Friday, January 30, 2015

Mommies: Get to know yourself and find your THING.

No, I don't mean THAT. (Although I might get more blog hits on that topic...)

So here it is. 6 years ago I became a stay-at-home mom. Like one day, you go to work, have a career, use your brain, wear clothes that need to be dry-cleaned. And then poof! It all goes away. You wake up the next day and look down and see comfy clothes. You don't bother to shower. You love the little person you gave it all up for, but after the babymoon starts to wane, you question your significance, your value, your purpose. Well obviously you know your purpose. Feed baby! Wash baby! Teach baby! Clothe baby!

But what about the rest of you?

For many of us, the transition to the SAHM life is not an easy one. Often, it is not until we truly reflect and learn about ourselves, not just as a mothers and as wives, but as a human beings, that we begin to find happiness and fulfillment. And if we are not totally in love with SAHM life, we cannot possibly admit it. Because that would mean we are failures, right? Aren't we supposed to relish every single explosive poopy diaper, every single moment of a toddler clinging to our calf screaming "Mama!" because he wants more freaking animal crackers, every single nipple-splitting feeding at 3 am watching Three's Company? What if we don't love it ALL?

So we keep going, through the fog, through the lack of... well, whatever it is that we are missing. And it can take a long time for us to figure out exactly WHAT we are missing. Because for each of us, when we take the leap to give up the career and retire to SAHM-hood (whether temporarily or permanently), the journey is different. Each of us misses different things, longs for what gave us joy and purpose before, when we lived in that other world with our careers.

It took me several years to find the strength and humility to accept what I was missing. I learned that I missed most 2 basic elements of working: social interaction and praise. Life at home with my son was lonely. I needed girlfriends. I also realized (and this one was harder to say out loud) that I thrive on praise. I need someone to tell me I am good. My husband says it all the time. My parents say it all the time. But the 3 little people, for whom I am doing it all don't. To them, I am boring old Mommy who makes them bathe and eat broccoli.

(Although if they did shower me with praise, I often imagine it would sound something like this: "Mommy! You are so amazing at cleaning crumbs off of the kitchen floor. I mean, you and the mop: it is like magic." Or "Wow, Mom! Your lunch-putting-together skills are unparalleled. Seriously. You rocked that PB&J like nobody's business." Or even, "Amazing... the way you put us back into our car seats after EVERY errand. You never forget any of us at the store. Thank you, Mommy.")

Obviously none of the above statements has ever been uttered. And truthfully, I missed having a grown-up boss who would observe my work and state on paper that I was good at it. And this void, this insecurity that it took me so long to accept and admit, was impacting my relationships with my kids as well as my marriage. Because my husband -- the man who works his tail off to feed and clothe all of us -- is good at his job and receives praise all the time. At the beginning of my SAHM life, every time he brought home a glowing evaluation, rather than feeling joy for him, or pride, I felt envy and resentment. And, well, that just sucks -- for him, for me, for all of us.

So I took a few leaps. I put myself out there, into social mommy circles, and made friends: Step 1. Then I started writing. And a few people told me my writing wasn't too bad. So I started submitting pieces to various publishers, websites, and anyone else I thought might give me a shot. I have experienced quite a bit of rejection, but do you know what? Sometimes I wasn't rejected. And then there was praise. Editors liked my stuff. And suddenly... I was feeling more whole, more valued, more significant. And now, when my husband kicks ass at work, I am happy for him. I fixed me, and because of that, I can find joy in his accomplishments rather than bitterness.

Moms: If you are in a funk, if SAHM-hood is not enough for you, that is okay. Get to know yourself. Find your thing. Find something to make you feel whole. Your kids will see a happier mommy. Your spouse will see the fulfillment in your face. You will feel better and you will do better. Get to know yourself. Find out what you are missing. Find your thing. FIX YOU. They deserve it. YOU deserve it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A stranger in the grocery store parking lot

We teach our kids about stranger danger. But we also teach our kids about generosity and helping others. Well, what happens when a stranger offers to help you, and you are with your kids?

I was shopping with 2 of my 3 kids last week. I approached the bus I drive around town (my 8-passenger mini-van that rivals my first apartment in square footage) with my shopping cart. Kid #1: loaded in. As I was loading kid #2, I heard a man's voice.

"Are all of your groceries going into your trunk?"
Um..... "Yes."
"Okay. Let me help you out."

This man, this stranger, proceeded to unload my items into the back of my van while I continued to strap my youngest child into his car seat. I was not sure what was happening. I was not sure what to do. Was this a kind man, who saw a mom, out in the freezing cold, with 2 kids and cart full of groceries, and just wanted to help? Or was he a thief about to steal our food? Or was this a crazed lunatic about to climb into my van and carjack us all? 

In the end, it was guy #1. He loaded my groceries and shut my trunk. As he was walking away with my cart, I said, "Thank you, Sir."

He replied, "You're welcome. I remember years ago when my kids were young. I remember how hard it can be."

I felt terrible for thinking he COULD be anyone but guy #1. BUT my babies are with me. It is my job to protect them and to protect myself. I am saddened by the truths of our world that caused me to be anything but appreciative. Because before I was appreciative, for about 30 seconds, I was afraid. Was I irresponsible for letting a stranger get so close to my kids? What message did I just send them? Is it okay to let strangers help us? What if I had said, "No thank you" to the kind man? Or worse, "Get away from my car!" What impact would that have had on my 4 and 1-year old? 

It truly was just a thoughtful man helping another parent on a cold day. I drove away from the store, thankful for his kindness. Thankful that my kids saw kindness. And hopeful that anytime they see a "stranger", in the future, he will be kind as well. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015



If you give your 1-year old your phone to entertain him while you steal that 8-minute shower you truly deserve, make no mistake: he WILL take naked pictures of you through the glass shower doors. 18 of them in fact. You will not know this because during that 8 minutes, he was not screaming, climbing into the sink or toilet, or throwing anything at you. So you, honestly, did not know (or care) what he was doing with your phone. Delete my apps? Whatever. Call Daddy at work? Sure.

Fast forward two days later. You will attempt (in vain) to entertain that same 1-year old through an hour-long gymnastics class for your daughter. The books you brought are of no value to him, and he tore through the snack in 45 seconds. So... there are 48 minutes left. Fine, here's my phone, you'll say.

He will pull up some of the stunning shots he took of you 2 days prior and proceed to show them to your 6-year old son who is sitting several rows away in the bleachers. Your 6-year old son will then shout (for all the other parents to hear), "Mom! There are like a bunch of naked pictures of you in your phone."

So now you know what will happen if you take a mid-day shower with your toddler in the room and let him have your phone. You've been warned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To the Allergy Moms

I have a confession. I have judged (silently and not-so-silently) other moms. And one group that I am particularly ashamed to say I have judged are the allergy moms. You know these moms: their kids are allergic to normal stuff. (Sometimes it is scary, like peanuts. I don't judge those moms -- that peanut allergy thing is terrifying). But the "my kid is allergic to wheat" mom, or the "my kid is gluten-free" mom, or the "my kid is allergic to raspberries" mom... I have often found myself wondering if you were a bit hyper about your kid and maybe he's really fine? Until now.

Because karma has come along and given me a big ol' bite on the booty. My adorably fat, dimple-faced 1-year old is allergic... to lots of stuff. He has broken out in terrifying hives, his face has blown up, and his eyes have swollen shut in reaction to: wiping his face with a paper towel, feeding him foods with cow's milk, feeding him raspberries, blackberries, pasta sauce, Goldfish crackers... the list goes on. And he is allergic to grass. If he plays in the grass, he breaks out in horrible welts and spikes a fever. And all of these reactions usually spawn eczema patches that he scratches relentlessly. So now I am "that" mom, asking what ingredients are in foods, putting my kid in pants when it is 102 degrees outside, having Benadryl in my car at all times.

I never thought I would be an allergy mom. We try to eat healthy, but I'll be honest. A year ago, I was NOT on the non-processed food bandwagon. I have eaten either Cheezits or Doritos or one of their first cousins every single day of my life as far as I know. I love my coffee creamer. My kids eat (gasp!) fruit snacks. (And not organic ones. They eat the Ninja Turtle and Hello Kitty ones.) But we do eat lots of fruits and veggies and healthy proteins, I promise. I don't totally suck at feeding my kids good stuff. I make my own mac-and-cheese and my own chicken nuggets (to which my kids adoringly respond by saying, "Did you make the yummy kind out of the box or that other kind? And I respond, "No, I did not make the kind out of the box that takes 5 minutes. I made the homemade kind that takes 45 minutes of Mommy's time. But thanks for the love, kids.")

But now I am an allergy mom. And I am coming at you, fellow allergy moms, with my tail between my legs, and I am saying that I am so sorry. I had no idea. I had no idea how sick your kids could get if they ate stuff they aren't supposed to. I also had no idea how much extra work you put in to keeping them healthy.

So, I am asking you, non-allergy moms, who may be inclined to judge unfairly (as I did), to think first. Think about how easy it would be for that mom to give her kid the pasta or sandwich or orange or pizza or whatever normal food it is that he can't have. And guess what else? She probably has other kids who CAN have that stuff. So she has to either say no to all of her kids or, as is the case in my house (since my son cannot tolerate dairy), he has to watch while the other kids have something he can't. And he's 1. So he's totally rational and understanding and easy to communicate with. Or the big kids have to eat in another room or at another time. Or Mommy breaks and lets him have the thing he isn't supposed to have because he is soooo upset, and then we all deal with the effects: hives, eczema flare-ups, and/or vomit.

Fellow allergy moms, I'm so sorry. Can I still get in your circle? I'll bring some dairy-free dip and homemade oatmeal bars.

And hey, 3rd kid! You're supposed to be the low-maintenance one. WTF?


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Boys and guns

You know that moment when you look over and notice that your 5-year old son has drawn a picture of a monster holding 2 guns along with an army of "minions", also ready to shoot at any enemy in their path... and you are in CHURCH? And that he drew this masterpiece in the coloring book from one of the children's bags that belongs to CHURCH?

I have blogged several times about my fears and struggles with raising a girl in this princess-centered body-image warped world. But I also have 2 boys. Yikes! And I am constantly at war (pun intended) within myself with the whole boys-love-guns thing. I don't love guns. I don't even like them. At all. And I don't have a brother, so I did not grow up with "Hi-Ya! Pow! Pow!" screaming through the rooms of my house. But I live in that world now. For being quite a book nerd and computer lover, my kindergartener is a boy. And he is fascinated with guns, violence, swords, enemies, good guys, bad guys... the whole gamut. Usually my husband handles it better than I do. He grew up playing Mortal Combat and did not turn into an adult who beheads others, so chances are, if we are the best parents we can be, and instill proper morals and values in our boys, they will also grow up to be properly functioning adults. However, for all the times he tells me "not to worry about it" when my son attempts to chop down Darth Vader in his Wii game, even Daddy found it disturbing that our little guy drew this lovely image in the church's coloring book. I think his words were: "Ummm.... buddy? Not okay in church."

We do believe in the importance of discussing violence with our kids. We are proud of our soldiers and thankful for their service. We know that violence has served a purpose and will continue to serve a purpose in many corners of our world and in many circumstances. We also teach our kids to stick up for themselves. We do not want them initiating violence, but if someone pushes them down, or pushes one of their siblings down, we give them free reign to open up a can of their best whoop-ass on that kid. We also talk about guns. We talk about how guns kill people and are not funny. This is hard as many of my son's idols (Luke Skywalker, Han Solo) use guns. "But it is okay, because they are good guys, right Mommy?" Ummmm.... ???? Are guns okay? Sometimes.... I guess??

So for all of the battles I fight for my daughter, I fight twice as many for my 2 boys. Guns scare me. Violence scares me. Teenage boys shooting up classmates in the school cafeteria scare me. But, like my daughter's love for princesses, I guess there is a certain love for guns that I have to accept in my household.

But I think next Sunday morning we may just stick to the crossword puzzles, okay little guy?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Out of buckets

In many MANY ways, I was unprepared for parenthood. Oh sure, I knew good sleep was over. (I miss being able to take Nyquil when I am sick.) I knew happy hour was going to become very rare. And I knew my marathon gym afternoons would turn into quick when-I-have-time workouts.

But for all the stuff I thought I knew, there are 10 times as many aspects of parenthood that have thrown me curveballs throughout the past 6 years. (Holy crap. I have been a parent for 6 YEARS?!)

One thing that I did not know, but I know now: little girls collect little things. All things small and/or pink and/or glittery are coveted by little girls. Tiny seashells, miniature stamps, erasers, little shoes for little dolls, hair bows of various sizes, plastic rings, little tiny stones that fall out of plastic rings but must be saved because they're sooooo pretty, tiny purses and hats for the mommy who lives in the dollhouse (I wish I had that many purses and hats), and stickers... oh so many stickers. 

I used to painstakingly file all the tiny things away in specific buckets:

dollhouse items in the red bucket
kitchen food and utensils in the blue bucket
arts and craft supplies in the yellow bucket
jewelry in the pink bucket


But I ran out of buckets. And sanity. Cleaning her room today, I found, on her floor: a nailpolish, 2 necklaces, 5 crayons, a plastic tomato, 4 legos, and a rock. I put them all in one bucket (the green one), turned her light out, and left the room.

Moms: help a girlfriend out. If your friend is having a girl, please, warn her of the tiny things. Tell her the truth. Tell her that at some point, (in my case it was around year 3), she will give up and start throwing all of it into any bucket or bag in the room. (She need not worry -- her daughter will have 17 bags and backpacks and purses for carrying the tiny things). Sorting and organization will eventually serve no purpose. Play food will live alongside Elsa dolls and bracelets will be thrown together with seashells. 

Tell them, because that is the gloriously pink and glittered life of living with a 3-year old girl.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My favorite person

I have a friend about to have a baby. AT HOME. Like, in a pool. I sort of think she is a crazy person.

Me: Hospital. Drugs. Tubes. More drugs. 87 people traipsing in and out of my room every 11 minutes.

Her: Pool. No drugs. Midwife. Husband. That's it.


She and I obviously have a complete opposite mindset about birthing. Her favorite person through her birthing experience is probably her patient, soothing midwife who gives her the confidence and strength to make it to the finish line. Or maybe her husband is her favorite (or at least a close second). My favorite person during labor and delivery? Yes, I adore my nurses, and yes, my husband is an excellent coach. I also greatly appreciate my OB who usually appears for the last few minutes and endures my screaming and thrashing about. But my FAVORITE person is the epidural fairy. LOVE me some epidurals.

So yes, there is a huge range of "birth plans" women can choose or attempt to choose because sometimes things don't go as planned. So when I heard about her pool party birth, I think my reaction was something like "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat??" And although I felt confusion about her choice and I worried for her, do you know what I also felt?

Proud of her. For doing HER thing HER way with HER body and HER baby.

Know who else I am proud of?

Myself. For doing MY thing MY way with MY body and MY baby.

And to the mom pushed into an unexpected c-section: I am proud of you and I admire you. That must have been scary, but you did it.

To the mom with the planned c-section? I applaud you for doing what YOU think is best.

To the mom who had a VBAC: I applaud you for doing what YOU think is best.

To the mom who labored at home until the last minute and pushed that baby out with 4 minutes to spare at the hospital: Holy crap, I admire you. I hope you are proud of yourself. You are incredible.

To the mom who could not conceive naturally and used fertility treatments: I admire your courage.

To the mom who could not have children and chose to adopt: I admire your strength. I am in awe of you.

To the mom who CAN have children and still chose to adopt: Thank you. You are truly amazing.

To the mom with 1 kid: You are doing an awesome job.

To the mom with 4 kids under 5: You are an inspiration. Have an extra glass of wine tonight.

To the newly pregnant first-time mom: You got this. Your body will know what to do.

To the post-partum mom who still looks pregnant: You look beautiful when you are staring at that little baby.

And to my friend about to birth a baby in a pool in her living room: You are an incredible mama!

To the epidural fairy: I love you.