J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate New York and has a master's degree in history.
6 Confessions of a Boy Mom
I have always wanted two kids, having come from a family with 2 kids. It just seemed right to me. Everyone fit in a car without needing a van or SUV. We fit in one picnic table, one canoe, one tent, or one church pew. Before I had kids I hadn’t speculated whether I’d have boys or girls, but had for some reason assumed I’d have one boy and one girl. Coming from a family with two girls, I’m not sure why I had assumed I’d someday have one of each, until I learned I was pregnant with my second child, and learned it was boy #2. I was elated, relieved, and ecstatic. At the same time, I was sad, disappointed, and confused. I didn’t know why I felt this way, riding a rollercoaster of emotions over something I couldn’t control.
I was thrilled to have a second boy, especially with them being so close in age. Being two years apart, they would share some of the same neighborhood friends. They could share hand-me-downs, a bedroom, and have each other just like my sister and I had. There was however this odd feeling of disappointment I couldn’t shake, and it made me feel guilty. I was up in the night feeding son #2 when he was a couple of weeks old, when I realized I was sad not because I had 2 boys, but because I worried I would miss out on things I had assumed I would do “when I grow up” when I was a kid… with the assumption I would someday have a daughter. At the same time, I wasn’t euphoric about having a second son; not because he was a boy, but because he wasn’t a girl. There were things I would miss out on, but also things I would now avoid. My brain and my heart struggled to reconcile the two feelings, until I thought about why I was feeling them.
- I will never be a Girl Scout troop leader
- I will never have daughters in dance class
- I will never go with my daughter to shop for a wedding dress
- I will never have to give “the period talk”
- I will never have to console a daughter after her miscarriage
- I will never have to explain infertility to my daughter
I will never be a Girl Scout troop leader
I was always in Girl Scouts, and absolutely loved it. Camping, car washes, bottle drives, field trips, lifeguard classes, canoeing, snowshoeing, and a friends network besides my classmates. When I went on a trip with Girl Scouts, I knew that I had worked hard with my friends to raise the money to be there. I knew I was leaning new things, going new places, and having a blast with my friends. My Girl Scout troop leaders were role models, women who seemed to do and know everything, and were happy to share the world with us awkward kids. I would never be that woman, so in control of everything.
As a kid, I thought my Girl Scout troop leaders were women who had everything, and every one of us girls wanted to be them. A real life Barbie, with a career and a spotless house; showing kids how to cook, change a flat tire, pitch a tent, build a fire, weed a garden for an elderly neighbor, perform CPR, save someone from drowning, and read a map/compass. Looking back as an adult, I now know that they were not the perfect super-moms I thought they were, they were instead super-moms for an entirely different set of reasons. One was a mom working 3 jobs to make ends meet, and hosting girl scouts in her home once a week because it was the only extracurricular activity she could afford for her daughter. She showed up dressed up from work, because she didn’t have time to change (or likely eat dinner) between coming home from working all day, and hosting a house full of kids for 2 hours. One was trying to keep her daughter who had been in trouble at school, on the straight-and-narrow by surrounding her with girls who might be better influences than her friends at school. One was a single mom with 2 teenagers, who wanted a community for their homeschooled kids to socialize with, besides religious organizations. They each had their own baggage of broken relationships, job layoffs, divided families, or unhealthy habits. Yet, to me as a kid, they were flawless.
I don’t need to have a daughter, to be a role model for my kids. I am super-mom to my kids, regardless of whether they are in the scouts or not.
I created a moms’ group for parents of young children when my first son was born, to meet other mom friends and find other kids for my son to socialize with. It was through this group that I met some of my closest friends, and my sons’ closest friends. It is through this group that I have been a trip organizer, gathering hostess, chauffeur, and meal train organizer. Through this group we have taught our kids where their food comes from, how to help others, and how to be good people. We bend over backward to give our kids every opportunity for fun, adventure, learning, giving, hard work, and friendship. One has a spotless house, because she works so much and is home so little, her kids don’t have a chance to make big messes. One is always dressed up, because she comes straight from work. I try to plan trips the kids think of as epic adventures, with as much crammed into a day as possible… because I am a mom who works full time out of the house between 2 jobs, with only the weekend to spend with my kids (beside the daily get ready for school/bed hustle). I am my kids’ super mom, regardless of whether they realize it now, or in thirty years.
I will never have daughters in dance class
As a kid, I was always in ballet, tap, and/or Irish dance at any given time. Sleeping in curlers the night before a show or competition. Driving with mom to an elderly Irish woman’s house to be fit for new shoes every year. Trying on dresses that the older sisters of girl’s in my dance class had outgrown (because I had outgrown my own, and my mom knew how to find a bargain!). I loved dancing, and looking out into the crowd at a show and seeing my parents smiling back at me. I loved lining up to go on stage during a competition, and my parents reassuring me that I’d do great. For my whole time in school, Tuesday night was dance night. During February, March, and April, Friday nights were Irish dancing nights for senior citizens groups at area nursing homes and churches. In the fall, many Saturdays were competition (Feis) days, getting dressed up and traveling across the state (or over the Canadian border) to dance. My mom would fix my hair just so, make sure my dress was just right, and cheer me on.
It was through dance classes that I cemented my friendship with who would be my best friend for 25 years and counting. My mom didn’t always appreciate my friend’s energetic personality as much as I did, but the infinite requests for sleepovers and play dates were never denied. My dad was often working and didn’t attend the weeknight dance outings, but he was always there on weekends when my dance class would dance through the city as a group in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and to cheer me on in competitions. He was always there on Sundays after church to watch me practice, and even put a sheet of plywood down over the hardwood floor in our living room for me to Irish dance on so I could dance inside without ruining the floor (when he realized I had been dancing in the cold garage on the concrete to practice after school). He took me to an Irish Festival to hear Irish music, and to see my older cousin Irish dance in a national competition. When family would visit, my parents would always ask me to show them a specific dance or dance move, and was always thrilled to show off my latest routine. Dad brought a plywood sheet inside for me to dance on, and I realized years later that it was my mom who was home most often to have to listen to it… my practicing the same dances over and over, with the same rhythm of deafening taps echoing off wood floors, a tile hallway, and brick fireplace. To me at the time, I was Mom’s superstar… and she was my manager, stage crew, and #1 fan all in one. While I’m sure she had many nights of dance class where she was bored to tears, tired after a long day, hungry, and wanted to be home and in pajamas, she never once showed it.
I don’t need a daughter in dance class to have fun with my kids, find an activity we could bond over, or something I could help my kids with. I didn’t need this one particular activity to show my kids how proud of them I am, there are plenty of other activities. If my sons want to be in dance class, so be it. However there are other ways I can be their biggest fan, and won’t have to miss out on showing them how much they mean to their Mom.
I will never go with my daughter to shop for a wedding dress
When I was engaged, my mom and sister accompanied me to look at dresses. My sister tried on maid of honor gowns, and I tried on wedding gowns. We had a girls’ day, and there were many laughs and hugs. Mom zipped my dresses up, held up bunches of fabric to show what a dress might look like this way or that, and held back tears. I wanted a small wedding with only parents, grandparents, and siblings present. I had always envisioned a small wedding, and never thought too much about a dress, as to me I’d much rather wear a simple dress than a formal gown anyways. When I started planning my wedding, I had wanted a simple white dress, and my mom insisted we go dress shopping for the perfect gown instead. While I was initially resistant to the dress on principle, I quickly gave in when I realized how much it meant to her. I wasn’t having a big wedding she could invite extended friends and family to. I wasn’t living close enough that we could visit as often as she would like. I was happy I had that weekend of dress shopping with my Mom and sister, as it is among my fondest memories. When my wedding day arrived and my sister no longer fit into the strapless maid of honor gown she had chosen, we laughed as we soaped up her zipper with a bar of fancy hotel soap, and used an extra safety pin at the top of the zipper to hold it up. We joked about the dress with straps she had tried on but didn’t choose, and the waffles she shouldn’t have eaten at breakfast. I hadn’t given my own dress much thought on my wedding day, but looking back, the hunt for the dress, and my lunch dates with mom when I returned for 2 more dress fittings as the dress was altered before the wedding, are among my favorite memories of my wedding and wedding planning. I put a lacy peice of my wedding dress in a Christmas ornament bulb, it is my favorite ornament. Although unassuming to anyone who might catch a glance at it on my tree, it means the world to me.
While I might never go wedding dress shopping with my sons, I will find other ways to bond with them over the years. I might not ever have to soap their dress zippers and hold up their hems, but there will be plenty of other occasions to laugh so hard we’re in tears, and make memories to last a lifetime.
I will never give my daughter “the period talk"
I will never have to explain pad/tampon technique. I will never have to remind my daughter to pack “just in case” pads when going to school/camping/friends’ houses. I will never have to reassure my daughter that she can swim with a tampon, that no one can see a pad line through her pants, or that no one has xray vision and knows there’s a pad in her purse.
I was amused to have had to explain to my visiting 3-year-old cousin when I was a teenager that I was not eating candy in the bathroom without her, the wrapper she heard was for my special “bandaids” (I can only imagine what she relayed to her parents when she went home!). I told my 2-year old son that I was changing my diaper once, when changing a pad a few days after the birth of baby #2. He then loudly announced to my visiting family a couple of weeks later, that “Mom needs to change her diaper now” when I went into the restroom.
I still have the book my mom gave me, with feminine hygiene advice, diagrams, and funny stories. I am sure there is a better home for it, besides the bin of assorted books I haven’t referenced in 20 years. Maybe my younger sister will want it, in case she has daughters someday. I don’t think there’s any ideal way to give the “period talk,” because as an awkward pre-pubescent girl, it can be interesting, gross, and terrifying simultaneously. In all the years of thinking about how I would do it similarly but slightly differently than my mom did, I had never considered my newfound reality; I won’t have to do it at all.
I will never have to hug my daughter, as she stands before me in tears, after a miscarriage
When I had told my parents they were going to be grandparents again (my older son was their only grandchild so far), they were over the moon. My due date was one day after my older son’s birthday, and we joked they might share a birthday. There were hugs, happy tears, and speculation by my mom about what gender they might be, or what names we might choose. There was talk of “Will they share a room?” and “Will you need another <insert list of 100 baby gadgets here>.”
When I had to then tell my parents that I had lost the baby, and they were not going to be grandparents again, I could barely say the words. I felt like the floor was pulled out from under me, the sky had disappeared, and like my voice was making no sounds. My mom hugged me so tight, and we both had silent tears. She had never had a miscarriage and did not know what to say or do, and I didn’t mind her hug so tight my shoulders ached. She was there, and that was what I needed. I wondered if it was my fault, if it was preventable, why it had happened to me, why nothing in my journey into motherhood ever seemed to go as planned, and whether it would happen again next time. I never had to wonder if my mom would be there for me; she was my rock when my husband and I were in pieces. I know that I will be there for my sons no matter where life leads them, and pray that they never feel the losses my husband and I have felt. However I know that no matter what loss they might face, they will always be my babies, and I will always be their mommy. I'll be there to bury their tears in a hug and hold them until they don’t need to be held anymore.
I will never have to explain infertility to my daughter
I will never have to explain to my daughter that just like I needed 6 years of IUI, IVF, infertility medications/injections/suppositories, procedures, scans, ultrasounds, bloodwork, and urinalysis before I could have my kids, the reason for my infertility is likely genetic and she may have the same problems someday. I will never have to reassure my daughter that polycystic ovaries aren’t the end of the world, they are just painful and might mean she has difficulty becoming (or staying) pregnant. I will never have to feel like it is genetically my fault, if my daughter struggles to conceive. I will never have to know my daughter is spending thousands of dollars and hours, pursuing the next medical test or procedure that may or may not work, in her journey to motherhood. For this I am relieved.
I know that if my sons or their wives face similar issues, I will be understanding, and not ask the questions that so crushed my spirit when I was struggling to conceive. I will never ask them when I am going to be a Grandparent. I will never ask them how long they plan on waiting, or remind them that the clock is ticking. You never know what is going on behind closed doors, and any delays might not be of their choosing. My asking will not speed up the process, and may cause more pain for them, than reassurance for me.
I have struggled with the question of how and when do you explain to your children that they were conceived in a petri dish and frozen, because mommy’s lady-bits didn’t work correctly. I am happy not to have to pass on a legacy of decisions like “do we donate or discard leftover embryos?” and “Do we have enough money left to try again this time for a baby using IVF, after the last attempt ended in miscarriage?”