Off Duty Mom

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

Archive for the tag “motherhood”

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.

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A change is brewin’

I’m 39.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I am going to start one.

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

Fuck you, 65-year old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join me.

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.

 

*Poop*

Why don’t people want to talk about diarrhea?

No one ever has diarrhea, you know?  I mean, people have “stomach problems,” but never just the shits.

I know that it’s gross and smelly and sometimes painful and embarrassing.  But, so was childbirth and every vagina-owner who has ever pushed a baby into the world wants to tell you the details:  vomiting, water breaking, perineal tearing, stretch marks, back labor…you name it, baby mamas wanna share it with you.

These same moms have been peed on, kicked, farted on, have strained peas thrown into their hair, and have cleaned up more bodily fluids (and not-so-fluids) than any HazMat worker will in a week.  But, still no one ever wants to admit to ever having the squirts.

I have seen some of my friends get blind-drunk and vomit all over themselves.  But, none of those people EVER had the green-apple-quick-step.  Supposedly.

Now, I am not necessarily proposing that we all come out of the shart closet and start sharing the details of these unpleasant experiences.  In real life, I am actually fairly modest and truly value my privacy.  There is a reason why I don’t share my real name when I blog.

But, I just find it really amusing that the only thing that is truly off limits in conversation (even among your better friends) is diarrhea.  Religion, politics, abortion, capital punishment, our diseases, our surgeries and our mental health issues are all far less taboo than this thing that occasionally happens to every human on the planet.  I mean, all kinds of yahoos want to espouse their so-called knowledge on the education/justice/healthcare/political/environmental/immigration systems in this country, but no one really wants to talk about something they actually KNOW.

 

Go figure.

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

 

Seeking Writers

We haven’t done a guest-post series in quite some time.

The world is long overdue for a great series like the one we did on infertility about a year and a half ago.

We had a number of amazing, funny, heartbreaking submissions and I think that it is time to showcase some serious talent again.

The next Off Duty Mom Guest Series will feature articles about the topic of

Embarrassing Stories I Don’t Want My Mom to Know

So, did you do something stupid/hilarious/dangerous/moderately legal in your younger years that our readers would find endearing, funny or adorable?  Did that ridiculous thing you did result in embarrassment, shame or imprisonment that we can all laugh at together?

Have you been in a situation that is funny now, but was mortifying then?  Would your mama slap you silly if she knew you stole that/ate that/went there/dated him/failed that class/drank that Kool-Aid/posed for that picture?

Let’s laugh and cry together.  Share your funny and embarrassing story to be posted in a Mother’s Day series.  Let us be glad that you’re not our kid…

 

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.

I’m old and out of touch, just like I swore I’d never be…

I have been making a mental list of things I don’t understand.

It’s a long one.

(That’s what she said.)

And, being both a mother and a teacher I am therefore surrounded by young people for the vast majority of my waking hours.  And, you might think that this would aid me in my quest for ultimate world domination and superiority over others, but you’d be wrong.  Being around young people just makes me realize how little I know about the world around me.

macbethI have, like, a couple of degrees and whatnot.  I’m, you know, smart ‘n stuff.  I can recite a heaping chunk of the prologue of “The Canterbury Tales” in the original Middle English.  I can recall the entire first scene of “Macbeth” from memory.  I can say the alphabet backwards.  I know all the words to REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”  I know my IQ.  I am not telling you what it is, but let’s just say that I’m not not telling you ‘cuz I’m embarassed, but because I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself.

And, yet, since I am swimming in a sea of Disney-Beiber-CallofDuty-Miley-Legos-XBoxLive-ness, I too often feel like a dipshit.

maniacsI remember being a teenager and just “knowing” that my folks were so out-of-touch.  They didn’t know ANYTHING about REALITY because they thought that 10,000 Maniacs were an LA gang and that Nirvana was Viking heaven.

Of course, my parents felt that their lack of knowledge of popular culture was irrelevant and that the real REALITY was, you know, mortgages and car insurance and W2s and that sort of thing.

I agree that personal finance is closer to relevant than knowing all of the stock characters on Saturday Night Live might be.  Nevertheless, I feel just a little silly and old when I realize how much there is that I don’t know.

galtLike this:

Who is Benedict Cumberbatch? (I know who John Galt is, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to matter to the people on Pinterest as much.)

Wasn’t “Dr. Who” a TV show in the 80’s?  Why is everyone talking about it now?

Name one song by Macklemore that isn’t “Thrift Shop.”  I dare you.  (Actually, don’t.  You probably can name 20 and then I will just feel worse.)

Who the fuck is ASAP Rocky?  (And why does one student keep insisting he is better than Tupac?  I never even heard the name ‘ASAP Rocky’ before, but I can tell you that it doesn’t matter.  There is no fucking way he is better than Tupac.)

Does anyone actually believe that Katy Perry, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus are feminists?

greeneAm I the only person on the planet who hasn’t yet read The Fault in Our Stars? (I’ve read almost everything William Shakespeare has ever written.  Aren’t I done reading things yet?)

At the end of the day, though, folks, I have to admit that I love learning.  So, if anyone out there can enlighten me regarding any of this or can share some wisdom with me about our world, I am more than interested in hearing about it.  Feel free to share the answers to these pressing questions in the comments section or pose a few of your own.

Thanks for reading!

I Don’t Believe in Special Ed.

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, I have one gay friend.

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

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

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

I am okay with that.

So, here is the deal:

I do not believe in Special Education.

I know.

But, let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Raising Your Boyfriend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it has come to this

It is possible to be lost in a familiar place

To be both empty and full.

Sometimes it just happens that way.

And there might be a moment that passes by on a cloud

With a whisper and a breath like honeysuckle in August.

It might be possible to realize that it is all sort of a joke

That isn’t really funny

When you’re the only one left in your neighborhood not

Riding a bike to Whole Foods, toting reusable cloth bags.

And they don’t make bikes that come equipped with sidecars

For your munchkins (of which there seem like there are so many that you might as well sell your house and live in a shoe).

And, it is even harder being cool enough to have mojitos after work with the gang

When you have to leave a paying job for a thankless one from which you will never retire.

But, you were never really cool, anyway, and there are very small people in your life who remind you of that every chance they get.

frazzledYou sway from tired to wired depending on whether coffee or Xanax were easier for you to reach.

You hear a bump in the night and are more certain that it will soon be followed with the sounds of someone stuck upside-down in a trash can, inches away from a crib

Than you are that it is someone in the rumpus room trying to steal your big screen.

‘Cause you can’t afford a big screen, anyway.  You’re saving for Disney.

And it has come to this.

So it goes.

There was a time when you’d be lost in Vonnegut at midnight.

And before that you’d have been lost in the bottom of a filthy mug

In a place you’ve since forgotten, but you still remember that it was too sketchy to risk sitting on a chair or, you know, touching anything.

But, now you seem to have forgotten what midnight looks like,

Except, of course, when it comes into your world because of an emergency

And the connector of those circumstances and these

Is someone else’s vomit on your feet.

So it goes.

You’ve tried and tried to hide and cry alone in a bathroom for Just. One. Goddamn. Minute.  PLEASE.

But there’s never not a knock at the door.

So it goes.

I believe I can see the future
Cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
But then again
That might have been a dream
I think I used to have a voice
Now I never make a sound
I just do what I’ve been told

So it goes.

 

 

Surviving Teendom

Teen angst.

Ugh.

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

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

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

 

Yes, it’s my kid.

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

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Guest Post by Stephanie Friant

You know, the one who starts poking the boy next to him during the end-of-year school show.

The one who has six different projects going on at the same time – then corrects me that it is only three.

The one who pulled the fire alarm at church because he wanted to know what it does.  (Special thanks to Fireman Luke who then handed out stickers.)

And the classic, after dumping all his books on the floor trying to find one particular story, his response to why he hadn’t picked them up was:  “I told [my little sister] to do it.”

He keeps me running.  I have spent so many days trying to get one step-ahead of him, but rarely ever get there.

I hope and pray that I can love him enough that the world will continue to be an adventure, a safe place.  Yet, I also know that at some point, I will be running miles behind him.

He has been, is, and will always be a gift.

He has stretched my mind and heart and spirit in ways I never thought possible.

This being of joy, love and unpredictability has transformed my world, allowing me to embrace the beauty of the unknown.

He is part of me and completely separate.  He is a mirror highlighting all my shadows, yet loving me regardless.

He will always be a bit of a mystery to me, yet in my own way, I get him.  I understand him as only a mother can – a being who miraculously made room for himself inside my own body, and now continuing to make room for himself in the world.  He is of my flesh, and will always be of my heart.

Stephanie Friant is a wife, mom, and friend with a calling for professional ministry.  She loves learning, writing, being outdoors, and helping others on their spiritual journeys.  Stephanie lives with her family in the Twin Cities and retreating to the cottage in Northern Michigan.

An ode to my mother

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

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Guest Post by Jayde-Ashe

I am not a mother but I have a mother.
She is the most motherly mother that a mother could be.
My mother got no choice when they handed out children.
No, instead, my mother got me.

Not a daughter created within her own image.
Not as patient, and gentle, and respectful as she.
A moody child, impetuous, precocious and whiney.
Dismissive of all but the most desperate plea

To behave, sit still, slow down and be careful
To stop pulling away and attempting to flee.
To stop making decisions, always the wrong ones
To protect, and respect, and maintain dignity.

Never once did my mother embarrassingly ask
The question my father asked 13-year-old me.
What the most precious thing that I owned in the world was.
9 letters, 3 i’s and beginning with v.

Never once did my mother fail to be there
When I came back to her grasp in distressed agony.
Upset, disabused and completely forsaken
By a world who was not as forgiving as she.

The path that I chose was as far removed from
The path that she trod, as it could possibly be.
Yet the mother I love refused to pass judgement
On the daughter she raised so diligently.

She listens, reflects and makes gentle suggestions
Pointing out that which I fail to see.
For my youth, and my ignorance, my self-righteous beliefs
Obscure my vision continually.

And for that my mother is the one person in life
Who I admire, and respect, so effortlessly.
A person I now always strive to be like
Though I fail every day, absolute guarantee.

I am a 26 year old wanna-be writer, poet and publisher, enjoying a year of shameless unemployment. I am new to the blogosphere but I can foresee endless potential for procrastination already.  I love coffee, wine and gin, not necessarily in that order. But they are all an essential accompaniment to my other love, a good book.  Most of all, I love my mother, and I’m not ashamed to say it. She is the coolest person I know.

Hooray for Mother’s Day!

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

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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.

Congratulations! You have Water-Elf Disease!

Much is debatable in this day and age.  We are constantly inundated with arguments of political, sociological, theological, philosophical and historical nature.

According to some sites, this little guy has Yellow Fever, Acid Reflux, Bubonic Plague and a splinter.

According to some sites, this little guy has Yellow Fever, Acid Reflux, Bubonic Plague and a splinter.

I think we can all agree on one thing, though:  the best place for medical advice is the internet.

According to WebMD, I may have Cystic Fibrosis, Emphysema, Multiple Sclerosis, Windburn, Breast Cancer, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Dementia, Hepatits A, B or C, Lyme Disease, Malnutrition, Typhoid Fever or Radon Exposure.

To be clear, the sypmtoms I put in were related to being tired.  When asked if I bruise easily, I said that I do.  I also responded that I do, indeed, have dry skin.

That’s it.  From that, WebMD has determined that I have Typhoid Fever, which is frankly not something I have heard of since I used to play Oregon Trail on that one computer we had in the school library during study hall.

Other websites asked other batteries of questions that I answered honestly.  My potential diagnoses ranged from cancer and HIV to dehydration and mild anxiety.

When I put my main complaint as “fatigue,” though, not one website asked me if I was a parent.  Therefore, I was certainly not ever asked if I was a parent of two small children who sometimes have fights that must be broken up and who run seemingly incessantly during waking hours, or if in addition to my work as a parent I also worked a full-time paying job that required me to have a high level of patience and to stand for long periods of time, or if I live in a part of the country not prone to sunshine and year-round weather where my family and I could enjoy fresh air and Vitamin D, or if my boss was a dick, my family didn’t get along, my bills were piling up, my pet needed medical care, my house needed to be cleaned, my car needed to go to the mechanic, or my son’s preschool was giving me shit because I can’t volunteer or be around like the Stay-At-Home Moms can.

For, if the mighty internet had asked some of those questions, it might have come up with something more insightful and less alarming for my condition other than Syphilis.

And, while I don’t have ALL of the above listed “symptoms,” there are people who do.  And, on any given day, we all have a pile of crap we’re dealing with.

Just how DOES she do it?Oh...that's how...

Just how DOES she do it?
Oh…that’s how…

So, this all makes me wonder if anyone is really making the WonderParent thing work.

I would like to hear from you.  If you are a SuperMom or a SuperDad, please comment.  I would love to hear your tips and pointers for getting my act together and becoming the multi-armed Hindu Goddess-type I always thought I might be.

 

Advice for Moms

Want my advice?

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

Whaaaaaat?

Whaaaaaat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Yowza! Fingers crossed!!

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Think about supporting one of your favorite blogs (how could ODM not be a favorite, right?).

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I lost my Parent Manual

Blue.

Fire Engine.

Hiccups.

Golf tees.

Balloons.

Giant giraffes eating grass in the windy fields.

Bananas.

Yellow lillies.

Craptacular.

This is what happens when my mind wanders.

Did you ever do this exercise?  You just completely refuse to censor yourself and allow whatever gobbledegook that wants to come out, come out.  I ain’t no Hemingway, that’s for sure.  When my mind wanders I don’t get “Hills Like White Elephants.”  I get golf tees and bananas.

All of our babies can be gifted, it appears...

All of our babies can be gifted, it appears…

So, I wonder what are the signs of an extraordinary mind?  How do you tell if you’re truly gifted?  Better yet, how do you tell if your kid is?

As a teacher, I have a very clear and thorough answer to that question.  I have worked with “Gifted and Talented” students for a large percentage of my educational career.  I can spot a truly academically gifted child from a mile away.

But, that’s not really what I am talking about here.

I have known perfectly average kids who have gone on to achieve true greatness in their chosen fields:  biomedicine, law, communications, science (actually, I say “science” because I don’t even understand what this one kid does.  He works for the government doing something with aerospace engineering.  It is way too smart for me to get).  I have also known students who were labeled as “Gifted,” but went on to live in their parents’ basements or work in jobs that don’t even require high school diplomas.

So, when you are raising a little one, how do you know how to recognize talents, how do you determine what is the best way to harness those talents and how do you go about encouraging growth without pushing your kid to become a toddler with a tiara or a mini-Tonya-Harding crazed on winning at all costs?

Well, I don’t actually know.

This is not your mamma’s advice column.

I am just like you:  someone a little lost, fumbling through life in the most graceful way possible (which often is very clumsy, indeed).

One day, though, I suspect we both would like to look back and believe that we did a really great job of raising some really great kids.

But, when your 4-year old seems to gravitate toward, have a genuine interest in and be weirdly good at golf, video games, reading, baseball, painting, writing, and building things (and he appears to be adept at picking up on foreign languages, exhibits kindness and compassion that is not typical for a child so young, is naturally organized, has a freakishly good long- and short-term memory, and has a spoken vocabulary that puts kids twice his age to shame), what are you supposed to do?  Do I try to help him focus and perfect one or a few of those talents?  Do I let him decide first where his joy is most commonly found?  Do I sit back and let this all play out the way he would like it to?  Do I offer enrichment in any of those activities?  Which ones?  And, do I try to have him work on areas where he doesn’t excel so naturally just to help him become more well-rounded?

Yup.

Yup.

Ugh.  There is a whole lot to this parenting stuff.

I, again, was not properly prepared.  I really do want to know where the Parent Manual is.

I am very interested to hear all of your thoughts.  It would be especially nice to hear from more veteran parents regarding how  you assess and foster your children’s talents and skills.

Please comment.  We could all use the advice, I suspect!

Every parent out there wants to make sure that the job gets done right.

Or, well, you know, right enough.

I think we can all agree that we just don’t want to end up with this:

lohan

Or this:

children

Or this:

rush

Agreed?

 

Shakespeare in the bathroom

If you are a parent of a child under age 8 and  you have read a book in the last year, please tell me two things:

1.  What was the book?

2.  How the fuck did you find time to read a book?

I never was very bookish as a kid.  I actually hated reading for a large portion of my life.  And, yet I became an English major in college.  Go figure.  I am a fabulous mystery.

Nevertheless, as an adult, and ever since The DaVinci Code (the book, not the movie.  The movie suuuuuucked), I have been on a quest for the ultimate page-turner.  And, by “quest,” nowadays I, of course, mean “wishful thinking that I might get ten uninterrupted minutes to read a good book.

Not Fifty Shades of Grey.  A GOOD book.

So, I am looking for suggestions so when I sneak a few minutes in the bathroom every now and again, I can fumble my way through a page or two of literature.  And, by the way, tell NO ONE of my bathroom secret.  No one has to poop that much, people.  Come on.  I am just trying to get some peace and quiet.  Some day, I fear they will catch on…

And, I should have you know that I am a total book snob.  Please do not recommend I sink my teeth into some bodice-ripper or junk novel written by a stay-at-home-mom.  No disrespect to SAHMs.  I am sure many of you are very literate.  But, I am looking for something to hang in there with my loves of Hamlet and Native Son.  I don’t mean to imply that working moms could fill this void, either.  AUTHORS of merit can do it for me, though.  Classics.  Enduring craftsmanship.  Art.  Well-themed wordsmithery.

So, suggest away, friends.  I am all ears.  Until I have to make dinner.  And by “dinner,” I, of course, mean “an order to the local Chinese takeout place.”

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!

Sex Sells

I have been feeling unmotivated lately.

I’ve not posted here in a while because I (for once) haven’t had much to say.  This is pretty unusual for me in general.  I typically do not shut up.  Like, ever.

So, instead of trying to force it here, I thought I would just make a post that we can all enjoy…

Here you go.

Historic movie eye candy.kevin

You’re welcome.taye2

brad carypaulgeorgejamesmarlondaniel     leo  mattwillsean patrick

Happy nearly New Year

We have one last scheduled post in the December fertility series!

Please stop by tomorrow to read the final installment of the group. It is a story you shouldn’t miss.

Then, we return to snark, sarcasm, offensive language and cracking ourselves up. We soon shall return to posts that really made ODM what it is. We ain’t forgettin’ our bread-n-butter, yo.

And, it looks like February will be all about sex, everyone. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we will be offering a Sex-After-Kids mini-series. If any of you is interested in Guest Posting, please let us know through Facebook.

Happy holidays!

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