Off Duty Mom

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

Archive for the tag “parenthood”

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.

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Be better

FUCKING MILLENNIALS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bear Hunters and Future Whores

The bar for overzealous geekery has been raised.

While watching an episode of “Cosmos” (which, by the way is A-freaking-mazing) I became giddy with nerdtastic delight when I heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson refer to an Event Horizon as a place “from which no traveler returns.”

For my fellow book-snobs, you, too, may recognize that as a quote from Hamlet.

My nerd cup runneth over.

And, my brain hurts as I sit and ponder whether our Earth could really just be contained inside of a universe that was pulled into a black hole and only exists because the properties of physics in the external universe changed in such a way as to construct our existence.  And, I think about Kurt Vonnegut’s message in Slaughter-House Five when he wrote about the possibility of human understanding of time to be insufficient to the reality of it.

You see, geek though I may be, I do seek to increase my understanding of that which is around me.

Books (though much more so as an adult than they were when I was younger) open my mind to understanding reality in new ways.  It’s so empowering and exciting.

It would be important to note, however, that not all books have this impact.  In fact, some, I might assert, actually make humankind stoopider.  God (or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) help our children.  Literature for little ones is a minefield of suck.

For example:

1. The Rainbow Fish – My kid loves this book.  He has little cut-outs of fish all over his room now and he loves to look at and play with them.  But, this highly-regarded book really burns my ass.  Lemme lay it out for ya:  The story revolves around a pompous rainbow fish who has sparkly scales.  Personally, I believe that the sparkle is really what attracts kids (and some parents) to the book.  Nobody likes this fish because he (or she — I don’t care enough to remember) has such beautiful scales.  Many other fishes ask him if they can have just one scale and he says “no.”  Fast-forward to the end of the book when he gives away each of his sparkly scales one-by-one and then people like him.

So, let me get this right:  I am teaching my kid to give up parts of himself to others so he can buy friends?  Thank God I don’t have a little girl.  I would have a serious problem with the idea of selling your body for popularity.  I venture to say that this is a slightly less terrifying message for the moms of boys, but perhaps not.

2.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — A family inexplicably goes, you know, on a bear hunt.  Pardon me for taking this to mean that they intend to catch, see, kill or meet a bear.  They even take their toddler to go visit one of Earth’s greatest killing machines.  They are subsequently shocked and terrified once they actually find a bear.  No one thought to bring any sort of protective gear.  They were gone all damn day and trekked through all kinds of treacherous bullshit and didn’t even pack a granola bar or a bottle of Dasani.

The final page, though, is what really pisses me off.  You see, the family runs away from the bear once they find it.  The bear, by the way, apparently lives at the beach, so I do question the authors’ understanding of environmental science, but whatever.  But, on the very last page, the bear looks completely melancholy with shoulders slumped as he skulks back to his cave not having been able to chase the ridiculously unprepared family into their home.  My nerdessness reminds me of Frankenstein’s monster and I wonder if the illustrator might have been trying to make some sort of philosophical statement about seeking someone/thing out just to reject it.  The pop-culture weirdo in me thinks of that scene from “Never Been Kissed” when Drew Barrymore is hit with raw eggs while she awaits her nonexistent prom date.  People are assholes.  That’s what I learn from this book.

3.  Harry by the Sea — A family of dickheads takes their dog on vacation with them.  Harry, the dog, is the only one of them cloaked in a permanent fur coat, but that does not seem to matter to them.  They banish him from the shade of the umbrella they brought with them.  Even the kids give Harry shit for wanting to play with them.  Excuuuuuuse Harry for wanting to be, oh — I don’t know — A DOG.  Harry wanders from his family, is mistaken for a sea monster, gets yelled at by a fat lady, is nearly trapped by two Keystone Cop-esque beach patrol numbnuts and suffers temporary deafness.  Only once a food vendor feeds him (perhaps because his asshole family wasn’t going to bother to) do the kids come and find him (where the fuck are the parents?), claiming that they miss him and want him to come back.

Keep in mind, folks, that the family nooooooow decides to get a new umbrella so Harry doesn’t have to die of heatstroke while on the beach in the motherfucking middle of the summer.  So, the lesson we are teaching kids is:  When irresponsibly taking your family pet to a place that is inherently unhealthy for him, don’t wait until some stranger feeds him processed meat products before you start giving a shit about him.

Maybe that actually isn’t the worst one, then.

Have a children’s book you’ve read (hell — ANY book, really) that doesn’t seem to resonate with you the same way it did with critics or others who read it?  I’d love it if you shared.

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.

 

 

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.

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.”

What not to do

After reading a hilarious list of recommendations one parent makes for her growing children, I decided to search my own past in an effort to see if there might be a way I could pass on the lessons I’ve learned from making mistakes and seeing people close to me make them, too.  With luck, my children won’t have to repeat some of these most embarrassing, dangerous, stupid, thoughtless, illegal, and careless moments.

So here it is:  things you should learn NOT to do…

Good times…

1.  At the age of 19 do not get rip-roaring drunk on St. Patrick’s Day and then throw up in front of a city police officer.  He may chuckle at your misfortune at the time, but he is only not arresting you because the paddywagon is full.  Know your limits, kids.  The next time there just might be a seat for you.

2.  Pulling the fire alarm in a dorm full of students – multiple times – over multiple days – is not funny.  And it is a felony.  Ooops.

3.  When you get your first real job, keep your mouth shut for the first three months.  This is a hard-and-fast rule.  Learn it.  Live it.  Your new coworkers are not your friends yet and you don’t know who is the office snitch, who is the office kiss-ass, who is the office gossip, who is the office backstabber and who is the office slut.  You do not want to find out who these people are the hard way.  Speak to no one about anything other than your immediate projects for at least three months.  For realsies.

4.  Everyone needs therapy.  EVERYONE.  So, when you navigate through life, do not waste time here.  Be jealous of no one.  Everyone is carrying baggage.  Some of us are just better at hiding it.  Take making friends seriously.  Only a few people, in the end, will truly be there for you, so choose them very wisely.  And, if you choose to allow the people with the wrong kind of baggage into your world, you’ll learn some valuable lessons, but only after cleaning up a whole lot of crap first.

5. Do not trust people who do not have real names.  If you know a bunch of guys who are known only as “Iggy Fresh,” “The Sandman” and “Blue Cheese,” you should think of keeping them at arm’s length.  If you find that as a college freshman, after a night of partying, you are no longer able to see your own reflection in a mirror, but are able to see everything else in the room, you should stop hanging out with these guys altogether.  They are bad news.

6.  Under no circumstances should you believe that there can be such a things as “friends with benefits.”  I have seen this situation end in every possible scenario from simple jealousy to date rape.  Stop it.

7.  Speaking of this…If you own a penis, keep it to yourself.  There is no limit to the trouble that thing can get you into.  Make a commitment and fuck only the woman who you also plan to take to dinner the next night and introduce to your friends.

8. Do not be a bump on a log.  In childhood, the teen years, college and young adulthood, laziness and inactivity lead to everything from obesity to an inability to form meaningful relationships.  You need to learn teamwork and discover your interests and talents.  Join a club, play a sport, volunteer.  Get out of your mama’s basement, yo.  Walk away from the X-Box.

Like, totally…

9.  Dumb is not sexy.  Ladies, if you think that the way to snag a man is to twirl your hair, giggle and say that math is hard, you will surely attract only men who like vapid, useless, mindless women.  Can you think of the kind of men who prey on vapid, useless, mindless women?  Do they sound like keepers?  Read a book.  When the right time comes, the right man will find your extensive knowledge about re-purposed fossil fuels and the Electoral College process to be intensely attractive.

10.  Finally, do not ever think that you are “grown up.”  When you are young and naive, you want everyone to think you are “grown up” so that they will give you responsibilities and trust and respect.  When you get older and wiser you realize that being “grown up” sucks.  If you keep a sense of humor and remember to try to stay (appropriately) youthful, you’ll remember that you are never a completed model, there is always room for growth and there is always time for FUN.  Never be too busy to make snow angels.

 

(Almost) Last Call for Submissions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing!

It won’t always be this way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Justifiable Alcoholism

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

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

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

Yup-Yup.

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

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

Where have you been all my life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is everything WET?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thar she blows!
Photo found through JesusIsCreator.org

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

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

So, lesson learned.

Pee-Pees are hard to deal with.

That’s what she said.

Whatchu want? Baby, I got it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I welcome your ideas and feedback!

They don’t call it an “idiot box” for nothing…

Ever stop to really check out what your kids are watching?

Of course you have.  That’s why you know all of the words to the Wiggles theme song and why you wake up in a cold sweat wondering where you put all of Jake’s gold doubloons.

There’s really something out there for everyone’s little ones.  

For the spawn of fomer club kids, there’s Lazy Town (Sprout).  It has everything.  Girl in Katy Perry wig?  Check.  Superhero who fights crimes with Cheer Dance?  Perfectly-coifed, chisel-chinned villain with high-waisted pants that are, frankly, so fabulous that they deserve three snaps in a “Z” formation?  Check and check.  Plastic puppet people?  Check.  Seriously.  I can’t tell if the people who invented the show are all on ecstasy, are very, very gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or are just European.  One look at the credits and their overabundance of “S”s (names like Samuelsson, Karlsson, Joahnsson) tells me that it is door #3.  

Hmmm...

Speaking of drug-fueled children’s entertainment, ever seen Yo Gabba Gabba (Nick Jr)?  If those folks aren’t on acid, then Gordon the Express Engine isn’t the fastest steamie on the island of Sodor.  Wait.  Oh, preschool entertainment is all becoming a jumble…  My mind is mush.  Calgon, take me away…

But, there’s more.  Want your kids to love James Bond as much as you do?  There’s Special Agent Oso (Disney Junior).  One part 007, one part Get Smart and one part Teddy Ruxpin, this “unique, stuffed bear” is actually very cute and offers something for the parents and the grandparents with its wink and nod to the bygone spy genre. 

When you were a kid, did you love Sesame Street  (PBS) and think that that new red monster, Elmo, was kinda cute?  Good.  Watch Sesame Street now.  He’s staged a coup and is pretty much all that is on that show anymore. 

Remember how Jem was truly outrageous when you were little?  Well, girl power has come along way and now the kids have Dora the Explorer (Nick Jr.).  A little girl of unknown Latin origin helps your kids learn Spanish and learn about the world with the help of a moderately annoying monkey.  The preschool set (particularly the little girls) find it totally addictive.  You’ll find it tolerable, at least.

Someone let me know if you figure out why Caillou is bald, okay?

Want to see what the perfect child is like?  Watch a little Caillou (Sprout).  While you will find that this theme song will haunt your dreams, the show is kinda cute.  Except the title character (what the hell kind of name is that, anyway?) does things like turn down an opportunity to turn on the siren on a fire truck because it’s his friend’s “turn” to do so, and he comforts his little sister while she’s teething.  He also, of course, totally understands when he is too sick to attend his beloved preschool and perform his much-anticipated puppet show and he doesn’t whine, stomp, cry or bitch – EVER.  Just like my kid.

Want to watch a show where you won’t understand a damn word that anyone says, even though it is all in English?  Try Fireman Sam (Sprout).  Want to help your kids appreciate They Might Be Giants?  Watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Junior).

Honestly, there is something out there for everyone so that we all can plunk our kids down in front of the boob tube and go do shots of tequilla in the kitchen to numb the pain of ears that are bleeding from hearing “mom — mom — mommy — ma — mom — mom — mommy — MA!! — MOMMMMMMYYY!!” a little too often.

Any thoughts on other totally interesting children’s programming?  Feel free to comment here.

Who am I?

 

Trent Reznor made me understand  today.

While coming home from the grocery store, my Sirius/XM memory alert thingy ding-donged and let me know that one of my favorite songs was on another channel.  I absent-mindedly switched over.  

Then, I suddenly found myself alone in my car, radio blasting something from Pretty Hate Machine, singing as loudly as I could.  I was 16 again.

My Sirius is almost always tuned to Lithium.  I often hear them say, “You used to Rage Against the Machine.  Now you just rage against the washing machine.”  

THEN.

That pretty much says it all.

NOW.

Remember just having to worry about whether or not your parents UNDERSTOOD you?  Remember not even having to pay for your own gas money, even though your parents swore that you’d have to pay for all your own gas if you borrowed the car?  Remember knowing that you were going to graduate, go to college, get a degree, get married, have a kick-ass career, have a family, live in a house with a driveway, own a dog who could catch frisbees, and then eventually retire to Key West?

Neither did I.

Thought you were angsty, lost and uncertain when you were in 8th grade, though?  Try becoming a parent.

I realized today that one of my biggest struggles as a mother has been figuring out who I now am.  I thought I knew.  And, as I left my twenties and entered my thirties, I felt like so much more of myself and I was thrilled to leave a naïve, self-conscious young girl behind to become a strong, independent woman.  But, then I became a mom.

Everything I thought I understood about the person I was becoming -who I hoped to be- had changed. 

I had been driven in my career – focused, interested in moving up, begging for more responsibility.

Now I wish they’d let me just work part time.  Or telecommute.  Or just pay me to stay the hell home and do as little as possible.

I had been independent.  I enjoyed nights when my husband would work late because I’d take a long, hot shower, watch my favorite TV shows, read a book and eat Ramen noodles for dinner and drink a glass of wine.

Now I am pissed when my husband has to come home late because I am left by myself to deal with screaming tantrums, a family dinner he may or may not get home in time to eat, pureed peas in my hair, a pile of laundry, a stack of work to be completed for – you know – the people who PAY me, and a bank of shows in the DVR that might be watched  sometime before the summer of 2064.  And, you know, just walk away from your desk and come home, jerkface.  I can’t just stay at work whenever I want for however long I want.  Why are you special? 

When I was in high school, I knew exactly where I was going.  I didn’t need a guidance counselor to help me figure things out.   Now I just wish I could find someone to help me sort out my life.  Since I was born with a vagina, I have to choose now between primarily being a parent or being a careerperson.  There aren’t many ways to be both and to do both jobs as well as they can and should be done.   Interestingly, men don’t seem to have to make these kind of decisions.

Though I always figured that I wanted to have children, I never really knew that doing so would make me feel as though I had lost myself.  I am probably not ever going to get that PhD. I had always wanted now.  I will likely not, conversely, make it to every recital, meet, match, game, concert and event in which my children are involved.  Truth is, I don’t really know who I am anymore, and I don’t know anymore what I want to be when I grow up.  But, trying to be a supermom isn’t working out that well.

There’s a whole lot of animosity between stay-at-home moms and working moms.  Many working moms don’t respect the stay-at-home moms.  And, the stay-at-home moms don’t understand why the working moms want their children raised by nannies or institutions.  We should all start banding together and demanding more of American culture – demanding better workplace-based childcare, opportunities for at-home moms to be a part of working society, job flexibility, job sharing opportunities, more paid time off for family sick leaves,  and more mom-friendly business practices in general.

Though I found a little piece of the 1993-me I thought I had left behind today, I am glad not to be a teenager anymore.  I do really love my children and I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate.  I just wish that I could retreat for one afternoon, listen to Liz Phair on my Discman, paint my toenails with Revlon Vixen polish and watch reruns of My So-Called Life.  Just one afternoon is all I ask.  Maybe it will make me feel a little better…

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