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Monday, May 2, 2016

I am a Scary Mommy!

Today is a big day for me-- my work is appearing over at Scary Mommy, one of my absolutely favorite sites. Whether you have found your way here from their site or somewhere else, welcome! I hope you will click on the "Mom Snark" link above to read some more of my writing about motherhood.

See, look! There it is! Right there, with my name and everything. Click here if you want to give it a read.

In honor of this exciting day, I am also offering some of my books free on the Kindle store. Head over to Amazon to download them, and I hope you enjoy my writing.

I also hope you'll come back by... it gets interesting here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Parenting support in sound bites

George Takei posted an interesting article on Facebook this morning about a woman who was mommy-shamed buying formula by a stranger who uttered three seemingly innocuous words: "Breast is best." The shamed mom posted an open letter explaining why her child is formula fed and garnered much support and rejoicing from the Internet.

And why not? Because the internet simultaneously condemns mommy-shaming, like in this awesome article from Scary Mommy, and delights in it. In all honesty, now that I am out of the hormone-fueled psychosis that was my kid's first six weeks of life, I am a bit more mellow about the mommy shaming. Yes, it is stupid. Yes, I have enough mom guilt without your contribution. Yes, I am a hypocrite because I sometimes talk smack about other moms (and yes, sometimes just because it makes me feel like I have my shit together more than I actually do). 

My concern with a vapid stranger muttering cliches at me or any other new mom in Target is not so much about the mom-shaming, but about something much deeper. We have a culture in the United States in which the "it takes a village" mentality of parenting has been replaced with support in sound bite. 

I've written before about the support structures in place in many other parts of the world for new moms. Moms in other countries get lying in periods, and family support and paid leave in order to ease the transition into motherhood. And lets be honest, it is a big f*cking transition. In the U.S,, we've replaced "lying in" with extravagant baby showers, family support with liking a Facebook photo, and paid leave with offering strangers our judgey sound bites at your local big box store. 

Perhaps my experience with becoming a mom was extreme. I don't have many people I can rely on locally. I lost my mother to cancer a few years ago, and otherwise most of my family is at least an hour away (some more like 18 hours). Most of my friends have young kids and lives of their own.

When my son was born, a lot of people came to see him, but other than 5 days with my mother-in-law, and a coworker that babysat for us once, nobody came to help, and why would they? Friends came, held my son, chatted, and left me with the same unwashed hair, sink full of dishes, and desperate dark circles I had when they arrived. 

The "support" I got was by way of unsolicited advice as Facebook comments about how I was giving a pacifier wrong or random women in grocery stores telling me my son was cold. My personal favorite was the coworker who didn't even get up from her desk when I brought my son into the office, but pointed out in a roomful of people that, as a breastfeeding mom, I should not be having that second cup of coffee. 

I got parenting support in sound bites that left me reeling, confused, and incredibly unsupported. 

The second cup of coffee was necessary because I have one of those adorable babies who doesn't sleep. My 12 weeks of unpaid leave ran out so damned fast that I didn't get a choice about dragging my ass back into work when I was really too exhausted to function. I was, in fact, so tired that I sulked back to my office, humiliated and hurt, because my parenting chops had just been called into question very publicly. What I should have said is "you're likely right, and if you would just come over and hold my son for an hour tonight, I could get some sleep and get by on one cup tomorrow."  Or, perhaps, I should have just told her to go to hell. 

I had an awesome baby shower full of generous people that provided all of the stuff I needed to be a parent-- and then some! My Facebook post announcing my son's arrival got hundreds of likes and comments, but there was no one available when my husband and I both started to unravel the first time my baby got sick. There were sound bites... Vaporub on his feet. Sit in the bathroom and let the shower run. Prop up his mattress... but there was no help. 

If I am sounding whiny and entitled, I don't mean to. I was a piss poor support system for the moms I know who had kids before me. I visited the baby. If I got it together enough to drop off a lasagna, I felt like a hero. But then I left them with dishes and unwashed hair and exhaustion and went on about my life because I just didn't know any better. 

And because that is our culture. We have tons of advice but very little time to actually help each other, and that just means that mothering is becoming a much harder, more isolating endeavor. 

I am not sure there is an answer to this problem. Clearly, we are always going to be busy with our own lives. I sure as hell can't take a month off when my friend has a baby so I can go help her out, and I would never expect anyone to do it for me. But can we make incremental changes that make a big difference? Maybe instead of extravagant shower gifts, we start giving (and making good on) promises to stop by and let mom shower after her kid is born. 

And we can all definitely not offer our sound bites, unless we're going to back them up with some real, actual support. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Yep, I am Throwing my Kid a Giant First Birthday Party...

If you're not a mom, or your kids are older, you may not know how truly controversial the first birthday party has become (seriously, moms of young kids today have a lot of time to sit around and think up silly things to have strong opinions about). The internet is chock full of Pinterest boards about the perfect party, and then hilarious articles like this one from Scary Mommy about why the first birthday party is insane.

Let me recap the sides for you:

  • Side 1: PARTY- we got this tiny human through 1 full year of life, and we will CELEBRATE. So I have an entire library of party ideas to consult and am currently hot gluing like my life depends on it so these centerpieces get done on time... 
  • Side 2: Oh HELL no- I got a tiny human through 1 full year of life, I am EXHAUSTED. Besides, my kiddo will never know and I am so not crafty. I can't take the pressure, man. 

Here's my take: both sides are right.

First birthday parties are for the parents. If you're into it, throw the party. If you're not, don't. There. Controversy solved.

Me, I am ALL about the first birthday party, but that is because I love to plan things. I am not going to lie, I have already ordered the invitations and my kid isn't even six months old yet. What's more, there is a giant box of theme-related decorations overtaking my guest room that I just keep adding to.

However, even if I didn't love planning things, I have a feeling I would be all about the first birthday party for one reason: community.

Nope, not talking podcasts.

I work from home. Most days, the only real beings I talk to face to face are my husband, dog, and baby. I don't know my neighbors. When I get really desperate for contact, I hang out at day care for an uncomfortable amount of time after dropping my son off so my kid's teacher will talk to me. I have very little family nearby, and most of my friends also have young kids. We text, we Facebook, but sometimes we go months without seeing each other.

And then there is a baby shower, a holiday, or a birthday, and suddenly we all remember to get together and see each other. My kid needs those events.

There is all kind of research out there on how kids are losing social skills because they text instead of talk, and how the concept of neighborhoods and it "taking a village" is going away. I see both of these a lot in my life and I want to make sure that my son grows up like I did- knowing he has this boisterous, hobbled together network of family and friends that love him.

So no, he won't remember his first birthday party, he sure as hell does not need any gifts (my house is bursting already), and it is totally not necessary to have hand-crafted centerpieces (that is for me). But that first birthday party is happening, and I am not even a little sorry! And I won't apologize for the second or third, either, because all of them ensure that we all remember to get together.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Nocturnal Routine Of A Maternal Zombie Lunatic

Mothers like to sort themselves into opposing categories, like breastfeeding versus formula moms, bed sharing versus “in your own room” moms, working moms versus stay-at-home moms, etc. After a few months with my son, I know these categories are arbitrary crap. There is only one distinction that really matters: those who have babies that sleep, whom we call moms, and those who have babies who do not sleep, whom we call maternal zombie lunatics.

I fall into the latter category.

Though being a maternal zombie lunatic is tough, but it isn’t all bad. I get tons of Netflix time to keep myself up. Everything is funny as hell when you’re sleep deprived. I understand just how intense my love for my son is, since I adore him even though I suspect that he may actually be trying to kill me. 

If you, like me, are a maternal zombie lunatic, take comfort in knowing that you aren’t the only one to have nights going something like this:

  • 7:30 p.m.- It is ROUTINE time. That awesome Pinterest pin showing the idyllic sleeping baby told you to start a bedtime routine. You begin to prepare your sweet child for bath time. Everyone says baths relax babies, and idyllic Pinterest pins never lie.
  • 7:40 p.m.- You’re in baby’s room after realizing that water functions as some kind of amphetamine for your kid. Your child is now WIDE AWAKE, but not to worry… you can fix this. You pull out a book…
  • 8:45 p.m.- How can a child who has listened to four books, eaten, and rocked for 30 minutes straight still be so awake? You try singing, but cannot remember any lullabies… its OK. Your kid seems to love listening to you warble old Nine Inch Nails songs (seriously, why is that all you can think of?).
  • 9:00 p.m.- OK… there are droopy eyes. And, wait… there it is. The kid is asleep. In your relief, you trust the sight of idyllic sleeping baby.  
  • 9:30 p.m.- Why does the kid wake up EVERY TIME you put them down?
  • 10:00 p.m.- Kid is actually asleep. You dive into bed. And you’re drifting… drifting… did you lock the front door? You get up, check, get back into bed and you are drifting… drifting… the kid is breathing, right? Yep. Worry, check, repeat at least 3 more times.
  • 10:45 p.m.- You are blissfully asleep.
  •  11:15 p.m.- Your kid is HUNGRY. You spring from bed, and hope that the child will just go right back to sleep once he has a full belly.
  • 12:30 a.m.- You hoped in vain. Despite being clean and dry, your kiddo is angry. Perhaps he can feel the monkey on the butt of his pajamas mocking the situation. Your baby does not appreciate being mocked. You anxiously rock and rock while perusing for something dumb to watch, something you won’t mind turning off as soon as the kid is asleep. Didn’t you roll your eyes at The Vampire Diaries on the menu last week? Well, why not…
  • 1:45 a.m.- The kid is fast asleep, but you just HAVE to know if Elena will really fall for Stefan even though he is so obvi a vampire.
  • 3:00 a.m.- You’ve been asleep for an hour, soothing teen drama as background noise, when the kid is hungry again. You drag yourself out of bed…  
  • 3:45 a.m.- That went beautifully. You get back in bed, but instead of sleeping you start doing some intense mental arithmetic to try and determine how long you have. You google to see how many ounces a baby needs to eat, analyzing how many hours the last feed bought you. Bonus points if you are breastfeeding and get to try and determine how many minutes it takes to get an ounce out of your boobs. You arrive at a number, and… oh crap. The kid should have been up 5 minutes ago. You can’t try to sleep now! Instead you stare at your baby, knowing he will wake up at any minute… except he doesn’t for almost an hour.
  • 5:00 a.m.- The kid is full. The kid clean, dry, warm, and AWAKE. You eye that weird vibrating chair the kid loves. Didn’t the Internet say not to let the kid sleep in it? Aren’t there studies about that misshaping heads or causing attachment disorder or making babies love Nickelback or something? You cannot do that to your baby.
  • 5:30 a.m. The chair is humming away, and baby is asleep.
  • 5:45 a.m. The chair stopped humming. Why, for the love of God, does it time out? WHO DESIGNED THIS CHAIR?
  • 7:00 a.m. It’s MORNING already! You pull yourself out of bed to make coffee before the kiddo wakes up… oh wait… too late. You trudge back in, tired and grouchy… and then your kid smiles at you. Whether it’s the first time or the 100th time doesn’t matter. Something in that smile revitalizes you. You can do this.

You got a few hours of rest, and this amazing, smiley baby will get you through the day. And thank goodness for that, because you just put dog food in the coffee maker and fed Fido your French roast.  

Don’t worry, you maternal zombie lunatic. Your baby will sleep through the night… eventually… for now, settle in because it takes a season or two for The Vampire Diaries to get good anyway.