Off Duty Mom

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

Archive for the tag “life”

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.

Grrrrrrrr…

Today I hate people.

Admittedly, most days I hate people.  I’m an introvert and I like quiet.  And, you know, NOT being around…people.

And, if this is your first time visiting this blog you might be surprised to know, given my general distaste for humanity, that I am a teacher.  Of teenagers.  Pretty much the worst people of all people.

I actually really seriously dislike children.  I mean, mine are cool, but yours suck.  No offense.

I kid only sort of.

On a serious note (for once), I actually tremendously love working with high school students.  I like talking with them.  I like helping them with their ridiculous dramatic bullshit.  I like talking to them about Star Wars.  I like watching them “get it” for the first time.  I seriously fucking love my job.  I am truly an introvert and I prefer quiet to parties, but my favorite thing of all of the things is discussing Hamlet with a group of hungry AP English Literature students.

But, today, I had to cover a 7th grade Math class.  Just let that sink in:  I hate numbers more than I hate people.  And, remember I hate children, but not teenagers.  Seventh graders are CHILDREN.  Don’t talk to me until you’ve made it at least one full day past your 14th birthday.  Even then, I don’t really want to talk to you for very long periods of time until about halfway through your freshman year of high school.

Seniors?  Give me all of the seniors all of the days.  Love ’em.  Lazy sons-a-bitches.  Those kids are my jaaaaam.

Sure, my piss-poor attitude today is colored by the fact that by 8:00 this morning, I had dealt with two students who were ethnically intimidating a Middle-Eastern refugee student and one student who told another to “eat balls.”  This week, I have been trying to stop a small group of boys in their attempt to mercilessly and evilly bully a weaker kid.  I’ve been failing at this miserably since the bullied kid is so bullied that he is too terrified to admit to the bullying so we can proceed with assistance for him.  I’m trying desperately to get a student scheduled into all of her appropriate classes for her junior and senior years because her parents do not speak English and they cannot advocate for her at school here.  So I do.  I’m trying to encourage a kid I’ve been mentoring for four years to finish all of the credit recovery programming he’s been working on so he can have enough credits to graduate in June.  He probably won’t make it.  I’ll be devastated when/if he ultimately drops out of high school.

I’ll go home today to a car with only three working tires.  My kids will need help with their homework.  I will have to cook dinner — from scratch because I am trying desperately not to pour a bunch of food additives, processed garbage and sugar into my family’s bodies.  I’ll care for my aging dog who was diagnosed yesterday with cataracts.  I’ll probably not get to the gym though I consider this a “gym day.” I’m not trying to get into a bikini or impress anyone, but I am trying to get stronger and healthier and today that will have to wait.

It is hard to be a working mom.

That’s it.  This is hard.  And I hate people.  And I’m tired.  And this is hard.  And I love it.  And hate it.  And…this is hard.

 

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

 

I’ve Found Him

I was a total nerd as a kid.

I got picked on — big time.

The cool girls used to throw popcorn at me when I ate lunch alone in the cafeteria in 7th grade.  I was usually alone, cafeteria or not.

I didn’t date a whole lot, but I grew into myself as I got a bit older.  However, when I was a younger teen, I would snuggle up on my side in my bed with a pillow and I would lay my head on it and pretend that it was my boyfriend who was letting me nuzzle into his shoulder.

I had daydreams about meeting a boy who would not know that I was such an outcast and he’d like me just because I have intrinsic value.

I had this incredibly silly fantasy that this magical boy would really know the real me and he wouldn’t judge me because I wasn’t wearing the coolest clothes.  He would know all of my idiosyncrasies like how I only ever eat French Fries two-at-a-time.

Eventually, I met an amazing man who became my husband.  We fell in love and made a house a home and are living happily ever after.

But, it was just a few weeks ago when my oldest son, age 5, mentioned that he wanted to eat his fries “just like mommy” and he popped two Five Guys hand-cut French Fries into his mouth.

Somewhere in my torn adolescent soul I felt sure that my time would come and I would meet the man of my dreams and he would fulfill all of my silly musings about love and he would make up for all of the emotional bruising I had muddled through.

I just never expected the man of my dreams to be my 5-year old son.

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.

My Clouds

An Open Babbling to Sandra Cisneros and Other People, Too.

 

Before you were a bean, you were angel’s breath and wonderment.  You were the sky above a field of crocuses with dew and soft breezes.  You were a seed the color of rain.  There was soft light and a bird and swaddling clothes.

In the jungle the sounds are purity.  There are droplets of hibiscus.  The air smells of God.  And you were a whisper of a strand of hair drowsing along on the wind made of prayers.  You were the air made of purple.

And, before you were liquid and sunshine and freedom and energy.  Peace that drinks heavily from the chalice of royal diamonds.  The air between fronds on a feather.  The spaces between the light streaming through the cracked corners of the stained glass window.  The sweetness of honeydew.  A necklace made of love.

And, in a day, a peach blossom emerged and was illuminated by years of paper and ice.  Loops connecting forever.  Dancing with the delicacy of pencil erasers tapping on a frosted cake.

Pubic Garanimals Dry Hump Samurai Schematics

I am huge in Uganda today.

And, a few weeks back I frickin’ killed it in Sri Lanka.

 

And, in the past few months, people have found this blog by searching for

  • lime juice vagina
  • pubic chia pet
  • Garanimals for men
  • slut whore
  • I’m a girl with hair on my vagina and I don’t care
  • dry humping mom’s ass cheeks
  • Flowbee schematics
  • being ashamed
  • my kids are alive
  • Samurai swords
  • sticky pube
  • dork snatch
  • messy hair with twigs in it
  • Do people with uncircumcised boys get peed on less?

I don’t know what this says about my blog.

Please put your interpretations in our “Comments” section.

Getting from “I can’t” to “I’ve GOT this”

I have struggled for most of my adult life with borderline depression and probably a little anxiety, too.  These things, however, have not existed in real life like I would have imagined they would.

cryingI had previously figured that depression was reserved for people who had SOMETHING to be sad about.  And those poor saps wouldn’t be able to get out of bed each morning.  They would cry constantly.  They would probably resort to maniacal meth usage, would wear all-black and would get swoopy haircuts, but would ultimately not really wash or style their hair much, anyway.

I figured that people who had anxiety would be nervous wrecks 100% of the time, would talk really fast, drink too much coffee, talk incessantly about governmental conspiracy theories, and would be all twitchy and weird.

Most of that stuff is dead wrong.  For me, at least.  Except, I could get into a pretty decent conversation about conspiracies.  Like, what if the government actually secretly sanctioned the initial illegal drug trafficking in the US in order to infiltrate the Black community through unethical back-door methods in an attempt to decimate the community from the inside out, actually unofficially encouraging the Black community to disintegrate, stay uneducated, and foster violence and brain decay over decades of time?

But, after watching a particular Facebook reposted video of about a kabillion of my “friends” recently, I realized something:  I better get the fuck over myself.

Having come through a long emotional battle after a date rape well over 15 years ago now, I have had my fair share of difficulties in my weird-ass noggin.  I also suffered a miscarriage in 2007, and while I very rarely talk about this at all, I think about it often and it certainly added to my fucked-up headspace.

And, more than I could know, others out there have been through more and have suffered more and have required very serious help working through their mental and emotional issues.  I absolutely do not deny that these things are very real, nor do I believe that we can “snap out of” a depression, anxiety, or other problem any more than we could “snap out of” Congestive Heart Failure.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny that I ought to start taking more responsibility for the repeated phrase in my head to stop being “I can’t” and to start being “I’ve GOT this” a little more often.

Remember when you were a kid and you would swing as high as you could and you would hurl your body upward and outward into the sky above the playground and for those few moments of flight, your body (your soul, for that matter) just felt right, and you KNEW you would land safely?  I think it is important for more of us to have more of that feeling more often.

Somewhere in adulthood, far too many of us get trapped in a sense of fear.  We’ve lived life a whole lot of life.  We’ve, let’s say, played baseball for 14 years.  And for 13.96 of those years, the sport was fun and challenging and gloriously dirty and was an amazing way to be a part of a team–something larger than just ourselves.  But .04 of that time was spent on a bench nursing a really nasty, painful, ugly injury.  And, now, every time we run, whether it is toward home plate and a mean-looking, heavily-padded guy wearing sharp cleats, or if it is to catch a Frisbee in the yard with an 8-year old, we feel hesitant.  The awareness of that hurt is still there, even though it comparatively represents only a small part of our running experiences of the past.

So, as I sat on my couch last night watching that video, I found myself wondering:  “when do I plan to start living?”.  I have been sad and tired and worried and afraid in a dull but very persistent sense for years on end now.  Should I find out today that I have only a few months left on this planet, wouldn’t I be astronomically pissed that THAT would be how the bulk of my life had been spent?

My screwiness is legit.  Mental illness is not a joke.  People’s struggles are never anything to sneeze at.  But, perhaps we might take a moment to think about whether there is anyway we could start living life in a way that would make us proud to have been US at the end of it all.

And, as a teacher, I feel it necessary to leave you with words of wisdom on this topic that are not my own, but that belong to people far wiser than I…

“EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

-Thornton Wilder — Our Town

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

-Seneca

If you cannot be grateful for what you have received, then be thankful for what you have been spared.

-Yiddish Proverb.

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.

Then and Now, Inside and Out

I will admit that when I sat down at my computer I had very little to say.  And, that, frankly, kinda scared the hell out of me.

Who am I if I am not a loudmouthed, sarcastic know-it-all who has something to say about everything?

I just don’t know.

My instinct, for some reason was to comment about Tupac.  I think it is because I saw a teenager wearing a t-shirt today that had Biggie and Tupac on it.  Tupac was flicking off the camera.  It made me think about the whole concept of rebellion and whether it was inherently good or bad — or neither — or both.

When I was a teenager, I remember there was a bit of a resurgence of 1960’s hippie fashion and culture.  I bought cheap babydoll dresses at Contempo Casuals and discovered The Beatles and people started tie-dying everything around them.  Then Hypercolor t-shirts became the post-modern pseudo-tie-dye reinvention.  Ugh.

And, during this time, I thought everyone over 19 was pretty fucking dumb.  They just didn’t understand reality.  This reality, of course, was whatever I believed it to be in my 14 years of wisdom.  No one, you better believe, was dumber than my parents.  They were super, ultra, extra dumb and could never hope to understand my world in all its complicatedness.

I was a rebel in my own mind.  I never got into any trouble whatsoever.  I once drove a car for about 5 whole minutes before I was 16 and had a license.  I never had to serve any penance for this crime, though.

anarchyYet, I empathized with those who struggled.  My soul seemed to identify with those who felt the need to revolt.  Maybe I listened to too many Sex Pistols songs or Sonic Youth feedback.  There was always a sort of fire in my tiny, adolescent belly that yearned to be in London (and be older), with my fist in the air and a snarl on my face.  I scrawled lyrics to Pixies songs on my school notebooks, then went to AP English class in my cheerleader uniform where I discussed philosophy and later filled out college applications to some of the more prestigious universities in my area.

I never felt like a hypocrite.  I just felt (then and now) that the person inside me didn’t always match the person I showed to the public.  Or the person my parents expected me to become.

I never rebelled.  Not in any real way.  And, I do think – now as an adult – that all of the teeny-bopper bullshit whining that I hear constantly about how adults don’t understand and the world is so cruel and the soul is so black and we’re just so misunderstood is played out and pretty fucking annoying.  I have become my parents.  But, I already knew that.

But, still, I kinda like seeing that picture of Tupac with a very adamant middle finger proudly on display on that kid’s shirt.  Part of me still identifies with the fuck-you attitude.

It is what makes me so charming.  And lovable.

I know you are but what am I?

She was the kind of girl who smoked cigarettes in a car with rolled-up windows while fuzzy dice dangled on her rearview mirror.  I am sure she owned plenty of leopard print.  I would be certain that whatever her name would be, it would end with an “i.”

He scrawled on desks in high school with the end of a pen that no longer worked.  And he only owned clothes with band names on them or things that were made out of threadbare denim or cheap, knock-off leather.

Her friends all loved pink and had big hair and wore plastic bracelets and shoes.  One had a button on her purse that said “Save Ferris.”  Another knew the perfect way to scrunch up her socks at the ankle so that they were just awesome enough.

He hung with guys who snarled a lot.  They couldn’t afford muscle cars, so they hung calendars of them in their rooms instead.  They pretended to know about the world.

Everyone believed, firmly, that these kids were going nowhere in life.  Now they’re 40.  They wear shirts with buttons and pants that have to be ironed.  They have kids and a mortgage and a sensible SUV with a top-rated carseat inside.  They have no idea what the coolest music is anymore, but they do know all about Doc McStuffins.

This might sound like people you know.  One of those people might even be you.

The person who wrote this was once cool, I am sure.  Now she uses adult diapers and complains that the rain hurts her knees.

The person who wrote this was once cool, I am sure. Now she uses adult diapers and complains that the rain hurts her knees.

So, you’re old.  That sucks.

I understand.

But, I offer no solace.  There shall be no respite from the weariness of your lamentable aging today.

Instead, I offer you this:

*next summer, Forrest Gump will be 20 years old.  That makes Haley Joel Osment (young Forrest) now 24.  He could be your coworker.  Or worse, your boss.

*it has been 30 years since Michael Jackson first did that Moonwalk on TV while performing Billie Jean and 30 years since Vanessa Williams became the first Black Miss America.

*If you had had a child the night Seinfeld aired its final episode, that child would now be a freshman in high school.

*If Nirvana’s Nevermind were a person, it could now legally drink in the United States.  Actually, it was released 22 years ago.

*It has been 43 years since the first heavy metal album was released.  Original headbangers would now risk serious injury for rockin’ out.

*It has been exactly 40 years now since psychology experts removed homosexuality from its list of disorders.  It took Denmark another 16 years to be the first to legalize same-sex marriages.  It took 26 total years from that date for California to offer some rights for same-sex couples in committed relationships.

Remember these guys?  If so, you are at least 30.  The show ended in 1981.  Muppet Babies ended in 1992.

Remember these guys? If so, you are at least 30. The show ended in 1981. Muppet Babies ended in 1992.

*It has been 34 years since Nickelodeon first launched as a channel.

*It has been nearly a decade since Facebook launched as a social networking site.

*28 years have passed since the launch of the first Super Mario Brothers.

*If you were 13 years old when Pac Man first came out in the US, you are now 45 years old, geezer.

*If you were 18 when Jimi Hendrix died, you are now 61 years old.  Criminey.

*Cyndi Lauper is 59.

*Gene Simmons is 63.

*Pee Wee Herman is 60.

*TuPac would be 42 years old now, had he lived.

*Denise Huxtable from the Cosby Show would turn 46 this year.

*William Shatner is 81.

*Chuck Norris is 72.

*Brad Pitt is 48.  Two and a half years younger than George Clooney.

and, finally,

*Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid is freaking 50 years old.

Wow.

 

YOU’RE OLD.

Getting old is awesome.  At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Getting old is awesome. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

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!

Making Promises Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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Growing up, Getting better

Before I was married, I lived on the second floor of a duplex in a beautiful neighborhood. Having just graduated from college, I couldn’t afford all of the luxuries I might have now, but I did have the most comfortable bed of all time. I slept in it, diagonally, using 5 or 6 pillows at any given time to prop, cover, cradle and comfort my body perfectly. I slept well. Every night.

Before we had children, my husband and I never made plans for anything. Ever. We typically ate dinner at about 8 pm, on the floor or on the couch in front of the television. We had both a dining room table and an eat-in kitchen, but we were just too informal for that. With the exception of having to let the dog outside, we had few responsibilities that dictated that we be home at any specific time of day. It was easy and normal for either one of us to stop for drinks with friends after work or to run errands at odd hours.

I miss parts of my old life. Before becoming a responsible, married, home-owning adult with children, I was a different person entirely. In fact, I suppose I have gone through several incarnations of myself over the course of my lifetime. The person I was in my youth is vastly different than the person I became in high school. That person doesn’t even resemble the person I became in college. And, that person differs, still, from the person I became as a young professional. And, even so, that person differs greatly from the person I became as a newlywed. And, of course, that person is so different from the person I became when I became a mother.

I miss some (but certainly not all) of the pieces of my former selves. I don’t want to go back to being any of them, though. Make no mistake about that.

It is interesting to me how as a mother I have the privilege to watch a child become a full person even while I am certain I, too, am becoming more of myself each day. I suppose growing, changing, developing and evolving never really end in a human life.

Each day I will try to learn more about myself and answer questions like, “Why did I like ‘Magic Mike’ enough to refer to it as a ‘film?'” and, “Why do the Olympics make me sad that I never thought to pursue a career in beach volleyball even though I have never played volleyball of any kind?” And, I will learn more about the little ones I hope to mold into responsible men, hopefully answering questions like, “Why do little boys think kicking each other in the head is hilarious?” and, “What makes automatic flush toilets so terrifying to a 4-year old?”

It is poetic, and aggravating, never to be a completed model– always to be a work in progress. But, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that the best thing to do upon making this realization is to have a glass of wine and stop worrying. My oldest son always wants a cup of juice if he is hurt or sad. “Juice makes everything better,” he says. Yes, it does, son. Yes it does.

Life in the Middle

I realized recently that I’d been living — for a long time — in the middle.

Perhaps the opposites of both “happy” and “sad” are, in both cases, numb, lifeless, middlehood.

I have had a job that is okay for about 4 years now.  It’s not good.  It’s not bad.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

My days, otherwise, are not active.  They’re not entirely sedentary.  They’re somewhere in the middle.

My clothes, shoes, handbags and other girly things are not extravagant.  They’re not meager.  They’re somewhere in the middle.

I am not too fat.  I am not too skinny.  I am somewhere in the middle

I don’t get to read a whole lot.  Yet, I am not living totally booklessly.  I am somewhere in the middle.

My diet is not healthy.  It is not indulgent.  It is somewhere in the middle.

My weekends aren’t typically spent doing adventurous things.  They’re not spent entirely in front of the TV, either.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

My daily work is not terribly engaging.  It’s also not completely boring all of the time.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

My home is neither large nor small.  It is somewhere in the middle.

I’ve not fully lived up to my intellectual potential.  I am also not exactly sitting around as an aimless high-school dropout.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I don’t get to spend most of my time with my children.  I don’t see them infrequently, either.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

I’m not a bad cook.  I’m not a great cook, either.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I am sure I am not always the best example for my kids.  I am certain that I am far from the worst.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I don’t wake up each day excited for the possibilities it will bring.  I also don’t wake up and find it terrifying or exhausting to think about getting out of bed.  I am somewhere in the middle.

All of this has left me wondering whether I am really living my life well.  And, if I am not, when do I intend to start doing so?

Perhaps too many of us are afraid to take real risks because with the chance of experiencing very high “highs,” we have to risk experiencing very low “lows,” too.  My old job was like that.  There were tons of hills and valleys.  No — mountains and abysses.  Or, meteoric peaks and vortexes of darkness.

Yet here I am now living a life that is… tepid.

So, I am trying to dig in to my “bucket” list.  It is time to cross some things off, face some fears and start living life as a better me.

None of us gets a second chance, right?  There is but one lifetime for each of us.

I’d like to know what each of you has done lately that demonstrates that you’re living the best life you can live.  I know I am not alone it this middle ground.  Let us all gather strength to conquer a better existence together.

I’ll start:  last month, I faced one of my biggest fears.  I have spent my life absolutely embarrassingly terrified of boats.  I can swim.  I am not afraid of water.  But, I am afraid of getting sucked under an enormous body of water Titanic-style.  And, I am scared of being helpless and stranded away from land and civilization with no control over my whereabouts.  But, I got on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico in May and set out 5 miles away from shore to lay my godmother to rest in the beautiful waters off of Clearwater, Florida.  Never in a gazillion years would I have imagined that I could do that without becoming hysterical or needing prescription sedatives.  But, I did it.  I didn’t even cry once.  Or rely on pharmaceuticals for an easier go of it.  Now, I am not jumping up excitedly trying to clamor onto another boat anytime soon.  I am not miraculously cured of my baseless fear.  But, I faced it.

How have you made yourself proud lately?  Let us know.  Your comments are always welcome.

Tell us how you’re getting or staying out of the middle.

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.

Things That Don’t Suck

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

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

I loves me a good list.

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

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The making of a well-adjusted grown-up

I don’t really like people.

This is not a revelation or grandiose admission.  I’m just sort of throwing this out there.

But, it occurred to me quite some time ago that I am just not really a “people” person.  I am annoyed by bad driving, poor grammar, religious extremism, uneducated commentary, snobbiness, crooked baseball caps, republicans, loud laughs, cat owners, and the implication that my hand should not be shaken firmly because I am a woman.

I often say that I hate people, but that’s not really true.  But, people — all people, really (including my own family) just get on my nerves.  Most of the time.

I don’t mean to imply that I am superior.  I fully expect that I irritate other people, too.  In my mind, people aren’t really meant to work with, eat with, shop with, talk with or really see other people all of the time.  I treasure my moments alone.

Now, I am not considering selling my belongings and living in a cabin in the woods with just a huntin’ hound and a shotgun to ward off young’uns and lookie-lous.  But, I do value the few moments I get from time to time to sit in silence, by myself, and do nothing.

I used to fear that my antisocial behavior would mean that I’d be a terrible parent.  I think I’m hanging in there okay, though.  I do enjoy spending time with my children.  I also enjoy when they’re both sleeping peacefully.  A whole lot.

Generally, I think that my irritation with the general populace came about when I realized what it meant for me to be an only child.  I like having my stuff and my space.  I don’t take orders well at all which makes me a pretty miserable employee.  I don’t like to share with others which makes me a terrible “team player.”  I am bossy and always have been which makes me pretty difficult to be married to.  And, I just noticed that I ended that previous sentence with a preposition and it is eating me alive, but I’m trying to work on “me,” so I am going to leave it there, but it is worth mentioning that my grammar nerdism makes it a little tough to make friends.  There aren’t a whole lot of other people out there who would happily discuss when one must use “lie” instead of “lay.”

So, all of this has me wondering if your position as a child in a family helps to shape the rest of your personality.  Am I am who I am because I am an only child?  Did I forever mold my kids’ personalities by virtue of the fact that I decided to have them both and to space their births three years apart?

Feel free to weigh in here.

Take our poll or leave a comment!

Three Unexpected Lessons Learned from my Children

Obviously, I knew on some level that my life would be vastly different after having a child.  You know, everyone feels as though it is necessary to tell you that, too, when they find out you’re pregnant.  Yes, my life is going to change.  Got it.  Go away now.  No, you cannot touch my belly.

I realized that my definition of “love” would change and that my concepts of duty and responsibility would shift.

I did not realize that there would be a series of valuable lessons I’d learn from each of my children that would make me a better parent, but that would more surprisingly make me a better version of myself.

1.  SLOW DOWN —

Kids are like therapy, man.  (And they cause a need for therapy, too, but perhaps that is for another blog post…)  Before children, I was always a little anxious.  I even suffered from a rather debilitating panic attack once while at work.  That sucked.  I’d worry about things I couldn’t control.  Well, I still do that, I suppose, but now that I have children, I have learned to take things a bit more slowly.

This weekend, I decided to steal time away from the kids and do some gardening.  I was very pregnant with baby #2 last spring, so my garden was neglected for a year.  There were weeds, branches, dead leaves and even a little trash all over the place.  The old “me” would have done a half-assed job of picking through the entire garden (which is enormous, by the way).  I would have rushed and felt overwhelmed by the fact that the garden is so big and there is such a mess and Oh-My-God-I-Am-Never-Going-To-Be-Done.  I would have been tired after an hour.  This time, though, I took my time and did a really good job on one section of the garden.  I tilled the soil, uprooted old, overgrown plants, potted some unwanted things to share with neighbors, got rid of weeds, threw away trash that the wind had swept into my flowers, cut a clean edge between the lawn and the flower beds.  I only did one section, but I did it right.  And, it looks good.  And, I can go back out the next magical time I have free time and do the same thing on another section.

Because there is no rushing kids, I have learned that slow, deliberate, careful work is the ONLY way to get a job done well.  There is no way to rush a toddler through the bedtime routine just because I know that it is past his bedtime.  If I try to hurry him through brushing his teeth, getting his pajamas on, washing his face, using the potty and reading his book, he’ll have a tantrum or drag his feet or get distracted by the first shiny thing he sees.  Or, he’ll do all of those.  Small children cannot be rushed.  It takes LONGER when you rush a 3-year old.  So, I have learned to slow it down.  It is the only way that anything works.

Yup. That's totally what I'd look like, too, if I went hunting. And, that's the exact outfit I'd wear,

2.  MARKSMANSHIP —

Personally, I am pretty against the use of weapons.  Whatever you do is whatever you do, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of even holding a gun or bow (or Samurai sword?).  But, I am pretty sure that I’d be AWESOME at it if I ever tried.

Have you ever tried to dress a cranky 1-year old?  I have.  Ever tried to feed a tired 8-month old?  I have.  Ever tried to catch a naked and wet 2-year old who is all riled up after his bath?  I have.  Ever tried to put shoes on a 3-year old who Does. Not. Want. To. Go. To. School?  Yup.  I have.

My life is all moving targets now.  The deer of America better hope I never get a sudden urge to learn to love venison.  I’m pretty sure I could successfully spear hunt.  If I can get strained peas into a moving, crying pie-hole the size of a half-dollar with out spillage, I think I can hit something the size of a Toyota Camry with a giant stick.

3.  TEACHING —

I spent four years of my life in college learning how to become a successful teacher.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I spent most of that time drinking beer.  But, most (okay some) of the time I was not drinking beer, I was learning how to become a teacher.  I then spent another three years part-time in graduate school to further my education on education.  And, yet, nothing could prepare me like motherhood did.

I was a teacher for over a decade before I had a child of my own.  I was always pretty sure that I was awesome at teaching.  And, truthfully, I really was.  For reals.

But, when I became a mom, I understood the gravity and importance of working with other people’s babies.  Even though by the time they got to me, those babies were old enough to operate motor vehicles legally, they were all still the babies of other moms.  That means something very different to me now.

I try to listen a little harder, empathize a little more and dial back the sarcasm a bit with the young ‘uns.  My kids have taught me that every story they tell is important to them even if I can’t stand to hear about Thomas the Tank Engine one more time.  He wants to tell about it and it is the most important thing to him at that moment.  If I really hear him and show an interest in Thomas, maybe when he gets to be old enough to be my student, he will still tell me about the things that are important to him in those moments.  I have a feeling that I’ll want to know about those.

And, if I try to remember that every child is someone’s baby, I am able to hear them all a bit better.  And, I can feel for their situations a bit better.  And I can be a bit more aware of how my actions and words impact someone’s day (or life).

What a journey this has been so far.  I’ve learned much in a few short years.  I know that more is yet to come.  I look forward to growing with my children.  And, I feel blessed that the universe has chosen me to share this journey with the two most amazing boys in the world.

Now what?

This is hard.

That’s what she said.

No, seriously, this parenting stuff is tough.  I had no idea.

In my late 20’s, my husband and I decided that we’d casually try not to not try to make babies.  As our high school health teachers insisted, getting pregnant was really easy and can happen even after only one night of adolescent ridiculousness, so we assumed that our lackadaisical attitude about birth control would naturally result in a sweet bundle of joy.

Wrong.

Infertility is enormously common.  When I was 16, I thought that infertility happened to old, gross people only or was a result of too much ‘shrooming in one’s youth.  I was apparently ignorant about sex and drugs.  At least I knew everything I needed to know about Rock and Roll.

My gynecologist told me to give it a year.  A YEAR.  At that point, insurance would label me infertile and would allow me to seek out a specialist.

That year passed.  I saw a specialist.  Another year passed.  Then another.

Finally, I became pregnant.  Then, I miscarried.  That was the single worst experience of my life.  But, within a few months, I became pregnant again and gave birth to my healthy, beautiful first son.  A second son followed a few years after that.

But, the story doesn’t end there.

I spent three years in doctors’ offices, having vaginal probes, ultrasounds, blood draws every few days, getting my uterine cells scraped, taking ovulation drugs, even getting surgery.  Then, I had a baby.

When my maternity leave ran out, the only thing I could think was, “Now what am I supposed to do?”

I was (and still am) so torn about what to do with  my life now that my identity has changed.  I spent years of my life focusing so hard on having a child; on eating right and taking my vitamins and seeing my doctor and journaling my routines.  Now, lady, you got your damn baby.  Now what will you DO with him?

Well, I don’t know, fucker.  I never THOUGHT about that.

Am I stay-at-home-mom material? (Nope.)  Can I handle seeing my kids for only an hour or so nightly then only on weekends when I also have to do laundry, go grocery shopping, run errands and catch up on other work? (Nope.)  Will my job let me work part-time so that I can find that magical “balance” that everyone seems to tell me I must find in order to keep my sanity?  (Nope.)  Am I prepared to give away one third of my annual salary for a nanny to care for my children in their own home?  (Nope.)  Do I want my child raised institutionally in a center with 30 other kids whose diapers may or may not get changed all day?  (Nope.)  Have I thought about how my child will get to and from preschool at the hours of 8 AM and 11 AM while I am at work?  (Nope.)  Do I want my kids at a babysitter’s house every day where they just stare at the TV all day?  (Nope.)  Does my family want to provide full-time childcare so that I can have my own life?  (Nope.)  Does my husband want to quit his job to be a stay-at-home-dad?  (Nope.)

So, now what?

I don’t know.

I went back to work and we decided to go ahead and give away that third of my salary for that nanny.  She’s spectacular.  She’s exactly who I’d pick if I could hand-pick anyone on the planet to be with my kids if it wasn’t going to be my husband or me.

But, I still feel empty.  Or I feel as though something isn’t quite right.  Or I feel as though there must be a better “balance.”  I don’t know what I feel but it isn’t the pure joy I imagined I would have once chiildren came into my life.

The problem is NOT my kids.  Sure, I complain about them and their tantrums, poopsplosions, hard-headedness, terrible sleep patterns and tendencies to get into and destroy everything of value in my home.

But, ultimately, the problem is ME.

I have an obligation to provide for my children and family emotionally, financially, spiritually, nutritionally.  I have a duty to myself to become a strong person, good role model, and productive member of society for my own mental well-being and so that I show my boys the type of woman I hope they’ll admire and one day marry.  I have a responsibility to my husband not to allow him to shoulder the entire burden of providing for this family’s needs and wants,; and to provide him with a good partner in life — someone who is whole, who is happy, who is capable of standing by his side.

So, now what?

Lady, you wanted these kids so badly.  Now what are you going to do — how are your going to shape your lives together – how are you going to live out this dream now that it is all so real?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

“Bikinis, zucchinis, martinis, no weenies”

 

With his phenomenal lyrical prowess, it is shocking -- shocking, I say -- that Juvenile didn't go further in his career.

The older I get, the older I get.

I barely understood my own youth culture half the time.

Then, I became a teacher. I thought I was young and easy to relate to at 22. But in actuality, I had no patience for or frame of reference by which to truly understand pants that start at your thighs, giant, tire-sized piercings or obsessions with Justin Bieber.

If I can’t even relate to a Juvenile (yeah–that was really his stage name. I don’t think irony was intended) song that came out the same year I graduated from college, I don’t know how I will be able to connect with my kids’ generation.

Yet, I still try to understand that song from the 90’s. I heard it today. Here’s what I gathered:

The gentleman insists that his female companion reverse her direction and move her pear-shaped physique in his direction. Repeatedly. Perhaps this young woman is afflicted with some type of malady that increases the size of her hindquarters and also causes her to be hard of hearing. If, indeed, she were suffering from hearing loss, that would be unfortunate since she’d miss the opportunity to hear the veritable cornucopia of words that rhyme with “yeah,” most of which, not surprisingly, are actually the word “yeah” itself. Fascinating.  And it doesn’t end there.

Ummm...it's not just me, right? I can't be the only one who doesn't understand how some people get to be famous.

Does Britney Spears really resurrect the world’s worst pick-up line from about 1982 and ask, “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?”  Did Will Smith not teach his kid better writing ideas other than “I whip my hair back and forth?”  Did Nicki Minaj just say that her panties were coming off?  Did the Black Eyed Peas really tell me to, “Get up off [their] genitals?”  Just when I didn’t think it could get worse than “My Humps.”  But, then, I realized that J. Lo’s 2011 song features a briliant piece of artistry: 

“That badonkadonk is like a trunk full of bass on an old-school Chevy
Seven tray donky donk
All I need is some vodka and some shonky-tonk
And watch she gon’ get Donkey Kong”

>sigh<  I just don’t even know what to say about that.  Luckily, someone else did:  http://entertainment.ca.msn.com/music/photos/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=29514912&page=10

 

There's a novel idea: THINKING. Thank you, Chuck D.

I used to think that my parents were so lame because they thought that 10,000 Maniacs were a riotous punk bank (they must be with that name, right?) and that Nirvana was shocking for busting up so many guitars.  And, forget gangsta rap from my youth of the late 80’s — I wasn’t allowed to listen to it, but at least it had a message.  And a point.  If you tell me that 9-1-1 is a “joke,” I can at least understand your plight in the American ghettos and the idea that your community is continually ignored by the very system that is supposed to save human lives.  What I will not soon understand is Rihanna begging to be loved like she’s “a hot pie.” 

I don’t know what I would do if I had to listen to my kids hear Katy Perry ask to see someone’s peacock, cock, cock, cock. Honestly. That’s a real song, people. I wish I were kidding.

When my 3-year old is 16, what crap will he be listening to?  And what stupid shit is he going to do to his hair?

What I’d love to know is whether I am just old and out of touch or if popular culture is just becoming that much more vapid. 

Your daughter's role model. I actually found a picture that wasn't overtly sexual. Winning.

Of course, I prefer to believe that youth culture sucks.  I don’t think that’s all there is to it, though. 

Truth is, I am now my parents.  How did that happen?

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