Off Duty Mom

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

Archive for the category “Women’s Issues”

The Gym, the Guilt and the Undying Search for Balance

10257789_685963581450789_99859160733615273_nThe guilt is overwhelming sometimes.  Most of the time.

It doesn’t help that the little guys in my life HATE coming with me to the gym.  Or that they ask, “why do you ALWAYS have to go to that gymmmmmm?”

I am insanely fortunate to have found a phenomenal CrossFit gym with a supportive and encouraging coach who allows me to let my children play on their tablets and do their homework while I work out.  But, I still feel incredibly awful dragging them to sit there so I can do something that is solely and completely just for me.

All the self-help people and women’s magazines tell us that we just simply must make the time to do something for ourselves.  It is essential that we take care and have something to call our own.  But I am not sure what the point is at which I am taking too much for myself.

mom-me-time_iwqi70I already work outside of the home as a teacher.  So, that’s “mine.”  I work out somewhat faithfully twice a week.  I get my nails done every two weeks or so.  I see a chiropractor semi-regularly.  I get my hair highlighted and cut every six to eight weeks.  If I wanted to add a third gym day in or see a physical therapist to figure out why I always have to pee when I jump rope, I feel as though that is just going to far.

And, I have to admit that I don’t know who I am more afraid will judge me:  my kids, my husband, society at large or ME.

6e1f525658ca73c44d018f7598768963So, I work out two days a week and while that is wonderful, I am not progressing that quickly.  I’d love to be able to tell you that I can do real pull-ups and bench-press 250 lbs., but those would both be lies.  Since starting at my gym 14 months ago, I have not managed to squeeze out one single actual real pull-up.  Or push-up.  Or unbroken 400-meter run.

The former, couch-potato me would say, “but you’re out there and you’re doing something and you’re sweating and doing something amazing for your body.”

Yep.  I am.

But, can I justify it?

What is a mother supposed to do?  No, really.  What am I supposed to do?  What percentage of “me” time is acceptable?  How many gym days can I have without being a “bad mother”?  If I drag the kids with me tomorrow so I can pick out new frames for my glasses, do I have to counterbalance that which was done solely for my (and not their direct) benefit with ice cream or trips to the park or other bribery/rewards/”quality time with the kids”?

Today, during my front squat, my coach told me I had to take weight off of the bar.  That’s demoralizing.  While I was thankful for the lighter load to bear, I also wondered about whether that made me weak.  But, his cue to me let me know that in that moment I was taking on too much.  I needed to scale back.  I wish I had a better system in place to help cue me as to when I have taken on an improper balance of time dedicated to the different elements of my own life.

A change is brewin’

I’m 39.

That might be really old or really young depending on who and where you are.  I have to admit that most of the time it feels kind of old, especially when I look at how much energy my kids have comparatively.

A little over a year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to be 40 and fat.  I knew I had no control over the 40 part, but the “fat” part of it was a different story.

Going back about 8 years now, I decided to become “Off Duty Mom” when I felt that too few people were talking about the ugly side of motherhood or parenting, for that matter.  I needed more people to be open about hemorrhoids, varicose veins, tantrums, post-natal constipation, potty-training, the obnoxiousness of Caillou and the vast abyss of Thomas the Tank Engine and Minecraft into which so many kids fall.

But, it seems that people are talking about those things now.  I am really happy that new mothers now won’t have to deal with what I did:  believing that everyone else had an easy go of it while I was over here crying every night at 7 PM for NO REASON WHATSOEVER (aka:  hormones) after giving birth.  Had my dear friend not said to me, 3 months before I delivered, “when I had my daughter I was not prepared for that much bleeding.  I mean there was blood everywhere,” I might not have known that sleeping on a bed that looks like it was prepared by a serial killer ready to dismember his neighbor and a small elephant or that those giant mesh undie things would be so very, very necessary.  Oh, the joy that was the icepack panty pad.  What a motherfucking fantastic invention.  And, had my mother not given me fiber pills when I came home from the hospital and just said, “TRUST ME,” I wouldn’t have been prepared for the colossal fucking ass-rip that was trying to poop after delivering a baby.

My kids are school-aged now and that comes with new challenges for me.  But, when I hit my don’t-be-40-and-fat “eureka” moment, I knew that I wasn’t just all about the kind of vanity that comes with wanting to lose weight in your 20’s.  It wasn’t about a goddamn thigh-gap.  It was about living a long and healthy life with my family.  I wanted to be strong and fit.  But, most of all, having struggled with depression and anxiety for so long, I wanted to stop the incessant message in my head that said about so much:  “I can’t.”

I repeated the ugly “I can’t” message to myself probably a few dozen times each day, every day.  It related to what I felt was utter exhaustion about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. around me.  “I just can’t stay up any later.”  “I just can’t run and play with my kids outside.”  “I just can’t walk to the park.  We have to drive.”  The list went on and on.  There seemed to be no end to the things I told myself I couldn’t do as a mom, as a teacher, as a wife, and just as a living, breathing human.

So, I am moving on to talk about something else now that I don’t thing enough people are honest about:  aging gracefully.

Actually, cosmetics companies, fashion magazines, celebrities and other people I don’t particularly want to hear weigh in on the subject are talking about it plenty.  But, I am not hearing a dialogue about what matters to me.

So I am going to start one.

Ever seen a video online of some amazing 65-year old bodybuilding and being all “If I can do it, anyone can!  I’m 65!  Get off the couch!”

Fuck you, 65-year old.

I started CrossFit almost exactly one year ago.  I am most decidedly NOT starring in videos, lifting 150 pound over my head and telling people to get off the couch.  I am in no position to tell anyone a friggin’ thing about fitness.

When I tell people I do CrossFit, I get one of two reactions: awe or confusion.  Some people have never heard of it.  But, most think that I am fucking nuts.  They think I throw tires and run 5Ks with kegs of beer on my back.  Actually, I do push-ups on my knees and I get lightheaded after running 100 yards.

That fit, smirking 65-year old in the videos started small, too, I am guessing.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’all.

So, I am recharging Off Duty Mom.  I can’t talk legitimately anymore about how annoying Elmo is because

  1.  I am no longer in a place where Elmo is in my world.  It’s all K.C. Undercover and Avengers movies ’round here now and
  2. It’s been done and overdone.  Blah Blah Blah Being a Mom is Hard.

I mean, being a mom is still hard.  But, what I am finding hard at this point in my journey is how to be better to myself for my family.  How do I increase my life span and breathe in life with more joy and less exhaustion?

I will be sharing with you now the Off Duty Mom journey of growing older, becoming stronger, finding more positive headspace and not being 40 and fat.

Thanks for your readership up to this point.  I hope you’ll be interested in opening conversations about how we can (and must) take better care of ourselves not so we can compete with the 22-year old moms at the pool whose bodies just sprung right back into magazine-cover shape post-partum (“it was so easy!”), but so we can grow from our former selves.

Join me.

Feminism and I Don’t Care that You’re Different

I’ve been swept up in the #YesAllWomen whirlwind.  I actually heard about this before I heard about the incident that helped push this hashtag activism to the top of the Twitter trends.  As a busy mom, sometimes I get a little behind in my news.

Since I was a teenager and first heard of the Riot Grrrls, I was secretly hooked on feminism.  I loved punk already and this next step was inspiring.  But, because I was a follower who so very much wanted to fit in, I left my brooding and my secret love of Liz Phair for my private time and shopped at the Gap and wore my boat shoes with those little culry-cue tied laces in my public life.

At college, I was raped, but that wasn’t the most important thing that happened to me during my time there.  I met the man who would be my husband there and this has proven to be far more significant to my life.  However, I also remember being dumb-struck when I looked out of the window of my freshman dorm to find a mini-mock-cemetery erected to “show respect” to the “babies” who had “died” from abortion.  I was sickened.  And, my festering feminism grew.

I had always been self-conscious and bordered on a having a bit of an eating disorder until my adulthood.  Yet, there were always men who ogled, cat-called, or bought me drinks.  No, I didn’t find any of it flattering.  It all scared me in a way I couldn’t quite define then, even if I made jokes about it.  In fact, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that sarcasm is my defense mechanism.  When I’m cornered, I crack jokes.

Still today, when I walk alone, I am always acutely aware of when there are men around.  I hold my purse tighter.  I listen to the pace of their footsteps behind me to gauge whether they are “gaining on me.”  I check my rear-view mirror often to make sure I am not being followed in my car.  Once, I am certain that I was followed.  I was about 19 and pulled into the completely empty parking lot of the tanning salon where I worked as a cleaner on Sunday mornings.  No other businesses were open in the shopping center.  The car that followed me into the lot couldn’t have been an innocent shopper.  I high-tailed it out of there before putting my car in “park.”

A few years back, as a precaution, I was asked to have a breast ultrasound as a semi-routine part of my women’s health check-up.  The technician found an unusual clump of fibers that turned out to be nothing at all.  But, she needed to call in the doctor on staff to double-check her work.  I am pretty sure that as he moved the ultrasound wand over my breast, he let his pinkie finger rest along side of it, rather than on top of it with the rest of his hand.  This allowed his little finger to stroke my breast and linger over my nipple while he worked.  I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things or if I would be overreacting to a medical professional just doing his job.  So, I said nothing.  I still feel like this was wrong today.  I am angry that I didn’t say anything.

I never hold the elevator for anyone if I am alone.

I carry my keys between my fingers if I am in a parking lot by myself, regardless of who is around.  I never enter my car without checking the back seat.  In parking garages, I check under the car before approaching it.

I am shocked by how much fear I live in and I never thought about it until the hashtag revolution of All Women.

And, I am shocked as I look back on my life and realize how much I wanted to be a feminist, but how afraid I was to be a “feminist.”  I am sad that I still avoid using the word “too much” because it might make me seem like a “man-hater” or a “feminazi.”

What made me solidify the idea that I was finally (after, like a quarter of a century) ready to embrace my feminism came when I realized that the “other” people I was looking to shelter from the harshness of my equity search just didn’t have a say anymore in my politics.

You’re different?  Great.  You’re a man who doesn’t rape, oppress, kidnap, assault, attack, belittle, misjudge or objectify women.  I actually don’t fucking care.

I mean, that’s nice and all.  And, I totally know a ton of you guys.  Really, the vast majority of men I have come into contact with personally are of this category.  You’re not different.  I truly believe that you are the norm.

But, it so very sadly does not matter.  Or, does not matter enough.

One armed psychopath killing pretty girls because they don’t love him and killing innocent men because he’s jealous of their happiness is one too many.

One fucked-up Clevelander who held women hostage for over a decade in his home, repeatedly assaulting them is one too many.

One court judge who tells a woman she ought to forgive the husband who repeatedly drugged and raped her is one too many.

And, when we add in contraceptive tampering, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, honor killings, sex slavery, forced prostitution, bride-buying, human trafficking, female infanticide, rape and the slew of other crimes that “some” (a few? a small number? a relatively small percentage?) of men commit world-wide, it makes me grab my handbag and remember what my 11th grade gym teacher taught me about popping somebody’s eyeballs out if I were ever attacked, even though 95% of my personal experiences with men have been positive (or at least neutral) so far.

You’re different.  Super.  You being different didn’t help any of the millions of women on this planet when they were beaten, enslaved, mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, murdered, held captive or made to live in fear.

It is not your fault.  You are not responsible for the men who ruin your sex.  I do not blame men as a unit for their part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Men as a unit have no part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Indeed, it is not *all* men who treat women like shit.

But, because even a very small few have, I don’t walk at night alone.  I don’t blame you for this, but it is something we should talk more about.

Feel free to leave me your comments.

 

 

 

Reality as a Geezer

There is no doubt I have lamented the aging process.  Having small children reminds me of how much energy I don’t have anymore.  And being a teacher of early high school students reminds me of how uncool I am.  These kids don’t even use the word “cool” anymore.

I am much nearer to 40 than I am to 20 (and to 30, for that matter).  I had never pictured myself at this age.  It’s kinda weird.

But, here are some realities I have come to understand about the aging process:

  • My body is older than my mind.  When I see a long hallway, I still want to do cartwheels all the way down.  I don’t, however, because I’d have to stretch for a half an hour beforehand and then take a bottle of Advil afterward.
  • My concept of time has shifted dramatically.  The concept of “a long time ago” has changed quite a bit.  I remember when Friends first came on the air.  It doesn’t seem that long ago.  It was 20 years ago, though.
  • My concept of “young” has shifted, too.  I once cried when I turned 24 because I felt so OLD.  Now, I work with people who have advanced degrees but are not old enough to remember the Challenger explosion.
  • I feel less grossed-out by plastic surgery.  I once wondered why people didn’t just “grow old gracefully.”  Now, I sit in front of a mirror and pull my face up manually and sigh as I wonder what it would cost for a nip and a tuck.
  • I actually care what I eat.  In high school, I came home almost every day and ate an entire family-sized back of potato chips (or an equivalently-sized snack of another type).  I wore a size 6 that my mother tailored smaller through the hips for me.  Now, I still love my potato chips, but each crunch comes with a side order of guilt, self-loathing and fourteen more pounds on the bathroom scale.
  • Nobody likes my music.  Two decades ago it wouldn’t have been hard to find someone who liked The Pixies, LL Cool J, Blondie, Nine Inch Nails, and who knew how to do “The Hustle” and understood that you were never supposed to “trust a big butt and a smile.”  Nowadays, we’re harder to locate.  Some of us came to enjoy modern music.  Some are stuck with the soundtrack to “Frozen” on repeat.  Some people switched over to “Adult Contemporary.”  Yeesh.
  • I’m okay (for now) with my glowing pale legs.  This time of year in my twenties, I was running to a tanning salon on rainy days and spending every damn minute outside to alter the color of my skin when it was sunny.  Nowadays, I don’t really have the time or the patience.  So, I just revel for now in the idea that I am staying away from skin cancer and/or wrinkles for one more day.
  • I don’t feel old.  This one is weird.  I don’t know what old is supposed to feel like.  I mean, I feel weaker and slower and fatter and more tired.  But, those things don’t alone signify an elderly status.  Are my knees supposed to ache when it rains?  Am I supposed to forget what day of the week it is?  Am I supposed to wear white button-down sweaters on 80 degree days?  I am not sure if I am doing this right.
  • I still feel like I am in high school — emotionally.  When all the stay-at-home moms gather to pick up their kids in their Lululemon or their Hunter rain boots and their big diamond earrings — and completely ignore the existence of those outside of their social circle, I remember feeling like this before:  for four straight years.

I still want to learn how to surf and speak a foreign language and read more books and run a 5k (no — actually RUN it this time — like, the whole time) and get a PhD. and a six-pack and a nose-piercing.

And I wonder if I will do any of those things.  Or even if I should

Conversations with my Post-Baby Body Parts

 

This might help.

This might help.

1.  EYES —

Me:  Hey!  Let’s stay up on Friday night and watch Gravity on Blu-Ray.

Eyes:  Sounds great.  We’ll be done with our job by like 8:30, though, right?

Me:  Well, no.  I will need you until the movie is over.

Eyes:  We can’t promise that.

Me:  Come on.  8:30?

Eyes:  We’re already tired of this conversat—-

 

2.  BACK —

Back:  I hurt.

Me:  I know.  I am not gonna tell anyone, though, because they’ll think we’re old.

Back:  But you groan every time you stand up and you sigh ridiculously loudly every time you sit down.  Who do you think we’re fooling?

 

3.  SKIN —

Me:  Discoloration, zits AND wrinkles?

Skin:  Yeah, and the kids’ college funds have made us too poor for surgical solutions.  If only you could exchange sarcasm for collagen…

 

4.  HAIR —

Me:  I am sure glad I had 9 months of prenatal vitamins that made my hair glossy, thick and luxurious.  That was nice while it lasted.

Hair:  It is so fun when we all jump out of your scalp at once and then the poor schmucks we leave behind all start to turn gray!  Good times!

 

And, it just keeps getting worse.

And, it just keeps getting worse.

5.  BOOBS —

Me:  What the hell?!

Boobs:  Hey, look!  We’re still here!  No.  Down here.  Hello?

 

6.  BRAIN —

Me:  Ugh.

Brain:  Totally.  Hey, let’s worry every minute of every day forever now.  I am totes going to make you cry at greeting card commercials and shout like a lunatic when your kid scores his first soccer goal.  Don’t delay the anti-anxiety meds, lady.  Get me the good stuff, too.  I have a lot going on up here.

 

7.  UTERUS —

Me:  I hate periods.

Uterus:  I hate not having a baby in here.  It’s lonely.

Me:  Hey, um, I put two babies into ya.  That was good, right?

Uterus:  Fuck you.  I want more babies.  Give me more babies!  Every month you don’t give me a baby, I’m going to tear down these walls and make your life a living hell.  I am going to make it feel like there is a giant fist inside your gut grabbing and twisting your vital organs like you’re being juiced.

 

8.  KNEES —

Me:  Hey, what the hell?  You guys never hurt before.  Now all of a sudden I can tell when it is about to rain.  What’s up with that?

Knees:  You’re old.  And chubby.  It’s hard to carry you around.  Less chocolate.  More kale.

 

9.  LEGS —

Me:  Wow.  That’s ugly.

Legs:  So’s your face!  Ha!  Ha!

Me:  No, seriously, veins?  They’re everywhere.  I can’t possibly need that many transport lines for my blood.  Can’t we do some rerouting or something?

Legs:  They got doctors for that, you know.

Me:  I know.  But that shit hurts.  Why can’t you all just straighten up and fly right?

Legs:  Why can’t you embrace our newfound blue beauty?

 

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

This is what we have to look forward to, then?

10.  BUTT–

Me:  Holy shit.  I think I could put a can of soda under my ass cheek and hold it there against my thigh.  When did you get so droopy?

Butt:  I started heading South during Baby #1.  You were too busy designing a nursery motif to notice.  Ever hear of Prenatal Yoga?  Come on, now.

Me:  Sorry.

Butt:  You are sorry.  In about three more years you’re going to have to start getting your drawers at Sears.  SEARS!

Me:  Are you sure?

Butt:  And, they won’t be called “panties,” anymore.  They won’t make “panties” in your size.  They will be “underpants.”

Me:  That sounds awful.

Butt:  And, stop having kids.  With your constant expansion and refusal to do Kegels, you’re going to be a fatty who is also, charmingly, incontinent.  Then, you’ll be on to adult diapers.

Me:  That sucks.

Butt:  Yuppers.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

If they fit, we should just get them in every color.

11.  FEET —

Me:  Hey, guys.  My shoes hurt.  I don’t ever remember complaining about that before having a coupla babies.  What gives?

Feet:  Oh, so you thought we’d go back to “normal” size after your babies were born?  That’s cute.  Hey, Cankles, that sparkly boutique downtown called and said they had shoes in our size.  You know the place.  They also cater to guys like Larry who stocks lumber at the Home Depot by day, but who by night hosts a cabaret show under the name of Hillary Clit-Ton.  Sure, Larry’s alter ego’s typical footwear choices make Gaga look more like Amy Farrah Fowler, but whatevs.  They have your SIZE.

 

 

body

 

The Penis: Mightier Than the Sword

I feel as though we live in a culture of “I Want.”

Because “I” want, then I steal, I cheat, I antagonize, I rape, I fight, I bully, I kill, I throw a temper tantrum, I oppress, I hate, I flee, I yell, I abuse, disown, I hurt and I neglect.

Today, I decided that everyone pretty much sucks.

At work, we had a faculty meeting. Teachers totally love those. The only things we love more are professional development sessions and parents who claim that they pay our salaries.

At this meeting a colleague stood up and told a long story about how she had overheard some other teachers
talking badly in the hallway about a student, but, you know, “I’m not gonna name any names.”

Fuck you and your motherfucking passive aggressive bullshit. If you have a problem with an adult colleague, you act like an adult and approach that colleague as if you were an adult.

Also today, a parent demanded to meet with me so I could explain why his son was crying last night over his falling grade in my class. Dude, the fact that your son sleeps in class, refuses to do homework and actively opts out of all class work, indeed, might just be my fault. I mean, most things are. Totally. Let’s meet about it.

Also today, only 60% of my students (high school freshmen) came to class prepared to do the presentations they have been working on for 5 weeks. One even looked at me and said, “What are we supposed to do if we are not done yet?”

Please tell me how you would have answered that question. My own answer was sarcastic and a little pissy.

Also today, a core group of my colleagues were excused from our dreadful faculty meeting so they could meet privately about a course that was being mismanaged and has been, frankly, an embarrassment to our school. I was not permitted to leave this meeting to talk with our guidance counselor about devising a plan to provide homebound instruction for a student who is recovering from a virally-induced heart failure.

Next time I want special treatment, I will be sure to screw up at something first since apparently an acceptable excuse for leaving a meeting is “‘cuz I gotta clean up this shitstorm I caused.”

And finally, today, I found out that I got edged out for some professional perks I had been vying for by a teacher with less experience and who isn’t even fully qualified to receive these benefits.

Fuck me.

And there it is. That’s what I said to myself, “Fuck me.”

In that moment, everything shifted. My worldview cleared like those Claritin commercials.

Why is something that gets “fucked” a recipient, often of aggression or violence? To get “fucked” or even “fucked up” or “fucked over” is to be duped, shamed, victimized or beaten.

If Tupac says, “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker,” it is an insult because it is supposed to be emasculating to the owner of the “bitch.” The woman in the scenario is just an object or receptacle to accept the “fuck.” Very rarely do you hear a woman say that she fucked a man, suggesting that she had asserted her dominance over him. Actually, I don’t know if I have ever heard that.

And here I am. I ponder what it means to be in the world of “I Want.”

“I want to dominate.”

“I want to degrade.”

“I want to show you I am better than you are.”

“I want to do whatever the hell I want.”

“I want to insult.”

“I want to have power– take power– assert power.”

“I want you to know you are beneath me and that I will fuck you, fuck you up, fuck you over, or fuck this shit until I prove it.”

If a penis (real or metaphorical) can do all of this, then indeed..

The penis: mightier than the sword.

Hooray for Mother’s Day!

Off Duty Mom is proud to feature a special “Hooray for Mother’s Day” special publication!

************************************

GUEST POST BY:

Meredith Ethington

My hands are literally cracking and bleeding. My husband said to me innocently when I was complaining, “Can you just try washing them less everyday?” I scoffed, “No! I wash them when I wipe a butt, and before eating, or fixing a meal, and after going to the bathroom. Which of those should I skip?”

I was thinking about how my hands look like they belong to a 90 year old woman even though I am just a young, 35 year old mama. And, I thought of all the beautiful mother’s day poems out there about a mother’s hands. They are beautiful aren’t they? But, my hands? Not so much. Do these poems really get down and share the nitty gritty that every mother experiences everyday? Not really.

So, I crafted a short little poem of my own, which is ironic since I pretty much hated every poem I had to read during my high school and college years. But, this one came to me pretty quickly.

Busy, Dirty Hands (A Mother’s Day Tribute)

I’m thankful for my mother’s hands, which keep us kids at bay,

From destroying everything she loves, each and every day.

It seems that when I need some help, she says, “Do it yourself!”

So, then I climb up  very high and reach up on a shelf.

Her hands know how to clean up each and every mess I make,

When the shelf falls down, and I move on, to wreak havoc in another place.

Her hands know how to feed the baby, while making dinner too.

They send a text, and help with homework, while the house feels like a zoo.

Those hands wipe our bums 10 times a day, and rarely she complains,

Except, of course, when poop floats in the tub, and she’s almost gone insane.

Her hands are patient when we draw on the couch with a bright red pen,

She uses them to cover her mouth when she wants to remain quite zen.

Her hands catch every single thing that comes out of my mouth,

chewed food and vomit, are just two that no longer gross her out.

Her hands clean up the crusty things that come out of my nose,

when I wipe them on the wall, she says, “That isn’t where it goes!”

Her hands know how to clean and wipe, and clean and wipe again,

They do the same thing over and over, to clean up our pig pen.

Her hands show me so many things, like how much she must love me.

After all those hands have one dirty job, taking care of little ol’ me.

-Written by crazy toddlers everywhere

Meredith is a native Texan, recovering perfectionist, and mama to 3 kids living in Utah. She has been blogging for over 5 years, but just recently decided to make her blog public and get real about motherhood. Her tag line is “far from perfect, but blogging about it anyway”. Because that is exactly what she wants to do. Her goal is to be honest and not just blog all the happy, pretty moments. You can find her over at Faking Picture Perfect.

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.

I don’t care how your vagina looks

Why is the Brazilian Bikini Wax even a thing?

I mean, honestly, why is it sexy to leaf through Playboy and ogle women who are adults from the belly-button up, but are 9-year olds from the shorn labia down?

I suppose I understand the arguments one might make about staying appropriately groomed for swimwear and…well…that’s actually the only argument I can think I might understand.  But, I am a little wierded out by the long-running trend that glorifies having a stranger toss your ankles in the air, stick her face near your C-U-Next-Tuesday, and forcibly tear out your pubic hair by the root en masse.

What is the male equivalent of this phenomena?  What do our gentlemen friends have to do stay sexy?  Um, get a job?  Not wear Wife-beaters?  Take out the garbage?  Kill spiders?  Steer clear of Crocs, skinny jeans, and pleated khakis?

And, pray tell, why are we as a society — a WORLD society — so preoccupied with private orifices?

For example…

–How did Vaginal Rejuvenation surgery come to be?  After children, no woman’s lady parts look like blossoming lotus flowers anymore.  That’s life.  Whatevs.

–Who invented Anal Bleaching?  Has anyone ever seen an anus that needed to be bleached?  I don’t understand.  Is it…um…dirty…so the process is like bleaching your kid’s socks after he played flag football in the yard without shoes, or is it a skin color issue and a matter of the monstrous impact of white-normed culture that is the culprit here?

–Did you know that you can get your hymen restitched?  In some parts of the world, it is critical that a woman be a virgin upon marriage.  So, in case you said “fuck you” to that tradition and now have some Buyer’s Remorse, or if you accidentally jogged and opened your hymen (as is the case, apparently for most women — hymens split through natural means), you can recreate the illusion of childhood-fresh vagina-dom with Hymen Repair surgery.  Wow.

–If you don’t like how large, small, or misshapen your clitoris is, you can change that, too, through specialized plastic surgery.  Now, really.  I understand women who have suffered through Female Genital Mutilation, but I wonder how many people, statistically, have this surgery for vanity’s sake.  I don’t mean to judge, but I actually wonder why our society puts so much pressure on appearance that women feel the need to adjust this (normally) hidden part of their bodies.

–Men aren’t totally immune to this, either, though their options are more limited and the number of men who partake is grossly smaller.  There are numerous schemes, pills, devices, surgeries and home remedies to help men enlarge their penises, though.  (Is that correct?  penises?  Might it be peni?  I have never had much use for plural penises [hee hee — that’s what she said]).  There are also options for men who want to tighten their ball skin to reduce sag and options for men to be circumcised as adults.  Ouch.  While the former may be for vanity (but may more often be to improve sexual function or prowess) the latter, I assume, is more often performed for medical reasons to relieve discomfort.  These are not just to make them more attractive.

Look:  I believe in freedom.  Have yourselves waxed, dyed, plucked, primped, tanned, pedicured, shaved, implanted, lifted, Botoxed, reshaped, liposucked, dieted, styled and glossed if, when, and how you want.

But, don’t be surprised when the phenomena into which you fall becomes the topic of a post from your friendly neighborhood blogger as she rants about cultural obsessions with human undercarriage.

All I wonder is this:  have we gone too far?

At what point will humankind ever just be satisfied with things as they are?  At what point will people begin to accept one another?  When might we begin to see and celebrate uniqueness instead of trying to rip, tear, pluck and reconstruct into some weirdly agreed-upon ideal?  When do we start to love and accept one another BECAUSE of, not IN SPITE of our differences?

I imagine that will happen…um…never.

I blame video games.  And gun violence.  And Global Warming.  And President Bush.  Either one.  It doesn’t really matter.

What say you?  Feel like dabbling in some anal bleaching or hymen reconstruction yourself?  Want to recommend ball tightening to someone?  Ever seen a clitoris that really needed a makeover?  I would love to know about the circumstances.  I am all ears (actually, if I were, in fact, ALL ears, would I have to get plastic surgery on them to be pretty?).

I look forward to your comments.

 

The long, winding path to our family

The December series on fertility issues is, of course, over now.  However, we received this guest-post the other day and felt that it was important to include as well.  Many ODM readers may find this story touching, relevant and hopeful.

Many thanks to guest-poster, JD, for the submission!

We knew we were going to start a family after a year of being married.  We decided to travel to St. Lucia for our one year anniversary and for our two year anniversary we would have our first child.  Next thing we knew, two more years passed, many more destinations were traveled and still we hadn’t gotten pregnant.

We had been trying to get pregnant on our own for about a year when a friend of mine suggested my husband and I should see a fertility specialist and stop wasting time.  I hesitated on seeing a specialist because it’s admitting that there is something wrong and we will end up being that percentage of people that can’t plan when they want to conceive, or better yet, get pregnant when they aren’t even trying and don’t even want the baby (but we’ll get into that later).

At first it was exciting to being getting all the tests and appointments.  Every time they would tell me what test I had to get done, I would think that this was the one that would finally work.  The first was the test where they blow your tubes out with air to make sure they are opened.  I was told it would be uncomfortable with mild cramping, so I was prepared with my two Advil.  That was a crock of shit because I almost passed out when they were done and everything was already cleared! We tried on our own after that hoping it had worked, but after all the temperature-taking and pissing on sticks, still– nothing.  After two months of Clomid along with IUI with no results, we finally opted for the laparoscopic surgery to see if there is anything inside that is not seen.  There was only a little bit of endometriosis that was found and scraped out.  Even though the doctor told me there wasn’t enough to make a difference with fertility, I was still hopeful that it was enough.  But unfortunately, my hopes were shot down once again.

Besides not knowing if you will ever be able to have kids, the worst part is the emotional roller coaster each month.  I began to wonder what I did wrong and why this is happening to me.  You hear of this stuff happening to others and you always feel bad for them and talk about how hard of a situation it must be for them to deal with, but never do you think it’ll be you.  We didn’t want to tell our family what we were going through as they would want to keep asking for updates.  Others that haven’t gone through this don’t realize how insensitive and hurtful it can be to constantly ask.

Our next step was to continue IUI for 4 months but this time we had to begin hormone injections instead of Clomid.  Of course, insurance covers none of these treatments, so we started having to pull out the plastic and start watching our spending. This brings up a good topic: why insurance won’t cover something that will help someone who would be a good parent and can afford to raise children when it’s outside of my ability.  It’s not my fault that I can’t get pregnant, but others that receive welfare for their children do have the ability to not have kids could keep their fucking legs closed! I hate to get political, but why should I give money from my paycheck to help those that aren’t good parents and keep having kids “by accident” to receive more federal money when there is no one there helping me pay for my fertility treatments?  Why am I penalized for making too much money and having a uterus that is the black widow?  It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s life I guess….

After giving myself shots in the stomach each night for about 13 days, my husband would come to the office at 7 am to watch his porn and do his business in a cup. I would then come in a few hours later to have his washed sperm shot into my uterus hoping it would find those few mature eggs.  But of course, after 4 months of this, no baby!!  Our doctor then advised us to start looking into IVF with this being an unexplained infertility.  We set our consult appointment for a clinic in Maryland and compiled our list of questions with cost being at the top of the list.  We decided to pay more money for their Shared Risk plan which gives you 100% of the money you paid back if you don’t have a baby after six tries.

So I began doing 2-3 shots in my stomach each night for about two weeks in hopes our first shot at IVF would work.  The shots are painful but I kept telling myself it was temporary.  After constant ultrasounds, the last thing I want to do is have sex!  What’s the point?  You have doctors doing this for you.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t have to drive to Maryland 5 times during this cycle, but again, just kept hoping it would work and we wouldn’t have to do this anymore.  They ended up taking 15 mature eggs and out of that only two were of the quality we needed.  We implanted one embryo and were able to freeze the other for a later time.

Luckily, I found out that our one embryo took and I’m pregnant!!  I formed OHSS due to all the medications I was taking which has been miserable.  My ovaries are enormous and my stomach got so big after only 4 weeks of being pregnant that I looked like I was 5 months pregnant!  It’s been painful, but now that I’m eight weeks pregnant the pain has subsided a little.  I still have to take Estrace and Endometrin which isn’t fun, but I have only two more weeks and then I can start enjoying the journey of pregnancy.

From all of this, I have realized that you have to have faith that there is a master plan and everything will work itself out.  You may not realize it now but someday you will look back and realize whatever is meant to be, will be (with a little help and a lot of money!)  At times you feel alone and like it’ll never end but it eventually does.  At the end of the day, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to you.  Give it time (and again, lots of money) and your dreams will eventually come true!

The best unlaid plans

GUEST POST by

“Mom of Twins”

You are told, “if you kiss a boy, you will get pregnant.” You go through life doing the right things and following the right path: graduate high school, graduate college, get a real job, find a worthy man, marry that worthy man, and then want to start a family.

Well that is pretty much how it happened for us. I always talked about having kids and my husband made me promise to give him a year before we started a family in order to be able to do what we want: spontaneous weekends, dinner parties with friends, and sleeping in! Well, that year went by and (actually it was three years) then my husband came to me and said he was ready.

Hmmmm. I wasn’t sure I was ready.

I liked the life we had built. So we let another year or so go by. So now we were finally on the same page and we ready to go. Here comes the fun part of having a baby. Ready, set, go……..

We tried and tried and tried. Was there something wrong? This started my emotional roller coaster with the standard first step: a magic little pill called Clomid. A few months of this magic pill and still nothing. I think I may have gotten the pills without the magic.

Then the next step was to have a hysterosalpingogram.

A what????

It is a procedure where they shoot dye up your vagina to evaluate if your female parts are open. Yup, mine are all open.

While you are popping drugs and undergoing procedures, people are suggesting you relax, don’t think about it, and it will happen. How could I do that when most mornings I got to pee on a stick to monitor if I was ovulating? It is not as easy as one may think. There is always that morning where the stick starts to change colors, but it doesn’t change all the way. Then you have to make a decision: sex or no sex? Am I ovulating or not? I am indecisive by nature and now I have to make a decision whether or not the color has changed on my stick. What if I make the wrong choice and waste grade A sperm (that has been saved up the last couple of days) and make the wrong decision?

The pills and the magic sticks were the first steps toward our sex lives becoming a job, and this was only the beginning. Of course every time we had to have sex was when I really had no desire or we were exhausted. It became more of a chore and not a spontaneous act between two people who loved each other. That is when we coined the term “quick poke” which was also known as a “QP.” I will admit there were times when after our “QP” I often found myself going to sleep with pillows under my pelvis to help those poor little sperm swim toward my very wanting uterus.

After about two years of scheduled sex, pill popping, and peeing on sticks, I made a conscious decision to switch fertility doctors. This was hard because I really liked my doctor and her staff, but there was something I disagreed with her about. I had a feeling that I had endometriosis and that was a possibility for us not getting pregnant. My doctor felt that it was possible; however she did not believe that if I had endometriosis it would lessen my chances of getting pregnant. I had this “gut” feeling which started the thought of maybe I should switch doctors.

Shortly after meeting with a new fertility specialist, I had laparoscopic surgery for my endometriosis. It turned out that I had a moderately high percent of it. Well OK then….now those little swimmers will be able to finally stick to my uterus. I am all cleaned out and I felt like this could be a new beginning. I bought a new box of sticks and my husband and I got back on the scheduled sex train.

After another three or four months of not getting pregnant with just the usual sex and ovulation sticks, we decided to advance on the “you are not pregnant yet” schematic. Next were the injectables and IUIs. My mind was spinning between what drugs to take, how much of that drug to take, when my appointments were, and of course when we should and should not have sex. But we thought that of course this is going to work now that we are taking my husband’s sperm and “cleaning it up” and turkey basting it into me.

After months and months and a large sum of money (I can’t even think about it) we had our last consult with our doctor. We had a decision whether or not to take our last step on the infertility schematic or go toward a different option and adopt.

When I would get my period, I had a “heads up.” I wouldn’t feel good: I was crampy, and I was eating everything in sight. The hard thing was not getting my period; it was having to tell my husband I got it. Even though I knew it was not my fault, some how I could not help but to feel like I did something wrong, again. At this point I was physically and mentally tapped out. I could not do this any more.

We took a few months off and revised our plan to have a family. We decided we were going to adopt. We felt refreshed because even though this may be a long process, there was going to be a baby at the end. We wanted to do our homework to become more educated. So we went to some open houses at three different adoption agencies. We talked with people and listened to their adoption stories. We were becoming more and more educated about the process and more excited about this different adventure.

Until we were at our last meeting with an adoption counselor and she asked if we ever considered adopting an embryo.

Adopting an embryo? What’s that?

And that is when the spark to get pregnant started all over again. Through this entire process, I always wished that I could go through the process of being pregnant. We figured there is no reason I should have never gotten pregnant. We were always told we both had good “stuff” (sperm and eggs).

We decided to try the one last thing that was recommended. So after months of being off fertility drugs and having an emotional vacation from all the drugs we decided to try IVF. We packed our bags and took a trip to The Cleveland Clinic for our procedure. It was the best experience. They extracted seven viable eggs. The embryologist placed my husband’s grade A sperm and BAM, we had seven embryos. For three days the embryologists would call us and let us know how “they” were progressing and how many cells had divided. Could this possibly work? After those three days, the doctor placed two embryos in my uterus. We had to wait one and half weeks and I went to the doctor for a pregnancy test. My husband surprised me and took the day off from work. I got the phone call from the clinic the next day. We were pregnant.

After all the emotions, the money, and the heartache we have an instant family. We now have beautiful, healthy boy/girl twins. We could not have planned that better.

The road to Babyville

GUEST POST BY

“MY WAY”

 

My husband and I thought a whole lot about the problems we would have should we decide to start a family.  I am a carrier for a serious genetic disorder and I was told that there would be a 50/50 chance that my offspring would either carry or be afflicted with the disease.  I was terrified.

I don’t have any really serious medical issues, but my husband had been told that he had a low sperm count.  And, here I am with genetic garbage that I am carrying around.  Our dreams of having children to share our life with seemed grim.  We didn’t know what to do.

One day, a friend told me about a medical facility in our city (a place known for being medically advanced) that specialized in unusual or unique fertility issues.  We decided that it couldn’t hurt to have a consultation.

I had things done to my body that I don’t really care to remember.  It was all pretty invasive.  The testing process relating to fertility issues really makes you lose all sense of shame.  At one point, I remember I sat naked from the waist down, spread-eagle on a table with my feet in stirrups and at least 9 people were in the room either inspecting my nether region or looking with furrowed brows at charts, graphs and other stacks of papers.  At this point it was no longer humiliating.  I was hoping it would be helpful.

A doctor who seemed to be young enough to be my child himself ended up meeting with my husband and me just before the New Year a few years back.  It was cold in our town that day.  I remember it being so icy that we almost crashed our car on the way to the appointment.  We laughed later at the irony of nearly losing two lives on the day we were trying to create at least one new one.

The doctor suggested “harvesting” my husband’s sperm and using donor eggs to completely rule out the possibility that I would pass on my genetic disorder.  I was crushed by the idea of carrying a child that wouldn’t be “mine.”

We thought, though, for a very long time about what makes a child one’s own.  And to make a very, very long story short, we decided to go for it.

The process from the day we decided to start a family until our first son came in to the world was 8 years.  It seemed like an eternity.

But, he is beautiful.  And, with the frozen embryos we created, we were even able to have a second son, born just a few months ago.  They are exact genetic brothers and both are biologically my husband’s children.  I have no blood ties to these amazing boys, but I did carry them in my own womb and I don’t know how I could make them any more “mine.”

This was the perfect decision for us, though I understand that it might seem unusual or unthinkable for some others.  We are happy with our results, though, and our children are very healthy and happy little boys.

These issues are so important for us to talk about and it is great that Off Duty Mom is helping to bring more awareness.  I am a follower of this blog, but am not usually a blogger myself.  I hope more people will consider following to learn and laugh along with the writing produced here in the future.

The Surprise

Guest Post By

“MARINA”

I remember the day I had my fourth miscarriage.  It was the most painful experience of my life.  I mean that it was honestly the most physically painful experience ever.  Of course, I was in emotional pain, too.  It was traumatizing.  But, unlike the first three miscarriages, this one was truly gut-wrenching.  I threw up.  I sobbed.  I stayed in bed for days.  I was depressed.  I was exhausted.  I was angry.

I know that this blog comes out of the United States where laws are different than they are where I live.  In my country, my partner and I are legally married, though I know of many parts of the world where women are still not permitted such rights.  So, I cannot imagine how I would have made it through this without the needed health care and support that was provided for me in this time of need.  I know that I am lucky in that regard.

My partner, “Magdalena,” was wonderful through all of this.  We had decided long ago that I would carry our child.  She had some health concerns that would make it pretty unsafe for her to carry a child for nine months, so I happily agreed to bear this responsibility.

There appeared to be no medical reason why this was happening, though.  Doctors could not explain why I couldn’t stay pregnant.  They kept telling me what great news it was that I could GET pregnant.  That didn’t matter much if I never carried a baby to term, though, did it?  I had grown sick and tired of the rhetoric and started to become despondent.  I became a terrible employee.  I snapped at the people around me who I loved.  I was crumbling as a person.  This process was destroying me.

After that last miscarriage, “Magdalena” and I decided that enough had been enough.  Actually, she decided this.  I was too tired from all of this to fight with her.  She loved me and I was in no position to be making decisions at that point.

I took some time to heal.  The wounds I had at this point were more emotional than physical.  We took about a year off and tried to live happy lives as a couple.  It was idyllic, even.  We traveled.  We bought a new home near the water.  I launched a business and became pretty successful at it.  We rediscovered our happiness.

Years prior, we had investigated adoption.  We went through all of the awful paperwork and interviewing, but were told that adoption isn’t as simple as perhaps it ought to be, so we should not hang our hats on this option alone.  We, of course, didn’t and we secured a donor (a dear friend) and tried to carry a child to term on our own.  And, obviously, that didn’t work.

So, imagine our surprise when we found out that there was a child who was waiting for us in Guatemala.  If we were still interested (so many years later now!) we could meet our new family member soon.  Did we want to continue with the process?

We had rebuilt our lives at this point.  We were also both nearly 40 years old and pretty set in our ways.  We had finally come to terms with the idea that we’d never be parents.

But, we felt as though this child were a part of us somehow.  We named him Frederick.  He’s amazing.

Things don’t always turn out the way you plan.  Sometimes, they’re better than you could have imagined.

Heartbroken

GUEST POST BY

INFERTILITY CHICK

from Infertility Journal

My husband and I have been trying for 5 years.

The journey started with what we thought was going to be an accidental pregnancy.   All the symptoms were there. Everyone looked at me and said you must be pregnant…

On Christmas eve when my period was late by about 7 days, I took a test and almost like a time clock I started bleeding. I was in great physical pain, (not that unusual for me as I have PCOS) but the emotional pain was unbearable. That moment when I started bleeding I remember sinking onto the tile of the bathroom floor and crying until I couldn’t breathe.

My husband and I then realized that we were ready.  We wanted to start trying to have a family. We made plans; we came up with names for the children we prayed for. We even created a timeline. We agreed that if my husband turned 30 we would stop trying to have children as we did not want to be old parents.

Well, that came and went and here we are.

After the first false alarm the symptoms of pregnancy seemed to toy with me and my emotions. I have gone through so many wasted tests and painful doctor’s appointments I have lost count. The worst part is our journal is rounding year 5 and the pain has only gotten worse with every minute, hour, day, week and year. I cannot begin to describe the pain that I personally feel. We have talked to our family doctor about the options and sadly we do not have many. We are not in the financial position to pay for IVF or any other experimental treatment and, well, now that my husband has lost his eyesight and is on disability we do not have insurance for anything else.

I know there is more to say but I just cannot bring myself to think about all of the details. No one can ever truly understand the feeling like you’re dying from the inside out because you are heartbroken every second of the day.

Fertility Series – #2

Good evening, everyone!

Thank you so much for your wonderful interest in our December fertility series here at Off Duty Mom!

The second installment of this series is a post already published at another WordPress.Com site.  But, check it out.  It may speak to many of you out there.

Click here to read more.

And, please check back in a few days for more posts on this very important topic!

Thank you to all of you who have read and showed support during the creation of this series.  So many people out there are impacted by this issue and it is critical that we talk about it, share our stories and share our strength.

If you have a related story you’d like to share, we may be able to consider guest posts for the end of December.  You need to get them in, like, now, though.  But, I encourage you to share if you have something you can, indeed, share with other women and couples who may need to draw from your experiences.

Thanks!

Alternative Infertility

GUEST POST BY

MEREDITH BLAND

from PILE OF BABIES

I have never been into alternative medicine: I like vaccines, ibuprofen, and surgical options. When I hear people talk about the benefits of using Chia seeds in their food, I think that they are wasting what could be a perfectly good Chia pet. I believe that colonic enemas are NO THANK YOU VERY MUCH, rather than “cleansing.” So it is super odd that when my husband and I were being treated by a reproductive endocrinologist for our infertility, I tried some alternative medicine treatments as well.

We had been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” which is the medical community’s way of saying, “Uh…the fuck if we know.” We started out with the usual medical treatments: three IUIs with Femara, which didn’t work. Then we moved on to an IUI with injectible drugs, and I ended up with somewhere in the range of 5000 mature follicles, so that got cancelled. At that point, our doctor recommended moving on to IVF. So we did. And then that didn’t work, either.

My husband and I were exhausted by then. All of the money, all of the time, all of the shots in my ass…we had enough. We decided to take a break for a few months. You know the saying, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop?” Well, so is an idle uterus when you are dealing with infertility. Instead of using the time off to relax, refocus, and recharge, I got re-crazy. I started looking into all of my options, and researching anything that might help. I wanted to try it all. I didn’t want to miss the chance to be the person who later said, “You won’t believe it, but Mongolian Throat Singing is what did it for us!” I could be the one for whom that last ditch effort, that one silly thing, was what made all the difference.

And so, I took the Cuckoo Express to Crazy Town.

Here are the stations I visited along the way.

1. Acupuncture

Okay, so acupuncture isn’t full-blown crazy. Lots of people do it and have great results. But…sticking needles in my head to open up my uterus? I just don’t know that I can travel that road with you, my friend. I did at the time, though! I was all, “yes, the needle in my big toe will open up my blockages, and improve my blood flow, and stimulate my chakras,” or whatever the fuck. I can’t say I loved it – I have never been a huge fan of needles, and I always had these nightmares that I was going to roll off the table face down with a face full of needles. How do you think Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies got that way? The man had poor motility and sperm production. And his wife talked him into acupuncture. And then he fell and got a face full of needles. I’d be pissed, too.

There is a lot of research out there supporting the use of acupuncture during IVF. I will also say that I enjoyed my sessions – there’s something about being stuck full of needles in a dark room with soft music playing that is very relaxing…relaxing in a “well, I guess this is how I die” kind of way. And it didn’t work for me, but I might do it again. But probably not.

2. Uterine Massage

Uh-huh. NOW we’re starting to sound a little nuts, right? Right.

The place where I got my fertility acupuncture also had a massage therapist. I love me a massage, so when the acupuncture team recommended I get some sessions with her, I said, “Here’s my wallet! Sign me up!” Turns out, this massage therapist focused on the uterus – in particular, freeing your uterus from fear.

I could not possibly be shitting you about this.

I would lie down on the table, and she would go to work, kneading my stomach like a happy cat. Then she would start to go deeper, and I would start to cry. She told me it was alright to cry, because I was probably releasing some deep feelings about my previous miscarriages. I agreed that it was alright to cry, but that I would probably stop if she removed her thumb from my fallopian tube. That shit HURT, y’all! I mean, holy hell! After 3 or 4 sessions, I started to “forget” to reschedule with her. I was terrified that my poor, mangled uterus was going to have a fight-or-flight response the next time her hands got near me and would either try to crawl out through my belly button, or send out both fallopian tubes to deliver a one-two punch to her well-meaning face.

So, that didn’t go well. The employees there recommended I try one more thing to clean me out and prepare me for me frozen IVF cycle. And that was…

3. Vaginal Steam Bath

I know.

I’ll give you a minute to re-arrange your face, which I am sure is twisted in disgust right now.

Ok. Let’s talk this through.

I don’t know how to defend myself on this one, you guys. I have to plead “temporary insanity.” Towards the end of my treatments with the acupuncturist, they recommended I try to cleanse myself with a vaginal steam bath. At first, I was deeply offended.Then I remembered that they had not been putting any needles in my business area – thank christ – so I probably shouldn’t take it personally.

I was instructed to sit in a chair that had some kind of weaving in the seat – like a steamer basket for my cootch – and to boil this bag of stuff and then stick a pot of it under me and lay a towel over my lap to keep in the steam. I don’t know what kind of hippie nonsense was in the bag, but it looked like either tea from the clearance rack at the supermarket (you know, the stuff that they put in a grocery cart at the back of the store, next to the toilets), or dirty gerbil bedding. It definitely smelled like the latter.

Since I am an idiot with a highly tuned sense of self-preservation, I decided to wait to steam my vagina for a time when my husband wasn’t going to be home. One night, he called to say he was going to be working late, and I pounced on the chance. I immediately ran into a problem – I had no chairs with holes in the seats. How was I going to get the steam into my beaver pond?! I did some quick problem-solving, and decided to put the pot in the bathtub and then squat over it with a towel over my lower body.

And I did it. God help me, I did it. And what was the result? A swampy crotch, and a house that smelled like no smell I had heretofore encountered. I dumped the stuff down the sink and opened the windows, trying to air the place out before my husband came home. It didn’t work. When he got home, he said hi to me, walked about five feet into the house, and asked, “What smells like death?”

“Oh,” I said, “I tried a new recipe and it did NOT work out.”

“What was in it?! Whiskey and roadkill?!”

“Something like that…”

So, the vaginal steam bath didn’t work, but our frozen IVF cycle did! We ended up pregnant with our awesome, exhausting twins. It was worth every minute of stress, sadness, needles, and uterine manhandling to get them. I don’t regret trying alternative medicine – I would have wondered about it if I hadn’t gotten pregnant and never tried it. And while it didn’t work for me, I am not discounting the whole field. Worst case scenario, you get a relaxing acupuncture treatment and a fearless uterus. If someone asks you to steam-clean your vagina, however, make sure you ask if they have any lavender-scented gerbil bedding. The “classic” scent is no good.

Meredith Bland blogs at Pile of Babies and writes humor essays for other websites. Read all of her nonsense at http://www.pileofbabies.com.

Sentimental and introspective (just for now)

I kind of want to learn conversational Spanish.  And Sign Language.  Just because I feel as though these things might make me more interesting.

I’d also like to say that I’ve been skydiving, though I am not sure I actually want to go skydiving.  And, I would really like to get my PhD. and learn how to drive stick.

Someday, I want to visit Greece.  And, I would like to have an idea of mine patented.

I want to learn to tap dance.

Tell 'em, Red.

Tell ’em, Red.

Some days I am afraid that I am living a bit of a hollow existence.  Now, being a wife, mother, teacher, friend, daughter, neighbor, doggy mamma and spectacular driver are all really great and all.  But, if I were on my death bed right at this moment, I don’t know if I’d feel satisfied that I’d led a life well-lived.  I don’t know if my life is interesting.

Now, people with attitude problems all over the place might get all pissy and leave comments about how a real mom would be satisfied simply with her role as a mother.  It is the most important job in the world.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

It is important.  I am thankful every day for the gifts I have been given.  My children are amazing.  And probably awesomer than your kids, anyway.

But, every once in a while I wonder which of my dreams I am letting die because I am watching America’s Next Top Model instead of learning expert knife skills at the local culinary institute.  I have a bucket list.  That bucket list itself is dying.  I am getting too old to learn how to surf now.  And, I think every so often about how many more things will simply never get crossed off of that list because I can’t leave my house since my kids are sleeping upstairs.  And, toddlers aren’t welcome at Knife Class.

I know that the simple answer to all of this is just to get off my ass and start crossing things off of that list.  But, as any responsible parent and working adult will tell you, doing things that are just for YOU isn’t something that happens too often for many of us.  I am certainly not deprived.  And, I have a good life, but I still haven’t ever tried a ridiculously expensive glass of wine or run a 5K.  No.  Really.  RUN.  The whole way.  And, that makes me just a little sad.

You Shaw it here first, people.

You Shaw it here first, people.

I wish I could go back and tell the younger me to live it up a little more.  Everyone tells you to be so responsible, save your money, get a good job, buy a home, settle down.  But, not enough people tell you to have fun, get drunk, laugh, make a memory, take a funny picture of a friend at the base of the Eiffel Tower at 3 AM, sleep in, and own your stupid 2-seater dream car before you have to become an exhausted, minivan-driving, in-bed-at-10:00 grown-up.

As I sit today on the eve of the beginning of Off Duty Mom’s series on fertility issues we’re featuring via Guest Bloggers this month, I realize the seeming hypocrisy of it all.  I blog and crab and complain about how tough it is to be a parent.  Yet, I sat in doctor’s offices for YEARS where I cried and blamed God and cursed and puked because I was incapable of carrying a baby to term.  And now, I have brought two amazing young angels into the world.  And I still cry and whine and curse.  And I blubber about how I wish someone would give me the time to travel to Scotland or learn how to skateboard.

Nevertheless, I realize that we all feel as though we’re missing something sometimes.  We all wonder if life would just be better IF

And, at the end of the day we all have something that we take for granted, but that someone else is wishing and hoping to have.

Starting tomorrow, we will publish our first in the series of guest posts about issues of pregnancy, adoption, fertility and miscarriage.  Some of the posts are funny.  Some are heartbreaking.  Some are touching.  Some are uplifting.  I encourage you to check back often throughout December to read all of the posts.

Then, in January, I will stop being introspective, sappy, thoughtful and melancholy.  Off Duty Mom will return to tackle important issues such as the classical philosophy of Handy Manny, bathtub turds,  toddler beauty pageants, gray hairs, and public drunkenness.

Tune in tomorrow, though, for our very first (and very funny) installment in our December series from Pile of Babies author, Meredith Bland.

Free speech, bad taste or criminal tendencies?

 

In a recent post, we discussed our disgust with a thread in which military personnel (or readers of a US military [we think] online publication) advocated violence and rape of women.  Read about the issue here.

Thanks to a wonderful reader, we have updated the information with a call to action as well.

I also appreciate all of the individuals who sent messages or left comments on the blog about the issues this raises.  I am still surprised and dismayed that this thread and ones like it are continuing and individuals associated with the defenders of our country are so openly advocating murder, rape, coerced oral sex, and racist hatred of ethnic and religious groups.

But, I am, at the end of the day, in favor of free speech.  I suppose that these individuals have fought to defend my freedom to say that they are uneducated, weak-minded fucktards.  I am troubled that they’ve also defended their own freedom to advocate secretly taping sexual encounters to be used as “evidence” to counterattack potential claims of rape.

I would be interested in hearing about your thoughts on this matter.  Weigh in here in our comments section and don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook where many of these conversations continue.

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.

It won’t always be this way

In high school, they make you take health classes where they explain to you that you should just hold hands with your studly quarterback boyfriend because if y’all get naked and even think about doing the hibity-jibity, you will most certainly get pregnant and have babies and you’ll never get voted to be Prom Queen in a maternity gown from “Hoebags-R-Us.”

All of the scientific evidence, they say, leads us logically to conclude that even dry-humping might let an accidental sperm swim his little flagella-wiggling ass off on its desperate course to your eager-to-breed uterus.

Then, you become a responsible adult who actually wants to start a family and you quickly learn that it ain’t as easy to make a baby as it was always supposed to be.

Of course, there is no lack of irresponsible young people all over the damn place procreating and creating unplanned pregnancies in droves. That makes things worse as you might then wonder why the FUCK God, Zeus, Shiva, Jupiter or whoever is in charge of the universe would choose to entrust a 17-year old heroin addict with a tiny, precious human life and would opt to keep a loving, reliable, financially stable and healthy couple from starting a family.

Infertility blows chunks. And, according to the CDC, 6.7 MILLION women aged 15-44 suffer from impaired fertility in the US. That’s just a little more than 10% of the female population of this country. That’s a whole lot of blown chunks.

Incidentally, men contribute to infertility issues as well, with about 30% of reported cases of infertility being caused by male deficiencies, says Canadian group, CGICM. Overall, too, causes of fertility are completely unknown or unexplainable in about a quarter of all cases. That means one in four couples will not ever know why it is that, after repeated trying, measuring Basal body temps, predicting ovulation and doin’ it every other day like it’s a job, they STILL cannot get pregnant.

And those responsible, adult, stable couples who try so long to get pregnant doing all of the right things and by reducing their love lives to a regulated, charted chore of boot-knockin’ will ultimately have at least one friend who advocates heartily for good, Catholic family planning methodology that entails regular prayer and then shagging during the appropriate times of the month. To make matters worse, those motherfuckers will be on kid #4 while you sit in a waiting room hoping to get a prescription of Clomid and a super-fun test involving uterine scraping.

Infertility (which sounds to me like its definition must mean that someone is absolutely incapable of producing offspring,) is, by definition, what you are if you have “tried” for a year and weren’t magically graced with a little pea in your pod. If, in that time, you have been using no prophylaxes and haven’t miraculously put a bun in the oven, you are supposed to discuss your sexual history and habits, and your husband’s choice of underwear with your doctor. You may be infertile if you’re doing everything right and can’t make a baby. Really? Thanks, WebMD. Go fuck yourself.

Infertility occurs, then, when you are having an obstacle to getting pregnant. It doesn’t mean you’re barren. But you might be! Again, WebMD: you’re a bitch.

Then, even if you are able to get pregnant after you’ve been poked and prodded and made into a science experiment, that’s no guarantee of anything. Just giving it to you straight, ya know. I miscarried after three years of trying to get pregnant. It was the single most devastating thing that has ever happened to me. It is, quite literally, the absolute worst thing just about — ever. And, the nurse calling me to tell me, “Honey, this is great news. We know you CAN get pregnant now,” didn’t really help at the time, though her sentiment was heartfelt, true and was genuinely meant to help me keep my eye on the prize.

A few months later, I was able to become pregnant and carry that beautiful boy to term. He’s at the bar right now with my husband watching football. ‘Cuz we’re classy. And, he’s four now, so it’s totally cool for him to watch Disney Junior on the mini-TV in the booth at the local pub while dad watches the big screen in the corner. We also have a 1-year old who is asleep right now. I am listening to the sound of his breathing through the monitor and I am reminded of how lucky I am and how beautiful life can be. Seven years ago, I thought life kinda sucked and that the universe hated me. Things do happen as they’re meant to, I suppose. But, that is absolutely no consolation for anyone who is currently in the “life sucks” phase of the journey.

I try to remember now that if I hadn’t miscarried in 2007, I wouldn’t have the kids I have now. My life course would have been very different. And, that seems more tragic than the original tragedy seemed at the time.

When I had my first child, then, I attended meetings for new moms and we talked about how to cope with the struggles of motherhood (and there are many). I didn’t know if I had the right, at the time, to complain that things were hard as a new mother, but they indeed were – as any of you with children must know. But, a woman once said that she had adopted a mantra: “It won’t always be this way,” and I have found myself thinking of how amazing that is almost every day.

If you’re currently going through a fertility struggle, remember, “It won’t always be this way.”

If you are struggling with illness, depression, family problems, financial difficulties or other obstacles, keep in mind that “It won’t always be this way.”

If you’re a new parent and you’re sleep-deprived and sad and overwhelmed, just know that “It won’t always be this way.”

If you’re a new parent and it seems impossible to be a breadwinner AND the appropriate support at home, remember that “It won’t always be this way.”

If you’re the parent of a child who is having problems, know in your heart, “It won’t always be this way.”

And, if your life is amazing and you have no complaints and that fucking rhythm method worked for you and you are getting everything you want and you’re wealthy and everything is just perfect, please know, “It won’t always be this way.”

And in those moments when you are holding your little, tiny baby, swaddled in your arms, smelling of lavender after a bath, and you’re crying both from the joy of the moment and from the fact that you’ve slept a total of 4 hours in the past 3 days, just think about how “It won’t always be this way.”

**If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell, ODM is currently seeking guest posts for a series on fertility to be published later this year. Please check out the “guest posting” page to learn how you can tell us your story.

Should I Move to Australia?

Work sucks.

We all know it.

It turns out it sucks worst here in the United States, especially for women, and most especially for women with families, it seems.

“Did you know that 138 nations mandate vacation time by law? But, one of them isn’t the ‘Republic of here,'” said Bill Maher on the June 15, 2012 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.

He went on to note that “in England, you get 28 paid vacation days a year. In Switzerland, you get 20. In Sweden, you get 25.”  Currently, I have “earned” 10 vacation days for the next year (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013).  I have so few because I have had vacation days deducted from those “earnings” since I opted to take a maternity leave within the past work cycle.

But, it seems as though I was even lucky to have been afforded the privilege of taking unpaid maternity leave and being charged with sick, vacation and personal days in the process.  Many other new mothers don’t even get that.  And, I appear to be enormously fortunate and in the vast minority in the fact that I even get those 10 vacation days at all.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires most companies to allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time after the birth of their child. The FMLA applies to both men and women and is also available for those that adopt a child.  If the parents work for the same company, the 12 weeks is then divided between the two of them and is an accumulation of both of their time (i.e.,. each could take 6 weeks off; one could take 4 weeks while the other takes 8 weeks).  There are exceptions to the FMLA which release a business from the obligation of allowing unpaid time off. These exceptions include the size of the company (less than 50 employees), the time of employment (at least 12 months), and level of wages (top 10%). Employees with incomes that account for the top 10% of wages for the business may not have access to the unpaid benefit if the company can show with evidence that your absence creates significant financial harm to the organization.”

This has me wondering whether this is a convenient way for companies to legally discriminate in their practices.  Certainly, it cannot be a matter of official record, but if a company employs 55 people and feels as though it cannot “afford” to allow women time off to undergo a major medical experience, would it not be better served by hiring only men?

One might argue that times are tough and women can always refuse to accept a position with any company whose policies do not meld well with their personal beliefs, medical needs, or family interests.  In other words, we can just say to women, “If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.”  Interestingly, men don’t have any equivalent I can see where they might be told something similar.

Here’s where it gets worse.  According to a report on Forbes.com in 2009, “more than half of U.S. companies employ fewer than 50 people.”  So, just going and finding somewhere else that jives better with your family needs doesn’t seem that possible all of the time, then.

How is the United States, a country that takes such pride in its focus on equity, social justice and civil rights, among the few who still treat women as second-class citizens who must choose between their personal and professional lives?  The following may be surprising.  Here are a few countries with longer maternity leave options for their workers:  Belarus, Cambodia, Chad, China, Congo, Egypt, Iran, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

CHINA?!  Don’t they have some of the worst human rights policies on the planet?  And, yet, they mandate more maternity leave for women.

Recently, The New York Times reported:  “Canada and the United States may share a border, a language and much cultural affinity, but if women face broadly similar situations in terms of education and economic opportunity in the two countries, they are far apart in the area of gender equality, the experts said.”

It also reported that “last month a report by Save the Children suggested that America is one of the worst places to be a mother among rich countries, pointing to what it said were one of the highest maternal mortality rates and worst breastfeeding environments among developed countries.”

Craptacular.  So, if we survive (which we are less likely to do here than in a host of other industrialized nations), we are still subject to a lifetime of over-work and low pay.  In fact, the Government Accountability Office concluded that men statistically receive earning boosts after having children while women receive significant losses at the same lifepoints.  They also concluded that still after 20+ years of this pervading statistic, women still earn a mere 80% of men’s average salaries — 80 cents to every man’s dollar.

This all leaves the US as one of the worst places to be a working woman and mother who believes in equity and fairness and who values family time.

In 2011, Marie Claire reported that “a 2005 report by the World Economic Forum found [Sweden] to be the world’s ‘most advanced country’ for women, with greater levels of equality, power, health, and well-being among women than anywhere else. (The survey ranked the U.S. an abysmal 17th place — one above Costa Rica.)”  The article went on to note that “Sweden, which has a population of 9 million — around the same as the state of New Jersey — has a long history of female-friendly policies. The government gave women equal rights to inherit property way back in 1845; in 1901, it introduced the world’s first formalized maternity-leave program. In 1958, the Swedish Lutheran church changed its doctrine to permit women to become priests. And today, female politicians make up around half of the Swedish parliament.”  In the US, women make up just 17% of the Senate and just shy of 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Again, though, it doesn’t all just suck for women, though it sucks for us the worst.  But, it seems as though everyone in this country is getting shafted.  The Denver Post says, “Blue-collar workers get five days of paid leave after one year of service, and 23 percent of Americans get no paid vacation whatsoever, the 2006 statistics showed.”  NO. VACATION. WHATSOEVER.  Wha?

“Experts said the lack of vacation stems in part from an American obsession with work as a form of defining one’s identity,” The Denver Post article continued, “whereas European and Asian cultures enjoy longer vacations and define themselves by familial or national affiliations.”

So, again, I see a trend.  Americans must choose between family and work.  People just about everywhere else do not. Because they out-earn their female counterparts statistically by 20%, men often do not face such decisions in this country where women still do.

And, of the work we all do, Americans are working harder for their money, to boot.  An article on 20somethingfinance.com said in 2010:  “At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not.”

So, let me see if I have this straight:  women in the US work longer hours, for less money, less vacation time, less maternity leave time and fewer cultural perks than workers just about everywhere else on the globe?

Is it time to do something about this?  I’d love to hear what you think.

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.

Reasons Why I Cried

Today, I had an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.

I reasoned that it couldn’t be that much worse for me than a sausage biscuit from McDonald’s.  And, I knew that the chocolatey goodness would heal what ails me.

Yesterday, my day began with an e-mail sent to my entire office from our boss.  She publicly congratulated the temp who has been working in our office for quite some time now for the fantastic improvements she had made on our website design.  Our old website, apparently, had been unappealing and not user-friendly, though this was the first I had heard those complaints from anyone.  So, I guess it fucking sucked secretly.  Guess who designed that website?  This was the first thing that made me cry yesterday.

I had lunch alone (as I usually do, but not by choice — by virtue of the fact that no one seems to eat lunch in my office except for me) and ordered a Reuben sandwich and a side order of sauteed Parmesan broccoli from a lovely organic/locally sourced cafe in our city.  When it arrived, my side order of broccoli included one floret.  ONE.  I finished my entire side order in one bite.  I didn’t have the energy to argue with the waitstaff or kitchen.   And, I was late for a meeting, anyway, so finishing $10 worth of food in fewer than 10 minutes was, I guess, a benefit.  But, later I cried because I hate feeling like I’ve been a victim.  More on that in another post, maybe, if I feel like telling you all of my dark, gloomy shit.

Please take a look at http://amominspired.com/2012/05/23/i-surrender-again/ from which this photo was borrowed.

When I came home, it looked like a bomb went off in my house.  The kids had completely destroyed it.  The nanny had a very long day with my little monsters.  I absolutely don’t blame her for the mess.  But, I was totally deflated when I saw it.  And, within 30 seconds of coming home and seeing this, my dog went nuts-o at the front door.  An appointment I had scheduled was a half hour early.  She knocked on the door, enraged my mutt, woke my napping preschooler and subsequently walked into a living room that appeared to be inside of Tornado Alley.  I hadn’t even had a chance to set down my purse yet when this happened.  No, bitch, we didn’t say 5:00.  The appointment was for 5:30.  No, it is not okay.  I’m pissed.

I didn’t cry about it at the time, but I did a little later when the nanny left and I ended up cleaning spilled juice off of the side of the refrigerator.

Just as I was putting my oldest son to bed, then, sirens wailed outside.  Fire, EMS and Police flew through the intersection near our house in our neighborhood that might normally be referred to in short stories as a “sleepy little town.”  The usual peace of our community was interrupted by some major emergency that must have been only a few blocks away.  I don’t know what happened.  I bet my neighbors do, though.  They ran out of their house and looked down the street.  When they realized that the emergency situation was too far down the street to be seen from the vantage point of their patch of sidewalk, they actually got into their car and followed the last ambulance that roared by.

When I thought for a moment about how first responders run so bravely toward situations that others run away from (well – most normal people run away from things like fires, robberies, or natural disasters), I welled up with emotion.  I sometimes can’t believe that there are people in this world who dedicate their whole lives to a profession where they might lose their own, just for the chance of helping others in need.  It all seemed so…touching.  So, I cried.  Then, I laughed at myself for crying about that.  Then I cried again because I am so pitiful.  Then I laughed again because I was crying about being pitiful.

I realized that a nice glass of white wine would be helpful.  But, we were out of it.  Can you guess what my reaction was?

We hear a whole lot about Postpartum Depression, but I don’t think that anyone talks enough about how being a mother continually messes with your head.  Forever.

Mothers are constantly filled with fear that their children will come to harm.  They are saddened by the passing of time and they miss the times when their babies were babies.  Moms are continually surprised by how parenting can be difficult.  They deal with tantrums, illnesses, the heartbreak of watching a child experience heartbreak, the worry a child won’t fit in, the worry that a child will fit in with the wrong crowd, the concern that a child might not make all of the smartest decisions even though he’s been “raised right.”  Mothers worry about whether their children are being appropriately educated.  Are kids “liked” by their teachers?  Do they have learning obstacles or disabilities?  Are they being challenged enough?  Are they on the right path?  Will they be exposed to the best life choices?  Will they have all of the opportunities they deserve?

I feel every day as though I am just barely hanging on.   I wonder, though, how any mother is NOT suffering from depression and anxiety.  I think it might be part of the job description.  Consider this fair warning if you’re thinking of starting a family.  THIS is what they mean when they say, “Your life will never be the same again.”

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.

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