I love shopping for clothes for Nathan. And I especially love buying (or receiving) cute little boy attire emblazoned with band logos, images of rock icons, and big electric guitars. The latter, especially.
But if I hadn’t had a boy, I wouldn’t have had so many choices in attire, and chances are, many of those onesies that say “I wanna rock” would say “I wanna garden” instead.
During a trip to Carter’s in my eighth month of pregnancy, I spent several minutes on both the girls’ side and the boys’ side of the store. The sex of my baby would be a surprise, but I wanted to see what kinds of cute little outfits awaited my forthcoming arrival.
Since I teach guitar and play in a band, I was immediately drawn to the huge array of shirts on the boy side of the store with guitars on them — some with little guitars, others with big guitar prints on them. But I was a bit troubled when I went to the girls’ side of the store, and, much to my dismay, could only find one little guitar-decorated shirt. And it said, “My daddy rocks!”
I asked the sales clerk about this. Surely, there were other options besides the zillions of pink, polka-dotted floral-print dresses and PJs for my hypothetical daughter! Daddy does rock, but, in this case, mommy does rock, too, and can even play a GNR solo — so where is the onesie for that reality?
Sadly, I was told, there weren’t any such onesies or baby tees.
Well, this made me a bit miffed. Yes, I intended to dress a girl in pink (though I realized this was adhering to the same gender stereotypes some of my college feminist friends eschewed). Yes, I intended to put her in little bows. But why, oh why, are a options for baby girl clothes limited to the likes of pink-and-yellow-dot dresses and daisy-imprinted tees? Being a boy looked SO much cooler at Carter’s — everything that didn’t have a guitar printed on it had a monster truck or a dinosaur on it!
Apparently, the market for girl clothes with dinosaurs, monster trucks, and guitars on them didn’t exist. If it did, then Carter’s, one of the biggest infant-to-children clothing chains in the country, would be selling them.
So I guess baby clothes are where it all starts. Next, there are little girl baby dolls, so a girl can practice being a mommy when she’s only two, and then there are little girl kitchens, so she can practice being a homemaker. I’ve never seen a little boy kitchen — one that is tailored to the color palate and gender assumptions that go along with boyhood (baby blue everything, cool-looking gadgets, and neutral, faux-granite countertops).
Then again, I can’t deny I am a byproduct, to a certain degree, of gender conditioning. Though I would never buy my little girl a play kitchen, I don’t have any plans to buy my little boy a play kitchen, either. Or paint his nails pink, a la Jenna Lyons of J Crew.
But until people take a stand and start asking for boy-tailored baby kitchens or boy shirts with flowers and girl onesies with guitars — Carter’s and its competitors won’t change either. It’s all about what the majority of consumers (you and me) want.
I spent the last six days in New Orleans — a place near and dear to my heart, where I spent my junior year of college and six months post-college – on a business trip. The trip was supposed to be a little more than three days, 75-78 hours tops.
But because of bad New York City-area weather, my flight home was cancelled. And while some of the convention attendees from the New York area were able to reschedule their flights to Thursday, I was busy at New Orleans Urgent Care getting seen for barotrauma — a middle ear infection that feels like your ear is clogged with water — so I didn’t get to reschedule until late in the day. To top it all off, I had to pump and dump all my precious milk after I started taking Fluticasone Propionate nasal spray and Sudafed.
I should have known that something about New Orleans that would equate to things going wrong. When I left there in 1999, I was still reeling from three separate injuries, including two emergency room visits. It felt like the city was sending me a signal: You don’t belong here, sweetheart. Go back to D.C.
Still, the fact that so many things were out of my control — the weather, my earache, my precious milk now wasted — really dampened my big easy spirits (you like that pun?! Haha!). It made me depressed, a little angry, and really freaked out. Would my hearing ever return to normal? Will my milk supply dry up? When will I get home to my baby?
I said a few prayers to the universe, called some friends, and tried to make the most of the situation. I enjoyed dinners. I did my best possible job as an on-site reporter, and I tried to really enjoy the street music.
It all ended up working out — almost. My ear finally popped on Thursday night, and my infection seems to be subsiding (there is no longer a seriously clogged feeling). I got home safe and sound to my family. I’m still pumping and dumping, though, and my supply seems to be dwindling fast.
So often in life things are out of our control, whether it’s weather or physical health. There is only so much I can do. While I can try to reschedule a flight or visit a doctor, or pump as much milk as I can at regular intervals so I can hang onto my milk supply and not dry out, I can’t control the rest. I have very little control over other things, such as how well my baby sleeps, whether or not my favorite guitar student will continue to love playing, or whether a piece of journalism I write will win an award.
Yet often I still stress out when things go wrong.
For future reference, I’d like to remember that things go right as often as they go wrong. For every bit of unhappiness or bad news, there seems to be a balance of good news and unexpected great things. My baby son and husband are examples. I had given up on trying to meet a great guy and have a family when along came Zack. And, after being told I’d struggle to conceive and had a 2-3% chance of getting pregnant, along comes baby Nathan.
I hope to read and reread this entry as a reminder to always have hope that things usually work out. Not always, but usually. Just as there are many days filled with unpleasant surprises, there are days of pleasant surprises too.
Yes, I am a writer. For a living. That means people pay me to write stuff (and teach guitar after hours). When I was a little girl, I really wanted to be a writer. When I was a slightly-less-little girl, I wanted to write songs and perform them. I won poetry awards. I started several bands. I made records. My life is very charmed, and I’ve been very lucky.
My greatest creative creation, no doubt, is my son Nathan. He is beautiful and beyond perfect. I am overjoyed just being in his presence.
But balancing motherhood and career has left me little to no time for much-needed extracurricular activities. Yes, I manage to squeeze in four workouts a week, but that’s maintenance (if it isn’t, it should be, mommies!). I’d love to have two hours a week to just mess around on guitar without having to watch my baby at the same time. I’d love another hour a week to work on my novel. And another hour per week to write a blog or several.
Yet I’m not willing to give up exercising to get those extra hours. I’m not willing to give up doing the dishes, doing the laundry, or basic cleaning (wiping counters, making beds). So what can I give up? I’m not a super-paid rockstar mom like Pink or Sarah McLaughlin, who can afford to hire nannies and work on their art all day. In fact, they’re paid to work on their art all day. I can’t stand it when I read magazine articles that are all like, “Gwen Stefani… you’re sooo busy. How do you fit it all in?”
Gwen, unlike most rocker mommies, has someone to do the cleaning and the cooking. And the babysitting. Her creative outlet IS her day job. She’s paid to do what she wants creatively. Of course, she has argued, in articles, “that’s not true… I have a fashion line and I have to do magazine promotions, etc. There’s no time to chill.”
Well, Gwen, I don’t have time to chill either. And I have to do the laundry/clean bottles/work a day job that isn’t being a rockstar. Imagine that!
I’d love to have Gwen’s apparent “lack” of time to chill. Oh, what we would all do with that kind of money!
Anyway, this blog might be suffering a bit from a lack of editing. But it’s still better, grammatically, than many edited blogs. And I’m sure it’s better than what Gwen could write, were she left to her own devices. Without a team to clean up those misplaced commas and absent apostrophes.
At least I have something to show for this master’s degree!
Let’s hope my little son wants to make creative time with mommy as he gets older. That will be awesome for both of us.
I teach Skype guitar lessons. And though it’s mainly as a supplemental service for my existing students, I do it for new students, too.
While it’s true my fee is slightly lower than for in-person lessons (after all, I only have to travel to my home office), and, in turn, the lessons aren’t quite as nice as in-person lessons, my students get a lot out of them. And I make a little money. So it’s a win-win.
But recently, I started to rethink all that is possible now that we can have virtual visits with just about anyone who offers any kind of service — whether guitar lessons or sewing lessons or even personal training sessions.
Last week I took my first Skype training session with my old personal trainer, Sharissa Reichert, brainchild behind the Bene-Fits Personal Training blog.
Sharissa and I go back a few years to my Brooklyn rockstar days. She trained me before my first national tour with Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties. During sessions we’d swap stories about going to shows and listening to awesome bands.
Today we share other commonalities: She’s a mom of a boy (now grown), and I’m a mom of a boy (quite little). She’s done the nursing thing and the post-natal, get back-into-shape thing. And though I’m in better shape than some post-natal moms, having her fitness wisdom, albeit from afar, has put me in a good head space. And, following session #2 this week, I’m in a good physical space too.
I’m not going to pretend that training via Skype is the same as having Sharissa right there to guide me through every single stretch and leg lift and muscle move. But it’s certainly better than using a workout DVD! Sharissa corrects my form flaws, asks me about my day, and listens as I ask questions. And I didn’t have to hit the pause button to get water.
I’ve noticed fantastic physical and mental changes again since returning to personal training. I feel famazing, my legs are ballerina-like, and my posture is definitely less slouchy.
It’s so nice to know that being a super-busy mom doesn’t mean having to sacrifice my physical appearance.
And it makes me wonder, what did all those mothers do in the 1990s before Skype?
For three years after I moved to Connecticut I continued to teach guitar every Sunday in Brooklyn.
I’d wake up at 8 or 9, fueled by three to eight hours of sleep, and head for either the Metronorth station in Stamford or the highway (at first, the Metronorth; when I got a Ford Fiesta, the highway). A couple of hours later, I found myself in or near the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn, traipsing around town, teaching one student after another, and sometimes taking a lesson.
I loved being in Brooklyn once a week. It felt cool when everything about Connecticut was very Stepford Wife-like. I taught guitar, and between lessons, ran around Prospect Park, shopped for secondhand clothes in Park Slope, ate huge, leafy-green salads, wrote songs in Room A at the Brooklyn Guitar School, and enjoyed paling around with the other teachers.
On my last day in Brooklyn as a guitar teacher, I was 32 or 33 weeks pregnant. Traipsing around town felt more like waddling, and my growing appetite meant big leafy salads no longer made me full. My students, too, started dropping when they heard I was taking a three-month maternity leave. And even though I swore I would be back.
Alas, I never did. return, except for a visit.
Today, I teach in Connecticut. Mostly Weston and Wilton, but I’m hoping to expand my roster. The kids are great, as kids always are – some are curious, some are spastic, some are quiet and a little brooding.
The biggest difference: My Sundays are free.
Of course, by “free” I mean I don’t have to teach. But I still have to get up super early –7:30 or 8-ish – so I can feed my son. If he falls back asleep till 9, great. But if he’s ready to play, mommy has to play too!
It’s totally fine and fun. I love watching Nathan go nuts in his little exersaucer while I do a few dishes and make his breakfast. And I love feeding him his breakfast (yesterday it was apples and barley) while we wait for daddy to wake up. And I love playing him a few songs on my guitar while it’s just me and him. I’m grateful that it is: My husband loves sleeping in, and I cherish that private time in the morning with my little boy.
I’m also grateful that I have some time to focus on my own music when my son wants to listen and the mood is right – though I do long for more time to work on techniques. Then again, many Sundays in Brooklyn I was so busy with lessons that I didn’t really get good, quality guitar-playing time. And while I miss my old Sundays a bit, it’s much less than I expected. Today I can look back at my past Sundays in Brooklyn and smile at the memories.
There is a time in life for everything, and now is my time to be a mom. Brooklyn will always have a small part of my heart, but today, my family has all of it.
I’m trying to put a show together in Weston, CT, for my guitar students (I have six in the area). But since I’m only used to Brooklyn, I’m not really sure of a good venue (decent acoustics, smallish but not too small, family-friendly). I also don’t know too many guitar teachers — let alone any who would team up with me so we could have a bigger spring show (at least 10-12 students).
Want to join me in my crusade for an awesome live kids guitar show? E-mail me: email@example.com with ideas for venues, names of other teachers, and anything else that can make this happen.