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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Parenting Advice From People Who Have Never Seen a Baby

My perfect little boy now has four teeth. He is very proud and protective of them, opting to ensure that I know about them by grinding them together (making a sound akin to fingernails on a chalkboard) and using them to bite my face rather than letting me actually look at them.

I am now facing a new parenting challenge- making the child who won't let anyone see his teeth calmly hold still while I brush those pearly whites.

It is not going well.

This morning, I took to Google and spend twenty minutes rolling my eyes while various web sites instructed me to sing a song or model brushing or wait until my child surreptitiously falls asleep on his back with his mouth open to attempt brushing.

So I have to wonder if I am the only one who occasionally feels that some of these parenting advice sites are written by people who have never actually seen a baby.

Here are a few other examples of my favorite stupid advice:

  • When your baby is ready for solids, you just want to place a small amount of food in the center of his tongue. Oh, OK... Let me just get my six month old to sit still while I shove this foreign object in his conveniently open mouth. 
  • Bite your baby's nails if they won't sit still for clippings. Sure, this one is likely a personal preference thing, but umm.... eww. Also, if my child will not sit still for me to clip his nails (and he won't), why on Earth is is logical to think that he is going to turn into a patient little cherub while I gnaw on his fingers?
  • Zero screen time until two. All right, this one isn't stupid so much as it is improbable. I took this very seriously at first and found myself diving between my precious angel and any errant TV that happened to be in our vicinity. The first time my kid reached for my phone, I felt like a failure. I have finally realized that technology will be part of my kid's world. We don't let him sit and watch TV except under special circumstances (he's sick, or I'm sick, or there is a nice bottle of wine just waiting....) but I have stopped sweating the idea that he will sometimes see a fun screen and stare at it enthralled instead of working on some advanced mathematics while drooling in his pack n play. 

So, mama's... what are your favorite moments of stupidity in the advice column?

Friday, May 27, 2016

The 9 Stages of Putting Your Baby in Daycare

If you are expecting your first child, or a recent new mom, you no doubt have thought a lot about what comes next. Do you go back to work? Do you stay home? Do you start your own cooking blog and hope that posting videos of you making frozen pizzas will somehow pay for a nanny?

As a mom who went back to work, I evaluated every option here and ultimately settled on putting my son in day care. Now that I’ve been through the whole process,  I now know that this is one of those things 
about motherhood that was *so much harder* than I could have anticipated.

Why? You ask… well, preparing for day care comes in stages.

Stage 1: The Glowing Librarian

Look at you, pregnant momma, rolling down that check list of “to dos” before your belly even pops. You’ve researched pediatricians. You’ve written a birth plan so you can feel in control (ha ha ha ha) and now it is time plan for your inevitable return to work. You make lists of all the nearby centers. You read reviews and evaluate curricula so you will be PREPARED. Alight with pregnancy’s glow and rocking your sexy librarian glasses, you are in control. You’ve got this.

Stage 2: Down the Visitation Rabbit Hole

Your hormones got this, lady. You had a list of smart-sounding questions for these facilities, but as soon as you walk in and see a smiling woman strategically placed in a rocking chair with a  baby, you melt. Look, that baby is so cute. They will LOVE your child here.

Conversely, the first center you walk into that has the audacity to feature a crying baby will be vetoed. These people will beat your baby, you can just feel it. And you are damn proud that your maternal instinct is kicking in already.

Stage 3: No Room at the Inn

How is it possible that no one has infant spots? That job you weren’t so sure you even wanted to go back to before is now the best job in the world and you are FRANTIC with the knowledge that you might have to leave it. So all of the centers with hand-painted educational murals depicting morally superior children are full. Perhaps you can be a little less strict about the rigor of their six-month-old activity plans.

Stage 4: Just Take My Kid

You swear you will take the first open spot you find as long as the place doesn’t have visible crack pipes.

And FINALLY, you slap down that deposit and your spot is SAVED. Sure it is a 20 minute drive and $100 more per week than you can afford, but this place has no crack pipes! This will work!

And now, you forget about this for months.

Stage 5: You Have a Baby

This is the point at which you realize that you’ve been focusing on all of the wrong things. Your birth plan? Ha. Did anyone actually read that? What is important now is this perfect, screaming, wonderful, exhausting baby. Work is so far out of your mind.

Stage 6: How do is it already time to go back to work?

Didn’t 12 weeks sound like such a long time about 13 weeks ago? You just got the hang of this and now the impending first day is coming. You cry and grimace as you realize you have to stop wearing yoga pants every day. Mostly, though, you stare at your perfect baby and wonder how anyone else will know that he only sleeps if you play him Billy Joel.

Many women warned me that dropping my baby off at day care for the first time would be one of the hardest days of my life. Until I had my baby, it sounded melodramatic; however, they were right. Walking away from your baby is heartbreaking that first time … and to make matters worse, the little jerk doesn’t care AT ALL. Mom? Mom who? Oh, you mean the walking boobs that have been feeding me these past few weeks?

Stage 7: Mommy Guilt

You went to work and started pushing through your backlog. Somewhere about 3 hours in, just as you were wondering if anyone did ANYTHING while you were gone, you realize that you haven’t thought about your child in 20 minutes. Worse yet, maybe you even find that you are enjoying being needed for your brain and not your breasts. You determine that you are the worst mother ever. Your first day back doesn’t need to be a full day, right?

Stage 8: Your Baby is Fine

You arrive at day care, waiting to hear tales of how your kid cried all day or he just crawled right over to that Trump for President sign on his own. What you find is that your baby is fed, rested, and happy. You watch as his teacher holds him and notice that she really seems to care and have this under control.

Stage 9: Lady, give me back my baby

This one doesn’t end. As your child gets older and drop off gets easier, small things will start to happen, like the first time you see your kid really smile at his teacher and want to knee her in the gut for it. Then your brain will say “umm… shouldn’t you be happy that your kid is happy here all day?” and your heart will say “but does he have to be so happy with her? Doesn’t he miss me? Should I really be working?”

And welcome to the true hardest part—Mommy guilt and Mommy Jealousy

So yes, the decision to go back to work is a grueling one, and there is no easy answer. The good news is that your kid will be fine at day care, and you will likely actually enjoy some grown up time. The bad news is that you will likely always feel like you’re just not getting enough baby time. Nonetheless, your child will still love you most, and maybe one day you’ll even laugh at the memory of how you sobbed that first day. 


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day for the Motherless

Today is my first Mother's Day as a member of the honored group. My son gave me the amazing gift of seven hours of sleep in a row. My husband spoiled me beyond measure with books, jewelry, and cards. He even hid the grimace I know he felt when I cheerfully roped him into a trip to the farmer's market.

As my baby naps upstairs, and I sit here sipping coffee out of my brand new Mom mug, I find myself daydreaming about another way this day could have gone.

In my day dream, plans for today came about after weeks of negotiation, manipulation, white lies, and annoyance. I, undoubtedly, would have tried to hold my ground and insist that our family met in a real (i.e. not chain) restaurant in a real (i.e. Baltimore) city. I would have felt justified in digging in because it is, after all, my first Mother's Day.

In the end, someone would have claimed (feigned?) illness, and arguments would have been made about bringing three children here versus one baby there. I would have ended up grouchily sitting at an Olive Garden I had to drive an hour to get to with my parents, sister, brother, niece, and nephews. Inevitably, my brother would have shorted the check, or Dad would have brought up politics, or my mom would have made some harmless comment about me being a working mom that would have cut me to the core. I would have left aggravated and complained all the way home to my husband.

As miserable as that sounds, I am sitting here wishing for that day, the day I would have had if cancer hadn't taken my mom six years ago.

This brilliant article by David Ferguson is the closest thing I have ever seen when it comes to describing the loss of your mother. In truth, you have not lost a mother, you are suddenly lost. Since she died, I have so often felt adrift,besieged, and without an anchor.

Because that is what our mothers are, or should be: our anchors.

My mom was far from perfect. Truthfully, she was very strange. She talked to strangers about her cervix. Her drive to keep the peace made her quite the enabler for all of the strong personalities around her. A sister to five brothers, she herself lost her mother at a young age and thus had no freaking idea what to do with two daughters.

And yet, she was an incredible mom, brave fighter, and all around amazing woman. Though I miss her every day, some days, like today, her loss is raw and distracting.

Becoming a mother without one is so much harder than I could have imagined. I don't so much miss her in the tough moments, the times where a sick baby will not be soothed or work schedules just will not cooperate (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't fantasize about some help in those moments). I miss her in the amazing moments. When my son laughed for the first time, her absence was painful.

And today. Today I want the annoying lunch at Olive Garden. I want to be so mad at my mom that she didn't stick up for me and drag everyone to Baltimore.

My kid is stirring, pulling me out of my maudlin little day dream. I still find it fascinating that I start to miss him when he's been napping too long, and so I am very excited to go pick him up. He is starting to hug me back now. I kiss his cheek, and he giggles and then latches on the side of my face, mouth open, like an eel.

Everything in my life right now is a little damp. I've stopped asking whether my shoulder is wet from drool, vomit, or carrot puree. Moist shoulders are simply my reality now.

And I almost couldn't be happier. I have the most amazing, patient partner (even if he gets to sleep more than me and I resent him a tiny bit for it). I have one of those happy, easy babies. He even sleeps now. My joys far outweigh my sorrows or my worries, and that is an amazing life.

I just wish my mom was here to see it.

So as you are wishing all of the moms in your life a happy day today, don't forget the motherless. Even if they are one and the same, today is a tough day if you don't have an anchor.

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.