Off Duty Mom

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

Archive for the tag “family”

Some days I just really don’t want to be a responsible grown up

My mom and dad are the coolest.

Seriously.

They’re supportive, helpful and kind.  They have a beautiful marriage and they truly love my children and me.  My husband has a very strained relationship with his family and my parents have warmly welcomed him into the fold with us.

BUT…

We seem to have different definitions of what the role of “grandparent” is supposed to look like.

Please let me know that I am not alone on this.  I need to hear from some voices who understand.

Today, my 6-year old son, told me he was “too sick” to go to school and that he was “going to throw up.”  Now, I am not going to call him a lying shithead, but I will say that these two statements he said to me are not true.  Draw what conclusions you will.

When I left for work, he was sitting on the couch reading Minecraft books.  READING.  Awesome.  You go, kid.

At this point, my husband is preparing to start his day.  He was upstairs in our room, still in bed because he had rearranged his work appointments this morning to take my son to school — for his last day of 1st grade.  There were likely going to be pictures and a special breakfast and generalized merriment.

Knowing that my husband was unlikely to respond in the desired way to the claims of illness, my son picked up the house phone (OMG — yes, we still have one of those) and called my mother, crying.  He told her he was sick and was scared of throwing up and he couldn’t go to school.

Now, we all know rule #1 is “don’t play mom against dad.”  If mom says, “no,” then that is the answer.  If dad says, “no,” don’t go ask mom.  Don’t you good-cop-bad-cop us.

But, perhaps we were unclear about whether it was okay to ask “Nana” for something when mom didn’t give you the answer you wanted and dad was not likely to tell you what you wanted to hear.

So, now, here is where things get interesting:  after asking where “Daddy” is to my son, my mother asked whether the “patient” would like her to come to our house to comfort him.

Of course the kid said, “yes.”

And this is all happening without my husband or me knowing about it.  And, now my mom is on her way – at 6:30 in the morning on a Wednesday – to my house.

The little guy creeps into my bedroom where he sheepishly tells his father that he “accidentally” called his grandmother to tell her he was sick.  Daddy responded to tell him that he is not sick and that he should go back to reading.  He also should not bother his grandparents with these stories.  If there is a problem, Mommy or Daddy will solve it.  It’s our job.

Then, my mother walks into my house to console the now weeping child I’ve birthed.  She sees a pained, ill child whose parents are – I don’t know – ignoring him/not loving him enough/not caring for his illness/not listening to his desperate pleas for help and affection.  I can’t really be sure what was going on at this point.  Allegedly, my mother told my son twice to go tell his daddy that he was sick, but the little man said that he couldn’t because his father was sleeping.  In the argument that resulted on the phone later with my mother, she threw in something to the effect that she wasn’t sure if my husband was passed out or had fallen and couldn’t get up or there was other trouble.  If that were true, I can’t speak to why she never attempted to contact him directly, though.

And, now my husband is seething.  He figured that the kid’s confession of his “accidental” phone call would be soon followed with a phone call from one of my parents saying, “hey, this is weird.  Little Guy just called us crying that he was sick.  What’s up?  Do you need help?  Everything ok?”

But, instead of that, our take on this overly dramatic response is that we must be such fucking horrible parents that immediate intervention was needed.

And that’s not all…

After a bit of time cradling a weeping liar kid, my mother gathers BOTH of my boys up, tells them to get their shoes on and yells up the steps, “I’m taking the kids.”

Then the door shuts behind them.

Neither of the boys was sent up to kiss their father “goodbye.”  An attempt was never made to inquire as to whether my husband was in need of help.  I was never called to be told that my children were being removed from my home by someone other than their father in whose charge they were left.

Shit just got serious.

And, after a lengthy phone conversation, my mother is mad at me for “not appreciating” her “help” and making her “always” feel as though she “can’t do anything right,” something she says she is, “frankly, sick of.”

In almost 40 years on this planet, I have never hung up on my mother.  But, I did today.

Now, you do not have to support me.  Maybe I am an asshole.  I probably am for other reasons, anyway.

But, if you were in this situation, how would you react? How would you feel?  How would you have wanted this to be handled?  And, what in the hell do I do now?

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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

 

Babies, boobies, bosses

If you’re expecting, you have probably read What to Expect When You’re Expecting to help you know what you can expect while you’re expecting, except nothing can prepare expectant parents or help them better accept the truth about what happens after the expected baby arrives.

Fo’ real, though.

If you are pregnant right now, you may or may not be joking with others about how “crazy” you are.  You probably have heard of “pregnancy brain” and have lost your car keys a few times.  Your mood swings may either be cute and quirky or fully alarming.  You probably complain about things like swollen feet, missing ankles, blue veins, hemorrhoids, stretch marks, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, heart palpitations, blood sugar, back aches, head aches and an inability to drink alcohol to make you forget all of this nonsense.

If you are pregnant right now, you probably hate skinny people.  You probably lament the fact that no one makes a decent business suit for pregnant women and/or no one makes “maternity shoes” or “maternity bras” for temporary size changes.

Your boobs probably hurt.

You’ve no doubt noticed that maternity clothing is no less expensive than regular clothing (and sometimes is much more expensive) and you HAVE to fucking buy it because you can’t be naked and the Belly Band doesn’t help your pre-pregnancy pants fit over your pregnancy-ass.

If you wore high heels before your pregnancy, you are probably now wondering who the FUCKBALLS invented high heels and what giant ASSHOLE bought so many of them and put them in your closet.  Why doesn’t the Shoe Fairy come bring you some nice, sensible footwear from Lands End?

And, I hate to break it to you…

YOU’RE SCREWED.

With science what it is these days, if you are pregnant, you may not have been screwed, per se, but you are screwed in a more metaphorical and less fun way.

You’re gonna have a BABY.

They make you CRAZY.

You will actually feel like a real lunatic a few weeks after that baby is born.  You may cry for no reason.  You may feel completely incompetent.  You may be completely overwhelmed.  You may be super-duper pissed that your significant other’s life and body were not as completely RUINED by this tiny, beautiful, precious, angelic, life-destroying animal.

You will have nothing that is yours:  not your body, not your clothes, not your space, not your time, not your food, not your one-goddamn-minute-alone-on-the-fucking-toilet-in-silence.  That baby is the boss of you.  He decides when you sleep, what you eat, when you pee, whether you shower, and whether your clothes stay clean or vomit-laden.  He is your warden.  And you love him.  And kinda hate him (or maybe just the situation) soooooooooo much.  And then you feel enormously guilty for the “hate” part and you’ll cry and be certain that you’re the worst parent who ever parented in the whole universe of parents ever.

You will want to say (or even really say out loud and everything) “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” more than one time.

You will meet several “good” moms who have their lives in perfect order and just “love” being a mother and who have no idea what you mean when you say that it is a really hard job.  You will want to murder these women, but please don’t because your boss baby needs you.

Look:  this is going to suck.  Being a parent sucks.  But, people don’t really want you to know that.  And THAT sucks, because when the baby arrives and you realize it all just sucks so much, you will feel like a complete asshole because no one else talks about how much it sucks, so you are left to believe that it only sucks for you which means that you are a bad parent and an even worse person.

But, for all of its suckitude, one day you will realize that you are no longer just treading water.  You’ll be swimming.  And your kids will be able to care for themselves.  And, you’ll not have to change diapers or wipe up sour-milk-vomit or buckle anyone in but yourself when you get in your car.

And, you’ll cry because you will wonder what happened to your beautiful babies and you’ll look back on those days that sucked with such fondness and gratitude and bliss.  And you’ll miss holding a lavender-scented sleeping infant in your arms.

And you’ll have absolutely no desire to do it all over again.

House of Lies

He’s a player.

Maybe.

It’s hard to tell, really.  And, I love him so much.  It can be very difficult to be objective about this and sometimes it is just really tough to decipher the truth from the lies.

He is my 5-year old son.

I think I have some of it down pat:

  • “Mommy, I am not hungry anymore.” = LIE.  If I offer you ice cream, you will magically find room in that tummy.
  • “I love you, Mom.” = TRUTH.  I am very lovable.

But, here are the grey areas I have recently discovered:

  • “You spend more time with my brother than with me.  Is that because you love him more than you love me?”

—Hmmm… well, the answer to that question is, “My love is not divided, but multiplied.  I will never love anyone or anything more than I love you.  And, I will never love anyone or anything more than I love your brother.”  But, I can’t tell if that little man is playing my sensitive heart because he wants me to spring for a new Minecraft app or if he is genuinely worried about where he stands in our family.

  • “I promise to put it back where I found it.”

—This is not a lie because he really means it when he says it.  But, it also isn’t true because whatever “it” is, it never ends up back where it was originally found.  So, this has me wondering whether this is a punishable offense for irresponsibility or whether it is evidence of the need to work on basic skills in memory and household obligations.

  • “You are an excellent cook.”

—This sounds nice.  I like to hear it.  But, I think I am being ego-stroked for ulterior motives.  My husband has taught the kids that they may not leave the dinner table until they ask to be excused, thank their mother for the meal and let her know that they enjoyed the fruits of her work.  Then, they have to clean up their plates and they may go play until homework or bedtime.  Now, my son may truly believe that I am his personal 5-star chef or he could be trying to score some points for extra playtime or the coveted statement of, “Don’t worry, honey.  I will clean up your plate.  Go play.”

I do have to say, though, that I am pretty wise to my children’s games for the most part.  I can tell when a bellyache is real.  I can differentiate between crocodile tears and the real ones.  I know you’re not really sleeping!  I see that your toys are not put away!

But, I do wonder when it is important to assume a child is being straight with you and when he is trying to scheme on ya.

Advice?

 

How to Land a Nanny Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy job hunting!

In Need of a Chainsaw

I have realized that my life would be a hell of a lot easier if there were two of me.

Wow.  That seems so obvious.  I could be so efficient.  I could do twice as much laundry.

chainsaw post2Let’s be honest, though, if there were two of me, I’d probably just creep twice as much Pinterest and drink twice as much snobby craft beer.

But, what I started to come to understand is that on days when the going gets rough, I could really use a metaphysical chainsaw to slice myself into two beings:  one who will lovingly care for my kids and the other who will get a pedicure, shop for handbags and have a long lunch at a restaurant with tablecloths.

‘Cuz here’s the lowdown:  I love my kids.  I also love not being asked 43 times in a day about Super Mario Brothers and Thomas the Tank Engine.  Some days I feel a little run down.  And maybe I cry a little.  Or  a whole lot.  But, when I get a little time to myself, one of two things typically happens:  either I completely waste it by doing absolutely nothing of any value whatsoever, or I spend it wondering what my precious babies are doing, smiling longingly at every beautiful child who passes me at the mall.

Mom said she wishes there were two of her.  Let's practice being helpful.

Mom said she wishes there were two of her. Let’s practice being helpful.

So, it would really be great if there were two of me – not so I could be Supermom and start baking more or inventing cool crafts that involve pipecleaners and homemade slime – but so that one of me could chill the fuck out somewhere, maybe read a book, go tanning, or visit a friend, while the other joyfully absorbs the peace and tranquility radiating from the other’s blissful calm and is able to appreciate every fabulous moment with a couple of terrific little boys.

I decided when founding Off Duty Mom that I was going to be honest about the good, the bad and the ugly.  So, let me go ahead now and tell you where my chainsaw thoughts are coming from.

The other day, when I pulled my car into my garage after a long day of trying to educate the very unwilling youth of America, I turned off the ignition and just sat there.  For a good, solid five minutes or so.  I just sat.  I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car.  I didn’t want to go inside my house.  I knew that as soon as I did, two children would be bouncing and running and yelling and tossing toys everywhere.  My car was so quiet.  I had a very difficult time walking away from that quiet.

I felt pretty shitty.  The guilt was significant.  What kind of mother leaves her babies all day and then isn’t running into the house at the first chance that she gets to see and spend any quality time with them?

This gal.

And, I felt crapilicious about it.

A good mom, I told myself, is thrilled to come home and wrap her arms around her children.  And then I cried.

But, I pulled my shit together and came into the house.  My kids ran up to me and yelled, “Mommy!” and hugged and kissed me.  It felt so good.  But, it didn’t change the fact that I was so tired.  So.  Very.  Tired.

But yet, I played and I cooked and I sang and I rocked and I bathed and I brushed and I read.  It was lovely.  And exhausting after an already long day.

I thought again about how I’d love to split into two so that one of me could go get a massage.

Now, I have a pretty terrific husband who gives me time to do the things I need to do.  I have regular chiropractor appointments and stuff.  But, things would be a heck of a lot cooler with another “me” around, anyway.  And, since I am so lovable and adorable, I am sure my husband would agree that two of “me” would be pretty sweet.

chansaw postBut, I suppose that like money and time, if I had extra “me” around, I would probably just waste it.  That lazy bitch would probably just take naps, eat BBQ Pringles and watch SVU repeats all the damn time, anyway.

Ugh.

I wish someone would have warned me that parenting was going to be this hard.  Spread the word, people:  parenthood makes you think about chainsaws.

This has been a public service announcement sponsored by the marginally insane.  Thanks for listening.

Thankful (that this isn’t you)

Some days, as a mom, I am only half-certain that I am doing a decent job.  It is a tough job, I will tell you.  In case you didn’t already know.  And, I feel partially competent and completely untrained the majority of the time.

I beat myself up a whole lot.  It is probably not healthy.  But, every now and again I realize that I am not any of these people and I feel better.

Yikes.

Yikes.

My wedding, for example, was classy.  People wore shirts.  And, clothes that were not, um, banana hammocks.  And I was the only one with a garter on my thigh.  I think.  And, I was not in the “November Rain” video, so you couldn’t see the aforementioned garter, anyway.

Fabulous.

Fabulous.

I once learned archery in gym class.  But, I never considered myself capable of teaching this skill to my children.  But, in another year, my oldest will be 5 and he will clearly be ready for firearms if you believe this guy.

bad parent 2And, I, too, believe in safety.  I have locks on my cabinets so my babies cannot drink Mr. Clean.  I cover my outlets so the spawn don’t become a science experiment in conductivity.  But, somehow I never thought to create a makeshift visor when putting my child on the front of my high-speed motorcycle.  My bad.

Was this in the latest "People of Walmart" composite?

Was this in the latest “People of Walmart” composite?

Now, I remember just a little while back when a debate broke out regarding how long it was “acceptable” to breastfeed.  But, I think it may need to come under discussion how long we ought to cart children in strollers.  And, um, how we handle nutrition issues in our families.

I wonder what the ducky did to deserve this.

I wonder what the ducky did to deserve this.

One other thing we ought to put on the table for discussion might be discipline.  I suppose we all have different methods.  I use “time-outs.”  They work.  I also instituted a ticket system for positive behavioral reinforcement.  We also, of course, take away privileges and move up bedtime when appropriate.  But, I never thought of this.

Totally appropriate.

Totally appropriate.

Anyone who knows me personally probably knows that I am totally uncomfortable with the topic of sex.  I am very thankful that I have boys and “the talk” will have to be my husband’s job.  Apparently, though, not everyone shares my prudishness.

Pretty.

Pretty.

You know, everyone looks better with a healthy glow, right?  And, if it were bad for you, tanning places wouldn’t be in every mall in America, right?

There are good ideas and then there are just, well, ideas.

There are good ideas and then there are just, well, ideas.

Some may find the tanning of a child to be unsafe.  I wonder what those people would say about this.

Next:  keg stands and rounds of flip cup.

Next: keg stands and rounds of flip cup.

And, finally, we have here a parent who is truly concerned with something absolutely critical:  preparing a child for college.

If you, too, are not any of these people, perhaps you should rest assured that you are doing a moderately decent job at parenting, too.  Hang in there!

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.

Merry, Merry 12 Days ’12

O. M. G.

Check me out, y’all.

I am being featured over at Momma Be Thy Name in the annual “Momma’s 12 Days” contest.

Head over there to read my post:  “Singing (So I Don’t Cry)” to get out of your funk and get into the holiday spirit, ODM-style.

Sure, your in-laws are coming over in a few days and your house will never be clean enough to avoid sarcastic commentary.  And, your sister-in-law is a bitch any time of year in any home or location.  But, silly Christmas posts are fun.  And, you can win prizes.

Yup.  Prizes, dudes.

What are you waiting for?

DO IT!

You know you wanna.

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.

Many Thanks!

Off Duty Mom has reached its one year anniversary blogging at WordPress. 

Thank you so much to all of the readers who have helped motivate us to talk incessantly about varicose veins, the Lazy Town acid trip, potty training, wine consumption, bow hunting, Pinterest, sexual fantasies, snot, exhaustion and Snoop Dogg.

It has been a great year.  The Off Duty Family appreciates your support.  We thank you for visiting us on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook. 

Happy Holidays!

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.

The journey begins…

The December series relating to infertility stories submitted by numerous writers from all over the world is set to begin next week.

Please check back often to read all kinds of stories from very different folks with very different experiences.  Some will make you laugh and others may make you cry.  Some stories are unfinished yet — the journey for some of our writers continues.

The month of December is a time to celebrate, but it is also a very difficult time for the couples who are facing yet another holiday without little ones to help celebrate it.  Our goal here is to share our spirits and share our strength.  So many of us have been through this battle.  No one going through struggles with fertility needs to feel alone.

We are still interested in anyone who may want to share a story, specifically about adoption or nontraditional routes to family planning or family growth.  If you’d like to join our series, please visit the Guest Posting page here for information.

Thank you all for your ongoing interest in this subject.

Last call, y’all

Tomorrow is the deadline to submit a post for our December fertility series.

Please remember that you may remain anonymous if you wish, but these stories-your stories- are important to tell. So many of us have been through struggles with infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy illnesses, birth issues, testing, sterility and a host if other issues related to the process of conception.

I am still hoping to add a few more stories to this series. It would be particularly important to hear from those of you still in this fight, and/or from the men impacted by these issues since these stories are less common to read about. Many of us don’t speak up until after we’ve found peace. Many men don’t talk about their roles in these fights at all, but for men these battles are no less painful to endure.

Please share your thoughts.

Send us a message through our Facebook page or via the Guest Posting page here.

Happy holidays. Thanks for considering working with us!

The clock is ticking, y’all!

If you are still considering guest-posting with Off Duty Mom for the December series on fertility, time is running out.

We are still searching for three more stories about families, couples or individuals who have all types of stories about infertility, miscarriage, premature births, in vitro procedures, and all manner of struggles and triumphs relating to baby-makin’.

Help us to make this series a success! Guest posts can be short or long; funny, touching or heartbreaking. We are open to all of it. You can stay anonymous if you’d like, even.

Too many of us know how difficult it is to start and maintain a family. If we share stories, though, more of us may come to realize that we are not alone.

Join us, won’t you?

Check out the Guest Posting page here or visit us on Facebook to submit your story.

Thanks!

(Almost) Last Call for Submissions!

This December, Off Duty Mom will be featuring the stories of several women who have experienced all stages and types of battles with infertility.  As the holiday season approaches, many of us know that it can be difficult to cope with NOT getting the one thing we really want:  a family.

You can’t always get what you want, but you can try sometime and you might find you get what you need.

Avid readers of Off Duty Mom know that we love humor, wit and cleverness.  However, stories of all types and tones are welcome.  Send us your happy, sad, exhausting, gory, triumphant, expensive and just plain weird stuff, too.  We will feature selected stories about people’s struggles with all types of infertility throughout the month of December.

If you are interested in submitting a piece for consideration, please visit the “Guest Posting” section of the Off Duty Mom blog.  Or, “like” Off Duty Mom on Facebook and submit your piece through a message to us there.

The goal is to provide the many, many loving adults out there who have a very special wish for this holiday season will have a wonderful series of stories to read from people all over so that they may understand that they are not alone in their struggles.

If you’d like more information about the upcoming series, please leave a comment here.  We’ll get back to you soon.

For the many of you with whom we’ve already spoken about submitting your stories, please get those to us soon!  We can’t print everything we receive, but we do hope to include as many as we can!

Submissions will be accepted until November 22 (Thanksgiving Day).

Happy writing!

Making Promises Matter

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

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

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

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

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

20121007-151952.jpg

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.

Why is everything WET?

Apparently, if one is in possession of a penis, learning to control it is a lifelong battle.

I doubt even this would help me…
Image borrowed from NotSoSouthernLiving.blogspot.com

As the mother of a three-year old boy, I can say that it is a rare day that passes when I am not wiping urine off of something on which urine does not typically belong.  To date, I have cleaned someone else’s pee off of clothing, toilet seats, closed toilet lids, floors, walls, bathtubs, my own legs, my sons’ head (go ahead and try to figure that one out), three different beds, the living room carpet, our back deck, a car seat, dining room hardwood floors, my leather Jeep interior, toys and a dirty (but not previously that dirty) pile of laundry.

It seems as though the seemingly endless stream of pee does not end with early childhood, either.  Some suggest that even into the teen years, urination plays too much of a role in people’s lives.  A Crabby Old Fart I’ve read about seems to believe that bathroom time is excessive for older kids, too.  Though, at that age, the bulk of time spent behind a bathroom door is more often time spent primping, slathered in hair product, contemplating their own gift of beauty to the world.  This gentleman maintains, though (and humorously so), that frequent urination in the young is a symbol of laziness and defiance, not an indication of medical incontinence yet to come.  Hilarious.

Aside from all the peeing, of course, there are a host of other issues our sons ultimately have to face as the owners and operators of man-parts.  As was pointed out in another parenting blog, uncircumcised boys (fairly rare still in the U.S., I think?) must contend with what I thought was a potentially emotionally difficult procedure daily.  If you read this linked post and you are raising boys, I’d love to know what you think about giving your son the memory of having an…um…hands-on mom.

Of course, as they get older, moms must deal with another issue associated with raising boys.  As it was put in Bridesmaids,  “Everything is covered in semen. I literally broke a blanket in half.”  Now, I hope not to reach this lovely milestone of boy-parenting for some time yet, but I imagine that by that point, I shall no longer be fazed in any way about anything associated with bodily fluids any longer.  After being puked, pooped and peed on more than once, your gag reflex starts to become less and less prominent.  Parenthood seems to have a way of making us all into iron-stomached folk.

Having never had a penis attached to me personally, I also do not understand the inability of adolescent and young adult men to control the emotions associated with its existence.  If popular culture is any indication, seeing so many music artists using crotch-grabbing as a piece of choreography would suggest that men are constantly acutely aware of their baggage.  Perhaps I am fortunate to have internal lady-parts since I don’t have a constant reminder of sex dangling off of me every time I put on pants.

Thar she blows!
Photo found through JesusIsCreator.org

On that same note, it pains me to think that one day my sons will begin to experience some sort of vagina radar that seems to become active in young dingle doo-dahs that seem to lead horny guys to fresh meat much in the way the forked twig seemed to lead ancient folk to water.  This seems like a terrible affliction.  Many young men I met as a younger version of myself never seemed to learn how to handle this malady.  For the sake of my boys’ safety, I hope my husband and I can instill in them good manners, respect, kindness and gentleness so that they never have to have their asses handed to them by the irate father of a defiled young lady.  (As a side note, in such an occasion, the boys would get their asses handed to them a second time at home, too.)

I love my boys.  But, you can add this to the list of “Things They Didn’t Tell You To Expect While You Were Expecting.”

So, lesson learned.

Pee-Pees are hard to deal with.

That’s what she said.

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