Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the category “Want my advice? Good.”

Be better

FUCKING MILLENNIALS.

I swear to all that is good an holy that if I have to listen to one more twenty-something complain about bills and college and, you know, LIFE, I am going to lose my damn mind.

I’m an ageist.  I admit to totally being completely and unabashedly discriminatory against the under 30 set.  And, I admit to hating this generalized demographic even while having many friends, colleagues and other people I generally respect, fall into this category.

It is absolutely not that I am out of touch.  I get it.  I’ve taught for long enough that the first few graduating classes of seniors I worked with are now squarely in their 30’s.  So, while this makes me super old, it also means that I have watched teenagers grapple with the educational system since the 90’s.  I understand that everyone tells you that you HAVE to go to college, then you go broke once you do the thing that everyone insisted you do, but weren’t sure you really wanted to do in the first place.  But, you marched along with the other lemmings and filled out your FAFSA and got your degree in French Literature and now you fold sweatshop clothes at the strip mall.  I know.  We all know because you have told us about a million times on Twitter, but perhaps you may have forgotten to take responsibility for your own actions, decisions and life.

My 9th graders are working on a research project right now in class.  I would estimate that only about 30% of them have accepted this challenge by digging in and really pouring through resources.  That 30% is going to the library, using databases to find periodicals, and utilizing scholarly websites and journals to find high-quality information for their writing.

The other 70% says something like, “can you help me?”.  Now, it is totally my job to help kids.  But, when I would come over to the desk of one of these 70%’ers, I would usually say, “What can I help you do?”.  This is usually met with blank stares.  Or, with a generic, “I don’t know how to start?”  or just “I don’t understand.”  If pressed  with, “what don’t you understand?”, I either get “all of it” or a shoulder shrug and more blank staring.

See, the thing is that for years and years, we’ve tried to protect our children from failure, doubt, mistakes and disappointment.  And, as a teacher who has seen a generation of kids who cannot struggle in a healthy way terrifies me.  There are millions of young people who are incapable of dealing with heartache, with rejection and with broken promises.

Is college too expensive?  Yes.  But so is just about everything that we actually want.  When we told all the kids that they needed college, they listened.  The demand went up.  It got more expensive.  This is how things work.

Are there too few jobs out there and is the majority being suffocated by the so-called “1%”?  I dunno.  Maybe?  But, so the fuck what?  Do something about it.  Change your world.  Change yourself.  Change your perspective.  Just don’t write a letter to your CEO about how you can’t afford your rent.  It’s not his problem.  It’s yours.  Figure something out.  Struggle.  Sweat.  Overcome.

I want my children at home to be independent.  I don’t want them just to make awesome independent decisions about getting mermaid hair or listening to 21 Pilots be Just. So. Avant-Garde.  (Look at us and how avant-garde we are!)  I want them to tell me, “It’s okay mom.  I can do it myself” when I offer to button a shirt or cut a banana.  I’ll cry that my babies are all grown up, but I do not want to raise boys who cannot or will not try something that is hard, maybe even do it wrong or just shitty or even get a little bumped and bruised in the process, but the come out on the other side with a product that they can own entirely themselves.

In the words of one of my favorite fashion gurus, “Make it work,” people.

I Don’t Believe in Special Ed.

I have seen (and heard — and smelled) some weird stuff in my day.

Recently, in fact, I saw two people get married on the floor at a Nine Inch Nails concert.  They wore…um…interesting outfits and took their vows just outside of the moshpit.  Or, rather, they took their vows just outside of the area the moshpit would have been had the average age of the current-day NIN fan not been about 40.

Once the nuptials concluded, Trent could proceed with his signature sound that pulses with noise reminiscent of flak jackets, gunmetal and binary code.

216707-anchorman-2-sequel-image-will-ferrellI go places.  I see things.  I have many leather-bound books.

I consider myself fairly worldly.  I mean, I have been to Europe, people.  And, I have two whole gay friends.

Okay, I have one gay friend.

And, I consider myself somewhat educated.  I have a couple of degrees and a bunch of papers that say that this-state-or-that-commonwealth hereby decrees that I am worthy to, like, work and stuff.

Yet, with my vast set of personal experience and wealth of knowledge and worldly understanding, there are still a few things I don’t understand.

My inability to wrap my giant brain around some of these concepts is very possibly going to piss you off.

I am okay with that.

So, here is the deal:

I do not believe in Special Education.

I know.

But, let me explain.

1.  SPECIAL ED MEANS “WE DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH YOU.”  —  Students all too often acquire Special Education designations not necessarily because they have medical or developmental stumbling blocks over which they must jump in order to compete with their peers.  Often, students, and overwhelmingly young male students, are identified as qualifying for Special Ed. due to factors that come not necessarily from their cognitive abilities (or lacking of abilities), but rather from the educational body’s inability to figure out “what to do” about the “problem” of these children.

According to the AASA (The School Superintendent’s Association), a 2005 article noted that “black students nationwide are 2.9 times as likely as whites to be designated as mentally retarded.”  This same article asserts that young black males faces a plethora of other assorted disadvantages in schools.  They claim that members of this demographic “have been found to be 1.9 times as likely to be designated as having an emotional problem and 1.3 times as likely to have a learning disability. Since twice as many black boys are in special education programs as black girls, it is difficult to blame heredity or home environments as the root causes for these figures. In some metropolitan districts, 30 percent of black males are in special education classes, and of the remaining 70 percent, only half or fewer receive diplomas.”  If home environments and family lineage are not accurate indicators, the conclusion seems to be that a portion of the Special Education population is labeled as such not necessarily due to factors that traditionally seem to impact learning, but instead for the “disability” of being young, male and black.

And, as far as SpecialEducationAdvisor.com is concerned, boys of all ethnic and racial background outnumber girls in Special Ed by more than 2 to 1.  Logic and a basic understanding of statistics suggests that any sub-group should reflect the larger populace.  That is, the ratio of boys-to-girls in Special Education should resemble the ratio of boys-to-girls in, you know, the world.  Yet it does not.

Furthermore, the US Department of Education notes that when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted in the 1970’s, students receiving Special Education services grew by about 81%.  Now, some may suggest that this vast growth rate is attributable to the fact that states were finally forced to provide needed services to deserving youngsters.  Or, some may interpret this to mean that the number of students who are not functioning intellectually along with their peers in America has octupled in the past 30+ years.  If the latter is the case, then, one might be able to argue that Special Education identification is fairly inaccurate.

Being black or being male aren’t the only indicators of higher probability of Special Education labeling.  Poverty is a major contributing statistical factor as well.  The Georgetown Law Journal says that “advances in neuroscience research will eventually end special education as we know it. In short, neuroscience research is challenging a number of important assumptions that undergird special education law, including, for example, the assumption that there is a real difference between students with a specific learning disability, who are covered by the law, and those who are simply “slow,” who are not covered.”  And furthermore, they cite research conducted which overwhelmingly suggests that while poverty (and more specifically orphandom or homelessness) may lead a student through a variety of reasons to test at a lower IQ than his same-age peers, the underlying causes of that lowered score are not simply a factor associated with raw intellectual capability.  Therefore, impoverished youngsters may end up in Special Education programs even though their potential levels of achievement may be quite high, but yet untested.

The Washington Monthly reported, too, that “anyone who’s spent time in an inner-city classroom can tell you that the challenges the average poor kid faces are often hard to distinguish from those you’ll find in special ed. This may be the greatest absurdity of the special ed law: It fails to acknowledge ‘environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage’ as disabling conditions. Why should a child with a broken back be guaranteed round-the clock, state-of-the-art medical care, no matter what the cost, while the millions of kids whose difficulties stem from poverty and neglect are left to hope that their teachers will break the rules so they can get some extra help? Should we really be spending $10 billion (at least) a year on ‘learning disabilites’ when we still don’t adequately fund Head Start and Title I, the federal programs that were designed to help poor children catch up with their wealthier peers?”

2.  SPECIAL ED. DOESN’T WORK.  —  Overwhelming data supports the idea that the current American system of assistance for Special Needs children does not increase their achievement, but instead inflates their statistics to give the appearance of achievement.

In an article posted on public station WNYC’s website, teacher Laura Klein notes, “The problem that exists here is related to the way that we lower standards for special education students — a trend that perpetuates the academic inferiority that these students feel.”  If Special Education programs were truly working, then the precious standardized test scores states use to determine both the worth of public school teachers and the achievement of the student body would indicate an even scoring pattern between Special Ed. and non-Special Ed. students.  In other words, if Special Education were truly honoring its promise to families to improve the education experiences of their children, then the proof would be in the puddin’.  But, Special Education students are NOT even coming close to competing with their peers on mandated tests.  But, if grades were an indicator, these numbers would suggest that Special Education students are functioning at a fully acceptable level that is on-par with their Regular Education peers.

In 2012, the New York Times published an article written by a frustrated teacher of Special Education students where he “confesses” to be a “bad teacher.”  He writes, “My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances. I love these kids, but they can be a handful. Almost without exception, they struggle on standardized tests, frustrate their teachers and find it hard to connect with their peers.”  But, if the system were working, these things would not be true.  These beloved students would be well-adjusted, academically leveled, and behaviorally normed.

3.  SPECIAL ED. COSTS TOO MUCH TO BE THIS UNSTEADY.  —  The costs of Special Education are well-documented.  It’s really expensive.  Mind you, it is really expensive for a broken product.

And, Special Education programming just keeps morphing itself into new iterations without actually accomplishing much at all.

For example, an acquaintance of mine remembers a conversation with the Special Education teacher in her high school building.  She recalls that the Special Ed. teacher informed the staff that the SDIs (or, Specially-Designed Instruction programming) must be followed to the letter.  In other words, it was mandated that all teachers fulfill the elements of student IEPs.  This can mean anything from teachers being required to provide deadline extensions for designated students, to teachers being forced to offer unlimited attempts at tests, or “modified” grading which can put the minimum grade a teacher may provide for a student’s work at any number determined in the IEP meeting.  When a question was raised to the Special Education teacher that went something like this:  “Ma’am, I am following everything in the student’s IEP and he is still failing my class.  What am I supposed to do?,” the response from the Special Education teacher went something like this:  “If you really have done everything you were supposed to and he is still failing, then we need to rewrite the IEP.”

Now, what this suggests is that when 1 and 1 are added and we get 3, we don’t try to figure out how to get 2, we just change the equation so that 3 is acceptable.

And, what is more interesting is that Special Education students make up just a bit more than 10% of the total student population nationwide.  While hard data relating to Special Education spending is awfully hard to come by, many organizations, including Students First, a group founded by former DC-area Chancellor and sometime controversial public figure, Michelle Rhee, published a statement in 2011 suggesting that about 21% of school budgets tend to be allocated for Special Education spending at the local level.   According to New England Cable News, “One noteworthy aspect of special education is that while Congress enacted the education policy for children with disabilities, states and districts shoulder most of the costs.”  So, indeed, it is expensive, accounting for seemingly far more of school funds than seems statistically logical, and those who pay for it are not those who demanded it exist in the first place.

k-> And, so, I find myself wondering why this educated, worldly (and beautiful!) Off Duty Mom can find more meaning and use in a Keanu Reeves movie than I can find in Special Education.

What say you?  Care to explain why I am a stupid jerk?  Hit up the comments section, yo.

I’m Raising Your Boyfriend

When I first had begun my journey of motherhood, I was insanely frustrated by the fact that nobody was brutally honest about how hard parenting is.

1Now, I am pretty flabbergasted by how many people are coming out of the woodwork to talk about how hard parenting is.

I am actually a little pissed that I am not unique in a way.  But, I am also quite comforted to be reminded that I am not completely alone in my troubles.

I have two children:  two amazing, beautiful, kindhearted boys who are, without question, the most important and the  most phenomenal things in my life.  These two are very different and that always amazes me.  They came from the same gene pool.  They live in the same home.  They follow the same routines.  But, they have their own distinct personalities.

My firstborn is a pistol.  He is fiercely, triumphantly, vehemently independent.  He is also brave, gentle, giving, creative, smart and energetic.  But, for the sake of this post, I am just going to focus on the independence for now.

I am very proud that he is a free thinker.  No, seriously:  VERY PROUD.  As an academic myself, I have very high regard for individuals who pave their own ways.  He is an inventor, not a consumer.  He is a leader, not a follower.  That fucking rocks.

This quality made it difficult for me, though, to learn how to effectively parent.  I was really thrown into the deep end of the motherhood pool and left to sink or swim with this little guy.  As a tiny bean, he rarely wanted to do anything I told him to do:  ever.  This was very trying.  And, it was potentially dangerous as many of things I told him to do were merely for his own personal safety.

He is a little older now, though, and he and I have really gotten to know each other well.  I have always loved him with every bit of my being.  But, we are becoming friends now, too.  And, I can’t explain how awesome that is.  If you have a great relationship with your kid, though, you know just what I mean.

My baby is as happy as they come.  He smiles nearly incessantly.  And, he is so freakin’ laid back.  All. The.  Time.  He can’t be shaken (well, unless he has a new tooth coming in or desperately needs a nap).  He pleasantly goes along with just about any request I make of him.  He isn’t a mindless drone, mind you.  He is just so pleased to learn and discover and be shown the ways of the world.  He is excited to see and wonder and experience.

Toddlerhood is really rough.  If you are a parent, I am not really breaking any big news here.

For one child, the toddler period was filled with “No!” and “I don’t WANT to!” and “Aaaaaaagggggggghhhhhhhh!”

For the other the toddler period seems to be filled with “Okay, Mommy!” and “Hee Hee” and lots and lots of snuggling.

I love both of these children.  One is not better than the other.  I don’t wish one is, was, or would be more like the other.

But, wow.  This should be added to the list of Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a Parent: raising a young child is basically starting a brand-new relationship.  You may not be in love at first.  You each may do things that the other doesn’t understand or pisses the other party off to no end.  You may each say some things you don’t mean.  You may feel like walking out.  You may sway from love to frustration and back again many times in a single day.  You may disappoint one another.  And, it may take you both a very long time to really get to know one another deeply.

When you bring a child into a family, you are meeting a new person and starting a new relationship with him or her.  All relationships have rocky spots.  All relationships have peaks and valleys.  This is no different.

messy handsYou may be blessed with the world’s most wonderful child.  He or she may be so “easy,” as parents say.  This often translates to a child who is generally quiet and obedient; a child who sleeps well and loves to try new foods; someone who never embarrasses you in public or has poop squish up her back while you are in line at the grocery store.  You may also be blessed with a “difficult” child.  He is often boisterous, physical, and messy; he has a mind of his own; he doesn’t care what other people think; he may be a pretty big personality.  Either way, you’re still blessed.

The first relationship our children have is with their parents.  Then, hopefully, they will go on to have hundreds of other successful relationships:  with friends, romantic partners, classmates, teachers, coworkers, neighbors, spouses, families and so on.  What we build with our kids follows the same pattern we’ve forged as we might have built any other relationship of our own in the past.  And, how we build our relationships with our kids helps show them the foundation for how they should create interpersonal relationships with others in the future.

This is yet another way in which we might inevitably to something to send them into therapy one day.

Nevertheless, with our best intentions, we move forward, getting to know these little personalities better and better with each passing moment.

How to Land a Nanny Job

My family is now on its fourth nanny in just over two years.  They all parted with us on good terms.  And, one of those we hired knowing that she’d only be able to work for a few months.

The-nannyHowever, with such turnover in this time, I now fancy myself a nanny-hiring guru.

I have interviewed, background-checked, e-chatted and met with…um...lots of potential nannies in my day.

In the time I have been scrambling through dozens and dozens and dozens of applications, letters of interest and e-mails, I have come up with some pointers for people who are currently seeking employment in personal in-home childcare.

1.  BE HONEST.  Now, this seems like a no-brainer.  But, here’s the deal:  If you can only work 3 days a week, you need to be honest about that.  If you do not have experience with potty-training a toddler, you need to be honest about that.  In other lines of work, an employer will train you to do most things.  So, like, if you apply for a job at a grocery store but have never run a cash register before, it isn’t all that big of a deal.  They will show you how whether you have experience or not.  This is not the case with childcare.  Don’t know how to change a diaper and you’re applying for a job working for twin 1-year olds?  You’re screwed.

2.  LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.  If you do not feel passionate about being a part of a child’s growth; if you do not truly love teaching and playing; if you do not have a deep interest in helping a young person to form his earliest and most basic understanding of the universe around him, just don’t friggin’ apply.  I am talking to you, Girl-Who-Only-Wants-A-Nanny-Job-Because-She-Majored-In-Philosophy-At-The-Local-Community-College-And-No-One-Else-Will-Hire-Her.  You better be clear about your intentions.  There is no busy working parent out there who wants to start this process of nanny-finding all over again in six weeks when you land a better gig at the Shoe Mall.  Get on the bus or get away from the stop.  Apply for nanny jobs because you want to be a nanny.  Period.

3.  BE LITERATE.  When you apply for a job you have found online or through any other advertising avenue, make sure to present yourself as a learned person.  Even if you are merely responding to a posting on a childcare website, make sure to write a full response to the posting.  Use capital letters and full words and sentences.  Use proper punctuation.  Do not use slang.  Address the job poster by name if you know it.  Even consider writing a formally-formatted letter and including an updated resume that highlights your childcare experience.  Do not include a resume you have left over from four years ago when you were looking for a job at accounting firms.  And, when you speak with your potential employer on the phone, you must sound professional and well-spoken, too.  I don’t want you helping my kid with his spelling words if you can’t string a coherent sentence together.  My five-year old should not have better grammar than you do.

4.  BE ON TIME.  EXACTLY.  In the real world, you should always be 15 minutes early for an interview.  This is not the case for a nanny interview, particularly if it is at someone’s private residence.  You should be EXACTLY on time.  ON THE DOT.  If you are even one minute late, your potential employer will notice.  If you are early, you are inconveniencing the homeowner.  Most parents have a to-the-minute schedule that is followed.  And, even if they don’t, if a baby needs a diaper change right before your arrival, mom may look at the clock, see that it is 7:23 and believe that she still has seven minutes to get the baby changed and cleaned up before you arrive.  If you come-a-knockin’ at 7:25, she is now elbow-deep in poop, the dog is barking (and this makes the baby cry), and she can neither get to the door nor open it with her crap-hands.  Now she’s flustered.  And, this is the emotion she is going to start your interview with.  Not good.

5.  IT IS AS IT IS.  If you are using a service that connects job-seekers with job-posters, most nanny positions, you will notice, have details listed clearly about the job expectations.  You should be prepared to live with everything the job poster posts before you contact him or her to move forward.  If I posted that my job pays $11/hour, do not come to an interview and waste my time when you know you will refuse to accept anything lower than $15/hour.  If you cannot be at work until 9AM, do not send me an e-mail telling me that you would be perfect for my job, but only you can’t start at 6:30 AM.  If you can’t start at 6:30 AM, then you are NOT perfect for my job.  Look, there are plenty of candidates who can and will meet every one of my needs.  There are more potential nannies out there than there are nanny jobs.  I cannot be coaxed into hiring a less-than-ideal candidate when it is a fact that a truly ideal candidate is absolutely out there.

6.  JUMP IN.  If you are fortunate enough to be granted an interview at someone’s home, recognize that this is not for the purpose of talking with you about salary requirements and discussing your educational background.  This is a parent or guardian’s way of seeing how you interact with the kids.  If the kids don’t like you, you’re done.  So, jump in.  Hug and play.  High-fives are always good.  Even bring your favorite age-appropriate children’s book and ask the kids if they’d like to read with you.  If you see a dropped toy, pick it up.  If the kids are on the floor, but mom is on the couch, get on the floor.  Your real interview is with the little ones.  Smile.  Be fun.  Be energetic.  Ask the kids questions about their favorite games, toys, books and pets.  If you see a runny nose, go get a tissue.  This gives your potential employer a sample of the nanny you will be when he or she is not there.

7.  BE DEPENDABLE.  If you live in a state where cars must be inspected, make sure that you are up-to-date.  Have your car tuned-up and checked out before driving to a potential employer’s house.  Make sure it is clean.  If this is the vehicle in which you will be transporting children, you need to make sure it is dependable and clean to set parents’ minds at ease about allowing their babies to get into a potentially lethal weapon with you at the helm.  And, along with this idea, you should, again, be on time, dress conservatively (no baby tees, no minis, no shorty-short shorts, no stilettos, no overflowing boobage, etc.).  Look like a respectable person.  Drive a respectable (or at least well-cared-for) car.  Keep your driving record clean.  Get a background check through your police department and be ready to hand over the results to potential employers.

8.  TAKE CARE OF YOU.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t post hussy pictures of yourself on Instagram.  Don’t talk about keg stands on Facebook.  Don’t do anything that can get you arrested.  Eat well and let employers know that nutrition and fitness are important to you (as you will be in charge of their children’s well-being quite a bit).   Get in shape if you aren’t already.  I hate to think about discrimination, but if you don’t seem like you could run after my 2-year old and catch him, you’re no good to me.

9.  SEND A THANK-YOU NOTE AFTER YOUR INTERVIEW.  In any line of work, if you interview with someone face-to-face, you should send a handwritten thank-you immediately after your meeting.  It is classy.  E-mail is not the same thing, either.

10.  BE WILLING TO GO THE EXTRA MILE.  Every parent who is in a position to hire a nanny is doing so to alleviate some of the pressures that exist in trying to juggle things like career, family, volunteering, community engagement, school, etc.  The nanny who lands the job will ultimately be willing to do more than just sit and stare at kids all day.  Consider offering to do children’s laundry, prepare meals, do grocery shopping, vacuum, dust, walk the dog, etc.  Consider offering to help keep family mail, papers, records, schedules, etc. organized.  Referring to yourself as a “Nanny and House Manager” is helpful, too.  It might even land you some more money.

Of course, these ten rules don’t guarantee you a damn thing.  There are no guarantees in this world, of course.  But, I have found that candidates who are able to offer the “total package” really are in the minority overall.  While I mentioned that there are a gazillion nannies looking for jobs, you will absolutely stand out if you are professional, passionate, educated, driven, energetic, punctual, caring, classy, organized, clean, and healthy.

Happy job hunting!

Surviving Teendom

Teen angst.

Ugh.

We all went through it and yet somehow no adults seem to have figured out yet how to get the 12-19 year-old crowd to know for certain that

  1. You are not alone
  2. You are not ugly.  People who call others “ugly” are being ugly.
  3. Not EVERYONE hates you.
  4. There’ll be sad songs that make you cry.  They don’t freaking help anything.  Stop listening to them.
  5. Do not call, text or drive past your ex’s house or person.  It’s not helpful.
  6. School isn’t about algebra and sentence diagramming.  It’s about life.
  7. Your haircut is stupid.
  8. Reading books gets you farther in life than the “right” shoes, purse, belt or phone ever will.
  9. Punctuality matters.  Really.
  10. If you learn how to shake hands and look someone in the eye you will do well in both your private and your work lives.
  11. You should be the girl/guy who can be introduced to Mom or else you will never be good for anything other than a fling.
  12. It is not true that no one understands you.  We totally understand you.  We WERE you.  And we know you’re acting dumb so get over yourself.
  13. Swearing has its place.  Grown-ups do it, too.  But it isn’t for street cred.  It is only as a legitimate expression of emotion, amplitude or art.
  14. Yes, family is more important that friendship.  We’ve all had friends who were practically family, but that entire 8th grade clique of yours isn’t going to be with you when you’re 59 and your mother dies or when you lose your job with no explanation after 32 years of service.
  15. 99% of what matters to you today you will not even be able to remember in 10 years.
  16. Skinny jeans are not for everyone.  Find your own style that makes you look your best.
  17. You won’t die if you put down the electronics for a day.  Interact with humans, for crying out loud.
  18. Your mom will eventually prove to have been right about, well, everything, ever.
  19. It’s called a “waistband” because it goes around your thighs.  Just kidding.  You look absurd.
  20. Your poetry is probably not that good.

If, one day, we can find a way to convince the young buckaroos of these facts, peace will reign.  Doves will soar above the mountaintops.  Rainbows and angels’ songs will permeate all the lands.  All will be right with the world.

 

Advice for Moms

Want my advice?

If you knew me in person, you probably wouldn’t, but here we go…

Whaaaaaat?

Whaaaaaat?

It occured to me that we really ought to be able to offer better advice to mothers of little ones than “sleep when the baby is sleeping.” ‘Cuz that advice sucks, anyway. I don’t know about you, but when I was going through an 8-month stretch with a newborn who not once in that time slept for more than 2 hours at a clip, the whole sleep-when-the-baby-is-sleeping idea was unrealistic, unhelpful, and not at all restful for an adult.

Now, I am a total nutjob, so I am absolutely in no real position to be offering advice to anyone, really. Seriously, I am NOT keeping my shit together. Like, at all. But, I have learned a thing or two about feeling less likely to jump off of a clock tower. So, if you are exhausted, depressed, anxious, and lonely with a child or children at home under the age of 6, or if you know too well that weird feeling that comes when you know your eyes are open and stuff, but your head feels like you just swigged a bottle of Benadryl and chased it with a few shots of Tequila and a handful of quaaludes, then, maybe I can offer some thoughts.

1. Take a shower. ‘Cuz you stink. That was a joke. Sort of. You might stink, I actually don’t know. But, in reality, there isn’t a whole lot that a good, steamy shower can’t wash away — even if it is only temporary. Sometimes the shower is the only quiet place in your house, right? And, it smells like lavender and honeysuckle. And, there are no feces, crayon-stained walls or those tiny legos that make your foot feel like it is being murdered by itty-bitty Samurais when you step on them. Besides, taking a shower makes you feel human again when you are sleep-deprived, frustrated and hallucinating. Get some of the aromatherapy stuff that is energizing. You’ll feel a little better. Then someone will vomit on you. But, you felt better for a bit.

2. Wear real pants. Now, look: no one (and I do mean NO ONE) loves yoga pants more than I do. I rock some flannel pj pants about 35 seconds after coming home from work every day. But, when I was on a very long maternity leave, I started to feel as dumpy as I looked as I sat around everyday in fleece, elastic-waist pants and an old sorority sweatshirt. You don’t have to try to squeeze your ass into an old prom dress. You don’t need that kind of bullshit making you feel bad. But, put on a pair of jeans for crying out loud. Go outside. Get some air. Even if it is warmer in your fridge than it is outside. You own boots and a heavy coat, right? Your kid has a parka. Come on. A body at rest in stretchy pants tends to stay at rest in stretchy pants.

3. Listen to your kid. Hard. My older son has prepared a dissertation on the merits of Buzz Lightyear’s heroism versus the entertainment value of Super Mario Brothers. I have no fucking clue what he is talking about most of the time. And, I always feel way too busy with important things like laundry, drinking wine and blogging to really pay all that much attention. He mostly gets thoughtless replies of “Yeah,” and “That’s nice.” But, I have tried to make it a point lately to listen to some of his stories as though they are the most fascinating things I have ever heard. I look at his eyes (something I try to tell him is important to do when he talks to adults). I ask questions. I try to make him feel as though someone really hears him. Because no one listens to a goddamn word I say all day and I know how shitty that feels.

4. Adopt a mantra. In a previous post, I talked about how lifesaving it was for me to hear someone talk about training the mind to repeat a positive statement. She was a yoga instructor and mom and she told us we could steal her mantra: “It won’t always be this way.” I think about it all the damn time. Yours doesn’t have to be that one, but when you are on the brink of tears (always, right?), adopt a better voice to hear in your head other than “I can’t.” You might try “Just breathe,” or “Right now, I am grateful for______.” Someone I know uses “At least.” For her, when her toddler threw a Tonka Truck at the living room window and cracked it, she said to herself, “At least it’s warm outside. And the window can be repaired.” Find what works for you. And, don’t let 2-year olds play with Tonka Trucks near antique glass windows.

5. Do something mindless (but awake) each day. I am a television junky. I love when I have the opportunity to watch some of my favorite shows. But, I can only take so much Sprout. Speaking of which, when any other co-host in the Sunshine Barn with Chica sings the birthday song, the camera cuts to Chica dancing her little birthday puppet dance. But, Kelly gets the camera on her the whole time. Who is she fucking at PBS? That really burns my ass.

So, I should tell you that I am absolutely certain that these things all work to help you feel more alive, more alert and more like being a better mom. I know that these things all work because I don’t do them. And, I am certifiable, so clearly, doing the opposite of what I do will make you well-adjusted and happy.

Regardless, though, of whether you follow this advice, we should all just hang in there, right? I mean, there are a whole lot of cruddy parents out there and if you are reading blogs trying to get advice on how to keep your cool and be better for your kids, you are not a cruddy parent. You are tired. And sick of hearing people scream things like “No!” and “But, wait!” and “I don’t wanna!” at you. It’s okay. Really. It is.

And, of course, if you are concerned about how much you are not keeping yourself together, please talk with your doctor. You are not alone. I promise. And, it is okay to ask for help. Call your doctor, call a babysitter, call for takeout and call the Winebulance. Did you know there was such a thing? Criminey. None of us need suffer any longer.

What the Holy Frick is Wrong with People?

I was preparing to write a piece that was going to be freaking hilarious about women and styling salons.  I wanted to open with a funny one liner that would be a take on “Women:  can’t live with them; can’t live without them.”  So, I turned to my old friend, Google, to help me find something adorable.

What I found was this.

I didn’t investigate much.  This was the second hit when I started my Google search.  But, I did see that it came from something called the “Military Times.”  I do not know if this site is associated formally with the US military, whether it is a legitimate publication, or if it is just garbage, but I was totally disgusted.  And, I don’t get disgusted easily.

There is what appears to be a legitimate site called “Military Times” which seems to offer news, information and opinions for, by and about military personnel, defense issues, politics and policy.  I would love to believe that these two factions are not, indeed, connected, though.

I was first horrified to see that, at the time, the top response to “Women:  Can’t Live With Them, Can’t…” was related to vicious commentary about rape.  Not sure anyone associated with the military should be giggling about illegally shoving your penis where it doesn’t motherfucking belong.  Isn’t there enough bad press about how women are treated in the armed forces already?  Jesus.

The rest of the responses I read were about murdering, defiling and otherwise performing (or forcing the performance of) sex acts with women.

Seriously?

I don’t talk about it.  Ever.  But, I survived a rape 16 years ago.  It changed everything about everything in my life.  And, to see sexual violence used as a punchline makes me feel a kind of anger for which there is no real word in my language.  I, very literally, feel sick right now.

I don’t even really recommend you go and read those posts on that forum.  I really hesitated before even linking to it as I was afraid to give it more of a voice.

But the mother in me came out.  If you are the parent of a daughter (or if you love any woman in your life at all), you need to see what kind of people she will encounter in her lifetime.  Think about how you might teach her to respond to these animals.  If you are the parent of a son, perhaps you can think about what you can do to make him turn out NOT to be like the (presumable) men on the aforementioned forum.

Rape and molestation are not about sex.  They are not about “urges” or “attraction.”  They are about violence, power, anger, aggression and the deep and insecure desire to cause pain, shame and a feeling of weakness.

If you have or if someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, or if you were involved in a situation where you were forced, coerced or taken advantage of while you were in a state that made you unable to consent to a sexual encounter clear-headedly, please contact your city’s Rape Crisis Hotline or visit http://www.rainn.org/.

Things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been.

 

**UPDATE:

I received this message recently from reader, Christine Moore:

The Military Times is indeed a Military publication. My husband gets the Navy Times all the time. I’m not really surprised that thread is on there, rape and sexual assault is a HUGE problem in the military. Most victims of sexual assault in the Military are “written off” as crazy and discharged from the military. There is always stories in the Military Times that talks about it, and how the Military is working to fix the problem, but the honest truth is nothing is really being done about it. I think what needs to be done here is that thread needs to be reported to the military, to DOD, to the Pentagon. AND it should also be reported to the media, if the media gets a hold of something like that the military will have to do something about those people, they will have to investigate, and hopefully that will lead to some arrests.

I will be reporting it, I hope you do also, and encourage others to do so.

 

Thank you, Christine!  And, indeed, please, everyone, feel free to take action against this heinous attitude about victimizing women.

Making Promises Matter

I saw a friend’s Facebook post today, advocating for the following movement. I was intrigued by the title of it as I hoped it would give me information about better comebacks for when my spawn cries, “But WHYYYYYY did you put me in time-out?”

This movement is so much awesomer (More awesomerific? Awesomelescient? Uber awesomeified?) than that, though.

If you check out http://becauseisaidiwould.com/, you will see what I mean. It’s such a great idea. I think we should help this to go super-viral.

If you have people you love in your life, consider getting involved with this, either officially (by ordering free cards) or just by thinking about the concepts and maybe spreading the word.

I am inspired. Let me know if you are, too. And, if you know of other amazing or inspiring things on the interwebs, let me know. I love hearing from you.

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Things That Don’t Suck

I love countdowns, top 10 lists, music charts, awards shows and all manner of things that intend to compare things to other things and figure out which among them is “best.”

In its heyday, I had never missed an episode of “I Love the 70’s,” “I Love the 80’s,” “I Love the 90’s,” “I Love the New Millennium,” or any of the spinoffs that resulted.  I also would likely stop channel surfing immediately if I were ever to find one of VH1’s other nuggets of fabulousness such as “Best Week Ever,” “50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs…Ever,” or “100 Greatest One-hit Wonders.”

I loves me a good list.

And, at Off Duty Mom, we’ve compiled our own lists that were pretty awesomesauce.  Sometimes I admitted to having lists of popular culture moments I’ve enjoyed even though I know they’re all pretty lame.  And, I have had a list of things I realized I was too damn old to properly comprehend.  I now would like to share with you…

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE…

1.  Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” — Arguably one of the most fun songs written, um, ever.  I say “arguably” as some may argue this point.  They’d be wrong.  I might listen to discussions that would consider Paperboy’s “Ditty,” House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” or Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance” as being on-par.  I enjoy all of these songs, but have really given this a whole lot of thought, people.  Don’t question my all-knowing pop-culture awesomeness.

2.  The Diaper Genie — There has been so much debate regarding whether or not this item is necessary for parents.  I just want to say that this product has made my life far more convenient than it might otherwise be.  For the true environmentalist (which I am not, though I do recycle and stuff — I am not a Neanderthal, after all), I can see why there might be some concern about how necessary it is to use so much more plastic than is absolutely necessary.  But, I have to admit that I don’t really give a crap about that too much.  Or, rather, the crap that I do give to the world is preferably wrapped in stink-reducing magic bags that form blue poop sausages I can create with the use of just one hand.  Sexy.

…and it shall be called “The Diaper Genie” and ye all shall rejoice…

3.  Diet Coke — Full of chemicals and stuffed with too much sodium to actually reduce my thirst and replenish my body’s needs, Diet Coke is still one of my first loves.  It has no redeeming qualities.  But, neither did that guy from New York that one time and a lack of redeeming qualities didn’t stop me then and (as I am a woman of principles, after all), it won’t stop me now.

That heart on the can is probably how they tricked me…

4.  My Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo — The company claims that I ought to be getting 17 MPG in the city, but I think my husband would throw a damn party if that ever happened.  It’s usually more in the ballpark of 12, he claims.  But, that 8-cylinder engine makes it really easy to get you quickly out of my way.  Since, in an earlier post, I established that I hate people, a powerful vehicle is just what I need to get away from you all.  And, enjoy your Prius, sucker, when you’re stuck in a mud puddle.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t NEED roads…

5.  President Obama — Yup.  I was sucked in by the flowery, inspiring speeches and charisma.  And, I still love this guy.  I have nothing else I can say.  I still love President Clinton, too.  I’d buy just about anything those two guys were selling.  Charm, magnetism, pizzazz.  Yes, please.  I will never vote for anyone who says “misunderestimate,” spells “potato” with an “e,” cannot name a single major US newspaper, or blows off a life-long proclivity for hate-mongering by claiming to having been a mere prep-school prankster.

I am not sure what all of this says about me.  But, I decided long ago that I was really good with “me” as-is, so I am thinking that I probably don’t actually care what this all says about me.

Instead, allow me to open up the polls here and welcome you to join in the discussion of other things that don’t suck.  Comment here, if you’d like, about other things you enjoy regardless of whether others share your enjoyment.  I’ll be interested to hear differing viewpoints.  Join in.

 

 

Justifiable Alcoholism

It occurred to me recently that I talk about drinking wine pretty often.  I admitted to crying when I ran out of the stuff once.

I started to wonder whether admitting openly to loving wine (and actually also loving beer, margaritas, cosmopolitans, whisky sours and anything with Chambord just as much), was…inappropriate for a mom.  I guess I had flashbacks of that scene from “Desperate Houswives” when Bree is “caught” tossing out a bag full of empty wine bottles and her friends chatter about whether this was indicative of a problem.

I have officially decided that no, it is NOT a problem.

Yup-Yup.

I decided that a little imbibement (imbibing? imbibitude? imbibishousness?) is good for the soul.  Or at least the sanity.

And, I realized that I wasn’t alone in this thinking.

Where have you been all my life?

It seems as though I am not actually the first mother to be overwhelmed by life.  While I understand that alcohol isn’t “the answer” — I mean all of those afterschool specials of the 80’s weren’t wasted on me, people — I do think that it is nice to revel in the things still left in my life that aren’t directly connected to diapers, Diego, dirty fingernails and Disney Channel.  For me (and for moms, everywhere, I imagine), a glass of wine symbolizes something acutely adult.  And, it is something typically only to be enjoyed when children are not around.  So for that reason alone, it is an escape from the exhausting duties of the day.

I was sad for a long time because I figured that I was the only one out there who felt like she was failing at motherhood.  I never seemed to have my crap together.  Every time I saw a mom with her baby in the grocery store and noticed that both she and the baby looked lovely and well-rested, the baby never screamed and the mom had impeccable make-up, I died a little inside as my kid had a tantrum and I realized I’d not showered in two days.

Blogging about stuff like this, I hope to let others out there know that you’re not failing at motherhood unless you are neglecting, abandoning or harming your children.  If they are getting love, support, attention and all of Maslow’s cacophony of “needs,” I think we’re all square.  Nobody gives a shit if your hair has been brushed recently.  In fact, you’d probably make all the other moms out there feel a little less awful about themselves if you just went ahead and went out with your hair looking like that.

Look — my go-to hairstyle of 2010 actually made it to the runway, y’all.

But, back to that wine.  Let us not forget what has brought me to my blog today in the first place.

Wine is awesome.  Really, as I mentioned before, grown-up drinks are all good in my book as they help us remember the parts of our lives that belong to US, not the vast majority of our days that belong to someone else (children, work, etc.).

I have learned that there are plenty of moms out there who believe in the benefits of having adult beverages.  Facebook even has groups like “OMG! I so need a glass of wine or I’m gonna sell my kids” that has been trademarked.  There is also a site called Moms Who Need Wine  that offers humor, recipes, support and nuggets of happiness for like-minded women.

Of course, there are always a bunch of jerks who want to ruin my buzz by insisting that marketing wines to mothers is irresponsible or that buying into the “culture” of drinking among mothers is dangerous.  To those of you who are against the idea of a legal adult enjoying a cocktail every now and again, I say:  “don’t do it, then.”  In all things I am generally against telling others what to do, think, say or drink, so I will happily agree to stay the hell out of your business if you stay the hell out of mine.  Of course, all things must be done in moderation, but suggesting that a responsible adult ought not to have a bottle of wine with dinner with her (or his — wine does not discriminate) partner after a long day and the kids are in bed is ludicrous.

I suggest you all take a look at Moms Who Wine when you have a moment.   Here is a blogger who really gets it.  And, by “it,” I mean “drunk.”  But, in a good way.  Really.

Being Better

Women.

Can’t live with ’em; can’t shoot ’em.  Am I right?  Yeah?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Anyone?

I kid.

I was listening to a popular morning show on the radio yesterday.  A young employee of the station (but not a regular on-air talent) was being “featured” in a segment they were doing about dating.  This girl (a very recent college grad) sounded kind of like Dahlia from “Suburgatory.”  She came off as arrogant, infantile, self-centered and, like, totally annoying, you, like, know?

I judged her from that short segment and decided that I hated her.  Then, I decided that if I told anyone that I hated her, men would call me “jealous” and would suggest that it was the fact that she was young and (presumably) attractive that I decided that I felt this way.  Having this imaginary fight with unidentified men in my head made me pretty pissed.

I thought about why I had had such a strong reaction to this young lady.  I decided that I didn’t want her speaking for or representing me.  When people turn on a source of media and they hear someone talking arrogantly and obnoxiously about her experiences with men, I didn’t want that to be connected to me in any way.  I didn’t want anyone to make the mistake in thinking that the opinions expressed by one naive 22-year old were in any way the views held by the larger consituency.

Then I felt petty and stupid.

You see, since I became a mom nearly 4 years ago, I have slowly but surely become more interested in women’s issues.  Why is there no national standard for long-term PAID childcare leave for new mothers (and new adoptive parents and fathers, too, for that matter)?  Why am I still earning 70 cents to my male counterparts’ dollar?   Why do some politicians want to discuss the contents of my uterus?  Years after the inception of Title IX, why are girls’ athletics still underappreciated, under-funded and under-attended?  Why do boys still outperform girls in mathematics and science?  Why is the US one of the only  industrialized, 1st-world countries who has never had a female head of State?  On television and in movies, why are all of the female characters either sex objects or wounded little kittens?   Oh, wait, they aren’t.  Sometimes they are lost souls who are unlucky in love and are just waiting for some handsome, wonderful men to come make their lives complete.

What the fuck?

And, here I am contributing to the bullshit.  I am a woman.  Every day the world will judge me by the way I look, the way I talk, the way I dress and the way I act.  After that, the world might give a shit about how smart or strong I am.  I just better not be too smart.  I also better not be too strong.  I better not be “too” anything, really.  Too tough?  She must be a lesbian.  Too pretty?  She must have had work done.  Too thin?  She must be anorexic.  Too hardworking?  She must be shirking her duties in her personal life like parenting and housekeeping.  Too high-earning?  She must be a ball-busting bitch.  Too maternal?  She must not have any skils or drive.

And, yet, here I am.  I am sitting in my car, judging a person’s worth and character based on 3 minutes of hearing her voice.  I am part of the problem.

Since becoming a mom, I have also realized that the point of the sexual revolution fought so hard by our mothers is to provide us with options and to allow us to select any option we wish and throw up a big middle finger to the world while doing it.  WANT to be a ball-busting bitch?  Do it.  WANT to be a stay-at-home-mom?  Do it.  WANT to be a snob?  Do it?  WANT to be all full of silicone and collagen?  Do it.

You.  Have.  Choices.

My hope now, for myself, is that I will learn to respect that more.  It is tough enough out there with my 70 cents at the societal dollar store.  I think I ought to start being a whole lot more accepting and respectful of a woman’s right to choose to be whomever she wishes to be.

I have an important role as the mother of boys.  I can be a part of molding a generation to be better than my own has been.  I can teach my boys to judge others not by the length of their skirts or the size of their waistlines, but by the content of their character.  I can teach my boys not to say (or think) stupid shit like that ass-clown on “The Amazing Race” did last week when he lamented “I lost to a freaking GIRL.”

It is an important role we play as moms.  I wish the country in which I live recognized that more readily.   I wish western culture were more interested in equity, honor and responsibility and less concerned with breast size, hair type and fragility.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to raise two men. I hope I do right by them, help them find their ways in this world, help them find self-worth, help them become well-rounded and courageous, and help them grow up to be men who will make this a better planet for all of its inhabitants.

The Truth Shall Set Me Free (or help me get my ass kicked one day)

I am a snob.

I admit it.  I am a complete snob about three things:  beer, books and grammar.  I do not apologize for it, either.  Suck it.

As I reflect upon the theme of my blog, I find that the longest-running common thread throughout is honesty.  I use the blog for a sort of therapy, so getting real is part of the deal here at Off Duty Mom.  There is an old folk saying that suggests that “the truth is heavy, so few men carry it.”  Maybe I don’t carry it well during every moment of my real life, but I try to in writing.

The problem with honesty is that it really pisses people off much of the time.  I don’t think that anyone really wants everyone to be honest all of the time.  The truth sucks, usually.  True statements such as “Yes, you are fat,” “Your husband is a real dick,” “Your wife is cheating on you,” and “I farted” aren’t really what anyone wants to hear – ever.

Tough shit.

Have a seat.  I have some truth to spin, y’all.

You call that a "beer"?

  1.  Coors Light sucks.  No one really likes to talk about that much because it’s nice to want to drink healthy beer (um…”healthy” beer?), but if you’re going to drink Coors Light you really might as well save your money, order a pitcher of water and one bottle of decent, medium-bodied ale and mix them together.  All of a sudden you get the equivalent of about a half dozen Coors Lights for the price of one craft ale.  Awesome.  By the way, one Guinness Draught has fewer calories than a large pear or a bowl of peas.  And, it has fewer carbs than one ear of corn, one apple, a cup of lowfat yogurt or a cup of minestrone soup.  If you are going to drink beer, drink BEER.  Otherwise, get an appletini, candyass.

    "I wrote a book, don'tcha know?"

  2. Sometimes publishers decide to publish books while ingesting copious amounts of Angel Dust and Demerol.  I have no other explanation for the reason why so much absolute garbage makes it to bookstore shelves.  In my purse right now is a beat-up copy of “The Fountainhead.”  Before that, I re-read “Cat’s Cradle” for the fourth time.  Both are fabulous.  So, I don’t feel a need to add “Twilight,” “The Art of the Deal” or “Going Rogue:  An American Life” to my library.  Even having typed the titles, I feel as though a few brain cells popped.  You know, you don’t EVER get those back, people!
  3. It ain't hard to talk right.

    I am always amused/saddened/enraged by how many native English-speakers – people born and raised in an English-speaking country by English-speaking families in English-speaking communities with English-speaking schools — cannot speak or write in ENGLISH.  Of course, everyone who reads and subscribes to Off Duty Mom is a genius, but some other folks out there can’t seem to differentiate between “to,” “too,” and “two.”  And, can I remind everyone that “you” has a “y” and an “o” in the word?  And, may I add that sentences can only have one subject and one predicate?  Maybe that one’s too high-level.  I mean, we all did learn that in 3rdgrade.  Dare I even mention that pronouns come in different cases such as “nominative,” “objective” and “possessive”?  At least let me say that there is NO gender non-specific third-person pronoun.  Wait, that’s probably too tough for the general public, too.  Crap.  Can we all just at least agree to capitalize the beginnings of sentences and use punctuation at the end of a sentence?  Is that asking too damn much?

And, now I feel therapied for the day.  I shall now pay myself $100 for the last hour and declare myself cured since I feel SO much better.

Thanks for joining me for today’s episode of “Ranting, Hormonal Mom Goes Batshit Crazy and Spews Nonsense on the Web.”

Whatchu want? Baby, I got it.

When you are preparing to have a baby, the universe inundates you with an enormous list of items you supposedly need. It is a scam, really. You don’t need even a third of that crap. And there are many tricks, substitutes and sneaky ideas you can employ to save time, money, sanity or all three.

First of all, if your baby will spend his first three months in hot weather, all you need are short-sleeved bodysuits and short-sleeved t-shirts.  They can be plain white, too, because your baby can’t read and he thinks that his clothes are neither cute nor cool.  He will just poop and puke on them, anyway.  You can save a boatload of money by going to your local bulk club warehouse store or discount retailer and buying only these ordinary items for his first several weeks.  The bodysuits are good for daytime as they won’t ride up in the stroller, carseat or crib.  At night, you will save a few precious moments if you use t-shirts as diaper changing will be so easy with nothing to snap, clasp or move in the dark.  If your baby, however, will spend his first three months in cold weather, all you need are footed pajamas.  Save yourself some trouble and get only ones that zip.  Snaps are too obnoxiously annoying at 4 am.  He can sleep, play, eat and scoot around in pajamas all of the time.  And, outfits are cumbersome as they have too many parts you’ll need to keep your baby warm.  You will need a bodysuit, pants, sweatshirt and socks.  Too much.  Just put him in PJs.  They’re sweats and socks, but all together in one piece.  You’re welcome.

Next — you do NOT need a diaper wipe warmer.  Your baby really will not care about the temperature of the wipes.  I promise.  Don’t waste your money.

Okay — here’s a tip:  you don’t need anything before brining home your baby except a car seat and a safe place for the baby to sleep.  The hospital will give you a long-sleeved t-shirt for your baby to wear.  They will even swaddle her in a flannel blanket and give her a hat.  I was even given a small container of baby bath gel, diapers, diaper rash ointment, wipes, formula samples, changing table covers (paper ones), and a comb.  You can’t leave the hospital without a carseat, though, so you do have to get that key item.  Unless, I suppose, you live next door to the hospital, in which case you could probably walk home.  And, you may not need a crib at first, even, as many babies don’t want to sleep in something that vast when they’re very new and small.  You can possibly get away with a bassinet, swing or play yard, as long as it is safe.  Please refer to pediatric guidelines to find out if your device will provide a safe place for your baby to rest.  

 http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/babies-kids/index.htm

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/child.html

Once you get home, you may feel a panic about needing to go out and buy some items you forgot, didn’t know you’d need, or didn’t have time to purchase before your quick delivery.  http://www.diapers.com/ is a nice site and it offers free 2-day (or faster) delivery if you spend enough–  at least $49.  It is not at all hard to spend $49 or more on baby items, either.  A case of diapers will get you close.  And, while we’re on the topic, skip newborn-sized diapers and go straight to size 1.  It’s what the hospital will put on your kid, anyway.  And, if your baby is born big, newborn diapers may not even be appropriate.  Or, if your baby gains weight quickly, newborn diapers may not get you very far.  Whatever sizes or items you choose, Diapers.com can deliver them to you often within 24 hours.  They’ve got everything, too — diapers, wipes, soap, baby bathtubs, clothes, humidifiers, formula, sheets, decorations…  Spending ONLY $49 is more of your problem here.

Now, everyone loves to buy them, but you do not need hooded towels and the cute, matching baby washcloths.  Whatever towels you’re using in your bathroom right now are just fine.  The hoods are unnecessary and the towels are pretty small, so if your baby grows quickly like mine both did, they’ll be too small to wrap around them by about 9 months, anyway.  Baby washcloths are no different than regular washcloths, except for the fact that they’ll be rendered useless after about a year’s worth of use.

And, speaking of unneeded fabric items, baby bedding is an enormous industry scam.  The adorable, expensive 5-piece (plus) sets you can buy can often set you back a few hundred dollars.  Here’s what you need:  a sheet.  Yep.  That’s it.  A sheet.  If you’re trying to make things easier for yourself, though, you’ll get a few sheets and a few sheet protectors.  Layer one sheet, then a protector, then a sheet, then a protector and so on.  As your baby soils or wets a sheet in the middle of the night, just peel off the dirty stuff and there’s a clean sheet underneath.  No wrestling with changing a bed a 3 am.  Blankets, pillows and quilts are cute, but aren’t even allowed to be in your baby’s bed at all due to fears of SIDS.  And, diaper stackers are a frivolous, unnecessary accessory.  Put your diapers in a basket or box.  For no money at all, you can upcycle the box your diapers came in with some Mod Podge, pretty cut or torn paper or cards and ribbon left over from your shower gifts.  You can keep your diapers, wipes, lotions, etc. in that.  And, it is a cute reminder of your celebration with your family and friends.  Or, for less work (I mean, really, did I just recommend decoupaging with a newborn at home?  WTF?), just put your diapers on a shelf or in a drawer already in the room.  Frankly, you may end up finding that changing your baby on the floor is plenty easy, anyway, so you can just set a few diapers in the corner, for crying out loud.  But, please don’t buy a frigging diaper stacker.  YOU DON’T NEED IT.

The list of things you do not need is very long:  medicine droppers (your pharmacy and doctor’s office has these for free), baby brushes (even if he’s got tons of hair, the free comb you can get in the hospital will do you just fine), a mobile (only permitted in a crib for three months due to choking, strangulation and other health concerns once your baby can grab it), stuffed toys (not permitted in cribs due to fears of SIDS and your child won’t be able to hold or play with one for about a year, anyway), nightlights (toddlers and older children will be thankful for them, but your baby doesn’t know to be afraid of the dark and will sleep better if you help her figure out what “night” really is supposed to look like), burp cloths (just get more swaddling blankets and use them interchangeably as burp cloths, too since some of that spit-up will be too plentiful for the tiny burp cloths you will get), baby-specific laundry soap and cleaning solutions (just get dye- and fragrance-free versions of your own detergent.  It’s cheaper.  And use plain vinegar for cleaning your house.  It only smells bad for a minute and it kills germs and keeps your floors shockingly clean).  Wow.  I could name several more, but instead invite other experienced moms to comment here with their suggestions, too.

Soon, I will let you know about some other items that aren’t vital, but will make your life a little easier, to comment on some of the “dos” instead of just all of the “don’ts.”

I welcome your ideas and feedback!

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