Guilt

I guess I am a "stay-at-home" mom in that I don't leave the house to go to an office or job every day. However, in order to make our family finances work out, I do have to contribute a paycheck. This means that, though I am physically at home, I do have work part time. I work primarily as a writer (I have my second book coming out in February and I write monthly for and I also do some legal consultation for my father's ADR practice (alternative dispute resolution). I am also very excited about another writing opportunity I have recently been offered (more on that another time).

However, all these jobs require me to spend time in front of my computer, concentrating. And, as you can probably imagine, as the sole caregiver of a seriously rambunctious one-year-old it really isn't easy to find uninterrupted time to work. I've known from the start that I would need help to get my work done, so when OZL was about three months old I hired a local college student to come for a couple of hours twice a week so I could write. She is an amazing nanny - plays with him, sings to him, washes his bottles for me - and OZL screams in happiness every time he sees her. But lately it has been getting to the point where I feel like I don't even have time to make myself a cup of tea while she is here. I need every minute she is here to get work done, and even then I can't finish it all. And unfortunately, as a busy student, she can't commit more hours. This has left me working furiously during all of OZL's naps, which means I later find myself trying to distract OZL while I fold the laundry and unload the dishwasher instead of taking him to the park or reading him a story like a real stay-at-home mom would. And I never have any time to myself to rest, and the exhaustion is wearing on me and making my RA flare. It isn't good.

So we've been thinking about enrolling OZL in a preschool program two days a week so that I can have solid hours to get my work done. This will also give me days where hopefully I can focus more on OZL. However, putting OZL in day care is still a difficult, guilt-ridden decision. Because technically I can stay home with him full time - but not the way I would want to.

That's why I contacted fellow blogger Lana for her perspective. I've never featured a guest post on this blog before, but since Lana is a working mother who also lives with RA and fibromyalgia, I thought she might have some words of wisdom to share with me (and you!) So here it is, my first ever guest post:
Working Mom Guilt…I wouldn’t be a good mother without it

I am a working mother and that is all I have ever been. Being a stay-at-home mom was never an option for me.  I have been a working mother for fourteen years now and I can tell you that the guilt doesn’t get easier.

Every mother who works outside of the home feels guilt over not being home during the day to take care of a small child, staying home with a sick child, taking a child to school in the morning or helping out with homework after school.  The irony is that the guilt would still be there even if you arranged your schedule to work from home because you will feel guilty about spending hours focused on your work. The reality is that no matter how many hours you work, your kids will be just fine and so will you.  

There is not a mother out there who doesn’t wish she could just stay home with her children.  I understand that dropping your child off to daycare for eight plus hours a day can take a toll and for most of us, that burden is even greater because of the expectations that society and media have portrayed of working mothers. Because there is so much negativity about working mothers and their children, many of us feel like terrible mothers. However, research disputes anything portrayed by the media or perceived by society. In fact, a 2005 study out of the University of Texas found no evidence to show that children of working mothers suffered any emotional harm from being away from their mothers.  

The University of Texas study found out some other interesting facts as well.  Their research showed that working mothers spent more time with their children on days off and spent less time on household chores and leisure activities, this compared to stay-at-home moms. Moreover, most working mothers found that the quality of time spent with their children was far more important than the amount of time.  As far as the effect on children, infant development was not delayed because a mother worked outside the house and the researchers found no difference in social behavior, language development, or cognitive ability whether mothers worked or not.  

There is simply no evidence that suggests that our children are harmed by us working outside the home or that they are less intelligent or that they misbehave more because they are away from us.  Therefore, there is nothing to justify our guilt or the ill-informed attitudes of society and the media. 
As a working mother of many years, I am very familiar with the guilt and the stereotypes. And all these years of working outside the home, it doesn’t get easier but I don’t have another choice.  What I do have a choice in is taking comfort in knowing that I am not alone in how I feel.  Further, I know that my kids are doing just fine and they are not affected in any negative ways by my career.  The guilt will always be there because if wasn’t, I wouldn’t be a good mother. 

I want to thank Mariah for the opportunity to share a guest post at her blog.  I know that this is topic that many of you working mothers struggle with as you work or as you make a decision whether to return to work. I hope that you will check out my blog, Living Life As I See Fit.  -Lana

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flash Mob

Kids get arthritis too. They even have it when they are at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. But these kids didn't let their arthritis stop them. These kids are awesome.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

OZL's First Year

Life with RA can certainly be a struggle. But, overall, I would say that my life is happy. I will admit that taking care of a one-year-old while dealing with RA symptoms can be seriously exhausting (and overwhelming sometimes) but my son brings so much happiness to my life that I really wouldn't have it any other way. 

Music credit: You've Got the Love - Florence + the Machine

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Love & Sex on BlogHer

I am obviously not thrilled about the circumstances that led to my recent posts about my non-existent sex life. However, I was pretty excited to get an email this afternoon letting me know that BlogHer had decided to publish this post on their Love & Sex page and feature it on their homepage today.  It just seems like more confirmation that "sex and arthritis" (or even "sex and chronic illness") is a topic that resonates with people, but really doesn't get enough coverage. In addition to interest from BlogHer, I've also gotten a great response from my readers, both in public comments and in private emails to me. And while it really wasn't easy to put my intimate life out there on the interwebs, I'm so very glad that I did. I know now that I'm not the only one out there dealing with this issue.
And while I feel very supported knowing that I am not alone, all this interest in my small contribution to the discussion also makes me feel extremely frustrated that there isn't more positive, uplifting, and useful advice out there for us. This is a very draining problem to have and one that is very complicated to overcome - why isn't it easier to find resources to help?

Although I am obviously not an expert on the subject (seeing as I am still in the middle of figuring it out myself) I have been doing a lot of research on the issue. I'm working on getting my findings out there to try to fill the massive void of information and support. I actually published three articles about sex on in the month of June (Arthritis & Intimacy; How To Talk To Your Doctor About Sex; and Talking To Your Partner About Sex) and I have several more on the topic planned for July. 

It isn't a lot, but it is a start. And that's something, isn't it?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Brace Yourselves

Brace yourselves, people. I'm about to get extremely personal here.

Back when I was breastfeeding, I discovered something curious about my body: it turns out my left boob is better than my right boob. Apparently it is not uncommon to have one boob that is a better milk producer or one side where nursing is a bit easier. But, in my case, my left boob wasn't just better, my right boob was actually pretty horrible. Not only did I produce less milk on the right side, but latching was always a bit more difficult on that side, and for weeks my right nipple was cracked and extremely painful. When it started bleeding (and blood was getting into my baby's mouth) I sought help.

First I went to see my ob/gyn. I wanted to make sure my nipple didn't have some kind of horrible infection. When she confirmed that everything was (at least theoretically) fine, I asked for advice on how to make nursing less painful. Keep the nipple dry, she told me, and never nurse from that side first. She also recommended that I make an appointment with the lactation consultant. But I was extremely frustrated when, upon visiting the lactation consultant, she gave me the exact opposite advice. Make sure the nipple is always moist and always nurse from that side first. Umm....what? The "experts" had given me completely opposing instructions. When I first heard that conflicting advice I had no idea who to believe or what I was supposed to do to fix the problem. 

Which, in case that first story wasn't quite personal enough for you, brings me to my current point: the confusion I felt about what to do about my stupid right boob is almost exactly the way I feel about my sex life right now.

The primary problem with my sex life is that I have basically zero interest in sex of any kind. APL and I face all the hurdles that other parents of young children do: we have very little time alone and we are exhausted most of the time. But, on top of that, I am also dealing with extra fatigue from RA and joints that hurt. To make matters worse I feel overweight and unattractive, basically as un-sexy as I've ever felt in my life. And I am continually frustrated by my inability to do much about how I feel about my body, seeing as I'm far too achy and fatigued to do much in the way of exercise (other than being OZL's primary caregiver, which is a kind of exercise in and of itself). Depressingly I've even had to resort to taking some prednisone just to keep going, which feels like several steps in the opposite direction as far as my body image is concerned. Meanwhile more and more time has passed since the last time we were (successfully and enjoyably) intimate, and the hurdles we have to overcome to fix the situation just seem to keep growing.

My options for fixing this problem seem very much like the polar opposite instructions I was given while nursing. On the one hand, we should probably just do it already (no pun intended, however hilarious). I should really stop letting time pass and turning our problem into a bigger and bigger mountain we have to overcome. Who cares if I don't really feel like doing it? Can't I just do it for APL's sake and maybe "fake it 'till you make it" will actually lead to me enjoying myself?

But, on the other hand, why should I force myself to do something that I really have no interest in right now? Especially if it supposed to be something pleasurable and I am not getting any pleasure from it and, in fact, may even be in more pain because of it. Maybe I should just wait until I feel like I really want to, so I will actually be able to enjoy it? Considering all the hurdles I am facing maybe it is reasonable to take some time to try to get myself to a better place first?

But, then again, what if I never feel like it again? Won't it only become a bigger and bigger deal as more and more time passes? Don't I need to do something about it now, for the sake of my marriage? Maybe I should just go for it? And around and around I go again. 

Here's the thing: although I was supremely annoyed to be given completely opposite advice from "the experts" about my nursing situation, in the end I took their conflicting advice as evidence that there was no right answer and I that I should just do whatever I felt was right. In that situation I simply trusted my instincts and was able to come up with a solution that worked for me - and my solution made nursing extremely successful (until I ended up having to stop so I could go back on my meds, of course).

But, for some reason, the sex problem isn't like that. I can't seem to trust my instincts because I don't have the foggiest idea what my instincts are telling me to do. I go back and forth over and over and over again. I have no idea what the right choice is to improve our situation, and even when I tell myself "just pick one already!" I can't seem to stick with it because it never feels like I'm heading towards improvement.

Honestly? I'm all out of ideas. The nursing experience (as well as hundreds of others I have had while dealing with my chronic illness) has made me wary of what "the experts" have to say about matters that are, in the end, extremely personal to me. But I don't know. Maybe it's time to get some outside help? Because I just keep going in circles on my own.