Off Duty Mom

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

Archive for the tag “thoughts”

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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Day 4 of the Whole Life Challenge, or Please Make it Stop

I actually kind of fucking hate this challenge.

For those of you who do not know, the Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week fitness, health and wellness program that challenges you to treat your body well.  You are encouraged to eat right, get good sleep, drink lots of water, stretch, work out and be well.  There is a list of foods you can and cannot eat.  Let me break it down for you:  you can eat, like, celery.  You cannot eat any of the things that make you happy (dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, soda, chocolate, etc.).

Today I am especially grumpy and I really want to quit.  Like, a whole lot.  But, I won’t, even though water tastes like unhappiness.  Yes, I have tried “detox waters” and I have put lemon in my bottle and, no, it doesn’t fucking help.  If it isn’t Diet Coke or beer, I don’t really want it.  While I am allowed one glass of wine per week, that doesn’t do much to make me feel better.  I haven’t partaken in this for the first week yet because I am afraid to waste it, should a day arise where I need that small glass of comfort later in the week.  But, nevertheless, it is not Diet Coke, nor is it beer, so it will only be a small comfort.

Look — I am terribly overweight and I need to take better care of my children’s mother.  For far too long I have sought asylum within the beautiful confines of junk food and chemical additives.  It is no good at all.  But, I wonder if this is any way to live.  A long life without chocolate is not necessarily a better life, amirite?

Everyone keeps telling me that it will get better.  But, my muscles hurt from my workout, my tastebuds are mad at me and I am tired despite getting enough sleep.  I want to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself.

So, there is your little ray of sunshine from me today!  Please comment and tell me something happy in your life so I can live vicariously through you.  Or comment with a picture of french fries or with a story of how fit and healthy you are so I can be happy for/hate  you…

 

Day 3 of the Whole Life Challenge, or Stevia is NOT Sugar

I want to kill people less today.

I don’t have much else to report. But, I am sick of cooking so much. There is nothing Paleo at McDonalds. Why do I have to cooooooooook everything from scratch?

On another note, I went to CrossFit today and I can’t move my legs. So, standing over a stove has been unfun.

Tomorrow is a new day, right?

Day 2: Whole Life Challenge, or I Already Want to Murder People

Going “cold turkey” off of Diet Coke was a terrible idea.

And, after only two days, I want to quit and, really, the diet is not that hard. I mean, you get to eat bacon.

It’s an awful mental challenge. I haven’t had cheesecake in like a year. But, now that you TELL me I can’t have it, I obsessively want it. I feel like I’d push old people out of the way if cheesecake were within ten feet of me and grannies were in the way. I’d push ’em hard. I don’t care.

I feel sluggish and my head hurts  and everyone around me is annoying to me.

I want to quit but I am not going to.

I cried a little today when I reflected on how much weight I have gained since having kids and how I am pretty much the fattest woman at my gym.  And I cried when I realized my hands were shaking a little from caffeine withdrawal.

I remembered from those early days as a new mom that hot showers could cure some of the worst feelings.  So, I took my dog for a walk, stretched while listening to Portishead and then took a hot shower that wasted tons of water, I’m sure.

And, now I don’t want to kill EVERYONE, so there’s that.

I will blog again tomorrow and hopefully feel a little better.

Fingers crossed…

 

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.

 

A Shout-Out to my Homies Rockin’ it on a 19th-Century Farm

This morning, while watching the news, I was struck with a thought:  What the hell is happening to this generation?

Y’all know I’m a mom.  And, I am a high school teacher.  In my tenure in both of these important jobs, I have seen some sees.

But, lemme just tell you that what made me wonder about current culture wasn’t the fatal shooting I heard about that happened within the city limits of the school district where I worked for a decade before taking my current job.  It wasn’t the entertainment news that seemed to make it everyone’s business to care whether Beyonce is pregnant or not.

It was a car commercial.

This commercial was for a vehicle that boasted that it had “125 horses.”

It irked me for a number of reasons.

I shall list them for you not so much because I feel as though you have been waiting on the edge of your seat since July for me to post something fabulous, but rather because I loves me a good list.

1. Why “horses” and not “horsepower”?  Is this a sign of our getitdonenow times that signifies we are now just too George Jetson to be bothered with saying two extra syllables?  Is this a sign that the Orwell-ocalypse is upon us and we are paring down our already paltry American vocabulary?  Are Big Motor companies just going to start calling things “double-plus good” from now on?

2.  Why are we even referencing horsepower at all anymore?  Is there anyone on the non-Amish parts of the planet that can even identify the physics of the power of a single horse, thereby being able to fathom the force that can be generated when this energy is multiplied to represent 125 horses?  How relevant is this as a reference and what does it even mean.  I defy even ONE carbuyer to explain to me, plainly, what horsepower is in basic terms of force.

3.  Who really cares about horsepower, anyway, unless you are currently somehow living in 19th-century West Virginia and are tending to your crops?  When you know that a vehicle’s weight, the amount of friction that can occur, and basic torque are other (and perhaps better?) factors on which to judge how well a vehicle pulls, what is even the difference?  I get that some of you gun-rackers need them horsies to haul home your kill of buck for yer kin, but realistically, how much does horsepower even factor in to the average buyers’ concerns?

4.  Marketing sucks.  Big donkey balls.  Tricky wordsmithery, flashy bullshittitude, empty language, meaningless boasts:  I can’t even figure out if I really want a Diet Coke anymore or if the evil elves at Fancy Pants DoubleTalk Advertising Agency, Inc. have crept into my subconscious psyche and have fooled me.  “125 horses?” Bah.  I shant be swayed by your reference to the earth’s most majestic creatures.  (But, if it had “125-unicorn power” I might be sold.)

5.  Finally, Big Car Company:  you’re not cool.  The cool kids are all abbreviating their words so that shit is barely recognizable anymore.  Things are “totes adorbs,” and if you don’t get it, you’re probably just “jelly” of those of us who do, aight?  But, srsly, you, BCC, are comprised of a boardroom full of fat white men with whitish, thinning hair, blah-colored suits and eyeglasses.  Y’all ain’t turnt up and popular.  Stop acting a fool and use regs words, else I keep throwin’ shade at y’all.

 

Now that I have gotten that all out in the open, I do feel a tad better.   I mean, not about the world in which I am raising my children, but just better because I got to rant for a bit.  Thanks for the indulgence.

 

Reality as a Geezer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Can’t Tell You

I am an English teacher in an urban school with a diverse population of students who are, for the most part, really terrific.  I love my job even though I have been known to complain.  But, I complain because, you know, it’s WORK and that sometimes just sucks because it is, you know, WORK.

I am a mom, too.  This should come to no surprise to you, the person who is reading an entry on a blog titled “Off Duty Mom.”

But, my kids are still pretty small.  My oldest is in Kindergarten.  So, while I work daily (and have for hmfhmghph years) with teenagers (and, yes, actually enjoy the company of teenagers), I haven’t had the privilege yet of raising any teens of my own.

And, you’d be surprised the shit I hear as your teenager’s English teacher.  You’d be disgusted, embarrassed, shocked, terrified, enraged, and/or more than mildly amused at the things I both overhear and am told absolutely directly.

Here are just a few of the things I have dealt with in my time in this line of work:

*A sophomore student was once so high, she couldn’t spell her own name right.  I sent her to the nurse since that is our protocol when we suspect drug use.  She was back in my classroom a few minutes later because the nurse could not determine the cause of the student’s unusual behavior.  She then bragged (supposedly) out of my earshot about how much weed she had run through that morning.

*A group of 18-year old students had never heard of the Beatles.  Or Tupac.

*Last week I tried to get a 14-year old male student to stop cutting himself.  Last Thursday, he e-mailed me at 12:30 am apologizing for not being able to keep this promise.  He was treated at a nearby hospital for his self-inflicted injuries.

*For the past two months, a 9th grade boy I know who is a fabulously top-notch student has been dating one of the worst human beings imaginable.  He is an athlete, he’s well-liked, he is a straight-A student.  He is articulate and personable and handsome.  His girlfriend and her mother have been taken to court twice for the girl’s truancy.  She has failed every single one of her classes every quarter since the beginning of the year.  When she is in school, she does very little actual work and mostly just casts her head downward, looking at teachers and classmates above imaginary glasses the way a Bond villain might.  I can’t tell this boy’s mother that his girlfriend is a bad influence because this would be considered inappropriate and a breach of the girl’s confidentiality.

*A Freshman boy asked me why everyone was so sad in the 20th century.  He was referring to the Great Depression, I figured out from talking with him for a few minutes.

*A 15-year old boy today just proudly announced that he was off his ADD meds.  The class looked at him, puzzled.  He, I think, was hoping for applause.

*A 16-year old boy has been confiding in me for months that his alcoholic mother physically abuses him and his father (the parents are separated) steals from him.  Yes, I have notified my superiors.  The boy and his family have been to court.  The courts have found that the boy is in a “safe” environment.  Since the abuse and thefts have started, the boy has been arrested 5 times for lashing out at others violently.  No one gives a shit if I think that this is a behavior he learned from his mother who beats the living crap out of him when she’s on the bottle.

*I suspect that a student of mine is on the Autism spectrum.  I cannot suggest this to her parents as I am not a certified medical practitioner and cannot legally make any determination or even suggestion about her health.  I referred her to a guidance counselor for evaluation, but because the young lady was already being tutored, the parents chalked up her bad grades to a basic need to step up her tutoring and denied any further evaluations.

*A 9th grade student asked me if the book we were reading took place in the time of slavery.  It was set in the 1950s.

*After spending 25 minutes explaining a research paper assignment in class one day, a student raised his hand and then asked me, what are we doing today?  Ummm… WRITING A RESEARCH PAPER?!?!?

*Today a teenage boy wrote his name on a paper to sign up to do a presentation for the class.  He listed only his first name and his last initial.  The “period” used to denote his initial was placed before, not after that letter.

*A senior student who was a “person of interest” in a crime that involved a throat-slashing sat in the front row of my class a few years back.  For legal reasons, my administration was not permitted to let me know that this young man may have been involved in this attempted murder.  When I found out about it from a colleague who had a relative in the police force, I could not share the information with anyone, either.  She was risking her job secretly warning me.

*Three students in my career have “come out” to me privately.  Since they were not a threat to themselves or others, I was not permitted to share this information with their families or friends, but was allowed to share it with the guidance counselor if that seemed appropriate.  She couldn’t share it with their families or friends, either, though.  Ordinarily, I would say that this type of privacy is a necessary thing, but when a mother called me crying about her son needing psychological care, I had to pretend that I knew nothing and couldn’t let her know that he wasn’t likely suffering from a serious disorder, but was simply gay and didn’t know how to talk to her about it.  She had him go through in-patient therapy and the doctors eventually determined that this was, of course, a complete waste of time and energy, as even the boy had insisted.  He wasn’t depressed as she had insisted he was.  His doctor finally “outed” the kid to his mom.  They no longer speak.

*A significantly troubled Autistic teen openly masturbated once in class.  The girl sitting next to him was obviously fairly traumatized.  The other students went through varying degrees of freaking-the-fuck-out depending on how much they saw/heard.  Teachers were not permitted to discuss the situation with the parents of these children other than to tell them that an “incident” had happened and that it was being “handled.”

*A 10th grader did not know that the following countries existed:  Trinidad, Austria, New Zealand and Tibet.

*An 11th grader did not know that Canada was in North America or that Hawaii was a state.

*Most of my students are shocked to learn that I read books before I teach them.  The vast majority are downright shocked when I tell them that I read most books I teach more than once.

*(I think) I talked a 16-year old out of quitting school last week.

*Today a student asked me if the bike I rode as a kid had one giant wheel on the front and a little one in the back.

*There is a student in my school who is severely depressed, but we are not supposed to know about it.  He only showers maybe a few times each month.  If we’re lucky.  We are not supposed to discuss this issue with him or with his family.  We are not supposed to make contact with Social Services.  We can only notify and re-notify our guidance department.

*I suspect a student is dyslexic.  I am not allowed to say that to her parents, though, because my degrees do not include School Psychology or an associated field, nor have I administered any diagnostic exams to suggest that she has a Learning Disability.  I can refer her generically to our Special Education Department and/or our Guidance or Social Work Departments, but if the parent calls me directly and asks me what I think her child’s problem is, I am not allowed to say.

*A parent called me to ask my opinion on a new girl who has been calling and texting her son.  I cannot tell her that this girl is a whore.  No, really.  She was cited for accepting payment in the form of designer accessories for offering blowjobs to fellow students in school.  I have to let this mother fly blind on this one.

 

All of the world’s secrets are safe with me.  Some should be.  Some are awfully damn hard to keep.

What do you think about all of this?

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.

Ways I will judge you

I am not terribly likeable in person.

It’s okay.  I’m cool with that.  People who get to know me learn that what appears to be a proclivity toward stuck-uppitude is actually a little anxiety and a whole lot of self-consciousness.

Just because I tend toward the shy side in small groups doesn’t mean that I am not just a little stuck-up, though.

For example, I will make fairly irreversible judgments about…

1.  Your ability to use “THERE,” “THEIR” and “THEY’RE” correctly in writing.

ttt

2.  Whether you are out in public wearing an anklet.

Anklet under nylons with open-toed shoes= even more judgment.

Anklet under nylons with open-toed shoes= even more judgment.

3.  Whether you open the door for others.

4.  How firm your handshake is.

5.  Whether you drink any type of wine (sparkling or otherwise) that is pink in color.

Even better:  pink wine in a box.

Even better: pink wine in a box.

6.  Whether I can say the words “oligarchy,” “cerebral,” “phantasmagorical,” “echelon” and “fuck” in your presence without feeling either condescending or chastised.

7.  Whether you have read a book – in its entirety – in the past 6 months.

8.  How nice your teeth are.

smile

9.  Whether you ignore your children when they attempt to run around among all the tables at Olive Garden.

10. How much very personal information you post about on Facebook.

tmi

What about you?  Anything you see in others that you just can’t help judging immediately?

Hooray for Mother’s Day!

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

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

GUEST POST BY:

Meredith Ethington

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

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

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

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

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

From destroying everything she loves, each and every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Written by crazy toddlers everywhere

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

Then and Now, Inside and Out

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

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

I just don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is what makes me so charming.  And lovable.

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.

Be different!

It was brought to my attention by someone who is sexy and honest and noble and amazing (love you, sweetie!) that my last post about gifted kids seemed braggy.

So, I thought that perhaps I ought to follow up.

In a recent post, I pondered (not in the recesses of my private mind like a normal person would, but on the frickin’ World Wide Web) about how to nurture and encourage a capable and fabulous child.

For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate that my kids are absolutely phenomenal.  Best.  Kids.  Ever.  Got nothin’ but love for ya.

But, they are not perfect.  None of us is.  I’m certainly not.  You’re sure as hell not.

And, while I would brag about and embarrass the hell out of my kids if given the chance, that was actually not my point at all.

Each mother, father, guardian and caregiver has a gifted child in his or her life.  But, kids are all very differently gifted.  My question was just how to handle these differences.

I have worked with Special Needs kids, for example.  Just today, a young man who struggles socially and has been identified by a psychologist as having Asperger’s Syndrome, completely rebuilt my class website from the ground-up.  He restructured the code and redesigned my HTML settings to make it more user-friendly for me (a clear idiot who is lucky she can use the WordPress Dashboard).  I have a family member with Down’s Syndrome who can tell you (100% correctly) ever statistic and fact you could ever think to ask about his favorite NFL team.  A few years back I worked with a young lady whose learning differences were sadly never identified, but who clearly struggled academically due to some barriers.  She was the kindest young woman I had worked with, really, and she had a sense of justice and a clear understanding of right and wrong that is not often seen in 15-year olds.

We each have a gifted child.  Most are multi-gifted, even.  But those gifts vary from art to sports to languages to math to computers to mechanics to imagination to manners to leadership and beyond.

My pondering is related to how we as parents both harness the talents each of our kids have, and allow them to grow up to be well-rounded and well-adjusted.  The answer doesn’t seem to be simple.

I know, however, that we’re all certain that we don’t want to fuck this up.

And, we’re probably just as certain that somehow, despite anything we do, we kinda will anyway.

Some therapist will blame us for something someday.

Nevertheless, I’d like to remember (at least just for myself) that differences are good.  Great.  Fantastic, even.  They are to be celebrated.  I just haven’t figured out how, exactly.

Until I do, I would like to celebrate here a few people who have dared to be different and have brazenly flaunted their pride in their differences.

Have a great day…

And, feel free to add your own additions to the list in the comments section!

–Praised now for his innovation and groundbreaking theories, Albert Einstein was misunderstood and disliked in his time for some of his socialist political views and sorta-atheist religious thoughts.  He never attempted to run with the crowd, however.  As a result, he became one of the most revered scientific minds on the planet.

different1

–Everybody is “green” nowadays, but decades ago, a brave soul named Rachel Carson unearthed new ideas about preservation, conservation and environmental science.  It wouldn’t become chic to wear hemp clothes, go off the grid, reduce a carbon footprint and install solar panels on your house until years and years afterward, but her work and writing about the environment changed everything for the indistry.\

different 5

–She’s not all boobs and lips, people.  While she gained most of her fame because of her looks, Pamela Anderson made it a lifelong goal to end abuse and unethical treatment of animals.  Long before it was cool to “eat local,”  be vegan, quit wearing fur and look down your nose at celebrity dog-fighters, she became a very public spokesperson for PETA and helped bring knowledge about the organization’s mission to the masses.

different 4

–Best known perhaps for his role in helping to abolish slavery in the US, Abraham Lincoln chose to go against the grain in one of the most public and dangerous ways possible.  But, he did, indeed, stand up against the “normal” American life of his time and ended up  changing the course of human history as a result.

different 6

–It might sound like a cliche now.  And, putting her on a list with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln may seem to be a bit…much.  But, Lada Gaga has, indeed, inspired a generation of followers and wannabes to get okay with themselves and embrace their uniqueness.

different3

–Centuries ago, Galileo risked his reputation and his life to ignore “norms” and reject popular view to pave the way for the changes in math and science that made the world what it is today.

different 9 galileo

–The great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. created a new America.  He helped to pave the way for change, boldly standing up against the status quo.

different 7

–Aasma Mahfouz helped launch a new view the world would have of Egypt. And, she helped fuel a revolution.

Aasma Mahfouz helped launch a new view the world would have of Egypt.  And, she help fuel a revolution.

— Come, on…You know the movement for a better understanding of Autism in America benefited from Jenny McCarthy’s publicity.

different 2

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?

 

Coulda Done Without…

Tell me, friends:  who among us cannot appreciate the beauty in the little things in life?

Ah, the beauty of the world around us.  Some days I just can't fucking find it.

Ah, the beauty of the world around us. Some days I just can’t fucking find it

I can’t.

Sometimes even the voices in my own head are of people I’d like to punch in the trachea.

The past two days have been days like that.  I have felt a permanent snarl on my face.  It isn’t iconic like Billy Idol’s or quirky like Elvis’ or cute like a puppy’s.  It is the physical manifestation of disappointment in the human race.  It is the muscular byproduct of my involvement in a culture of stupidity.

Let’s explore some things that are wacky, ridiculous, senseless or just generically aggravating for thinking people.

Strange Days, indeed

Strange Days, indeed

1.  Television.  I have before chronicled my irritation with some modern-day children’s programming.  What has happened?  Where are the Snorks?  Can I get some Great Space Coaster up in here?  I miss my Electric Company.  I feel sorry for kids today who will never learn who is “bouncing here and there and everywhere,” with “high adventure that’s beyond compare.”

2.  Modern technology and inventions.  Now, I am not going to bitch about kids who try sexting, or about the problems with Windows 8.  I am going to complain about the inventions of items such as antenna balls, the Snuggie, the ShamWow, The Shake Weight, the Flowbee, the KFC “Double Down,” and the laser disc.  Where are we going, world?  I don’t want to know what is next up for a world that has invented the wearable DVD player, “Two Broke Girls,” and those little decorative pieces of junk that you cram in the holes of your equally stupid Crocs.

3.  Baby Names from Mars.  What are some of you thinking?  Now, I am really sorry if you are the proud mother of an Orangejello, Nevaeh, Q’Daunteus, Le-A, Yummalewis, Princess, Rambo, Angelbaby, Cha Cha, Kredonshea, Sugar, Zither or Falopiana.  Actually, I am sorrier for your kids.

4.  Prissy Drinkers.  When I was in college, I was repeatedly annoyed by girls who would go to frat parties and not be willing to drink beer.  “I don’t liiiiiike beer,” they’d twirl their hair and whine.  Really, assclown?  You came to a FRAT PARTY.  Oh, yes, Sweet Cheeks, let me get you a Pomegranate Cosmo.  You’re 19.  Drink Schlitz with the rest of the crew.  And, get your hands on that barrel and your feet in the air and be fun, dammit.

5.  The Discriminatory Childless.  Everyone’s an expert, right?  There is no shortage of people out there who have no children of their own, but who will roll eyes, scoff, or even offer unwelcome advice about you and your kids.  Now, I used to be one of the Discriminatory Childless.  And, then I had two kids.  And, now I am sorry to that mother I yelled at at Wal-Mart that one time.

Tell that to the perky-perks.

Tell that to the perky-perks.

6.  The Habitually Optimistic.  I am a grump by nature.  It is just who I am.  My husband asks me all the time “what’s wrong” or mentions, sweetly of course, that I “look miserable.”  Most of the time I am not what I would say is “miserable.”  But, I am adorably misanthropic.  Well, at least that is how I like to think of myself.  But nothing makes me grumpier than when I am faced with a perky, doe-eyed happy-cat.  You know the type.  Ever see “Office Space?”  I think about “Accounts Payable, Nina Speaking…JUST a moment!” repeated enough times to make me want to vomit all over her rainbow-colored world.

Feel free to share with me the things you could do without in this world.  Grump with me.  Try it.  First one’s free.

 

When a Bitch is just a Bitch

I wonder sometimes whether I am a little…too much…for some people.

I rant.  I whine.  I condescend.

But, what I think about (too often, really) is when complaining is a sign of someone who knows what she wants, hates injustice, believes in honesty, and isn’t afraid of what people think.  And, I wonder when it just makes me a bitch.

Why is this fool famous?

Why is this fool famous?

Furthermore, are men who complain ever bitches?

Maybe sometimes.

Here are some things I really hate:  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, homeschooling, socks that won’t stay up, smelly markers, other people’s cats in my yard, people who drive slowly in the passing lane, Randy Quaid, cinnamon gum, Barney, people who say “mischevious,” beards, popcorn balls, boats, and being farted on.

Am I allowed to hate those things?  Even though I know others will not understand or agree? (especially about the Reese’s.  I know.  I know.  I hate peanut butter and chocolate together.  It is sickening.  I realize I am in the minority.)

When we founded Off Duty Mom, we promised that we’d be honest — ugly-kind-of-honest — about everything we published.  So, on our end here, we’re not really feeling that broken up about putting it all out there.

But, I guess I would like to know in real life, how much “honesty” can you take from someone?

I once wondered why mothers weren’t more honest with one another about how unpretty motherhood could be.

Then, I found out.  The childless don’t want to hear about vomit, varicose veins, tantrums, and worrying about 10-year olds sexting.  And, those who are in the mix of it just want to drink vodka slushes and forget about the above for a bit.honesty

So, what we’d figure we’d do here at ODM is to create a forum for judgment-free ranting and complaining in the parenting community.

Join us HERE to tell your story!

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!

Sentimental and introspective (just for now)

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

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

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

I want to learn to tap dance.

Tell 'em, Red.

Tell ’em, Red.

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

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

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

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

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

You Shaw it here first, people.

You Shaw it here first, people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The clock is ticking, y’all!

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

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

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

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

Join us, won’t you?

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

Thanks!

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.

 

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.

Growing up, Getting better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Duty Mom, On Duty Complainer

Let’s talk (and by “talk,” I mean “complain”) about education.

So, I’d like to outline my list of complaints about preschool, specifically.  And, no, I do not plan to wait for Superman here and get all judgmental about our country’s teachers and the state of educational efficiency nationwide.  I do not plan to spew hatred for the millions of men and women who’ve devoted their lives to helping to raise our nation’s youth.  I do not plan to pretend to know ANYTHING, really, about the inner workings of early childhood education and therefore I do not plan to pretend as though I know EVERYTHING about it by suggesting that things like merit pay, standardized tests, de-unionization or de-tenurization might “fix” the “broken” educational system in the United States.  I do not plan to turn this into a bitchfest about how cruddy our schools are and about how we “deserve” better for our kids.

Instead, I just want to crab about my experiences with choosing a decent preschool option for my kid.  I shall offer no advice, solutions or thoughtful ideas here.  Only whines.  You can decide to stop reading now if whining ain’t yo thing.

First, I’d like to moan about how many public school systems have opted not to offer preschool at all.  I live in a nice neighborhood with a nice school system.  It’s one of the reasons why my husband and I selected the place.  But, they start with Kindergarten, not Pre-K.  So, I had to set out to find another option for my little guy.

Second, I’d like to complain about how I didn’t realize that I’d have to start the process of finding this preschool program so damn early.  I began my search when my older son was 2 1/2 years old.  It was January and I was searching for a viable option for him for the following September.  He is now nearly 4 and I’ve STILL not heard from one location where we had been waitlisted well over a year ago.  We were also waitlisted from our #1 choice, a Montessori school very near to our house (which, by a stroke of luck, our son got into only because someone moved away).  The little guy did, however, get into a private school that required a $500 non-refundable deposit (which we paid and which, incidentally, was INDEED not refundable…).

That private school was a fabulous place and our son would have done well there.  And, it would have cost about as much as my freshman year of college cost my parents.

This is not, interestingly enough, the reason why we opted not to send our child there.  The convenient location of the Montessori program was the deciding factor, but nevertheless, what preschool can cost is pretty crazy.

The school system for which I work offers a tuition-based preschool option for those of us who work for the district but live outside of it.  The program costs $700 per month.  And, it runs only 6 hours per day.  Of course, I work more than 6 hours each day, so that $700 cost is just the beginning as I would have to find childcare and transportation for my child, too.

So, the nanny costs me $15 each hour regardless of whether one or both of my children is home.  She will gladly take my older son to and from school, but by the time all of this is said and done, at $15/hr. for 10 hours per day (8.5 hour work day plus commute — assuming I NEVER have to go in early or stay late…) that is $750 each week for childcare, or $3000 each month or $36000 each year just for someone to look after my children (not that that is an easy job; but that just only begins to cover all of my family’s needs).  Then, with the cost of tuition-based school at my public institution, that takes me to almost $43000 for one year of my child’s education and care together.  That, too, is more than my private college education cost for one year when I attended back in the dark ages in the 1990’s.

Now, tell me, is this a standards-based curricular component or is it competency- or task-based?

I did not ever consider sending my son to a daycare center that offers “preschool,” because (and I imagine I will get angry comments about this — bring it) I do not consider this to be real school.  I have visited many of these locations and have asked to see a curriculum.  I have yet to visit a daycare center that was able to produce a curriculum of any type, or even really explain to me exactly what benchmarks they intend to help kids reach.  The closest I got was at one place where they told me that kids will sing and learn numbers and letters.  Great.  At 2 1/2 my kid could already count to 20 and sing his A-B-Cs, so that wasn’t really fucking helpful.

Homeschooling is absolutely not an option, either.  First of all, my husband and I both work, so it might be a little hard to fit that in to either of our schedules.  Second (and I may get angry comments about this one, too…), I personally think that homeschooling is bullshit.  I spent about 12 years teaching high school literature.  I was really good at it.  This does not in any way make me an expert on Science, Technology, Mathematics, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Physical Education, or any of the other subjects I would want my child to have the chance to learn such as Digital Photography, Music, Painting, Industrial Arts, Sewing, Graphic Design or Health.  Yes, yes, yes – there are lots of resources out there to assist people with homeschooling and kids can even attend field trips, participate in local schools’ sports and communicate with other homeschool students through technology.  Whatev.  I believe in traditional education.  There is a reason why I spent 8 years earning multiple degrees and certifications to work effectively with young people.  It all made me QUALIFIED to teach.

Squeezing a human out of your vagina doesn’t a teacher make.

I know NOTHING about how to teach someone to read or play nicely or understand the water cycle.  So, I will leave that up to the experts.  When my kids are ready to talk about William Shakespeare, Richard Wright, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath, I’m all over that.  Until then, I want to be a homeschool teacher about as much as I want to be (or think it’s a good idea to be) a home-doctor or home-dentist for my kids.

And, now I am back to the beginning.  Preschool is expensive and hard to find.  There are more kids on this planet than schools to fit them.  We do not value early childhood education nearly enough in our society.  And, most frustratingly, at THREE YEARS OLD, my child’s schedule is already causing stress.

So, there you go.  Ranty rant rant.

Got something to add?  Feel free to comment here.  I love hearing what you have to say (unless you disagree or want to call me names, in which case I don’t give a shit about you).

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